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

 

Rajasthan 

It was off to a somewhat stressful start as I swooped down onto the runway and entered the tiny airport of Jaipur. After making a friend on the plane I was quite oblivious to my surroundings and probably should have been scouting for my driver instead of being involved in an in depth conversation. In a flash I was spitted out of the arrival hall and into the heat of the desert as 100 or so eyes glared back at me, some holding signs others shouting “Taxi!” And many others just taking a good look at the one white lady with blonde hair that just came from no where. 

Once I eventually tracked down a helpful security guard that was willing to let me borrow his phone I found my driver. We zig zagged through dirty roads and continuous beeps for about 40 minetes before I arrived at my new home for the next month! To say that my senses were overwhelmed by India would be an understatement (see previous blog for an in depth description haha). The guest house where the volunteers are housed is lovely. From what I had seen coming from the airport my hopes were not set too high. We have 3 floors all to ourselves consisting of a lounging area/eating area, TV, wifi, roof top terreace, kitchen, bathrooms and bedrooms. It’s situated on a rather busy street though so horns are buzzing throughout the day. 

View from the rooftop:


At the moment there’s about 10 of us in the house which means we have a good amount of space. There are 5 of us working at the orphanage (more on that later) and 5 working at the street kids school. All from various countries, Canada, Australia, England and Spain. It turns out I arrived at the perfect time as Diwali was to start in the evening. It was incredible! We stood on our roof top and watch the sky around us, stretching for miles, illuminate with various colours and flashes. Kids played in the street below, some extremely young, lighting fire works and then running away before a car would veer out of the way. We had some ourselves, huge ones that fell on us once we had lit them. No health and safety whatsoever. We went down onto the street at one point and rolled out this huge wheel of fireworks that looked like a spike trap police lay out on the road to stop a criminal. It was like being on the frontline of a war. Sparks darting off in every direction, some flicking at our legs as we faced away. I thought to myself, I wonder how many casualties dewali brings? Babies were being held 2 metres or so next to a giant firework, kids danced and stood upon spinning fireworks on the ground. It was crazy. Buildings were covered in blankets of light, as fairy lights dangled from windows. 



We also partook in the religious aspect of dewali. For about 2 hours, in the ground floor of our house, the owners had a prayer ceremony. We were told it was only a 10-15 minete thing that ended up lasting a tad longer. Lots of chanting and repeating what the priest would say, throwing Mari golds over the Ganesh (the Hindu elephant) and covering yourself with the light from a flame. At the end we each got blessed and had bracelets tied around our wrists and a dot on our forehead as well as some Indian sweets.

The next day it was off to Pushka! I would be travelling for a further week before starting my placement. Pushka is beautiful. There is a large lake that sits in the centre of the city. It is a holy place and you must remove footwear be in the possession of no alcohol or non-veg food (which I thought was awesome!) and various other non-holy things. We visited the markets where we wondered for hours on end and I brought a ring and some delish street food, a falafel burger for $1! I noticed something about Indian culture that I never knew. Of course I have nothing against this whatsoever but it caught me off guard at first but the men hold hands. And it’s not what it would mean in the western world, it is not considered gay but more of a friendship/protection action. Now I was the one staring. At first I thought they must be gay and thought it was strange how open they were about it in such a heavily religious country but then reaslised every man was doing it, young, old. 

The sign at Pushka:


Speaking of religion, we came across a man on the street who was talking to us about his marriage. He was only about 21 but was explaining to us about how when he was 10 his parents came home one day and said they’d found who he was to marry. He obviously didn’t think much about it at the time but when he was 17 his wedding day came. He had to break up with his girlfriend at the time to marry this stranger. It was sad, he was telling us he doesn’t want kids but if he did he would never arrange their marriage for them. I couldn’t even imagine being set up and having no control over who I was to marry. This is how it is with their culture and I assume the children just accept and most even embrace arranged marriages but it saddens me that those who do not wish for it don’t have a choice. Aside from seeing all the poverty on the streets and realising how lucky I was with all my materialistic things and even basic needs, I think this was the first instance where I realsised I was extremely lucky to come from a country and culture that empowered women and the freedom I have that enables me to dictate my own life. 
After the usual few million photographs on random people’s phones, we left the markets and settled in for a night at a hotel with beautiful grounds and architecture. Driving to Jaisemer, a long 8hr car ride, was on the agenda for the following day. It was a drive that showcased Rajasthan’s barren desert that stretched beyond the horizon, cows that roamed the middle of the roads, camels that walked the sand dunes, villages that seemed all the same, and the great uneven and bumpy structure of its roads. Once we arrived in Jaisemer it was with great excitement that I realised our hotel was just across the road from a fair, Ferris wheel’s and all! That excitement soon fizzled when the power went out twice which resulted in all the rides stopping mid air. So it was straight to bed. 

Hotel in Pushka:


We visited Galdisar lake for sunrise (which was so peaceful and picturesque) then onto Jaisemer fort and it’s markets within. I really enjoyed this fort. The view was spectacular, all of Jaisemer was in view. The markets and residents within the fort also addded another element. I brought a few books from a quaint book store nestled in between the cobble stone alleys. The man who owned the store couldn’t speak and was such a gentle soul. We then went to this beautiful building just down the road from the fort but there were so many tourists inside I felt like a rat in a maze with a million other rats and had to escape. There we were ushered to our car by some children begging, singing frere Jacques and banging on our windows, insisting we spare some change. It’s so confronting when the kids or just beggars in general come up and tap on your window. At many of the toll roads or traffic lights, anywhere you have to stop there are kids singing or men with monkeys on a chain or selling toys outside your window. 

Beautiful Galdisar lake:



Jaisemer fort and markets:



View from the top:



That night we were really in the desert. It was amazing, we slept under the stars with the camels and our blankets. I’d never seen so many stars. I saw 3 shooting stars and battled with my eyes to stay open for as long as possible to gaze up at the best bedroom ceiling ever. 




Jodhpur was next, After a lunch of ‘green salad’ that ended up being just tomato and red onion, I’ve quickly learnt that that is their interpretation of salad everywhere. More markets with a very sarcastic merchant and an authentic Indian tea and spice shop saw me spend probably more money than I probably should have. 

We scaled Mehrangarh fort before heading back to Jaipur. I’m also learning that forts here are like what temples are to Thailand, exist in an excessive amount which end up looking the same very quickly. But with this fort I had an audio guide which made for a more interesting wander as I could learn about the background of it more. My favourite part was the meditation room and of course the stunning architecture. As with any place swarmed with tourists we were asked to take pictures on multiple occasions but now have learnt that we do have the right to refuse! Driving back I noticed the women do everything in their saris. Traffic wardens, farmers, all at work in their sari! Parents also place charcoal under their children’s eyes which makes them look as if they’re wearing eyeliner. I’m not sure what the aim of this is? But it looks So funny having a little baby wearing eyeliner.

Mehrangarh fort:

Much love, Rose xxx 

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

Music,mosquitoes and markets.

Music,mosquitoes and markets.

Near death experiences, Elephant mud slides, many mosquito bites, late night elephant city wandering, groovy music, night markets and great people conclude my full week antics.

The scariest moment in my journey so far would have to be the other night. I was going about my usual nightly routine when I realised I was locked in the toilet. Now I know this doesn’t sound like the end of the world but at the time I was wishing, “please don’t let this be the way it ends”. Once I was aware I had forced the lock too far, jammed it and therefore couldn’t open it, I banged on the door for about 5mins (felt like 5hrs) shouting helplessly. Mind you the toilet is outside the house so NO ONE heard me. There was no window to crawl out of and the walls were high, no gaps at the bottom or top. So I did what I had to do. I pulled the door as hard as I could, my legs helping me with the leverage. The lock pinged off, flinging me in the eye in the process but I was free and alive! (The door wasn’t in such great shape and the screws and lock were totally unhinged) when I got back to the main room and made my announcement, to my dismay no one even noticed I was gone, to be fair I was only gone for probably 10mins but it was the longest 10mins of my life. 

With that ordeal behind me, the next day I headed off to the school to teach again, this time with mainly the younger kids. Shapes and nature was on the learning agenda. We tried to think of creative, enjoyable ways to teach the kids. So for teaching them about nature we drew a landscape on the board and labeled it with various features, ocean, flowers, cloud, sun etc then got them to copy and colour the picture. We also played multiple memory games to get them to cement and recognise the vocab. They were again extremely well behaved and respectful. One of the girls, Champoo (who is pictured in the photo 2nd to the left), was the cuties kid I’ve ever seen, I just wanted to put her in my pocket and take her home!

Back in surin, Amidst the constant pur of zigzagging scooters, eager tuk tuk drivers and bright lights we spot an elephant. It’s late at night, in the centre of town, accompanied by two boys holding bags of bamboo. This is no place for an elephant. This is exactly what my work here is aiming to prevent, the touting of elephants to tourists in order to gain money. Now this is the saddest, confused and most frustrated elephant I’ve seen. I mean this is bustling city life and the poor thing is beging dragged from place to place, in this concrete jungle letting out sighs and angry roars as it goes. It’s so heartbreaking to see, when I passed it was hard not to take it’s trunk that delicately brushed my shoulder and take him back to the village, a safe haven. I just had to remind myself I am doing the best I can for this cause, the greater cause. 

On a lighter note, the other day it was pouring with rain, like really pouring. It went on for a few hours. Considering the village is constructed of predominantly mud roads this made for a challenging walk to the river to bathe the elephants. Just before we reached the river there is a slight slope that was now converted into a mud slide. A few of the elephants, the small and the large, dropped their back legs and proceeded to slide down the bank, catapulting their enormous bodies forward as their chubby legs folded underneath and tummys skimmed along the mud. It was so joyful. One of my favourite moments so far, I wish I got some photos!! You can only imagine. It even looked as if they were enjoying it just as much as I enjoyed watching it. 

When the weekend rolled around it was straight to Sawadee! It was an extra special occasion as two of the Volunteers, Were leaving us on Saturday as well as it being one of the staffs’ birthday. I love these people. It is like a real big, diverse family ❤️. I’ve been teaching them great kiwi terms that I use unknowingly until they stop me mid sentence to ask, ” what are jandals?, what do you mean by Dairy?, Rubbish bin?, capsicum? 100s and 1000s? Gum boots? And you throw them for fun?”. Most of them I had no idea were called any different haha. 

Enjoying one of my favourite drinks at sawasdee:


Cheers!,One of my favourite nights in surin, we danced and laughed the night away:

This weekend I also ventured to the surin night market. Here I experienced the best spring rolls ever, so fresh and coated in a peanut/sweet chilli sauce, brought some more bananas, of course, as well as some sweet corn that wasn’t so sweet. I attempted to give a banana to one of the stray dogs but he wasn’t having any of it, obviously didn’t  share my love for bananas. One of the real annoying things about Thailand is there are hardly any public rubbish bins. I’m surprised there isn’t more litter in the streets. So I had to cart around my trash as I downed the delish night market food. 
Yummy Bananas at the surin night market:

Something cool: the music taste of most Thai people is totally not what I thought. They listen to a lot of alt j, sticky fingers, arctic monkeys, Bon iver etc, it’s so groovy! 👌✌️Also, in quite a few of the restaurants here I’ve seen ‘New Zealand oysters or muscles’ advertised on the menu, it’s a nice little reminder of home ❤️

A few of my favourite pics from the week:

Yeah, elephants Poop. A lot:


The gang, taking a quick break to pose for a photo of course:


Me in the water with the elephants:


Planting bamboo for hungry mouths: