I’m a Backseat Driver. This shouldn’t be news.

Well Friends – I’m gonna try something new with this post. PICTURES. Someone call CNN because this is breaking news (and we all know they use that term liberally).  In past I’ve been close to the laziest person on earth and haven’t done this BUT, I figured there’s always time to change, right?

Today, even though for all intents and purposes was a shorter day than yesterday, feels EVEN longer to me. I’m not sure if its because I’m still kinda jet lagged or  because the dodgy breakfast I ate (more on this later) made me queasy all morning. Or maybe I’m just bad at keeping track of time. We got up this morning around 8:30 and packed our bags and headed off for breakfast (and settled up the damage from last night’s splash on dinner). Now, I’m pretty adventurous when it comes to food. So, I figured a little herring in dill and mustard sauce, a boiled egg and yogurt would make a good breakfast. Boy was I wrong, after we got Cricket (the car) packed I started feeling nauseous and things kind of went downhill from there until we got to Skaftafell. But, Gravol and Immodium were my saviours and avoided any crisis that might have arisen from my GI tract.

After getting gas in Vík, and a few postcards, we were on our way to Höfn. All in all, today’s drive was about 275km. Which isn’t too bad by Canadian standards BUT, roads in Iceland are not the same as at home. Firstly, the Ring Road (Rte 1) around the country is for the most part a 2 lane highway – which is fine, but its SUPER narrow and tourists are shit at driving. Daylan and I make it a point to stay at the 90 km/h speed limit, but for some reason no one else does. Because the road has so many twists and turns and FUN things like one lane bridges this is the best speed and why people go faster is beyond me. Also, I’ve notice that they don’t really like signs here, so you just kind of hope and pray you’re going the right way which is a fun time. Especially if you’re like me. But, we dealt with it like the true Canadians we are.

Daylan was a true champ for putting up with my grumpy ass this morning (if you’re reading this thank u bbg xoxo) and for being a great driver. She had to drive over a 305m one lane bridge too which is always a fun time. Today’s drive (and most likely all of those in the future) are different from yesterday’s – there aren’t too too many big things to see a long the way so it’s just a matter of stopping where we feel like it to enjoy the scenery.

After driving for a bit we were shocked to see how quickly the scenery changed. It went from pastoral around Vik into very harsh Geothermal lands quite quickly. As we drove through the Geothermal area we started driving through an area that looked like Mars almost. In 1783 a Volcano erupted (and messed up Europe pretty badly), and lava from it came through lava ducts and emerged from the ground in this Area. Since then all the rocks have been covered by moss. It’s super hard to describe without showing a picture – which is great because I’ll put one in. Look at me go.

We noticed a science lookout over the lava fields and took a quick walk through the rocks. Some spots on the rocks were super squishy due to the amount of moss. After pictures and the walk we headed back to the car and kept trucking. As we kept driving, the huge Vatnajökull glacier started to appear before us. This glacier is the one of the largest in Europe and is so big you can see it on a satellite image. It is absolutely insane to see how much the glacier has receded over time – and really makes you question Donald Trump’s statement about Global Warming being a “nice idea”.  After that giant one lane bridge I mentioned, we noticed another scenic lookout and decided to pull over. This one was one of the most interesting as we learned that in 1998 the bridge we had just crossed was completely washed out due to a volcanic eruption and ensuing flooding from glacial melting.

Back on the highway, we wanted to go closer to the glaciers and noticed that all of the buses were turning left at a road. So, we decided to follow them, and we soon stumbled upon the Skaftafell entrance to the Vatnajökull National Park. Not only did this have bathrooms (thank god) we soon learned that one of the coolest waterfalls in Iceland was here – Svartifoss. As I was feeling better, we decided to take on the 8km hike to the waterfall. Even though it was pretty steep at some points – it was totally worth it and it is definitely one of the things that I would recommend everyone do here.

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Svartifoss

We made it up to the waterfall and took pictures (duh.) and just stood in awe at the forces of nature. I also filled up my water bottle because free water. The trek down was a lot easier than the way up and we were down (and hungry) in no time! We wanted to keep trekking to Höfn because by now we were only about a third of the way, so we mowed down some protein bars in the car for lunch and were at Jokulsarlon in about 45 minutes.

