Tag Archives: adventure

Bangkok to Cambodia, Noodle hot pot & just chuck it…

3 Dec

Friday marked the start of our travels and the end of a wonderful teaching era in Bangkok. Packing up our apartment, saying goodbye to the truly dear friends we have made this year and getting ready to move onto the next chapter of our lives – was by no means easy. This experience taught me a tremendous amount about myself, about others and the divine truth in realising that as human beings – we are all the same. We come from vastly different cultural, ethnic and social backgrounds – but, no matter where we have been brought up, no matter where in the world  our hearts lie – we are all the same.  The sweeter end of the bitter-sweet farewell was knowing that we have some well-earned travel time ahead of us – starting off in Cambodia! :)

First stop, Siem Reap…

Deciding on how to get from Bangkok to Siem Reap, Cambodia proved to be one of those ok, yes – lets fly. No, wait – lets bus. Oh no, lets fly. But, if we fly…….  And so on. The difference in price from flying to bussing was enormous – especially for those, like us, who are on a budget. Much reading and online research led us to the conclusion that a 750 Baht bus drive was our chosen mode of transport, rather than the almost 4000 Baht cheap flight. Reviews and advice had us feeling confident that we had made the right decision and reading countless tips from experienced travellers on Tripadvisors definitely aided our decision. Booking your ticket from Bangkok to Siem Reap is easy-peasy! You can either go directly to Mo Chit station, or call the Thai Ticket Major call centre on 022623456. Phoning the call centre, allows you to book your tickets over the phone – collecting and paying for your purchase at 7/11 with the booking code provided. You will be issued with a receipt which is then handed over at the Thai Ticket Major desk at the station prior to your departure.

So, in a nutshell – the bus drive is absolutely fine!! Yes, it is long. Yes, it is not the most comfortable and yes, you do need to be prepared for border/visa scams – but, overall it is an easy, extremely affordable and comfy enough trip. We opted not to acquire an online E-visa from the Cambodia Embassy before our trip as neither of us had access to credit card funds and were equally concerned that the visa would not arrive in the specified 3 working days (although I have only heard positive feedback from fellow travellers about this online service – so go for it if you have the time and have access to a credit card.) The bus leaves from Mo Chit Station (which, by the way – is not near the Mo Chit BTS station – but rather a taxi drive or quick bus drive away.)

Leaving Bangkok is easy, arriving at the Poi Pet border has the potential to be rather challenging – but be prepared, and you are A for Away! :) Before you arrive at the official border post, you will stop at an area where a man will go on the bus claiming that anyone without an E-visa needs to get off the bus and follow him to get your visa… DO NOT go with him. He leads you to a plastic, collapsable table, with an A4 printed sign saying “Make Visa Here”. If you have spent some time in South East Asia, you will know not to fall for scams like these – but unfortunately, there are many people who still do – aiding corruption and giving these arrogant individuals the power to continue ripping off innocent travellers. No sooner had a few naive tourists (determined that this was in fact the border) stepped back on the bus, was the makeshift border post folded away and the scene cleared of any evidence…  Hmmm.

Once the first visa stop is made, you will continue to the official border post where a visa is easily and legally attained. The visa cost us 800 Baht each and took all of 30 minutes to be issued. The only waiting we did was in the prefabricated building where we had to pass through the Cambodian arrivals section once our 30 day tourist visas had been issued. We stood in a long queue which moved at snails pace for over an hour – which I could imagine could be rather unpleasant in the harsh, humid summer climate. Other than that – our journey was painless, quick and easy – coming highly recommended to those travellers who are looking to travel cheap, save some cash and have the time to spare sitting on a bus soaking in the Thai and Cambodian landscape.

Wonderful Siem Reap, Cambodia.

