And we danced…

“And we cried, and we laughed, and had a really really really good time.”

The other night* was nothing short of incredible. As I stood, sardined in a crowd of comforting strangers, I began to witness the hype beginning to boil amidst common conversation.

As screams reached new octaves and broke various sound barriers, there he was.

The vibe became electric and anything that had occupied my thoughts that day was wiped. All that mattered, all that was relevant, was that moment. I was captivated, entranced by this art.

There were times when he looked just as much in awe of us as we were of him.

Arms were raised, flowing, rising and falling in sync with the music.

I was alive, liberated, but most of all content.

I praise artists these days who can evoke such emotions, give such genuine performances whilst sounding exactly how they do on their record. This is the essence of live music. Not a hefty display pyrotechnics or acrobatics accompanied by 100 or so dancers that can do a cool spin on their heads. Of course all these aspects add to the scene but the balance is key. Of course the confetti falling from the sky during the closing number was magical. I reached up to welcome it with loving arms, scrunching  the small piece of paper it in my palm in hopes of preserving the memory deep in my mind.

His vast array of issues addressed in his songs make for a versatile concert. From pressing and political issues such as black rights, gay rights, consumerism, celebrity status and personal struggles to a song detailing his love for food and dancing, pretty well rounded wouldn’t you say?

As an avid writer, words are powerful.

So I thank you Macklemore. Thank you for being such an inspiring, creative, genuine human being, that made one young girl very happy indeed.

mack

*Here I am referring to a time over about a year ago now. These were my thoughts I jotted down immediately after the night. Only now have I found the will to string them coherently together.

Taj and Tigers

Eager to cross off one of the seven wonders of the world, I packed my bags for the weekend and hit the road. Agra was a 5hr drive away so it was headphones in. Soon Ed Sheehan, Arctic Monkeys and Broods were providing a narrative to the still surprising and ever-changing landscape of India. After a dangerous free for all buffet, houses on the side of the road constructed out of 100% cow manure, 10485478 staring eyes and the completion of yet another book, we made it to a beautiful hotel. I’m talking roof top restaurant, a television with english channels, complementary buffet breakfast, strong wifi in ALL areas, hot water, it was bliss. That afternoon we checked out Agra fort. About 70% of it was closed for preservation and also because it is still used by the government. Regardless, it was a beautiful fort. Walls tinged with red skirted the cute gardens with the most greenery I’d seen in a while. Such detailed inscriptions and carvings lit up the marbled walls. On a clear day you can see the Taj Mahal but the haze was so thick you barely got a good view looking down on the town of Agra, I don’t think the festivities of Diwali had helped with the already present haze.

Selfie at Agra fort:


  The Taj! Hoping to get a clear/non-fog-ruining photo of the infamous palace we opted to go later on in the morning. The Taj was basically our neighbour, a quick 5 minute walk down the street and there it was, well after going through about 3 gates and a security check complete with even a bag scanner! Now, I have obviously seen countless photos of the Taj Mahal, but standing there is another story. Despite the hefty amount of other tourists crowding the area, all wanting the best photo, the Taj Mahal was incredible. The entire structure is made of marble! I mean, Imagine how time consuming and hard it would be to chisel all the artwork. It took a total of 11 years to construct with even a few fatalities, due to the lack of protection from the gasses and toxins within the marble. The enormity of it was insane! 73 metres of pure marble. The classic bench where princess Diana sat was constantly swarmed by people eager to get the same picture. We managed to get a few good ones in areas that were slightly off the most popular areas. The palace was built by Shah Jahan for his late wife as a symbol of his love. He was a great believer in everything being symmetrical. The palace is exactly symmetrical, even down to two Mosks placed exactly on either side. He was even planning on building a replica of the Taj just across the river, in order to satisfy this symmetrical system. Wandering around its grounds I was in awe. So much detail, so much thought had gone into this masterpiece. It was sad to see that some tourists had taken advantage of being so close to the artwork and had stolen some of the jewels that were set in the marble. As a result we were told a few areas of the Taj will soon be closed to the public.