Jokulsarlon was probably the highlight of my day. This is a lagoon that is filled with Icebergs that have broken off of a glacier that feeds Vatnajökull. It was also on the Amazing Race (my favourite TV shows) which was pretty cool! We decided to take an amphibious vehicle tour of the lagoon which was amazing. Not only did we learn about the history of the lagoon (the ice is 1000 years old!) we also got to see some seals and taste the ice! The thing that I found craziest is that the scenery in the lagoon is constantly changing. In the time we were there (1.5 hours at most) many glaciers had broken apart due to the afternoon sun and some had flipped. Nature is truly an incredible thing – and trips like this remind you how small and insignificant you are to the world (you know, all those fun things).

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After having our socks knocked off, we were back on the road. I was a better passenger this afternoon and we were consistently in a state of awe when looking at the scenery. I don’t know how many times we got passed in the final leg of driving today – but , we were safe and it came in handy when some sheep crossed the road! Which is a thing here – fun and casual. (Fun fact: if you hit one you have to pay the driver what he thinks its worth). Overall today’s driving lesson was go slow and stay on the road. we had passed people this morning who thought they could drive on the gravel off road in their jellybean car, which is stupid and illegal.

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We were checking into the hotel about an hour after leaving Jokulsarlon and were starving. Our hotel tonight is called Milk Factory and is a milk factory that has been converted into a hotel/Ikea lookalike (literally I feel like I’m walking around a catalogue).  After consulting my trusty guidebook (Lonely Planet is bae) we found a cheap place for dinner and were there in short order.

Hafnarbu∂in (where we ate dinner) was an absolute treat – not only was it cheap, the place was super cozy, the staff super helpful and the food was amazing. I had a Langoustine Sandwich (made with local langoustine) and a coke – for a third of what we paid for dinner yesterday! Incredibly worth it.

Back at the hotel, I napped again (oops!), showered and sat down to write a few postcards! That’s all folks! Tomorrow is our drive to Eglisstadir – and we start heading north! Its crazy to think that we’ve pretty much driven across the southern coast in two days.

 

Welcome to Iceland – Land of Sheep and Suicidal Birds

Hello again! I figured as I’m off on another adventure it was time to blow the proverbial dust off of this blog and back into the swing of things.

Today was a LONG day – I pretty much haven’t slept since 9:30 AM yesterday so I’m pretty much running on fumes. After doing the pre-departure ritual of “Where is my Passport?” and “Is My Suitcase Overweight?” we were out the door and on our way to the airport in Toronto where I met up with Daylan – who is one of my best friends and probably the only one crazy enough to do a 10 day road trip around Iceland with me.

We left Toronto right on schedule – which was great because some airlines (*cough* Air Canada *cough*) think that it is just a suggestion to be ignored. In fact, we boarded ahead of schedule and sat on the Tarmac for a bit. The flight was pretty uneventful – we flew WOW air and were WOW’d by the lack of things we didn’t get on the flight (i.e. Water, Snacks, etc.) but were soon over it because we had eaten before. There was one exception to the uneventfulness of the flight – for some godforsaken reason, the guy beside me decided he urgently needed to fix a hole in the crotch of his jeans mid-flight. Which is fine, whatever, to each their own – I guess. I don’t know how he managed to get a sewing kit on the flight but it’s chill. BUT THEN, this person decided they needed to seal the thread SO HE PULLED OUT A LIGHTER AND BURNED THE THE END OF THE THREAD. Excuse me? No. You are on a plane. That is not allowed.

We landed in Keflavik (about 45 mins away from Reykjavik) about 4:20 A.M., picked up our bags, SIM Cards and car and were soon on our way. We decided that we would take on the Golden Circle today – this is a set of 3 landmarks that are sort of in a circle (if you go back to Reykjavik) and are some of the most famous in Iceland. We managed to make it through the City relatively unscathed (sans gas stations not being open and a little bit of confusion in Reykjavik) and were at Thingveillir National Park (our first stop) in about an hour and a half after we landed.

Thingveillir is where the Icelandic parliament met for thousands of years and is at the rift between the North American and Eurasian Plates – making it incredibly scenic. We had the place to ourselves and hiked around for a good hour. The park was incredible, we saw a waterfall and hiked between the two plates! We slowly made our way back to the Car (which we’ve named Cricket because its a Suzuki Jimny 😉 ) and were off to Geysir – the site of the first discovered Geyser and the Geyser that they’re all named after.

