Freedom

It’s been a long time since i’ve written a diary entry on my site, I think since coming back from my four month travel expedition I’ve been so busy with ‘life’ in general, I haven’t really allowed my self time to reflect and write.

I have been through a very perplexing month in view of my life choices. I’m nearly twenty and although I am very aware that I am still young, I’ve been stumbling on choices that will lead me to different adventures and it’s been to hard to pin point what I really want. I’ve always wanted to study English Literature and Language at some point in my life. I’ve known that for a while, but since being back home I’ve just wanted to run off to different countries and have crazy adventures. With a lot of deliberation I came up with ideas like studying in Australia, or working in New Zealand for a year by myself. However in reality – I need to go to university.

I have a placement at Bath Spa university which starts in September. I worked so hard to achieve my A-Levels to get this place and I nearly threw it all away for another country. What I never realised was that I don’t HAVE to go on the other side of the world to get the relaxation I am yearning after.
This was achieved by jetting off to Amsterdam for a quick few days away. My friend and I planned nothing, just bought some flights for £70. That money could have been spent on a train up to London let alone a flight to another country. Once I was there, my shoulders dropped and my smile came back. A very relaxed, happy state of mind I seem to only gain from travelling.

Why am I saying this? The point is, I’ve missed out on Europe. Europe is such a beautiful and diverse place that I completely dismissed. I don’t have to go on a twelve hour flight to the other side of the world to feel like I am travelling, I have the whole world on my door step. So with that, Eloise and I have booked another trip to Switzerland to see our travel buddies. I can’t wait! It’s amazing the motivation it gives you.

I’ve also stopped worrying about money twenty-four-seven. Let’s be honest, as long as you are not silly and use your money wisely (like paying bills ect) and keeping some aside, you really can do anything. You don’t have to have thousands to travel, just a couple of quid for flights, fun and trains really. Let’s be honest, if I’m surrounded by the mountains of Switzerland I hardly care if I have a pristine double en-suit bedroom. Give me a bed on a floor and I am happy!

Including Switzerland that’s 8 countries in 8 months (from January to August) Not bad eh?

I’ve been awake for a few hours already when my mum walks into my room:

“Lil, you have a postcard from Bali”

I sit up from my comfy bed with a perplexed face.

“Bali?”

I reach over to grab the postcard from my mum and notice the cliche sunrise photographed on the front with big, bold and white writing stating “Bali” I flip it over to find stamps marking Indonesia, Singapore and England. Still puzzled, I read the sprawled handwriting and a huge grin appears across my face.

My friend David from Austria, who I met whilst travelling in Vietnam and Cambodia has sent me a postcard! He remembered!

I originally asked him to write me a postcard after seeing him write some for his friends in Cambodia. I wrote down my address thinking he would probably forget, but low and behold – he didn’t! 

Honestly made my day, a few handwritten words and now I can’t stop smiling. People like him, friends like him – are worth so much.

Today is going to be a good day!

Sun, Sea, Sand and Tuk Tuks

Here are some recent updates since leaving Vietnam. I haven’t had access to a computer for a while so I’ve been avoiding the updates but as I have one here now let’s go – writing from Phnom Penh.

Eloise and I departed Ho Chi Minh city after meeting with some awesome people. It was the first time in a long time that we would have to be on our own and leave our settled group, something we both were prepared to do but weren’t all that happy about it. Despite this, we left a waving Sasha and Aiden goodbye as we drove off into the night on a very hot, stuffy journey. Probably the worst night bus we’ve had actually, I was cramped in a very small place on a double bed with Eloise and no air-con. Thankfully we travel in a two, who knows who I would have ended up cuddling for the travel. However, you just have to manage when you’re traveling so we both challenged ourselves to duck down and sleep off a few hours of the journey – we ended up at the Cambodian boarder around 5.00am and sorted our visas very easily, something we both just wanted done as quick and with as little stress as possible.

