Friday, 29 July 2011

Ramblings and Anecdotes Before I Forget

July 29, 2011; 18:20
Location: All over SE Asia
Why: 8. You know you're a professional full-time traveler when you've made a 50ml tube of Colgate last 7+ weeks...for the rest, read on...

Ramblings and anecdotes while they're still freshly baked in my head:

1. Same same but Different - should I get one of these t-shirts?

2. Where you from? Where you go?

3. I give you today see-pecial price!

4. Sawadee kha! (female), Sawadee khap! (male) - hello in Thai; Khap kune kha (Khap) - thank you

5. Sabaidee! - hello in Lao; Khob Jai - thank you; Khob jai lai lai - thank you very much

6. I must reeeaally look young because even the Thais and Laos think I'm 22 yrs old - sweet!

7. Lao bud is no BC bud BUT when in Lao and given the op to shmogg some Lao weed, it's great!

8. You know you're a professional full-time traveler when you've made a 50ml tube of Colgate last 7+ weeks:

9. I burst with pride when I see another Canadian Flag attached to someone's backpack. Proud eh? You bet! (insert cheese here):

10. I just met a Canadian Italian guy name Veto with a Canadian/Italian flag tattooed on his arm. The best part? He's from Dunbar, Vancouver. Proud? Yes indeed.

11. Buy travel medical insurance! So glad I did. Pai hospital bill, you're going down baby.

12. I really love the sound of Professional Full-Time Traveler. I just wished I got paid for it. Hmmm....(wheels in head starts turning)

13. Traveling makes me miss Vancouver to the tits, I mean bits. Feldman's post of the Flying Pigeon made me cry. Go to his FB wall - it's wonderful and was entirely shot in Vancouver.

14. Meditating in Chiang Mai has helped me be more kind, compassionate and most of all patient:

15. That Muay Thai training still makes me feel like a hardcore badass Asian.

16. Sometimes I have to tell myself "T.I.A." - This Is Asia. Lately, it's been T.I.L. - This Is Lao (good and bad)

17. Picking up a pair of knock off Ray Ban Aviators for 40, 000Kip (read: 5bucks) and riding on an elephant definitely makes me feel like a hardcore badass Asian:

18. The Irish: "That dress cost a dear, like." - translation: Like, that dress was expensive.

19. "I'm sweatin' my tits off" - Lyndsay McMullan, Northern Ireland and Meditating/Muay Thai training/Pai hospital partner in crime.

20. "Maybe tomorrow, I'll wanna settle down. Until tomorrow, I'll just keep movin' on" - The Littlest Hobo, TV Ontario.

Monday, 25 July 2011

Luang Prabang Continued

July 26, 2011; 11:08
Location: Luang Prabang, Lao
Why: Creamsicle bikes, mint flavoured shisha pipes and bowling - Lao PDR style (read: Lao People Don't Rush style)

Netbook all juiced up...Luang Prabang continues....

LP is such a lovely biking town! At 10,000Kip per day, I can ride till I get numb bum from the hard seat. And you can never get lost here because all roads seem to circle back into the main area.

I am so getting a creamsicle coloured bicycle with a basket when I get home:

Apparently THE thing to do after the bars close at a dismal 11:30pm, is BOWLING! After abusing our livers with Beer Lao and such, Farangs can posse up in a songthaew for the 5km ride to The Bowling Alley. The sights of drunken travelers was more entertaining than the bowling itself.

My futile attempts at hittin' some pins down:

My infamous gutter balls:

Andy found a wand in the men's room to which all matters Harry Potter ensued throughout the night:

Another `thing` to do in LP is make the 35km journey to the Kuangsi Waterfalls for frolicks in the water and jumps from the tree with the rope. After negotiating a sweet deal of 30,000Kip each, the five of us rounded up our swim trunks n bikinis for some watery fun times:

One of the best things about traveling is meeting great people and going out for FOOD! Last night was started off with dinner at Lao Lao Garden, the sister restaurant to Lao Lao Karma Lounge (which offers free pool!) Two new crew members joined the fun: Sarah Jane (England) and Brian (San Fran).

The site of burning coal deposited into our table whet our appetites for a feast fit for kings n`queens:

No BBQ feast is complete without congregating at the utopian nest that is Utopia. Another round (or two..or three) of the shisha pipe flavoured our palate with minty coolness as we whiled the night away on fruity drinks and more Beer Lao. Whiled meaning till 11:30....but it`s not the quantity of time you spend there, it`s the quality time.

Shisha pipe, round two of minty goodness:

Scenes of a utopian hideaway...with a random communist flag:

As I finish up this entry, the peeps Ive been sharing my Lao experiences with will be moving onwards. Andy has already buggered off to who knows where - Vietnam I think. John heads out to Vientiane tonight on an 11hr overnight bus. Erin and Nick will make their way to Vang Vieng via minibus in a few hours.