We were a tad nervous on the trip as we had about a half a tank of gas, but weren’t quite sure how far that would get us so it was nervous times. We got to the site of Geysir about 45 minutes later (after a failed gas mission) and lo-and-behold there was a HUGE cafeteria/gift shop thing there WITH A GAS STATION. Our prayer was answered! We walked around the Geothermal area at Geysir for about 45 minutes and unfortunately didn’t see Geysir erupt as it only does this after earth quakes. But, there is a smaller Geyser there called Strokkur which erupts every 5-10 minutes and we got to see this amazing natural phenomenon occur many times! Walking around the area was quite a treat as most of the water smelled like Sulfur- which Daylan absolutely LOVED. After walking around the site with our noses plugged we decided it was time for brunch! I had a smorrebrod (an open faced sandwich with smoked salmon) and it was delicious and well timed!

We walked around the gift shop a bit, and stocked up on water – and gas – and then were off to the next stop, Gulfoss. It took about 20 minutes to get there, and we were instantly amazed by it. The sheer force of the water has created a HUGE canyon which is incredible to see. We walked around Gulfoss for a bit, learned about its history (legend has the land was slated to be developed into hydroelectric dam but was saved by a famers daughter who walked all the way to Reykjavik) and then set our sights on Vik – where we were staying for the night.

The drive was relatively uneventful, Daylan slept for a bit but I powered through and we made great time. One weird thing about Icelandic roads is that some of the bridges are one lane which makes it an interesting drive (you have to co-ordinate with the other driver to see who’s going to go). After an hour an a half, we arrived at Seljalandsfoss – another waterfall. This one was a bit different as you could walk around the base of it (and get absolutely drenched!). We were here for about a half an hour and then hit the road again.

Our next stop was Skogafoss – another incredible waterfall. This one had 500 steps that you can climb to the mouth of it! We climbed the stairs, took the requisite pictures at the top and bottom and were then back on the road!

By this time, we were pretty ready to get into Vik and to our hotel BUT decided to make one last stop at Dyrholaey (a bird reserve) which turned out to be a great decision. The scenery was breathtaking – the green fields meeting black sand beaches and cliffs of black Volcanic rock. Words don’t really do it justice. (I promise I’ll upload pictures as soon as I’m not a human zombie)

After about a half an hour we were thoroughly wiped, and hit the road again. The drive was a little sketchy – lots of hills (one scary blind hill, and one that Cricket almost didn’t make it up but he did!).  One lovely feature of our drive today was birds that seemingly had no respect for their lives – the would dive next to cars or just chill in the street. To each their own I guess. We found our hotel easily, checked in, brought the bags to the room and then proceeded to sleep for 3 hours.

After our nap we went to the hotel restaurant for dinner – we were still so exhausted that we didn’t want to go out for dinner and paid the large fee for the buffet and then gorged ourselves. We hadn’t eaten for awhile, and I didn’t think I was that hungry but boy was I wrong. I had an entree plate with fish, goulash, potatoes rice and veggies then followed this up with a cold plate with smoked horse (sorry Meg), smoked Beef Tongue and potato salad. By this time, I thought I couldn’t eat more but I decided to finish dinner with a bowl of Skyr (an icelandic yogurt similar to greek yogurt) with Caramel Rhubarb sauce.

After dinner, thoroughly exhausted, I showered in the WORLDS TINIEST SHOWER. Like its maybe 2sq ft. Which was an experience and a half and set out to write this. As I’m writing its 10 minutes to 10 pm and still daylight outside. Plz send help.

Until tomorrow (when hopefully I have funny jokes and pictures)!

 

Its the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Well, hello again friends. The travel bug has bit again and one of my best friends and I are off to Iceland at the end of may. But that’s not the point of this post.

You’re probably thinking – “But, Aaron those are Christmas lyrics. And, last time I checked its April”. Well, you’re n0t wrong. But, in just over one month, the Eurovision Song Contest will be happening in Stockholm, Sweden and you should most definitely watch it.

While it gets little coverage on this side of the Atlantic – Eurovision is one of the highlights of the year and you should watch it not only for the tackiness of some of the performers, but if you’re lucky enough to stream the BBC’s version – Graham Norton’s comments (here’s a sample).

Ok, now I’ve got you thinking -“Aaron, what the f**k is Eurovision”. Here’s a short explainer – Back in 1955 the Europeans were rebuilding from the ravages of World War II. Worried that another war would decimate the continent – they decided to put down the guns and fight their battles through song. Which is cute right? It started out small, with a handful of countries but now has morphed into one of the biggest live TV events of the year featuring 20+ countries (including Australia, because why not).

Each member of the European Broadcasting Union is able to send one representative to the contest, but they don’t have to (which is why Portugal isn’t participating this year). Every country, minus “the Big 5” – France, UK, Germany, Italy, Spain, has to go though the semi-final process.The reason why “The Big 5” are exempt is because they contribute the most $$ to the contest. Each country is then judged by Televoting and a score from a professional Jury and the top move on to the Grand Final.

Now, this is when the best 4 hours of your life happen. In the Grand Final, all the countries that made it though the semis and the Big Five perform and they are then scored again. Each country then has a representative to deliver their points from 12-0 on stage. If you’ve ever hear the expression “nil points” – this is where it comes from. Seeing who voted for who is one of the highlights of the evening as sometimes countries that traditionally vote for each other don’t and it messes everything up. The Wire did a great run down of traditional voting “blocs” and you can check that out here.

“But, A-a-ron, why should I care?” Well my friend. There are many many reasons why you should care. Firstly, Eurovision gives all the countries of Europe a chance to come together and put aside their political differences for one night of music (note I didn’t use the word great… as one YouTube search would prove that wrong). Plus, Eurovision is an amazing stage for the acceptance of everyone. Not only was Iceland’s 2014 entry called “No Prejudice”  but that same year an Austrian Drag Queen named Conchita Würst (google the translation) won the entire thing. How cool is that? You can check out her winning song, “Rise Like A Phoenix” here.

But, this isn’t the first time a Drag Queen has participated. In 2007, Vera Serduchka from the Ukraine graced the world with her wonderful ditty – Dancing Lasha Mumbai which was featured in the Mellissa McCarthy movie “Spy” (also, click the link I dare you). Also, Dana International from Israel has participated 2x, along with many other additional LGBT performers. But, this is not the only reason why you should watch Eurovision. Basically, Russia’s 2012 entry by a group of 80 year old grandmas called “party for everybody” sums it up nicely . Because it is. I’m gonna skip over the part about how it promotes the performing of songs in national languages for the fun part.

Eurovision is basically a four hour hot mess.

Each year, the show has one over arching theme. It’s usually some vaguely non-sensical idea – but it is there. For example, 2014’s theme was “#JoinUs” and 2011’s was “Feel Your Heart Beat”. But, each country is responsible for their own staging and this does not have to fit in with this theme. Which has lead to – this, this and this.

And, while most countries send “normal” songs – with questionably translated lyrics. “Tick Tock, can you hear me go tick tock, my heart is like a clock and steady like a rock… my heart is like a clock you won it with your love” is an actual lyric from a real song that was performed during the contest – that song (Tick Tock from the Ukraine) placed 6th with 113 points. Yikes. Some countries have serious lapses in judgement and the result is wonderful pieces of music that will forever live in infamy. Here are 3 wonderful examples of times that people should have thought twice about what they were sending to an international song competition – one, two and three. Also over the years, there have been songs about Social Media, a singing turkey, and some INSANELY high notes (see: Miracle – Paula Seling and Ovi, 2014 – Romania).

It’s hard to sum up the essence of what Eurovision is in words. And thus, friends – I present, without further adieu,  my top 10 Eurovision contest entries. These are sure to stick in your head for the next few days, and when May 12 rolls around, will cause you to watch the wonderfulness that is Eurovision.

10. Zaleilah – Mandinga (From Romania, but with Bagpipes and in Spanish… because #Eurovision. 

9. Da Da Dum – Paradise Oskar (2011, Finland)

8. Popular – Eric Saade (2011, Sweden)

7. Euphoria – Loreen (2012, Sweden)

6. Only Teardrops – Emelie de Forrest (2013, Denmark)

5. I Am Yours – The Make Makes (2015, Austria)

4. Calm After The Storm – The Common Linnets (2014, The Netherlands)

3. Undo – Sanna Nielsen (2014, Sweden)

2. A New Tomorrow – A Friend in London (2011, Denmark)

1. Heroes- Måns Zelmerlöw (2015, Sweden) 

Over the years, there have been some careers launched at Eurovision (Céline Dion and Abba both got their starts there) and some that have failed to take off as well. If you can’t wait for May – there are videos of the Grand Finals up on YouTube and I highly encourage you to check them out because Eurovision is truly the best time of the year.