As we were meeting my mom in Siem Reap who arrived a few days earlier, our accommodation was already booked at a lovely little place called Sweet Dreams Guesthouse. This guesthouse is conveniently located just out of the main hype of Siem Reap town, in a street filled with lots of other guesthouses. A double room with  fan and hot water costs 8 Dollars a night, the rooms are spotlessly clean, the restaurant makes delicious coffee, fruit shakes & food and the owner is delightful! I will be sure to write a full review of our stay at the end of our week! But, before we could settle our exhausted minds – Mother Dear decided to invite us along to a local dinner with some of new friends. Um, yes – this was definitely an experience… Upon arrival – besides being the only foreigners in sight – I was rather confused by the tremendous amount of litter on the restaurants floor. I was about to have sense of humor failure, unable to fathom why we would be coming to this filthy place – when my mom quickly prompted our tour guide, Mr V, to explain that in Cambodia – it is normal and acceptable to throw your litter (napkins, used chop sticks, tissue paper, beer bottles etc.) onto the floor (“just chuck it”…) – as all the rubbish is then swept and cleaned at the end of the night. I am still struggling to fathom the logic behind such a trend as it seems easier just to save time and energy by throwing your rubbish into a bin at the time – but after a while, I awkwardly followed the locals and started slipping my rubbish onto the floor. The meal? It was a traditional beef, noodle soup prepared in a hot pot – which is heated on on a gas stove, neatly placed in the middle of the table. The meal was interesting and the experience wonderful. Sunday night bedtime was warmly welcomed and our excitement to be in a new country and the realisation that we were travelling again began to settle in! :) :)

x

Monsoons and Macaroons.

16 Jun

The Rainy Season – It’s no joke.

It is safe to say that the rainy season has hit Bangkok… In a big way. In all honesty, I had completely underestimated what the rainy season actually meant or entailed. I thought there may be a few showers every now and then – providing a welcome break to the blazing city heat that dominates Bangkok daily – but no, these are no showers… These are torrential downpours – the degree to which I have not witnessed before. On Tuesday afternoon, I returned back to the office after a particularly long day of teaching at a school situated 2 hours outside of Bangkok. As the taxi got closer to the city, the massive black cloud which had been lingering for much of the day, become increasingly prominent. As we pulled up to the office, the pitter patter began and I was grateful to be indoors – perfect timing! So I thought.

Um well, that pitter patter did not last long. Within minutes, a fierce combination of rain, thunder and lightning were coming down in full force and I was left wondering how the heck I was going to get home… Almost an hour later, Kyle and I were standing on the entrance steps to our work building – surrounded by Thais who looked equally perplexed and indecisive as to whether it would be a good idea to just brave the weather or hang around for a little while longer. After awkwardly prancing around the entrance foyer (secretly hoping a Thai person was going to offer some miraculous solution to the force of Mother Nature) –  the rain appeared to be calming down –  so off we went…

Our intention was to walk outside, jump in a taxi and be dropped at the entrance to our building. Um no – that ain’t gonna happen. The roads were flooded, the gutters filled with fast-flowing water, traffic was grid locked and no taxi’s were insight. At this point we realized we were going to have to walk. (Please note, we don’t walk home on a normal day). The 2KM walk home involved my mood declining and sense of humor failing dramatically every 100M. The rain started coming down harder and harder. Cockroaches were swarming to find higher ground. The streets were flooded knee-deep in water. Power lines were flickering above our heads. And there we were – two foreign fools walking home, in a monsoon. We had no umbrella. We had no rain coat. We are fools. We arrived home drenched to the bone and highly irritated but we managed to laugh and agree – never again!

Moral of the story – do not underestimate the rainy season. 

Mr Jones’ Orphanage

Now that my little rant about the weather is over – I can tell you about some happy things! :) On our four year anniversary, we decided to celebrate in style and plan a day filled with things we had wanted to do in Bangkok for a while. One of our stops was Mr Jones’ Orphanage – a cake shop in the Thong Lor area. Words cannot really do this adorable little store justice so I do hope that the photographs do a better job! We indulged in the KitKat cake which was one of the most delicious tasting pieces of cake I have tasted. The outside of the cake was lined with pieces of KitKat and the top was sprinkled with M&Ms – a taste sensation any chocolate fan would savor for days. Once we were finished eating, taking photographs and attempting to avoid calculating our calorie intake for the morning – we ventured upstairs to the attic where we relaxed on the couches, allowing the cake to settle and sugar rush to kick in.