Detailed marble work:


 

Once back in Jaipur a few of us settled down to watch Slumdog Millionaire. Now more than ever this movie was so relatable, such a great film. I’ve checked out one of the malls here in Jaipur and It was so great to be in such a western building, with western shops and fixed prices! it’s funny the things you miss. Earlier this week the Prime Minister gave us a lovely surprise overnight by declaring 500 rupee notes and 1000 notes a no longer legal tender. Perfect. Here I was thinking I was so prepared by exchanging all my money in NZ, before I came. Now here I was with about 20,000 rupees, all in 1000 notes that were invaluable. It is such an ordeal trying to exchange your old money for new. The queues last for days with hundreds gathered outside every bank in town. I understand why the government has done this and why so suddenly ( to deal with the amount of counter fitting that goes on ) but I feel like the way India’s systems are set up and the current situation of it’s people, was not fit or prepared to handle this. On attempting to get money we were faced with guards with guns outside the bank but were escorted to the front of the queue like honoured guests, only to be informed we could only exchange 1000 rupees ($20) as they were low on money. On the same day this was announced Trump also won the presidency so it’s safe to say it was a grim day world wide.

After getting my first Henna design it was time for another adventure! This weekend it was off to a tiger safari. Ranthambore was just a mere 5hrs away. The place we stayed at was more of a resort. The grounds were gorgeous, lots of places to spread out on the grass and read (I tested it), another buffet for breakfast, lunch and dinner and even a performance huddled round a fire with hot chai. We checked out the fort for the afternoon and captured the sunset with some photo shoot ready pics. We set out at 7am in our jeep and made our way to the game reserve. As tigers are nocturnal we were hoping to catch a glimpse before they settled in for a sleep. Climbing up the hills in a jeep on a rocky, unpaved road was extremely bumpy. We saw some Antelope, peacocks, deer and birds. unfortunately it was a tiger-less tiger safari for us but the views and selfies we got were pretty great. It was frustrating to hear from a couple staying at the same place as us who entered the park at a different gate saw Tigers, Leopards and crocodiles! Thats just the luck of the draw though, have to be in the right place at the right time. 

What I wish I saw (from the couples camera):

This was terrifying but the view was so breathtaking: 


Sad news from home about the earthquake! Thoughts with everyone xxx

 

Intense, incredible India, At first glance

Intense, incredible India, At first glance

Cows graze on rubbish that swarm the streets while dogs and pigs tag along. Eyes gaze upon you from every direction. Various shacks line the streets as a fresh smell of herbs and spices wafts out. Women draped in colourful cloth, bearing nothing more than their face tread the dry dirt up the street. Horns blast as chaos ensues. Buses packed to the brim with people fly past as a crowd is also stacked on the roof. Kids tanned with a light brush of dirt rush up to you, palms open singing various songs. A family huddles by one lonely flame on the side of the street. Some are lucky and have a stick that holds up a large piece of cloth to provide a shelter. A women lays in the middle of the street with only one arm, the other clearly missing with minimal medical attention to the open wound. Huge animals, cows and dogs lie dead on the side of the road. This is india. Nothing is hidden. It is all very in your face and so intense. It is hard to put into words just how the atmosphere and what experiencing India is like until you are here seeing it for yourself. The only images and depictions of India I had before I arrived were largely based on Slumdog Millionare. It is scary to say the film is not far from the truth. This is how I saw the first few days in India, looking around with wide eyes and jaw dropped. Coming from even Thailand and it’s surrounding countries I could not even compare the culture shock.

Within all this poverty and disorder there is so much beauty. From the moment I was carted from the airport in a taxi that weaved in and out of the traffic along uneven roads which made it hard to determine what side of the road they drove on, I was completely in love. So much to see out my little window. It was like everything I knew was flipped upside down. Cows don’t need to be fenced inside a paddock? Let them be free to roam the streets! Why use the subtleness of an indicator when you can use your horn to let others know you are coming? And I mean every. Time. You. Pass. A. Car. EVERYTIME. Even if you’re clearly in your own lane and there is another car in the lane next to you. Beep your horn!!! Also, try to stay to the left but try to overtake as many cars as possible. Footpaths? Who needs them. Another reason to use your horn, beep at any passersby. Blue sky? Maybe it exists under the thick haze. 

