Check out this fun short film I made about my adventures this past October and November through Thailand & Cambodia! I call it the “SituAsian” (see what I did there?) and it’s a fun little romp through Asia as I experienced it. Places visited include Bangkok, Sukhothai, Chiang Mai, Pai, Phuket, Koh Samui, Koh Phangan, the Full Moon Party, Phnom Penh, Sihanoukville, Siem Reap and Angkor Wat. Also, there are a few shots of street art and graffiti from New York City and London before and after the trip. See if you can spot the Banksy’s and the Hanksy! Enjoy!
You see those steps leading up to East Mebon (constructed in 953 CE)? Yeah, I fucking ran up them. I didn’t come this far to pussy out!
What a view, too.
Resting at the top, with an immense sense of accomplishment. My gift for such hard work, cool winds and stunning vistas.
Hey! Down in front!
And you see those steps leading up to Pre Rup, constructed in 961 CE? Yeah, I fucking ran up those as well. Buns and thighs of steel, hombres! If you can’t really tell, those steps are VERTICAL. Was so hard coming back down.
Absolutely wrecked at the top! It’s 40 degrees outside and I just ran up 2 temples while still nursing a head cold! And yes, I’m wearing a fanny pack around my waist. WHAT OF IT?
I didn’t get legs like this by praying, sweetheart.
At many temples within the Angkor Wat complex, they left the ruins just as they had found them – with nature reclaiming what was stolen from it 1000 years ago. In the end, nature always wins. There are some efforts to reinforce the structures so they don’t completely collapse, but I think the temples have become much more beautiful with the addition of Mother Nature’s paintbrush.
Here, as with many other examples, the trees have completely reclaimed the space. Human touch and nature’s touch blend seamlessly. You can’t remove one without the other moaning.
Trunks of trees twist amongst stone pillars. Fig, banyan, and kapok trees spread their gigantic roots over, under and in between the stones, probing walls and terraces apart, as their branches and leaves intertwine to form a roof above the structures.
this one has been so overgrown, you can see the beams put inside to reinforce the temple.
By the way, if Ta Prohm looks familiar, it’s because you saw it in Tomb Raider.
Like Ta Prohm, Preah Khan has been largely left unrestored, with numerous trees and other vegetation growing among the ruins.
Because of its natural state, it is possible to experience this temple with some of the wonder of the early explorers when they came upon these monuments in the middle of the19th century.
This has an ethereal aspect and conjures up a romantic aura.
There is an effort here by the World Monument Fund to stabilize this temple from nature, but I say, let nature win. Sure this was constructed in the 12th century, but life cannot exist in a vacuum.
Awww, look at the little munchkin girl!
female monks in an Angkor Wat courtyard, deep in prayer
it felt like a massive intrusion to photograph them but no one protested.
I love how their white garb contrasts with their bronzed skin and the decay of the enveloping temples.
I am a huge fan of bas reliefs (aka carvings on walls) and sculpture when I visit ancient ruins. To me there’s something so ephemeral and yet time-eternal about them. When I touch them, it feels as if I’m touching the hands of the crafters and artisans who carved them 1000 years ago. It’s the purest form of time travel: to touch the beauty created by someone belonging to history. I feel what they felt with my hands, I see what they saw with their eyes, it’s like I’m in on a secret that looks down the spectre of time and still holds true.
Here’s some of the best bad reliefs and sculptures I found at Angkor Wat and Bayon.
of course, it always tickles my soul when I find some awesome graffiti. This dude defaced the temple way back in 1890 with his name. Today this would be called vandalism and the man would be arrested for ruining an ancient relic. Well it was still an ancient relic in 1890 (the temple dates back to 961 CE), but no one would dare buff this graffiti off. It’s interesting to me how one mans vandalism is another mans treasure.
My treasure. Graffiti FTW!
More Angkor Wattage coming up!
I had to wake up at 4:15am this morning to catch this. It was still under the eerie gauze of night, my only light the stars and moon, which were uncannily bright. The crickets and cicadas screamed in the jungle. I sat there for about 2 hours but it could have been 2 minutes, marvelling at the magnificence of the sky.
