10 LESSONS I LEARNT WHILE BACKPACKING AROUND SE ASIA

DSCF1400

Unfortunately, my days in SE Asia have come to an end but I bet there are many of you, fellow backpackers, who are about to hit the road towards this amazing part of the world. To enjoy your time spent over there a bit more, read about the lessons I learnt during my three month stay and don’t make the same mistakes as me 🙂

1) If a local says: „Be careful, it’s spicy“, immediately leave everything behind and get the hell outta there. Seriously, I’m a chef so I always wanna taste everything and I hardly ever listen to any advice so many times I put myself in a very hot and spicy situation that I ended up regreting for a few hours afterwards. Especially don’t enter a 10m radius around a chilli pepper smaller than 1 cm. Unless you’re into masochism, then it’s fine.

DSCF1053

2) Always carry some toilet paper or tissues with you. Even though you are in a nice city and that toilet you’re heading to doesn’t look bad at all, you will be guaranteed not to find a piece of anything to wipe the most precious parts of your body with.

3) Don’t think too much about all the „drive safely“ videos you watched back home while you‘re on a bus in SE Asia. Just make yourself comfortable, close your eyes and imagine the driver has some magical powers that will always prevent him from crashing. Yes, sometimes it is really and I mean REALLY bad. I caught myself thinking about getting off the bus in a few situations too. But nah, I had to overcome that fear and in the end it just felt like a very cheap ride on one of the craziest attractions in Thorpe Park. See, I’m still alive!

20150422_172354

4) You’re used to eating in nice restaurants with beautiful looking food and good service? Yeah, so was I. It was really difficult for me to watch the cooks follow not a single hygienic regulation. Yup, that raw chicken has been casually chilling there on straight sunshine for the whole day. But trust me, go for it. I don’t know how they do it but the cheaper the food is, the better it tastes. Just make sure you follow number 2.

5) You can talk to anyone about anything and no one judges you.  This was a tough one for me as I came to SE Asia completely fucked in my head with many secrets that I could only talk about to like 2 people back in London. Even though you only just met that cool guy in the hostel 20 minutes ago, the casual conversation about which countries you’ve visited will soon become boring and people crave hearing different stories as well as they want to talk about their problems to a complete stranger. People will give you various opinions that’ll help you get through difficult times. In the end, the chance you will ever see them again is very small.

6) Everyone has a shit story. And I don’t mean a very bad story, I mean it literally. Everytime I drank with fellow travellers, our conversation led to shit stories. A backpacker I met in Thailand told me: „You ain’t a proper traveller until you have your own shit story.“ This is also very often connected with point 2 and 4 but some people have the craziest stories ever. Once I met a girl that had just hiked Mt. Bromo in Indonesia and badly needed to take a dump while having breakfast at a local’s place. There was no toilet in the „bathroom“ and she didn’t know what to do with the product once she relieved herself to the bathroom floor (which the locals normally do) so she ended up wrapping it in a ton of TP, put it in her pocket and carried it away with her. I know, disgusting right? But imagine yourself completely drunk and listening to the whole story. Unforgettable. Luckily, she followed rule number 2 🙂

10428494_662655340534327_1816274585658512386_n

7) Oh, you lost a T-Shirt or a pair of boxers while it was being washed in the laundry? I’ll be honest with you, you will never see it again. But wait, the good karma comes around and soon you’ll end up having someone else’s underwear in your surprise-bag of clothes you pick up from the laundry.

8) Be patient. I used to be probably one of the most impatient people on the planet until I travelled around Indonesia and found out that time doesn’t matter. Did uncle Google tell you that that 100km long journey should take about 1 and a half hour? Always multiply it by three. The bus driver will need to stop a few times to have a cigarette (if he doesn’t smoke on the bus), use the toilet (hope he doesn’t do that on the bus too), get something to eat, get more fuel, talk to his fellow bus drivers, etc. You will get to your destination eventually. Just be patient. And when he hits the road, make sure you follow number 3 🙂

9) Don’t be afraid to go off the beaten track. That’s where the true tresure is, that’s why you travel. People are normally very willing to help you, sometimes even invite you for lunch or let you stay at their place overnight, especially if you travel solo. When I was in Indonesia, I didn’t see a white person for 18 days and I can honestly say that it was my best backpacking experience so far. Even though three times I saw a guy masturbating when I walked past them in a random town (I know, can’t really blame them, hard to resist haha), it never put me off. Weirdos are everywhere in the world, just make sure you don’t make an eye contact with them.

