Rishikesh – A Himalayan Yogi Oasis

Rishikesh is a little yogi paradise about 5 hours north of New Delhi at the base of the Himalayas.  It’s my personal favorite city in India (not that I’ve seen too many), and also the yoga capital of the world.  Yoga was invented here.  The entire city, located inside of a national park, is centered on the ice blue Ganga, and has almost a mountain-safari vibe to it with massive white old-school jeeps full of people going trekking or wherever rolling through the streets.  I wish I had gotten a picture of one because they’re really quite a sight, and they barely fit through the little India roads.

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To be fair Rishikesh is much more westernized than any other city I visited in India.  It’s chock full of trendy health-food stores, juice bars, and vegan bakeries.  Many other backpackers I met had been there for months.  The consensus amongst Indians and westerners alike(that I spoke to) said Rishikesh is their favorite place in India.

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Even the monkeys like to “chill” in Rishikesh.  (hehe, get it?) 

Rishikesh is a nice place to just park it and chill.  Many foreigners spend a lot of time here for yoga teacher training, or to cleanse themselves and get lost in yoga at an ashram for a few weeks.  The Beatles actually came here and wrote their white album at the Ashram of Maharishi Mahesh, which is now abandoned.

Bonus – in May, when hot season in full swing, Rishikesh is just a little bit cooler than the rest of the country.  Plus, it offers the options of jumping in the ice cold Ganga or frolicking in waterfalls.  Apparently, hot season is when backpackers stick to the northern parts of India and stay cool up in the Himalayas.  They visit the Dalai Llama in Dharamshala, chill in Manali, and party in Kasol.  But I didn’t get that memo before the trip and was already dead set on seeing Rajasthan and Varanasi.  Next time.

Things to Do in Rishikesh

1) Yoga

Free yoga, hot yoga, Vinyasa yoga, hardcore yoga; there’s every different kind of yoga you could think of here.  And it’s WAY cheaper than anywhere else I’ve seen in Asia.  Most hostels offer free yoga, which was prime as hell for myself as I was poor by the end of my trip.  Free sunrise yoga?  Count me in.

2) Shop

I saw a tonnnnn of cheap silver jewelry in Rishikesh.  I’m talking 6 bucks for silver earrings.  Although I have no idea how to tell if jewelry is real or fake, and it is still India, so I would read up on how to tell if silver is legit before buying any.

They also have super cool antiques, for example vintage compasses left from when the British occupied the area.  They have a ton of cool wrought iron silver.  A bunch of the stores carry these really pretty locks made in the shape of fish or decorated with Shiva or Ganesha.

3) Raft

Rishikesh is also known for rafting on the Ganga.  Although I would be careful, there are a ton of riptide pockets in that part of the river and it actually can be pretty dangerous.  I met someone whose uncle died on the river.  It’s super cheap though, around 9 bucks a person.

4) Swim in the Ganga

Submerging in the Ganga cleanses your karma!  I did this at the convincing of some British dude who was half crazy.  Of course only AFTER I got in did he say that he may have a parasite that possibly came from the river.  Girls, I’d recommend just getting in fully clothed (I did) if you’re as creeped out by gawking Indian men as I am.  Crazy British dude said he had been in the river with some girl in a bikini & a guy rafting by literally fell out of his boat from staring.

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Crazy British dude who may or may not have a parasite.

 

5) Do ayurvedic-ish

Ayurvedic medicine originated in India.  It’s supposed to help with your circulation and general health.  You can get super cheap ayurvedic massages in Rishikesh, and many of the western/veggie/vegan restaurants even have an ayurvedic menu.  Don’t ask me how that works.  I wonder how long the ayurvedic food trend is going to take to hit the US.

6) Visit waterfalls

There are a ton of pretty waterfalls in Rishikesh!  My friends & I hiked to Garud Chatti, the easiest one to access by foot from the Laxman Jhula area.  You can also hire a jeep to take you if you’re not ballin’ on a budget.

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Downside to waterfalls in Rishikesh – you can swim in them if you want, but it’s the same deal as swimming in the Ganga.  There are usually a bunch of Indian men, and they all stare at you.  For that reason my friend & I didn’t get in, but of course some pain-in-the-ass still spent about 15 minutes trying to convince us.  I also saw a bunch of Indian women at the waterfall, but of course none were swimming.

7) See the evening aarti or pooja ceremonies on the Ganga

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Same as Varanasi, every evening there are ceremonies along the Ganga honoring the river, called aarti.  There are also usually groups of yogis doing a pooja ceremony where a bunch of westerners play dress up in sarees and release a little boat with a candle and an orange pooja flower into the river.

8) Chill with the babas

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Again, just like Varanasi, there are a ton of babas in Rishikesh.  Babas are hindu holy men.  As someone who likes to take pictures, the babas in Rishikesh are WAY more chill than the ones in Varanasi.  As in they don’t all ask for money if you want a picture.

Fun fact –

I was informed that a ton of the babas in Rishikesh are fake babas.  Fugitives who have committed really severe crimes (think rape, murder) apparently dress up like holy men and grow beards to hide from the police.  This is especially prominent in Rishikesh because everyone in Rishikesh can get fed for free at one ashram or another.  Even the stray dogs in Rishikesh are well fed.

9) See sunrise over the Himalayas at Kunjapuri Devi temple

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You have to jeep up through the mountains to get to this temple viewpoint and also leave at an ungodly hour, but it’s worth it.

10) Treat yoself with western food and cute cafes

There are a million vegan-friendly and vegetarian friendly restaurants in Rishikesh, serving everything from yogi food to vegan baked goods.

11) Visit Maharishi Mahesh yogi ashram, the abandoned ashram where the Beatles recorded their White album

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The Beatles infamously spent some time at an ashram in Rishikesh with the Maharishi Mahesh, studying transcendental meditation and recording music.  The ashram is abandoned, however for a small 600-rupee fee you can visit and see some of the graffiti that’s been painted on the ashram over the years.

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PS I’m being sarcastic about the damn fee because paying $9US to see something that’s completely abandoned and not kept up at all is absurd and irritating.  And is also classic India.

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Warning – it’s also huge, and while there are many well-known murals throughout the ruins that artists were commissioned to paint, there is no map as to where they are.  So if you want to find them expect to spend a bit of time there, it’s quite a large complex.

Double warning – the ashram is also smack-dab in the middle of an active tiger reserve.  And it’s India, so none of the tigers are tagged or tracked.  Enter at your own risk.

Although it is quite rare to see a tiger, maulings do happen in and around Rishikesh from time to time.  The last one I heard of was in February.

WTF India moment

– on my last day in Rishikesh, some poor Indian woman washed up near the shore after she had drowned.  It had been a day or two that she had been in the water, so it wasn’t exactly a very nice sight to see.  And of course, it’s India, so whoever found her left her uncovered and tied to a rock until the police arrived.  Which took 5 hours.

So there you have it.  Rishikesh really has it all – good western food, a shrine to the Beatles, fugitives on the run, waterfalls, and tigers.

 

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1 Year Roundup – Back from 11 Months in Asia

Hello!  Happy June.  Officially back in the USA after 11 and a half months of traveling; including a final 2.5 months of backpacking.  When you really put backpacking in perspective, it bears a lot of similarities with being homeless.  You have no home, you carry everything you need to live on yourself, you’re unshowered most of the time, borderline broke, and always looking for free handouts.  But it’s fun.

It always makes me laugh while backpacking when touts approach me for things like spas and expensive hotels/private cars.  Too expensive, yo.  Even though their version of expensive is the same as the US version of standard.

Sorry for the hiatus, between being in India with HORRIBLE wifi and assimilating back into normality here in the US, I’ve been bad about blogging.

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Spice Market, Chadni Chowk, Old Delhi.  Note the excessive trash & building decay.

I plan on sending out a bunch of posts about India, my final stop, soon.  But in the meantime, here’s a little round up of my final year abroad.

Countries/Cities Visited:

  • Indonesia – Bali(Kuta, Ubud, Canggu), Java
  • Malaysia – Kuala Lumpur, Taman Negara(Cameron Highlands), Georgetown(Penang)
  • Singapore
  • Cambodia – Siem Reap, Battambang
  • Myanmar – Yangon, Bagan, Kalaw, Inle Lake, Mandalay
  • Vietnam – Hanoi, Halong Bay, Sapa, Hoi An, Saigon, Anh Binh(Mekong Delta), Da Lat, Nha Trang
  • India – New Delhi, Agra, Jaipur, Jodhpur, Pushkar, Varanasi, Rishikesh
  • Thailand – Dan Chang(home!), Bangkok, Ayutthaya, Pattaya, Pai, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Khon Kaen, Khao Kho, Khao Sok National Park, Suphanburi, U-Thong, Phuket, Ko Chang, Ko Samet, Koh Phagnan, Koh Phi Phi, Ko Lanta, Ton Sai Bay, Krabi

The Southeast Asia Awards

Favorite county:

India.  Or Bali(Indonesia).

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Galta Ji Temple, Jaipur.  AKA “Monkey Temple” number 6928397 in Asia.  There’s always a Reggae bar ,there’s always an Irish pub, there’s always a monkey temple.
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Goa Gaja in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia.

I don’t know; you can never really pick a country because they’re all so different.  Maybe I’m just still glowing about India because it was the last country I visited, but India was way different than anywhere else.  The cool place to go backpacking now is Myanmar, because it’s “the most untouched and uninfluenced by Western culture” since it only reopened its doors to tourists in 2011.  But India has been influenced by western culture, and still just doesn’t give a f*ck.  They still listen to their own Hindi music, wear their own style of clothes, eat their own style of food, and haven’t changed too much to mimic western culture.

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Bali, Indonesia, somewhere close to Ubud.
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Chadni Chowk, Old Delhi, India.

Least favorite country:

Malaysia?  Or Singapore?

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I hate when people ask me this question because there isn’t anywhere that I regret going.  I only say Malaysia because it’s the one country that I never was really like “Wow, I can’t wait to come back here!”  Malaysia felt really bland to me for some reason.  Everything I liked about it was borrowed from another country, ex. their great selection of Indian and Muslim food.  Same with Singapore; except I think a reason that I didn’t love Singapore was because I was balling on a budget, and compared to rest of Southeast Asia, Singapore is pretty expensive.  I also was only there for about 12 hours for a layover.

Best food:

Thailand.  Or India.  Depending if you’re in the mood for light food or not; India is REALLY good but tends to be on the heavier side.  You can literally order a cube of butter to throw in your food, if that gives you any idea.  You also can order your naan bread or chapatti (Indian tortilla) that you eat with every meal slathered in butter.  And they don’t skimp.

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Palak Paneer Thali, Pushkar, India
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Pad Kra Pow Gai Kai Dow, Dan Chang, Suphan Buri, Thailand

Best surprisingly good food:

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It tastes bette than it looks I swear.  That huge square thing is tempeh.  Kuta, Bali, Indonesia

INDONESIA.  Indonesia is a mostly Muslim country, and Bali is the last remaining majorly Hindu island.  So they have DANK vegetarian food – they invented tempeh, a substance similar to tofu that uses whole beans instead of grinding them up.  If there are any food people reading this who have a more accurate description of what tempeh is please help me out.

Worst food:

Vietnam.  I still thought the food was good, it was just very bland compared to other countries.  It’s not super spicy on its own, so I had to bathe everything I ate in chilis.  Not to say anything bad about Pho/Banh Mi.

Weirdest food I ate:

Grilled rat on the side of the road in Cambodia.  I’m telling you, it’s the same as dark meat chicken.  It even came with a sauce, fancy.

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Nicest people:

Thailand!  Thai people are the kind of people who will give you everything, even though they don’t have much to give.  I’m also biased of course.  Myanmar actually may tie for the nicest people.

Least friendly people:

Vietnam.  I was shooed away from a couple food stalls for being foreign.  My friends & I also got robbed in Hoi An, which probably makes me a little biased.  In defense of the Vietnamese people I thought people outside of touristy areas were very friendly(ex. in the Mekong Delta), almost as friendly as Thai people.

Cheapest country:

India!  Everything is priced about the same as Thailand, except it’s in rupees which is worth almost half of a Thai baht.  So I was spending about $4-$6 a night on decent hostels and $1-$2 on restaurant food.

Most expensive country:

Singapore.  I spent $100 on about 12 hours of being there, and I was being cheap.  That would last me at least 3 days in Thailand if I wasn’t being cheap, but also not splurging.

Best shopping:

Thailand!  For trendy western things, and other Thai products like essential oils and anything that can be made from a coconut shell.  India for authentic leather goods and other stuff specific to India.  I bought my mom this dope vintage dress, hand-embroidered and imported from Pakistan.

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Vintage dress from Pakistan.

Most backpacker-friendly:

Vietnam.  Maybe it’s the 5,000 dong beer you can get on beer street in Hanoi(less than a quarter), but the vibe in Vietnam is super backpackery.  I met the most people in Vietnam, hailing from everywhere from the Netherlands to Syria.  It’s also cheap and easy to get transportation.  Also, due to the fact that everyone does a similar route, either north to south or south to north, you tend to run into the same people along the way.

Least backpacker-friendly:

Bali, surprisingly.  It felt more like a vacation destination than a backpacker destination.  It was still cheap compared to the west, but a little more expensive than Thailand.  The kicker for me was transportation costs.  Whereas in most countries I would take busses and other public transportation to get around, in Bali my friends & I always had to hire private cars.  It was fine as we were traveling with 10 people, but if I was solo it definitely would’ve hit my bank a little hard.

Most authentic country:

By authentic I meant felt the least touristy.  Tie – India and Myanmar.  India is definitely tourist-friendly, but more geared towards Indian tourists than foreigners.  Which is understandable, the country is so overpopulated and crowded that even when I was in popular backpacking areas foreigners were an anomaly.  I think I had more people take selfies with me in India in a week than my entire time in Thailand combined, which is saying something.

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Best English:

India – it’s their second language!  However there’s still a problem communicating sometimes.

Worst English:

Myanmar.  But the people are super nice so it makes up for it.

Cleanest country:

Singapore.

Dirtiest country:

India – there’s animal poop EVERYWHERE.  Cows are holy so they serve no purpose, therefore there’s cows wandering around the streets.  Leading to a lot of cow poop.  There’s also trash EVERYWHERE.

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Welcome to Varanasi, where people swim less than 100 yards downriver from where dead bodies have been getting dumped in the water for thousands of years.

Highs

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Kawa Ijen crater, Banjawungyi, East Java, Indonesia
  • Doing a 1AM volcano hike at a volcano in Java, Indonesia next to an acid lake and seeing blue flames coming off the sulfur deposits
  • Seeing my first world wonder! The Taj Mahal in Agra, India looks even better in person.
  • Trekking through rice paddies and villages from Kalaw to Inle Lake in Myanmar
  • Canyoning through waterfalls in Da Lat, Vietnam
  • Teaching – corny but I had to add it.
  • Celebrating Songkran(Buddhist, New Year) in Bangkok in April

Lows

  • Getting robbed in Vietnam
  • Getting into a motorbike accident in Dan Chang. Everyone was fine; no worries.
  • Losing my phone and 2 cards all on separate occasions. All in the same week as getting robbed.  Disclaimer:  All were my fault.

What I missed most about the USA:

  • COFFEE that a) Isn’t NesCafé instant coffee and b) Comes in a cup the size of my face
  • Being able to buy groceries without stares
  • Actually knowing what’s going on, not having to deal with the language barrier
  • Customer service; I was so thrown off my second day back when the cashier at Panera Bread verbally applauded my choice of salad
  • Being able to get ANYTHING at all times; cheese from France, tea from India, and produce from Mexico all in the SAME STORE
  • How freaking CLEAN IT IS

What I’ll miss most about Thailand:

  • Dank STREET FOOD
  • Spicy food
  • THAI FOOD IN GENERAL
  • My motorbike (love/hate relationship)
  • The people; including Thai people, my friends, my boss/Thai mom, my students
  • Cheap wonderful shopping, especially Chatuchak market in Bangkok
  • Being able to club hop around Bangkok without spending more than $20 in an evening

There ya go, a year in Asia(or 11.5 months) in about 1500 words.

Also, any ideas for a new name for this blog?  I need to do some re-branding now that I’m not living in Thailand anymore.

Mission Impossible: Getting to the Mosaic Temple in Phetchabun(Wat Phra Sorn Kaew)

Wat Pha Sorn Kaew in Phetchabun(the is in my opinion the most beautiful temple in all of Thailand, rivaled only maybe by the White Temple in Chiang Rai.  There are a MILLION and a half temples in Thailand, so whenever you find one that stands out it’s pretty exciting.  Wat Pha Sorn Kaew is one of the few temples in Thailand that were created as an art form and not just a religious structure, similar to the White Temple.

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As soon as I came to Thailand and saw my friend’s pictures of it, this temple made it towards the top of my Thailand bucket list.  It’s pretty off-the-beaten path for anyone backpacking Thailand.  It’s really difficult to get to, and I don’t think I could’ve done it my first few months in Thailand.  Most foreign tourists who get to this temple do so by organized tour, at least from what I read online.  The only other foreigners I saw at the temple was a small Russian family, so I’m not sure how popular these tours are.

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Phetchabun is a semi-northern province kind of towards the middle of Thailand.  After spending 8-ish days in Pai, I decided to stop in and see this temple on my way back to Bangkok to meet my friends for a music festival.

The Mosaic Temple is located in the mountains of Phetchabun in a town called Khao Kho.  Khao Kho is Thai vacation paradise; there are tons of pretty views and a bunch of resorts.  I made a reservation at a cheap hotel in Khao Kho on Booking.com, but didn’t make it there because I got to neighboring Lom Sak too late.

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Travel hack – always try to book on Booking.com if you’re not sure if you’re going to make it somewhere.  Often you can make reservations with 0 deposit and no credit card information, so you avoid getting charged if you don’t make it somewhere.

Back to Lom Sak.  At the bus station in Chiang Mai I bought a bus ticket to Lom Sak, the biggest city outside Khao Kho, for about 380 baht.  You can also stay in Phetchabun city, which is what some of my friends have done in the past, but that’s an hour away from the temple, as opposed to 30 mintues from Lom Sak.  Also if you’re coming from the North you have to go through Lom Sak to get to Phetchabun city anyways.

Bus Breakdown

I’ve taken a million overnight busses in Thailand and never had an issue.  I’ve never had my stuff stolen, I’ve always felt safe, they’re comfortable and often come with food and an attendance, and they help you save on a night’s accommodation.

However, of course, this time when I’m already headed somewhere I’m completely unfamiliar with AND I’m alone, my bus decides to break down.

NO ONE on the bus spoke English.  So I had to figure out what was going on based on context clues.  After waiting outside the bus for an hour, everyone from our bus AND our stuff crowded onto a passing tour bus from the same company.  With people on it, which means we did it Thai-style – there’s always room for everyone!  I was squeezed into the front of the bus with a bunch of Thai girls about my age, 6 of us to 4 seats.  There were also people in the aisles.

Then we stopped in the middle of nowhere AGAIN and everyone who didn’t have a real seat(me) had to get off.  No one actually told me to get off – I had to guess by everyone staring at me and by copying the Thai girls’ every move.  I probably could’ve snagged a seat but I waited to get on because I was making sure my bag made it on to the bus with me.

Then we waited in the middle of nowheere(at night, mind you) before getting onto yet ANOTHER bus that brought us to a bus station.  Where we had to wait another hour for a bus to come get us at 12:30AM.

I finally got to Lom Sak at around 2:30.  Lom Sak is a small Thai town; very similar to Dan Chang from what I saw.  Therefore no one spoke Enlgish.  There was 1 tuk-tuk driver by the bus station who helped me out.  I mimed “HOTEL! Mai Paeng(not expensive!” and he whisked me off to some random hotel for 400 baht/night.

It was actually a pretty nice hotel, and it was nice having my own room after sleeping on a bamboo cot in a staff dorm at a hostel in Pai for a week.

Mission Impossible

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Then in the morning came actually getting to the temple.  No one at the hotel spoke English, so I went up to the desk to ask for a taxi and showed them a picture of the name of the temple in Thai.  They called a taxi for me, which cost a whopping 800 baht($24).  But I mean it was a private ride to a temple half an hour away and back, so it’s really not bad, I’m just salty because I’m on a budget.

If you go to this temple, definitely bring a friend for a) peace of mind and b) to share costs.

I was even saltier when my “taxi” showed up and it was a freaking songtaew complete with a rooster in the back.

Songtaew – Thai method of transportation consisting of a pick-up truck with benches in the back that’s covered on top.  AKA no air-conditioning.

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The temple was absolutely beautiful, located in the misty mountains of Phetchabun.  My driver even took me to this fancy coffee place with really nice views called Pino’s coffee.  He was really nice, which made me feel bad for yelling at him about showing up with a songtaew.

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Then he brought me to the bus station, and hopped on the bus to Bangkok.  No matter where you are in Thailand, you can ALWAYS find a bus back to Bangkok.

In the end, the whole fiasco was totally worth it, and if you have time to blow in Thailand it’s worth the trek.

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Chilling with Monks in Bagan

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Beautiful Bagan.

Almost every backpacker you meet in Southeast Asia likes to say they want “local experiences” and “to hang out with locals” blah blah blahhhhh insert elephant pants here.  It’s actually pretty difficult to really meet and hang out with local people in a non-artificial non-touristy setting when you’re backpacking.

Most experiences with locals are things like homestays and the like where you stay with locals(meaning you stay in a guesthouse attached to their home) and experience their cooking, but even that is packaged to make foreigners happy.  The language barrier throws an additional curveball into really having local experiences, so you really have to make an effort if you want to get off-the-beaten path.

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Our host at a homestay I did on a trek elsewhere in Myanmar.  Local yes, but the family didn’t speak English so they didn’t really talk to us, just our guide. 
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Homestay accommodation

Hack – couchsurfing.com is a great way to stay with locals.  It’s a website where you can either open your home to travelers or find someone willing to open their home to you.  And it’s completely free, although the idea is that you’re doing it for the cultural exchange and not the savings.  You create a profile, message back and forth, and find someone to stay with.  It’s pretty cool; I’m planning on trying it in Delhi for sure, and maybe even once here in Vietnam before I leave.

My friend Steve is really good at doing just that.  His lack of fear of social norms allows him to walk right up to people that speak 0 English and start a conversation.  Because of this, he often gets to hang out with locals and see the real deal, camera in hand.

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Steve was with me in Myanmar.  One day while wandering around the streets of Bagan, he wandered into a monastery and made friends with a monk who wanted to practice his English.  They became Facebook friends, and his monk friend invited all of us to come hang out the next day and have tea at the monastery.

You can do a “monk chat” in Chiang Mai, except it’s set up beforehand for you.  It’s a way for tourists to get to talk to monks and a way for them to practice their English.  It’s also easier than finding your own monk.

So of course, the next day Steve my co-teacher Calli & I awkwardly wandered into the monastery.  Keep in mind that Myanmar has only been open to tourists since 2011, so us white people are still a novelty.  The staring level was at 100.

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We eventually found Steve’s monk friend, and ended up hanging around for a couple hours to have tea.  The monk really wanted to practice his English, which was absolutely adorable.  He had this little 1964 copy of “Learn to Speak English” that was all dog-eared and weather-beaten.

At first it was just him and us, but slowly a couple other monks crept in and joined us, clearly curious about the strange foreigners.  It’s funny being in this position in a foreign country; because to us monks are the ones that seem exotic.  But they were all beyond curious about what the hell we were doing there, and wanted to hear all about what we were doing and where we were from.

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His wiseness in the flesh

One older monk (who barely spoke English) even had me check over his English notes.  They all thought that it was really important for them to learn English to keep up in this day and age.  Their English was super basic, so they only were able to ask the basics like “where are you from” and “where are you traveling,” but one especially ambitious older monk showed me notecards in which he had translated some of his monk-teachings(better word?).

After chilling for a couple hours and drinking an absurd amount of tea(glad I can cross getting served tea by a Burmese monk off my bucket list), we had a small photoshoot and were on our way.  It was funny – each of the monks wanted pictures with us to post on Facebook.  They may be monks, but they all had their little smart phones out.

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One even pushed another one out of the picture because he wanted a solo shot with us, which was absolutely hilarious.  What do you learn when you travel?  We’re all the same(same same but different for any Southeast Asia backpackers out there).

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So there you have it.  We spent a couple hours with monks, and learned that monks care about social media too.

And the adventure continues – our monk friend(dear lord I wish I could remember his name) set up Steve with his brother who is a monk in Varanasi, India; where we’re headed in a about a month.  So hopefully we get to hang with him!  Here are some other Myanmar monk pictures just for fun.

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Getting Sucker Punched in Vietnam & How it’s Hard to Love this Country

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Pho, I’m in Vietnam yalllll

I apologize for the lack of posts!  My wifi in Vietnam has been surprisingly horrible, which is ironic since my friends & I have been staying in airbnbs for the purpose of getting good wifi.

Right now I’m on leg 3 of my first real backpacking trip after teaching.  I was in Myanmar, I did some time in Thailand, and now I’m in Vietnam.

Vietnam is a country that I’ve heard both the best and worst about from friends and other travelers.  Some people love it and decide they want to move here, while others swear they’ll never go back again.  Two of my favorite travel bloggers, Alex in Wanderland and Nomadic Matt, both wrote about how much they dislike Vietnam and are never going back again.

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So far, I’ve loved Vietnam.  I could see myself moving to Hanoi for a bit.  I love it THAT much.  In Vietnam the weather is gloomy (I love dark and cold), the food is AMAZING, the French influence makes for gorgeous architecture in Hanoi, and the countryside near Hoi An is beautiful.  The shopping in Hoi An is also absolutely insane, you can get a full custom outfit made for $15.

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Outfits by Hoi An.  I got that romper brand spankin new for 160,000 dong, or about $7 US.

Scams/unkindness I’ve experienced and witnessed in Vietnam so far:

  • Men trying to “fix” my perfectly fine shoes on the street and charge me
  • A woman trying to sell me 2 doughnut holes for 200,000 dong(about $10) because she let me take her picture
  • People not having enough change, or thinking that I can’t read their sign that says “Bahn mi egg 15,000 dong” and charging me double
  • A man getting kicked out of a pharmacy after the owner saw him trying to take my friends’ wallet
  • Rigged taxi meters(not very original)
  • Vendors straight up being unwilling to negotiate absurd prices and straight up yelling at my friends & I when we won’t buy their stuff
  • Attempting to walk into a local food stall and getting straight up told “no” even though it’s full of Vietnamese people eating
  • The dog in the whiskey bar – In Saigon a man working at a little whiskey bar told us a story about how he bought the cute little bar dog from a butcher in Hanoi, as she was about to be cooked as someone’s dinner.  He then said that the butchers feed the pretty dogs steroids so that people buy them when they don’t want them to get eaten.
  • Getting handed the “English” menu at a food stall, then picking up the Vietnamese menu to see that the prices are half
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The perpetrator of the 200,000 dong doughnut scam.
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The Vietnamese love me I swear
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*sits down and talks to us for 20 minutes on the beach & says she’s widowed before asking us to buy her shit* (she actually wasn’t terrible)
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Saving grace – the only person in Vietnam to actually say “Take my picture!” in the history of ever possibly.

I’m really trying to give Vietnam a chance.  I REALLY am.  I don’t want people to be right about people constantly trying to scam you, I don’t want to think that Vietnamese people hate tourists, and I don’t want to think that every other sweet little lady I buy a Banh Mi from is overcharging me because I’m a foreigner.

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Love at first bite…until the clerk decided to charge me 60,000 dong instead of the 35,000 that it said on the menu in Vietnamese.  BANH MI PATÉ IS THE SAME IN BOTH LANGUAGES HUN

But then a few nights ago, in Hoi An, outside my friends & my gorgeous AirBnB, something happened.

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Our AirBnB
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View from our balcony

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Neighboring houses/shrines

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About a week ago my friends & I headed out to downtown Hoi An for dinner.  Hoi An is pretty quiet; you’re more like to be at a tailor around 11PM than dancing on a bar.  We planned on getting Banh Mi(Vietnamese sandwich AKA heaven in a baguette), grabbing a drink(singular) at a bar, and heading back to our airbnb for some sleep after partying a bit much in Hanoi.

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Of course, we ended up stumbling onto a bar crawl full of fellow backpackers, and ended up staying at the ONLY bar in Hoi An open past midnight until they closed at 3:30AM.  Oops.

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When we went to leave at 3:30AM, our only option for rides home were motorbike taxis that were going to overcharge the crap out of us, as they were the only show in town.  Weirdly the only taxis in town had no one in them, despite the fact that some of them had their lights on.  I’m starting to get a sneaking suspicion that they were in on the scam that ensued.

My friends & I each hopped onto our respective motorbike taxi, and off we went.

The second I hopped off my bike by my apartment and walked into the light to look through my wallet, I heard a bunch of yelling and was swarmed by Vietnamese men.  One bastard yelled SECURITY! and pushed the other guys back.  He said “no 50,000 dong for taxi, only 10,000!” trying to make it seem like he was helping me get a better cab rate.  THEN hereached into my wallet to help me find the correct bills.

He grabbed a handful of my Thai baht that I had yet to exchange.  This was when my other friend Sara who had already fought off the vultures came over yelling “GET AWAY FROM HER” and I came to my senses and grabbed my cash back.

But the damage had been done, and the sneaky bastard had already hidden away between 3000-4000 baht.  In total they got about $400US from the 6 of us.

The “security guard” wasn’t a security guard at all, and was in on the scam.

I NEVER carry that much money on my when I go out.  We just hadn’t planned on going out, and I didn’t want to leave my cash lying around with the sketchy surprise housekeepers that were living at our airbnb.

The Vietnamese currency literally sets you up for failure.  It’s so freaking inflated and all the bills look the same.  There are 2,000 dong notes, 20,000 dong notes, and 200,000 dong notes.  There are also 1,000 dong notes, 10,000 dong notes, and 100,000 dong notes.  It’s like Vietnam knew they were going to try to rip off tourists when they originally designed their currency.

The taxi drivers then tried to pull the same sh*t with each one of my friends as we rolled up.  One of my female friends actually wound up getting punched in the face by a taxi driver in the confusion because she was trying to get a picture of his license plate.

Of course we stayed and screamed and yelled and tried to get our stuff back from them.  I stood in front of the “security guard” ‘s bike and forcibly searched all his pockets after screaming in his face for about 20 seconds.  I found nothing; and in retrospect he definitely shoved my cash up his sleeve, but in the moment I couldn’t think that clearly.

My friend got a different spiel – hers was that they were with the Vietnamese mafia.  I’m calling BS unless they were like the lowest rung on the mafia totem pole based on how scared they seemed.

Men in collectivist Asia generally aren’t very aggressive.  So while they may try to confuse you and use scare tactics like surrounding you in numbers, they’re actually huge wussbags when confronted.  They’re more strength in numbers than strength in muscle mass.

The best part of this story is that 2 dillholes stayed back to try to act like they were helping us.  They gave us 500,000 dong back trying to act like they recovered it for us, and told us that it was the entire amount that had been taken.  If you ask me they were trying to cover themselves and keep us from calling the police.  You can take my money, but you can’t insult my intelligence.

So what’s the point of this story?

That I’m salty I got f*cking robbed.

Especially by a bunch of wussbags who tried to scam a group of 20-something year-old girls when they’re coming home from the bar at 4AM.  In retrospect I wish I had jacked “security” right in the face; or at least chucked his phone into the rice paddy when I was searching his pockets.  It’s not even the money I’m angry about, money is always replaceable.  It’s the principle, and the fact that I didn’t want everyone to be right about Vietnamese people being out to get you.

Also there is SUCH a double standard for girls in this country – there was 1 boy with us, and they didn’t touch him.  And he was a 24 year-old scrawny Spanish British dude who looked more like a soccer player than a football player, by no means intimidating.

I think the most dangerous thing about a situation like that is that not only do you get robbed, but the perpetrators find out where you’re staying.  In a house about 15 minutes outside of downtown, far from the police and people who would be around to witness a break it.  I carried my laptop and camera around with me for the rest of our stay there.

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Did I mention that in the same week I lost my Thai debit card, lost my phone at a music festival, and lost my American debit card, all on separate occasions?  I’ll admit that 3 out of the 4 are completely my fault.  If you need directions to the Thong Lor police station in Bangkok to file a police report I’m your girl!

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My point is that travel isn’t always as beautiful and fun as it looks on Instagram.  Yes, some weeks you’re chasing and sunsets over thousands of temples in Bagan, and some weeks you’re drinking fruity sh*t on a private longtail boat at Maya Bay off Koh Phi Phi.  But sometimes you lose your phone, Thai debit card, American debit card, and between 3,000-4,000 baht in the same week.  Sometimes you get lost by yourself in the middle of nowhere at 11PM at night when your bus breaks down and no one speaks English to tell you what’s happening.  And some weeks you have to skip sunrise hikes and temples in Bali because you can’t leave your bed due to food poisoning.

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Not pictured: food poisoning
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Not pictured: lost cell phone

It’s also by no means easy whatsoever.  People always think that you have to have money to travel, which is 110% not the truth.  But you do have to be mindful and a little savvy when you’re balling on a budget like I am, and research saves you tons of money.

Yes, it’s all worth it, and I still am going to do my best over my next 2 weeks in Vietnam to not let getting robbed ruin my opinion of the country.  But I’m definitely not taking any more motorbike taxis home at 4 in the morning, and I’m definitely not carrying as much cash with me to the bar.

How I feel about Vietnam right now:

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Burmese Bites – Food in Myanmar

Thai food is known around the world for being DANKKK.  And it definitely is better than most cuisines I’ve tried here in Asia – whenever I leave Thailand I always find myself craving Som Tam(spicy papaya salad) or Khao Men Gai(chicken rice).  But the food in Burma was  AMAZING.  It’s a cross between the countries it’s located between, India and Thailand, so that’s really too surprising.  Here’s some of the best Burmese food my travel buddies & I tried while perusing Myanmar.

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Note – if you travel in Myanmar, be careful with what you eat.  I got food poisoning, my friend Steve got food poisoning, and several people we met along the way got food poisoning.

Stuffed Tofu

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Lime juice, cabbage, tofu….yeah this sh*t’s good.  And they make it fresh for you right on the street.

Shan Noodles

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I would’ve eaten these 6x a day if it was possible.  These noodles were served kind of like a salad, with oil, peanuts, and pickled veggies on the side that you could add.  The Shan noodle soup wasn’t as good however, so if you try make sure you get the dry noodles.

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Ginger Salad

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SOOOOO good.  Way better than the tea leaf salad in my opinion, which is what you read about on every blog about Myanmar.

Tea Leaf Salad

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Sea Flower Salad

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No idea what a “sea flower” is, maybe that’s a language-barrier induced type-o?

Samosas

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I ate WAY too many samosas on this trip, but no ragrets.  They serve them for breakfast in Myanmar, or eat them with Burmese tea at tea shops.  They’re super cheap too; on the street they only cost 100 kyat (1/14 of a dollar).

Naan Ya

This was naan with chickpeas and onions, SOOOOO good.  This was another tea shop menu item; but you could also find it on the street in Yangon.  I’m not sure if it’s just a regional specialty, but it was everywhere in Yangon and nowhere in Mandalay.

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50 shades of fried noodles

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Personally I avoid fried noodles outside of Thailand, as often they’re just tourist food designed to feed picky foreigners.  However these were served to us on our trek from Kalaw to Inle Lake, and weren’t bad.

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Mohinga

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Mohinga is a fish-based soup that I read about also on a lot of blogs before going to Myanmar.  Personally it was a little fishy for my taste, but it wasn’t horrible.  It was super cheap too – only 400 kyat for a bowl.

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Chapati & Potato Curry

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Inle Lake had a lot of Nepalese food, maybe because of it’s location geographically?  Chapati is like a more oily Nepalese naan.  This sneaky monster is what gave me food poisoning, proof that eating vegetarian doesn’t always keep you safe.

Veggie rice thing

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This is something that I tried on a menu at a tiny little middle-of-nowhere roadside food stall while taking the circle train outside of Yangon.  It’s pretty popular with the Burmese; I saw it on a lot of posters throughout Myanmar, and I saw a ton of Burmese people eating it.  I have a sneaking suspicion that the little ball of meat next to the egg is a goat’s testicle, as it looks just like the goat testicles I saw in Mark Wein’s blog about food in Yangon.

 Burmese BBQ

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This I kept a 20-foot radius from.  There were these tiny little BBQ pits with skewers of various organs and meats on them everywhere in Yangon; surrounded by little child-sized chairs where people would park it to cook their food.  I’m sure it’s good, just not for the weak-stomached.

Avocados

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I’m probably just excited about these because I’m avocado-deprived after living in Central Thailand, where they cost 100 baht each at Tesco($3).  But they had avocados EVERYWHERE in Myanmar; and they only cost 500 kyat each(about $.35 cents=ish).

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Roti

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Riceberry Sticky Rice with Coconut

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Fried Dough

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At tea shops & everywhere else they serve these fried dough stick things that you can dip in your tea or whatever.  They even threw it in our rice soup at one stall.

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Coconut Filled Dumplings

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We tried these at a night market in Yangon and they were SOOO good.  They cost about 500 kyat each, less than $.50 cents.

There you have it, Burmese food alone makes Myanmar worth the trip.

People of Yangon – Photo Blog

Yangon.  To some tourists it seems like just another port city that AirAsia flies into/out of.  There’s not much to mark off your travel checklist in Yangon besides the Shwedagon and Sule pagodas.  However, personally I loved Yangon, as there was great & easy-to-find street food, along with awesome photo opportunities.

People were also super friendly and nice when it came to having their picture taken – not a single person told me no, and some of the lovely Burmese even smiled for the camera.  So here are some of my favorite shots that I got of people around Yangon.

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The cigar man
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Happy lady making my sticky rice

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She’s selling bird seed to feed the pigeons…I don’t know why but this is for some reason popular in Yangon?!?!?!

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ALSO selling seed to feed the pigeons

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This nice woman let us take pics of her cat HAHA
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Despite her expression swear she said I could take the picture
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Him too…he smiled after I snapped this

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Hope you enjoyed!

16 MORE Things You Will Only Find in a Thai 7/11

Ahhhh 7/11.  It’s become as much of a backpacking staple here in Thailand as elephant pants.  7/11 is the go-to for everything- medication, food, plane tickets, water, anything.  Probably because the familiar western chain-store feel is more comfortable when it comes to buying things like that than dealing with the awkward language barrier at a mom & pop shop if you’re unfamiliar with it.  But anyways, we can all agree that 7/11 is important here.

In fact, my most popular post of all time by a landslide on this site is 10 Things You Only Find in a Thai 7/11.  That was one of the first posts I wrote when I got to Thailand, when everything in 7/11 was so shiny and foreign.  My eyes have aged about 8 months since then, and have grown more accustomed to the oddities of the convenience store.  So here’s a follow-up post I decided to write detailing my further discoveries of the iconic store.  Enjoy!

10 Things You Can Only Find in a Thai 7/11(Part 2)

  1. Bon-bonsIMG_3529.jpg

These are IMPORTANT.  These are what get you through a week that you’re seriously reconsidering your teacher morals regarding corporal punishment(kidding).  For a mere 6 baht, you can get your fix of either chocolate, peanut butter or (most recently and by far the BEST) cookies & cream-flavored bon-bon.  You’re welcome in advance.

2. Every different kind of face mask

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Korean, fake-korean, tomato, beer, whitening- you name it, & I’m sure 7/11 has some kind of mask that’ll let you spread it all over your face.

3. Vitamin-C drinks

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These are also IMPORTANT.  There’s nothing like catching yourself sniffling after a long-weekend out in Bangkok right before extended travel plans.  I like to drink one of these puppies both before AND after going out.  Better safe than snotty.

 

4. This adorable pocket-sized fish sauce

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5. Riceberry. Riceberry BEER.  3 different kinds of instant rice.

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Trendy.  Healthy.  BEER.  Suck on that Whole Foods.

6. Fish-flavored everything

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This is one of those situations in which I draw the line.

7. 3 different kinds of burritos that remind you exactly how far from Mexico we really are.

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8. These terrifying pokémon “fish balls,” gotta catch e’m all (dem food poisonings)

9. Milo-flavored everything.

10. Nature Valley bars…PLOT TWIST?!

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Take a breath and breathe deeply…these are still American I swear!  As shown by the high-so 29 baht price tag(almost $1) for one.  Fancy ~imported~ Nature Valley bars.

11. Every kind of sweetened-condensed milk your dying arteries could possibly desire.

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It’s the Franks’ Red Hot of Thailand.  They put this shit in EVERYTHING.

12. “Salad cream”

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This is the Thai/Asian way of saying “salad dressing.”  The first time I heard one of our Phillippino teachers say it I thought it was a mistake.  The real mistake is that someone actually thought it was an appetizing idea to name things “salad cream” instead of salad dressing.  And by dressing I mean the Thai version; AKA mayo.  BLECHHH

13. Vitamin gift baskets

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So confusing that I don’t even have commentary.

14. “Mister Potato” purple potato crisps.

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Yes, ladies and gentleman, Thailand EVEN knocks off Pringles.  And they one-up pringles with trendy health-foodie friendly purple potatoes.

15. Hot dogs so appetizing they make you want to go vegan.

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They forgot the “chili” with the chili cheese.  And based on the invention of the “cheese sausage waffle” I’d say it’s a good guess that the creative department at Thailand 7/11 is either a stoner or pregnant.

16. Pork Hot bun

IMG_4066.jpgThe best part about this item is that in the states Asian-fusion food using bao buns is super trendy.  In my intern days in the up & coming West Loop Chicago I had a few tacos on bao buns.  Thailand – always on top of dem trends.

Have you ever been to a Thai 7/11?  What anomalies did you see?

Kuala Lumpur – A Bland Capital City

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One of the downsides of traveling is that you tend to get a little bit jaded, as you’re spoiled on daily basis by all the riches the world has to offer.  You’ll read this again and again in all travel blogs.  This waterfall is beautiful, but not as beautiful as the last; if you’ve seen one temple/church you’ve seen them all; the cheese in this country is good but not as good as the last, blah blah blah blah blahhhhh.

That last bit was a little dramatic.  Cheese is always good in countries that offer it as a part of their everyday diet, AKA I’m just cheese-deprived over here in Southeast Asia & craving.  I miss grocery shopping in Florence, Italy.  But anyways….

Ironically, traveling also kind of comes with this pressure to be wowed with everything.  Sometimes people get into what I like to call the “fake hippie” ruts.  It’s when you pretend like everything is so amazing and impressive just because it’s exotic.  And the more exotic and off-the-beaten-path it is, the more you love it.  Even though sometimes things are off the tourist beaten-path because they’re not really that memorable.

Not that I’m trying to encourage negativity, just something to keep in mind when you read articles and travel blogs that glamorize travel.

Back to KL…

I think all of the above might be the reason that Kuala Lumpur didn’t wow me.  And maybe because of the pressure I mentioned above, but I don’t like to say negative things about a city or a country, they’re all amazing in their own ways.  But nothing about the city really stood out to me.  Everything I liked about it seemed borrowed from another.  For example:

  • Little India – amazing Indian food, but hellooooooo it’s Indian
  • Little Arabia – amazing shwarma & falafal, once again borrowed
  • Batu Caves – interesting somewhat (although I’m salty about climbing to the top and being greeted by an unfinished cave) but paid more homage to a religion than a local culture
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@ Little India. 

MalaysiaAndyWarhol.pngI think we’re starting to see a pattern here.  I guess the real beauty in Kuala Lumpur can be found in it’s diversity?  Dear lord I sound like a middle-school lets-paint-rainbows-and-hold-hands presentation.  But actually, the culture and people in KL were the most mixed I’ve seen since landing in Asia.  Thailand is full of Thai people, Indonesia Indonesians, Cambodia Cambodians….most countries I’ve seen aren’t very mixed.

Maybe the mixed culture just didn’t seem exciting to me because I grew up in the red white & blue melting pot that is the USA.

What else can we get from this review?  The food was dankkkk.  The mix of Chinese, Indian, and Malay influence among others made for a wide array of culinary options, including the best shwarma I’ve ever had in my life.

So what do you do in Kuala Lumpur?

GETTING THERE

Hack – the cheapest way to get from the airport is the Airport Coach bus at 10 Ringgit a person, about $2.50.  It took around 30-40 minutes when I did it.  Taking the metro from the airport is faster, but it costs 35 Ringgit.

Visit the Petronas Towers

dsc_0103These massive towers are definitely an icon of Kuala Lumpur.  They cost a whopping 85(about 20USD) Ringgit to go up and get a view, however.  That’s just about as much as it costs to go on the much cooler skydeck at the Sears Tower in Chicago.

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We opted not to go up because of the cost, and just took selfies in front of it instead.  While we were taking pictures some guy wanted to get a picture with us, leading to a line of people forming to take pictures with us…not something I was expecting in Malaysia.

See the Batu Caves

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Even though personally I didn’t find the caves exciting, the big to-see in Kuala Lumpur is the Batu Caves.  These are a series of caves with different statues depicting stories from Hinduism, along with Hindu gods.

