Tag Archives: bus ride

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

Good Morning Vietnam!

12 Feb

We are heading north through Vietnam– stopping at cities and towns along the way. Leaving Cambodia was a struggle – as are most in-transit days. Our last day in Cambodia started off just right – beach bumming and working on our tan. We visited Otres Beach, which was much more relaxed than the main beach and only a short motor-taxi ride away. At first, I wasn’t so keen on taking a motorcycle, but now I really enjoy the ride. It’s an authentic way to travel, especially when the driver is balancing your giant backpacking in-between his legs.

Otres Beach, Cambodia near Sihanoukville

Otres Beach, Cambodia

We booked an overnight bus out of Sihanoukville, but had already checked out early in the morning. I was desperate for a shower, so the front desk said I could rinse off using the tap and bucket in the bathroom. I walked into the dingy stall with a squat toilet. I realized that the bucket and tap were used to wash your business down the porcelain hole in the ground. UGH, but what can you do? I washed the bucket with soap and used the fresh water from the tap and ‘showered’. haha! I was first to go and then Stefanie. At least, she was warned and could prepare herself. 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

Temples and Tuk Tuks

27 Jan
Angkor Wat, Cambodia

Angkor Wat, Cambodia

The 14 hour bus journey to Bangkok wasn’t that bad, so Stefanie and I decided to head straight to Siem Reap, Cambodia – another 7 hour journey. We’re crazy right?! I was really nervous about the border crossing. I heard that there would be a million scams (including money exchange and visa scams) and it would be quite a hassle – but having travel experience eased the process. We arrived at the border prepared and made it all the way to Siem Reap unscaved.

Our tuk tuk driver brought us to a cheap guesthouse for about $4 each a night. So cheap! Actually, Cambodia is a dirt cheap, but significantly poorer than Thailand. You can tell just from the taxi ride into the city. There are a lot more beggers, including children and there are a lot of landmine victims as well. Cambodia is the world’s most heavily mined country. It’s really sad to see a barefoot child searching the garbage bins for recyclables next to an expensive hotel. Stefanie and I were sitting at a street stall and this boy comes up to us asking for money. I didn’t want my food anymore, so I offered it the boy. I barely touched it, but he didn’t want it. He asked for money. And then earlier, this little boy dragged stefanie into a store and asked her to buy him milk for the baby. She was considering it before these two girls came up to me and told me that it’s a known thing around here that the boy will return the milk for money later on. It just shows how desperate the children and families are for what little money they can get. Even though it is a scam, you can’t help feeling guilty and want to help, but it just perpetuates. Continue reading

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

No more 20+ hour bus rides!

13 Nov

WOW. It was one interesting and very LONG journey, but we are finally back in Lima, Peru. The 2500 Km journey up the Pacific coast was painful, but we managed. We took a 4 hour flight that had 2 stops all the way up to Arica, in Northern Chile. I’ve never been on a plane that landed and took off three times before – let alone in just 4 hours, so that was an experience.

Once we got into Arica, we took a shuttle to our hostel and slept for 8 hours, ate breakfast and caught another taxi to the international bus station. When we got out of the taxi, there were a bunch of men asking us if we wanted to go to Tacna. It’s really common to take a shared taxi with strangers across the border, so we got the best price and Stef and I squeezed into a car with 3 other people plus the driver. Not particularly comfortable, but it only took 1.5 hours to drive to Tacna and the border crossing went smoother than if we were in a bus. Continue reading

Ciao Argentina, Hello again Chile!

10 Nov

Mendoza, Argentina Vineyard

I haven’t realized how long it’s been since posting. In the last week, Stefanie and I have taken one 18 hour bus ride, drank too much red wine, took another 7 hour bus ride, crossed the border into Chile, explored Santiago, met up with some friends from Peru and booked a flight to Northern Chile. I’ll start from the beginning… Continue reading

Kayaking, Horseback Riding, Hiking – oh my!

3 Nov

Kayaking in Bariloche

I love Bariloche, Argentina! It is so beautiful! So, I mentioned in the last post that we booked a kayak and horseback riding tour – the verdict? AMAZING! The guide picked us up at the hostel and brought us to a cute log cabin on the lake where we enjoyed a second breakfast.