DSCF1071

10) You will master the art of improvising. This especially applies, if you follow number 9. Once I nearly got raped (yeah, still didn’t convince me to act like a tourist though, yuck) and ended up walking in the middle of nowhere for 7 km with no water, no food and no cigarettes until it got better and made plan A. I know, people normally make B plans in such situations but since I normally have no plan at all, a very simple plan was needed. You will become very creative if you’re about to miss your flight or don’t have any clean clothes left too. Just do not panic. Everything has a solution. Unless you didn’t follow number 2.

10346590_10204442265717991_3724437250405434687_n

Advertisements

KOH LANTA, paradise on Earth

Even though Mario and I travelled down south during the water festival (Songkran) which is the busiest period in Thailand, we were lucky enough to get a ticket for an overnight bus leaving the same day as we left the farm. The fourteen hours long journey wasn’t bad at all except when I woke up totally soaking wet at 3am.

„Oh my god, I pissed myself,“ was my first thought because I’d been trying to avoid using the bus toilet for as long as possible and I’d really drunk a lot of water so it wouldn’t surprise me at all (not that it happens to me all the time haha). „Luckily“, I was wrong because when I looked out from the window, I saw it was pissing it down and the hole in the roof explained everything 🙂 The steward moved me to another seat and gave me a dry blanket so I could keep dreaming about finally getting into our destination – Krabi.

DSCF0651

A few people told us about two beaches we should definitely check out – Railay and Ton Sai – so we decided to go there first. There is no road connection between Krabi and Railay but it only took us about 15 minutes to get there by long tail boat and another 15 minutes to figure out it’s way off our really low budget to stay there so we moved to Ton Sai straight away.

DSCF0664

The minute we got there, I started to regret that I’d left all my climbing gear back in the UK because it was a climbing paradise! We managed to get a really cheap bungalow but we knew we wouldn’t wanna stay for longer than one night because apart from climbing and getting high in a little jungle village, there was absolutely nothing to do.

DSCF0660

We had a few beers in the evening though, met a lot of travellers and played pool on a table that was as straight as me. First thing in the morning, we said hi to our changover and off to the most beautiful island Koh Lanta (that’s what they say) we went. And yep, it was exactly the place we were dreaming of. Beautiful white sandy beaches, almost no backpackers and a lot of pretty girls. After about an hour of searching for the perfect place to stay, we were almost at the point of giving up when we saw the most amazing resort ever.

„800 Baht (16 pounds) per night,“ told us this lovely Thai woman and we knew that if we get into the right negotiating mode, we’ll get there.

„600?“, we were trying.

„No, 800 Baht,“ she wouldn’t give up.

„500 with no air con?“, asked the smartest guy on the planet – Mario.

„Alright, deal,“ yeaaaah, we got it!!!

Yeah, we managed to get a really spacious bungalow with a nice clean bathroom, fridge, safe, terrace (and free coffee and water) for only 10pounds a night. And what’s more, it was only a 20 second walk to the most beautiful beach in Koh Lanta from there.

Of course we had to check out all the bars and bar girls on our first night. Pia (our fellow volunteer from the farm) was staying on Koh Lanta too so  she came down to see us and yep, as predicted, Mon got so drunk that she even decided to get high (I know, call me a retardo). Yeaaah, I knew the consequences but sitting there in a hammock in the rooftop bar overlooking the sea and stars so close to me I could almost touch them just seemed like a perfect opportunity to do something stupid. At least I had a chance to catch up with my blogging the next day which I spent all in the bed complaining about dying of changover 🙂

DSCF0740

The sunsets on Koh Lanta were absolutely stunning. I realised that I’d actually never watched the sun set over the sea until then and it felt just awesome. When the darkness covered the sky, the sea turned into something you can’t just describe by simple words. That night I spent good three hours just sitting on the shore watching the waves. Every single one of them left a trace of shining blue lining all over the beach when it brought thousands pieces of little plankton. Unfortunately, this perfect moment was ruined by a cat (yeah, again) choking on a live chicken that she’d eaten so I called it a night 😀

DSCF0752

It was about time to overcome my fear of motorbikes too so Mario and I rented two of them and went off to explore the beautiful island. Believe it or not, I didn’t even scratch it 🙂 We drove down to the most southern point of Koh Lanta – into its national park. Mario, the much more experienced and excited photographer, was blown away by the first lighthouse he’d ever seen, however I managed to convince him (he only lives once) to go for a 2km long hike through the jungle with me which I soon regreted.

