Tag Archives: Asia

Hilarious Travel Planning Memories with a side of Budget Travel Tips

13 Aug

A lot of people ask me how I afford such a pricey (MYTH!) travel endeavor. Listen folks, travel isn’t that expensive. Trust me! In fact, I definitely spend more money living in Canada for three months than traveling for the same amount of time in a faraway destination. You do need money upfront, which involves some saving, but it doesn’t have to stop you from doing fun things with friends or forcing you to live in a cardboard box. Long term travel is quite affordable. You just need to reflect on a few unnecessary items and lifestyle choices. For example, I decided to sell my car to fund my South East Asia trip. It might sound a little ridiculous to some people, but I was moving to the big city after traveling and I didn’t need a car anymore. Cars are luxury money holes. Reflecting on how to fund travel helps put life into perspective and your priorities in check.

Long term travel is a bit different. It requires you to cut a few strings. One way I can afford going on a 6 month adventure is by giving up my lovely studio apartment in Toronto. I’m moving out of my humble abode and moving back in with my family (cringe…..). But hey, every budget traveller needs to make sacrifices, even if they are a tad embarrassing. I could have found a subletter, but I wanted to be free from the shackles of my modern, cosmopolitan life. Sounds a little dramatic, eh? I simply didn’t want to worry about an apartment back home and a stranger doing unmentionable activities on my bed. You get the drift.

There’s a point to this little story….

While rummaging through my book shelf, I found an old notebook my travel partner/best friend and I used to jot down travel ideas and inspirations. Between the pages, I stumbled upon a hilarious doodle from over two years ago. Check it out! Continue reading

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RTW: Step Four!

17 Jul
Kuala Lumpur to Melbourne

Hello Melbourne!

BOOKED BOOKED BOOKED! I’ll be arriving in Australia November 30th, 2012! Exciting stuff.

Yes, I realize I skipped a step. Step three is booking return flights to Bali, Indonesia from either Singapore or Kuala Lumpur. I’m still trying to figure that one out, so I moved on to STEP FOUR! Kuala Lumpur to Melbourne is an important flight, which I can’t leave last minute. It can also be a really expensive one, so when I saw a great promo price, I excitedly got out my credit card and started to input away. Eight tries later, my booking finally went through! It was a bit of a hassle, but the rate was worth it.

Oy vey. My credit card bill is going to be outrageous this month…

Flying into Melbourne is a bit of a surprise. Stefanie and I were originally thinking we’d fly into Cairns and then work our way down the East Coast to Melbourne with a pit stop in Ayers Rock. The whole Ayers Rock expedition throws the whole route off, as you can see in the map below. Flights were also much more affordable to Melbourne than Cairns, despite the longer distance. So, I thought… why not just do a loop? I am no stranger to the travel loop! In fact, I’ve done loops for all of my travels. This is mostly because I book round trip in and out of the same airport. The Aussie loop will allow us to travel through South Australia as well. In total, I’ll be exploring 4 out of 6 Australian states and both territories. I’m not going to Western Australia, despite hearing how absolutely beautiful it is. Oops! I just don’t have the time, nor funds! Tear.Map of Australia with States

More good news on its way! Stay tuned.

RTW: Step One!

7 Jul

Wow. I am terrible at keeping up with weekly photo challenges. I suppose I just got caught up in the excitement of travel planning. Last week, I managed to take some time off and visit my family and friends in my hometown. It wasn’t all about catching up though. Stefanie and I had some major travel plans to discuss. In fact, I was hoping to book my flight while I was down there. Flight where? I guess I should start from the beginning…

Seeing as this will probably be the last opportunity for me to travel with very little strings attached, I’ve decided to pack up my things, leave the dog with a friend and jet off to some faraway destinations for a while. How long? Well, here’s the kicker…. 6 months! Yikes, even typing it is exhilarating yet terrifying. This adventure will be my longest one yet. Some people won’t understand it, but I’m confident in my choice. And as the wise man Drake once said… YOLO (you only live once). I feel ridiculous writing that.

So, WHERE AM I GOING? Continue reading

April showers… more like snow.