It does really sound as if I hate this place. But it’s really quite the opposite. It is so interesting to see how these people live. I am completely amazed and entranced by India. Don’t even get me started on the beautiful architecture of some of indias oldest forts and palaces. Also, The whole country is pretty much vegetarian it’s awesome! Everywhere I go the whole menu is vegetarian and then sometimes a small section at the back is dedicated to non-veg food, Quite the opposite of back home. Majority of the people I’ve come across speak very good English, I was quite surprised. There are endless markets with an eager merchant stationed at each one. Gorgeous deserts that stretch for miles, sunsets that light up the sky, smiley kids who wave and blow kisses at you. 

I have also come to realise that from the outside looking in it seems as if these people lead an unfortunate life. But for them they know no different. Obviously there is no question about the sadness of the conditions some of these people are subjected to but What may seem unfortunate to me may be fortunate enough for them. 

I just wanted to get some thoughts out about India so far and to let everyone know I’m safe in my knew home! Stay tuned for what I’ve been up to… xxx 

Luang Prabang & back to Thailand!

Luang Prabang & back to Thailand!

A long 8hr bus journey through very windy but beautiful, lush landscape saw us arrive in Luang Prabang. Along the way we stopped at a lookout where the cutest wee dog lived, welcoming passersby with his warm hugs. The hilltop looked over the bendy roads we just encountered and so much greenery. We also met two men who were brave enough to scale these crazy roads by foot in the name of charity. Running on average 60km a day! They were making the same journey we were making by bus but by running in the sweltering heat for almost 3 days. They were raising funds for a children’s hospital in Laos where kids who were less fortunate could get proper treatment. One of them was an Aussie and the other Philippino, super lovely guys, a few of us gave them some more money to add to the donation pot. After coming across a landslide,  that is apparentley very common in these parts and waited for a total of 30mins, we made it to Luang Prabang! I LOVE this town. It has an old town similar to Hoi Ann with a nice relaxed feel to it. Lovely markets where the women do not harass you at all and the prettiest bar called Utopia that sits right on the edge of the river and offers an awesome vegan Oreo shake! It was unfortunate that I ended up contracting a very sore throats and the worst coughing fits. So the following day I opted out of a waterfall visit for a day of massages and vegan restaurants (yes another reason I adore this place is the amount of vege places they have) I also tried to visit the museum but was turned down as I wasn’t wearing the right clothing. So make sure you wear long pants and tops to the museum! 

The lookout: 


The crazy yet charitable men:


Up next was a calming boat ride up the Mekong river for two days. The night in between saw us staying at a village on the side of the river. The kids were very genorous with picking and giving flowers (only to whom they saw worthy, yes I was one) and literally made fun out of anything and everything. They pushed a box along the mud for a while and jumped rope as well as kicking a bag of rubbish around that doubled as a ball. Coming from the westernised world and looking at this village it’s easy to feel sorry for them. A brick wall with a few windows for a school, no wifi, not an abundance of food, games or any technology it’s easy to think ‘don’t they get bored?’ But they are the most inivative and hard working people they don’t have time to think wether they are bored or not! Coming away from an afternoon and a night there I was almost jealous of how they were so happy and how they could make the most from so little. 




The tiniest puppy at the village:



Our boat trip ended as we crossed the border back into Thailand, at the northern tip in a place called Chang Kong. The vibe was imedietley a lot more somber in Thailand to what I had known only a month before. With the kings passing the country was in mourning. Everyone wore black, no music was allowed to be played, no parties etc. I admire the love and respect thai people have for their king it is just disappointing we all couldn’t go out and enjoy the nightlife as much. Of course there were a few places where even the police came in to turn the music off but with a quick word and an exchange of some money they were off. 