Celebrating in Style

June is also the month wherein we celebrate Kyle’s birthday… We had planned to go somewhere for a nice dinner, maybe have a glass or two of wine – but some last-minute spontaneity (and bravery as it started to rain minutes before departure) led us to Wine Connection. One of my best friends Mom’s back home had told me about this Wednesday special where between 5:30 and 8:30Pm you could drink all the wine and indulge in all the tapas you desire! Its one of those things which seem too good to be true – so we just had to go and see for ourselves. Well, were we impressed… When we arrived and realized that the decadent food stands on display were actually for us and the rest of the Wednesday special peeps, we just about did back flips. Having not eaten much Western Food in the last 4 months, and seeing vast amounts and variety of bread, cheese, salad, cold meats, pasta salads and basically any other tapas you can imagine – made us feel like we were in Heaven! Oh, and the most unbelievable thing? Three hours of unlimited food and wine costs only 300 Baht – a whopping R100! Sounds crazy, right??
So yes, we had an amazing evening, ended up drinking far too much wine, ventured off to one of the clubbing districts we have not been and woke up feeling like we had definitely had a decent birthday celebration! :)

Teacher’s Day

Thursday was Teacher’s Day in Thailand and at the school I teach at on a Thursday – English teachers and Thai assistants were invited to attend the ceremony – that’s what I was told. No one mentioned or emphasized the fact that we were going to be center of one of the most humbling occasions I have ever been apart of.  We were positioned on the stage in front of the entire junior school alongside the headmaster. Students came to school wearing  traditional outfits and bearing beautiful, individually created bouquets of flowers. Starting with the youngest grade, students walked onto the stage in lines, bowed at our feet and graciously handed over the bouquet which they had been holding onto throughout the morning – which was followed by a traditionally Thai wai. At first I was a slightly confused by the whole thing as it was not what I was expecting, but it did not take long before I was holding back the tears as I realized that these adorable little Thai children were honouring and showing their appreciation for their teachers – a truly humbling experience which I am so grateful to have been apart of.

Now that we are in a routine, the days and weeks are passing quicker than ever. I can honestly say that I am loving the teaching experience, that I am learning something new each day and enjoying every minute of the challenges and triumphs which our journey continues to bring. Bangkok is an amazing city which I just don’t think any foreigner can claim to know in a short space of time. Just when you think you have seen it all, something happens which changes your mind completely. I have learnt to keep an open mind and to just go with the flow. Because if you don’t, you might as well book your flight home… Friends and family back home – Princess is coping just fine… :)

x

Koh Tao in Colour.

23 Mar
    “Every occasion in life can be categorized by either a good time or a good story”. – unknown

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As we get ready to leave Koh Tao, once more, this post highlights our last few days on the island. Tomorrow, we take the long journey to Phuket where we will hopefully find suitable teaching positions – (holding thumbs!) Our decision to change plans and go to Phuket, followed along the lines of “if we don’t go, we will forever wonder what opportunities existed there…” So, off we go…

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We knew it was Full Moon Party time but weren’t quite expecting all ferries leaving Koh Tao to be booked up for two days – luckily we managed to get some of the last remaining seats so our journey could progress without too much delay. A little suggestion – if you are considering traveling to Phuket from Koh Tao, prepare for a long day of traveling. You can either do a night ferry and bus (which is slightly cheaper) or a day ferry and bus. We chose to do the day ferry as check out time is 10am and neither of us is too keen on the idea of hanging around homeless until 9pm – with our bags and no place to shower!

The ferry involves changing boats at Koh Phangan, taking a new boat to Surat Thani, then a 5 hour mini bus to Phuket. So, if you are planning a trip, consider breaking your Koh Tao/Phuket plans with a stop over in between. The journey takes just under 12 hours of ferry-ing and bus-ing – not the ideal way to spend a precious day in Thailand! :) We’ve booked our first nights stay in Phuket Town and, to be honest, I cannot wait to have a flushing toilet! A break from the non-western toilet system is going to be greattt! :) Minor detail which we didn’t see on the website, is that our hotel (according to Trip Advisor) is on top of a hill – please, do not be on top of a hill – 12 hours of traveling finished off with a climb, not ideal.

