Category Archives: Sanuk

The day-by-day working, planning, traveling and adventuring process!

5 Things I Love About Montenegro!

I’ve been in Montenegro now for 6 days, and it’s been a really interesting change! It’s still the off season here, and although I am on the Mediterranean coast we are still north enough to be quite chilly, especially at nights.

This list will be more specific to my personal and unique experience living here so far, but I am sure that anyone who decides to visit this intriguing and gorgeous country will have a similar list.

5 Things I Love About Montenegro

  1. Personal space! I’d forgotten what it was like to go for a walk and see no one. To visit a beach and have total privacy. To go anywhere at all and not have to twist and wind your way around tons of other people. It is off season right now, but even in the high season there aren’t that many people. To put it into perspective, the entire country of Montenegro has a comparable population to Vancouver Island! And, even better, is that the city of Chiang Mai where I was living previously has more than double the population then this entire country!
  2. The sea! Being from an island, I have been near the ocean my entire life. The air feels better here and there is just something unexplainable about being near the coast. Even though I have never been big on boats or aquatic sports, I still LOVE the ocean and it feels really good to be back.
  3. Food is cheap! Maybe not as cheap as Asia, but still cheap. And there are some things here that are cheaper than in Asia, while other things more expensive. For example, a bar of dark chocolate in Thailand was the same price as a bar of dark chocolate back home. Here, it’s about half! Quality vegetables are a lot cheaper then back home, and I admit… there are some snacks in the cupboard that are half the price of what I’m used to.
  4. Having a kitchen! Many people in Thailand and the rest of SE Asia have a kitchen or access to a kitchen, and eating out was definitely something that I LOVED doing. But it has been really fun being back in a kitchen again, cooking dinner each evening and deciding what I am going to make. Since there isn’t anything to do here in the evenings and it still gets dark early, it has been really nice cooking my own meals again.
  5. It’s easy to exercise! I have been heading out every morning for some fitness. It’s easy to exercise anywhere, really, if you have the motivation. But often I have lacked this motivation, or been easily distracted by other things. (Um, hello amazing food and interesting sights in Thailand?!) But here, there really isn’t anything else to do other then hop on a mountain bike, go for a paddle, or simply just go run. I’m feeling stronger every day, and cannot wait for the summer to get into full swing!

An honourable mention goes to: bread with meals! Eating at a restaurant (which I admit, I have done far less frequently then ever before while travelling) means that your meal comes with bread and sometimes a spread as well. It’s a welcome change to be offered something that you aren’t expected to pay for, even if it was built into the price or service charge.

5 Things That I Miss Most About Thailand

After 5 months in Thailand, it was time for me to leave and explore new places and gain new experiences. Don’t worry, I’ll be back before long!

It has been one week since I left Asia for Europe, and there have been a few things on my mind that I have really missed about life in Thailand. Although Europe certainly has its own perks, treasures and uniqueness, there are some things that just cannot be replaced.

 

5 Things I Miss Most About Thailand:

 
1. The food! Thai food is absolutely delicious. It is so packed with flavour and fresh ingredients, with a variety of spices that just cannot be compared with anywhere else. I would absolutely die for some panang curry about now!
2. Chiang Mai in general: The VEGETARIAN food! Vegetarian and vegan is available everywhere you go in Chiang Mai, and many are familiar with either the English terms, or by requesting “jay” in Thai, which roughly translates to the same.
3. Politeness. People in Thailand are very polite by nature. The language itself reflects this, with nearly every sentence punctuated by “ka/krap,” and sometimes full conversations are exchanges of a similar nature repeated in different tones.
4. OK, you’re all thinking it and I’m just going to say it: the bidet! I’m not sure why this hasn’t caught on in North America or elsewhere, but the amount of waste that we go through using SO much toilet paper is actually more disgusting then using a hose to squirt off your bum. Also, I’m fairly certain it’s actually WAY more hygienic.

5. The way of life in Thailand is generally just more… relaxed. This probably has to do with it being a hot country containing a LOT of beaches, but the “sabai, sabai” way of life has a lot going for it, and did a lot for me to clear my head, learn to laugh things off and go with the flow. Translation? “Let it go,” or “relaxed” is as close as one can get to a literal translation. To truly understand it, you’ll just have to go to Thailand and see for yourself!

 

Bangkok: A Journey to Arrive!

On my 25th birthday, I boarded a tiny airplane in my hometown of Campbell River, BC and arrived in Vancouver a short 25 minutes later. I had approximately 3 hours of tearful texting and incredible stress before boarding my 12.5 hour flight from YVR to Xiamen, China. (My stress mostly resulting from the fact that I wasn’t allowed to even check-in to my flight without proof of onward travel. Something I had conveniently overlooked, believing I wouldn’t have to worry about it until my actual arrival in Thailand and even then immigration is rumored to rarely check. After an hour of frantic internet searching, I had myself a bus ticket from Bangkok to Cambodia and was allowed on my plane).

Arriving in China was overwhelming. I’ve travelled before, but flying a Chinese airline and landing in a very Chinese city was something that I hadn’t really anticipated. I had a 7.5 hour layover and even though my checked baggage was being sent through, I had to pass through immigration and was not allowed to check in until 2 hours before departure. Luckily, Xiamen Airlines provides free hotel accommodation for any passenger with a layover more then 6 hours—something I was absolutely willing to take advantage of.

The problem here was that I hadn’t anticipated being allowed to leave the airport—Xiamen is one city where you can get a free 72-hour tourist visa if you don’t leave the city. The hotel was located quite far, and although it was taken care of the taxi ride there was not and I did not speak Chinese, nor did I bring any Chinese yen with me for this.

Luckily holding my Canadian passport was all I needed while I stood staring wildly at the Chinese man attempting to explain that the piece of paper he was shoving into my hands was what I needed to take to some hotel with a name I couldn’t read and how to get there. A man approached the desk, looking for his own special piece of paper, and being a Chinese Canadian himself, handled everything for me. He was going to the same hotel and told me to follow him to the cab and we would share it there. Without hesitation I took him up on his offer and followed him. The drive was approximately 15 minutes as the sun was rising and bewilderment was growing. I realized quite quickly that this man had been incredibly helpful and I would never have made it to the hotel on my own. He refused to accept any money for the cab ride, and even translated the hotel clerk so I could find my room easily.

The real magic happened when we walked to our respective rooms—I asked him how I was to pay for the taxi back to the airport. I had some American bills on me but wasn’t sure they’d be accepted. He told me I should be able to pay the cab driver $3USD and to refuse to pay any more. Then after a minute, he thought about it and pulled twenty yen from him wallet and handed it to me. This complete stranger refused to take any compensation for the yen either (I had both Canadian and American dollars on me).

Happily, I retreated to my hotel room to take a shower and nap for a few hours before returning to the airport. I laughed at the phone located on the wall beside the toilet and the shower head that was only 5’ from the ground.

Somehow, I managed to find my way back to the right terminal at the airport and navigated my way through a very complicated arrivals system. 7.5 hours in China and I had boarded my 3 hour flight to Thailand!

Approximately 27 hours after leaving my house and 14 hours in time difference, I finally arrived in Bangkok. Tired, jet lagged and ready!

2016 Road trip, cont.

After spending a week in Nevada, it was time to say goodbye and drive into what would be an amazing road trip through Utah. Our first stop would be Zion National Park. Although swarming with tourists that time of year (and we happened to go there on NO FEE weekend, which meant our annual pass was useless and there was probably more people then usual!), it wasn’t exactly something we could just drive past.

First off, Utah is GLORIOUS, and Zion epitomizes everything that is so great about Utah. The canyons, sandstone pillars and towers, the foliage and the landscape are just breathtaking. Once again I have compiled a small gallery of some of my favourite photos, with a link below to view the full gallery on Google photos.

We arrived at Zion in the middle of the afternoon, which meant that all the campsites had already been taken. Not wanting to spend over $300 USD for lodging, I went online to scour the internet for a free camping place nearby. Luckily, I found something online and the Toyota FJ Cruiser was going to have no problems making it up the dirt road up the mountain. Driving through here at sunset, we found many people knew about this place but there was plenty of space to go around. I even got a fantastic shot of the sun setting on Zion National Park from far away.

The first afternoon that we arrived, we hopped onto the free shuttle bus which would be our only way into Zion for that time of year. We decided to do the tour up and down to get a feel for everything, hopping out once or twice for a quick walk or to take in the impressive big walls looming above us. We were even fortunate enough to see a couple groups of climbers doing some big wall climbs and that was certainly inspiring for the amateur climbers that we are.

We went to bed early that night, making ourselves dinner while huddling in the dust that was inevitable everywhere in Utah. We rose bright and early, packed up our tents and headed out to catch the first shuttle at 7am to get a chance at beating most of the crowd on the infamous Angel’s Landing hike. It was a good plan and the shuttle bus was entirely packed, with everyone except one couple getting off at the Angel’s Landing trailhead! We stretched our legs for a moment and then started on a brisk hike uphill. It wasn’t long before we were passing multitudes of people, weighed down by the inexperience of hiking uphill and probably less motivated then we were to reach the top first. The switchbacks went on and on but before long, we arrived at the top at the first lookout and took in a breathtaking view. From here, called Boy Scout landing, we would scramble along the narrow passage towards the summit of Angel’s Landing. One pair arrived there just before us, and we would have the entire place mostly to ourselves for an hour or two until the hoards of people began to arrive!

We scampered, or rather ran, down Angel’s Landing and found some lunch in the local town of Springdale. The day before, we had arranged for an overnight permit in the park at the East Rim. The West Rim hike, which had been our original preference, had already sold out. That afternoon we started our 7 mile hike to the East Rim. Unfortunately, the weather turned bad here and it got increasingly cold and windy and later that evening started to rain. When we woke up the next morning, we were delighted to see sunlight illuminating the tent. It was short lived. After a short snooze, the sun quickly disappeared and was replaced instead… by SNOW! We hurriedly packed up camp, foregoing both our treasured coffee and breakfast and began our descent down. There were various periods of hail, snow and light rain but we managed to get back to our vehicle relatively dry before the real storm began. The rest of our trip in Utah would be marred by bad weather and many of our plans were unfortunately forgone. However, the road trip itself was still epic and rain, hail, snow or sleet Utah is an incredible state.

The Utah road trip will continue in another post!

Midwest USA 2016 Roadtrip

I’d like to share with you a collection of some of my favourite photos from my roadtrip through part of the USA in April 2016. This was my second time visiting Nevada, after going to Las Vegas for five days last year followed by another four days climbing in the desert. This time, we stayed in Red Rock for a week and then drove up to Utah to Zion. In Zion we hit some bad weather that lasted through the rest of the trip (we are talking intense rain, hailstorms, snow, and lots more rain). However, Utah is still an AMAZING state and I got many good photos. After Zion, we took the Burr’s Trail and enjoyed incredible views through the Scenic Byway up to Moab where we stayed a few more days before driving back to Colorado where I would fly home from. I have everything uploaded to Google photos which is my online gallery, but please enjoy my favourites below!

I’ve decided to break this series up into three distinct posts. The first is my week in Nevada, next will be our 2.5 days in Zion National Park, followed by the remainder of our 2 week roadtrip driving through the rest of Utah and into Moab. I did not take any photos leaving Moab and going into Colorado since it was buried under several inches of snow with about one half mile of visibility! Yikes!

Red Rock and Nevada

I flew out to Las Vegas (LAS) from my home airport in Comox (YQQ) on April 15. I decided to fly a few days before my friend would arrive to get more practice flying and traveling solo, as well as to spend a couple of days relaxing and acclimatizing to the heat and dryness of the desert. I camped at Lake Mead Recreational Park for two nights and managed to swindle myself a good deal for a car rental, which can be difficult to afford for driver’s under 25. I realized I am not good at relaxing and doing nothing. The weather on Saturday was extremely windy, and I found myself quite bored since it wasn’t hot enough for me to feel like swimming and the waves were incredible with the windstorm. I managed to read for a short while, then laid in the sun to work on a base tan and then went for a drive to see some of the look out points around Lake Mead before settling on a rock bluff near my campsite to go scrambling.

Sunday morning I woke up bright and early and drove to Boulder City where I would go on a 11.9 mile guided kayaking tour of the Colorado River, starting at the Hoover Dam and ending at Willow Beach, AZ. I’ve been in a kayak a few times and really enjoy kayaking, but wasn’t secure enough in my abilities to go rafting solo. Although this tour came with a hefty price tag ($320 including the USD to CAD exchange rate), it was well worth the money. It gave me something interesting to do and see, and our guide was pretty amazing. The group was small, just myself and another couple, and he showed us many slot canyons as well as an amazing cave which glittered in the afternoon sun. That evening, I drove back to Las Vegas and had dinner at my favourite Chinese food place: Veggie House. Afterwards, I turned to trusty Hotwire to find my a budget hotel and found myself that night at the Super 8 in the Wedding district. My friend Teslin drove out from Colorado that day and arrived in the middle of the night. Monday, we returned my rental car and drove out to Red Rock to camp for the next five days.

View the rest of the gallery.


Google Photos has been my photo host of choice lately, and they have an interesting function to upload frames for an animation which they will then create. Below is my first attempt, but a neat one!

redrock160422.17-ANIMATION

 

How NOT to be a Travel Snob

Everyone knows someone else who could be labelled as a travel snob. We all have that one friend or acquaintance who seems to be constantly talking about travel, their past or future trips, or that “One time in Bangkok…”

Here are a list of reasons why YOU just might be that friend:

 

Do you find people at home difficult to relate to?

Some people are travelers, while other people are content to enjoy their home. There are plenty of reasons why some people may choose to go travelling and while others may not; finances, while certainly a large factor, are not the only reasons why some people just don’t travel.

Think about your current friends and acquaintances. Did you meet them travelling or doing activities? Is your facebook list comprised of people you met travelling or people that you found online through facebook, instagram or other blogs? Maybe you have a ton of friends, but the ones you find yourself most engaged in having a conversation with, are the friends that are constantly talking about their travels or planning a new trip.

It is only natural that we gravitate towards spending the most of our time and energy on people who are like us, and likes to do the same things that we do. It can be difficult to relate to people who don’t have the same passions because we don’t know what to talk about and frankly, we just don’t understand them! But try not to alienate your friends that don’t travel– maybe they are looking for some guidance, or would appreciate that extra bit of incentive that your travels might offer them to get out and do it themselves. Or perhaps, they simply just aren’t that into it, and that’s okay, too. Our world is full of possibilities and interests to find a connection with your non-travelling friends!

 

Are you constantly talking about the last trip you went on, or the next trip you are planning?

Even if you don’t think you are– you probably are. Whatever is most present in your subconscious is bound to find its way into your conversations and news feed. Even if you aren’t actively bragging about your trips, you might be sharing posts from other travelers, sharing a photo that you took on some beach or in front of some ruins, or commenting on your favourite travel bloggers photos again and again. I’m not telling you to stop. But you might find your friends beginning to feel alienated from you, and feeling like they are less than adequate because they are at home and not at a Full Moon Party in Thailand, trekking through the jungle in Colombia, or surfing killer waves in Australia. Don’t forget to comment and like the things that occur at home– and that are important to them too!

 

Have you learned another language on your travels?

Congratulations! Learning a new language is hard, and takes a lot of work.  You should definitely be proud of yourself for putting in the time and effort to learn a new language and improve upon your experience while abroad. Being able to communicate with new people, whether it is residents of the country you are visiting or fellow travelers, is extremely important.

However, don’t forget that some of your friends may not speak your new language! By all means, you should keep practicing the language and conversing in it as much as possible to keep your mind fresh. But when possible, try to include translations either while speaking in front of someone else, or on social media, so that everyone is included. Google translation has made this very helpful for us monolinguals, but it is difficult to feel welcome to respond and share in a conversation that is taking place entirely in a different language.

 

Have you ever talked down on someone because they haven’t traveled as much as you have?

Chances are, the answer to this question is no. Most people do not go out of their way to talk down to people or do it on purpose. But if you are reaching travel snob status, it is possible that inadvertently, you have spoken down to someone who has piqued an interest to you in travel, or is having difficulties with a life situation that you feel travel has given you an advantage in your ability to overcome it.

I will give you an example of a conversation that I had recently, where I felt someone was being a total travel snob towards me. I was talking about my future plans to travel to Southeast Asia, rent an apartment in Chiang Mai and live abroad for as long as I could make it work as an ESL teacher, in between spending a month backpacking various countries around Thailand. This will be a major trip for me, and there is no doubt about that. When I was asked if I had ever traveled before, I mentioned the places that I had been as well as the month that I spent touring Greece. The response I got? “Are you nervous about your first traveling experience?” No, I reiterated, I have traveled before. “Well, a month away isn’t really traveling…” Travel snob alert! Who are you to say, what is and what is not a justifiable time away from home to be considered “traveling?” I consider myself traveling even if I am just driving across the province for a long weekend!

Hot tip: Don’t be condescending, and don’t assert that what you have done in the past is or could be any better then what someone else’s meager plans might be. We are all on our own path here!

 

You believe that the only way to “truly experience” a country is to live like a local, staying in hostels (or couch surfing), eating at all the local dives, and hitchhiking and taking public transit whenever possible.

There is something to be said about backpacking and roughing it while out in a foreign country. In many instances, that really IS the only way you can truly visit all the places in the area that you want to see. However, this is not the only form of travel! Tourists are travelers too, and no matter how many ways you try to convince yourself that by sleeping on floors or in bed bug ridden beds, spending 8+ hours getting virtually no where on a bus, or skulking around streets looking for which place will save you $0.20, you are still a tourist. But kudos to you for roughing it!

 

You believe that luxury hotels and fancy 5 star all inclusive resorts are the only enjoyable vacations.

Akin to the belief mentioned above, travel snobs can come in two distinct forms: those who believe backpacking is the only way, and those who can afford luxurious spa treatments and fancy linens. I am here to tell you, there is no single way to travel, and the diversity represented in the travel industry is the diversity represented in our society. Don’t treat someone lesser than you because your resort is 5 star and theirs is only 3. Travel is travel and traveling is being a tourist. Don’t turn your nose up at people who choose cheaper opportunities, and don’t feel like a lesser traveler just because you can’t afford to pay $400USD + per night, either!

 

You refuse to take a group tour or arrange for a guide.

Group activities aren’t for everyone, and I get that. When I travel, oftentimes I want to wander the streets alone, look at statues, admire the art and architecture, and gorge myself on local food. If this is your typical travel scenario, or you haven’t taken a group tour either because it’s too expensive, you haven’t gotten around to it, or it’s just not your cup of tea, don’t worry– I’m not calling you a travel snob. I’m specifically referring to the people who are adamantly against group tours, because a) they think they can do better b) they think group tours are for “tourists” or c) they are looking for a more “authentic” experience.

I prefer to wander around either solo or with another friend, but I did spend my month in Greece with a school tour and it was awesome! So many other personalities, and you still get to learn a lot about the culture, the history, but importantly: how to properly interact with a large group of people and get along with everyone. It’s a valuable skill to have! So, don’t knock tours if you haven’t tried it.

 

Don’t forget to travel around home, too!

Some of my favourite experiences have been hopping in my vehicle and going for a road trip. Being a tourist in your own area can be just as fun!

Are you a travel snob?

Did any of these hints ring a bell for you? Do you know any travel snobs, or have you had any experiences with someone reaching travel snob status?

(c) Copyright 2016 - Searching for Sanuk, Michelle Leech, mexxlee.