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!
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.
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.
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.
it took me 7 hours by bus to get from Bangkok to Sukhothai so I wasn’t about to miss the crown jewel of Thailand, the ancient city, now in ruins, and a place of pilgrimage for devout Buddhists.
Oh, and an excuse to plank.
I’m not religious at all, so these places have no spiritual sanctity for me. However I am a huge history buff, and also an art lover. Throughout all my travels and journeys around the world, I have always loved that feeling of touching the same stones and oaks and structures and fabrics and papyrus and pens and swords that others hundreds of years ago also touched. Touching these places gives them more meaning to me. It’s a way to connect me to the past. Also, as an art lover, i must say- look at the craftsmanship on these sculptures! Must have taken Siam’s most beloved artisans hundreds of days to fashion these beacons of beauty and purity.
what’s great about thailand’s historical sites is- you can go right up to them, touch them, walk on them, climb them … And my favourite bit is, you can rent a bicycle and cycle around their ruins, as I was more than giddy to do.
monks taking photographs monks taking photographs, someone PLEASE make a tumblr about this!
biking makes me happy!
Right now I’m in Chiang Mai, the most cosmopolitan city in the north of Thailand. I just arrived here after a 6 hour bus ride. Here for the next few days, I hope luck be a lady tonight. Not a ladyboy.
Sometimes, walking is too slow, and the subway and taxis are too fast. So the best way to see a place whilst travelling is oftentimes the bike!
Of course, for me, I don’t just want to cycle in the city. Give me the boonies, the trails, the national parks, the jungles, and the swamps! And give it all to me in the middle of a monsoon! I’m tough as nails, I am!
I’m alive, and for some reason I was certain my plane would fall out of the sky. As I left New York I cried and cried, so much so that the flight attendant had to check on me to make sure I was okay. I was never like this before, I have travelled all around the world on my own and taken countless flights, but I was never so nervous like this. Perhaps over time, everyone’s luck drops to zero, and I was certain my time was due.
I’m delighted to report how wrong I was.
After an uncomfortably hot and long stopover in Doha, I arrived in Bangkok and the first thing I noticed was how lovely the city and the people are. It’s not overcrowded and chaotic like Mumbai, it’s not crumbling under the weight of crime and violence like Lima, it’s not over-sexualized like Rio de Janeiro, it’s not still repairing from a war like Kosovo, and it’s not got a huge gherkin shoved up its backside like Paris.
Everyone is pretty much the same the world over- we all love our kids, we all want them to do well, we all need a roof over our heads, and we all need to eat.
I took the airport sky train into the city centre and hopped into a taxi to take me to my hostel near the infamous Khao San Road. On the ride, I noticed huge shopping complexes, long stretches of green in the public gardens, temples dedicated to Buddha, spacious tuk tuks (compared to the cramped dinky ones in India), and the motortaxis I had heard so much about.
Motortaxis are basically licensed motorcyclists whom you flag down and hop on as if they were taxis. Everyone uses them and they seem pretty efficient, fast, and ubiquitous. I saw a couple of women in skirts riding on them sideways.
They ride them sideways because it used to be culturally inappropriate for women to straddle them as men do (in the west, when we all rode horses everywhere, it was the same restriction, and they even made women’s sideways saddles). I bristled at the idea of riding a speeding motortaxi sideways because I wouldn’t feel safe, but then I noticed other women straddling. Phewf!
Khao San road is where all the backpackers conglomerate, and I immediately felt like my backpacking couture paled in comparison to some of the others wandering about. Silly thing to be worried about, I know, but some backpackers make it seem effortless, and I always feel like people will point to my attire and scream, “she’s not a real backpacker!”
Fuck you, I’ve been backpacking for seven straight years! Since I was 24 and I’m now 31! I’ve earned the right to wear whatever I damn well please.
So I grabbed lunch on Khao San road, there are so many street vendors and all of them have vegetarian options ( bless you Asia!). I got pad Thai with egg and a bottle of water for about $1. I also wanted to get one of the chopped up mangos they were selling for less than $1 but I was so tired that I returned to the hostel and crashed for 11 hours in my little white bunk.
I’ve already made a friend, my bunkmate Andy from London, who as it turns out is moving to Toronto in November! We’re gonna go for brekkie in the morning. One reason to love hostels.
Right now it’s quarter to three in the morning and a few bunks down I can hear some drunken Brits swapping spit and playing tonsil hockey. One reason to loathe hostels.
Even playing field I suppose.
Off to enjoy the beginnings of my SituAsian, expect photos soon!
In the meantime, enjoy one of the street art photos I took whilst still in nyc.
This is by Dain, whom I have blogged about before, and it was on Ochard near Delancey in manhattan.
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