DSCF0762

We were going about half a metre tall stairs up a very steep hill, met a few monkeys that tried to get hold of anything that wasn’t tied to us and thanks to Mario’s fear of snakes, I (as a proper adventurer) offered to go first when he saw one casually crossing his path and because of that I had the chance to see a fucking dragon! Yeah, I was one of the lucky people to have seen a very rare flying lizard so from now on I only expect you to call me Khaleesi 🙂

DSCF0786

Before we left Koh Lanta (after having spent 6 days there), I managed to rip both of my feet open because walking bare foot became my favourite activity (Thai way) and it is also much better to hit the road like that 🙂 I’m quite glad Mario realises he only lives once so he decided to join me for  what appeared to be the most epic road trip ever – hitchhiking in Thailand 🙂

DSCF0791

i MON da farm, part two

DSCF0576

Seven days on da farm flew by so quickly that I almost didn’t notice the high level of blood in my alcohol. The hangover from my leaving party in England was almost gone so it was about time to hit the booze again. And after such a long time, it was expected to be big and full of amazing memories!

Andy from England and Seb (his real name is Laurent actually but Sebastien seems to fit him more) from France had decided to leave our farmily and hit the road again so it was a great reason to have „a few drinks“. I’m not sure if it was because of the heat and tiredness of all of us after such an „exhausting“ day at work or because of the six-and-half-percent golden beverage but somehow our little party turned into a massive piss up. I’m not surprised that Arnon chickened out and sent his brother and nephew to drink with us instead 🙂

10428494_662655340534327_1816274585658512386_n

When I beat everyone at this cool card game Yuniv, we started to play different games. Drinking games, yaaay! 9pm, the thermometer still stuck at number 30, millions of mosquitos trying to suck up the last traces of blood left in our alcohol system, seven people sitting around a table with an endless number of empty beer bottles. That was the atmosphere which led us up to „never have I ever“. Everyone knows that after a few rounds, this game always turns into something crazy and dirty. But Arnon’s nephew literally killed it.

„Never have I ever shot anyone in their back and killed them,“ said with a poker face and took a sip of his drink. We were really having a lot of fun, people were dancing, singing and laughing but the moment he said it, everyone went completely quiet. When he told us that he did it because someone had stolen a bottle of water from his shop, we considered to be best to just go to our bamboo huts and pretend we’re not there. Everyone wished they had a gun on them just like Andy who’d found one casually chilling in the corner of his room.

DSCF0608

When we found out the same person was going to drive us to Myanmar border to see a refugee camp, we became a bit worried. Actually, it wouldn’t have been that bad if Arnon hadn’t told us that they cut each other’s throats on almost daily basis but „we don’t have to be afraid because they have a lot of guns“. When our truck took a right turn from the main road on to something that looked like the road of death, the looks on our faces were priceless. No one said a single word and we weren’t quite sure what to expect.

DSCF0625

 It looked very lively in the camp though! Most of the people were refugees from Korea who didn’t speak any Thai (damn, just when I just learnt my first Thai words) and the way of their life was very simple. Little bamboo huts, no hygiene whatsoever, they used the water from the river nearby and the closest source of electricity was miles away. It was really sad to see something like that but it made me think about (and maybe change a bit) the way I live. In the end, I’m actually happy for this experience and if it wasn’t for Arnon, I’d have never get an opportunity to go to a place like this.

DSCF062811113771_10153209304970761_4225283988208789707_n

And there’s more just-because-of-da-farm stories. I don’t think there’s many people lucky enough to have spent the celebration of the Thai New year (Songkran) with a Thai family in a rural area. We drove the truck to one of the cleanest lakes (still very dirty though) in the village and stole hundreds litres of water that we carried back in literally everything we found on the farm that was holeless (and if it wasn’t, tissues or auntie Sellotape fixed it). We kept on splashing the water for hours not only on the farmily but mostly on cars going past the farm on the road nearby. We finished the day in style when we drove „to see Arnon’s friend living just down the road“ and after two hours of driving (!!!) while being completely soaking wet, we got to this little river on Myanmar border to find out that Arnon’s friend probably doesn’t exist because he was nowhere to be seen and Arnon never mentioned him again 🙂 At least we got a chance to build a sand castle in the most malaria area in Thailand without having a mosquito spray on us (and being bitten like thousands of times). Also, like a proper retard, I managed to accidentally drink quite a lot of that dirty water that was being splashed literally everywhere and had to spend the next 24 hours near the toilet 😀

DSCF0641 DSCF0639

I was really not feeling great at all, the only thing I wanted to do was sleep. Two volunteers had moved to my room the day before though and unfortunately there was probably something very special about cat-allergic Maggie when a pregnant cat decided to successfully keep breaking into our room until 3am because obviously it was the coolest place on the farm to give birth. It turned out that Mario was the most responsible and caring of all of us though. Uncle Google turned him into a proper vet in just a few hours. However, around 5 am he decided to take a break from cat-gyneocology and sleep for a few minutes before the first rooster starts singing the lovely song. As predicted, in the morning, we found the exhausted cat lying next to her four kittens nextdoor. Arnon was very happy about it as it’s meant to bring luck to the farm because they were born on New Year’s 🙂

I really don’t understand where all ten days on the farm had gone but it was time to say good bye. Mario and I had a lot in common so we decided to travel to the south together, saying good bye to Arnon became very emotional, little Pao even had tears in his eyes and Maggie left the farm like a proper American cowgirl when she found out it’s not the best idea to stand between two fighting horses because there is no other escape from there than taking an unvoluntary and fast two metres long flight with a very hard landing. Luckily, nothing serious happened to her apart from having a few rainbowy bruises on her freckly legs 🙂 Good bye, farmily!!!

DSCF0566

i MON da farm, part one

10996501_10202939528768357_260071567767010642_n

I realised that I’m on a farm very shortly after my arrival when I got mistaken by the cuteness of a little pony whose eyes were literally begging me for a stroke. Yep, I got bitten and still have a big blue bruise that reminds me of this great welcome. I experienced another nice way to say „hello“ a few minutes later when I finally got to lie down on a very unfriendly frog bigger than the palm of my hand casually chilling in my „bed“. Obviously, she took it very personally and decided to tell about it all the frogs and lizards around who, for the rest of my stay, terrorised not only my bungallow but also my stinky shoes because apparently that’s the coolest place to squat 🙂

DSCF0283

Apart from that, everything seemed to be fucking perfect though. I joined a group of seven people from all over the world and they were amazing. On my first night, we all went camping on top of a mountain in the jungle just to watch the full moon and sunrise after that. We built a DIY bamboo tent, made a campfire, shared our travel stories and for the first time in years, I felt like I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be. The atmosphere was even so cheesy-perfect that I decided to quit smoking (which lasted exactly 4 days – the time I needed to count how cheap cigarettes in Thailand are).

10995788_10202939518888110_4386917055089347093_n

When I got used to being covered in all-kind-of-animals shit all the time, the work on the farm became really easy and fun. Especially showering the sheep was completely epic. I’d never say I’d have to catch about twenty sheep with obviously no hygienic tendency one by one, anchor them between my legs, shower them, brush out everything they’ve been rolling in for the last three days while trying not to scream everytime they stood on my bare feet and not to drink the water that was dirtier than the coffee I haven’t had for over two weeks 🙂 But believe me or not, this became my favourite activity in the 40-degrees heat because apart from two swimming pool visits (which was probably filled up just because of us, volunteers, in the middle of a building site because „Arnon has a friend there“), I had absolutely no chance to cool down my completely sunburnt body.

15573_678052448966867_8500705720597919742_n

Unfortunately, I reached the end of my rope again when I agreed (I mean, I only live once, right?) to try a lesson of Thai box on a day when my body was brighter red than a lipstick of an average 12yo Essex girl. I was actually really excited about it until I saw the little 15 years old girl Nang kicking the shit out of about five years older guy with a sixpack nicer than the one I was looking forward to seeing in my fridge after every shift back in England. I was really trying to keep up during the first hour, the second one was much tougher though and I was constantly blaming myself for being such an idiot that says yes to every stupid thing that comes along. And basically, I spent the third one just embarassingly chilling in the corner of a room where air moves about as quickly as I on my way to the dentist, trying to figure out what the secret is behind not passing out but jumping without a break like Chuck Norris on extasy.

DSCF0495

I gave it a go but nope, thanks. I’ll rather rely on my pepper spray. I also discovered I should stick to chefing instead of getting new experience in a building field. Yep, I helped to build the first wall in my life. Dunno what I was thinking about while doing so, maybe I just wanted the poor pigs to have more space but the result is that I managed to built a wall as straight as me. Arnon must have thought I was capable of anything when I successfully built a chicken nursery the day before 🙂

DSCF0503

 I’d never imagined I would actually write about a chicken on my blog unless I’ve eaten a very tasty one but Chip was really special. Yeah, this little chicken was only a few days old but he was smart enough to figure out that being best friend with little 7 years old boy Pao was the way to go. Chip followed him everywhere, they shared a bed together, they ate together, they played together, it was an amazing relationship between a human being and a chicken. This really weird thought of becoming a vegetarian even crossed my mind for a second, luckily Arnon’s mum saved me by cooking another of her amazing Thai (non-vegetarian) meals 🙂

DSCF0540

WHEN I ALMOST LOST IT…

Even though I’d been told there is no other way to get to Victory Monument where I was supposed to catch a minivan to the farm from, I decided to give it a go and after a short five minute walk from my hostel I was standing at a bus stop and with my mouth wide open stared at the amount of buses with Thai writings and hoping to see the magical number 509 which uncle Google had  recommended me to get my arse to point B. Ufff, here it is. But-what-the-fuck? The bus was absolutely overpacked and I really thought it was a joke when the bus-woman told me to get in because I’m making the bus late. We exchanged a few „are you fucking kidding me?“, „oh come on, hurry up“ and „have you fucking noticed the 20kg massive thing resting on my shoulders?“ looks and I don’t even know how but the door behind me really did close and I could enjoy the amazing view of dozens of sweaty armpits right above my head.

The instructions how to find the right minivan looked way too easy to be that easy. I really did have tears in my eyes after wandering around the place for about 45 minutes. It was boiling hot, my back hurt, sweat was literally going down my whole body and not only no one there looked at least a bit non-Thai, it was that bad that everyone pretended they didn’t know a word in English. So I got to this bridge, lit up a cigarette, got very mad and really madly kicked into my backpack and tried to beat the thoughts in my head that said: „Throw your damn backpack down, fuck everything and let’s get drunk.“

DSCF0280

Obviously, I found the minivan I’d been looking for about 7 minutes after it’d departed. Standard. So I had another two hours in my hand to wait for the next one one that nearly cost me 2000 Baht for smoking at the bus station which is – and everyone around me pointed that out very loud – something very prohibited.

The ride to Chat Pa Wai was absolutely unbelievable. And yes, I mean it exactly as it sounds with that ironic touch you applied a few seconds ago. Our almost empty minivan stopped after 15 minutes of driving to pick up another few passengers and even though at least five seats at the back were still free, the driver told the mum with two kids to make themselves comfortable on the two seats straight next to me. That meant that not only did I have to stuff my giraffe legs very deep into the seat in front of me, I even had to put my 85 litre life on top of them. Even though I put the nicest smile on my face and asked by the cutest voice possible to be moved somewhere else, the only thing I got was 9 ignorant looks from my minivan mates so the next three hours were filled by sticky and sweaty kids touching everything on the left side of my body, endless kicks into my already dead legs and constantly closing my eyes when our driver decided that overtaking cars in a turn is way more exciting than where it is actually safe.

DSCF0281

When we got to the final destination and my legs finally got back to life, I bought some water and I was very surprised (no, actually I wasn’t because I’m a retard) that roaming on my phone didn’t work so I couldn’t call anyone from the farm to come and pick me up. Luckily, Mr. Arnon is a Chat Pa Wai celebrity and apparently Mon with her amazing British tan as well so this lovely Thai guy I met on the street arranged everything for me. Arnon got there in about 10 Thai (times three) minutes, said only „Hi Mon, nice to meet you, I’m very hungover“ and we were going on his motorbike (that nearly lost its wheel straight when we got to the farm) towards my new ten-day home 🙂