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!
But first, wait in several airport terminals for hours on end with spotty wifi!
Right now I’m at my stopover in Doha. That’s the capital of Qatar, in case you never picked up a National Geographic. It’s also where Al Jazeera English is based. I watch them a lot because their news is really critical of the Western media propaganda machine, and their anchors are from England and look totally out of place.
Can you tell I’m somewhat of a grumpy flyer?
I’m a cranky, moody cow.
Anyhoo, because of my ethnicity, everyone is looking at me and wondering why I’m not in a burqa.
I miss Thailand.
Remember when I reported on my cold symptoms over a week ago? Well even after antibiotics, my situation got steadily worse. Then when I flew back to Thailand, marvelling at the skies…..
…even though I was in an excellent mood, I didn’t realize just how bad my “SituAsian”-situation was.
I started coughing up blood. Not little specks of blood. Huge dollops. When I blew my nose, it was more blood than mucous.
I woke up yesterday morning in Bangkok, hot all over, weak, achey, bloody, and freaking out. I started bawling and spoke to the hostel staff, who took me to a clinic across the street. The doctor there said I have bronchitis. Even though I’m having no problem breathing (the symptom most associated with bronchitis), everything else seems to line up. He put me on a different kind of antibiotic, gave me some painkillers to soothe the cough, and told me to come back in 48 hours if I’m not feeling better.
Well, even if I’m not feeling better, I won’t be going back, because tomorrow I fly to Lundy-Lundy-Lundy!
I’m coming home!
I can always go see my old GP in London if I don’t get better. 2 weeks with this bug and two different kinds of antibiotics, I’m so OVER the medical profession.
What’s getting me down, more than this cold, is how it has ruined my last two days of my SituAsian. I wanted to do a day trip to the ruins of Ayutthaya whilst here, maybe do some shopping at MBK, or even check out the floating markets. Bangkok is a brilliant cosmopolitan city with so much to do, and here I am bedridden like a wimp. I keep looking out the window next to my bunk and feeling like I’ve ruined and wasted the end of my trip here.
I guess nothing is more important than ones health.
Oh and there was an earthquake in Myanmar and we felt it in Bangkok. I thought it was a noisy water heater.
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!!
When I was still in Koh Phangan, robin and I spent a lot of time on motorbikes, exploring the secluded coves, beaches, lagoons, and random pigs and elephants found on the back roads of the island.
I seem to spend a lot of time on the back of other men’s motorbikes these days.
And to think, all this time in toronto, I’ve been using my feet like a sucker.
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.
This “Situ-Asian” is kiboshing so many of my previous transnational extravaganzas thus far… And I’ve been backpacking for 7 years.
I joined a day tour to the Angthong Marine National Park just off the coast of Koh Samui. They pick you up from the hostel, give you brekkie, take you out there, send you kayaking, take you lagoons and lookout points, give you lunch, let you cannonball off the top deck of the yacht, send you snorkelling and swimming, then transport you back to Koh Samui and back to your hostel front door. All for the grand price of $60, and that’s expensive for Thailand! Most of the tours I’ve done thus far have been closer to $30, so today I splurged.
don’t I look awkward in that life jacket? That fucker came off after a few strokes of the paddle. Also, look at the colour of the water! That’s just the colour of the sea round here! No blue tiles at the bottom, no chlorine… Boggles the mind.
obviously I don’t have any snaps of me snorkelling … I really need a waterproof camera. But this photo I took is just too good to be true, n’est-ce pas?
I can’t tell where the water ends and where the sky begins. I once read a novel as a little girl where the protagonist described such scenery as “where the heavens lean against the earth.” Apropos.
’twas a tough day at the office.
Look at how tanned I am! FINALLY! I was the fairest Portuguese-Lebanese gal on the planet prior to this.
Yesterday I was in transit for 11 hours, from Phuket to Koh Samui, I took two buses, one ferry, vomited my guts out (stupid Delhi belly), then hopped on the back of some guys motorbike in the pouring rain to get to my hostel at beautiful Lamai Beach. It was a long day and this morning I’m still recovering, my body feels a bit weak. I’m testing the waters right now, I may or may not go out today ( at present, quarter to 11am, I’m still in bed) but since I don’t have much in way of travel stories to share, I thought I’d share more of the graffiti and street art photos I took in NYC earlier this month. I have so many to share! After this “Situ-Asian” is over, it will take me a long time to blog them all, so I might as well start now whilst I’m under the weather.
First up, I thought I would continue with that Hope post I initially briefly blogged earlier this month. Amber and I found this post, where people are invited to write what they hope for on a tag and leave it for others to find, and we decided to contribute our own hopes.
there’s Amber writing down her hope tag.
you see that “I handprint ny” poster? That’s a Jef Campion
so many tags and hopes to discover. I love ephemeral, community projects like this. It’s free, democratic, liveable, and it connects you to other people in a fun and creative and meaning-potent way.
this one is probably my favourite. It meant something to me seeing as how I was about to embark on my travels, and my heart is constantly bursting with love. (Shaddup)
Yesterday I had the opportunity to take a sea canoe out onto the turquoise seas to explore the “Hongs” which are basically caves formed underneath small islands. You paddle out to the islands, then lie flat in your canoe as the tide slowly takes you under the opening (can only be done at low tide) and into the Hongs. A whole new world of beauty and wildlife is to be found there. We fed monkeys right out of our hands, they were so tiny and docile and ah-door-ah-bluh! We also saw fish that had, get this, FEET! They were crawling about the mud like it ain’t no thang.
