I just uploaded my last “roll” of photos from Seoul and the last photos of our trip. I’m posting some of my favourites below but as usual, you can see most of my photos on my Flickr page…
Things have been moving quite fast now, as they always tend to at the end of a trip. Ugh, “the end” of the trip is very difficult to say right now. But back to Seoul. We had a great time in Seoul, of course although it was somewhat hindered by the still getting over the pneumonia thing. We got tired quite a lot faster and probably drove our roommate nuts with all the coughing but we are now almost entirely better.
We didn’t really have anything more we wanted to do per se in Seoul so we revisited some of the places we enjoyed the most when we were there last time, at the beginning of the trip and checked out some new places as well. We had a great guesthouse. It was actually just an extra bedroom in a Korean woman’s apartment and she was never there so we pretty much had the place to ourselves. We did some much needed clothing shopping to replace all our travelling rags which are pretty much disintegrating at this point…
At this point we kind of started dealing with the emotional inevitability that soon we’d be back in our own country and how we really didn’t want to be, although we knew it was the best decision for now. Small bouts of feeling shitty about this were kind of scattered throughout our trip to Seoul, although we tried our best to “live in the moment”. May 9th was M’s birthday and it was a great day all around. We had breakfast and then went to look for the huge Kyobo bookstore. We had seen the paperback copy of Haruki Murakami’s new book 1Q84 in Bangkok and we were starting to think it was released early by mistake. When we went back to pick it up, all paperback copies were gone. Anyway, I suggested to M that he get this for his birthday as he’s wanted to read it for a while. This book is a massive tome by the way, and he refuses to buy it on Kindle, Haruki Murakami being one of his favourite authors, he wants the real paper book. (I’ve now just noticed it’s being released tomorrow in a three volume set, which is quite cool! When we were in Seoul, we were admiring the Japanese copies which are in about 6 tiny volumes. So much more convenient to carry around. Anyway!)
From there we headed to Myeong-dong to find a Uniqlo as Mike wanted to get a bunch of clothes for back home. We love Uniqlo from our Japan stint and we don’t have one in Canada so M stocked up on T-shirts, a pair of pants, pretty much a bit of everything. He was quite excited.
(Incidentally, I’d just like to point out that WordPress has been driving me crazy lately with all their lame changes that I hate to things like posting links etc. and I haven’t quite had the time to figure it out yet, so apologies for bad formatting and links etc. I’ll figure it out eventually).
From there our plan was to head to Loving Hut for their huge vegan buffet. Loving Hut is an international “chain” of religiously affiliated restaurants, started by a Taiwanese spiritual leader and business woman (always a good combination). Despite her dubious reputation, we have visited her restaurants a few times while travelling because, quite frankly, Korea is a meat lovers mecca and it’s bloody hard to find something to eat at a restaurant there. The buffet has a fair bit of faux meat, of which I am not really a fan, but it’s otherwise quite fantastic, all you can eat, and cheap! But by the time Uniqlo finished hemming M’s pants and we finished shopping etc., it was too late to head out there. Quite tragic as we were looking forward to it, but we ended up going the next day. Stuck with no vegetarian restaurant options in the area, we settled on Pizza Hut, but we were so hungry by that point, it was actually quite good.
After Myeongdong it was time to get our drink on! First day without antibiotics and first beers in a long time! We headed to Hongik University which is a very active student area with a tonne of pubs, restaurants and noraebang or karaoke bars. Stocked up with a bag o’ beer, we asked someone where we could find a noraebang with English songs and wandered around looking for it. We finally found one, and the older married couple owners spoke no English. He did, however, speak a few words of Japanese, and this saved us as we figured out the price per hour etc. I thought karaoke would not be fun with only two people. I was wrong. With enough alcohol, anything is fun! Ahem. Anyway, it was fantastic, I got some good video that I’m probably not allowed to share with you all, but let’s just say it involved a little Toto, and a little Africa. Wee!!
Probably after midnight by the time we left here and we were starting to wane given that we were still sick, but we plowed on because we were determined to drink some makkoli before we left. Makkoli is korean rice wine. It is kind of like sake, but I would say more like amazake which is sake with the lees left in or dregs? Kind of hard to explain. But its milky, alcoholic and sweet. It’s slightly carbonated and varies quite widely in taste depending on the manufacturer. We were sure it would be hard to find it in Canada and being carbonated, and in plastic bottles, we were sure we couldn’t bring it home on the plane. Problem is, it’s not really a “pub” drink, more of something you drink with food at a restaurant so we didn’t find it. We did however stumble into this fantastic cluttered run down student pub that I had been wanting to go to and have some more beer. There was no one in there practically and the owner gave us shots of rum. Cockroaches abound(ed)! It was great! I have some photos of the bathroom in this place that I will share later.
We finally walked home, picking up the bottle of makkoli at the store on the way, of course, had a couple drinks before bed and went to sleep.
Going home to stay with M’s parents for another summer, going back to Canada in general and turning the big 35 has made this birthday a bit hard for M. He sets really high standards for his self progress with his writing career as to where he should be by what age etc., and this can cause him a lot of stress and pressure that he puts on himself. So he was kind of dreading this birthday. But in the end, I think we did alright.
Before long it was time to head back to Canada and we took the long, long 10 hour flight back to Vancouver. I was fortunate that I had a really nice woman from Calgary beside me who had been volunteering at the elephant sanctuaries in Thailand. We talked about Thai food, volunteering, her dog. Everything. I kind of regret not getting her Facebook contact so I might try to track her down actually. She was lovely.
And now we are back. For the second time after being away longer term, we breezed through customs, without even a bag check. Sooo happy as my bag was packed JUST so and could not be ripped apart or nothing would EVER fit again. Speaking of fortunate, I am so lucky to have the friends that I do that always come through for me when I need them. We were kind of looking at hotels with kitchens to save money by cooking for ourselves a bit, and everything in Vancouver is super expensive. Even a private room at a hostels is going to run you well over $120/night. At the last minute, I found out my ex-coworker was going away for business and he offered his apartment. Yay!! Sparkly new apartment right downtown with swimming pool (that I’ve been too busy to even look at). I am so lucky. My friends are awesome.
Jetlagged and slightly delerious, I’ve been visiting with friends and family non stop since I arrived. Today I am visiting with three separate friends from lunch till evening. I haven’t really had time to think about what it all means to be back here yet, but I expect to have it hit me by the time we get to Saskatoon and things calm down and slow down a bit. Some things that struck me as soon as I got off the plane:
The air: clean and clear and so not like Seoul which is probably the most polluted city I’ve been to, next to New Dehli. Seriously.
The temperature: Holy mother! From 40c to 11c in a matter of days with no winter clothing. The weather here has been non stop gorgeous since we’ve arrived. Very uncharacteristic, but I’ve been soo happy it hasn’t been raining. It’s in the low twenties during the day. I’m still cold, but I can handle this.
The mountains: Beautiful as always.
Fat people: Everywhere.
The Canadian Accent: For all of you Canadians that say we don’t have one. It’s not true. We do. Especially anywhere east of Alberta.
Space: We have green space between buildings. Don’t take this for granted!
Junkies and Chavs: I guess we call chavs “white trash”. Both terms are a bit harsh, but I’m sorry, I don’t know what else to call them. “Lower income people from suburbs with loud voices and no social graces”, perhaps would be more appropriate? Not trying to be a snob, but maybe I am one? I don’t know. Let’s just say I’m in more danger on a Skytrain at night here than I am wandering around the back streets of Bangkok by myself in the dark. No joke. Yesterday my Skytrain slammed on the brakes, halfway into the station, locking us all in on account of a fairly large “police incident”. This kind of stuff is a daily occurrence here. Anyway, I could go on, but you would all hate me.
So that’s what’s been going on so far. Tired and mildly confused, I’m stumbling around from place to place, hanging out with people, getting on long public transit trips to see friends and family and coming to terms with where I am for the next 4 or 5 months. So happy to see my loved ones, not much happy to see everything else. I’ll probably be able to sort out my feelings with a bit more clarity within the next coming weeks so thanks for sticking with me and thanks for sticking with such a long photo-less post.