Finally dawn broke and it got strangely quiet around me, where only moments before everyone was loudly conversing and slurping strong black coffee. The reds and orange swaths of colour smeared the sky and the 3 mountainous peaks of Angkor Wat began to glow. Illumination. I could imagine this being the 12th century, and the pious mingled with the immoral, each gaining what they needed from each other. Lotus flowers floating in pools of scented oils, artisans chipped and smoothed sandstone into dancing ladies and soldiers wielding steel swords. Snakes coiled around banisters, and the bas reliefs told epic tales of battle and death. Monks in bright orange moved like flocks of birds through the corridors, their leather sandals slapping the stones under their feet, smoothing out the roughness.
The beams of light in the sky were soon submerged under the moving waves of clouds.
And then this drunk girl behind me began to chant, “Gangnam Style! Heyyyy sexy lay-day!”
And it was the 21st century again.
Trust me, my little munchkins, over the next few days I am going to Angkor Wat the sheezee outta you.
But for now, lets wallow in my crapulence.
I have been planking at ancient holy sites throughout my “Situ-Asian”…. no rest for the wicked, and all that.
Kill em with awesome!
More Angkor Wattage to come!
And here I thought I was being all arty and poetic.
I put the “ass” in “Namaste.”
Off to Siem Reap tomorrow for the temples of Angkor Wat!!
I keep replaying the lyrics from Billie Holiday’s song “strange fruit” that go “scent of magnolia, sweet and fresh,” but replacing the word “magnolia” with “Cambodia.” Don’t ask me why.
then the sudden smell of burning flesh…
I’m really ill. The morning after the Full Moon Party, I woke up with a sore throat. I figured it was just from all the screaming and dancing and sweating until dawn with 50,000 other people. Nope. That night, after a day relaxing on the beach and drinking a fresh lemon- ginger juice for only 20 baht from the night market, I had what I can only describe as a cross between a night tremor and a hallucination.
In the middle of the night, I woke up and suddenly felt like if I tried to lie on my back, my body would explode. When I tried to shift to my sides or stomach, my arms started to uncontrollably shake. My brain was telling me that if I clenched and squeezed, I could rid myself of this feeling, but it didn’t work. Instinctively, I moved to the cold floor. It wasn’t enough. So I literally left my dorm room, went into the hallway, and lay underneath the bottom of the stairs on the cold tiles for about 45 minutes until finally the feeling passed.
That’s fucked up, no?
In the morning, I knew I was in trouble. I went to the pharmacy, and, as luck would have it, antibiotics are sold OVER THE COUNTER in Thailand. I bought some strong amoxicillin and some throat spray. But it was a travel day! I had to walk 1.5 kms, then take a 3 hour ferry, then a 3 hour bus, then a 1 hour flight to get back to Bangkok where I spent the night before catching my flight to Cambodia today.
Yes, I’m in Phnom Penh. And I feel like ass. I also look like I’ve been attacked by a weed whacker.
Two flights in less than 24 hours can’t have helped things.
Oh well, I can’t officially complain. I’m in Cambodia! Are you in Cambodia? No! Just me! ME!
Phnom Penh, the capital city, is pretty crazy! The traffic reminds me of India! 3 lanes of traffic becomes 7, but at least in India drivers would stick to their side of the road. Not here! Drivers and cyclists and scooters have no issue driving the wrong way through traffic, against traffic, in oncoming traffic, just to get where they want. And if that’s not bad enough, if there’s no space, scooters have no problem running pedestrians off the sidewalk! The scooters mount the sidewalks and use them as short cuts!
The population here is pretty dense. Building upon building, wreckage upon wreckage. And tonight I was approached by a few child beggars. Just like India. It breaks the heart. I didn’t see anything like that in Thailand, maybe I got used to that.
That’s not to say Phnom Penh isn’t amazing. It’s loaded with culture and wondrous food and smiling people and a wonderful sense of community. When the French colonized this area in the past century, they created huge promenades, parks, waterfronts, and public spaces. Today I saw children playing badminton, adults doing jazzercise in the park, couples snuggling next to the waterfront, and families going for long evening strolls.
This is the night market where I had my dinner. You get your noms at one of the many kiosks and then sit on the carpets in the middle (take off your shoes first before sitting on the carpet, otherwise it’s hugely impolite). I had a tofu skewer, a potato bhaji skewer, and spring rolls for the grand price of $1.50 and then a fricken delicious sugarcane juice for a few cents. I’d never had sugarcane juice before!
I’m only in the capital for tonight, tomorrow I head to the beach town Sihanoukville, where I hope the fresh air and salt water will do my health good.