I have decided to stay a little longer. Maybe get another heavenly Lao massage. Another veggie baguette is definitely on the menu. And I am determined to get up early enough to go for a run before the sun scorches the day away. Oooh I definitely want another Lao Laap meal - Lao Lao Garden makes them with tofu!!

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Down the Mekong River and Beyond

July 25, 2011; 11:02
Location: Between Chiang Khong Thailand and Luang Prabang Lao
Why: The Mekong River is very brown and the journey a bit too long.

My slice of Pai was delicious while it lasted. But as always, these lil wandering feet itch to move on.

1, 750Baht afforded me the painstakingly slow boat ride down the Mekong River, Southeast Asia's life line. First order of the journey was to catch the 8pm minibus at Pai's tiny bus station. That was five days ago. We reached Chiang Khong at 3:30am and went straight to sleep at the overnight accommodation provided.

At 7:30am, the ridiculously cheery guy woke us weary Pai-ers up with Lao songs of morning glory and visions of breakfast. Afterwards, we were herded away to the Thai border crossing into Huoay Xai on the Lao side.

Thai immigration, not so bad. Lao immigration? O.M.F.G. Somebody shoot me please:

After a series of go to this window, no, that window, fill out this form, go to this window, no, that window, now surrender your passport, pay in US dollars, I wait haphazardly until the Lao official waves my passport and I shimmy my way back to THAT window to get myself all sorted out.

Okay, so we Falangs are finally sorted out and now it is do nothing but enjoy the scenic views down the Mekong River for the next 7-8hrs. I'm glad I bought the recommended pillow.

Extra car seat style chairs were brought on board and we became somewhat packed like sardines:

I like how I caught an intimate moment here:

After the first day's journey was finished, we docked at the minute stop over town of Pakbeng for cheap food and sleep. I spent the night eating and playing cards with Erin (Wales), Andy (Manchester) and John (France). Good shmoggy was provided by John and new card games were taught by Andy. It was a lovely evening as we got right baked and laughed over funny card game rules.

Another day of crawling down the Mekong River was enough to drive me mad as Erin and I made it to the pier a little bit late and ended up with no seats for our tushies for the next 7-8hrs. Le sigh.....

So we packed ourselves along with the other deliquents at the back of the boat next to baggage and the deafening motor. Le sigh......

Some beautiful scenery along the way made the experience memorable:

My new travel crew was joined by Nick (San Diego) and we have been all chilling out in Luang Prabang ever since. Daily wanderings, eats, shmoggy, games of pool, food market finds, apple flavoured shisha pipes and all around shenanigans have been the usual itinerary in this super chilled out world heritage town.

Andy loving his fish-on-a-stick find at the night food market:

John enjoying some apple flavoured goodness:

My crew at the hip n happenin' Utopia Bar. 
L-R: Andy, John (yum), Erin, me, Nick

A stumble up some steps at That Phu Si temple awarded me with wonderful views of this heritage town:

The battery is running low on this mighty lil netbook. Luang Prabang to be continued.....

Sunday, 17 July 2011

A Slice of Pai

July 18, 2011; 10:07
Location: Pai Thailand
Why: Adventures and misadventures of a hippie-ish girl in a hippie village.

Escape to the hippie village of Pai was in order after some of the intense Muay Thai training in Chiang Mai.

A quick wrap up at A Little Bird Guesthouse, 160Baht and 4 hours later, Lyndsay and I had made our 762 winding bends to the tiny village of Pai. That was 6 days ago. Not much has happened and yet, much has happened since then.

For starters, Lyndsay was already sick with some sort of flu-like symptom. We decided on Pai to rest from Muay Thai training while she got better and I can do something different. So I decided on a 2 day white water rafting adventure, only to have that trumped due to excessive rainfall the night before. So it was decided that I would do a 1 day rafting instead.

As luck would have it, I ended up doubled over on the bathroom floor, expelling digested pad thai from both ends. Lyndsay had wandered off somewhere, probably to get some food and I just prayed she'd come back soon to help me get my rafting refund as I knew there was no way I'd make the trip the next day in my current state.

A knock on my door announced the tourist police and my heart sank. Lyndsay was at the hospital and had called for me. Slumped over the policeman's shoulder, he scurried me over to the Pai Hospital on his motorbike where Lyndsay and I found ourselves in states of misery on a gurney.

Blood tests, IV injections, drugs and numerous interruptions to the toilet confirmed my overnight stay due to acute food poisoning from infectious diarrhea - how lovely. The next 18 hrs was spent tossing and turning, vomiting and moaning until I passed myself out from fatigue. Talk about an escape from training.

Evidence of an overnight endeavour:

I checked out two days ago and have been on a steady diet of re-hydration drinks and plain noodle soup - neither have made me feel fantastic but I am grateful I am not in Lyndsay's state. She has contracted Typhus fever and will remain in the hospital until Tuesday. I will stay with her until she is released but hopefully before my visa expires on the 21st.