5 Apr

Melissa Medeiros To and Fro

Happy April folks. My favourite month of the year. Why? Because it’s my birthday month, of course. This month is action-packed. I’ll be watching loads of streamed TV shows, working part-time, buying new clothes and apartment decor and wearing my party dress (maybe a few nights in a row). It sucks to be me this month…

It’s not that I don’t have a million things to do, but I’d rather take a break. I can’t believe I even have that option. Hurray for being stuck in student/career purgatory! I am slowly going through my Asia photos – rotating, deleting, enhancing, rotating, enhancing, deleting, deleting, crop, crop, crop!! It’s so tedious. I also recently made a Europe scrapbook/photobook project online. God, I love Groupon! Continue reading

Toronto

21 Mar

It’s been 11 days since I arrived in Toronto and I am finally getting a hold on things.

I started work this week – maybe that’s why. I needed time to readjust myself and find my old indentations on Toronto life. I missed my bed. There was a lot going through my head… Stefanie’s recent situation being one thing. She arrived safely and last I heard, she was out gallivanting with some lions. Good for her!!

I was able to see my family on Sunday – aunts, uncles, cousins and my grandma. It was amazing. I love them so much and it really put me at ease being surrounded by them, eating delicious food and sharing stories. Oh the food…. I haven’t gorged myself like that in months. It was the kind you could NOT get in Asia, too. Well, you could but it would taste awful. Continue reading

Running out of time

15 Mar

My last week in South East Asia was jam packed. I tried to fit in as many activities as possible, as I realized we hardly did a thing. To some of you, that may seem absurd. I mean, yes I did loads but in comparison to South America, Stefanie and I pretty much chilled the entire time in Asia.

So, in Luang Prabang, Laos – we visited a waterfall and hiked up a hill. Yes, hiking!! It was a lousy 10 minute hike, but ridiculously steep. I realized how out of shape I am. Then, it was back to Thailand. We had only had a few short days before heading back to Canada.

Stefanie and I met up with Adam, the Canadian and Scott, from Manchester. It’s funny how you see the same people again – we really need to pick a road less traveled next time. We stayed at this dingy, but friendly hostel. We had 4 single beds, all aligned with each other along the one wall. You could roll from one bed to the other in one swift action. We were that close – but thankfully, we’re all friends. Continue reading

Oh La Laos!

4 Mar
Night Market in Vientiane, Laos

night market in Vientiane, Laos

I was ready to say goodbye to Vietnam. We heard such amazing things about Loas and we were to keep moving forward. We headed straight for the capital city – Vientiane. There isn’t so much to do in Vientiane, but we did rent bicycles for the day and found this amazing herbal sauna and spa. We thought we broke in to some Monk village and were not sure if women were allowed to talk to a Monk – but thankfully, two monks approached us and lead us in the right direction. Thanks boys!

For $6, we enjoyed the steamiest, rustic herbal sauna and shared hot green tea with a bunch of local Lao women – including a lady boy. Side note: A lady boy is the term given to cross-dresses in Asia. They are so convincingly feminine! We ended the afternoon with a 60 minute traditional massage. Bliss. I never sweated so much in my life and the massage was backcracking-ly authentic. Continue reading

Travel woes in Halong Bay

2 Mar
Halong Bay, Vietnam

Halong Bay, Vietnam

Wow. Why haven’t I updated since Hanoi, Vietnam? I suppose too many things have happened and we’ve been busy bees – but that’s no excuse. I thought I was making a better habit out of writing these posts…. I failed.

Our Halong Bay tour was a bit of a disaster. Stefanie and I ended up stuck in Hue because the bus to Hanoi was sold out. We only realized this after we had already checked out of the guesthouse and one hour before we thought we would board the bus north. Continue reading

Cambodia’s Capital and Back to the Beach

2 Feb
Royal Palace and Temples, Cambodia

Royal Palace & Temples, Cambodia

Anyways, the following the day – we took it easy (mentally and physically). It was over 34C in the capital. We visited the Royal Temple, which has a 9,000 diamond encrusted Buddha statue and a Silver tile Pagoda, which was less than impressive. Each tile is made from pure silver and weighs 1kg each, but they covered the entire floor in cheap carpet and had display cases of knick knacks that all looked the same. Why not polish the floor and show it off! Kind of lame. The royal palace and temples in Bangkok were a lot more dramatic and better maintained. Still, the gardens were beautiful and the architecture was very inspiring.