Kayaking was first on the roster. We had double kayaks and they gave us a brief lesson – I was really excited because the water was crystal clear and sparkling. We had to wear the neoprene skirt over the kayak because the water was freezing. It felt like the kayak and I were bonded together. Stefanie got stuck in the back and I was up in front. She had to maneuver the little rudder which I was thankful for because I wouldn’t have been able to paddle AND steer. We managed pretty well. Our paddling was in rhythm and we were going pretty fast at some points but then we had to take a break. It was exhausting! Kayaking  works out your arms, shoulders and back. I am still sore and this was two days ago! Despite being a little reluctant, I was so happy I decided to try it. Continue reading

Patagonia – the furthest south I’ve been!

1 Nov

Puerto Madryn, Argentina

Happy Halloween to my fellow Canadians! I was a whale-watcher for Halloween *wink!

We just spent several days in Puerto Madryn, Argentina. It’s the furthest south we’ve managed to travel and is considered the beginning of Patagonia, the southernmost region in South America. The town is situated in between Peninsula Valdes (a protected national reserve) and Punta Tombo (the second largest penguin colony in the world!). How cute! It makes for a great base to explore both areas. Continue reading

Buenos Aires – the Paris/Big Apple of South America!

30 Oct

Biking riding in Buenos Aires

B.A. – B.A. – B.A.! What a fun city!

We arrived in Buenos Aires on a Saturday, which was perfect considering we wanted to enjoy some of the nightlife. We met our English friend Adam at the hostel and decided to spend the afternoon in the parks of Palermo – an upscale neighbourhood in Buenos Aires.

There were so many people jogging, strolling and rollerblading throughout the park. Surprisingly, there were so many people ‘trick’ rollerblading. The stunts were so entertaining to watch. Jumping, one legged, backwards, twists, etc. So cool! We were watching for a bit while we ate delicious street sausages called Chorizos. For dessert, I bought the biggest cotton candy stick EVER! It was practically the size of my upper body. I have picture proof. Continue reading

Salar de Uyuni, Atacama Desert and Euro-Style.

20 Oct

I am finally HEALTHY!

It was awful being sick for 3 days, especially since I was scheduled for a 3 day Salt Flat tour, but everything turned out great. We met Sebastian, a 26 year old German physicist in Potosi, Bolivia and have been traveling for over a week before separating two days ago. The three of us went on the Salar de Uyuni tour, which boasted some amazing landscapes. There was a large group, so we had to go in two different jeeps. Stef, Sebastian and I ended up in a jeep with 4 sick Koreans and the other jeep had three Belgians and two drunk Aussies.

Our first day involved driving across the Salar, which is approximately 12000 square KM. Bolivian workers make 1bs. (less than 20 cents) per each salt pile they scrape… and these salt piles are quite large. They aim for 50 piles a day. It’s outrageous. Very few people in Canada would ever do that kind of manual labour. Continue reading

Inca Trail, Peru

27 Sep

Stefanie and I at Machu Picchu

I have never done anything so difficult and physically tiring in my life! Three months after first booking, Stefanie and I finally started the trek to Machu Picchu along the infamous Inca Trail.

We left early Thursday morning with a group of 16 hikers, 2 guides, 1 chef and 18 porters. Quite the team! We booked with the company Llama Path, a sustainable tourism operator. We researched quite a bit beforehand and decided that they seemed like the best fit. It was a little pricey, but overall I am very satisfied with the tour. The guides were knowledgeable and entertaining and the porters had adequate equipment and proper hiking shoes, which is more than I can say about the other porters on the trail. I saw some porters who had only broken sandals to hike in and plastic rice bags to carry supplies.

Stefanie and I were too late to book an extra porter to carry our clothes, sleeping bags and mats, so we had no other choice but to carry it ourselves. I was not thrilled. The guides gave us walking sticks and helped us attach the 3kg of sleeping gear to our day packs…. not an easy feat. We took a group photo at the first checkpoint and set off on the trail. Continue reading

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