Monday, 16 December 2013

More Bangkok

Bangkok wasn't ALL bad.

We ended up visiting the Grand Palace, even though our scammers from the previous day had convinced us that it is closed and we can't even get near it


As well as the biggest lying down Golden Buddah





We got to visit the Lebua at State Tower Hotel, where the Hangover II was filmed


"We fucked up..."

We went to the famous Khaosan Street and briefly considered trying fried bugs and scorpions on a stick. But seeing I was already spending - I'm not gonna say how many - hours on the toilet daily thanks to all the curries, I decided to pass on the opportunity.


Had some more street Pad Thai


We ran into non other than our scam tuktuk driver. In passing, we yelled at his new prey that they're getting scammed. He didn't like that very much


And to finish off the day, we watched the sunset over the Temple of Dawn. At a fancy cafe. Where we didn't pay for anything. Not even the view. Oops.





Friday, 13 December 2013

One night in Bangkok...


Well.. "One Night in Bangkok" turned into "Three Nights in Bangkok Because All Trains Were Booked".  If you're going to Bangkok, really do try to have your ticket out ready in advance.
Also, have a good understanding of the ballpark prices you should be paying tuk-tuks and taxis. I'm sure our first Bangkok taxi driver is still bragging about his amazing deal with us.

Having a full day to explore Bangkok, we set out by foot to see the Grand Palace. And to fall for the biggest, most infamous Bangkok scam. After getting charmed by a very well-spoken Thai man, we got into the scam tuk-tuk ride (for only 40 Baht! Imagine that. ).

We visited the (not so lucky) Lucky Buddha


Stopped at - I prefer not to mention the number of - Tailor Shops and Travel Agencies


And ended up angering the driver enough by not buying into any of the Tailor Shops and Travel Agencies that we were even scared for our lives by the end of the ride, having no idea where the driver was taking us.

Of course, upon finally returning to our hostel, we noticed the huge sign summing up our adventure in a nutshell:





To our relief though, after reading up on this we found out that some people had even BOUGHT SUITS (several even!) and gone on expensive boat rides and more. The creativity of these scams has no limits. From therein, we just felt lucky we had only spent 1.30$ and a few hours of the day. Almost felt like a rite of passage as a tourist in Bangkok, so I guess we made it out better than the average joe.



Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Welcome to Bangkok, where the prices are made up and the meter doesn't matter.








Getting through the Thailand border is a pretty complicated process and takes almost full day. There are lots of scam artists on either side of the border trying to convince tourists they need to get a special overpriced visa or try to sell fake visas and fake bus tickets. Canadians don't need visas, so we were safe from falling for any of the fake visa pranks. It was a long day of bussing, standing in line, walking across the border, and driving some more, but within the first few minutes of setting foot in Thailand, we were downing our first authentic Pad Thai from a street vendor. FOR ONLY 35 BHT (1.20CAD!). It was glorious. From the border we took an 8 hour third-class train all the way to Bangkok. It was hot, uncomfortable and crowded, but it was authentic and we felt like locals. Except for all the stares we got. 

But here we go! One night in Bangkok. What could possibly go wrong..

Cambodia - Siem Reap

Siem Reap is like a whole other country after Phnom Penh. The amount of tourists is through the roof in comparison. It feels like the main industry is tourism - people toppling over each other to go see the Angkor temples. They have 1, 3, and 5 day passes to see all the temples in Angkor, so you can spend as much or as little time as you like.

We found a gem of a lodge - Lotus Lodge - in the heart of Siem Reap. Although it felt like a Carribean all-inclusive resort and very touristy (the exact type of place we were trying to stay away from), we were slightly relieved to have some western civilization after the Phnom Penh culture shock. I was also really happy to find out that the owner was from Ottawa!



The lodge had everything. From included breakfast, to a pool, to great rooms, a restaurant, tuktuk shuttles to the city (but you had to find your own way back), bikes, personal pet lizards, and a working shower! All for - wait for it - 12$/night! 

Anyway, the next day we decided to use the lodge's bikes and get a one day pass to the temples. It was by far the best way to explore the temples and made for one of the best days of the trip. We both got one hell of an adrenaline boost trying to navigate through the traffic-crowded streets of Siem Reap on bicycles. Which was enough of an adventure on its own, because we got to meet some of these guys along the way








I came up really close to one of them to get a nice shot and ended up being chased and hissed on by the little guy. For the Canadians out there: it was the equivalent of getting attacked by a goose. So I kept my distance from then on. But I did manage to snap a close up before running for my life



And now - to the temples!