Also, as a thank you for making it this far, here are some of my favourite Eurovision GIFs.

When Mom asks you to do your chores but bae is coming over 

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When Mom and Dad take you to dinner

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And finally… The struggle between Wallet and Brain

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Looking back on Southeast Asia – 6(?) Months Later

Well, as Drake says late is better than never  – (I highly think I’ve made this joke before, but I’m about 400% over that fact)… so its high time I reflect on the madness that was last summer. Also its significantly 2:25 a.m., but that’s beside the point.

It’s been a long 6 months – thank you school (and Gazette.. *cough* hire me please *cough*). I consistently find myself talking about my trip – although, this could be because I like to talk a lot. Probably that. So, its high time I look back on this trip and realize the many things it has taught me. Thus, dear reader (all 7 of you), here are my top 5 things that I’ve learned from my trip. I could do 10 but I feel like bed is more important.

1. I’m comfortable being out of my comfort zone

Wow, Aaron, so original. Gold star for you. As cliché as this sounds, I’ve actually learned to thrive outside of my comfort zone. Granted, my comfort zone is pretty large – I still constantly find myself in situations outside of it. By forcing myself to take cooking classes (Superman has kryptonite – I have cooking), I’ve learned that its ok to step outside of your comfort zone and fail; there are people around you to help you (ew, I used a semi colon -does that make me a real writer now?).

2. Do things for you – not for the souvenirs

This seems like common sense but it’s so easily overlooked. While souvenirs look cool on your shelf – thats all they are. When you take the $10 you were gonna put on that keychain and put it into an experience you can only get there (Hello, Marina Bay Sands) you’re gonna have memories that last a lifetime (or, at least until you start forgetting things). I’m not saying don’t buy any souvenirs – by all means, get them, but think about it first – is that “I Heart La Paz” shirt really something you’re gonna wear after your trip? I guarantee you it won’t be – it’ll sit there along with that sweater you got from camp that one time and then told yourself you would never wear again.

3. Being tired is ok, in fact, its encouraged

Being tired is FINE. Its not the end of the world. In all honesty, lazy days are the best days for exploring your surroundings. When you’re too tired to hit the tourist trail, you get to explore the intimate surroundings you find yourself in. Maybe there’s a cool café you’ve been meaning to get to or a neat shop that you haven’t gone to because you’ve been too busy doing all the things on that Top 10 list you saw. So ditch it; there’s no rule that you have to see the Louvre every time you to go Paris – or even that you have to see it at all.

4. Ditch the Top 10 List

This one fits in with that last point. While Top 10 lists of things to see will help you get an idea of what to see in an area – they are not gospel. I’ll say it again – TripAdvisor’s Top 10 List of things to see in Timbuktu is NOT THE BIBLE. You don’t need to do everything it says. The biggest way to make your trip more satisfying is doing things that interest you. Don’t want to see an art museum? Don’t. It’s just that easy. You are Jesus in this situation – you are the master of your own destiny. Ok, Jesus may not have been the right vehicle for this literary device but you get my drift. (Hopefully. Otherwise I’m going to hell.)

5. Take Care of Yourself

This one is the biggest thing that gets thrown out the window when you travel. Its so easy to fall into the tunnel vision of trying to see all that you can in one day that we forget about what makes us happy. I mean, this could totally be your thing, and like you do you friend – but just be aware of burnout. Plan scheduled rest days – or redundancy days (for when things don’t work out or are closed because, surprised that happens!) to help you recharge your batteries. Trust me, it’s necessary.

SECRET #6 – Things won’t work out. Deal with it. 

Yes, in an ideal world everywhere has perfect weather and things never close. I hate to be the bubble burster (just kidding, I love it) but OMG! things will close or you will have crappy weather. Its just the way of the world. Yes, it sucks. Yes, it can be devastating when you don’t get to do something you’ve been wanting to do forever – but hey, thats why we travel. We can come back to these places and do these things again. So don’t let that one thing ruin your trip, it’ll suck in the moment – but I assure you cheap booze is probably within walking distance.