(The most bizarre naming combination of a little restaurant we passed by on the way to Chang mai):


We also passed by Elsa’s castle:

Chang Mai is awesome! Every year this is where the famous fruit festival Is held. During July many vegans and vegetarians alike flock here for the best fruit and biking. There is an insane amount of vegan restaurants. I could’ve stayed here for weeks trying them all out! Unfortunately I only got round to visiting one called the Bodhi Tree. It was situated off the busy streets in an idyllic spot that came with tables and pillows. I had pancakes! As well as a banana cacao smoothie and some raw energy balls! So good! I missed this food. A wander round Chang mai also brought me to a ‘lost book store’ where I purchased a book about Buddhism that I’m currently chowing through. 


Another classic overnight train (this time it was one whole carriage with gold out bunk beds and a light that stayed on the ENTIRE night) and we were back in Bangkok, where it all began. Like always it’s hard to say goodbye. But that’s what I signed up for! A lot of hellos and goodbyes. Quite a few of them are travelling on and ending up in NZ at some point though so it’s not goodbye forever! A luminous view of Bangkok from a rooftop bar and a pretty dead Khao San Rd marked our last night. The next day it was off on our seperate ways. 

Last group photo: 


We could see where part of the hangover 2 was filmed from the rooftop:


Carina and I on our last night:


I checked into my hostel in the afternoon after spending the morning with a few of the girls. It was quite nice to have some alone time actually, as much as I love travelling in a group it’s always good fun when it’s just you and the world. My hostel, called Mellow Fellow, was really great. Super clean, good location, friendly staff. Would defineltue stay there again.That night I took myself to the best vegan restaurant! It was called Mango tree vegetarian and vegan restaurant. Beside the egg section the whole menu was vegan, including the deep fried cheesecake and ice cream. The portions were huge and super cheap! I had falafels with salsa, pita bread and ginger kombutcha. Highly recommend! Also, how great is uber?! It’s perfect for getting around busy Bangkok. No worrying about getting ripped off by tuk tuk or taxi drivers and a safer, more comfortable, cheaper journey! I use it now to get everywhere. 

The following day I wandered around Bangkok, map and camera in hand I was the proper tourist. I went to a beautiful park, Lumphini park, complete with Lizards that jump out of no where like Komodo dragon looking things, lots of birds that Poop on you as well as ants but a lovely lake and row boats. I had a geeze at some of the malls and brought a huge water melon for $1! I had an early night snuggled up in my dorm room as I was set to rise at 4am to embark on my flight, off to my next destination……… India! 


Vietnam Vibes and laid back Laos 

Vietnam Vibes and laid back Laos 

With reluctance we departed beautiful Hoi An and made our way to Hue, alot busier than Hoi An. Here I visited the tomb where the king was buried as well as a coliseum where elephants andtigers were forced to battle it out to the death. Only the fight was never fair, elephants always won to show respect to the king. To ensure this the Tigers claws were often removed and their teeth cut out. You can still see distressing claw marks from the tigers in the holding pen before the battle. The coliseum is closed to the public but with a little flash of some cash the security had no problem opening up the gates.

Tiger’s clawing to escape:


The arena:


Our third overnight train saw us arrive in the beautiful Ha Long bay. A beautiful cruise around the bay was a definite need after seeing lots of city and motorbikes 24/7. Although we saw many tourist ships at the docks, once you’re out in the bay it is so large in itself that you feel like you’re the only one. It reminded me of Milford sound just on a greater scale. Another lovely meal saw us taking on kayaking in the afternoon. Our boat pulled up to a little dock that housed many kayaks and two women who sat in a shed who designated us kayaks. We were off to explore the coves of the bay. The current was strong in places and the waves rather rough but I saw some incredible sights. Apart from being out in the expansive ocean, rolling in the waves, we ventured into a cave that had been formed from the cliff face above and came out into this cove. Monkeys swung from trees and sat on the rocks. Wanting to get the best look and of course photograph my rowing buddy and I went right up to this large monkey who gave us the stink eye from the moment he laid eyes on us. He was sitting on a rock that jutted out into the water so we pulled up right alongside him. I averted my eyes and tried to back away as the current kept pushing us into his hateful state. Eventually he cracked and lunged at us as our oars went up to defend ourselves. He retreated back into the jungle as I sat there with my heart pulsating. Probably one of the scariest things ever, all I could think of was “should of had that rabies injection”.