Ta Prohm





Bayon Temple





Angkor Wat




(No, you can't just get a group of 13 monks-in-training to pose for you like that on a daily basis)


I also found this composition quite humorous.



That's it for Cambodia. Just one question - what does Amok look like? Our first Amok was a grainy buckwheat-and-minced-meat mixture, and our second Amok was a curry based dish. So which is it?





Cambodia - Phnom Penh

Now this, was a culture shock.

We were lucky enough to meet an Australian on the plane who was heading back to Cambodia to finish his non-profit teaching position at an elementary school. He was kind enough to warn us about common scams and inform us about the politics, some history, how to haggle and even a few Cambodian words and dishes.







Yes, we ended up sharing a tuk-tuk with him to the city (which he haggled for us, of course, with his broken Cambodian).  No, we had no idea what a tuk-tuk was until we got there. If you want a thrill ride, Cambodia is the place for you! Forget road signs, traffic lights, road markings and speed limits. It's basically a free-for-all, mostly-drive-on-the-right-side-but-don't-stress-about-it, close-your-eyes-and-pray-when-you-cross-the-street system.

We only spent one night in the capital, Phnom Penh. And it was definitely enough. Considering Cambodia was a last minute addition to our trip, we knew very little about it and were definitely not expecting this state of poverty.


As poor as the people were though, they were the nicest and friendliest people from our whole trip. Everyone greeted us as we walked past, the people who ran the guesthouses were really welcoming and people at restaurants tried their damn hardest to communicate with us.

We spent some time walking around the city to get a feel for it (and got a lot of stares). Eventually we found the market, where I tried Jackfruit for the first time. 


Lucky us, we also happened to arrive two days before the Cambodian elections. The streets were full of rallies, with hundreds of people driving motorcycles around the streets yelling who they'll be voting for. Canada travel advisory "strongly advised" travellers to "seriously avoid travelling to Cambodia during this time". Oops. 


The next day we took an 8 hour bus to Siem Reap, the gateway to all the Angkor temples. 



Thursday, 5 December 2013

Singapore



This was our first country on our South East Asia trip. Considering I've never been anywhere in Asia, I had no idea what to expect. Other than some possible culture shock. And the heat. Dear God, the heat.

We only spent a couple of nights here since we had our next flight (to Cambodia) booked right away, so we had to speed through the top tourist attractions in this tiny county which had a surprising amount to offer. 

One of our highlights from Singapore was the jaw-dropping view of the Marina Bay from the bar Level33. We took our remaining 12.60 Singapore dollars and headed over to see the sights. 


 With some luck, we managed to turn those 12.60$ into two coffees and getting the best seats in the house, out on the balcony


Singapore is a very-night oriented city. Don't get me wrong - it's great during the day, but it wasn't until we saw it light up that we realized how beautiful it was.


Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Travel blog!





My travel blog - only about 6 months overdue! I've finally decided to jump on the bandwagon and blog about my recent trips. There were a lot of moments during the trip I wished I had a blog to write down the experiences and advise future travellers on what to watch out for in the places I've visited. I'm not a big fan of writing (why am I even doing this?) so I'm going to keep the posts short and to the point, with lots of pictures. 
Lets begin.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

7 Australia Withdrawal Symptoms




I got back from my exchange semester in Australia 4 months ago, and I really start to miss it the longer I'm away. Here are some things I've caught myself doing in the past four months of being back in Canada.

  1. Every time I see an open field, I keep looking for dark spots in hopes of seeing a horde of kangaroos. It gets especially bad when I see lots of dark spots and get some false hope, only to find out its just a bunch of deer or geese
  2. No coffee will ever taste as good as Australian coffee. Finding that perfect Flat White anywhere in Canada is just impossible.
  3. When driving alone on a single-lane highway, I will periodically get confused as to which side of the highway I should be driving on.
  4. Every time I meet an Aussie in Canada I get really excited and try to find out why the hell they left Australia in the middle of their summer. 
  5. I get really happy anytime anyone signs an email with "cheers"
  6. When I see an "x things about Australia.." post (like 23 Reasons why Australia is the Most Beautiful Place on Earth and Amazing things that came out of Australia), I have to read through all of it and agree/disagree with how true each fact is, from personal experience
  7. Anytime I hear "Australia" or any Australian city in conversation, I tune in.