Tag Archives: Travel

Ghosts of Travel Journals Past: Part 1

Back in 2008, I did a five month backpacking trip through South East Asia, Ireland and Central and South America, finishing up in Vancouver where I went on to live for a year and half.

Back then, this blog didn’t exist and my leather-bound journal was my constant travel companion. I’d spend hours making trip notes on planes, long bus rides or any other time I had a spare few hours to while away (happens frequently when you’re backpacking!). Even now, I still like travel with a notebook to jot down blog ideas or observations but the notes are fairly haphazard and may just be a word or dot-point to jog my memory.

When my sister came to visit me in Vancouver, I sent my travel journal home with her and promptly forgot about it…until this Christmas when out-of-the-blue she uncovered it in her old bedroom.

I was so excited at finding this time capsule of travel adventures, I devoured the whole thing in one reading. It was so fascinating being back in my 26-year-old head, trying to navigate my way through new places, cultures, languages and food!

Reading back through that journal, I came across all sorts of memories and experiences (good and bad!) that I’d forgotten all about. I thought I’d use this blog to share some of these extracts.

This entry is Part 1: South East Asia [2013 commentary in brackets].

“I’m feeling so much calmer about this trip than I have in the past. I think it comes with the realisation that people are just people wherever you go. There’s always someone who can help you, always someone new to meet!” [This was day one. Love the optimism and positivity that comes with starting a new trip!]

“I’m so glad I bought a travel neck pillow in Sydney. It’s been the best $18 I’ve ever spent.” [Five years on, this is still a travel essential]

“If I could describe Hanoi in one word it would be “Beeeeeeeep” because that’s all you hear all day and night as cars and motorbikes pass someone.”

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“Shopping has not been good for the self-esteem. I even shopped in a store called “Big Size” and everything was too small!”

“Sitting out the front of a street vendor at 3.30pm, drinking 20c beer and watching the bustling Hanoi world go by.”

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“Got my fortune told by a 90-year-old Vietnamese woman. Apparently I will meet my husband next year, he will have tanned skin. We will get married when I’m 29 and have three kids.” [None of this actually happened!]

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“The most random music: Richard Marx to Pulp Fiction soundtrack to Khe Sanh to techno.” [Bar in Hue, Vietnam]

“Had snake wine (spirits with a preserved cobra in the bottle).”

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“We just happened to be there for the Lantern Festival which is only once a month. So beautiful!!” [Hoi An, Vietnam]

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“Cu chi tunnels were amazing. It’s hard to imagine that there are 250kms of them – all dug by hand. Climbed through 50m of tunnel. Although they had been widened for tourists (!) we could still barely fit.”

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“There is some pretty extreme poverty here. Everyone seems much poorer than in Vietnam. Children selling wares on their own until 10pm.” [Phnom Penh, Cambodia]

“We went to the genocide museum where people were imprisoned under the Pol Pot regime. I can’t believe that such atrocities have happened. It wasn’t just the conditions but the methods of torture that the prisoners were subjected to. Many of the Khmer Rouge were only kids (14-25 years) who were targeted because they were at an impressionable age…I found the whole experience quite distressing.”

“Lost my keycard in Cambodia and then realised my credit card didn’t have a PIN. Had a few moments of panic thinking that I would be unable to get money out. Luckily I could get money out over the counter but it served as a good lesson: always keep ATM card and credit card separate and have a stash of emergency cash.” [Although I brushed it off in my journal as “a few moments of panic” in reality, there was much, MUCH panic (I think I even cried) at the thought of trying to travel cashless while I got a replacement card. Luckily it all worked out!]

Let me know if you’ve had similar experiences in South East Asia!

…Parts 2, 3, and 4 coming soon.

 

 

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Travel Theme: Up

I’ve recently stumbled across a great blog called Where’s my backpack? that offers up a weekly travel photography challenge.

For this week’s theme “up” I’ve picked out a few images from a trip to Nice, France that I took in October 2011 to celebrate my 30th birthday. When I wasn’t eating French pastries and drinking wine, I was gazing up at the stunning architecture – so ornate, distinguished and chic…so French.

I hope you enjoy the selection!

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The Train Journey To End All Train Journeys

*Backdated to early August, 2012*

This is the story of 90 hours on a train. That’s 5,400 minutes, or 324,000 seconds. On a train.

After three months travelling east to west across Canada, I thought it would be a novel idea to take the four day train trip from Vancouver back home to Toronto as I’d flown from Montreal to Calgary on the way across. (If that string of cities made no geographical sense to you, see map below.)

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I was also short on coin and VIA Rail was offering 70% off selected trips (these Express Deals run year-round, a good option if you’re flexible with travel dates). I booked economy (no bed, no meals) from Vancouver to Winnipeg, and a sleeper car from Winnipeg to Toronto (four nights sleeping in a seat is too much!). This normally would have cost an exorbitant $1000, but I managed to get it for around $300. Steal!

I was really looking forward to the trip – taking in all the scenery, reflecting on a summer travelling, and catching up on a whole heap of emailing, blogging and Weeds (I’d just started watching it and had six seasons to get through).

But half an hour after boarding, disaster struck.

Me: “Excuse me, I can’t seem to connect to the internet.”

Staff member: “That’s because there is none.”

Me (slightly panicked): “For the whole trip?”

Staff member: “For the whole trip. The only WIFI we offer is between Toronto and Montreal.” (Which I’d known about and hence assumed all services had it. If you’re reading this VIA Rail, whyyyyyyyy??!!!!!)

Things went downhill over the next 24 hours:

1) Boarded at 8pm, ate all food supplies by 10pm

2) 11pm, finished the only book I’d brought (Angela’s Ashes, already 3/4 read)

3) Had worst night’s sleep trying to get comfortable lying across four seats, and trying to drown out the constant snoring and farting of other passengers

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4) Woke at 6am convinced that we were in Alberta already as all I could see out the window was farmland. Turns out, we were only in Kamloops, BC. In 10 hours  we had travelled the equivalent of a 3.5 hour drive! It was then I realised this was going to be a looooooooooong trip.

But later that day, a shining beacon of light arrived in the form of the Rockies. This stunning scenery kept me entertained for hours as I alternated between my seat and the glass-roofed dome cart.

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After two days and nights in economy, even nice scenery isn’t enough to make you feel human. I had turned into a grotesque version of myself: smelly, covered in mozzie bites that I’d scratched the crap out of through boredom, left eye all puffy and closing up (to this day, I still can’t explain that), leggings falling apart (I’d refused to throw them out until I got home)…my only consolation was that I only had another 12 hours until I was out of economy.

In the meantime, there was Saskatchewan and Manitoba. That is, flat plain after flat plain.

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When I finally changed to a sleeper car in Winnipeg, I felt like a whole new world had opened up to me – bed, shower, three meals a day! I still didn’t have anything to do (I’d already resorted to plucking my eyebrows and editing all my photos) but at least I could sleep.

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Things got exciting as we headed into Ontario. Not only was the scenery interesting again but we were in my home province – surely that meant we were on the home stretch?!

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But alas, it was still a whole 24 hours before we would reach Toronto. (I hadn’t actually realised until that moment how big Ontario actually is – check back to the map and see for yourself!)

Ninety hours later, I made it back to Toronto – albeit a little weary, a little stir-crazy, and severely internet-deprived.

…But recovery time was brief, the next day I headed to Montreal for Osheaga 2012.

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