After a brief stop in Ha Long bay it was up to Hanoi to welcome two knew people onto the tour. Irish and English, two more lovely additions to the group. I enjoyed a puppet show in Hanoi, the worlds longest water puppet show (1hr) that had rather hypnotic music that had me falling asleep half way through. Early one morning like 6am a few of us got up and headed to the river side for some excersise. It felt like the whole town was up doing various forms of excersise together. Some squatting in a bench, an old man doing press ups on the side of the road, runners, Thai chi, salsa dancing, in every corner there was something going on. We joined in with an aerobics class on the street corner that had everyone around the town copying our actions, it was highly amusing. After that we joined in with some older Vietnamese men and women participating in laughing yoga, one of the most bazare but liberating things ever! We all laugh, quiet at first then building to a roar while we move our arms from side to side, hold hands and spin around and bang each other on the back. They loved us taking part and insisted on taking about 1000000 photos afterwards to prove it. That night we went to a local beer joint that sold 4 drinks for $1! I wish I liked beer otherwise it would have been a very cheap night out. 

Laughing yoga crew:


I was thankful I didn’t drink to much once we got in the plane to go to Laos, as my uneasy feeling towards flying and a hangover would not go down well. It was over so quickly, a 1hr plane ride that felt like 10mins. As soon as we landed in the airport it was a totally different atmosphere. The airport was tiny to begin with, it felt more like a small train station, and this was the capital, Vienteine. No one was rushing anywhere, it was a lovely slow, laid back lifestyle. I’ve been told that other southeast Asian people refer to The Peoples Democratic Republic (PDR) of Laos as Please Don’t Rush, in reference to this laid back perspective. Meals sometimes would not arrive at your table until an hour or so after you ordered. I also immediately loved laos as I watched the English and Europeans pay an extra $5USD for their visas, they must have a soft spot for NZ. 

With Vientene being 1km from the border of Thailand it definitely had many similarities. It was nice to be back in a tuk tuk world and the people also are extremely friendly and smiley. After many temples and monuments I visited the ‘COPE centre’.during the Vietnam war, and still to this day, Laos remains the most heavily bombed country. Cluster bombs were dropped but many were not triggered. Leaving a significant amount under the dirt waiting to explode. Therefore many farmers and kids have had serious accidents when playing or digging as they trigger these bombs. Loss of Limbs and senses are the outcomes. So the organisation and ‘Cope’ centre help treat these kids and provide prosthetics so they can continue with their lives. Especially Cope reaches out to kids in villegers that would otherwise not be able to fund treatment. It was so sad to see how many innocent peoples lives are still effected by this event that happened years ago. 



Along with its chill lifestyle and Thai vibes Laos is great because they don’t beep! (On the rare occasion) it’s so soothing, Vietnam could learn a thing or two. Laos also has gorgeous scenery. Driving to Vang Vieng I could nearly convince myself I was home. Green hills, roads that weaved through shading trees, blue skies. Except there were many kids, young like 10 or so riding motorbikes to their school, a few friends on the back, no helmet, it’s just funny to see that is the main form of transport to get to and from school. 
Vang Vieng is stunning. A lot less developed than the capital and super small but stunning. Our rooms were these cute little bungalows and we were right next to the river. We had dinner overlooking the river and watched as the sun made its way down to nestle into the hills. 



The next day was action packed! The day started off with kayaking for about 10km downstream across rapids and extremely shallow waters where we got out of our kayak but could not get back in and ended up having a butt massage on the slimy rocks below. Then it was zip lining which is essentially a huge flying fox high in the trees that see you swinging from one platform to another in the tree tops. It was then time for cave tubing that ended up being more cave walking that involved a risky ‘mud slide'( the water was too shallow so we all came out with grazed bottoms) giant spiders, bats and a few claustrophobic manoeuvres. The day finished with a dip in the very popular blue lagoon. I jumped off a 10metre high tree into its blue depths. On the way home I sat on top of the truck and gazed around at the picturesque greenery and mountains as the wind blue through my hair and in that moment I was so content. 


Something interesting: if you have to pee there’s no shame in peeing right there, on the side of the street not even in a bush or somewhere to conceal yourself. God knows alot of southeast Asian men do! Haha

Good morning Vietnam! 

After crossing a pretty laxed border (I’m talking a pretty barren area with some sheds labeled “customs” and “visa processing” with a man or two sitting in a hammock which made me laugh) into Vietnam by foot, Can Tho was our first stop. Viewing Vietnam from the bus you could instantly tell you were in another country. No tuk Tuks insight, the greenery reminded me of home, rice fields for days, it was a refreshing change from the less fortunate more polluted, Cambodia. 

Just after the border crossing:


First glimpse into a city in Vietnam: With about 92million people living in this relatively small country housing is extremely expensive in the city centres. With land costing so much the houses are oddly shaped. They are extremely skinny in order to take up the least amount of land as possible and very tall all stacked up against one another. Not my ideal living situation. Even the hotels are built in such a way. So a few times there’s been no windows and quite tight stairwells. 

Our first, and only, night in Can Tho was at a home stay. It was a lot more luxurious than what I had been staying at in the elephant village, we even had wifi! But it was still a nice change from hotels and busy tourist areas. We were in a small village just outside of Can Tho, in the jungle. We had huge mosquito nets hovering over our beds and a traditional Vietnamese meal for dinner. Cooked by the women of the house we had Vietnamese pancakes stuffed with veggies, spring rolls, rice crackers, rice, morning glory (which is a knew veggie to add to the list) as well as various other vegetables and tofu it was quite delish! We had a night of playing cards, guitar playing and sing songs as well as watching the Vietnam special of top gear, which was very entertaining and also gave us a glimpse of what we had to look forward too! 

Sunset from the homestay:


The next morning we visited the floating markets. It’s such an awesome concept. There are literally hundreds of boats, long and slim piled with various foods such as mango, fish, pineapple, Vietnamese coffee (which is coffee with a tonne of condensed milk), banana etc. so we got on a boat and powered though them, pulling up to various boats which had food we wanted to try. Each boat will have a large bamboo stick sticking up out of it with a bunch of whatever it’s selling so you know where to go from afar. The pineapple and mango was Devine, so fresh and full of taste! 


A long bus journey was ahead of us to get to the capital. Arriving in Saigon, Ho Chi Min city, meant we would say goodbye to four of our fellow travellers but gain another 3! To mark the occasion we went to a karekoe bar where we rented out a very flash room and sang our hearts out to the likes of Britney Spears, shakira, celiene dion and Queen. It was really a great night. 

The next day was another very interesting day. We visited the famous Cu Chi tunnels. This was were many people lived during the Vietnam war in order to escape being noticed by the enemy. It was insane how tiny these tunnels were. Even with them already being enlarged for us European sized people it was still a tight squeeze. They cooked underground in the tunnels, using several vents to diminish the smoke above ground, slept and there were also many women who gave birth in the tunnels.Our tour guide was a veteran of the war And was quite funny when it came to explaining ‘the truth’ and ‘what the new tour guides and businesses have set up purely for tourists’. It was great to be able to have a real, personal perspective on the war. The thing I gained most from this visit was how inivative the Vietnamese were for using what at first glance could be perceived as a disadvantage in war (their small size) to an advantage to escape the enemy. 

(Photos on camera sorry)

After our second overnight train which included a mouldy sheet and a friendly mouse, we made it to Nha trang. Here I enjoyed a lovely day out on the boat snorkelling. The fish weren’t abundant but just being in the ocean and having yet another yummy lunch on the water was good enough for me! I also had a new experience with mud bathing. There’s a whole sequence to it. First you rinse yourself off under a hot shower for 5 mins. Second you bath in mud for about half an hour, lye in the sun to soak up all the minerals then rinse yourself off, soak in a warm bath for about 20mins then chug down a bottle of water before relaxing under a hot water fall and pool. My skin was as smooth as a babies bottom, it was great. 