Just a quick post here as I don’t have a lot of time. It’s our last full day in Thailand and we fly out to Seoul tomorrow night. It’s an overnight flight and one I’m not particularly looking forward to, given our recent spat of illness but I’ll get to that in a minute. First, those waterfall pics I wanted to show you from our trip to the island I mentioned in the last post.
The walk to the waterfall took about an hour. We first walked down the same main road we took to get to the beach we had been going to every day. Then we split off to a quieter road that was pretty much just jungle and rubber plantations…
There was very rarely a car or motorcycle in sight….
After a while, the road ended and we walked on a trail through the jungle…it seemed as we were arriving, everyone else was leaving and a stream of Thais were coming out of the jungle…finally we reached and area of low flat rocks and a creek with huge boulders….
After climbing over the boulders, we reached the waterfall, in the middle of nowhere and there were hardly any other people there. Just a Thai family and their children and a couple of other foreigners….
The Thai kids were crazy…they jumped off huge boulders and climbed the over hanging tree and jumped off that too….
The swimming was great. The water was not cold, but cooler than the ocean and there were a lot of fish attesting to the waters cleanliness. It was too deep to touch the bottom, but you could swim across and stand under the waterfall. It was great.
On to current events, once we came back from the island we spent a few days running errands in Bangkok and headed back to Kanchanaburi as my last post mentioned. The night before we left I had a fever and my body was aching everywhere but I figured I was just run down. M insisted that if I still had a fever the next morning that we’d postpone the trip to Kanchanaburi in order to be closer to better clinics. When I got up in the morning, my fever was gone so we went to Kanchanaburi. Once we got there though, I got more sick with a bad cough and fevers and M caught it too, pretty much by a few days later. I thought I might be getting bronchitis so I went to the pharmacy and got some cough syrup and antibiotics in case it was a bacterial infection. I slowly felt like I was getting a bit better, but I am still coughing quite a bit during the night.
For M, it was a bit harder. He hardly ever gets sick where I am pretty susceptible to bronchitis and pneumonia (I get one or the other every few years, pretty much my whole life). Not used to having such strong fevers, for so long, and such a cough, he was really suffering. The fever just didn’t seem to want to go away. We pretty much spent our whole week in Kanchanaburi in bed. I went to the pool every day and lay in the sun when I could, but M just felt too shitty and week for most of the time. He was sleeping most of the day. We started to get a bit worried about what he might have and why I was getting better and he wasn’t. As our time was running out, we headed back to Bangkok.
Still coughing and with a fever that spiked usually at the night we went to the clinic. By this time I was still coughing but I pretty much knew I had a lung infection and it would play itself out eventually. The doctor seemed to be concerned about possible malaria and that maybe the cough and cold virus was separate to the fever problem so he sent M to the hospital for blood tests where we could get results the same day. When we got there we saw another doctor who also advised a chest x-ray to see if there was any infection in the lungs. At this point we were kind of freaking out a bit and M was sure he had malaria. We started thinking about the possibility of having to postpone our ticket again and how much that was going to cost and the fact that we have no health care when we return to our country (we are non residents, having been away for more than six months so we have to wait at least three months to qualify for medical again when we return…its stupid).
We had to wait about an hour and a half for the results but it felt like forever. Luckily (it’s funny I say luckily), he didn’t have malaria, but he does have pneumonia which meant so did I, as I gave it to him. It’s luckily, because it’s not malaria or dengue and he will get better now that he has stronger antibiotics. It’s definitely put a damper on our last week in Thailand. I went back on antibiotics myself.
We fly out tomorrow night on an overnight flight to Seoul. M’s birthday is in five days. No booze for him 😦 Or me for that matter. We’re trying to make the most of it with what energy we have right now. It’s going to be hard to say goodbye to Thailand…
Sorry about the lack of posting, my petals! You see, I’ve been on a tropical island with very minimal internet for the past 11 days or so and I just got back to Bangkok the day before yesterday. Being that we are in the last month of our travels, we have been making the beach and relaxation a top priority! The only reason why we left the island as quickly as we did is because there is no ATM there, meaning we were limited in our stay by the amount of cash we had on hand. Too bad. But it was an amazing trip…
First let me share with you a few leftover photos I had from our trip to Chiang Mai…
This one kills me…
These are the ten baht coconuts I was enjoying every day. I am vowing to get sick of them before I leave here. Those and the mangoes which are now in season and the best I’ve ever had. When you eat them, you have to eat them outside because the juice runs down your arm making a huge mess. The best way is to eat them on the beach when you can jump in the water afterwards…
Now onto the island….