Besides this unfortunate incident, Pai life is really a slice of pie (roll eyes here). A hippie village with no worries, Bob Marley tunes and more dreadlocked Thais than I can ever imagine, I can see why people wander into this place - it's just so laid back. Mr. Guy Gorlais, the very French owner of Thai Rafting Adventure wandered into this little town 24 yrs ago and never left. Go figure.

A bicycle rental took me out to the wonderful countryside where farmers still harvest rice the old fashioned way:

On the road in my red cruiser with a basket. A basket!!

Me n' my ride:

 The very humble Pai Airport. Blink and you'll miss it:

Pai feels like a scene out of a story book. Streets are incredibly pedestrian friendly, nobody speeds, and nobody is hustling you into a tuk tuk.

Lovely storefronts on the main walking street:

The Almost Famous bar felt like being closed today:

I also rented a motorbike again - this time with insurance, ha! Fortunately, no smashing of any sorts happened. Phew.

As I sped away from the tiny village, I was greeted with the cool breeze through my oversized, awkwardly worn helmet:

The mission was to find the Mhor Phaeng waterfall, somewhere past the airport. After many winding roads and magnificent vistas later, I came upon said waterfall. 

A quick change into my swim suit and I was happier than a pig in poo splashing around at the base of the somewhat small waterfall:

View from the top:
Obligatory self portrait:

Austin, I finally got a pic of mango sticky rice! You would be proud:

As I come to the end of my tenure at Pai, arrangements must be made to facilitate my Lyndsay. Hopefully she will be out of the hospital by tomorrow. Also, I need to get some Lao money and devise a plan on how to get there by slow boat to Luang Prabang.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Meditation Medication

Sunday July 10th, 2011; 13:52
Location: Doi Suthep Monastery Chiang Mai Thailand
Why: Getting spiritual above Chiang Mai City.

After 11 blissful days in Koh Tao, my flip flops were ready for another wander somewhere in Thailand. Some meditation medication seemed like a natural progression from my yoga experience in KT in my quest to find peace and happiness from within.

First order of business was to get myself back to BKK and catch a train to the northern capital of Chiang Mai. A leisure ferry ride sprawled on the top deck. Getting nicely golden brown can be painful.

Me loungin' on the ferry enroute to BKK via Chumphon:

Finally got to BKK, back to my 'base' camp of Nap Park Hostel, got myself sorted out whilst enjoying a marvelous thai iced coffee.

Life is good:

This is how one looks when taking a 14hr train ride to Chiang Mai on 2nd class, top bunk sleeper with fan. Classic Dirtbag Backpacker:

Alright, I am in Chiang Mai and the next goal was to get my ass up to Doi Suthep, home of the International Buddhist Center (IBC) for a week of silence and reflection in the mountain jungle with monks. It is not as easy as one may think. There are rules to be followed if one is to truly benefit from the practice.
This meant NO:
No food after 12pm (gulp)

The schedule:
5am - wake up
5:30 - 6:30am - Dhamma Talk
7am - Vegetarian Breakfast
11am - Vegetarian Lunch
6 - 7pm - Evening Chanting
8pm - Lights out
***Meditation is suppose to be practiced between these hours**

 This was much harder than I expected it but a rewarding experience nonetheless.

The living quarters were sparse to say the least:

After six days of meditating, I am happy to note that I have learned skills which I can practice anywhere for a little bit of inner peace everyday. The best part of buggering off to meditate was the people I met there. A sense of camaraderie developed as we supported each other to push through the loneliness, quietness, and boredomness at times.

My peeps at IBC. We cheated by sneaking out at night for food in the market down below the temple grounds. From L-R Goh (Malaysia), Chimene (Brazil/Taiwan), Julian (Germany), Michael (Holland), Lyndsay (N. Ireland), Agata (Poland), Melanie (Germany) is not in the pic:

Despite the change in pace, Doi Suthep is a beautiful Buddhist temple with lush vegetation and great views of the city below:

One of the paths to the Monks' living quarters:

 Doi Suthep - 306 steps up to the temple:

At the top, you can walk around the grounds and take in the views of the city:

As karma would have it, I checked out the same day as Lyndsay and Chimene. Together, the three of us made our way down the mountain to re-integrate into everyday life. Lyndsay, a leggy 19yr old blond from Northern Ireland with a trucker mouth has been a great travel companion the last few days. Chimene, a gorgeous Chinese Brazilian 20yr old with a moon tattooed on her forehead gave me a much needed hair cut from my burgeoning mop top. We have been staying at A Little Bird Guesthouse (how cute is that name?) She and Agata have buggered off to Pai whilst me and Lindsay are getting all hardcore and fit muay thai training at the Chay Yai Gym just outside the Old City walls.

My fellow meditaters and now dorm mates, Lindsay and Chimene (pronouced Shee-men-nay):

My new lid, courtesy of Chimene who happens to be a hairstylist (karma happens):

Today, my day off from training started with an amazing papaya smoothie. Tough day: