Raw Macaroons

blog (14)Raw Macaroons:

3 C. Shredded Coconut (unsweetened)

1/2 C.Coconut Oil

1 C. Honey

 

1. Mix everything together.
2. Taste test and adjust accordingly. (This ratio is to my preference…)
3. Press mixture into a Tablespoon, or small measuring scoop (as I’ve done.)
4. Store in fridge. Enjoy!

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Veggie Burgers

Vegan Burgers

Vegan Burgers

As mentioned before in previous posts, I’ve been looking for a way to incorporate the pulp used from making raw juices. Well, here we are with veggie burgers.

Vegan Burgers:
Preheat oven to 400ºF. This recipe calls for veggie pulp. It can be anything from beets, carrots, celery, spinach etc. it’s your personal preference.

Veggie Burgers-115 oz. (1 can) Organic re-fried beans
2 tbsp. Dijon mustard
2 c. Veggie pulp (I used pulp from carrots, beets, spinach, kale and celery)
1/2 tsp. Parsley
1/2 tsp. Oregano
1/4 tsp. Cumin
2 tsp. Cajun seasoning
1/2 c. Oats
1/2 tsp. Coconut oil (melted)
1 c. Pumpkin seeds (ground)

Get your hands in there and mix everything together. On a baking sheet lined with wax paper, portion out 6-8 patties. Bake for 8-10 minutes then flip them over and bake for another 15 minutes. The pulp I used was quite moist so I turned the oven off and let the patties sit for an additional 10 minutes. Store in the fridge.

Optional: You can fry the patties if you prefer that to baking. Using 2 tbsp. coconut oil, fry each side for about 5 minutes.

Vegan Chili

Vegan Chili

Vegan Chili

Alright folks. Here it is, the best chili you’ve ever had. Jack made this, it’s delicious and out of all the ones I’ve had; my favourite. Personally, I think it’s even better the day after. Either way, I wish you some delicious eating.

Vegan Chili:
You’ll need 1 tbsp. Olive oil on hand and a large pot.

Vegan Chilli-11 med. Yellow onion (diced)
1 c. Carrots (shredded)
2  Thai chilies (minced)
3 Garlic cloves (minced)
1/2 c. Vegetable stock
1/2 c. Barley
2 tbsp. Chili powder
1 tbsp. Cumin
2 c. Tomatoes (diced)
1½ c. Tomato sauce
2 c. Kidney beans (if canned; drained and rinsed)
2 c. Black beans (if canned; drained and rinsed)
Pinch of salt
1 tsp. Cinnamon
1 tbsp. Brown sugar

On a med-high heat sauté the onions for 1 minute in olive oil. Add carrots, sauté until onions become translucent. Add in garlic and chilies. Stir continuously (garlic likes to stick and burn) for about 2-3 minutes.
Now add veg stock, barley, chili powder and cumin and turn heat up to high. Stir and cook off stock for about 5 minutes.
After 5 minutes, turn heat down to a low-med and add the rest of the ingredients. Keep stirring. After another 5 minutes (or until heated through), cover with lid and turn heat down to a low simmer for about 45-60 minutes. (Optionally top with vegan cheese).
Serves 5.

Raw Protein Bars

Quick, easy, healthy and loaded with protein… =}

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Raw Protein Bars:Raw Protein Bars   MyFitnessPal.com

Wet:
1 C. Sunflower seed butter
1 C. Pumpkin seed butter
6 T. Honey
4 Bananas (mashed)

Dry:
1 C. Sunflower seeds
1 C. Pumpkin seeds (ground)
1/2 C. Pumpkin seeds (coarsely chopped)
1/2 C. Chia seeds
1/2 C. Hemp hearts
1/2 C. Flax seeds
1 C. Coconut (shredded)
4 T. Cacao Powder
Pinch of sea salt

1. Mix all dry ingredients into one large bowl.
2. Using whatever kind of mixer you have, purée bananas and all other wet ingredients in a separate bowl.
3. Stir wet ingredients in with the dry, until thoroughly mixed.
4. Line 2 9×9 inch baking pans with wax paper and pour mixture evenly.
5. Freeze for 1-2 hours, until solid.
6. For this recipe I cut each pan into 25 bars. Enjoy!

**Optional Topping:
3 T. Dark chocolate (warmed on low heat and drizzled over top.) I like doing this when making recipe w/o cacao.

*Due to melting, serve frozen and keep in freezer.

Seasoned Tomatoes & Roasted Garlic

Delightful in sandwiches, with crackers and humus or on the side with broiled tomatoes; roasted garlic always has a place on my plate.blog (1)

Roasted Garlic:
Preheat oven to 425°F.

1-2 Garlic bulbs (or, as many as you’d like)
Olive oil

Peel all but the inner most layers, from the bulb. Cut off the top end, exposing the cloves. Drizzle or dip in olive oil, coating the top of the bulb. Wrap in tin foil and place on the mid/lower rack in the oven for 30-45 minutes. Until golden and tender.
Once finished unwrap tinfoil carefully (it will be hot) and let cool before tasting.

Seasoned Tomatoes:
Turn oven to Broil. You’ll need a muffin tray, or any cookie sheet/cake pan will do.

3 Tomatoes (or, as many as you’d like)Seasoned Tomatoes
Salt
Olive oil
Pepper
Dijon mustard
Cajun seasoning
Garlic powder
So you’ve just roasted your garlic and it’s cooling on the side…

Cut all your tomatoes in half, across the core. Drizzle olive oil on the open-faced tomatoes, add salt and pepper (how much is personal preference). Lightly coat with garlic powder and Cajun seasoning. Last, spread 1/2 tsp of Dijon mustard gently on top. Broil for 20-30 minutes. (Optionally, top with vegan parmesan).

Plate on fresh spinach with your roasted garlic on the side. Mmmmm!

Vegan Pumpkin Muffins

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Vegan Coconut Carrot & Oat Pumpkin Muffins

I made these out of a few different ideas combined. Taking 3 different muffin ideas and putting them together with a carrot cake idea; I’ve officially baked something delicious.

It makes 12 but let me to warn you, they’re best when hot! 15 minutes out of the oven, and I didn’t have any left to package up =}

Vegan Coconut Carrot & Oat Pumpkin Muffins:
Preheat oven to 400°F. Grease the muffin pan with coconut oil, or use muffin pan liners. I cut individually sized squares from a sheet of wax paper.

Coconut Pumpkin MuffinsDry:
1 c. Old-fashioned rolled oats
1 c. Whole wheat flour
1/2 c. Shredded/Flaked coconut
1½ tsp. Baking powder
1/4 tsp. Baking soda
1/2 tsp. Ginger
1 tsp. Cinnamon
1/4 tsp. Nutmeg
1/4 tsp. Cloves
1/4 tsp. Allspice
Mix all dry ingredients in a bowl and set aside.

Wet:
1/4 c. Coconut milk (rice/almond/soy)
1 tsp. Apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp. Pumpkin seed butter
15 oz. (1 can) Pumpkin purée
1 Carrot (shredded)
1/4 tsp. Salt
1 tbsp. Molasses (coconut palm nectar/honey)
1/2 c. Raw sugar
2 tbsp. Coconut oil (melted)
Mix the vinegar with the milk to allow mild curdling.

Stir the pumpkin seed butter, pumpkin purée, salt and molasses together with the milk/vinegar duo. Add in the sugar, and the coconut oil last. Gradually add wet ingredients to dry ingredients, careful not to over-mix. Muffins will not rise much, so fill your muffin trays with 1½ tbsp. of batter.
Bake ~20 minutes, or until toothpick test comes out clean. If you like muffins warm and gooey, do not exceed 20 minutes. Makes 12 muffins.
*Optional: Top them off with crushed walnuts, almonds, coconut, pumpkin seeds or cinnamon sugar.

Juicin’ & Bakin’

So we’re at two weeks of being on a Vegetarian diet. I do have one complaint; nobody told me how much gas you get as a Vegan/Vegetarian. It’s ridiculous. I’ve never farted so much in my life. So that’s one thing I’ve learned so far on this colourful food journey; Vegans are a gassy bunch.

Another thing I’ve started to figure out is that I’m much more willing to trying out my limited cooking skills, with raw ingredients. Sure there’s some soup stock and broiled tomato action going on, but the options for creating something fresh and raw are endless. Using a microwave, boiling (or burning), or baking (burning) to eat our food as often as we do can have it’s downsides. By incorporating raw foods, we receive far more nutrients than we would’ve cooking it off.

This is where I grant myself points for the use of a juicer, but what else can you do with raw produce, other than make salads? I was curious about the pulp left over from the fruit and veggie concoctions. Couldn’t I use the pulp to make muffins, or a ‘meatloaf’, maybe even a veggie burger? I felt determined; there had to be a way of using it for more recipes.

Here’s what I found: granola bars, muffins, fruit leathers, pizza crusts, face masks, crackers and more.

Hello Energy, I love you.

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Vegetable, lentil and barley stew.

It’s been my very first week as a vegetarian. On February 9th, I made the conscious decision to rule out my former guilty pleasures in exchange for new and improved ones. Ones that still able me to get up after eating, rather than crave a soft landing or a toilet. That shouldn’t suggest that every time I ate meat I was lethargic and bloated. Instead, more often than not I got hungry after an hour or so from stuffing my face and went back for seconds, (thirds).

I could put back ten pieces of bacon or a pound of ground beef in a single sitting. (Am I kidding? No.) Who can say they don’t feel bad for the last few pieces of bacon that sit in their lonesome in the fridge, while the rest of the pack gets devoured? And who is honestly going to deny that giant meat balls stuffed with cheese aren’t better than a pathetic scattered few lumps in spaghetti? Well, lie to yourselves all you want but we all know I’m right. 😉

Now, after adjusting my intake I’m still eating as often but what I’m eating satisfies me without that empty hunger coming back. I’m feeling good. Bring on the spinach, beans, broccoli, brussel sprouts and cabbage! Done right, they’re GD delicious. ‘Hello Energy, I love you!’

Beetroot burger, with spinach, cucumber, sprouts & goat cheese.

Beetroot burger, with spinach, cucumber, sprouts & goat cheese.

It seems like a shame that I never got into the kale chips everyone started making – I just don’t get the appeal. The only way I can seem to get kale down, is when it’s hidden in a smoothie or juice.
Even if some of the healthier super foods aren’t your favourite, using smoothies and juices to get your daily vitamins can have huge benefits. All the nutrition without the hassle, while only craving the good foods the rest of the day. Being healthy is great, but throwing something with a bit of flav’a into your kale, hemp, parsley, beet juice is only fair. Ginger, carrot and mint are a nice way to cut out bitterness, also cranberries and pomegranate juice as well.

I’ve never been much of a cook – rather, I never put the time into making anything that interesting. It doesn’t help that I fear the oven. So what better way to cook than using raw food recipes? A few worthy websites (to aid my lack of variation), have helped my vegan-side evolve.

Goodbye Bacon, I love you.

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A typical non-vegetarian breakfast you were likely to get at my place, pre-2014.

If you were a child growing up in my family, you learned that if you couldn’t finish your meal, you’d better finish your meat. Following that, have 5-10 mouthfuls of whatever vegetables you had left and drink your milk. I’ve been a fan of meat all my life. Other than at a Vegan BBQ, I can’t think of a single occasion where steak is a bad entrée choice – until now.

What’s the change of heart? Well, thanks to the accessible Netflix, I’ve been privileged to catch a few documentaries about our environment, common health issues and what the latest nutrition trends are. Some of what you can find on TV are: ‘Vegucated, ‘Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead‘, ‘Farmageddon‘,’Food, Inc.‘, ‘Simply Raw: Reversing Diabetes in 30 Days‘, ‘Food Matters‘ and ‘Meet your Meat‘. While I struggled to care about all the people chosen for interviews, the lack of respect to our fellow animal friends and the facts about mass meat-production are hard to ignore. The footage used over and over has definitely scarred my conscience – and I’m thankful for it.

I’m at the mere beginning of this new lifestyle and truly interested as to where I’ll fall on the spectrum from Carnivore – Vegan. I’ve always loved my bacon, butter and cheese. This will be the first time I’ve ever denied myself those pleasures. Even though I’m keen now, I don’t deny the process being a struggle.

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A typical non-vegetarian breakfast you were likely to get at my place, pre-2014.

Effective immediately, I’m ruling out the big ones; beef, pork and poultry. (Goodbye Bacon, I love you). I can gladly turn down eggs, but the oh-so-adaptable chicken might prove difficult.
After a few weeks of recording my weight, energy, blood pressure and state of mind, I’ll adjust the diet further. If everything transitions smoothly, I’ll then remove all fish from my diet along with dairy.

I’m not keen to go as far as rejecting my wool socks just yet but I think being privy to what’s going on is what’s most important. Living with moderation and improving my personal health are what’s imperative. The next move is taking action for bigger change. It’s time to talk the talk and walk the walk.

 

Ch. 15: Heading Back to Canada.

So now we’re back. It’s hard to believe.

As predicted, sleep was very hard to come by on that last day. However, the weather remained beautiful right to the last minute. Lomprayah took care of us completely, as we made all our connections without effort.
We got into Bangkok around 9:30pm on the 16th and found a cab that would take us to the airport for 600B. We could have pulled more money to stay overnight in a hotel but thought we’d go cheap on this last stretch of travel and stay overnight at the airport. After all, we’d have to check into our gate around by am anyhow.

Well, even though you’d think we’d have no issues being at the airport already, we were wrong. Sitting happily, down a quiet corridor in the Bangkok International Airport, reading our books and taking naps here and there, it happened. I started to feel disoriented. Tunnel vision, short breaths, a cold sweat and little timing to tell Jack what was going on.
I remember him saying he was going to get water and find some chips for me. (The salt helps). But what I remember next, is him sitting right in front of me coaching me through my delirium, complete with water, chips and a coffee. He’d apparently been gone for about 10-15 minutes and I wasn’t sure he’d even left yet. I was blacking out continuously for a good hour. It wasn’t too long before I could sit upright, but still feeling uneasy and unsure of whether I should stand or not. As soon as we could, we went to check-in so that we could get comfortable on the other side without any worry of missing the flight.
I caught my nerve again once we started walking around. We did some last-minute gift shopping, grabbed a bite and made our way to our gate.

With a 21 hour flight ahead of us, a 6 hour wait at the airport and a sleepless 13 hour transfer to get there, I knew we weren’t going to come by sleep easily. Thankfully security didn’t touch the Valium or Xanax in my purse going through, because we looked endlessly for Gravol and failed.

Once on-board we each took one. He went out like a light for the first 14 hours of the flight and I, didn’t. After waiting 6  hours to be lulled into a drug-induced sleep, I popped another Valium and closed my eyes. Nothing was happening. Jack woke up with about 5 hours left of flight left and offered me his other Xanax. Without a second thought I threw it back and didn’t wake up again until the flight attendant touched my arm to raise my seat for landing – awesome.

Canadian customs have changed since the last time I flew. It would’ve been 2009 the last time I came through those gates and lined up with all the other minions to get cleared before waiting around for baggage. Now, there’s a system where you check in from your flight through a kiosk, get a receipt and line up separately from the other nationalities coming through. Without issue, we gave the receipt to the border control agent along with our passports. A stamp and a ‘thank you’ later, we went to claim our bags.

Just 24 hours earlier and we were in Thailand. Now we were sitting on the floor of Vancouver International Airport, waiting for our pick up. With a very necessary run to Tim Horton’s, I sat down with my coffee and bagel and we graciously took in the fresh October breeze coming from outside, through the doors of the airport. Ahhhh. Well here we are, home again.

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Ch. 14: Koh Phangan, Thailand

I’ve had a slow day today, with my body giving me sure signs I shouldn’t try to do much. Sitting on the rocks, dangling our legs in the waves as we watched crabs rock climb their way into each other for a group huddle. I just came back to have a swing in the hammock while Jack curiously wanders up to one of the guys from Lucky, fishing. I’m realizing how much I don’t want to leave. It’s beautiful here and it’s heartbreaking that we’re actually going so soon. It might not make sense, but in some way it feels like home.

Jack has just come back to say that the sucker toes on this guy was truly impressive. As he thought nothing of leaping onto surfaces coated in algae that would bring anyone else to slip, he’s telling Jack where to place his footing. Admiring his talented toes, Jack said there was a small pool where the guy was putting the fresh catch of the day… squid.

Without much daylight left and nothing on the day’s agenda we decided to treat ourselves to one more lavish dessert at the Bayview Resort in Haad Yao. Jack went for more deep-fried bananas and although I was craving them, I went with my gut and ordered fruit salad, served in a coconut. Ooooo! When our desserts came out, I gave mine a thorough look-over. I could have been mistaken, but it was looking like a dish filled with chocolate, strawberry and vanilla ice cream with whipped cream on top. I wondered if I’d imagined it wrong, but after digging to the bottom to find no fruit, I figured they mixed up their Americans. I had the vanilla anyway, gave Jack the strawberry and let the chocolate melt. Oh well.

Tomorrow we leave. We’ve got a taxi coming at 7:30 am to take us to the pier for the 8:30 ferry across to Koh Tao, connecting us to Chumpon. It’s a five-hour ferry ride, followed by seven hours on the bus to Bangkok. It’s gonna be a drag and I doubt I’ll sleep much, but we wanted as much time here as possible. This is OK. =}

Ch. 13: Koh Phangan, Thailand

DSC00958Just got back in, it’s just about 1:00 pm and it’s HOT! We’ve lucked out with weather on Koh Phangan so far. Last time we got hit with rain was the day of our tour on Koh Samui.

We got up and left for breakfast around 8:00 am, renewed the scooter for one more day and went to check out a waterfall or two on the eastern side of the island. We went to Thansadej National Park to take a look at Phaeng Noi Waterfall. The park being quite large and spread out, we followed a few boys with goggles and such, trusting they were going somewhere to swim. We came out of the trail to find them splashing around in nothing more than a trickle of water pooling around a few rocks.

Figured we climb a little higher up and take in the views of the jungle. The monkeys were howling, the crickets were talking and the birds were singing. Seems that the only time to feel nervous in the thick of the jungle, is when it goes quiet.

We left to get back into town for an early lunch, when a little boy greeted us at our table. In no time he included us in his game, with his plastic-sniper rifle, dump trucks and a transformer. As soon as his mother caught him dumping sand out of the truck and onto the table though, she started flicking him and pulled him into the house. We felt bad, what else would he assume if we were playing with him?! It wasn’t long until we heard him start to cry and then the guilt really sunk in.

When our food came out the little boy watched us from the table across the room, holding his itouch up in the air to show us the games he was playing. Sneaky little tyke.
Now full and sweaty and back in the comforts of our sweet oceanfront bungalow, we’re gonna check out the neighbouring beach, Haad Tian.

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What a joke! Haad Tian has two resorts that back up onto it. We had looked at them as well when we were reserving our stay at Lucky, because of its private beach. Well no wonder it’s private. The rocks all along the beach are jagged and mixed in with broken pieces of coral. Then, once you get into the deeper water, the coral grows enormously. We were skimming the surface in hopes that when the waves pulled out we wouldn’t be dragged across the tops of it.

We packed up after not seeing much and went to have our last snorkel day out at Koh Ma, the first beach we’d tried on Koh Phangan. It had proven itself to be the best out of what we’d seen since Koh Phi Phi and with one more day here, it seemed a good note to leave on.

There were a lot more people this time around, snorkelers everywhere invading our space. We chose to take a less popular spot, right in the middle (nowhere). Unfortunately somebody, kept targeting the cut on my knee and grabbing it; I was not the most delicate with my words. Even though the snorkel muffled the tone, I don’t think there’s even a fish that misunderstood me. The day took a downwards turn after that, as I just got angrier that my knee was still an issue for me and the beach was getting more and more crowded. We decided to pack up and head in.

Ch. 12: Koh Phangan, Thailand

We’ve done really well these last 5 days on Koh Phangan. Admittedly, our trip has changed a few times but after finding two bakeries in town that serves the freshest breads I’ve had in a while, I’m settling in quite comfortably. We’re definitely still keeping up with eating the local cuisine at least two meals of the day, but there’s just no getting used to prawn noodle soup for breakfast.

DSC00937DSC00929We’re in the midst of all the best snorkeling, between Haad Salad and Haad Yao. In Haad Yao we treated ourselves to some sweet snorkel gear, so as to take advantage of our location. Our first stop was at Koh Ma. The next day, we did Haad Salad and Haad Yao the day after that. The typical restaurants line every beach, but there is something unique about this island.
There’s less noise, it’s not as inhabited and the sights to see are easy to do independently. Realizing just how compact this island is, it takes no effort to find your way around, and even less time to get the full circle done. So, two days ago we rented a scooter, this time wearing helmets and keeping it out of our emails going home.

According to anyone I know that’s come to Koh Phangan, it’s considered a party island. Thankfully, Jack and I have managed to get a different experience out of being here… until recently.
The 11th was the Half Moon Party. Right up until the last 30 mins before it started, we were arguing without ourselves about whether we’d go or not. Truth be told, we both wanted to stay at our place at Lucky Resort and have a few drinks with the staff. They seemed really close friends and have been so relaxed with us, we wanted to create our own home-stay feel by sharing a few drinks, maybe even get a few language barriers knocked down.
To our dismay, we came up and offered the girls a drink that they graciously turned down. We still tried, but ended up sharing a few by ourselves instead. Then, once we’d delayed all we could it was time to call a cab. Ughh, and the anxiety starts… Suddenly, one of the guys showed up with beer and sprite, poured out two shandy’s for him and the other gent, offering us one as well! We left the local party we actually wanted to have, to go into the crowds we’d been avoiding. Need I say it? Idiots!

Turns out it was not my scene at all, nor Jack’s for that matter. The fluorescent paint, I could get along with. However, I was not getting on with the flouro bootie-shorts and wife-beaters, the poorly mixed house music and the thousands of tourists worthy of being on their own version of Jersey Shore.
My favourite part was sitting back in a hammock with Jack and making fun of it all. Don’t get me wrong, I understand how someone would enjoy it, but the crowd that it drew just put me off. It really was a neat set up though. Given a different trip, the body paint, black lights, special cigarettes and special mush-shakes; maybe that would’ve appealed to me. I think I’d have to partake in a few shakes before having any kind of careless fun with the people who were there.

I had a couple Feaswea moments that night, getting quite light-headed and dizzy. It was clear I needed to sit down – no, lay down. I was unfortunately a little too slow the second time around. We were standing by a food stall and it started coming over me, I had to get out of the way. I went for the opposite wall and started to lay back, when Jack leaped up catching my head in his lap. The lights did go out for 15-20 seconds, as I woke up to Jack coaching me saying, ‘It’s OK. You’re OK”
Apparently, I brought on the full performance, from eyes rolling back and limbs going limp. I tried reassuring him once I got up I’d be OK for the rest of the night, but I don’t think he believed me until I was head-to-pillow.

Our ride home, made the night complete. We left the party only to start weaving through the blockheads, shoving their way to the unimpressed security guard, who’d let them in. Squeezed out of the crowd, we found ourselves in a semi-circle of taxi drivers all vouching to give us their good price. It cost us 400 B to get there and I wasn’t going to pay more than 500 B to get back. So with that in mind we talked down the 600 B offer to leave immediately, deciding we’d rather wait around 20-30 minutes when the fee would be 400 B. Go figure.
The driver we’d been talking to seemed surprised that we were willing to wait, so he and the others huddled up and discussed it. We were then approached by a man from the group who said he’d take us back for 500 B, right away. We agreed and followed him to his motorbike. Just the one driver and just one motorbike – one. So with him in the front, myself in the middle and Jack hanging on the back, we drove off.

Being one of the few people in the resort, the staff really have no reason to stay up and be around. So as it happened, most of the time we came back from our days out, they’d all left to their own accommodations. This night was no different.
We got back and had a 1000 B note and just under 500 B in 20’s. It was embarrassing, as we had no way of making smaller change and the driver didn’t have it on him either. After apologizing profusely, he graciously accepted the 480 B we had in 20’s. It then came to me that I still had a little something-something in my headband from the party. I reached for it while asking if he enjoyed special cigarettes? He smiled and said OK, and we paid our debt.

So now, we’ve just come back from eating dessert at the Bayview Resort in Haad Yao. I’m gonna miss those deep-fried bananas and ice cream! Come the 16th we’ll be saying our final goodbye’s to Southern Thailand, on a 12 hour journey via Lomprayha (ferry and bus combo) to get into Bangkok to catch our flight home first thing the next morning. What a heartbreaking thought.

Ch. 11: Koh Phangan, Thailand

We got off the ferry from Koh Samui and arrived to a swarm of taxis. After agreeing on 200 B each, we left for the other length of the island where we were staying. It was when the two drivers split up and took our packs to their individual motorbikes that we realized that’s what we’d signed up for. Nothing bad to say about the driving during that ride, only that just before we made our last turn into the resorts’ pave way, we dodged a snake creeping across the road. Of course! I may know they’re around and about but really did not need to see it!

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We arrived to 4 staff members all chatting, the place seemingly very quiet. It was soon understood that we’d wanted to stay, but they had no idea we were arriving. One woman got on the phone and soon another woman arrived, whom we assume was the manager. She pulled up her account on http://www.agoda.com and saw that we had paid for 2 nights, but somehow was not informed through any other source. (The fact that they had to plug-in their internet was clear enough to me why she hadn’t gotten it, but she was confused.)

We followed a staff member to a bungalow with a hammock overlooking the ocean, (we’d reserved a cheapo room overlooking the pool, so I wasn’t going to say anything). I think they realized it after we came up to check in with our passports, as they started shuffling room keys and giggling.

Granted the better room for the better price, we have finally relaxed the way you’re meant to on holiday. We soon told the staff that we intended on staying longer than what we arranged. We thought we disrupted their peace and quiet. Quite the contrary, as they were all giggles and smiles, bowing and thanking us non-stop. Oh, you’re welcome! =}

Ch. 10: Koh Samui & Koh Phangan, Thailand

Our last afternoon on Koh Samui was a bit of a disappointment. Our ride showed up at 9:00 am, with four other people in the back of the truck and we got our first red flag. Shit. We just signed up for a tourist-field trip. We were sure of it by the time we made our next stop, outside a hotel for another couple to join us in the cab.

We got driving. OK, we’re 8 people for a full day of activities, guess it’s not THAT bad. And then it happened. We arrived at what looked like a zoo, with trucks all alike unloading their foreigners. It was most definitely a field trip.

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As we got out, a guide named Tae-an introduced himself. He would be with us the rest of the day. But as so many people had signed up for cooking classes and elephant trekking, complete with a monkey show, we were grouped together with colour-coded stickers.

We first saw an elephant show. Two of the youngest out of nine elephants, doing handstands, back massages and playing soccer. Next, was the monkey show, (these were by far the low points of the day). This little monkey rode a tricycle, played basketball and showed us how to open a coconut. We were really put off, especially by the crowd of people pushing and shoving (and smoking), laughing at him. It was gross being a part of it.

Next was a trek through the grounds while atop a 35 year-old elephant named, Dow. The trainer, sitting on her head made us some jewelry out of palm leaves, as we did a loop of the property and came back for a cooking class.
The cooking class, was more of a show. We watched our guide make spicy papaya salad which the group got to taste-test. Now, this is when I suspect my expectations of people are too high, because it was shocking how many people left food on their plates. We weren’t given large portions, so even if it wasn’t their favourite it was still only 3-4 bites of salad. I find that insulting. Not impressed.

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We walked near the front gate to see how Thailand gets their rubber. A small bent piece of metal gets pushed into a lightly shaved part of the rubber tree, as the lactic seeps out into a small 250 ml pot. 35 of these small pots are then poured into a large square dish where it stays to dry out. It’s then dumped out in a large thick slab and put through a compressor machine. Much like the method for making pasta; the sheets get flattened and sent out for exporting. After the demonstration it was time for the colour-coordinated groups to part ways and set out to do the rest of the days’ activities. This is where it picked up.

We got in the truck and drove to the beach to do some snorkeling. We started with a wicked lunch, just as the rain clouds covered the beach and we had to wait for it to calm before setting out.
blog (37)Once on our way, Tae-an explained parts of the islands as we passed them, until we pulled into a quiet little bay where the shallow water clearly showed off the reef. The group finished after a nice 30-40 mins in the water, then we left to check out Namuang Waterfalls, one of the two waterfalls on the island.

blog (64)We drove up part way and took a path by foot up the mountain with Tae-an and our driver before finding the first pool. We got some photos of the view, taking pleasure in a refreshing swim beneath a smaller fall. Our driver took Jack with him up along a rock wall, where there was a small slippery chute, ideal for sliding down.  We left as it started to get busy and the day was growing late. We headed for Wat Kunuram.

At Wat Kunuram, sitting right out front is the infamous, mummified monk. And epitaph reads the life of a man who became a monk, after the age of 50. His commitment and passion bought him a lot of respect as he came to foresee visions of what the future held. He requested that when he died, if his body did not smell of rot or physically decompose, to be preserved in the state he was found. To this day, his robe gets redressed once annually and it’s claimed to have never been chemically preserved.

We left the temple and drove up Mt. Pom, on the Southern side of Koh Samui. At the top of Mt. Pom lies a garden, designed and built by a local durian fruit farmer, Khun Nim Thongsuk. Jack and I strapped in to the seats bolted to the top of the truck, dodging palm branches all the way to the ‘Magic Garden.’ This was my favourite part of the day and sadly done in twilight, as the sun set on us during the drive up.

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Tae-an told us of the man who dreamed up the idea of the garden. At age 77, he along with his son and daughter created it in his vision. When you first enter, in memorial for his grandparents there are two statues laying side by side above the stream.
Following that there’s a scene that tells a story of a king and queen sitting, overlooking a party. By their sides are two men; one with a hatchet and the other with a ball. When these men fought, their weapons colliding created thunder and lightning. Below them are statues of several women dancing, to the music being played by the musicians just off to the side of the party. The scene is a Utopia for those leading a good life. From here, just beyond a few angel statues, there’s a staircase leading to the tomb of Khun Nim’s wife. At age 91, he was laid to rest beside her here.

Further through the garden, you see all kinds of animals and wildlife incorporated into this incredible vision. Laid out in such a way that regardless of where you sit, stand or turn, there’s something beautiful to take in. Across the stream there are two statues beside each other, this is Khun Nim Thongsuk and his father. you find a quiet spot where the farmer laid his wife to rest. Requesting that when he died, he’d lay beside her.

Before leaving there was another scene of statues. This one, high upon the stone wall of the king and queen and their two children. There were two figures below the family, a husband and wife that represented evil.
The story tells a tale of a local couple, kidnapping the royal children. Demanding riches of gold and silver from the king and queen, in return for the royal children, the king and queen accepted. The couple was not satisfied at that.
They then demanded an enormous feast, swearing the children would be returned in exchange. The king and queen accepted. On that night however, the couple greedily took to the feast without caution, eating more than their fill. Following their growing sickness, they grew weary and fell to their death. The children were rescued and the story gets passed on, in hopes of reminding us to withdraw from the throes of greed.

When we were leaving the garden, our driver insisted Jack and I sit on top of the truck. There was a bench securely assembled so that it was possible, and we’d been taking turns with the rest of our group throughout the day. This was a treat though as we’d been up already and would have our second ride, all the way back to our hotel. We strapped on the GOPRO and hung on!

Our last day at Free House was spent well. Enough time for a swim, another breakfast complete with a coconut shake and a shower before grabbing our taxi out front at 12:30 pm. We were off again, to grab the 30-40 minute ferry that would take us to Koh Phangan.

Ch. 9: Koh Samui, Thailand

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Well, great news, there is no cap on my idiocy after all. Ughhh! I went out last night with Jack to grab a bite to eat and while looking in both directions before crossing the street, I didn’t look down. One step down to the street from the sidewalk and next thing you know, Jack is helping pick me up off the ground.
You see, in Thailand the gutters aren’t a 1 ft grate every 10 metres. No, no. The streets have a considerably large gap between them and the sidewalks, with about a 4 ft drop down. And because there’s these concrete slabs sitting across them, several inches apart from each other (and directly in my path…) I stepped right into one.

There was luckily a pharmacy only a few paces away. After managing the cross from one side of the street to the other, I went in to find an antiseptic for the gash I got. Not that I need a band-aid for a bruise, but after falling in a gutter in Thailand, to not wash it out immediately felt dumb.
The woman went a step further than helping me find antiseptic; she cleaned it right then for me! She sterilized it and gave me a few days’ worth of ibuprofen, free of charge. I was speechless. I had to do something, so I bought a pack of Valium and we continued on to grab dinner– a graceful end to the day.

Ch. 8: Koh Samui, Thailand

It’s been decided. Today we booked a return flight to Vancouver from Bangkok for the 17th. By then, we’ll have been away for a month on our spontaneous little excursion we had no plans for. Not bad. Sure we wanted to believe we’d be gone for at least 2-3 months, secretly hoping to lose our way backpacking through the depths of the jungle in Northern Thailand, stopping only to work at an elephant conservation orphanage. Or perhaps find our calling in Indonesia teaching English to school children, maybe even grabbing a train to who knows where, doing who knows what, as long as it was new and different. Either way, nothing we’ve done has been planned. It’s been incredible.

We arrived in Koh Samui around 6:30 pm on the 4th and checked into Free House Bungalow on Bo Phut beach. That first night we took a look around our beachfront accommodation, had 6 fruity daiquiris and called it a night.
The next morning we had a wicked breakfast and did a good 1 km swim along the beach. We were going to walk down and come back but soon realized that the beach, which covered in hotels, was a hot spot for salespeople to offer their trinkets. We opted for the water view, and successfully avoided more spending.

We came in and signed ourselves up for a Thai massage, just as the rain came in. It was beautiful; dark clouds clapping overhead while Jack was getting his massage and I fired off some emails. We grabbed a late lunch and later got a taxi down to Phetch Buncha Stadium on Chaweng Beach where we were to sit, ringside at my first Muay Thai boxing match.

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We got dropped off at the stadium fairly early, so we checked out a nearby night market to kill some time. I had another deliciously fresh coconut shake as we walked around checking out the different vendors. Interestingly enough they were quite original in comparison to the others we’d seen on this trip. Soap carvings, hand painted to look identically like flowers – and not simple ones, I mean orchids and shit! There was also a set up for engraving leather key chains, wallets, bracelets etc., a dj who served up cocktails to take away – it was fascinating and surprisingly very cheap! I mean, the asking price being lower than the offered price!!

*Note to self: When the Thai people say, ‘good luck for you, good luck for me’; it comes from the belief that it’s bad luck for the salesperson to lose a sale on a discounted price… meaning they’re in for a bad sales day. Evidently, it’s good luck to make a sale on a discounted price. ‘Good luck for you, good luck for me.’

blog (33)The fight was awesome. Jack asked me after the first 3 minute round what I thought of the 100 lb boys in the ring. Honestly I told him, I was expecting to see two gladiators fighting to the death as soon as the bell chimed. He explained the tactics of getting to know the opponent’s reach and favoured moves, as we watched 6 events, each going for 5 rounds.
The 3rd and 4th rounds picked up in intensity and the 5th was the showdown! The fighters in the ring got older and older with each event, heavier and heavier with the highlighted fights being the 4th and 5th of the night, before the main event closed the evening. And I mean closed the evening. It was the 1st round, Thailand vs Belgium and the Belgian won it by a single shot knockout. A kick to the side followed by a fist through the exposed temple and it was all over.blog (30.5)

Crowding all along the left corner of the room where a sign above the bleachers read ‘THAI ONLY’. Interesting to see. Everyone else had reserved their seats when they bought their tickets; primarily tourists, filling about 75% of the available seating. After the fight, having ducked into Tesco Lotus for a cup of noodles we got a taxi to take us back.

blog (66)Having just started feeling better about the state of my toe (I think I’ll be keeping the nail!) I’ve just kicked a rock while swimming out the other side of the beach. Does the idiocy never end?!

Now, sitting down to another great lunch, we’ve booked a tour for tomorrow. We’ll be taking part in elephant trekking, Thai cooking classes, some more snorkeling and a round trip tour of the island. Even though it’s how we wanted to travel about (tour group style), we’ll get to see and do things in an organized way that neither of us could plan on our own, at the same price.

It’s then one more night in Koh Samui and off to Koh Phangan. We’re thinking we’ll burn through the island in a couple of days and get back to the mainland before heading up the Gulf towards Bangkok. Then of course, it’s all open for interruption.

Ch. 7: Krabi, Thailand

Yesterday and the day before were a little more successful than our first day in Krabi. We found Ao Nang beach and all its charm just a few km from our hotel. We parked our scooter on the stretch in front of the beach, got presents sorted for family and found a place called Tanta’s, where we could get authentic-style pizza. Jack was finally able to put food back without caution, once again eating happily. After lunch we took the scooter back home, where we enjoyed the pool all to ourselves and put together a minor plan to move on.

Yesterday we paid for our last night at Baan Suan and went to check out Monkey Trail. This time it was my turn to drive the scooter around, it came quite naturally. I want one!

Presumably everywhere, we didn’t see a single monkey… but we could smell them. A rickety little boardwalk took us from one public beach over the hill and down to a private one exclusively for five-star hotel guests. This secluded part of the island was restricted from all non-guests. We had to stay on the beach. Shame, as we wanted to rent out a kayak and check out a few nearby caves. Instantly, a brewing storm sent all the high-end tourists back indoors and Jack and I pulled off a few layers and jumped into the waves as the rain came pouring down. I felt my left foot stinging like a motherfucker and got out to check it out. Knowing what a jellyfish feels like when it stings you, this felt particularly minor in comparison. We left drenched and refreshed and went to finish our market time in Ao Nang.

Unfortunately, my foot did flare up red and burning, so after convincing him to do so, Jack pee’d on my foot. My hero. We walked it off, had another meal at Tanta’s, with deep-fried bananas and ice cream for dessert and went back to the hotel, beat.

We met a few fellow Canadians in the restaurant at Baan Suan, who also had plans of seeing Vietnam and Laos. After talking about our current situation and the weather proceeded to get worse, I’m afraid we may have swayed their plans also.
Today again, we met a couple looking to see the northeastern countries but on an even stricter budget than we have for ourselves, unaware of the current storms hitting the shores. Leaving them with a website we found useful for updates called http://www.floodlist.com, we’re now waiting our transfer to Koh Samui.

*Note to self: No more scooters in Southeast Asia!!! The guy we met this morning told us a story of a friend of his, rented a scooter in Vietnam regrettably hitting a local pulling into the wrong lane. Guilty for his death, his friend is now serving 6 years in a Vietnamese jail as well as paying 100,000 Euros to the victim’s family. Horibble…

Last night we awoke to a loud scraping all along the outside of our bungalow, followed by a pitter-patter on the roof and tapping on the window. This morning we woke up to find poop all over our front terrace – monkeys.
My foot feels a lot better and there’s no sign of the sting from yesterday at all – thanks Jack! Klutz that I am though, stubbed my big toe on the pool stairs digging out a chunk of my toenail. Idiot!

We may go to Koh Phangan after Koh Samui, but been thinking this could the last stretch before getting back to a main airport, to get back to Vancouver. At this point, saving our multi-national travel plans for a later date makes more sense. May as well take in the surroundings we have now, go all in and enjoy our time here before we have to turn around.
It’s been two weeks and both agree that we’d feel satisfied enough to go home with the promise of returning to do the north. So, here we are planning on doing Southern Thailand as best we can, before we return to life in Whistler. Oh, pity.

Ch. 6: Koh Phi Phi & Krabi, Thailand

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While Jack sways himself to sleep in his first hammock ever, I’ve been sitting poolside here at Baan Suan Resort, thinking over the last few days.
Three days ago we left Phuket. We were saying goodbye, getting hugs from the two women who had helped us since day one when Mr. Dong pulled up. All of the Troy GH staff came outside to wish us luck and wave us off. Amazing.

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First stop, we went to Tiger Kingdom. We met two young tigers, about 3 months old. One was in a deep sleep as we entered the grounds, stretched across the gate, we had to squeeze our way in. There was no moving her, as we stepped over her paw to sit down next to another one. We got to lay with them, pet them and had a photographer take a few photos for us as well.
I’d seen the brochure. The typical poses people would make if they were lying beside a tiger. You know, a thumbs up, claws and a growling face… the dorky shit. We were then instructed to lay on top of this tiger’s hind quarters and pretend to bite its tail. (Okay…)

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Chalong Wat.

Next were the adult sized cats. These guys were 19 months old and in my opinion, fully fucking grown. One of them, Mikey was a staff favourite, you could tell. One of the guys showing us through the grounds threw himself on Mikey’s stomach, cuddling him like a queen sized bed. Mikey rolled over for a belly rub and thought nothing else of it. It was awesome. I was still getting a grasp on the fact that I was petting a fucking tiger, so the photos don’t look very natural.

Before driving up to where Big Buddha sits, there’s a temple called Chalong Wat. Walking through the courtyard of the temples, you notice the pride taken into their upkeep. We walked up a few levels and found a large statue, encased in glass. There was a slot where you could place your donation and people must have, there was a mound of money on the floor beside the statue.

At the base of the Big Buddha, there’s prayer mats sitting in front of a shrine of photos, statues, ancient literature, candles and bronze bells. We moved on, to go see Big Buddha. It was truly an incredible sight. Coated with inscribed marble slabs, paid for by donation for its construction.

Walking up to Big Buddha.

Walking up to Big Buddha.

As you approach the quaint staircase up to the statue, you’ll noticed hundreds of these little bronze bells lining the scarves overhead. Giving your walk up to Buddha this mythical interlude of chimes. Many of them again, have inscriptions on them.
Coming to the top, you see the view. Buddha looking over the city and the jungle with a clear view of the ocean crashing on the beaches lining Phuket. As you leave, there’s a small pathway that overlooks the backdrop. A view of the jungle, with a few cheeky baboons fighting over items tossed down to them by the tourists.

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We got a snap shot with Mr. Dong outside and made our way back to the car to get some lunch before catching the ferry. On the way down, we got out of the car and saw several elephants, ready to take the tourists out on treks.

My attention immediately went to this one baby elephant being fed cucumbers. Permitted to take a photo of him only once we’d fed him, which cost 100 B ($3) – cool. Quite the strategy as well, I’m sure an elephant could eat cucumbers all day.

Beside our new friend was a little hut where we saw a tiny monkey sitting on top of the bar waiting for someone to come play with him. Of course, we offered ourselves for his enjoyment as he wrapped himself around our fingers and climbed our arms. He was adorable and I want one.
It was then time to go. We had to catch the ferry at 3:00 pm and we were still 25 minutes away with the clock showing just after 2 pm.blog (21)

As we grabbed our bags from the car, we tried to show our appreciation by offering Mr. Dong a few beers. He smiled and said No, I don’t drink. Fuck. There was no way we could show how thankful we were. After grabbing our tickets and saying goodbye, we were once again waiting for our next connection.

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The ferry was about 2.5 hours long to Koh Phi Phi. Jack and I didn’t have reservations, again. We got off the boat, walked down the pier and within minutes people approached from every direction. “Hello! Hello! Taxi! Taxi! Hotel reservations, see me! My friend, I have a special place for you, come talk to me! Hello, where you going, where you staying?”
Ridiculous. We tucked into a place around the corner showing vacant locations on some of the less popular spots of the island.

We went with a bungalow for 600 B ($18) a night on Runtee Beach. We got a water taxi, with two German girls to our secluded little beach just 15 minutes around the point. Everything about it was what we were looking for in a beach getaway holiday. A smaller and Thai version of Billy Bones in the B.V.I.

Arriving at Koh Phi Phi.

Arriving at Koh Phi Phi.

Unfortunately, right off the bat I had a ‘stupid tourist’ moment. I’d been aching for the toilet the entire ferry ride and there was no bathroom available until we got to Runtee. Without hesitating, I used the one attached to our bungalow. Only once I finished, I had a real problem. There was no handle, no button to push, no string to pull… no way of flushing. Panic.

I’m mortified to admit that I had to ask for help.  With our language barrier, one of the girls on staff came in to see what was wrong. So, remember in Kuala Lumpur, the bathroom with the bucket detail? I now know what it’s for, as she filled the bucket up under the tap and tossed it into the bowl. Ughh, I’m an idiot.
I insisted she take what beer Jack and I had bought earlier, finally they’d been accepted! (I’d want a drink after dealing with someone’s shit as well…) Moments later we could hear laughter coming from the staff hut. Awesome.

It didn’t take us long to put our stuff down, get our feet in the water and check out the little restaurant. Sucking down a coconut smoothie, one of the German girls we’d seen on the taxi boat came up to us with a proposition. She’d been trying to organize the next morning, to get out with one of the drivers and get a tour of the island, but they needed two more people to make it worth their while. We agreed, and set our alarms to leave the next morning by 9 am for a day around the islands with a local, Momo.blog (25)

By 10 am the next morning, you’d never guess where we were – face down in the South Pacific, looking for sharks. Incredible. We drove over to Shark Point, dropped anchor and jumped in to see if we could spot leopard sharks. Jack spotted one and I saw a few, having gone wayward into the deeper water. After about 30 mins we swam back to the boat.

Not fazed by the wetter weather, we moved on to Monkey Beach to wait until the winds had calmed a bit before steering around the other side of the island. Monkey Beach, as the name suggests has monkeys. Tourists were everywhere unfortunately, unloading themselves in herds off their cruise-liners, drinking and philandering like idiots. (It’s no wonder we’re hated).

blog (24)We kept away from the idiots, being the only ones who seemed to acknowledge the obscene amount of garbage on the shore. It was when we saw one monkey drinking a bottle of coke, another getting teased with bananas and all of them laughing about it, that we’d seen enough.

We told Momo we wanted to come back to clean it up, he went to the boat and grabbed a garbage bag. As we started weeding through them picking up the bottles, we noticed lots of the cans we were picking up had just been opened. Idiots!
The boatloads started to pull away with their demented bunch as we combed through the beach filling 3-4 garbage bags, unable to take more back. There was still a lot to pick up, but we had nowhere to keep it and would have been there all day.

Crossing the ocean in those weather conditions, in our longtail boat was hilarious. All of us drenched, loving every drop and swoon of the ocean. We were easing our way through waves at least 2 m high, laughing all the way. As the rain came down, the ocean started to calm as we came in behind Phi Phi Le’s nearest point.

Viking Cave

Viking Cave

We drove up to get a glimpse of Viking Cave. A place off-limits to tourists to step foot on, where a select few people dedicated their time to preserving various birds’ nests found there. We approached the tall and decayed limestone caves, with wonder all over our faces. Jaw dropping beauty was all around us as the rain continued to come thundering down.

Our next stop was a quiet little cove on the other side of Maya Bay. The famous spot for the scenes in the movie, ‘The Beach’. Winds were rapidly turning people away from getting to it, so we kept where we were to enjoy another snorkel session. This time around was incredible, the fish were everywhere! We were literally in the middle of several schools of different fish, feeling their fins ever so slightly when we jerked around to see the all. The brightly coloured rainbow fish did all it could to stay away from the camera, but with both Jack and I trying for it, I think we captured at least one. The others, I don’t know the name for. But the girls along with Momo, tossed in small bits of bread for them to eat, often right near my face and I got fin-slapped a couple of times in the frenzy.

blog (27)Jessica (the girl who’d organized the day), had a cut on her foot and was told not to get it wet. She made it all happen, then participated from the inside of the boat as Jack and I relished in another day we had not planned for.
It was now time for lunch. We pulled up on a smaller beach and ate our fried noodles and bananas letting the sun sink in.

Momo told us a story about his pets, I’ll never forget. His cat had just had kittens, 7 kittens in the litter. He also had a pet python. He said the python went missing for two days before he found him coiled up underneath a part of his house, belly full. Bye, bye kitties. He said it was hard for him to stay mad, because it’s the ‘circle of life’ but decided that he’d set the python off on the other side of the mountain. The next day he had to run some errands down in town and wouldn’t be back to deal with his snake until later. When he did return, a neighbouring woman told him she’d killed him, but kept the skin for him. This poor guy, telling us this all the while saying, ‘what can you do?’

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When we got back, we were beat. A shower and a lay down, interrupted by a bat fluttering itself in and out of our room. I squealed and jumped down the flight of stairs to our room until Jack assured me it had flown out the bathroom. There was no way I’d get to sleep that night and I gave up all attempts for a nap.

We had dinner that night with the girls we’d met Bianca, Jessica and Nono, the chef at the restaurant next door to our resort. Nono, means ‘lovely man’ in Thai and it certainly suits him. As we looked over the menu he offered to show us through his kitchen where we watched him cook our meals, as he taught us how everything was prepared.
After eating, we sat around and chatted with Bianca and Jessica for some time, sharing our day, differences and experiences. Nono came out and sat with us after a while and chatted about himself and some of his own experiences. We made sure to mention how amazing the day had been and how much we enjoyed exploring with Momo. He is obviously fond of him, as he lit up and said, ‘Momo has a good heart’. We looked across the room to see Momo playing with a small kitten. Nono then told us the story of his python…
It was such an amazing day, followed by an equally amazing night.

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The next morning we caught 2 ferries over to Koh Phi Phi, with a hotel pick up on the other side waiting for us. When we first got here the front desk woman told us there was a scooter included with our reservation. It wasn’t until the next day that we used to to tour through and around, and around, and around Krabi. With a left here and there, a right turn and maybe another left up the road, who knows where we went wrong?!

Several hours of sightseeing, followed by a case of oh fuck, we’re really lost. The scooter started to shiver and rattle at one point, right before it ran out of gas. Thankfully we weren’t far from a gas station. A woman passing us, pointed up ahead, ‘fuel!’ Awesome. We only had 20 B between us, but figured it’d get us back. The man tending to us insisted we put in at least 50 B. We didn’t have it. He and another customer started pointing at us, discussing where we had to get to and had a good laugh.

We took a familiar turn, passed a water tank we’d seen at least 5 times before and pulled into a tourism office to ask for help. A man sitting behind the desk had a name tag on, Pingpong. Pingpong told us to keep going in the same direction, make a left at the private school, head down a small road on its side, then not the first right but 3 km after it, the next one. Okay… Somehow, we actually made it back to Baan Suan.

We are now on news watch as the tropical storms have destructed much of Northern and Northeastern Thailand, taking parts of Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia by surprise as well. At this point, the world of options is yet again at our feet and we must decide what we’re going to do, as travelling through the spots we wanted to see isn’t permitted anymore and time is passing quickly.

Ch. 5: Phuket, Thailand

We haven’t left yet. It was too hard to do. The hospitality at Troy GH is amazing and getting to know our surroundings in Phuket is feeling good. The shame about this area, is that it’s loaded with tourists. It just so happens, that Patong Beach is the tourist hot spot for Phuket. Well, Fuck.

We went swimming the day before last and as we were coming out of the water, Jack pulled out a plastic bag from his shorts. The beach is really dirty and the surf just kept picking up the garbage and sloshing us around in it. So that was enough of Patong Beach for us. We’ve been trying to plan where to go next, apparently Koh Phi Phi and Koh Tao are great for snorkeling.

Yesterday was a chill day, we got some market time in and Jack had his fist Pad Thai. Jack being allergic to nuts, we asked the chef if it was possible to make it without. We did prepare for this event beforehand, armed with epi-pens and a Google translation for ‘nut allergy’ written in Thai. Either my pronunciation was beyond recognition, or my written Thai isn’t legible, but it seemed that was very much been the end of that.
A moment later, the chef came back talking on his phone and passed it to me. On the other end was a man speaking English fairly fluently, asking what we wanted to order and then translated it back to the chef. He walked back to his kitchen nodding, then held up a jar of peanuts and said, ‘no?’ That was lunch and it was fantastic.

