Adventures thru Bangkok

I’m pretty sure I fell in love with Bangkok almost immediately. What’s not to love? Eateries and watering holes galore. Great shopping. Reasonable pricing. I could spend a lot of time wandering and discovering the streets and alleyways. And even with it’s big city grandeur, there is no shortage of Thai hospitality. An afternoon on my own in Bangkok proved all of this to be true.
I began at the golden Buddah. I spent an hour weaving my way through exhibits and unmarked hallways with the aid of the staff. My next stop was the reclining Buddah at Wat Po, which served to be a more difficult feat only because I would have to navigate my way through Chinatown. Here’s where things went awry. really, a map is useless as I found myself going down narrow alleyways full of merchants selling everything you can imagine. There was even an entire store dedicated to Hello Kitty! Don’t worry. I took a picture. Not only were these narrow allies chalk a block full of people, food carts were also trying to make their way thru along with some motorbikes. One thing I’m learning is that if there is no room, there’s still plenty of room. Finally, after an hour of aimless wandering, I pulled out my map and began to dissect my surroundings. I was lost. I had no idea which way to go. And it was then out of the blue I heard a gentle voice speaking in the most perfect English with a hint of a Thai accent. “Can I help you find something miss?” the lady asked. I was so grateful for any help I could get. She informed me that Wat Po was at least a half an hour walk away for a local and it was hardly a direct route. She advised taking Bus #1 for about 6 baht ($0.25). A bus ?? That’s a guarantee to get lost even further! But she was confident and even walked me to the bus stop.
A bus stop is an absolute misnomer. The busses don’t stop. The slow down just enough for you to grab the handles and jump on. The same goes for getting off. As I jumped on the bus, afraid it would leave without me, or worse, drag me along side it, I was welcomed by the fare collector who immediately recognized me as a tourist, grabbed my wrist and propelled me into a seat. Lord knows I wouldn’t have been able to stand on this thing. I paid my fare and spent the next 10 minutes fascinated by my surroundings. Did I mention the bus had no windows so I could hang my head out the bus like a happy pooch barreling down the highway? I saw my stop, but didn’t know how to get off. Remember the lack of stopping?? So I caught the attention of the fare lady and pointed outside. She yelled,”Wat Po?” I nodded. And she urgently shooed me off the bus while instructing the driver to slow down. I made it.
Luckily, I also made it in time to watch the monks praying and missed the mad rush to see the Reclining Buddah. All in all, i’d say it was successful if not adventuresome.

We’re now in Phuket. An absolute money sucking tourist trap. We made a pit stop in Myanmar day before yesterday to renew our visas as the prospect of Thai jail is less than appealing. We also grabbed some veggie samosas in Myanmar which I think is the cause of my now 2 day illness. I’m hoping I’m well enough sooner rather than later so I can at least enjoy some beach time. Then back to flooded Bangkok, and onwards more chaotic New Delhi!

It’s easy to smile in Cambodia

I feel like smiles are rare at home. They’re harder to draw out of people. Even when we do smile, we tend to force it. Why aren’t we more happy to see each other? Over 30 years ago, the Khmer Rouge blew through this country with a force. Left a vulgar scar across the face of every cambodian, and yet they smile. They smile when you come back at 1130 at night and wake them up because your hotel room key isn’t working. They smile because you’re different. They smile because you’ve made eye contact. They smile because they see you waving at their children. They smile when their child takes his tricycle and tries to run you down with it. They smile when you are curious about what they’re cooking. They smile when they know they are extorting you for that tuk tuk ride. They smile when you say hello. They smile when you say goodbye. They smile.

Today we arrived in Battambang, the 2nd largest city in Cambodia. It has similar vulgarities as Phnom Penh, but people seem to be genuinely happy to have us visit their city. We were lucky enough to fall upon their Water Festival today taking in street food and boat races. Our goal here is to get a cooking lesson and to ride the bamboo train. The rest is just gravy!

A montage of 3 seconds clips

I can understand why people don’t like long bus rides. I mean bus seats are rarely comfortable and the risk of there not being any A/C if you’re in a hot country. Going to the bathroom, also another challenge as mainly you have to wait for the bus driver to make his few scheduled stops. And let’s not forget how sore our bodies get. But I have to say, there’s something charming about riding the bus to the next destination. Some things you don’t see when you fly somewhere.

Yesterday on my way to Siem Reap, I saw a number of scenes I wouldn’t have otherwise seen had we taken a different mode of transportation. October is the rainiest month of the year in Cambodia and flooding is not unusual. In fact, some children, as I noticed yesterday, quite appreciate the rains as now their front yards have swimming pools to play in with their other friends! I also noticed that people tend to continue on with their daily business even if it is raining. It’s a mild inconvenience. But I suppose that changes with heavy rains. A number of homes were submerged in water, even if they were on stilts, a sight you wouldn’t see often.I also had the pleasure of watching local fishermen and women set up their fishing nets. In fact, it seemed a little interesting how at first there were many people waist deep in the murky marshy river water setting up their fishing nets, but the further north we came the more people were out there with fishing poles.

Oxen were grazing, some were wading through “puddles.” One ox had his head so far into a hay stack, I wasn’t sure where he began and the hay ended! Teenagers were playing basketball, barefoot!, outside of school. Others were playing volleyball. One town seemed to specialize in making Buddhist carvings out of stone. Large ones. My favourite sight of all, though, would have to have been the children playing a game. Two kids hold up a rope about 6 feet apart from each other while on their knees. Both kids seemed to employ the same technique for holding the rope as they both needed to hold it taught above their heads as another one of their friends jumped over it, high jump style. I saw that image in less than 3 seconds, while driving by on a bus. An opportunity I would have otherwise missed out on.

Today we go to see the great Angkor Wat. Siem Reap is a bit of a party town, but it is much more relaxed and well paced than Phnom Penh. We’ll be here for a few days and then, who knows?

I seem to have misplaced October 3rd….

It’s 645am and I am wide awake. Somewhere in the mix of all this I lost October 3rd. It existed for about 3 hours and suddenly …13 hours later it was October 4th. And it was on October 4th that I landed in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. First thoughts? How the hell did I just lose 24 hours of my life and end up in Mexico? Anyone? 2nd thought? Those motorcycles look scary not to mention the lanes and actual sides of the road one drives on seem to be merely a suggestion. Maybe I’ll just stop watching the road.
Phnom Penh holds the allure of most capital cities. It’s big, smelly, and pretty boring. Mind you, I haven’t been to the Killing fields yet, so my perception could change. One thing that is an overwhelming sight is the garbage. Vancity, you thought our garbage strike was bad? We ain’t got nothing on PP. Garbage is everywhere. In fact, whilst on my drive from the airport into town (a mere 9kms that took 30 mins to drive) there was one particular street that had vendors lined up on either side and about a foot of garbage all the way down the street. I don’t plan on shopping there.
Our intention is to not stay here for too long. The countryside has a reputation for being quite stunning so we’ll begin at Angkor Wat and move on from there. As Cambodia is less developed than say Vietnam, transportation into most of the rural areas we want to go is limited therefore expensive. We’ll just have to see where the wind takes us!!

If Zanzibar is its own nation, why do they use Tanzanian immigration forms?

Who knew I could get away with so much? This place is supposed to be where I come from, and yet so much of it is disconnected from me. I just hear words I’ve heard my whole life, but have never been able to put visuals to. Mapera. Guava. Or the nickname of a villager in my parents’ town whose head was shaped as such.  I was so far away. So fragmented.  Yet, my bestie and I,  she who has been living in Tanzania for the last 10 months, are standing in front of the immigration guy trying to trick him into letting her get on the ferry back to Dar es Salaam with a resident ticket.  Not only that, but he’s falling for my half hearted charm!

Laila, bless her soul, is cheap.  I can’t explain the times I’ve been embarrassed by how cheap she can be.  This, however, does not stop me from adoring her. More so, it was an absolute advantage to have someone haggle over 100 Tanzanian schillings, or 75 cents USD.  She saved me tons of money.  Her Swahili also convinced many of her resident status, and so to save $20, she lied, and said her resident card was at home, and charmed her way into a discounted ticket.  The only disadvantage stood in front of us: the power hungry immigration officer granting us exit visas from Zanzibar, and requiring both passport and boarding ticket.  Fuck.  Hers is green (resident) and mine is gold (foreigner).  I give her mine, she gets her stamp and runs away.  Double fuck.  What they hell am I supposed to give him?

“Passport please.”

God bless my Canadian passport.

“Where you from?”


“What you do there?”

Now, I’m not the girliest girl.  I mean,  I paint my nails and appreciate my hair being brushed, but using my sexuality to my own advantage has never been a strong suit.  I will say, however, there is one tactic I have mastered and that is looking into people’s souls with my big, brown, innocent-looking eyes. FLICK!  Let the games begin!

“I work at a bank.”

“What bank? Barclays?” (Because if I work in a bank it has to be Barclays?)

“No it’s a much smaller bank.”

“What you do in Zanzibar?”

“Visiting. My family is from here.”


I flip through my handy dandy notebook and produce my clearly used an old arrival ticket.

“You speak Swahili?”

“No. Not really. I’ve learned a few words.”

“Say something.”


STAMP!  Mr. Asshole Immigration Officer hands me my passport and ticket still chuckling.  Where’s Laila?  Hiding. Shocked I got away with it.