Wow – this is too much introspection for me. I don’t like it. Also fun fact, I found out what that mystery illness was. It’s a little thing called Chikungunya – it’s real, and apparently coming for us with the rage of Bernie Sanders at the political establishment.

Thanks for reading this – I don’t think you know how much it means to have people step into my inner monologue and connect with it. Especially when that monologue is full of crass jokes and stupid anecdotes.

Cheers to this great trip – and here’s to many (many!) more!

Thank You, Myanmar.

I’m not one for sappy posts, but indulge me a little please.

For those of you that don’t know, Myanmar (Burma) has just held it’s first internationally accepted election. While it wasn’t to the standards that we see here in Canada, this is a historic move for the country. What makes this election even more important is that the military-backed party lost to Aung San Suu Kyi’s popular NLD party. While she won’t be able to become president as Burmese law prevents people with children born to foreigners from becoming president (oddly specific) her party has promised to provide her with a position higher than the president. Right now – it’s looking like this is going to become a reality.

Here’s a little but of context to put this in perspective. Until 2011, the country was ruled by a military junta and for most of this time Suu Kyi was jailed. Then in 2011, after international pressure, the country held its first elections. These elections which were won by the military-backed USDP weren’t exactly free and fair and in fact, most Burmese didn’t vote. While visiting the country in the summer, I learned that Suu Kyi is revered by many people in the country – many even refer to her as  “Mother Suu”.

Here comes the amazing part. These elections were so popular with many among the country that lines formed hours before polling began, and people continued to line up for days (check out the BBC’s coverage of the election for some incredible images).

The Burmese people are some of the kindest and warmest people I have ever met – and seeing these results makes me so hopeful for the future of their country. They WANT change and it looks like they’ll get it.

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The images of people lining up around the block really struck a chord with me. Why don’t we see this in Canada? Why do we celebrate a 60% voter turn out? It still means that one out of every three people in this country didn’t vote. Not exactly something that we should be celebrating. Myanmar is one of the poorest nations on earth and yet 80% of the population still showed up out to vote.  So my fellow Canadians, get off your lazy asses and vote. Plain and simple.

These results have also caused me to do a little bit of reflection and soul searching. Currently, I’m sitting on top of a washing machine doing 6 weeks worth of laundry AT UNIVERSITY. Man, does that sentence sound privileged. Looking back on my time in the country, most people don’t have the chance to go to university let alone own enough clothes to not have to do laundry (by machine) for 6 weeks. It also puts my disdain towards my grades into perspective. Yes, they’re not the greatest. But, hey, I’m at university. Something that I know many burmese would love to have the chance to do. It’s also inspired me to work even harder, I have the chance to attend one of the best universities in the country – I may as well make the most of it.


Yet in the face of government oppression (the Rohingya people aren’t recognized as citizens and homosexuality is illegal, among other Human Rights Abuses), the Burmese are some of the happiest and kindest people I have ever met. They greet everyone they meet with a “mingalaba” (hello) and a giant smile. In fact, they pretty much have a smile on their faces all the time. We can honestly learn so much from these people and they’ve inspired me to make some changes to my daily life. From now on, I’m going to smile more (maybe this will cure my Resting Bitch Face), be kind to everyone I interact with and realize how truly blessed I am to live where I do.

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Jezuba, Myambar.

(I’ll go get off my soapbox now)

Luang Prabang is Lovely, and so is Chiang Mai

I apologize for this wooly mammoth of a post, I got tired and lazy and too busy watching the office. All in all a bad combination.

I left off after our day exploring Vang Vieng, which is where all activity dropped off. It continued to rain the next day and all the river activities had to close. Fine by me, as it means I got to sleep more! I did some catching up on the internet and met a dutch girl who thought I was dutch. She started speaking to me in dutch and it took her 5 minutes of convincing that I couldn’t actually speak dutch.

