August 26, 2013

puppy love.

today's post is brought to you by special request. i guess i could have written something about hoi an or how we got lost and had dinner in a dark alley (always get lost and have dinner in dark alleys!) or how this is turning out to be the journey of all the boat trips. but since i got a special request, i thought i should rather focus on another important part of travelling – meeting people – and introduce you to the post requester.
there is wifi all over vietnam, except in our hotel right now. so little social media addicts that we all are we sat over dinner with our iphones, checking facebook, and basically commenting on what the people across from us at the table were doing online. yes, i it is a bit sad, don't i know it...
ash – who, by the way, was my knight in sweaty armour from my last story - had not only started to read my blog and like it, but was now demanding more and when was the next story coming and what was i doing here eating dinner instead of putting down amusing words. and of course my ego was stroked and so here i am by special request at midnight.

meet ashley from london or ass as the vietnamese tend to pronounce it, which of course one cannot help but adapt. after spontaneously tricking him into being my today's travelette instagram on the topic of 'travel buddy', i thought he deserved a bit of a better introduction than this:


(though most of the pictures he jumped into are sort of like the above.)

we met on our first part of the journey in bangkok and to my horror i had to find out that there were people, well, one, who are almost half my age on this trip. this led him to tell me that he doesn't mind being organized and will i please organize him. my therapist would have been proud of me when i declined, but somehow it still stuck that he calls me his mum once in a while (thanks, ass!).
i never thought i would become friends with someone who does that or with whom i don't have anything at all in common with on paper. but sometimes wanting to squeeze someone's cheek will be apparently be enough to start a friendship. and before you shake your head or mentally high five me, i am not talking about cheek squeezing in a mrs robinson way, but rather in a puppy's cheek squeezing way.

ash, i'm not being condescending, but i will call you a puppy. because you can sleep anywhere and eat anything. but mainly for your enthusiasm you bring along for everything: rocking a dingy piano bar, enjoying angkor wat and angkor what, eating baked beans and pringles in the pool or doing homework with the restaurant owner's kid. i envy that enthusiasm, i want more of this in my life. thanks for showing me how it's done!

August 22, 2013

train of thoughts.

you would assume being on a night train in the top bunk is conducive to writing. it really isn't when you have to wonder who slept in the sheets before you, whether you might fall off, and if the roaches in the food carriage are any indication to what's underneath your bed. but then your travel companion brings out a $1 bottle of rum to make it all better and you decide that drinking is more of a necessity than writing on the night train.

however the a couple of days later the same thoughts are still here and i can sum it up neatly: i am starting to miss home. i am at the pinnacle of my trip, one cannot not love hoi an, by now i know everybody's name in my group and have learned how to avoid the motorbikes, and i prefer the vietnamese food to anything i have ever eaten. and now i am starting to miss home. how? why?

first of all my body feels a bit off. i have gotten sunburnt, had a cold sore, sport various bites from anonymous sources, and my left toe nail seems to be dying (which, dear wary traveller, had already started back home, so one cannot blame asia for it!), and for the past few days my stomach feels dodgy and since i have so far gotten away with eating pretty much anything, this makes me especially grumpy. it is probably punishment as i was secretly laughing at a couple who wiped their utensils with antiseptic at a fancy breakfast place. i obviously didn't and here i am looking for the happy house (yes, that's really how it's called!).
i am also starting to realize that even though i am travelling with a lovely group, i sometimes feel really lonely within this group. in certain moments i feel even more lonely than if i was travelling by myself, because being surrounded by people makes me more aware that they are not my people. though i have met some great girls, had nice chit chats and some good conversations, at the end of the day they are still strangers. i miss the non strangers in my life. i miss people that i have a history with, that i don't need to explain to, that still get my references.