Sunrise over the temples of Angkor Wat in Cambodia
After months of planning, I am finally embarking on another one of my infamous international clusterfucks. Every year, I make sure I use my passport at least once. I love gearing up my backpack and disappearing into someone else’s homeland. I love being this anonymous ghost. I love looking at the world with eyes of wonderment, as if everything is brand new and here just for me.
The islands off of Phuket, Thailand
Ever since I went to India in 2009, I have been jonesing to explore more of South East Asia, and I knew Thailand and Cambodia had to be my first stops.
The ancient ruins at Ayutthaya, Thailand
When I travel, I like to plan my route methodically so that I know where I’m staying, what to do there, how to get there, how much things cost, whilst still leaving some space for spur of the moment, spontaneous decisions.
I actually made a “Thailand-Cambodia-Kit” in Word which is 64 pages long! In it, I put in all the relevant information about my “SituAsian” that I could possibly need (thank you internet). Everything from where the Canadian consulates are, to vegetarian restaurants, bus tickets, bike rentals, party etiquette, snorkelling, Thai massages, Muay Thai, floating markets, the Karen people… and even just how to catch the ferry to Koh Samui. I’m too cheap to buy travel guides so I made my own!
Koh Samui, Thailand
So what’s my itinerary? Today I take the bus down to New York Shitty. My flight to Bangkok departs from JFK on Monday, so I thought I’d go down to NYC for the weekend and chill with friends
Then after 24 hours in transit and a stop-over in Doha, Qatar, I arrive in Bangkok on Wednesday morning.
From Bangkok, I’ll spend a month exploring the north and south… to Ayutthaya (former capital of Siam, ancient temples!), Kanchanaburi (where the Bridge over the River Kwai is located!), Sukhothai (other former capital of Siam, ancient temples!), Chiang Mai (the Karen people and mountain climbing!), Pai (a place for hippies to chill), Phuket (James Bond island and Hong-diving!), Koh Samui (leisure beach time and rocks that apparently look like male & female genitalia), Koh Phangan (THE FULL MOON PARTY!!!!!!!!).
The view over Chiang Mai, Thailand
Then, in November, I go to Cambodia. I fly into the capital Phnom Penh but I only spend one night there before I’m off to Sihanoukville (former French colony and beautiful beaches), then I spend the rest of my Cambodian time at Siem Reap where the famous, historical, majestic, world-heritage-site Angkor Wat is located. I’m going to watch the sun rise over Angkor Wat, then rent a bike and cycle from ruin to ruin, working my butt and my soul at the same time.
The temples of Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, Cambodia
After a week soaking up the ruins, I return to Bangkok for a few days (maybe will take a day trip to some islands just outside of Bangkok) before I fly to London mid-November for my Eurail.com adventure across Europe!
To answer your questions, yes I’m doing this all by myself. No I am not joining a tour group. Tours in the area like G Adventures or Intrepid are way too expensive, considering you can do it all on your own, on your own timeline, for much cheaper, without the rush. Doing it on your own means you get to have the experience you want, and you get to go to the places you want. You answer to no one, and you save a helluva lot.
I’ve done tours before, and I really enjoy them, so this isn’t a slight against tour groups. I just didn’t want to pay $1000 for only 8 days or 12 days. I’m doing 6 weeks for much less than that.
Ta Prohm temple at Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, Cambodia
So, as you’ve probably guessed, with these two world-class/world-traversing trips back to back, I actually won’t be back in Canada until 2013.
Of course, I’ll be blogging, Tweeting, Instagramming, Foursquaring, and Facebooking the shit out of this trip, and I’ll be doing it regularly, so don’t expect posting frequency to lag. I’ll also make one of my infamous travel short films after the trip, and will of course photograph ALL THE GRAFFITI AND STREET ART I find.
Alright, we got a SITUASIAN.
But, I will still be gone for a long time.
I know I’m going to meet amazing new people, experience new adventures,/adrenaline-activities/sensations/wonders, discover new places, try new things, push myself out of my comfort zone, test my limits, get dirty, scrape my knees, wear awesome onesies, eat everything and feel guilty about nothing, and discover more about this 31-year-old lady that I like to call Me.
But I’m going to miss you.
I said the following once before… prior to one of my early backpacking adventures of my 20s… but I think it applies again today…
“My body is a boat, and you are travelling in me.”