Royal Palace and Temples, Cambodia

Royal Temples, Cambodia

Stefanie’s coworker’s brother lives in PP, so we arranged to have dinner with him and his boyfriend. He’s 65 years old and has been living in Cambodia for 3 years, working as a principal and a teacher. Before Cambodia, he lived in Japan for 28 years teaching at a university. He brought us to this restaurant called Friends, which trains underprivileged youth for careers in the restaurant industry. Stefanie and I arrived early and we were curious to meet his boyfriend. Was he Canadian, American, European, Cambodian, young, old? Well, weren’t we were surprised! Continue reading

Khmer Culture

1 Feb

There are too many posts about beaches, but I can’t help it! Hearing about all the snow in Canada makes me want to hide under my beach umbrella and order another fruit shake!

But don’t worry, I didn’t spend all of my time on the beach. We had a serious culture injection in Phnom Penh. Our first day was a serious one. We hired a tuk tuk and visited the Killing Fields. The Khmer people (Cambodians) have a dark history. From 1975-1979, the Ultra Communist Khmer Rouge Regime was responsible for over 2 million deaths in Cambodia – essentially, a genocide. They envisioned an agrarian society and forced Khmer people into the farmlands to grow rice in harsh conditions. They destroyed education, religious and economic institutions and enslaved the people – including foreigners.

Memorial for Khmer Rouge victims, Cambodia

Memorial for the victims of the Khmer Rouge, Cambodia

The Killing Fields was just one of the many areas across the country where the Khmer Rouge executed the population. Over 129 mass graves were discovered and thousands were murdered in this field – including children and babies. In fact, there is a rumored ‘baby killing tree’ next to one mass grave, where the Khmer Rouge would smash babies and then throw them into pits. My stomach turns even as I type. They believed that if they didn’t kill the babies, one day the children would seek revenge. The Khmer Rouge did not want to waste money using bullets, so everyone was murdered by bludgeoning, stab wound or forced object to the head – using pitchforks, hoes, etc. Unthinkable. Continue reading

A Taste of Phnom Pneh

29 Jan

THIS IS AS-IAH! Actually, the real term is ‘The is Africa’ but Stefanie and I invented our own slogan about Asia due to recent events. “This is Africa” is the term Leo DiCaprio uses in Blood Diamond to explain how anything and everything happens in Africa – good or bad, but mostly bad and how nobody can do a thing about it. AS-IAH because 1: we needed something that sounded like Africa and 2: we are practicing our Spanish.

Thailand was breezy and easy, but Cambodia is another story. The landscape, the people, the poverty, the rules, the corruption… everything I mentioned in my last post. It hasn’t been all awful. In fact, I’m really starting to like it here. However, I did have one bad day where it everything goes wrong and you start to feel homesick. It sounds so trivial now, but sometimes you just get stuck.

Siem Reap was amazing, but Stefanie and I had to make our way down south to Phnom Penh, Cambodia‘s capital. We booked a 6hr bus ride to PP through our guesthouse. The bus was supposed to have a/c, toilet, tv, etc. Not bad for $5! A minibus was picking us up one hour before departure and would bring us to the station. Stefanie and I made a breakfast call to Jessie and then went upstairs to gather a few last things. Our key wasn’t opening the door, so the front desk guy took a look, but he couldn’t open the door either. Needless to say, after prying the handle off the door and shimmying a metal twig around for 30 minutes, the manager finally got the door open a mere 5 minutes before our minibus arrived. PHEW! Continue reading

Into the Deep: Scuba Diving in Thailand

19 Jan
Big Blue Dive Resort in Thailand

Big Blue Dive Resort was amazing.

Stefanie and I are officially SSI Adventurer Divers thanks to Big Blue Diving Resort! We ended up staying in Koh Tao for two extra days and completed the next level up from Open Water – now, we can dive anywhere in the world down to 30 metres. For the open water course, you complete 4 dives up to 18 metres. For adventurer, you need 5 dives: one buoyancy dive, where you practice going through hoops and doing headstands and hovers in the water – one deep dive, where you go down to 30 metres – one night dive, where you go diving in the pitch black sea with only a torch – one navigation dive, where you use your compass and learn your way around dive sites – and one other dive of your choice. I picked FISH ID or naturalist, where I went down with slides of fish and coral and had to record everything I saw. Stef chose a computer dive, where she learned to use the computer to track and plan her dive underwater. We are so nerdy.

Out of all the dives, I really enjoyed the night dive. It was such a surreal experience, especially when you begin your descent and it’s pure blackness all around you, then you start to see shapes of the rock and coral. We each had torches, which was pretty cool because you focus on only one spot. At night, the barracuda are hunting and you can help them catch fish by flashing your light on targets. It was exhilarating. We also saw sting rays and eels in action.