i miss my brother, because he would love the fact that vietnam seems to love tin tin as much as he does. i miss julia to talk me in or out of buying giraffe print fabric for my tailor made pants. i didn't get them in the end, but i'm afraid i made the wrong decision, because i could have had giraffe pants! i miss my mother, because she would love all the different massage places and watching the chefs in the kitchens and the ladies on the markets. she would go into any restaurant kitchen if they would allow her and here most chefs actually wouldn't mind. i miss thekla, because she would enjoy eating all the food with me and i wouldn't have to feel bad that i can actually, without any problem, eat three full meals per day. i miss marie so she can check for me if something is really silk or not. i miss claire so i can proudly tell her that not me, but only the cover of my camera lens, fell into the rice paddy and luckily i had a knight in sweaty armour by my side to stick his arm into the muck and fish it out for me. i miss my father, because he would love taking pictures with me of our dinner before it becomes our dinner and because he is the best to order champagne cocktails in french. as it is i didn't have any because i'm not that fancy on my own.

but having that said, i will stop now. i have to collect my non-giraffe tailored pants, buy a bracelet, eat lunch at morning glory (no jokes please, i have heard them all over the last week), get a massage, attend a birthday party, and take a boat trip down the river for the lantern festival. so yes, i miss you guys, but i will see you soon, and life is too good right now to mope. 

August 15, 2013

20 random things i recently learned about me and cambodia.

people travel for two reasons: to learn about the world and to learn about themselves. usually they end up getting a combination of both. i'm on a bus to ho chi minh, leaving beautiful cambodia. being stuck on a bus with chinese music playing for 7 hours gives you plenty of time for reflection. here is what i have learned about the world and myself in the past weeks:

1. pringles are a completely acceptable breakfast choice.

2. i'm more easy going than i thought i was. i know when to take my time out, but usually and when not hungry i'm quite happy to go with the flow. i have met some real princesses on this trip and i wasn't one of them *pads own shoulder*.

3. the content of my backpack seems to be growing though i haven't bought anything. i am wondering if there is a traveller's secret to this that i don't know about?
(the above was a lie. i have bought three kromas for myself and one silkscarf in pink for my mother and a whole bag of spices that i have no idea if i'm allowed to import them.)

4. monks go commando i was told my multiple sources. not sure why i needed to know that, but our tour guides apparently deemed it important so i'm passing on the wisdom to you.

5. the one luxury i don't want to live without is face spritz. i lost my rosewater in bangkok and have been unhappy ever since about it. yesterday i shrieked in delight when i found evian spray at a pharmacy and promptly spent a little fortune on it to make it mine.

6. things don't make people happy. doing things that you love makes people happy. smiling makes people happy. i was told planting rice with your family during the rainy season makes people happy.

7. if you have ever spend a night in the cambodian countryside you will learn that crickets can be bloody loud and not very romantic and you will not go out and buy yourself a sound machine with jungle noises because you miss that sound so much. at least i won't.

8. sometimes doing really touristy things can be loads of fun. like doing a group cyclo race in really hectic traffic. especially when the locals around you don't mind.

9. traffic in cambodia is manic. i didn't see a single accident and still don't know how that is even possible. it seems to be an intricate system of organized chaos an outsider cannot understand.

10. i can live without wine. well, spider wine doesn't count and there is always beer, but still...who would have guessed?

11. i'm completely mesmerized by rice paddies and the harvesting of them.

12. kids are kids anywhere in the world: some are cheeky, some are shy, there is always a leader, one with pigtails, a big sister bossing a little brother. i like that certain dynamics are the same wherever you go. same goes for men and watching sports.

13. i need to spend more time by the beach. i become a different person when there is sun and salt on my skin (and yes, minus the sunburn obviously!).

14. i still need to find the balance between when to take pictures and when to put my camera down and just absorb. i think i miss out experiencing when i see through a lens too much.

15. i'm a hair tier upper. always. sorry. even with my new short hair the tropical whether just calls for it.
16. i am really really afraid of snakes. i won't eat one (and mind you i have eaten a spider leg) and when we were on the tonle sap lake and a boy in a small boat with a snake around his neck came close to ours i almost jumped into the water.