I click “publish.”
I step outside.
I head for the station.
I do not look back.
And I do not say goodbye.
Oh the places I’ve been!
Gearing up for my epic extravaganza to Thailand and Cambodia, I’m taking a look back at some of my past extravaganza’s around the world. Earlier this week I posted a slide-show of some of my favourite travel photos I’ve taken around the world since I started backpacking in 2005. Today I’m going to take a look back at my jaunt across India in 2009.
At the time, I made a cute, short, and fun video of all my highlights throughout the country, and I remember the video got a lot of attention from the travel blogs and twitter accounts. I was quite proud of it! Still am!
Watch me as I ride camels and elephants, sit on the top of a speeding bus, feed monkeys, climb mountains, pray in temples, and celebrate Diwali (the holy festival of lights)!
And if you want to read about my awfully-turbulent and tumultuous time in India (cat-fights! petty bullshit! love affairs!), click here. I wrote this at the time, and all those feelings were still raw and fresh, so expect lots of TMI.
Last week I hinted that about my future plans to resume the backpacking lifestyle, and I can now confirm that I am indeed heading off to Thailand and Cambodia in October! I have been a backpacker since 2005 at the age of 24 when I first galavanted across Europe and the Middle East on my own and subsequently changed my life.
(Owing to how old this blog actually is, I was BLOGGING way back then, and you can read about that first backpacking trip, starting with my first stop in Budapest, here. At the end of that post, look for the arrows before the comments which will lead you to the subsequent blog posts…).
Ever since that first trip, I have made it an annual tradition to fuck off somewhere new. If I don’t, the backpack under my bed starts hissing at me. Since 2005, I have made it to every single country in Europe, the UK and Ireland, the Middle East, Asia, South America, the Caribbean, USA and Canada. There are still so many places in the world I want to hit up, and Thailand and Cambodia have been elbowing me since 2009 when I first explored Asia (India to be exact, read that blog post here), and although I also wanted to see Vietnam, Laos, and Indonesia, they will have to wait until next time.
I have booked myself a ticket on Qatar Airways (I had heard of them, but they weren’t on my radar until I noticed Porter Airlines was partnered with them), and turns out they have been voted the World’s Best Airline for a few years now. Considering that my ticket is a multi-city ticket and it was LESS than $1000 for the whole kit n’ caboodle, I am going to have to agree with their prestigious title.
My ticket takes me from JFK (I’m going to take the bus down to NYC and stay there for the weekend before my flight) to Doha in Qatar, and then to Bangkok. After a month in Thailand, I fly over to Phnom Penh in Cambodia where I’ll stay for about a week. Then I make my way back to Bangkok where I’ll fly to Doha and then to London, England. I will probably stay in London for about a week, but I haven’t booked my flight home to Canada yet. We’ll see how London goes. I lived there for a long time and just want some time to reconnect with my friends there.
I’m still planning most of my activities whilst in Thailand and Cambodia, but it looks like I’m going to hit up Bangkok (obvi), Ayutthaya, Kanchanaburi (where the Bridge over the River Kwai is located!), Sukhothai, Chiang Mai, Pai, Phuket, Koh Samui, and finally Koh Phangan for the Full Moon Party! Then in Cambodia I’ll check out Phnom Penh, Sihanoukville, and Siem Reap for the Angkor Wat temples.
Most of my activities will involve cycling, temple-hopping, tubing, hiking, snorkelling, canoeing and kayaking, caving, swimming and beaching, and just a lot of wanderlust by foot. Oh and lest we forget, GRAFFITI AND STREET ART HUNTING! Five weeks of awesomeness, n’est-ce pas?
Anyway, leading up to this trip, I’m going to be posting a lot more travel-related stuff, especially from my past extravaganzas. Today, it’s a photo-retrospective of some of the places I’ve been to since 2005. Enjoy the slideshow above!
(Making that slideshow, it was weird looking at how my face has changed since I was 24. I’m 31 now and I feel like only in the past few years I have grown into my looks. At 24, I still felt pretty awkward in my own skin. It’s an amazing retrospective if only to see how I’ve grown.)
So if you’re going to be around New York, Bangkok, Phnom Penh, or London in October and November, let a sistah know. HANGS!
Also, check out my Travel category for lots of past posts, photos, and videos on my global excursions