Greetings. Well, this is my last blog of Southeast Asia. Let’s take a final look at the map!
This blog will be on my last stretch back into Thailand. Hard to believe I completed this loop in 40 days. In total, I’ve spent 9 weeks in SEA, I’m not gonna lie, I’m exhausted, but totally worth it. We entered Thailand into Chiang Kong, stayed overnight, drove by mini van to Chiang Mai for 3 nights, then took an overnight train back to Bangkok.
In a nutshell, I love Thailand. I loved it when I started my trip and I loved it at the end. I totally get why so many tourists come here and it’s definitely a country I would come back to again. The people are some of the nicest, easy going people. They are very use to tourists, and I never felt singled out here at all. What I find interesting about the country is that they were never colonized by anyone. So you really see their intact language and culture, which is pretty cool. For a country that’s high in tourism, many people don’t speak English, yet you can get by and communicate just fine. They have a monarchy, and you see pictures of them all over the country, like billboard size. There is lots of people who come here for sex tourism, so it’s common to see signs in hostels and hotels saying sex tourists not welcomed. The Thai people are welcoming, friendly and I find have a quirky sense of humour. As a Canadian, no visa is needed if you stay less than 30 days. The only currency used is the Thai Baht, $1 Canadian = 27 Baht. The nice thing here is the American dollar has no influence, so I found Thailand to be a much cheaper country for food and shopping. You can buy things for 10 or 20 baht, where as Cambodia and Vietnam, they would start the same item at $1 American and go up. Also, Thailand has great shopping in Chiang Mai and Bangkok. I strongly recommend the Mo Chit weekend market in Bangkok. I went there at the start of my trip, I regret not buying more there as I never saw most of those items again in my travels. Next time!
I’m pretty sure Thailand has a 7-11 on every corner. There are tons here. Keep 7-11 in mind if needing to break your big bills. In Asia it can be challenging to get small change. You get big bills like $1000, but most vendors and stores can’t break it. You are usually on the hunt for smaller bills. I found 7-11 to always break my big bills no problem.
if you are passing through Chiang Rai, you must stop at the white temple, it’s truly as must see. I’ve seen countless temples in my travels, and nothing has been quite like this one. It’s quirky, it’s creative, it’s random and you can even take a pic with a cutout of the guy who designed it. One of my favourite parts was the guy in the booth with a microphone who knows many languages, he tells the visitors to move along or calls them out on bad behaviour. I’m guessing he probably uses Chinese languages the most, they behave the worst, it’s shocking sometimes. If there’s a sign that says do not touch or do not climb, you can bet money a Chinese tourist will be doing it.
We stopped at a roadside restaurant and shop called Cabbages and Condoms…like I said, the Thais have a quirky sense of humour. I like the no vomiting sign over the bathroom sink.
If you are in Thailand, Chiang Mai is a must visit. There is so much to do and see, I wish I had more time there. I had a lot of fun here, everyone who I came across raved about Chiang Mai, I get why. People are friendly, easy to get around, great shopping, lots to do and see.
Ladyboy show. I love Ladyboy shows, you will have the best time. I saw one in Siem Reap Cambodia, that one was more professional in a theatre, loved it. This one in Chiang Mai was in a bar setting, they interacted with the audience and picture taking was allowed. I loved this one as well. Hard to believe these Ladyboys are not females. This show was more cabaret style, they lip sync and dance to well known songs, one of my favourites was Ladyboy Tina Turner, brought down the house! I also love the half man/woman routine, so fantastic. Also if you are a good looking younger male, you may get attention during the show, one of my travel friends Ryan, fellow Canadian, he got tons of attention during the show, hence all the lip stick marks, so go with an open mind and good attitude, you won’t be disappointed!
The 3D art museum! We loved this museum. Such talent and creativity. I didn’t know what to expect when we went, but it’s all paintings on the wall that are 3D illusions. The odd one had some props, It was fun. It was a museum full of adults running around taking pictures of each other posing in the displays, everyone looked equally silly, it was great. Here’s a little sample, you can spend hours in there!
Thai cooking class. This one was one of my favourites as Thai food is very good. We made pad Thai, spring rolls, my favourite soup– Tom yum with prawns and a masaman red curry. Normally I hate curries as I really don’t like spicy or hot food, but the Thais make these amazing coconut cream curries–very delicious. The owner of the cooking school even made her own cookbook that she gave us, I look forward to trying to make the tom yum soup and coconut curry.
I finally got a Thai massage. It was 2 hours of this young Thai women massaging, pulling me, stretching me, pounding my muscles with her fists, she even climbed up on my back on her hands and knees, digging her knees and elbows in my back muscles….sounds painful but it wasn’t,it felt so good. She really worked hard for that 2 hours, I made sure I gave a very generous tip. I highly recommend, I regret not getting more massages!
Thai overnight train! This was different from the Vietnamese and Indian trains I’ve been on. This one was open, but you had a curtain, it was quite cozy once you layer down and pulled the curtain. A guy came after supper and converted your sitting area into a bed. I layed in my little cave watching downloaded episodes of veep, very relaxing!
Theres so much to do and see in Bangkok, I really love this city as well. These pics are of the Grand Palace and temple of the reclining Buddha. If you do the palace, consider getting a guide, we did it without, no clue what most things were. Also, if you visit temples, make sure you are dressed respectfully, shoulders and upper arms covered, breasts and stomach covered, and legs covered to the knees. These countries may be hot in temp, but locals dress conservatively. Modesty goes a long way in Southeast Asia regardless of where you are. Just because you see other tourists in tight short shorts with their ass cheeks hanging out, no bra, tiny revealing tank tops etc, I would advise against it. You are a guest in the country, know the dress code and show respect, it will go a long way in how you will be received, you also may attract negative attention otherwise.