17. travelling puts me in a bubble. while that can be a great thing of living in the moment at times, i also need this trip to spend some time thinking about where i'm going and what i want out of my life. i haven't done that at all. then again, i tend to overthink everything so maybe it's a good thing to just be for a bit.

18. food! i get ridiculously excited by the local menus. i usually want to order everything. the best part about any town for me are the food markets and thai basil is the bestest of all herbs. 

19. i love lotus flowers. i almost bought some to put in my hotel room, but then sanity prevailed. lotus flowers don't like 7 hour bus rides very much.

20. i do like going away and coming home equally.  

August 13, 2013

stuff i like in cambodia.

today was my last day in cambodia. tomorrow i will be on a 7 hour bus ride *grrrr* to vietnam. so i thought i should do a little recap of my favorite things here in accordance with my stuff i like series (yes, i know two posts don't make a series, but i'm working on it!). so here is my favorite stuff that i liked in cambodia:

beach day.
spending a day on bamboo island reminded me that i am a total beach baby, but also that i still have light, sensitive german skin. you would assume after 6 years in south africa i know how to put on sunscreen, but my back and the top of my feet tell a different story. but still i loved it, being on the sand and in the water is my best and i must make an effort to do more beach days when i get back home.
however boat rides are a whole other story. due to it being rainy season we had such a bumpy ride that a few people get sick and all of us where scared for our lives. well, i was mainly scared for my camera. apparently you are a bad traveller if you haven't gotten a dry bag. we also learned not to drink beer in a pool till late the night before a boat ride.

fresh coconut juice.
i have written extensively about my love for coconut water or juice as they call it here. however in cambodia they serve it straight up in a coconut, even in fancy restaurants.

sticky rice.
take a mini banana, plaster it with sticky rice, sprinkle with coconut, wrap in a banana leaf, and grill on an open fire. unwrap and eat it straight out of the leaf. best roadside breakfast ever!
*sorry, no picture because that thing was gone in under a minute.*

the smell of jasmine.
in massage oil, incense, and in fresh garlands for decorations or as an offering at the home shrines - i want my entire home to smell like jasmine from now on and can you imagine how excited i was to find out that my face balm is fragranced with it?!

trees taking over.
i have seen lots of nurseries all over cambodia and apparently there are quite a few reforestation programmes in place. i like this a lot. and then of course there are the trees at ta prohm, better known as the tomb raider temple these days, who have taken reign over the stones. it reminded me of the power of nature.

and though this is obviously not stuff, but what i enjoyed most about cambodia are its people. despite a recent gruelling history are they incredibly friendly and optimistic, very hardworking and hospitable and they don't seem to dislike tourists yet. i have never seen a nation of so many smiles. that made me happy and i think i smiled quite a lot here too. no more annoyka in cambodia, no more worries about wrinkly eyes!

August 9, 2013

bangkok, baby!

i arrived last night at 2am in bangkok, which now had completely spoiled my plan of having my first pad thai upon immediate arrival. it took another two hours to get from the plane to the asadang, but once i arrived everything was just right. i have told you of my high hopes for this guest house and you know how it sometimes goes with high hopes. they get disappointed and especially if you spend an exorbitant amount of money on something, it usually cannot live up to it. well, it wasn't that case last night when i arrived. i will write a proper story about it at some point, but just know for now this place is magical and if you ever come to bangkok stay here immediately and book the room with the balcony and the tiniest spiral staircase that leads up to it. i swear back in the day they used this room to lock up the naughty princesses: the most beautiful, but the most difficult to access room in the whole house!
it was 4am by the time i arrived there and i was completely hyper and instead of taking two sleeping pills i had a beer on my balcony. then i jumped around like a crazy person, uuuhing and aaaahing over the fresh orchids, the shampoo that smells like jasmine, and the fact that the mini bar is free. when i finally did go to bed i couldn't sleep because i was planning my day ahead which resulted in me oversleeping and waking up extra groggy.

