Tag Archives: travel

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

When it Rains, it Pours.

2 Jun

Teaching is terrifying….

Tomorrow marks the beginning of our third week of teaching in Bangkok… So far, I have found the teaching experience to be entertaining, humbling, exciting and (most of all) exhausting. Each week I teach a variety of kindergarten and lower primary school children. Most of my classes are full of children with a lot of  energy, who demand a lot of attention. Its not rocket science to know that kids pick up on your energy levels, mood and feelings very quickly – so being bubbly, enthusiastic and full of energy all the time has taken some getting used to! At the end of our first week, I have never been more excited to welcome a public holiday in my life. But, by the end of our second week, I felt far more alive and I think we are slowly adjusting to the schedule, early mornings and late afternoons.

Before I actually started teaching, I thought that the younger the children/age group, the better. Well, I was mistaken. Don’t get me wrong – the little Thai kids who are just starting their first year of kindergarten, are ridiculously cute… They are also ridiculously dumb struck at the sight of a Western face – and at times, terrified. Most of my first kindergarten lessons consisted of a symphony of crying and screaming petrified 4 year olds. Oh, and the few who did nothing but wet their pants… Literally. I’m used to seeing the home room teacher discreetly exit the classroom, only to return with a mop and a child no longer dressed in school uniform – but a dry set of pyjamas. Teaching a class of 25-30 little kids who are genuinely petrified of you, takes some getting used to. But as each week passes, they seem to be getting more and more comfortable with the sight of my Western face, ‘hairy’ arms (the Thai’s do not have much body hair at all) and bizarre sounding voice.

The primary school kids are great! Most of them have already been taught English for a number of years and are not scared of me (thank goodness!). I love being able to interact, have a laugh and converse with them on a basic level. Most of the students are extremely eager to learn, practice their English and participate in the lesson which you have prepared. It does, however, break my heart when these young kids – no older than 7/8 – come rushing up to you shouting “Teacher! Teacher! ——–“ and then start rambling off in Thai. Their enthusiasm sets the tone for an incredible story or adventure and I, unfortunately, can do nothing but smile and ask them to please tell the Thai assistant teacher. The disappointment in these little kids faces when they realize you have no idea what they are talking about is terrible, but my minimal Thai (for now) just does not permit two-way conversation! :)

Oh, the names… I have to mention the names. Not a day goes by where I don’t have a little giggle at the names of the kids in some of my classes. Each child has a Thai name and an English nickname which they are given at birth. I have a Chesecake, an Autopilot, T-Pain, Pancake, Gun, Pooh, Fart and Coffeegrinder… And that’s to name just a few! Sometimes I catch myself thinking – are they for real??! All in all – I am teaching at two wonderful schools, the kids are lovely and my days are predominately full of fun!

Let’s be friends?

One of the benefits to waiting so long to sign and formalize a teaching contract in Bangkok, is that we really did our research into the company which we are now working for. We both wanted to work in an environment which would allow us to meet other foreign teachers, make friends and socialize with young people in the same boat as us. And that is exactly what we have done. We have honestly met some of the most wonderful people since being over here… People who will come and go throughout our Bangkok journey, but who we will stay in contact with for many years to come. I miss my friends back home terribly – but meeting new people over here – people who I can relate to and have a lot of fun with – makes things so much easier!

So, how’s the weather?

The general topic of conversation is the weather at the moment… Primarily because it has become much cooler in Bangkok in the last couple of weeks, compared to when we first moved here in April. I couldn’t be more grateful. It is the start of the rainy season here. What this means is that we have a thunder storm almost every day or night. Unlike back home in South Africa, thunder and lightening can light up the sky for up to two hours before there is any sight or sound of a serious downpour. Most of the thunder storms take place in the evening – a truly magical sight to witness from our apartment on the 26th floor!

Time is flying and I struggle to fathom where the last 4 months have gone. I have days where I hate every single thing about this city – the smell, the inability of the street food vendors to satisfy my craving for a home cooked meal, the pace at which I have to stroll to get to the BTS station, the weekend traffic and constant language barrier… But I only have these days ever so often. Most of the time, I continue to love Bangkok, the teaching experience and wonderful lessons I learn each and every day. I am so grateful to have airconditioned classrooms, a beautiful apartment to come home to in the evenings and an amazing person to share this adventure with. Long may these happy, cool days last! :) :)

Wishing you all a happy week x

Browsing, Riverfront Markets & Vintage Trains.