The beach was practically empty every day, except during Songkran, or Thai New Year when there were many Thai families visiting. During the day, Thai people do not go on the beach because they do not like to get tanned. So the beach was usually all to ourselves…
We were surprised at how undeveloped the island was. There is only one main road going through the island that has been paved only within the last year or so. Although we had a beach close to our guesthouse, we preferred to take a fifteen minute walk to the nicer beach you see in the above photo…
Sometimes I could steal free wifi on the beach from the cliffside cafe you see here…but there was something a little ridiculous about sitting on the most amazing beach ever and checking my email…plus the connection wasn’t good so we usually didn’t bother…the cafe has a gorgeous view of the beach below…
The water was crystal clear and the snorkelling from the beach was actually quite fantastic. If you stayed close to the rocks you could easily see many different kinds of fish just below the shallow water. Even for people who cannot swim (like many Thais), you only have to sit on the bottom of the sea and stick your head in and see a tonne of fish. If you swam a bit deeper, you can see sea urchins and bigger fish and many sea cucumbers. Our favourite are always the “long tom” or “needlefish” that make me slightly nervous with their sharp spiky teeth. They swim up to you and stare at you.
Sometimes it rains and you can get excellent reflections of the coconut palms in the red mud puddles…
Our guesthouse was rustic but great, with a hammock outside…a German man and Thai woman ran the place and they were always friendly and helpful…
We had a great view of the mangrove jungle outside our window. One night the power went out and I went to the window to see if it was just us that blew the breaker or if the main building was also out. The property was silent except for a million crickets and pitch black except for the many fireflies that floated through and above the mangroves…
One of the best things about the guesthouse were all the animals. They had chickens and unfortunately a very confused rooster which crowed at all hours of the night. They also had three sweet dogs. She was our favourite. Her name is Jenny. She was so gentle and sweet. We were told that in the peak season her head smells of coconut oil and perfume because she goes from table to table in the restaurant, visiting everyone for pets.
We got to have a really unique experience hanging out with Chok Dee. Chok Dee means “lucky” or “good luck” in Thai and I guess that is the story of this little baby monkey. Her mother was killed for food when Chok Dee was five days old by the Burmese farmers who work on the rubber plantations. Chok Dee was rescued and is being brought up with people, bottle fed. She is so remarkably human in so many ways and her facial expressions just kill me. She is soft, with tiny fingers and she is also a trouble maker and gets into everything. When she gets in trouble she rubs her eyes and hides her face and runs to her “mama”, the Thai guesthouse owner, to hide her face and hold onto her tightly. Here she is five months old.
During Songkran, the island filled with many Thai people celebrating their New Year. One night on the beach, we saw three Thai friends lighting a paper lantern to celebrate. They asked if I could take a photo with their camera and I snapped a few of my own. I didn’t have a tripod so they didn’t turn out very well…after they launched the lantern they lit sparklers and gave me a pack of sparklers as well…
Next time I will show you some more photos from this beautiful island including our trip to the waterfall, which was also a very good day. We are off to buy return plane tickets today-cha-ching! Man, our money is dwindling fast now! And then I think we will go back to Kanchanaburi for a week or so again before we head back “home” via Seoul again. I hope you enjoy my photos!
Why am I writing about bedbugs on a blog that talks predominantly about food and travel? Well, because bedbugs are unfortunately becoming a big part of travel, both when we travel domestically and abroad. Before I get going here, I don’t want to give the impression that I’m any kind of expert. I just want to post some of the information that I’ve found from years of working in hostels and travelling internationally. The more we, as travellers are aware of the currently HUGE problem of bedbugs, the better we can combat them and travel more comfortably and peacefully!