cats on a hot tin roof are my neighbors.

now after my first day i am back on my balcony. with a big bottle of singha which the kind chaiya organized for me from the shop next door, because wouldn't that just cheaper. water is rippling next to me by the canal that i'm overlooking and the night is warm. you will ask why the heck i am at my hotel and not out on a saturday night in bangkok, right?
i had a bit of a revelation today. here was my original plan:

get up at 9.30am.
see wat pho, the grand palace with the emerald buddha, and wat arun.
eat pad thai for lunch.
find that little massage place which a journalist friend of mine recommended for a cheap, but incredible thai massage.
go to the night market to eat THE pad thai, a tip from yet another travel journalist.
have at least a beer on khaosan road.

i only got as far as wat pho two hours after my intended start in the day. which i realize now is because my alarm was set to 9.30pm. after seeing the reclining buddha and some others, i wanted a massage then and there even though i knew it would probably be cheaper at the little massage place. i didn't care, because i was technically at the thai massage centre of the world, it was hot and humid - by the way if you don't like the temperatures in a hot yoga studio, do not come here! - and i wanted to not have to run around to find a massage when there was one right in front of me. after the most blissful 30 minutes my feet ever had, i also realized that i didn't want to spend thb 500 ($15, zar 150) to see the grand palace. ups. scandalous, i know. but i started to ask myself - what do i really want to do and spend my money and time on? not what people think i should do or the guidebook or my friends who have been here or the travel bloggers i like and read. what do i want?

 peekabo buddha. it think he not only looks enlightened, but also a little bit cheeky which i like.

and so i went back to my hotel to have a coconut ice-cream snack. then i managed to find my way to a bikram class, which i will tell you more about later, because i still think it was quite an achievement. i took a slow boat home and got probably the best view on wat arun, lit in the dark, dazzling, and grand. then i went to eat pad thai next door to the asadang. and i ate all of it. and if there would have been any space left in me i would have ordered another portion. it was THE pad thai for me tonight and i almost wanted to cry it was so good. 

and now sitting on my princess balcony, being eaten by mozzies, listening to the sounds of a city and feeling very content. that contentment that comes with truly hearing me, feeling me, checking in with me, being me. mind you, i am also incredibly tired and full, not only of pad thai, but of a new city. a city that i want to become friends with and maybe more. i don't want to be over it before it even started just because i tried to do it all in two days. bangkok, i like you, so let's take things slow and have another beer on my balcony first, okay?

view from the boat. sorry for the quality and lack of wat arun, but my iphone was really scared to end up in the water. 

August 7, 2013

eating asia: crickets, pancakes and coconuts.

i apologize in advance, but none of my travel stories are going to be in any chronological order. i just had some really amazing pancakes for breakfast and because there is internet, i feel the need to tell you about the food here right now.
i guess it was kind of a given that the food was going to be good, but really i had no idea. i am eating all the food and so far i had:

three plates of pad thai. after the first one i was wondering what it was they call pad thai in south africa, because it definitely isn't pad thai. basically i have been to heaven and back with each plate (okay, maybe not the one we had at the restaurant at the petrol station, but it was still really good for petrol station food).

lots of sugared peanuts as a pre-dinner snack. yup, they are sugared here and i like it.

sticky rice topped with coconut for breakfast and blue sticky rice as a topping on coconut icecream.

