Pete and I spent most of 2013 traveling around Asia. I didn’t get a chance to tell many people about all of our adventures because we were only back in Canada for a short time. So I have decided to make a break down on what we did, where we went and how much we spent to give some people an idea.
So we have been back in Canada for about two months now, and I have to say.... it's not all it's cracked up to be. Having lived abroad for the past 2 and a half years, Pete and I really got to experience all these amazing and wonderful cultures around the world. And when people asked us "where are you from?" with such pride we would respond "Canada!" and know it was the best country in the world.
Nyepi is the Balinese new years day, and is a “day of silence” to allow one to self reflect. That does sound to strange, doesn’t it? That’s what I thought when I first read about it. I thought it would be very similar to Tet (lunar new year) in Vietnam, were all the locals stay home and most of the stores and restaurants are closed but tourist are free to go about their business. I had no idea how serious the Balinese took their holiday.
The holiday starts on the New Years Eve of the Balinese calendar, this year it was the beginning of March. People parade around huge statutes of demons called ogoh-ogohs. The parades stop at all the major intersection where rituals are preformed to scare away all the evil spirits. They stop at the intersections because that is where they believe evil spirits like to hang out. The rituals consist of a large group of people dancing and making as much noise as possible. After all the rituals are finished its lights out for everyone, and they mean everyone.
On the actual day of Nyepi you are not allowed to do anything at all. No working, no traveling, no TV, no Internet, nothing. Some Balinese don’t even eat or talk. Besides self reflection, the complete silence is thought to confuse any demons that hadn’t already left the island from the rituals the night before. The Balinese believe that the complete silence tricks the demons into thinking everyone has left the island of Bali and therefore leave themselves. By having all the demons desert the island, this ensures the people of Bali will have a prosperous upcoming year.
Everyone on the island of Bali must abide by the rules of Nyepi in order to unsure the demons leave. This means that even the thousands of tourists on Bali must have a day of silence. Sam and I had flown in two days before New Years Eve not knowing the seriousness of this holiday, although it would explain the ridiculously cheap airplane tickets we got. We relaxed on the beach for a day and then thought we’d rent a scooter during Nyepi to make No one is allowed to leave the hotel, the cable is shut off, the windows are blacked out and they knock on your door if you have too many lights on. The only people you see walking about are the Nyepi police who ensure no one is on the streets. It felt like we were in prison, a prison that we had to pay for.
All in all it was day wasted for us, so double check your dates if you are thinking of visiting Bali in march. Well, see you later.
So this may not seem like a big deal to you, but we’ve been trying to find turtles since the first day of this trip over 3 months ago. In fact, the main reason for our trip to Ko Tao was to find some. We were under the impression that since Ko Tao means “trutle island” that the waters around it would be filled with turtles. It turns out that the island got its name because it looks like a turtle, not because they live there.
We meet a couple in Boracay that told us that they saw a bunch of turtles during their trip to the Gili islands a few years before. The Gili islands are a group of 3 tiny islands between Bali and Lombok. These islands are so small that you can walk around them in about and hour and kayak between all three. Our first few days in Bali were spent in the Kuta area, crammed with more Australians and drunk people (wait…I think those two are the same) than Phuket. It didn’t take us very long to hop on a boat to these fabled islands to try and find some sea turtles.
When we arrived at Gili Trawangan we were pleased to see their were no motorized vehicles allowed on the island. A few donkey carts were waiting for to pick up the passengers who, for some reason, thought having a rolling suitcase was a good idea when traveling to islands with sand roads. Sam and I talked t0 a lot of people with a lot of different opinions as to which island was the best to stay on. So instead of taking their word for it we decided we were going to stay on all of them!
Luckily for us the change in plans as paid off. We’ve seen a few turtles everyday we gone out snorkeling. They are amazing t0 watch, when they swim it looks like they are flying, and the way they chomp on coral makes me very careful that they don’t get to close to my fingers. Also luckily for us the turtles are not shy around people, allowing Sam to take over 400 photos of them (not joking). Hope you enjoy some the the best pictures…Well, see you later.
Yesterday we woke up at 5 am, tossed on our clothes and went for a 10 k bike ride. Why, you ask? Well, it wasn’t for fitness, it was to catch the sunrise at Angkor Wat, and it was well worth it.