28 Apr

The last week in Bangkok has flown by! Its true – time flies when you  are having fun! :) We have not done anything too extreme but we have planned and done some great things in the last week… Some of which we will do again, others (namely, shopping) which I will do alone! :) I have learnt something really valuable since living in Bangkok – a pedestrian crossing does not mean it is safe to cross the road. Actually, it means nothing. Its just a few white lines painted on the road. Dodging traffic in Bangkok is an art – be prepared for (at all times) cars, taxis, tuk tuks, buses and scooters (in no particular order). They are everywhere, all the time and just because the bus stops, doesn’t mean the scooter speeding past on the other side has. I am now far more street wise literally. Back to the shopping…

Platinum and Pratunum

As we start our first day of teacher training tomorrow and neither of us had the right set of clothing – Thursday afternoon was dedicated to finding the cheapest clothes we could to meet the requirements. We decided to head off to the Pratunum Shopping Mall, followed by a visit to the Platinum Fashion Mall – both of which sell a vast selection of clothing and fashion apparel at wholesale price. Our first shopping experience in Bangkok was destined for doom when we could not find a taxi driver outside of our apartment block would commit to putting on the meter – with traffic being their main argument. This resulted in us having to take a tuk tuk. Which meant (duhh) that we had to make a stop off at the ‘Armani Suite Designer’ store on the way so that he could attain a can of petrol… Normally I would not mind, but it was a blazing hot day and the traffic was obscene for 2pm. Nonetheless, we arrived at Mr Armani boiling hot and not in the mood to pretend to have a suite tailored…

One of the sales techniques in Thailand is (once salesmen have established where you are from) to start rambling on in your ‘native’ language – in the hope to encourage a purchase. Being South African, the conversations Kyle and I have had to endure are a combination of English, Afrikaans, Xhosa and Zulu. “Molo Kunjani? You lyk baie mooi! … Souph Afreeka? JA, my brother is from Durban, Camps Bay side!” It is quite funny, but since Kyle has the patience of a Saint, the last two months have involved many conversations and promises to return. Whilst I no longer even stop, Kyle still gets every tailors card, name and contact details because “he will be back…” Needless to say (and this is not a joke) we have collected close to 40 beautifully designed tailor business cards – from Bangkok to Koh Samui to Nakhon Si Thammarat!

Anyway, after nearly two hours of driving around – we arrived at Pratunum. We breezed around and then walked across to the Platinum Fashion Mall. Im going to spare all the details – but if you are in a rush and do not like crowds, avoid shopping at either of these destinations. If your other half does not enjoy shopping under normal circumstances, avoid shopping at either of these destinations. If you are wanting to try garments on to see if they fit, avoid shopping at either of these destinations. We thought we were going at the right time – on an average Thursday rather than a Saturday or Sunday, but every day is the same in Bangkok – especially if your activity is centered around bargain shopping.

On a lighter note, I saw some stunning things at the Platinum Fashion Mall. There was a decent amount of variety and each floor was clearly labelled – so you knew which floors female/male/baby wear could be found. We managed to escape with the bare minimal, just enough to cover up for our first week of training but I will definitely go back (on my own) when I get paid… Although not all the clothing is worth writing home about, some of it is really nice and the jewellery and fashion accessories are stunning! I will be back.

Asiatique Riverside Market

Our Friday evening was spent at the Asiatique Riverfront Market. This night market was completely different to what we were expecting – in a good way! Once exiting the Saphan Taksin BTS Stop, you can either catch a taxi/tuk tuk or you can take a ferry boat across to the other side. We opted to jump on the free ferry shuttle service – and I highly recommend making use of the water option rather than taking a taxi. As you approach the drop off point, the beautifully lit up Big Wheel creeps closer and closer  – a truly magnificent sight which made us feel like we were back in Cape Town, walking around the V&A Waterfront! Along the waters edge are abundant restaurants, filled with diners who were making the most of another warm Bangkok evening.

We ate dinner at an affordable Italian restaurant where we had one of the nicest, thin based pizzas since being in Bangkok! One of the most frustrating things about eating out in Bangkok (something we did not experience whilst traveling the islands) is when eating out with a group and attempting to pay the bill… Coming from South Africa, it is standard to tip 10% of the total – more or less depending on the standard of service. We are also used to having the TAX amount included in the individual food prices quoted on the menu. However, it does not work this way in Bangkok and can come as quite a surprise when the final bill does not add up. What generally happens over here, is that a service and TAX amount are added to the final amount owed by the patron. It may sound simple, but it can be quite complicated when there is a big group of people who all need to take out their phones to calculate the actual amount which they owe. There have been some evenings where we have felt a little bit annoyed at the situation as a great evening comes to an end with everyone frantically trying to work out what they owe, why the total does not tally up etc etc. Nonetheless, we had such a great evening, met some more wonderful people and I drank a glass of delicious red wine for only 80 Baht! – YAY!

