Things You May Remember…

Just like any other “milestone” in life, when I think back over the past 9 months, there are things that I remember easily, and things that I really have to think about and am reminded of only when I look at pictures or read through my journal.

I just thought I’d share a few thoughts that you too, may remember if you travel (long term or short term).

You will remember the people you met along the way. Old friends, new friends, and even some angels; (I truly believe we met some angels along the way who helped us out a few times in our travels). You’ll remember meeting and making new friends over a drink of coffee; and you will remember sharing laughs, adventures and making new memories with old friends and family. You will remember sitting on trains and watching the world go by, and marveling at how beautiful it is. You will remember trying new food…some good, some not so good, but you will remember at least giving it a try, and you will also remember the foods you are going to miss when you get home.

You’ll remember hearing your kid say “it’s beautiful,” over and over again as he looks out the car window in different places. You’ll remember watching your kids go up and order food from people who don’t speak English, or pay for an item, or ask them a question. There is no hesitation for these two boys to go up and ask someone a question. (Today, a gentleman staying at the same hostel as us was wearing a rain jacket with hockey pads on over it…Jo immediately went over to ask why he was wearing the equipment. To which the man replied: “You must be Canadian, no one else knows what this is.” Which then led to about a half hour conversation between all of us, the man and then his friend, who just happened to live about a half hour away from us in Canada). Other times, the person doesn’t speak English, but they have a “conversation” anyways.

There are also quite a few things you won’t remember.

You won’t remember how much things cost. (Until you get home and see how much the line of credit is at 😉 hahahah.

You won’t remember going for two months without having a laundry machine, and handwashing your clothes for that entire time (well, Nathan might, since he’s the one that did all the washing….I did the hanging and drying 😉 )

You’ll forget thinking you’re going to die as you hike up the side of a mountain….5km straight up (okay, clearly I haven’t forgot that one….seriously….I thought we would never reach the top).

You’ll forget the frustration of trying to book transportation, sort out hotels, airbnbs, and all that fun stuff. Along with that, you will forget how you managed to communicate in a country where you didn’t speak, read or understand one word of the language. You just know you did it.

You’ll forget trying to find clothes that fit your growing kids in towns that don’t have malls or department stores. You will forget that after 9 months of wearing the same clothes, you got tired of them and wanted to toss them all, but kept them anyways, because it was the responsible thing to do (well, I don’t know if I’ll forget that, but I’m hoping I do 😉 )

And you will forget the long waits, the border crossings, and the transport delays that you encountered. You will only remember that you made it, and you did it, and it all worked out.

And after all that remembering and forgetting, you’ll want to do it all over again 🙂

Malaysia & Singapore

Hello everyone.  Hopefully you’re not tired of the updates 😉  Just on our way to New Zealand, so I am catching up on the blog, and then can relax and enjoy the ride 😉

We were on the “overnight” (or half night, whatever you want to call it 😉 ) train from Surat Thani, Thailand, to the border of Malaysia.  I woke up to the sound of Asian chatter coming through my curtain.  Fell back asleep until the train attendant came through and said he would be making the beds back into seats.  Dang.  Had to get up and face the day. We were travelling during Chinese New Years, which was one of the reasons we ended up leaving Thailand a few days earlier than planned.  Originally we were hoping to go back to Phuket to spend some time on the beach.  Then decided on Koh Samui, but by the time we got around to booking train tickets, all dates were booked after February 13. So we left Thailand a few days early and decided to check out Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for a few days.  We rented a nice Airbnb apartment with great views of the downtown area.

Anyways, back to the train.  We met a lovely young gentleman who led tour groups all around the world.  He was heading home to visit family for Chinese New Years.  He told us most people travel home to visit family for the weekend, and they bring presents and money, and it is a big family reunion.  It was very cool to hear about the holiday from a local.  When we got off the train in Thailand, and crossed the border into Malaysia, we met a few other tourists who were training it.  Unfortunately, they were heading west, and we were going south, but it was nice to have a coffee and chat with them while we waited for our train.

We boarded the Malaysian train, and again, were the only white people on it.  Definitely felt like the odd men out 😉  And can I also tell you that the air conditioners work quite well on those trains!  Seriously.  We had to dig out our blankets and sweatshirts because we were all freezing on that train!!!  We arrived in Kuala Lumpur, and were quite excited to see some North American coffee and fast food joints….I picked up an Auntie Annes pretzel, and we  grabbed a “grab” car (like uber), and headed to our apartment. So because we were heading closer to the equator, it was getting hotter and hotter outside!  We spent most of the time in KL walking around and checking out the local markets, malls and watching fireworks.  The boys didn’t go to sleep before midnight most nights because the fireworks were going off left, right and centre.  Very fun.

After 4 nights in KL, we took a bus down to Singapore.  We were only there for 3 nights, but met up with friends from a previous cruise the first day, and then hung out with family from my side on the second day.  It was cool seeing sights that were recommended by our friends, and enjoying hanging out and visiting while the kids played and had fun. Thanks for meeting us and taking time to show us around your beautiful city!!

Jo also had his 10th birthday on February 19.  He woke up to the hotel room being decorated by the birthday bunny (a family tradition), and even had some presents and cards to open from home.  He had a lot of phone calls, emails and WhatsApp messages to answer.  Thanks everyone for all the bday love you sent his way.  We managed to squeeze in some time at a waterpark, and then met up with my cousin and his family for dinner, a swim at their place, and then the night zoo.  It was an awesome day/evening, and we had a lot of fun catching up and hanging out with Greg and his fam.  Thanks for hosting us!!!  Can’t wait to see you back in Canada sometime 🙂

So that’s it for now.  After having an “easy” time of two cruises almost back to back, then having most things booked in Thailand, we were really not looking forward to getting back to “work,” and going solo down to Australia and New Zealand.  The thought of researching, booking, and trying to figure out rentals and such was really not appealing. We seriously debated heading back home on two more cruises through Asia and then home, but decided to stick with the original plan (after lots of discussion and talking with friends and fam) and head down to Australia.  And boy, are we ever so glad we did.  We have had a month of rest and relaxation, and have fallen in love with OZ.  Stay tuned for pics and posts from here.  Honestly, it felt like coming home….except for the driving on the opposite side of the road thing 😉 haha.

Alrighty, the boat is leaving the harbour, so I will post this before I lose my signal.  Have a great weekend everyone.  And happy St. Patrick’s Day!!!

 

Thailand Part 2

So we are in Sydney, Australia right now.  We are currently staying about an hour from the CBD (central business district).  We’ve had a rental car since being in Australia (3 weeks so far).  Today we met up with some friends that we made on one of the cruises, and decided to take public transit instead of driving down and trying to find/pay for parking.  As we were on the bus heading back home, I was zoned out in my own little world when I was surprised to find that I understood all the chatter and talking going on around me.  It was kind of a funny realization: I have gotten used to being on public transit and not understanding the language spoken around me 😉  So I guess it’s going to take a bit longer than 3 weeks to readjust to being back in English speaking countries.

Anyways, back to the second half of our visit to Thailand.  From Chiang Mai we took the train down to Bangkok.  It was a longer one (12 hours), but it was sooo pretty going through the jungle, mountains, rice fields, and then into Bangkok.  I also really enjoy travelling the way locals travel.  We were definitely the minority on the train, and it was cool to be served a meal of canned herring (some of us tried it, some of us didn’t try it, but I don’t think any of us finished it), meat and rice, and snacks of taro buns, coffee, soda, or water.  We arrived in Bangkok and stayed there for 5 nights.  We took taxis, rode commuter boats (they pack you in those suckers like sardines), walked and walked, and ate and had fun exploring with the Kinnis and Turners.  We had a day at the zoo, a day travelling up and down the river and checking out the markets, a day of chillaxing at the park and pool, and a day walking around downtownish….

Then it was on to another 12 hour train ride, this one overnight.  We booked second class tickets, and were each assigned our own berth in an open train car (not open air, but open seating).  Because the train was late leaving, as soon as we got on the train, the attendant was making up beds, and we were more than happy to climb into our selective bunks and have some nice down time.  It was really nice having our own space (hahah, you know you’ve been travelling a lot when you consider a bunk in a train car with a curtain around it a nice private space).  I pulled that pink curtain shut, started to write in my journal, only to wake up 11 hours later almost at our stop.   Gotta love being rocked to sleep by a train 😉  We took a bus, then a ferry, and then a taxi to an amazing little hotel/resort on Koh Samui, an island on the east side of Thailand.  It was gorgeous.  Amazing. place.  We ended up having two full days (arrived at 10am and left at 5pm the next day), and spent a few hours of each day at the beach.  We also walked around and checked out the area we were in (the quieter side of the island Mae Nam), which was awesome.  I would go back there in a second.  We had the beach almost to ourselves, and it really felt like a piece of paradise down there. A very nice rest before hitting the road again and heading to Malaysia.

The only train to Malaysia that we could find left the Surat Thani train station at 1am.  So we booked it and hoped we would still be awake when the train came through, and the station would be safe.  We considered renting a hotel until midnight, but Surat Thani is a small town, and there weren’t any hotels close to the train station.  I looked up tonnes of reviews of the station, and found a few by single females travelling who said it was safe, and they had no problems.  So  after leaving Koh Samui at 6pm, we got to the train station at around 9pm, and settled in for the wait.  It was HOT…open air train station, old station (no air conditioning, so electric outlets, no vending machines, open air toilets).  Just some plastic seats out in the open with some stray dogs wandering around, locals waiting for trains to come in, and lots of bugs.  It was a long wait…we didn’t have our usual electronic entertainment, since our iPads and phones were running low on juice and there was nowhere to charge them.  But we felt safe.  And it was kinda fun.  The police did a regular walk by, and there were guards on the other side of the tracks.  Every time a train was a few minutes away, one of the guards would run across the tracks and ring this HUGE bell and yell that the train was coming.  No automatic boards updating times here.  There was a chalk board that was updated by a lone female worker every hour or so.  Our train didn’t end up arriving until 3am.  We made some friends with a group of “kids” in their early 20s.  They weren’t sure if their bus was picking them up at 4am or 6am.  Jo had a nap and then chatted with them while we walked around in circles and tried to stay awake.  One of the policemen asked if he could get a picture with Jo (this has happened a couple of times in Thailand…the same with Jo’s cousin Roscoe).  I can’t tell you how tired we were when the train finally arrived.  We stumbled onto the train, crawled into our beds (yep, pink curtains for privacy again), and were asleep before the train even left the station.

So final thoughts on Thailand: We loved it.  We loved the food.  We loved the people we met.  We loved the flora, fauna and amazing, gorgeous beaches and water.  We loved meeting other tourists, but also loved meeting locals.  We loved bartering.  We had taxi drivers who spoke a little English, and some who spoke zero English (we used goolemaps and cellphones a LOT).  We can’t wait to go back and experience Thailand again some day 🙂

 

Thailand Part 1

So, it’s been awhile again. I think it’s because we have been relaxing, enjoying OZ land, and really feeling like we are on vacation this month.  Australia has been very comfortable, and it really does feel like we are on vacation, instead of “travelling.” (I will write about the difference in another post 😉 ). We are on the homestretch, and just chillaxing and enjoying being back in an English speaking country.  Anyways, enough about Australia, I bet you are all dying to hear about Thailand, so here goes 🙂

We were in Thailand for 3 weeks. We arrived in Phuket at the end of January, leaving 2 days early from the cruise, and stayed overnight there. I think it was a good place to start, because Phuket is super touristy, and we weren’t as overwhelmed as if we had been in a non-English/touristy place. It was an easy transition into Thai life, and as we left the ship (after saying goodbye to good friends and great staff), we wandered through town to drop our suitcases at the hotel, and then went back to the beach for the afternoon. If you have ever seen pictures of Phuket, it is every bit as beautiful as the pictures look. Seriously. Typical beachy, touristy area, but oh so gorgeous. We had a relaxing afternoon at the beach, and then spent the evening wandering around and trying out the local food: pad thai. So good. We found a food stall on the side of the road, ordered up two plates, and ate in an alleyway where some tables and chairs where set up. We had arrived 😉 A few things that stuck out to us were the pop bottles full of gas being sold at roadside stands. These were for scooters and motorbikes. We also noticed the thai fighting advertising trucks driving around. Jo said: “I’ve seen those on TV!!” Also, we were impressed with the motorcycles with bbqs attached to them. People would wave them down, the driver would stop, and then cook up whatever the person ordered. Looked good, but it was our first night, so we decided not to push it with trying out too much new food.  Anyways, even though we were only there for 24 hours, we felt like we had a good introduction to Thailand by starting here.