I’m planing on doing a full post about our time in Siem Reap and Angkor, but for now I’ll leave you with a few of the over 200 pictures we took during the sunrise. Enjoy, and see you later.
This post is well over due since its been about 3 weeks since we left Laos. I went into Laos not really knowing what to expect, really just going to add it to my list of countries. I left having fallen in love with the county and counting the day until I can return.
We spent almost two weeks, and since we had such little time we only did the northern area of Laos. We started in Vientane then up to Vang Vieng and ended in Luang Prabang.
Funny story about this Monument below. It was built with cement that the USA give to Laos in order to build a new airport, causing some to give it the nick name “the vertical runway”.
Vientiane is the current capital of Laos and it made a very good first impression on us. After a month in Thailand, and dealing with hawkers always trying to get you to buy something, or rip you off in some way, our guards were fully up. We soon learned this was not so necessary in Laos, in fact I think we might have offended a few people in the beginning with our untrusting ways. Not only were the people very friendly and laid back, but the city was much cleaner than Thailand, which was a little surprising considering Laos is much poorer of a county. Mix that together with what the french gave them during their colonial day (mostly buildings and the technique for baking good bread) and you are left with a very nice place to visit.
The next place we visited was Vang Vieng, which is a small town on a river, famous for inner tubing. In fact a little to famous for the locals liking. Last year about 25 people died on the river due to to much beer and bad decisions (mostly Australian, which is to no surprise to anyone who has traveled in SE Asia). This led the local powers in charge to close down all the river side bars and to close the larger nightclubs near the river.
This didn’t matter to us at all, the inner tubing down the river was still super fun and relaxing. We just brought our own beer from the town and kept it cold in the river, saving us thousands of KIP (a few dollars).
We also spent a day Kayaking down the river, which was a lot of fun. You get to see more of the river by kayaking, but Sam and I both enjoyed the tubing more. It was just so peaceful, and relaxing.
After a few relaxing day in Vang Vieng, we headed to our last city in Laos, Luang Prabang. Getting there was the longest 7 hours of my life. The road we took snaked though the mountains, up and down, side to side. And although the scenery was beautiful, the bad roads and the motions of the van had everyone feeling green.
Luang Prabang is an ancient capital city of Laos, filled with a very interesting mix of Buddhist temples and French architecture. The city is so interesting that most of the downtown area is listed as a UNESCO site.
Besides sight seeing in Luang Prabang, we also rented a motorbike one day and took a 30 km drive though the mountains to get to one of the coolest waterfalls I’ve ever seen.
Swimming in the falls was amazing, despite the cold water. There was also an Asian Black Bear sanctuary within the park which was great to see. Asian Black Bears are farmed all over Asia (including Korea) for their bile, which is used in Chinese medicine. These Bears are basically tortured their whole life, and it’s been proven the the bile has no positive health benefits. In fact it may be dangerous for people to use. This is an issue that was first bought to my attention while living in Korea, and it was great to see that at least a few bears have been saved from poaching and bile farms and now get to live a happy life.
Anyways, back to the main topic. After Luang Prabang our time in Laos was over. We had a great time, I can’t wait to go back someday, and I recommend anyone traveling South East Asia to make a stop in Laos…Well, see you later.
Halong Bay is one of the most popular places to visit in Vietnam. Not surprising since it’s so beautiful it’s listed as both a UNESCO world heritage site and one of the new 7 wonders of nature.
Located on the northern coast of Vietnam about 3 hour drive from Hanoi and made up of almost 2000 islands we decided that instead of trying to do it on our own we would book a 3 day cruise.
Package tours are not really our favourite way to travel, (in fact we avoid them at all costs) but even though it was the most expensive thing we have done so far, it was well worth every penny. We picked a tour company (Indochina junk) that offered cruises away from the popular day trip destinations (there can over 100 boats on the bay at any time), which was great, we never saw more then 2 other boats and it made it feel as though we had the bay to ourselves.
The cruise itself was more fun than i initially thought it would be. We got to go kayaking, swimming and we visited a floating village. One of the days we even ventured to an island owned by Indochina junk where we played soccer in the sand and enjoyed a romantic dinner in a cave. We also met a few really nice people on the boat and our tour guide, Tony, was great.
I’ll stop boring you with my words now, since even if I was a skilled writer I wouldn’t be able to do justice to the beauty of Halong bay, and let you enjoy the pictures…Well, see you later.