So what makes Asiatique different to other markets in Bangkok? Well, firstly this market is only open in the evenings. Second, the clothing and fashion apparel for sale can be regarded as more top end, boutique items compared to items sold at the usual markets. Because you are on the waters edge, you do not feel like you are even in Bangkok! The neatly paved streets and decorated stores have a classy, chick feel about them.

Rod Fai – The Vintage Train Market

On Saturday evening we went to the The Vintage Train Market or Rod Fai Market. (But wait, prior to leaving home, I had my first hour long foot massage! I was in heaven!) After struggling to find the exact location of the market and with no locals or taxi drivers having any idea of where we were wanting to go – we eventually found this amazing, hidden little gem! This market is filled stalls which are completely different to any of the other markets we have visited whilst being in Bangkok. Also, there is a focus on food – with Thai food vendors being scattered all around the venue, encouraging visitors to choose a selection of eats and then sit around on the benches and tables provided. There was something very special about this market and I think one of the main things was the very few foreigners which we saw, even thought it was very busy. The market was predominantly Thai and can definitely be regarded as a local hang out spot.

(Photographs below: http://www.bangkok.com/rodfai)

If shopping and browsing are not your idea of fun – no problem! You have the choice to sit back, have a few beers and enjoy the bustling atmosphere. If Thai food is your thing – then you have to go to this market! There is an array of dishes available – some of the most delicious mushrooms wrapped in bacon, chicken and pork kebabs and fried chicken – along with all your usual and exotic (fried cockroaches) Thai dishes. We met up with friends (another couple) which is definitely the way to go when visiting a market or anything vaguely related to shopping. Kyle spent the evening drinking beer (maybe a bit too much…) while I browsed the stores. You might think that having been to so many markets, there must be a general similarity shared by all. But no – each one has its own unique feel. Rod Fai emphasized vintage wear and items – with old cameras, leather handbags and unique wall pieces on sale.

So what now?

We definitely ended our two and half month holiday off in style – spending the weekend with amazing people, seeing new things and experiencing a little more of what Bangkok has to offer. Tomorrow, we enter the real world again and to be completely honest, I cannot wait. I am so excited to start training, get an idea of what this whole teaching English craze is all about and  get a little bit more prepared for official classes which start on the 16th of May.

I cannot believe it has taken me so long to say this – but the Purple People are back! My last post emphasized our utter devastation and disappointment that our friendly little street vendor who serves the most delicious food, had disappeared – but they are back! Not in the same spot, much further up the road, but who cares? We found them! :)

We are still so happy over here, settling in more and more as the days go by. I miss my family and I miss my friends more than anything, but having access to Skype, Facebook and instant Whatsapp messages has made this time away so much easier. Chatting over Skype has made it feel as though we have just had a cup of coffee and catch up with friends and family  – even though we are millions of miles away from home! We are still fascinated (on a daily basis) at how different Thai culture is to what we are used to back home. We learn something new everyday and are as excited as ever to see what the rest of our time over here has installed…

Wishing you all a happy week x

Big City Life.

2 Apr

“I might not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I’ve ended up where I needed to be” – Douglas Adams.

Our last 10 days in Thailand have been emotional, exciting, wonderful, terrible and everything in between…
We left Koh Tao and ventured off to Phuket – the tourist capital of the Thai Kingdom. We spent two nights staying in Phuket Town before heading to Patong Beach for a night.

Phuket Town

Phuket Town is an interesting place – it is busy but not overwhelmingly busy. People are generally friendly and eager to help you out. There is an indoor, air conditioned clothes market which made browsing with a boyfriend who hates shopping, far more bearable! :) Two nights were more than enough to soak up what the ‘islands’ capital had to offer, so we decided to venture down to Patong.

Patong

Well, Patong proved to be an experience in itself. Unfortunately, the fine print of our accommodation booking did not state that our hostel was situated 3km from the beach (which we only discovered once we walked there in the blazing heat). It didn’t take long for us to realize that Patong was not for us. The beach was ridiculously crowded with tourists and locals of all ages, shapes and sizes – not at all what we were used to coming from Koh Tao. Getting around also proved to be rather challenging. Taxis and tuk tuk rides cost an obscene amount of money in Phuket – a 9km journey cashing in at 800 Baht! A few hundred Baht short of what we paid to get to Phuket. Needless to say, the taxi drivers do not utilize their meters and we were later told by a foreigner who has lived in Patong for 10 years, that the transport system in Phuket is extremely corrupt.

After 7 weeks of traveling we decided that it was best to head back to Bangkok to secure a job, find an apartment and save some money before the school term begins. Although we had hoped to spend some time exploring Krabi and Phi Phi, we knew that this would set us back financially and neither of us wanted to begin our journey back to Bangkok broke or in debt.

I have no doubt that Phuket is an amazing holiday destination for those who can afford to stay in a resort with a private beach or for those who enjoy the idea of getting lost on Bungalow Road but we were not exposed to such luxury or lure. I do hope to go back to the province before we leave Thailand (preferably with a little bit more money and time) as I am sure there is plenty to see and do which does not relate to crowds and over capacitated shore lines. The northern beaches look unbelievably beautiful and when we return, I will be sure to explore the island and places we did not get to experience – which I’m sure will alter our perception of Phuket! :) Our feelings further proved what we have discovered since being in Thailand – you need to get off the main roads and find untouched spots which, with a little bit of effort, are actually in abundance.

Bangkok

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The last 3 days have been filled with many emotions and the thought of going home to beautiful, clean and cool Cape Town has crossed my mind many times… Readjusting to the smells, stagnant puddles, dense air, cockroaches and traffic takes some time! Kyle and I really did not want to be in Bangkok and the fact that we are now here searching for jobs has made us feel rather defeated. We spent Saturday walking the streets in blistering heat in search of a suitable apartment but nothing sufficed. Keeping in mind that the only guidance we were given was to “look up and go to the tallest, apartment-looking buildings”. So yes, we walked around sweating with our heads tilted upwards walking in the direction of what we thought looked like an apartment building! :)

To top off our day, no taxi driver knew where our hotel was. So for two hours, we were lost. Until this incredibly sweet young Thai couple stopped to help us. The strange thing about traveling is that you meet some of the most wonderful people whom you will never see again. I swore never to do this in Bangkok, but our only way back to the hotel was on the back of a motor cycle… By this stage I didn’t care about hugging a Thai motor cycle driver for 5km, sweating like I had just done a 90 minute Bikram yoga class. I jumped on, with Kyle clutching his own driver close behind.

We went to bed on the verge of packing our bags and, I will be honest, I shed my first set of uncontrollable tears! :) But, guess what? The sun rose on Sunday morning and we were forced to get up and accept that no one ever said this was going to be easy! Our petty little melt down about living in the Big City is pretty insignificant in the whole scheme of life. So up we got and off we went to begin round two of the apartment hunt. Without going into boring detail, the Universe works in weird ways – and we were once again reminded that everything happens for a reason. We were shown a one bedroom, furnished apartment which adores all the luxuries of a swimming pool, gym, restaurant and a 5 minute walk from our potential job. Renting such an apartment in Bangkok equals around R3800 a month (ridiculously cheap for what you are getting!) and when you come over as a couple/pair, earning two salaries makes rent a minor part of your monthly expenditure. Although we have had to do what we really did not want to do – borrow money from home – we are feeling far more at peace about our decision to come to Bangkok. The borrowed money is solely to cover the two months deposit and one months rental to secure the contract. If all goes to plan, we will sign the contracts and move in this week. Moving in actually only involves taking our bags in the elevator to the 26th floor, where they will be promptly unpacked and placed out of sight for a while!

We met two stunning girls from Cape Town who have been teaching and living in Bangkok since January. They laughed when we told them about how miserable we were on Saturday – reassuring us that they cried every day when they first arrived – now they just laugh! :) They have shown us around, included us in their plans and reassured us that we are in actual fact normal for feeling so down and that this too shall pass.

Bangkok by night.

If you have read any of my previous posts, you will know that we have been on a red-meat-quest. Last night, we ventured to Fire House – the nicest, home made burger restaurant on Soi 11 in Sukhimvit. We splurged 170 Baht each on a burger and it was worth every cent! Being with people who have lived in the city for some time, means that we have gotten an insiders taste to what to do/where to go. In all honesty, seeing this part of Bangkok made me feel like I was in London again! (Minus the heat, duh).

Bangkok has two sides – day and night. The City comes alive at night and if you know which areas to be in, you are more than likely to be pleasantly surprised by what you see around you. Bars, restaurants and night clubs are bustling with tourists, locals and expats alike – all sharing banter and soaking up the evening life. During the day, streets are bare but at night, every corner is filled with street food vendors and caravan-converted bars.