Our last few days on Koh Tao were just as amazing as all the rest. We had some incredible snorkeling days (where it felt like we were looking through the glass casing of an aquarium), we hired lilos and floated off Sairee Beach for an entire day (found two hats – one nerdy one cool), we finally had a delicious beef burger at Ban’s (our craving for beef was finally satisfied!) and we watched James Bond, Skyfall, whilst enjoying our dinner (offering an 8pm movie is a popular marketing tactic in Thailand! :)

What we found quite interesting is that the restaurant staff are particular unfriendly on this island. Obviously not at all places, but at most. We couldn’t quite figure out why, but we have pinned it down to locals just having had enough of tourists, maybe. Having worked in a restaurant, we both know how frustrating it can be to plaster a smile on your face all the time, but we were often not even greeted. We had one experience where the waitress just put her pen and paper down on our table and made us write down our own order while she stood behind us and stared into space… I would love to put the language barrier as the basis of such behavior, but we ate at the same restaurant the previous evening and had a conversation with the same waitress. The bizarre thing is, that as a budget traveller, you will return to the same restaurant as a well-priced meal outweighs poor service. Don’t be offended if you are abruptly dismissed in restaurants, it’s just the way things work here – and it has taken some getting used to!

    A few photographs from Koh Tao

When we stayed at Freedom Beach, this was the incredible view we (and our washing line) had the privilege of adoring. You would think you would need to pay top dollar for a view like this one, but we were in the cheapest bungalow up on the hill! :)

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Sunset from Freedom Beach Bar

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Our quad biking adventure day led us to some beautiful little bays. Tanote Bay was one of them – quaint and far quieter than Sairee Beach.

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View point at Mango Bay.

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Boats on Sairee Beach.

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The next few photographs are taken by my dear friend Xandi on Sairee Beach.

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Koh Tao blessed us with some of the best sunsets we have ever seen…

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After spending just under a month here, the island is starting to feel like home. If we had enough money to afford the courses, I definitely think we would have invested some time in completing our dive masters and working on the island… (On that note, we might just be back. Who knows! :)) We have met some crazy, strange and wonderful people – each of whom has a unique travel plan and motivation for leaving their home country. Neither Kyle or I is excited to be leaving, but it’s time to see a new place and let the journey continue! :)

Thank you, Koh Tao, for being magnificent in every way possible. Until next time… :)

Just keep swimming.

18 Mar

On the eve of spending 5 weeks in Thailand, here is a quick update on our adventure…

I would love to say money can’t buy you happiness, but in our case, that would be taking optimism to a whole new level. Traveling is not cheap. Yes, you can reduce meal sizes, live in a dorm, not have a western toilet but there are only so many peanut butter and chip sandwiches, rowdy room mates and bucket-flushes one can endure… To carry on enjoying this amazing country, we need cash! :)

We came to Thailand unemployed, with the plan being to use our TEFL certificates and secure a teaching post at a school in an area we would enjoy. Being Thai travel-virgins, we made the decision to find a job after seeing a town for ourselves rather than signing a contract over the Internet. Well, we fell in love with Koh Samui. Who wouldn’t fall in love with the idea of working on an island, soaking up sandy shores, surrounded by pure beauty every day? So, dressed with smiles, a decent CV and bundles of enthusiasm, off we went. We tried. Boy, did we try. We spent a full day driving around the island (in long pants and closed shoes – a scorcher to say the least) dropping off CVs at every possible school and language centre… And then, we waited. And waited. And waited.

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After two weeks of waiting for a response, we changed tactics. We realized that we cannot go on for much longer with the uncertainty of employment lingering over our heads. So, with our egos slightly bruised, we took the next logical route and sent our information (apprehensively) off to schools in Bangkok. The demand for teachers is far greater there and, although it does not fit the idealist, picturesque setting we envisioned, we need a job and cannot afford to let opportunities surpass us. The last few days haven’t been easy and it has taken some time to readjust our mindset to city life rather than island life but receiving positive feedback has boosted our confidence and we are, once again, ready for the next chapter…

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Although things are not yet finalized, we are now ready to take on Bangkok and experience what it is like to live in this incredible (for so many reasons) city. We came here to have an adventure so why not tweak the story a bit, add some spice and make the most of, what’s bound to be, an adventure of note! My little message for the day…

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The Land of Smiles

12 Mar

So, after a month of traveling and getting a whisper of what Thailand is about, I figured it was about time I stop thinking about writing a blog and actually start one… My boyfriend and I are a young Cape Town couple. With university conquered, TEFL certificates in the bag and a desire to get lost some place beautiful, we booked our flights and came to Thailand.

Here goes my attempt at sharing our adventure!

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