THE best coconut balls. it must have ranked up there was one of the best sweets experiences of my life.

sour mango with spices.

two crickets. which very actually quite nice. one guy said they tasted a bit like bacon and they actually do. i just feel a bit bad now whenever i hear the sound of crickets in the evenings.

i have sampled four local beers: singha and chang in thailand, ankor and cambodia in cambodia. and of course sampled is a bit of an understatement.

i have had original long island ice tea in a bucket on khaosan road and the head to match the next morning.

lemongrass icetea! that deserves a special mention because it come very close to the thyme tea in the atlas mountains in goodness.

two of two breakfasts consisting of pancakes. america, go away! -your pancakes have nothing on cambodia's. they are doubly as thick, doubly as fluffly, and they are usually served with sweet milk, butter, and fresh fruit.

of course i had lots of coconut juice, most of it served straight up from a coconut which you can get in most restaurants and from the street stalls. but even the one they sell in cans here is not bad at all, because it is unsweetened and has little bits of coconut floating in it.

khmer food in general must be one of the most underrated cuisines ever. it is absolutely fantastic and has its own set of spices, herbs, and flavours. so far i had beef with starfruit salad, fresh springrolls, chicken amok served in a coconut, flat white noodles with vegetable, and have successfully declined to eat a dried snake snack.

to my demise i have realized that i have no problem with eating three full meals per day, even with the constant heat and humidity of a bikram studio all around. i also have not unrolled my yoga mat once. and i have no idea how i will ever go back to eating simply asia or chef pon's. however for now i don't care, because i'm on holiday and there is some more pancakes waiting for me – with fresh fruit, which surely counts for something!

p.s. i have since added the following: the hottest, most delicious green papaya salad, more fresh spring rolls, one with bacon which was a bit odd, a platter full of fresh fish, a home cooked meal with deep fried mushrooms and morning glory with lotus seeds, a shot of spider wine, and this morning i actually ate a spider leg (probably tarantula, it just looked like beef jerky). okay, it was actually more the quarter of a leg, but still, i felt quite heroic and wouldn't be surprised to meet tobey maguire any moment now. 

August 2, 2013

aloha from doha.

please forgive the headline. and any upcoming typos. i am sleep deprived and dehydrated and delayed. 

i wanted to say a quick goodbye yesterday and had already prepared a post which started something like as you can imagine i'm running around like a headless chicken today, but i wanted to say goodbye and... i was also going to admit that as per usual i have no posts scheduled for while i am away and sorry and instead i was going to tell you about the instagram challenge i am doing with the travelettes and how you can see my trip in pictures if you follow me. 
but that was yesterday and yes, i was running around like a headless chicken, then had a boozy lunch to get into holiday feeling, but then i had to run around some more and next thing i know there was no time to blog and i was stuck in traffic on my way to the airport. i think i had a mild panic attack, especially after i had just decided not to take any rescue remedy with me and i thought i had just committed the first cardinal sin of packing. i did however make it with plenty of time and only to be told that my flight was delayed and my connection in doha would be missed. oh well. i will only arrive in bangkok at midnight now which will effectively deprive me of one bowl of pad thai, which is a lot considering that i am only there for 3 nights and therefore have limited mealtimes to work with. but i decided i will squeeze in a pad thai for breakfast or get one as take-away for the drive to cambodia, so my world is well again.
due to the delay you are now getting a post written from the somewhat fancy business class lounge at doha airport. as you can imagine my first concern was where i would get food and drink in doha during ramadan. i already saw myself either being arrested for taking a sip in public or getting a stomach bug because i snuck a drink from the ladies room faucet. but since i'm not shy i got myself a free pass to the lounge and possibly an upgrade. they are fancy here with huge bottles of chilled water, a breakfast buffet and 10 choices of coffee. luckily i had a pass and they had to let me in though i look anything but fancy. and they can't even tell me off for eating all the food from the buffet and going back for second and third cappuccinos, so my spirits are good despite the delay and the potential loss of one pad thai. 

now i have to go because they are taking away breakfast, potentially replacing it with a mid-morning snack or possibly an early lunch. i am ALWAYS hungry when traveling. is that just me? is it because my body knows that calories don't exist in transit?

in case you are keen to see our challenge or participate, check it out here or follow us with #dailytravelette on instagram. 

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