After just one night in Nha Trang it was off to one of my favourite places yet, Hoi Ann. This town has an ‘old town’ section where it is purely breathtaking. It has such an oriental feel, no cars are allowed, most people are on bicycles, the architecture makes you feel like you’re in Italy, china, Thailand all at once. The town is full with lanterns and very pushy sales merchants. A few people even got tailored suits made at the place we had watched Jeremy Clarkson get his on top gear. The town is renowned for very inexpensive, well made suits. I was just in awe of it beauty. Little coffee shops lay next to gelato stores while temples and cobbled stone roads provided a peaceful view. I was so happy we were here for three days! 


We visited another Gadventures supported programme called oodles for noodles. Where children who are living on the steeets or from disadvantaged backgrounds can learn English and train in the culinary field to be able to have a fulfilling career in the hospitality industry. So we went to one of their restaurants where they can practice their English by serving us as well as their culinary skills and in return we help support what they do by buying their meal so it’s a win win. It was awesome to be apart of something that will have profound impacts on these kids quality of life. 

I treated myself to a back, head and shoulder massage before a day of cycling! It’s amazing how you can spend so much time building up your fitness and then you break for a bit and boom. All your hard work is gone. As soon as I hopped on the bike and started to pedal I was like wow I’m so unfit. This was your life for the past 7 months this should be a walk in the park! To be fair it was all flat sour was realively easy but everything is 10x sweater in this heat. A group of us scattered out along the dirt roads that lead us to the countryside. Lush rice fields, water buffalo and cows grazing and bathing, the sun shining, what more could you want? How about the oldest and in my opinion, happiest couple in Hoi Ann?! We pulled aside to a house which had a large garden at the back and a cute dog that was extremely excited to see us. A frail old lady with a beaming smile that radiated happiness (despite having no teeth whatsoever) and a small man with a bit of a waddle to his step but the same smile as the women next to him emerged. Although they could not speak a word of english, their gentle touch and longing gaze at one another spoke volumes. They have been together a total of 72 Years and are now  93 And  88 . They still tend to their organically grown veggies and pose for a photo or two with tourists daily. While back on the bikes we stopped in to witness why the locals are so happy, according to our tour guide. We saw how to process and ferment rice in order to make rice wine! It was rather strong and tasted more like a shot of spirits as opposed to wine. God knows how they drink a glass. Also on our biking expedition we stopped to row a local boat which look like big bowls sitting on the water. They’re made from bamboo. A local lady sat in with myself and my rowing buddy and made a crown and necklace as well as a ring for me out of a flax bush which we managed to crash into on many occasions. In the end, of course, it turned into a race. Who could get back to the dock fist? Suffice to say it was not me and our very uncoordinated paddling. It’s hard because it circular and your paddles are on either side, okay I’m just fishing for excuses. But it was really enjoyable and also great to finally get some excersise! That’s night we were knackered so a few of us had a wee slumber party, ordering room service and watching what happens in vegas as well as extremely over dramatic Vietnamese soap operas. 

My noodle I made at oodles for noodles:



Something interesting: you cannot sleep on any vehicle, the roads are literally a collection of pot holes. So when they say “this ride comes with a free bum massage” don’t get your hopes up.

South east Asia Love

Still alive and well! It’s super hard to keep up with documenting what I’m doing day by day as my days are so full and go go go! So, I will try my best to recap the last week or so. 

After the excitement and adrenaline of quad biking a few of us made our way to the Phare circus that night. It was a really great performance. The circus school is made up of children from disadvantaged backgrounds so by supporting them they are able to make a living and develop their craft. It was very professional with also some cultural merit to it, showing Cambodias brutal past. 

Fire throwing and some trusting antics:


Following this stellar performance we headed for Pub street! Man was it pumping! We made our way round a few bars and danced like always, I even met a fellow kiwi! Such a small world. My favourite bar was probably this rooftop one. It had a water feature along with bean bags upstairs outside and a club inside downstairs. 