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There’s one large main cave that requires walking up a ton of steps, and a bunch of separate little caves around it.  However, each of the little caves comes with their own separate entrance fee, so personally I wouldn’t recommend them.  I don’t remember the numbers exactly, but they were pretty cheap, if you forget the fact that you have to pay for each one.

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The main cave is less than exciting to say the least.  You climb up a ton of stairs and battle off monkeys all the way up for a mediocre view of the city and a cave that’s under construction.  There are some statues in it, but not many.  I don’t know the background on the cave but I think it has some kind of spiritual significance, as there were many Indian people there who looked like they were paying homage.

The caves are conveniently located at the end of the line on the metro, so they’re easy to get to.  They were inconveniently scaffolded and under construction, but life happens sometimes.

Surprisingly, a lot of people also wanted pics with my friend Melissa & I at the caves.  I’ve heard that people like taking pictures with white people in India, and a lot of people seemed to be visiting from India, so maybe that had something to do with it.  I was cool with the picture taking until I was sitting on a bench waiting for the train & caught an old dude taking selfies with me in them without asking or even letting me know.  I’m chill with the paparazzi but not the stalkerazzi.

Grab a drink at a helipad bar – Heli Lounge Bar

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Kuala Lumpur seems to be chock full of rooftop bars, and also helipads.  Maybe it’s for the nice view of the Petronas towers?  Whatever it was, my friend Melissa & I paid way too much for cocktails and wine so that we could go out for a drink with a view.

KL isn’t known for nightlife as Muslim countries tend to impose high liquor taxes, so we decided grabbing a drink was a good alternative to running around the city seeking out mediocre nightlife.

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NOTE – while I did not stay there, some of my friends that visited after said they stayed at Reggae Mansion hostel in KL and it was poppin’.  So if you’re looking to meet backpackers and party, I’d recommend staying there.

Eat

The only thing left to do in Kuala Lumpur is eat.  They have a wild mix ranging from Indian to Pernankan.  I was only here for 24 hours before I caught a bus to the Cameron Highlands, so all I managed to scarf down was a dosa and some shwarma.

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All in all, Kuala Lumpur was less than exciting.  There are other things you can do in the city like go up the Petronas Towers, but we opted out of that as it’s absurdly expensive.  I think the main draw to this city is that AirAsia is headquartered here, so there are always cheap flights when you’re in need of a visa run.

Just because I didn’t love the city doesn’t mean that someone else won’t.  But when you travel remember that you don’t have to always love everything, we’re only human now.

My Favorite Things – Thailand Edition

And yes a car for YOU!  And a mansion for YOU!!!! And a double-decker mini-van with a built-in hot tub for YOUUUUUU!!!

Okay I’m not Oprah.  But a girl can dream.  After 8 months of kickin it in the beautiful Land O’ Smiles, here are some of my Thailand favorites, ranging from products to sappy pop songs.

1) Bon-bons

The little balls of heaven get the number 1 spot for a reason.  For a mere 6-baht, you can quench your chocolate craving, with not one, not two, but now THREE different flavor options.  Chocolate and peanut butter are the classics, but the most recent flavor Cookies & Cream has quickly raced to the most special place in my heart.  Available at your nearest Thai 7-11, or CJ’s.

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2) Korean face masks

IMG_1588.jpgIt’s no secret that Koreans kind of kill it in the beauty product department.  At CJ’s, 7-11, and even random little mini-marts throughout Thailand you can get Korean face masks for around $1.  It always takes me a while to pick one out, as I have to be careful not to buy one with whitening bleach in it.

 

3) Kiiihhhh neee seh mehhhhh (คนมีเสน่ห์ – ป้าง นครินทร์)

One of my favorite Thai songs.  If you want to find it, you have to copy & paste the Thai name, it’s not searchable in English.  I made one of my students type it out for me.

Check it out on youtube here

4) The Thai word for cat

It’s pronounced May-owhhh, so it kind of sounds like meow.  Tell me that’s not adorable.

5) Tom yum sen mee

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This is Tom Yum noodle soup (street stall version) with sen mee or small noodles.  I’ve recently discovered that it’s a soup stall staple and I’m addicted.

6) This stocking-stuffer-sized bottle of fish sauce

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Sold at some 7-11s.  For only 6 baht you can have a little mini-me fish sauce.  Fish sauce is a standard ingredient and condiment with all Thai food, and sometimes you just need a little.

7) These charcoal-gray corduroy overalls

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It really is a tragedy that bathroom célfies have gone out of style.

I got these bad boys at Chatuchak weekend market for a mere 100 baht.  That’s less than $3.  It was meant to be – they were the only pair, I couldn’t try them on, and they fit like a glove.  Thailand is great for cheap, trendy clothing.

8) Glooooay tohd (fried bananas)

 

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These are actually a really problematic addiction.  I have to pep-talk myself out of stopping by the market after school to buy these at least a couple times a week.  Although there’s only one fried-banana vendor in town that I really love, so if you try fried bananas yourself and you don’t like them, try a different vendor.

9) Sing-sing Theater – Bangkok

If you like dance music, this is by far THE best club in Bangkok.  My only complaint is the over-priced drink situation, but you can’t win ‘em all.

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It’s super-themed with an old school Shanghai-speakeasy vibe.  They have a different theme every night, complete with performers in wild costumes.  I’ve seen everything from girls in astronaut suits to girls in cages to a hardcore saxophone player.

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10) Jok

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Okay I tried making this not about food, I really did.  Jok is DANK rice porridge that Thai people eat for breakfast or late at night.  I know every blog under the sun tells you that Thai people don’t have certain foods for certain meals, but that is a straight up lie.  Note that this is a porridge, as it’s soupy cousin isn’t nearly as good.  Usually coming with some kind of sauce, ginger, green onion, and pork, this trusty sidekick has gotten me through many a post-travel Monday.

11) RICEBERRY

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Riceberry is this jasmine rice hybrid that was created right here in Thailand.  It’s chock FULL of antioxidants and makes for really pretty snapchats.  I’ve heard that it’s trendy in the west right now, but you can only find it at health food stores and it’s expensive.  Here I can buy a big bag of it from a street vendor right outside 7/11 for less than $3.  Definitely a staple.

12) My “Anello” backpack

img_2923This is a backpack that I bought at Rot Fai Ratchada Night Market.  I swear 1 in 4 Thai people own one, they’re SUPER trendy here.  It’s a knock-off of some brand that starts with a b, but I’ve only seen a real one once at a super boujee mall so I couldn’t tell ya what it is.

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So there you have it, just a couple of my Thailand favorites.