B-52 shot. Not sure what’s in it, but they light it on fire, you put a straw in and start chugging while it’s on fire. I think it has Kaluha in it? I enjoyed one with my guide Tudtu and a few members of my group on our last night.
FAREWELL SOUTHEAST ASIA,
I started in the Philippines Aug 21/15, worked my way in the north and Palawan, headed to southern Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and back through Thailand. I had some ups and downs , met some wonderful and hilarious people and some complete assholes. I’ve been welcomed and accepted with open arms and genuine smiles and I’ve been pointed at, laughed at and publicly mocked for being a big fat white foreigner, and everything in between, but it’s all part of travel.
What I love about all the Asia countries I have visited, is how different they all are, and always a surprise as you can assume it will be one way, then you go and realize it’s not what you thought. I find many Asians have a strong work ethic, and are willing to do most things to make money. Unfortuently this gets abused e.g. Human trafficking, sex tourism, sweat shops etc, especially in the poor areas. But it can also be positive, if you need someone to carry your bags, wash your clothes, sew on a button, tired of walking up that mountain? Someone would give you a ride up for cheap etc. If you need any service, you’ll find it, but please keep your morals and be responsible. There are many wonderful hard working people who rely on tourism to feed their families and are more than happy to help you if they can, they are humans too, so treat them well and don’t forget to tip!
Farewell Asian toilets!
I’ve used my share of different types of Asian toilets. You don’t get the luxury of being picky! Always remember to have your own small supply of toilet paper, wipes and hand sanitizer in your purse or bag. Some Asian countries don’t use toilet paper, or they are out, and not all places have running water.
You got the squat toilet that you use the bucket of water to flush, as well you find western toilets that require the bucket water as well
You got the western toilet that flush, but always put your toilet paper in the garbage, they don’t flush it there.
You got the western toilet that you can tell people climb up on the seat to squat on, still beats me how they can do it. That’s talent!
Western train toilet.
You got the flushable squat toilet.
Last but not least, the most beautiful squat toilet I found, in Laos actually!
Farewell Asian showers!
You usually have to turn on a separate heater for hot water, most of the time it didn’t work for me, but it was so hot out or I was sunburned that I didn’t mind a cooler shower. But I won’t miss showering over a toilet and soaking the entire bathroom as it was rare to have a separate shower space or even a curtain.
Farewell to needing to insert your key handle to turn on the power in the room.
Farewell house lizards. You see these guys all the time up on the walls and ceilings. They are harmless, they like to eat insects, most importantly mosquitos. It’s very common to see them hanging around lights. Occasionally the babies might fall on you, but again, they are harmless.
Some Asian people tend to be fairly blunt. Like I said some people will publicly single you out for being different. It’s not always negative. Sometimes people mean well, think they are laughing with you or are just curious. Sometimes I had people come up to me smiling “oh your big, how many kilos?” It was just curiosity, like if you saw someone really tall and were curious about their height. Sometimes random people would rub my arm, or back, or one lady rubbed my ass. I saw the male foreigners who were overweight, had the odd Asian local go up to them, rub their belly, saying “Happy Buddha” and smiling. Thankfully I never got that. Asian people are typically tiny in some countries. A North American size medium can be an Asian XL or 2XL. In general, we are just bigger people even if you are a healthy weight. So seeing someone of my size and being white is very different, especially in the non touristy areas. I’ve been compared to Buddha, elephants and water buffalos. Again not always negative, because it was from people who loved Buddha and thought it was a compliment, elephants and water buffalos are big strong animals, so in Canada it would be an insult, but not always in Asia. Now in one part of Cambodia, I had some people mooing at me and laughing, so ya, that was people being assholes. I usually have a pretty thick skin about people picking on me as Canadians are quite mean too. So it’s not new. So just be mindful of that when travelling. I found Philippines, Thailand and Laos to be the most accepting, that’s probably why I liked the people more. If you are sensitive, and comments of your weight whether well meaning or negative, stay out of rural Cambodia and northern Vietnam, except Hanoi was okay.
Now one of my favourite moments was with Annie, she was in my tour group and is Kenyan, she got a lot of attention for being black. When we were together in some places, people didn’t know who to look at, we were a walking attraction, but we would just laugh about it. People were always interested in her hair and would just go up to her and touch it. One morning in Hoi An Vietnam, we went to see the sunrise, I turn around to locals touching her hair lol. No boundaries.
Okay enough about that! Not looking for pity or judgement, just giving negative side of travel and a heads up to those who may be like me. There were way more wonderful people than assholes, so don’t be afraid to travel in these parts, I’m still glad I did.
Farewell crazy wiring systems, bamboo scaffolding, construction workers wearing flip flops and hotel staff that sleep at the doorway!
Farewell to the Buddhist Monks who have iPads, iPhones and cameras?!
…and farewell to my favourite fruit, the mangosteen! Lindsay and Trevor would agree, however I will not miss the durian!
Farewell Southeast Asia. I arrived in Perth Australia Oct 22, and left for Hobart Tasmania today. I’m a solo traveller now with the odd short tour here and there. So my next blogs will be about my Australia adventure. I’m hitting Tasmania, Melbourne, Adelaide, then going into the outback, Adelaide to Alice Springs. I already got flagged as a high risk traveller as I came from Bangkok and was searched. It was like being on an episode of Border Security. So stay tuned for those upcoming blogs! Thanks for following my Southeast Asia adventure. Thanks to those who comment, send emails and messages, I always enjoy hearing from home! Also, I’m sad to have missed such an exciting Canadian election, I would have loved to watch as Canada heaved Steve! 🙂