With Siem Reap in the rear view we hopped on another coach and drove to Phnom Penh (the capital of Cambodia). Immediately I could tell it was the capital. A lot more developed in terms of the architecture and infrastructure. There were still many kids on the street and an insane amount of rubbish as well as an increased number of motorbikes on the road. I noticed the other day that even the little man that indicates when you can cross the road is even in an action, running motion which I thought was pretty funny and accurate, if you don’t run and be quick about crossing the roads you will die. While driving the other day I even saw two monks riding on the back of a scooter and then saw some in a coffee shop. It seems like what it means to be a monk is slightly different these days to what it was originally. I’ve even seen some using phones which looks rather funny too. 

After settling in and exploring the town centre along with the royal palace and enjoying an evening boat cruise around the harbour it was off to learn about the darker side of Cambodian history. Something I didn’t even have a clue existed. The main reason there are so many children living on the streets and all round disadvantaged people is because during the 70’s, when communism was the main form of government the Khmer Rouge killed at least 1.7 million of their own people, this resulting in nowadays 50% of the population is under 18 years old. It was an attempt at “social cleansing” so wanted to rid the country of educated people, those who served the prior government and anyone related to them to create a peasant, one class society. We visited the school (turned holding pen/interigation building) called S21 and learnt about the horrific living conditions and torturous acts these common people who had done nothing wrong had to endure. The main thing that got to me the most was how recent this all happened. You think about genocide you immediately think Hitler and WW2 but this happened at a large scale ending in just 1979! That’s insane. How did I not know about this? Why aren’t we taught about this? I was even more shaken when I got to meet one of the survivors from the prison. Hearing first hand what it was like was something I’ll never be able to forget. We visited the killing fields where around 36 people a day were brought from the prison to the field to kneel down and be executed. Children, women, soldiers and men, all lying in mass graves, killed by their own people. It was definitely an eye opening day to say the least. 

The royal palace and view from the boat cruise:


Some of the graves left at the fields along with one of the 7 survivors from S21:


The next day was dedicated to the beautiful nature of Cambodia. We travelled to the beachside town of Sihanoukville. Our hotel was 2 mins from the beach! After just over a month of not seeing some sand and water I was excited for a little taste of home. A bunch of us went to explore the jungle where wild elephants, tigers, spiders, snakes, monkeys and pigs roam. We visited a small village where 50 families lived, farming the land, catching fish and making rice wine. Very remote and a slow pace of life. After trekking through the jungle, coming across no other tourists but a large spider or two we found a beach totally deserted where we had a cheeky swim. The next destination was a glorious water fall. We lay in hammocks as we watched those below getting hammered by the weight of the water. Then we ventured down below to experience it for ourselves. It was amazing! I went under the waterfall, scaled the rocks and took a few selfies before I cut my toe but it was nothing a bandaid couldn’t fix! Lunch was a lovely veggie kebab swiftly followed by our next stop, Monkey temple! Again, no tourists in sight so we had the attention of 40+ monkeys all to ourselves. They enjoyed our bananas and left overs from lunch and happily drank a can of coke. Back to the hotel for a relaxing massage and yummy dinner before chilling on the beach later that night. I have gained multiple braclets from the young kids who wander the beach all day and night selling braclets and braids. They are extremely good sales people and also rather cheeky. I was told that I do not have a partner because I haven’t brought one of his braclets. That night I was promised my man would come. I told the boy the next day that I hadn’t met my match and he said sometimes that happens, it just means I need to buy another one. My favourite quotes from the kids include, “open your heart, open your wallet”, “no boyfriend? No problem!”. It seemed like a pinky promise was a binding contract. A friend of mine got an ear full from a young girl as she got a braid done by a girl and not the one she pinky promised with. I also got ridiculed for my slightly longer haired legs (I’m on holiday leave me alone) on the beach by an elderly women who offered to thread them for me. After about 10mins of her touching and exclaiming “so long, why you no shave?” I finally got her to leave with the classic pinky promise that if I did decide to get them done I would go to her. 

Soph, Carina and I starting our jungle trek:

The village beach:



Sihanoukville:


So that’s my life for the past week still much to tell. Stay tuned for Vietnam Ventures! xxx