Katelyn and I packed up our stuff that day and were off the next morning to Luang Prabang in a minivan with our new friend Heike. We grabbed “breakfast” at the hostel, but that turned out to not be the best idea as it ended with money being thrown at us . I also got the wrong meal but that is beside the point. The ride had lots of switchbacks and that didnt agree with my stomach too much. We stopped along the way to pick up 2 locals who seemed a bit drunk. Turns out that the road didn’t agree with their stomachs either and they both ended up puking out the window. Not such a fun time.

We arrived in Luang Prabang a little worse for wear. We met our friend Heike, and her friend Dani for dinner and then were off to bed.

The next day we spent exploring the city of Luang Prabang – and it was finally sunny enough for us do it! We first explored the Old Quarter of the city with our friends Heike and Dani. It felt a lot like Hoi An with its old wooden buildings. We found an alleyway that would take us down to the river. This alleyway was spectacular as it was so green and lush and quiet. We stumbled upon a secluded Wat along the way and stopped for a few pictures.

We made it down to the Mekong River and I was immediately struck by its beauty. Laos was so green and lush. I think the fact that it was sunny for the first time added to the mood. We stopped along the river to take a few pictures and then were off exploring Wats again. This time, we went to Wat Xieng Thong. While not the most impressive Wat we’ve been to, I found the tile detailing on the building extraordinary. We didn’t stay too long here as we were starving, and Katelyn was sweltering as she had to cover up.

On the way back to the hostel we stopped for lunch (I had fried rice because #budgeting) and we stopped to grab a few postcards. We tried to see the Royal Palace before it closed, but alas time moves differently in Laos and they wouldn’t let us in. According to the sign they only admit people until 30 mins before it closes and according to my phone it was 3:50, but they said it was 4pm and wouldn’t let us in.

We decided to part ways from our friends and head back to nap. I had some calls home I needed to make so I stayed in while Katelyn went out to the markets. By this point, I had had it with markets and didn’t need to buy anything else. Although, I doubt that thats true because Singapore apparently has the best shopping in the region.

Katelyn got up the next morning to see the alms giving ceremony. 5am is not my favourite time, and I had a brutal sleep so I stayed in bed.  I met up with Katelyn later for breakfast and then we were off for the day! We met Heike and Dani downtown and headed off for Mount Poushi. The climb to the top wasn’t too bad (although that might be a point of debate among us) but the view was worth it!

We tried to go down the mount a little different way than we climbed up. This ended up taking way more time than we had estimated, and we got confused a little before we made it back to Dani and Heike’s hostel. Originally, Heike, Katelyn and I had planned to take a Boat trip down the mekong ourselves but found out we might be able to get a deal if we had more people with us. We met some people at Heike’s hostel who said they would be interested in going, and 1 hour later (and multiple stops to gather their friends) we were on our way!

The cruise down the Mekong was beautiful. It was so cool to see the locals and how they used the river. We saw lots of fishermen trying to navigate the very strong current. We made it to the Pak Ou Caves about 2 hours later. I must admit, the caves were not the highlight of the day (they were small, and we couldn’t explore them due to the 10000s of Buddha Statues) it was still really cool to see a different type of religious site.

We boated back down the Mekong and 1 hour later we had met up with Dani and her new friend Tina and were off for dinner. We ate at a “buffet” in the Night Market for our first taste of local cuisine. It was super cheap (less than $2) – so I can’t complain (even though it was all vegitarian). We got to chatting and then explored the night market!

Remember when I said I didn’t need to buy anything else – I did. I found a really cool bottle opener made out of bombs from the Vietnam War. So thats a thing. Katelyn and I were both pretty tired so we headed back to the hostel to get some sleep as tomorrow would be an exhausting day.

We got up early the next day as we were off to the Living Land Farm. We met Heike and were soon off! This experience was a highlight, as we learned how they plant and prepare rice by doing it ourselves! It was a muddy, tiring morning but I loved it! I got to plow a paddy with a Water Buffalo which was pretty amazing! At the end we ate tons of rice products (including Sticky Rice) and tried rice wine. All in all it was a great morning and well worth it.

Full from all the sticky rice, we went back to Heike’s hostel and waited for our tour to the Kuang Si Waterfalls. As soon as we got there, it started POURING rain. I was really glad I brought my GoPro as I got some really cool pictures in the rain.