The Thai people are incredibly generous. Last night, we had asked the girls at the front desk how long it would take a taxi driver to take us to Chalong Bay, where we could walk up the mountain to see the Big Buddha. The girls started chatting away and pulling out city maps, marking landmarks that we shouldn’t miss. Next thing we knew there was a cab driver inside, talking to them how we should go about seeing all the sights.
We were dumbfounded. We had no idea what they were talking about doing, or what it was going to cost. In the end, they all decided that the driver, Mr. Dong would take us to all the places we wanted to go and bring us back at the end of the day, all for 1400 B. (It would’ve cost us 1200 B just to get a cab to the Big Buddha and back).

So the plan was:
Wake up to go to Big Buddha for 11 am, go see Chalong Wat at the bottom of the mountain, get seafood from the pier at Chalong Bay, cross town to Tiger Kingdom where we would get a chance to play with tigers, head down to Promthep Cape to watch the sunset and back home to shower. Then he’d come back two hours later to take us to FantaSea, the Thai cabaret elephant show, where afterward he’d take us back to the hotel. It all happened that quickly and all we asked was how to get to the Big Buddha.

Jack was told to go with Mr. Dong, to pay for the reservation. Walking pass me with a quick 2 minute explanation, they jumped on a motorbike and scooted off.
When they got back, Jack sheepishly came over to me smiling from ear to ear. While sitting down with the staff at FantaSea, the drawstring on his Thai pants had let loose enough to drop and let out a sneak peek of his junk. Of course it wasn’t until they were all standing and shaking hands that anyone noticed. Hysterical. He said they were all very respectful and didn’t embarrass him – Really? I’d need to be a lot stronger to keep a straight face.

 

Last night, out of nowhere Jack started getting really sick. We were up all night, his stomach tossing and turning unforgivably. The next morning, I went downstairs and told the girls how sick he was, and that we’d have to cancel our day. Once again, they looked to each other and started chatting away, pulled out their phones and told me to wait.
Mr. Dong arrived and they talked. They then told me that he’d still take us to the show for 6 pm if we’d like and that we’d do the touring around the next day. Only this time, he’d drop us off at the ferry to catch our transfer to Koh Phi Phi later that afternoon.

So this afternoon I left Jack in bed to go out and grab him a hat, took a stroll along the beach and bought some fruit from a vendor. On my way back, a scooter pulled off to the side just in front of me.
It was Yao, one of the girl’s from the front desk at Troy GH. She offered me a ride back and asked me how Jack was doing. As we talked she took me over to the pharmacy where she bought some dissolving solution, put it into a bottle of water and told me to give it to him.

Buffet dinner at FantaSea.

Buffet dinner at FantaSea.

I came back downstairs to repay her for the medicine along with a few beers we’d had in our fridge and tried to give them to her. She would not take them. As hard as I pressed her to, she refused. I went back upstairs and talked to Jack about it, we thought we could at least give them to Mr. Dong for all his trouble.

So, we’ve just returned from the show (complete with a buffet), and sitting up in bed looking back on the evening. I think it was something stupid like 3,000 – 4,000 people attending the buffet. The place was an absolute palace, and the food was awesome. We both agreed that the staff did kind of look like the elves from ‘the Santa Clause’. Even though it was traditional Thai costume, the bright colours with the sparkles and the odd headdresses with matching collars and shall pieces were something out of the Santa Claus. I have no idea what the show was about. Not a clue. The elephants were awesome though, real Dumbo-acrobatic-style stuff! But as far as the story goes… I just don’t know. But having been to a couple of Cirque du Soleil shows now, I have some tolerance for abstract and nonsense.

Ch. 4: Phuket, Thailand

After a second attempt, our pilot got us safely to ground in Phuket around 2:30 pm yesterday. It was interesting, as we came in a little steep, a little too quickly, passed the runway, lifted back up and came back around to try again.

That was the comical part of the flight. The rest of it however was sorely ruined by a boy too big to be a tyke and his absent-minded mother sitting behind us. (Now, I don’t know why but I always get targeted by these little shits).
The boy was dropping the tray attached to my seat continuously; clicking it in and then undoing the latch, letting it free fall. Ok, annoying. Then, he started swinging his legs, kicking my seat. He was driving his little demon toes into the lower back of my chair, when I first shot back my hate vision at his mother. His mother, too absorbed in her iphone was reluctant to discipline him in any respectable manor.

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So, I planted my hands behind my back and waited for the opportunity to crush his little feet. I started to lay my seat back, the would sporadically place it upright; it was taming my brewing anger.

But, in the end I wasn’t strong enough. It took a few more sharp glares over my shoulder, for the woman to yield an apology, then Jack and I changed seats. Fuck.
*Note: If you have them love them but for respect for the rest of us, TAME YOUR FUCKING CHILDREN!

We got bombarded by taxi drivers as soon as we came through the arrivals gate at Phuket International. We grabbed a ride out to Patong Beach where we knew of a few hotels in the area that were vacant just the night before. We struggled to explain to the driver that we didn’t have reservations. We just wanted to get dropped off on the main strip, by the beach and the market. He said OK, and we believed him.

I got a little skeptical however, when we pulled into a business residence off the side of the road. A woman came out of an office, approached the cab and asked where we were going. There and only then was it explained that he did not know where he was going. After continuously turning down making a reservation through them, we asked them about a guesthouse we’d looked up the night before. A girl working there knew the one, they looked up the address and we were off again.

Driving in Malaysia and Thailand is dangerous if you follow you try for safety. It’s better to have keen instincts and an agile reaction time, because being cautious is where you find accidents. For one, scooters go speeding through four-way stops and red lights, as though they were just suggestions at something stupid like 80-90 km.
On our way to Patong Beach, we saw no difference between the rules of the road in Thailand from Malaysia. Full families – dog included, will overtake people on their scooters in oncoming traffic. The streets in Phuket are narrow and they’re driving at top speed. No helmets, no extra seats – laughing. Oy.

Finally, we reached Troy Guesthouse around 3:30 pm, checked in for the standard rate of 420 B ($15) a night and took pleasure in the rewards of a king-sized bed, in a clean room.

We were around the corner from several cool backstreets, all packed with 7-11’s, Family Marts, massage boutiques, 24 hour pharmacies, cafés, fresh fruit stands, local restaurants, and not to mention the countless clothing vendors. The best part was that it was just 15 minutes from the beach.

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We showered and were off to roam within minutes, having missed out on our first meal of the day (again), eating was a priority. There was a lovely restaurant we found just 10 minutes away offering everything from Thai food, Seafood, Indian and ‘Western’. As the meals came out, we sipped on our $2 beer (at home = $9), and took it all in.

*Cue the elderly Indian man sitting alone in the corner of the bar.
While we were eating, a fortune teller approached Jack. Immediately he told us personal things that Jack would come to face in life, the age he’d live to, the crossroads he’d come to with certain friendships he held dear and my favourite, how lucky he was going to be. He had his trade well thought out, however much you choose to believe.
We declined offering him more money, even though in return we’d receive the full reading of our futures and we was on his way. That’s when we noticed 3 more men pull up on their scooters, advancing on the sitting ducks eating their lunch, with promises of telling their fortune.

We then took a stroll down the street to the beach. (Ahhhh the beach! Yes, yes, yes!) It’s the one time you’ll hear me being thankful for tourists and their obnoxious ways, because unlike our stay in Malaysia, bikini’s were everywhere!
The stroll back to the hotel was interesting. We were too stubborn to ask for help or pull out our map, so it took us a while before finding familiar scenery. We did make it, after walking through and around town for over an hour, we found our way. Once we got back, we agreed it was obvious we should treat ourselves to a traditional Thai massage.

Upon getting inside, changing clothes and opening the door to leave, it started. That monsoon season finally introduced itself. The streets instantly flooded and the people outside got side swept with the snaking sweeps of rain. We weren’t discouraged (Canadian’s know better), we brought rain jackets! We suited up, got out and saw just a few feet from us was a place called Happy Life Massage & Spa. A one hour Thai massage cost 200B ($7) – Gee, OK!
By the time our hour was up, we’d been bent, stretched and pulled from our toes to our heads. It was totally enjoyable (a little strenuous), but completely necessary. The rain had stopped and people were back out in the streets selling their goods.

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We got a bite to eat at I-Kroon cafe, just a few doors down from Troy GH and Happy Life. I-Kroon offers everything from authentic Thai dishes, to a full coffee bar, cakes and pies, western breakfasts, rice and stir fry’s, cocktails and fresh fruit smoothies… amazing. It’s run by an awesome couple, with smiles to spare, and their toy poodle. We promised to return for breakfast the next morning.