As you’ve noticed if you read my blog, we’ve encountered bedbugs at least four or five times on this trip already and we’ve only been gone about four months! This is a huge increase from our last trip where we were away for six months. The bedbug problem is increasing and they definitely seem to be more prevalent lately. That being said, we also find them because we know how to look for them, what they look like and where they tend to hide. When we get into a new room, it’s the first thing we usually do and that is why we sometimes find them before sleeping in the room and getting bit. In any case, I hope by giving you a bit of info about them, you are not totally grossed out and instead feel a bit more empowered during your next trip abroad or at home! So here goes:
-Bedbugs are non-discriminatory. Like cockroaches, they don’t have anything to do with what star of hotel you are staying in or how clean or dirty it is. They can be anywhere, regardless. It doesn’t mean they don’t clean the room properly if you have them in your bed. Bedbugs are extremely hardy and can go for a long time without eating. They can live in the carpet, the floor, the mattress and the bed frame. They can travel a long distance for a meal
-Bedbugs do not (as far as studies currently show) carry disease or transmit anything from one person to another. They are essentially harmless except for their extremely itchy, annoying bites
-Bedbugs look like this:
I spared you the actual photos I found on google because they were just too disgusting. Note the colour and the lines on their body. If they are full of your blood they can look fatter. I know this is disgusting, just hang in there!
Like I said above, they can hide in all sorts of places, but if you are trying to find them in your room you can look for them under the mattress. Peel back the seam of the mattress and look for tell-tale signs. If you don’t see them, you may find lots of black specks. These are their body casings (they molt), and poo! AAAAAACK..so gross!! Shudder…okay. Look in the bed frame. If your bed frame is made of wood, look in the knot holes and the nail holes. They like these kind of places.
-Bedbugs come out at night, specifically when you are in the bed as they are attracted to the warmth. I read somewhere that they are most common between the hours of 3am and 5am and I tend to agree with this.
-Bedbug bites look kind of like mosquito bites so sometimes you might not realize what is getting you when you are travelling. I’ve seen people just covered in tell-tale bites complaining of all the mosquito bites they’ve been getting while they are relaxing poolside chatting with their friends. If you are getting bit in rows, especially in groups of three bites or more, these are most likely bedbug bites. Check out this:
These are three nasty, upset bedbug bites on M’s finger after the aforementioned “incident” in Ho Chi Minh. I think he is a bit allergic to them, so you can see they are a bit infected. We eventually had to lance them. Yummy!! But you see how they are red, inflamed and in a set of three? Bedbugs! How many readers have I lost yet?
-What to do if you find bedbugs: This is only my advice and what works best for us, and again, I am not a professional in any way but what works for us is to leave. This is bad I know, because in some ways it heightens the risk of transferring them to the next place you are staying, and spreading them. So this is why I suggest you take everything you are wearing, everything that has been out in the room and has been in contact with the room. Put it in a plastic bag and tie it up and get your laundry washed. Keep your bag as far away from the bed area as you can. Tell the place you are staying and if they don’t speak English (as is usually the case with us), bring them the bedbugs if you can and show them. Explain to them that they are biting you and they need to spray the room. As for your bites, we find that a hydrocortisone cream works the best. The itchiness goes away after a few days. In fact, the worst thing about bedbugs is the psychological problems they bring. After you know you’ve had bugs crawling on you in the night, sucking your blood, its hard not to get crawly and yucky feeling when you crawl into bed. You may feel like you have them on you when you don’t and you don’t want to move to a new place after you get a “good” room for fear of getting them. It kind of messes you up a bit. But unfortunately, there is not much you can do about them.
Anyway, I hope the above stuff helps some travellers and you are not too grossed out by me! I promise I won’t post too many more disgusting blog posts and I’ll get back to flowers and food and nice things in my next post! Thanks for hanging in there!
That’s right kids-we’re going to Bangkok. Are we crazy? I don’t know, but our ticket was already going there-Korean Air seems to be making no concessions for the flooding and so we are on to Bangkok tonight. Our last few days in Seoul have been great. Yesterday I went to a Jimjilbang (Korean spa) which was nice and no comparison to the little one floor one I’ve been going to in Canada. This was a 6 floor multiplex, complete with arcade, movie theatre, nail bar, concessions, at least 15 different kinds of hot and cold baths (indoor and outdoor) and saunas. It was a bit confusing the first time and so not *completely* relaxing, but I think if I get a chance to go again, I’ll feel better. It’s also more fun to go with a friend and since I was missing my jimjilbang partner, it didn’t quite feel right. You can read about the spa I chose here.