After having such a fun, hectic and crazy few weeks in Vietnam we were both longing for the quiet sands of the coast. With that, we both almost ran to Otres Beach in Sihanoukville (south coast of Cambodia). We got there earlier than expected and were greeted by a gorgeous and heartwarming sunset on the beach. The sea sparkled as light reflected off of its skin and the sand felt like a home comfort in between my toes. With a huge smile, I dropped my bag in the bamboo dorm and read a book for about three hours while the sea stroked the shore…

We ended up staying for three nights until we jetted off in a tiny minibus to Kampot. I loved Kampot, it was a very small and pretty town, despite not much really ‘happening’ it was so nice to relax – this is when I realised Cambodia is all about relaxation. The Khmer people really are beautiful, they are all so loving and all hold such a kind nature. It was a brilliant break from mad Vietnamese people. Our hostel was made of treehouses, bamboo bungalows and huts by the river. I saw the biggest beetle I’ve ever seen in my life there…along with a funky blue lizard and some funny frogs. Anyway, we stayed there a night when Eloise said that Sasha was arriving in Kampot the following day, which led to an unexpected reunion of forces. The two guys that were traveling with Sasha also joined us (Jan and David) who are both super lads and good fun to be with and to be honest David is the most amazing guy i ever met or maby traveled with i realy have to admire he ist a genuis and eloise favorit and i want a baby from jan:P. I have not met anyone who didn’t fell in love with David at first sight. (this post has been defiled by a crazy Austrian man, David.) . After returning home from a day of cycling, another joined us. Aiden arrived at the hostel and we all ran to him with big smiles and hugs, it was like seeing an old friend again – I admittedly missed his sarcasm. All we needed was Caio back from Wales and it would be like Vietnam all over again..
After a few chilled nights and one hectic one which led to watching a sunrise – we said our goodbyes to Kampot and left to go back to Otres Beach which was great as Eloise and I both wanted to go back there already.

I think we all stayed in Otres for about 5 days? We also were joined by our lovely aus friend Dom who is an absolute angel. We stormed the beach with volleyballs, sunburn and lying down all day, it was so beautiful..
We also ended up at one of the last jungle raves which was a full night of dancing, drinking and running around until 6.00am. Another sunrise to add to the journey…

Today we are in the capital ‘Pearl of Asia’. I can’t say that I love the city as it’s very cluttered with rubbish and construction sites, however we’ve had a very interesting day visiting the tourist sites of Phnom Penh. The genocide museum and Killing Fields really struck a heart string for me – the Khmer people and Cambodia itself went through so much under the rule of the Khmer Rouge. Seeing bones and clothes of real people lying in the fields really shows the true atrocities of war and killing, it was so surreal and really disturbing; something that has to be seen with your own eyes to really empathize with these people. I donated some money and lit an incense stick and prayed for the victims, for peace and for my own family and friends. Nobody deserves to be put in situations like that, even in the genocide museum some of the rooms really made me shiver, real people were tortured in those rooms only forty odd years ago – horrifying. Yet it was very interesting and enlightening to learn more about a country and the culture it holds.

That’s mainly the updates for now, currently waiting for the night bus to Siem Reap. I am so excited to see Angkor Wat and all of the old temples, one of my top to do’s in Asia is Angkor and it’s happening in the next few days! I am also with some incredible people who make me feel so privileged to be in such an interesting place with them. Home is creeping up, something like nine days now until I’m back in the UK, crazy times indeed.
I’ve just learnt so much and I love it all – can’t wait for a cuddle with my dogs though. Also a pasty and a pint of ale….or seven.

Peace

Cheerleader

I’ve had such a glorious few days…

The gang rented mopeds and we rode from Hue to Hoi An. It took a full day which included a lot of unwanted activities: like falling off of a moped. Only an hour or so in combined with some awful dirt roads and a Vietnamese lorry driver resulted in Aiden coming off, swiftly followed by Eloise and I. If anything we were very lucky to come away with scratches, grazes and cuts – no broken bones or bikes! Sasha also suffered with a punctured tyre but we were saved by some locals at a restaurant we stopped to eat at. I love how the Vietnamese are always willing to help with mopeds and bikes local or tourist.

Once we were sorted and wrapped in bandages we had the most amazing drive. We pedded to the Hai Van Pass (As seen and most known due to Top Gear) and it was breathtaking, one of the best days of Vietnam despite the mishaps. The road is like “A ribbon of perfection” as described by many bikers – I’m so fortunate to experience it all. So many beautiful greens, blues from the lake and sky and the glorious misty mountains ahead. I can still remember that moment when I couldn’t stop smiling to myself under my helmet, now that’s a moment that will stay with me forever.

Currently typing from a hostel in Hoi An, I have really enjoyed visiting this lovely city. The ancient Hoi An markets and streets at night are beautiful, pathways are lit with lanterns of various colours, fairy lights, candles, the lot. The river reflects all the different colours and lights doubling the beauty. We’ve met more great people and also bumped into some older traveller friends from Hanoi which was so much fun and a suprise! This is why I love travelling, despite only knowing these people for a few days you become friends and end up meeting in different places when your routes combine or twine together, you end up treating them like old friends. It’s such a beautiful thing – I’ve learnt so much about relationships and friendships from others and simply being around so many different cultures. Even in our group I am amazed by all of the achievements and adventures they’ve all had separately – Aiden having worked for wildlife conservation in South Africa for a year, Caio was mugged four times (even with guns and knives) yet he still persevered and travelled with a big grin, and just so many more. I even met a fellow writer, it was so lovely to talk about writing with someone so clever. He really understood about inspiration and new themes of writing – I’ve taken away some tips and hints from him.

Also, being in tailor city I’ve had a few pieces of clothing tailored for me which is so cool. I have a new playsuit, jumpsuit and bikini all made with my size and preference. I even chose the material! I love it so much.

Off to Dalat tomorrow – I can’t get enough of Vietnam.

The reason why this post is called Cheerleader is because it’s such a fun song and reminds me of certain people and memories…

“Oh I think that I’ve found myself a cheerleader..”

1-haivan1pm8Hoi-An-Da-Nang-Map 1-haivan1pm8 11169023_10205885557714514_485372835_n11156784_10205885554874443_1222336093_n

Sa Pa and Beyond

After an amazing five days in Sapa hiking and living with the locals in the mountains, my eyes are tired and warn out from constantly flinging open in alert, as the sleeper bus angrily jolts around corners. Eloise adjacent to me also struggles to sleep, while Sasha squeezed in the corner of his seat, he tosses and turns to seek out some sort of comfort on the hard leather. Caio and Aiden from the beds above us complain about the lack of leg room and we all hope for the arrival of Hanoi’s busy streets. I take a deep breath, cuddle into my scarf and fall into a deep, uneasy sleep.

Suddenly I am awoken to the Vietnamese bus driver shouting loudly that it is our stop. Scrambling our possessions together we all hop off the bus one by one: Aiden, Caio, Eloise and I grab our bags, but hang on a minute, where’s Sasha?
We collect Sasha’s bag for him and wait on the road. As we organise ourselves and haul on our luggage, the bus drives off into the distance with Sasha still as a passenger. We all stand there struck by the fact he didn’t have enough time to jump off and we all assume he’ll have to get off at the next stop. Worried, Aiden takes all extra 15kg of Sasha’s belongings and we wearily trudge to the Vietnam Backpacker’s hostel with Eloise leading the way. It’s dark, we are all exhausted and we’ve managed to loose Sasha in the matter of five minutes.

As we arrive to the hostel we head straight up to the 5th floor lounge to try and sleep as there’s no point in checking in. We are all planning to head South the following evening (another sleeper bus to look forward too). Eloise momentarily gets a call from Sasha explaining that he had lost his passport briefly and discovered it hiding under his seat. With a sigh of relief we all can relax and wait for him to join us. I spot a sofa and run gleefully into it’s open arms and grab my blanket, slowly allowing the night to seep into my eyes. Nearby chatting and snores filter out of my mind as I finally fall asleep..

Despite the journey being annoyingly tiring, I have had such a brilliant week. I was so glad to leave Hanoi for a while because the craziness of it’s streets were echoing in my head. The beeping, dodging of moving traffic and constant grabbing from business women was starting to get me. In realisation of this, I headed to Sa Pa for five days, and had one of the best experiences of my trip so far. Not only did I spend a whole day on a moped driving around the gorgeous mountains, through clouds, visiting rice fields and new towns, we also stayed with a local tribe’s woman for two days.

Her name was pronounced Su-Ling (I’m unsure of how to spell it) and she was such a beautiful lady. She picked us up from the hostel and we walked to her village. We ventured through dirt tracks, through small woods, across bridges and into the mountains. The views were breathtaking, it felt as if I was in a movie. We met a lot of villagers along the way of all ages, I noticed the large numbers of small children that were covered in mud, running around holding bamboo but always giggling away. They shouted ‘Hello!” at us and carried on playing in the trees: what a childhood.

Su-Ling answered our many questions about her culture and the surroundings as we passed through, we were located only 7km away from China’s very own boarder. We were all very pleased to find out that the villages had schools, a clinic and an excellent community. People and animals lived in harmony together with no fences or separate living areas. It was the first time in Asia that I had seen such profound creatures, moths bigger than my hands, colourful butterflies, tiny pigs, dogs that resembles wolves, small cats, cute chicks, big buffalo, playful puppies, and even a snake or two. Eloise also seemed to attract the hugest bumble bees and orange beetles with her bright yellow top which always caused a few laughs.

Once we arrived at the homestay we all settled in very quickly. The darkness crept upon us and before we knew it, it was already the evening. Su-Ling introduced her husband, her two small children and her neighbours from a near-by tribe. The house was simple, made of a mix of raw stone floors, bamboo walls and wooden doors. The family cooked vegetables on an open fire and we all helped make spring rolls while our bellies yearned for the tasty food to come.

Within half an hour, we were all sat around the outside table. Plates of chicken, pork, beef, rice, spring rolls, smoked garlic cabbage, boiled cabbage, tomato tofu, soup and more were squeezed onto the table and everyone’s eyes widened. Chopsticks at the ready, we all dug in to such a wonderful feast. I think they were the best spring rolls and tofu I had ever had, all traditionally executed by a joint family effort. I really enjoyed what Su-Ling had told me previously – she said how as the female she was the one that acted as the breadwinner and went out to work, while her husband stayed at home looking after the children. As a feminist this delighted me, to see that women can earn money for their family even in a tribe in the middle of the mountains that owns such a strong history of culture and tradition.

With full stomachs, the ‘happy water’ was brought out to play. Happy water is homemade alcohol named rice wine, fermented in a week or two process in rice water which has been boiled and cooled several times. Taken in shots, we all shout ‘cheers’ (pronounced Zh-yoe) in their tribal language. After twelve shots I think everyone did indeed start to feel happy.

The following day we woke up to another beautiful spread of pineapple, bananas, pancakes and local honey. Heads rather sore we slurped down our coffees and geared ourselves up for a beautiful day of hiking. Breathtaking views (by breathtaking I mean it, I struggled up those long uphill mountain tracks..) we ventured through such wonderful areas that made me appreciate nature even more. While we lagged, Su-Ling simply armed with an umbrella to shelter from the sun barely even took an extra breath; this was her life and her job. Despite standing at a mean 4”10 she was a very hardy lady who knew her footing well and I couldn’t help but ask her millions of questions. She even said I was rather tall – that’s something new to experience.

After a day of hiking it was time to be dropped back to the hostel. Brimming with hugs and thanks, we gave our appreciation to Su-Ling for letting us stay with her, she really was an amazing tour guide – I loved the fact that I didn’t feel like a tourist but like a friend. I’ve always wanted to experience something like this, and I am just so happy that I was fortunate enough to be with a group of awesome people and have such a trip under my nose. This will certainly stay with me forever: including the number of times I had to say “No thanks! Not today, Nope!” to cheeky women trying to sell me purses, fabrics and jewelry, all apart of the fun of Asia.

We are currently in Hanoi and have our bus all booked ready for another adventure. I managed to buy some paints for only 15,000 VND which is roughly 50p, so that’ll be good fun to add to my diary. I think it’s time for a spot of lunch now while Eloise heads off to the famous and weird, Vietnamese Water Puppet show. Who knows what to expect?

11136965_10205870870958121_1839880104_n 15830_10205838266452262_7187429319200991934_n10552576_10205838265612241_6371935323545922699_n1613857_10204888017894727_3346420228237330822_n