I know that we are going to settle in and have an amazing time here. We are in no way ready to pack up and leave. When we stop laughing hysterically, when all we want to do is cry, then it will be time to leave. But for now, I find myself bizarrely amused at this fascinating culture where stick on braces can be bought in a variety of colors (fashionable?), Hello Kitty is still the best thing ever, hats with cat-ears are remarkably popular and it isn’t strange to buy second hand underwear (double ??). Although Thailand is still developing, I love the fact that the difficulty of some things, is balanced out with the simplicity of others. The transport system in Bangkok allows one to go all over the city, day and night – exactly the same as in a developed, first world country like London. Nope, it hasn’t been an easy ride, but I can’t wait get to know Bangkok and familiarize myself with the City we will call home for a while…

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… :)

The Liebster Award.

22 Mar

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I woke up this morning to a lovely little (and unexpected!) surprise – a nomination from Sarah Ryan for a Liebster Award! I’m new to the blogging-world so I am extremely grateful and excited that someone has enjoyed reading the words, experiences and photographs I have shared. Thank you, Sarah! :)

The rules for this award can be found by clicking on the link.

11 facts about myself:

  • It took me 3 attempts to pass my drivers license (I can drive, nerves just got the better of me!) :)
  • I am a huge Greys Anatomy fan.
  • I have a degree in Political Science, Philosophy & Economics. And another in Marketing.
  • My great grandfather illustrated Roberts Bird Book.
  • I am terrified of snakes.
  • I love chocolate.
  • I dyed my hair orange (accidentally) whilst living in Oxford and couldn’t afford to dye it back…
  • I want to start my own business one day.
  • My nickname is Kitty.
  • I prefer red wine to white.
  • I love the outdoors!
  • Answers to Sarah’s questions:

    1. Mountains, beach or city?
    Beach. I love the beach. But I love the mountains too. Tough choice – but if I had to choose, it would be the beach.

    2. Favourite travel book?
    I don’t have a favourite travel book – too many to choose from! I’m reading “Extreme Money” by Satyajit Das at the moment and really enjoying it.

    3. If you could only travel to one more destination where would it be?
    East Africa. I’m dying to explore this part of the world – especially Kenya.

    4. Best luggage packing tip?
    Invest in a suitcase which has both wheels and a backpack option…

    5. Do you offset your carbon when travelling, or would you (why or why not)?
    I try my best to do my part for the environment and remind others around me to do the same. I try to save water, switch off the lights and throw away litter I find on the beach/street. Being in Thailand has made me realize how little people appreciate the environment… Beaches are often left littered with bottles, packets and plastic.

    6. How do you commemorate your travels (photo album, scrap book, ornaments, paintings….)?
    Photographs. I normally frame a few special ones and put a selection in an album. I do enjoy putting all my photographs on a disk and browsing through them every now and then! When I left South Africa, I bought a few disposable cameras which I cannot wait to develop when I get back home next year! :)

    7. What tech do you use whilst travelling (phone, camera, tablet, gps…)?
    My iPhone and camera. My phone has been an amazing investment! It has allowed me to add blog posts, take amazing photographs which I can upload instantly and have access to a GPS.

    8. Where are you planning to travel to this year?
    Laos, Cambodia, India, Vietnam and Indonesia. And maybe Australia and New Zealand :)

    9. What is your favourite mode of transport and why?
    Currently, I would have to say anything with air conditioning! So a car/taxi. Thailand is hot!! :) But I have really enjoyed driving around on a motorcycle on the islands.

    10. If you could live anywhere in the world where would it be and why?
    Cape Town – home is where the heart is! It offers a little bit of everything – from incredible beaches, mountains and natural beauty to restaurants, night life and shopping. Ideally, I want to live in Cape Town and then move to Wilderness – a small town on the coast, about 450km from Cape Town. I have a lot of special memories in this town and would love to live there one day…

    11. Recommend to us the blog post you are most proud of and tell us why.
    I would say, “just keep swimming”. I wrote it at a time when I realized that things do not always go according to plan (something everyone learns at some point whilst traveling).

    Since starting my blogging-journey, I have thoroughly enjoyed the following blogs and therefore nominate them for a Liebster Award :)

  • Travels with Kate
  • le pirate
  • KU tripfeed
  • Little Red Jenn
  • The Stave Diaries
  • My questions for you…

  • Favourite season and why?
  • Five words that best describe you?
  • If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be?
  • Do you prefer traveling alone or with a partner/friend?
  • Favourite city?
  • Do you have a certain saying/quote that inspires you? What is it?
  • Burger or pizza?
  • When traveling, what is the one thing you never leave home without?
  • Do you have a favourite book or author?
  • What do you miss most about home when traveling?
  • Would you rather sky dive or go shark cage diving?
  • Once again, thank you Sarah for the nomination – your blog is brilliant and I highly recommend it to fellow bloggers and readers.

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    Evelina Galli

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