The day before we went to Jogyesa, a beautiful buddhist temple in the city. I will post photos of this soon, I just don’t have them at hand right now. The temple was covered with chrysanthemum flowers of all shapes, sizes and colours. There was chrysanthemum bonsai and even a giant elephant statue made from flowers. Apparently it is only this certain time of year that these flowers are here and the english speaking help told me that they are considered purifying to the mind to gaze upon. Inside the main temple are the three buddhas of avalokiteshvara, amitabha and sakyamuni (if I’m not mistaken) and a million lanterns and colours and paintings. Very different from Japanese austere and dark temples I am more familiar with, this one obviously shows the artistic progression of buddhism from its origins in India, up through Tibet into China and down into Korea. Several people have told me that this temple is not as beautiful as the one’s here in the countryside or as old, but I thought it was pretty nice! Photos soon…
So ya, back to the Bangkok situation. I think we will get a better impression of how things are going there once we arrive. We have no intention of staying there at the moment, but we may need to stay there a day or two. Our plan is kind of loose at the moment. We will either go back to the airport the next day, and fly out to Kuala Lumpur, or take the train to Krabi and go to the south of Thailand where we are away from the flooding and have been to several times before. Then we can explore Bangkok further later on our way up to the north and into Chiang Mai, possibly after we leave Laos. I am not used to travelling with such a loose plan and it totally goes against my overbearing, controlling nature 🙂 But I think it’s good for me and I’m learning to go with the flow. Anyway, this is the last of our free internet and hot showers for a while. Next post will be from…I don’t even know where!
Me being stupid-elevator-Seoul
Seoul is great so far. We are really enjoying it. We have been walking around everyday pretty much all day and the jet lag has been hard to shake off. Does that get harder as you get older? I don’t know. I don’t recall my mother or my in-laws being tired when visiting us in Japan-they were pretty much raring to go. But last night I slept through the night so I know I’ll feel much better today.
Hello Kitty Cafe!
The weather here has been gorgeous and we’ve been wearing t-shirts and no jackets everyday. It’s a lot more smoggy than I thought it would be and that took some getting used to but after the first couple of days, I didn’t notice it anymore. It was hard not to think of Japan, coming here and to draw comparisons even though I really didn’t want to. That is my main resource of Asian experience and being so close, I expected there to be some similarities. Living in Japan, you hear about Korea taking cues from the Japanese in areas of fashion, music etc. I’ve heard a few negative things about the people here that made me wonder what it would be like. But I’m happy to say, I was very pleasantly surprised. The people here are friendly and warm and in comparing Seoul to Tokyo, a bit more relaxed than Tokyoites. They seem to take a bit more time for socializing at lunch time, laughing and having fun. Fashion reigns supreme here but there is a bit more variation in the women here-there are girls here of all sizes and fashion to accommodate them!
I’m not saying people aren’t image/weight conscious here as they most certainly are, but just that you see a bit more individuality in the city here, or at least that’s my impression so far. Living in a city is very different from being a tourist so I’m sure there is a lot to learn. But so far we are really liking it here.
We have been to Bukchon Hanok Village which I really enjoyed but because some of our company at the time was less than desirable, I think we are going back there today so we can check it out further. It’s an amazing old village of hills and unique shops and cafes, independent designers and vintage stores. I loved it.
The food has been great here and while you definitely do not see much vegetarian food on a menu, we were surprised to find strictly vegan restaurants and restaurants willing to accommodate our requests.
Rice, pancake, tofu soup and makolli (korean rice wine)
We spent time the day before yesterday in Myeongdong, a huge shopping district and Namdaemun, a massive open street market. Yesterday we hung around our district a bit more, which is full of restaurants, shopping and bars. Seoul has a VERY active nightlife and it doesn’t seem to matter if it’s a weekday or weekend. People here are out drinking and socializing EVERY night.
You can check out my flickr set for more photos. I would have uploaded more but that little bit is already 1/2 of my one month space allotment. I think I need to change to another photo host that allows more space. I realize this post is a bit convoluted and all over the place-hopefully that will get better with practice!