Asia

What I Learned in Kuala Lumpur

Seeing what's happening in the world from my safe and cozy vacation bubble is not easy. Admittedly I'm somewhat of a news junkie, so only seeing snippits online makes me feel somewhat disconnected....not always such a bad thing, I know. But it's hard not to feel and hurt and want to be informed when I see what's happening in the US, Syria, Bangladesh, Zimbabwe, France, Turkey, and the list goes on. When I see the xenophobic powers at work in the Brexit mindset and the horrifying polarization of a madman such as Donald Trump. When the #blacklivesmatter movement is minimized yet scrutinized with equal measure. When Islam is painted with the broadest of brushes, incongruent with everything it stands for. And when I can find more mention online of the newest celebrity rift or video game than I can that the Borneo Orangutan was just listed as "critically endangered" which means [...]

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Brunei

It seemed easy enough to get there. It seemed simple to get in. It seemed small enough to see everything in two days. So why was I a bit nervous? Perhaps because I didn't know what to expect from a country I've never heard much about and don't know a soul who's been there. I assume your Brunei knowledge is about as extensive as mine was, so here's a few fun facts about this tiny Southeast Asian country. The Nation of Brunei Darussalam, Abode of Peace as it is officially called, is a small yet wealthy nation located on the northern coast of the island of Borneo, which is also shared by Malaysia and Indonesia. It was a quick four-hour bus ride from the Malaysian city I was visiting, so I thought....meh, why not. And so the researching began.... Brunei has a population of only 500,000, and it is roughly the size of [...]

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Southern Vietnam

When I arrived in Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) I waited for a piano to fall on me or to be eaten by a polar bear. The previous two stops in Vietnam, while interesting and beautiful, were filled with some strange events. So you can imagine that since I wasn't overly thrilled about six days in HCMC and they turned out to be my best days in Vietnam, I've thought a lot since then how one's perspective of a place, of issues, of people are shaped and how easily they can change. This got me thinking a lot about the notion of perspective and how seemingly small things can shape the lens through which we see the world and our actions in it. I'm not saying that's a good or bad thing, it just is. And that's what HCMC gave me more than anything, a new perspective on perspective. No need to wrap [...]

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Central Vietnam

After my slight funk in Hanoi, I was quite happy to fly to Central Vietnam for a new vibe and new things to do. An hour flight to Danang and I was on my way to Hoi An, a UNESCO World Heritage Site about 45 minutes from the airport. I can always gauge how special a certain place is by how little I do when I get there. Sometimes, I need activities and tours and a whole lot of bells and whistles, but sometimes I can basically do nothing and instead just wander around and take it all in. Hoi An was one such place. A beautiful city of about 100,000, Hoi An sits on the Thu Bon River and has few things to do other than people watch, shop, and walk the city. I stayed at a great little spot just outside of the centre but took advantage of the free [...]

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Northern Vietnam

When I walked out of the airport terminal, I choked. I literally choked on how thick the air was. My driver laughed. He had probably seen it happen a thousand times. I had been through the same thing when I arrived in Thailand a few weeks before and in Cambodia a few years prior, so I should have been accustomed to the blanket of heat and humidity as I left the airport, but I wasn't. I am no stranger to hot weather and actually love it, but nothing, not even the apartment I had as a teenager that resembled an airless tuna can prepared me for this part of the world during the rainy season. It rains frequently, usually a daily downpour that can get pretty intense, but they never last long and certainly never cool anything off or reduce the humidity as one would think. And hope. So there I [...]

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Chiang Mai

Over fifteen years ago, my boyfriend and I wanted desperately to get out of our home town and thought that jumping on the teach-English-overseas-bandwagon, which was all the rage at the time, was the answer. We wanted somewhere far away, cheap and exotic, so we agreed on Thailand. Clearly what we lacked in completed degrees and money we made up for in enthusiasm and naïveté. We settled on the northern city of Chiang Mai because it seemed a little more laid back than Bangkok but still a busy city where we could find work and have some fun. We researched and researched and were all but packed. Then suddenly, 9/11 happened. One of the many by-products of that tragedy was that global travel security was up and hopping on planes with little education and one-way tickets was harder to do, so it seemed like our Chiang Mai dream would be just that. Thankfully, this [...]

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Bangkok

When my three-day visit to Bangkok turned into only two, I wasn't too upset since I had fairly low expectations going in. I love city life and culture and history and people-watching, but for some reason I pictured Bangkok to be rather exhausting and false, like one big souvenir shop passing off fake replicas and cheap trinkets as hidden treasures. My vision had been partly constructed by the stereotype it holds as being a haven for obnoxious drunken backpackers looking for full moon parties and tiger temples and just the right selfie to send back home. Perhaps this is why after all of the travelling I've done, I've always avoided it. Yeah I know, I'm a backpacker myself, but I like to think that I travel a bit differently than most. Sure, I put my filthy damp clothes on one leg at a time like the others, but I think [...]

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Cambodia

History Lessons I got off the plane in Phnom Penh a bit delirious from the long flight and could not believe the blanket of humidity that smacked me in the face at the airport. It felt like walking into a wall of heat that simultaneously had me by the throat so that I couldn’t breathe. No joke. However, there was little time to decompress as I was getting on a dinky plane to get to Siem Reap. All I could think as I struggled through the nausea, meat sweats and visions of crashing into the ocean was that this temple tour better be damn well worth it. I finally made it to my hotel after my tuk-tuk ride, which was an interesting lesson in bypassing dust and avoiding exhaust smog. As I laid on the king size bed and felt the air con work its magic, I couldn’t help but wonder how my hotel was so ridiculously cheap as [...]

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South Korea

Did My Food Just Move?! Years ago, I moved to South Korea to teach English and get out of my Canadian rut, and the experience was anything but dull. My job was in Daejeon which is about two hours from Seoul by bus. It’s a medium-sized city by Korean standards, about 1.5 million people. In my short time there, I only ventured once to the ginormous capital Seoul and spent most of my time in and around Daejeon, exploring the different areas as well as the wall of mountains that seemed to protect it from the outside world. I liked my job, the people I met, and learning about the rich culture and history of this country. However, it was not free of challenges as it was my first real confrontation with culture shock. These cultural differences were by no means impediments to living there, but rather fodder for the stories I would tell [...]

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