We had made plans awhile ago to meet up with Nathan’s brother and family in Chiang Mai, about 20 hours north of Phuket, so we took our first flight of the trip from Phuket up to Chiang Mai. It was just under two hours, and we were completely surprised that we got a hot meal and snacks on such a short flight. The time flew (haha) and we landed in Chiang Mai and headed over to the hotel where we met up with Jeremy, Carmen, Aria, Roscoe, Tom and Phyllis (Carmen’s parents). Sooooo good to see family again; especially in one of the places we were anticipating would be the hardest to navigate.  We were helping out at an international workers conference, and I really can’t tell you how good it was to hang out with family and new friends for almost a week.  We took songthaews (red trucks with benches in the back like a taxi), ate street food, went to night markets, got a Thai massage (sooo funny, but that’s a story for another time), and had a blast enjoying it all with family. Chiang Mai is another place that I highly recommend if you’re heading to Thailand. Almost everyone spoke English, and we didn’t run into any major issues or problems.  So the first week was at the conference, and then we moved over to another area of Chiang Mai.

We spent a day driving up into the mountains, and checked out a mountain village.  So many stalls/vendors, and so much stuff.  It was crazy.  And cool to see the village.  We saw an outdoor school, lots of greenery, coffee bean plants, and some waterfalls.  The ride up in the songthaew was bumpy and at times felt a little like being on a rollercoaster, but it was all part of the Thai experience 🙂  We stopped at the royal palace on the way back down, and also a way (temple).  It was an amazing day of exploring and experiencing true Thai culture.

Bartering is pretty much a given everywhere (even on songthaews, you barter with the driver), except in stores.  We didn’t really go into too many stores, except 7-11’s which are EVERYwhere.  Seriously.  Like every block has one.  We drank slurpees almost every day.  Not only because they were reminders of home, but because it was so hot here.  (Notice my frizzy hair in most of the pics ? haha).

We also took a day and went to an elephant sanctuary.  We got to feed the elephants, have a mud bath with them, and then rinse them off in the river.  It was awesome, and something we will never forget.  Such gentle animals, and so cool to be so close to them and have a few hours interacting up close and personal with them.

Then we spent another day just wandering around the area, and checking things out in the neighbourhood we were staying in.  We ate at some restaurants, but we also ate at food stands on the side of the road.  It was all super cheap, and we figured we’d take the chance and hope our stomachs didn’t rebel a few hours later.  Not sure if it was taking the ducarol all those months ago before we left, or just really good cooking, but our stomachs survived, and we made it through Thailand without any major gastrointestinal issues (sorry if that’s TMI).

I really wish we could pack you all up and bring you all with us. But, the next best thing is meeting up with friends and family along the way.  Honestly, when you are in another country….especially one as foreign as Asia, it is so, so good to see familiar faces and have co-travelers with you for awhile, and to know that we weren’t on our own for a couple weeks.  Thanks so much for letting us tag along on your Thai adventure Jeremy, Carmen, Aria, Roscoe, Tom and Phyllis. We really had a blast, and can’t believe all the things we saw in such a short time!  Our next 3 year anniversary is gonna be crazy!!

And to all of you for “travelling” with us and reading along…it’s almost as good as having you here with us as well, with the comments, emails and messages you all send.  We were just talking about that the other day.  How it’s been 8 months, but really doesn’t feel that long.  And I know that we missed out on a year of things at home, but it still doesn’t feel like we haven’t seen our friends for that long.  Social media, WhatsApp, messenger, and phone calls have all helped us feel like we’re still in touch with friends and family at home.  Anyways, that’s it for part 1 of Thailand.  I’ll try to get Part 2 up in the next couple days 🙂  As always, thanks for taking the time to read!