I actually took this beautiful photo but even that doesn’t convey the magnificent beauty of the area. One of the ship hands said this area was even more beautiful before the Boxing Day tsunami of 2004. How could this possibly be more beautiful?
that’s Amanda, another backpacker from my hostel and as luck would have it, she’s from Saskatchewan! Canadians are slowly taking over the world!
monkey cutie snuggles!
if you look closely, you’ll notice this monkey is missing half an arm. Our guide said he probably fell from a great height, but how did he not die from blood loss? It healed perfectly as well, so this makes me think he was caught in an illegal trap, rescued, treated, and returned to the wild.
Next stop, James Bond island! If you don’t know, the roger moore flick The Man With The Golden Gun was filmed here, and since so few movies are actually filmed here ( the Thai government requires all scripts to be approved here before filming), this locale is a huge deal. Other famous films shot in the area include The Beach and The Hangover.
So Amanda and I have just finished swimming in these turquoise cool waters by a hong cove when we reboard the yacht …
… And one of the ship hands just gives us these flowers they made out of banana leaves! We were so shocked and also so moved! No one else on the packed yacht received one. We kinda melted right then and there.
Thai people are so generous and kind! I don’t know how I’m going to travel with this without smashing it, but I will do my best!
As you do.
Wocka wocka wocka.
I have one more day here in Phuket and then I’m off to Koh Samui!
The beautiful blue waters, crystal waves where your feet tug at the sand and your skin ripples with the luscious cool. White hot sands, and the sun burns like Brimstone. The beaches in Phuket are nourishing this Canadian’s need for vitamin D and some respite from the mad streets and ever-chaotic Thai nights.
Hard to believe this is the exact same area that was devastated by the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami, they really worked hard to restore it to its natural state of beauty.
Most of the travellers I’ve met here in Phuket are only doing the southern islands and have no interest in seeing the north, where I have just come from. Such a shame, because the north of Thailand suffused my jonesing ache for culture and adventure, and so far the south offers a retreat from the brain drain of the 21st century.
I’m going to recollect myself here, especially after the awfully sad month that was September (family bereavement). I weeped and wailed as I left toronto earlier this month, but now I know that this adventure has been the best thing for my physical and emotional health. I really needed this distance.
And I have so much more to look forward to!
Tomorrow I’m doing a day tour where we paddle sea canoes out into the Hongs and then we check out the infamous James Bond Island ( where The Man With The Golden Gun was filmed).
Expect photos, happiness, and paying-it-forward.
A glimpse into the life of a travelling backpacker:
-have drunken idiots wake you up in the middle of the night as they stumble into the dorm
-wake up at 5:30 am looking like you were attacked by a weed-whacker.
-walk with 15kilos on your back for half an hour to the bus station, your only company the sound of crickets, frogs, stirring roosters, and the occasional motorbike
-watch roosters fight with stray dogs over discarded bread buns at the bus station for 45 minutes.
-board the mini-bus back into the main city, which winds up and down through perilous altitudes, coming dangerously close to the edge of the mountain and colliding head-on with speeding songatheuw’s.
- do that for three hours whilst falling in and out of consciousness.
-finally reach the main city, and climb into the back of a pick-up truck with a Dutch and German couple heading for the airport, because it’s cheaper than a taxi.
-as you raise your arm to steady yourself, realize you smell like Eau de Septic Tank.
-arrive at the airport for your flight to Phuket, and burn your tongue on a flaky hot apple pie puff.
- load up on coffee
-board your flight to blue waters and white sands.
-never look back
Because you’re gonna wanna hear this story.
I’m also fucking endearing.
I have done mountain biking twice before, once in Whistler and another in Cuzco, and each time I get stronger and more comfortable. Look at the views!
We also visited the temple Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep on the way down. Very lovely if somewhat a little too much gilt idolatry for my liking.
still, some of the frescoes, like this one, were pretty lovely and moving.
Tomorrow I’m off to Pai! The “SituAsian” adventure continues!
Oh and if anybody knows a guy named “ali” or “ally” from Glasgow Scotland who also did mountain biking today in Chiang mai and is travelling throughout Asia for a while, tell him I think he’s beautiful and pretty and I wanna hang.
So. So. Pretty.
You just know I had to spend a day graffiti hunting. DERP.
As you can see, I found a lot of work which seems to be done by the same few artists. Found multiple pieces by “wisdom” and “crazy cat” and the artist whose symbol looks like a backwards B.
Who knew Chiang Mai was the place to find awesome street art? Not me!
I hope you all appreciate this because this graffiti hunt excursion cost me my good health! After 5 hours in 40 degree heat, walking kilometre after kilometre, sweating my bollocks off, I had a little dehydration spell in a pub. Barmaids had to fetch me tiger balm and cold compresses whilst I ralphed in their loos, then kinda collapsed on their sofas in between downing as much water as possible. I was okay after a bit, but I finally succumbed to the lure of Gatorade (never had the stuff before, don’t really subscribe to it) just to replenish my lost salts and electrolytes.
Stupid useless body.
But at least my photos turned out great!
Oh and I’m fine now, fanks for asking.