Tina, Katelyn, Heike and I decided we would tackle the muddy, slippery path to the top and we were glad we did! The view was incredible, and the water was so refreshing. On the way back down, we found a secluded pool and swam there for an hour. The best part of this was sitting on the edge of the waterfall! We booked it down the waterfall (with no slips) so we could jump off a tree before leaving! We made it just in time for the bus back to the hostel!

We were starving so we went for dinner and chatted about our lives back home. Katelyn and I were pretty tired and called it a night. We packed our bags and got ready to head to Chiang Mai the next day.

We slept in a little and headed to the airport to catch our flight to Chiang Mai. We bartered a Tuk Tuk down to 20000 Kip for both of us (from 60000kip) and he didn’t seem too happy. He still took our money, so he can’t have been too mad.

We made it to Chiang Mai without incident and were soon checked in at our hostel. This one is the coolest one we’ve stayed at and the staff are so warm and friendly! We are loving it. We set off to explore the city a little bit before dinner, and we stumbled upon a Starbucks where my collection of mugs grew again. Mom, if you’re reading this I’m bringing home a ton (I don’t care what you say <3). We found a restaurant, and I ate some Thai Fried Chicken. So good. We then went back to the hostel to shower, etc and called it a day!

Yesterday, we spent the morning exploring the many different Wats in Chiang Mai and were surprised by the fact that we didn’t have to pay for any of them! Most of them had decorations out for the Queen’s Birthday which is on Wednesday which I found to be really cool! After being watted out for the day, we went to the Chiang Mai cultural centre and learned lots about the city and its history. It was fascinating! We were both pretty tired, so we headed off for some Thai massages. I had heard about a place where current female convicts are trained in Thai massage as part of their rehab program. They were cheap and so worth it!

We found a cheap local place for lunch, and I had my face melted off by the amount of spice! We had run out of things to do so we came back to the hostel to take refuge from the sun. We ended up eating dinner at hostel as we were both exhausted. Katelyn went out to the night market to get some clothes, but I stayed back as I didn’t need anything.

This morning, Katelyn got up early to head to the Elephant Nature Park. There was only one spot left in her program, and she loves them so I let her take it! My plan for today is to finally update this beast, put some pictures on Facebook, hit some of the used bookstores in the area and then go for a massage!

I’m having a little trouble coming to grips with the fact that I only have a little over a week left. On one hand it feels like an eternity, but on the other I know its going to fly by so quickly. I’ve had an incredible time so far, I’ve loved everywhere we’ve been and I’m really looking forward to seeing Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. I’m also excited for the fact that I get a comfy bed. And to shop. But mostly to shop.

Lazy Laos

I’m gonna level with you here. I got too distracted by The Office to blog last night. I’m not even sorry.

Yesterday we bussed from Vientiane to Vang Vieng and spent the afternoon exploring what little there is to explore here. We also looked at tour operators that offer Kayaking which is something that we might do tomorrow.

Its been raining constantly since last night which is something new for this trip. Normally when it rains – it pours for about an hour then it stops. Here its been constant, with huge downpours every so often. This caused a little bit of a change in our plans as we were forced to wait out a downpour this morning and thus couldn’t go tubing. We instead hired a Tuk Tuk for the afternoon to take us to some caves and to the Blue Lagoon.

Even though it was raining, the caves were incredible to explore and I’ve never seen anything like it. It wasn’t true cave trekking though – it was a disneyfied version with paved walkways and nice stairs. Which I’m not complaining about (my feet are super sore from some mysterious rash).

On the way from the Caves to the blue lagoon we took the bumpiest road I have ever been on. Now, you’ve told me 1000 not to use hyperboles. But this isn’t. I flew off the seat a few times it was so bumpy. The ride was beautiful (the views of the rice paddies and the mountains can’t be beat) but it was too bumpy to take pictures.

We survived the bumps and made it to the blue lagoon to meet a giant group of Korean tourists playing in the water (there was a swing and some branches of a tree to jump off of). But first we set off to explore the cave that was close. This one was definitely meant for true hikers – the stairs were little bits of rocks and there was no path! I’m glad I forced myself to get up and go – it was definitely worth it!

Before heading back to the hostel, we decided to swim for a bit in the water. We even used the swing and jumped off the branches. My battered feet weren’t too happy but it was a blast. After drying off we were back in the tuk tuk and headed back to the hostel.

All in all its a great day. I’m just hoping that the wifi signal will hold on for long enough to post this!