Big Blue Dive Resort in Thailand

our dive group from Big Blue Dive Resort

Our dive group was awesome. There was Stefanie and I and three Germans: Simon, Selena and Annalina. We got along so well and now, we are hanging out in Koh Phangan. We also teamed up with three other people from another dive group: a danish girl and two aussie boys. We reserved bungalows next to each other and have been partying together for the last 2 nights in honour of the Full Moon Party. The aussie boys left today and tomorrow the danish girl and Simon are leaving for Bangkok, while Stef, Selena, Annalina and I are traveling to Koh Phi Phi on the West coast for much needed beach bumming and relaxation. It’s so sad to say goodbye to your travel buddies. You start to feel like a little family.

Tonight is the official Full Moon Party, but the few nights leading up to the full moon are just as crazy. The party is along the Haad Rin beach and there are tons of Thais selling drinks called ‘buckets’ from their stands. A bucket is a dangerous thing. It’s literally a small bucket, with 200mls of alcohol and mixers, like red bull, juice or pop. One bucket and you have a pretty good buzz, two buckets and you are GONE. They are so cheap too – less than $3. There are also bars along the beach and people dancing on tables and on the sand. The last two nights, there was a foam party, a giant skipping rope on fire, rings of fires, fire limbo – pretty much tons of fire! All the drunkards think they are invincible and end up getting burned half the time. I avoided all fire activity – don’t worry! I did however, participate in the foam madness. I’ve never felt so sandy. The entire party was madness.

Full Moon Party, Thailand

pre-full moon party group shot

I forgot to mention that everyone paints themselves for the party with florescent colours. So last night, we got all dolled up in neon pink, orange, green and blue. We’re having round 3 tonight, but I am thoroughly exhausted plus we have to wake up early and take a 3 hour puke-worthy ferry ride to the mainland. We shall see. The trick is no buckets – but will I have enough strength to resist?

Full Moon Party, Thailand

Full Moon Party, Thailand

Thai Paradise: Scuba Diving Part 1

13 Jan
Koh Tao at sunset, Thailand

Koh Tao at sunset

The road was long, but we made it to Koh Tao – an island in the Gulf of Thailand. The journey was interesting and full of unexpected set backs. We packed up our bags in Bangkok and decided that taking the train down to Chumphon, spending the night and catching the 7am ferry to Koh Tao would be the most comfortable route, but then we were whisked away on a tuk tuk (a three-wheel motorcycle hut) to a travel agency INSTEAD of the train station by some ‘tourist police’. We ended up missing our train and paying for the overnight bus/boat combo ticket from the agency – exactly what they wanted from us, at a price we later found out was twice as much as the other people on our ferry. Scammed. We arrived at the agency around 1pm, but the transfer to the bus wasn’t leaving until 5pm, so Stefanie and I cruised the streets and found a local thai massage parlor. Ah, finally some bliss!

The Thai masseuse was amazing! Mine – at least. She was a tiny, old Thai woman, who hardly spoke a word of English, but we communicated just fine. She gave me an interesting, forceful massage using every part of her body and massaging every part of mine! She even massaged my face! She told me I was beautiful and so I complimented her as well but she told me ‘noooo!!! you so pink! beautiful’ and then pointed to her skin and said something in Thai. She reminded me of my grandmother. My avoe often says how she wishes she had light skin, instead of her tanned Portuguese colour. It’s definitely an old school way of thinking – but it’s funny how our generation wants the exact opposite: a bronze glow. Continue reading

Photo update: BANGKOK

10 Jan

Here are a few photos from Bangkok, Thailand.

Taxi in Thailand

the dash of our first Thai taxi

Bangkok city parks

Aki, the Japanese girl who guided us around the weekend market

Continue reading

YYZ to BKK

9 Jan

Stefanie posing with a guard at the Grand Palace, Thailand. They look like a couple. hehe

It’s been two days since arriving in Bangkok, but Stefanie and I are still jet legged. For everyone back home, we are exactly 12 hours ahead of you. So, when I tell my boyfriend I’ll call him in the morning, I actually mean at night. A little confusing – but we are getting the hang of it.

The 22 hour flight was not as horrible as I imagined. We flew Air Canada and it was fairly comfortable – for once! We had individual tv consoles to watch movies, tons of food and some leg room. We had a connection with Air China in Beijing and then flew the remained 5 hours. The flight was full of Chinese businessmen and just like I heard, they all started their synchronized stretches half-way through the flight. So adorable. Continue reading

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