After having another beach day, soaking up the sun we went out and ate at another great place we found just behind Troy GH. I think it was called Nong-In and in there, I had the best sweet and sour soup I’ve ever tasted. The woman cooking up our meal vouched for her tom-yum soup as being the #1 best. I’d definitely go back there. Avoid the beef vegetable stir fry though, as Jack said the beef was really overdone..

So, we’re sitting here now with an iced coffee from I-Kroon, longkong fruit we picked up from a street vendor and talking about our plans for tomorrow. We want to get to Koh Phi Phi from this point, so we might do one night in the city, look out for a boxing match and take the ferry over the next day.

Ch. 3: Penang, Malaysia

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We left Plaza Rakyat in style. It was 7:10 am, a double-decker bus that we practically had to ourselves and 4.5 hours to go. The scenery we drove passed, was much more lush and wild with jungle-life than further South. It was as if we’d gone through one of the scenes from The Jungle Book, it was beautiful.

The last few nights at in Bukit Bintang were not good. The place itself was interesting but the 7 guys keeping the concierge company, were up all night. Laughing, yelling and singing through 4 am. I was definitely going to catch up on some sleep this stretch of the trip.

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Luckily I was awake for Jack painfully needing to pee and there was no bathroom on the bus. It was hilarious to watch. He crept up to the front of the bus and started rummaging through the recycle bin. Sure enough through the reflection, I could see him peeing into a bottle and then another bottle!
Apparently, the hardest part isn’t aiming but stopping mid-stream to start a new bottle! (Haha, ahhhh thank you!)

When we got to Pulau Penang, we gambled on a decision to pace across the street to join the traffic going to the right when a cab stopped to help us out. He hulled our bags in the back of his taxi and drove us through George Town over to the small beach town of Batu Ferringhi. It’s on the northern side of Pulau Penang, and translates to ‘Foreigner’s Rock’. (Fuck, is it that obvious?)

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Our cab driver gave us a thorough explanation of all the parts of town we drove through. How the communities throughout Malaysia segregate themselves based on religious beliefs. He told us where the Islamic community was, drove passed the Buddhist community; all the while sharing his Christian outlook with us, curious about where we came from and our faith.
* Note to self: We were given some simple advice for choosing our cuisines: Malaysian = sweet, Indian = spicy, Chinese = bland, nothing.
The driver made the lengthy trip worthwhile, being quirky and very useful as we he offered us priceless information about Malaysia, and a contact for further travel once we were ready to leave.

We checked into a small hostel just opposite of the beach called ET Guesthouse, run by a really friendly family. The man running the hostel told us we could grab food from the night markets from 7:30 pm – 11:30 pm. However, at that time everything was closed. The only place open was one little restaurant down the street called the Boatman. After a thankfully cold shower, we enjoyed our first meal of the day there, with the company of two cold beers – fuck yea!

Due to jelly fish, we were restricted to only swim in select parts of the beach. With nobody else running to the water we had it pretty much to ourselves anyhow. The water was warm, like bath water that’s been sitting for too long – a dream! We checked out the market later on, vendors filled the once deserted streets all selling the typical watches, purses, dresses etc. and all guaranteeing you their ‘special’ discount.

It’s now day 4 on our open-ended journey through the Southeast Asia’s. This morning we woke to the roosters cocking and got up to a once again, deserted stretch of closed shops and restaurants. We found our way into the fancy-shmancy Shangri La for a buffet breakfast where we proudly put back 4 helpings – just to get our money’s worth.

Full of food and fully rested, we’ve got the rest of the day to debate one more night here, a move down to the more rural parts of the island where we could arrange a home-stay with a local family, or move on to Thailand. We’ve looked at taking a ferry from Georgetown across to Pulau Langkawi to connect us to Sutan. We shall see…

Ch. 2: Johor Bahru and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

The train ride out of Johor Bahru was extremely scenic and slow! Scooters on the dirt road beside the tracks were overtaking us. We were sure we were given first class seats as we proceeded to the car at the end of the platform, until we started moving and realized we were at the very back. Haha. Ok, that was a good one! As people started boarding the car, they purposely did their best to sit away from us.
There was loads of room for our packs, without having to share leg space on the 8 hour ride into Kuala Lumpur, so it was hardly upsetting. The views were worth the silence too; these orchard-like patches of palm trees stretched on for miles.

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Kuala Lumpur is something else. We got in around 10:00 pm and after going the wrong way and finding ourselves in some secluded underground parking lot, we journeyed back to the train station. After tracing out the transit lines, we found ourselves stepping off the train platform at Plaza Rakyat where we decided to take in the scenery of Bukit Bintang.

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Our hotel was too, something else. A nice sized room, brown-stained pillows we covered with the blankets taken from EC Air, and a bathroom complete with a toilet, sink and shower all in one 4×4 ft room. The toilet sat just below the shower head and there was a red bucket with a scoop in the corner for…???

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One thing that proceeds to impress though, is the air conditioning throughout Singapore and Malaysia – sleep saver!

The next morning just down the street from our hotel we had a buffet breakfast: beans, boiled hot dog wieners, gnocchi-styled something, eggs, fresh fruit and tea. After eating we took a stroll through the market streets before finding our way to KualaLumpur Convention Centre. The fusion of urine and incense in BukitBintang, started to blend with open air and a distinct taste of diesel.

We went past the likes of Christian Dior, Versace, Hugo Boss, Ralph Lauren, Fendi… and so on. The shopping is famous in KL and unfortunately lost on Jack and myself, but there’s a pretty walk through the park behind the KL Convention Centre, which lead us to the Bintang Walk.

blog (70)We wanted to get up to the Twin Towers to get a clear view of the city but the tours for the day had all been booked in advance. We made our way back to the hotel, grabbed some dinner and made a plan for one more night in the big city.

Ch. 1: Malaysia & Southern Thailand – Same same, but different.

blog (10)We left YVR Wednesday morning @ 1:30 am, flying with China Eastern airlines for a solid 13 hours until we reached Shanghai. An additional 5 hours later, we were getting our connecting flight that would bring us into Singapore. Truly reluctant to fly with the same airline again, 5 hours was infinitely too long.

There had been a lot of hype of what to expect entering Singapore, and although I wouldn’t suggest taking customs lightly, the kindness we met was welcoming after our short stay in Shanghai. We knew we weren’t staying long, so we jumped on the skytrain and got off at the city centre to find food. We found our way to a food court with endless choices of Asian cuisines – another welcoming part of the journey after our experience with CE Air.

After feeling less hangry, it was time to take the skytrain up to find the Woodlands Checkpoint, where we would get a bus into Malaysia. We cleared security to leave Singapore and followed the hordes of people lining up for several different busses that took the 1km long Causeway across into Johor Bahru. Crowded and sweaty we unloaded the bus, joined the masses going inside to clear Malaysian customs and hoped we’d move fast enough to catch the transfer bus on the other side.

Minion Cakes.

Minion Cakes.

We grabbed a bus, different from the first one we took and finally reached the JB Sentral Station. After clearing customs, we walked down a set of stairs that lowered us to the city. It was muggy! Our guesthouse was apparently just a few km away so we avoided the next bus connection and hired a cab for the last stretch.

With the directions on our booking confirmation, I was feeling pretty confident we’d find it without issue. But about 20 minutes into the drive, I realized just how far away it really was. It took us about 35 minutes on the freeway and when we finally found it, we could see it was really run down. (This was part of the planning that I was in control of, so that felt awesome.)

We arrived to a small neighbourhood that had the Hostel’s name, Goodies Guesthouse handwritten on a piece of wood tied to the gate outside the front door. There was an envelope with our name on it, if we arrived after-hours.
Our driver Iman, couldn’t figure out how to get in, so he was nice enough to call the number left for us, only to find that someone was inside but wouldn’t be bothered to come open the door. Iman suggested to take us to a more centralized hotel. He dropped us off and said he’d be back for us in the morning to take us back to JB Sentral to catch our afternoon train up North. We paid up, checked in and thought nothing of the room with no windows as we hit the pillows.

Note to self: when taking Malaria pills, do not overlook the fine print on the bottle that insists to take them with food. Ugh!

The next morning we woke up, rearranged our over-packed backpacks and took note of how central we were not! I wouldn’t say it was a shit hole, but I might see it as somewhere you don’t want to go alone. Soon after taking in our surroundings we called Iman to take us back out to JB Sentral. He wasn’t available to get there in time and we had a train to catch at 2:20 pm taking us to Kuala Lumpur. We had to call someone else, and thankfully we did. Our new driver charged us a fifth of the price Iman did.
On our way driving, we saw Iman stuck in traffic on his way to get us. There’s Iman, hanging out of his window waving at us to get in his car and us, just waving back and shrugging. Even though we saved ourselves money on the return trip, I felt the rookie meter go well into overdrive at that moment.

Day one Malaysia: 1, Canada: 0.

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