Thursday, 27 November 2014

A travel tip worth taking

As a blogger and all round "social media whore" I'm always on the lookout for interesting content, something that catches my eye and makes me want to take 5 minutes out of living my own day to the fullest .. to take in someone else's life, their stories, their advice. 

Since leaving home nearly a year ago most of my online interest has turned from what I was familiar with (fashion, celebrities, excelling in my exciting job in the city and being a part of the 'London scene') to what has a grip on me now; traveling, chasing my dreams and making every day out of the UK count. 

Much of what I read online comes from Facebook - if my friends share something I'm more than likely going to want to take a second glance too. Nearly every day my feed has links/ statuses/ photos shared about travel; where we've been, where we're going, where we dream of and very often the blues, the "I'm back home now, how am I going to cope without life living out my backpack?".

Many friends I've met have been home a long time already or their trip has just finished - not everyone leaves home intent on "never going back". Many travel for a month or two, set from the off to go back home and make a life splattered with great holidays, a solid job and a happiness for life as they expected it to be before they had even hit the road to travel. 

So, the topic I really wanted to discuss is; "beating post-travel depression" (yes, such a thing certainly exists:/) .. most days a blog post appears on my feed giving advice on "how to beat the post-travel blues", "X tips for living normal life after traveling", "adjusting to real life after months on the road" etc. 

Most of them include these ideas; "enjoy home", "plan another trip", "focus on a new challenge", "make the most of the things you missed" etc. Often posts are same same but not much different, I agree with these points of course but, to me, something vital is always missing .. 

.. One thing I've spotted that I'd like to add when I read these sorts of posts (sorry if you've seen them, I am yet to!) is the oh so crucial "keep in touch with the people you met" tip .. such a simple idea but I think it's something so many of us forget when "real life" and "life after" a certain place takes over. So here's my idea of a plan for keeping your travels alive .. 

If you travel alone or in company I guarantee you've met people who've changed your life, maybe you spent just a day with them (this happened to me at the Killing Fields in Phnomh Penh, Cambodia), maybe you spent weeks exploring different countries together, maybe it was something someone said that will always make you smile ("enjoy the journey"), maybe a look you held as something amazing happened to you both at a particular moment ("we hit the exact same point during that song, will never forget it!"), maybe a new friend looked after you in a time of need ("my leg is in a cast, can you just push me around Brazil in a trolley?"), maybe someone gave you advice on a place that you "have to go to" ("do the Castaway tour in Vietnam, it'll change your life") ..
To me, these are the things that we need to cherish once a chapter has closed on our travels.

What moments made your trip? Who did what and why did you feel THAT happy? Cling on to that "bottle it up, seal it, keep it forever". 

You might have had a fortnight partying in Ibiza that you've only just about recovered from (even though that was back in September) or maybe you're just about to close your door on a year long trip you've just done around the globe on your own - whatever you've done, wherever you've been, however long for ... the best way to start the next phase of your life on a high is it to treasure the best parts and best people of your past adventures ..

Keep in touch through meet ups and events that will bring you together (Stereosonic anyone?;), make firm plans to see those great ones, calls, texts, messengers, post photos on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, write a blog, write a journal for your eyes only... doing some or even all of these will keep what you've loved living alive! 

Whether you plan to go away again, or not, or maybe you've just had to get over a small part of your big trip (me and Lucy are still smarting after Gili T "why aren't we back on that paradise island?") the trick of any potential 'travel blues' is to keep the dream alive. 

No wonder our grandparents, aunts, uncles and parents like telling us stories of their youth and 'glory days' - you should never let go of times that made you happiest, the good stories, those ones that made you feel that feeling will never get old .. sharing them again and again with the people you were with will always cling on to that magic, that special place once visited is never lost. 


Don Det, Dream Team

Melbourne madness 

Bondi babes 

Waterfall wonders

Boat partying island hopping, Brazil 

Lain down! Brazil

Great ones! Gili T

High flyers, Bangkok 

Monday, 24 November 2014

"Heaven is a place on earth", Gili T

If falling in love with a place, letting it grip your soul and leave you with memories you wish you could bottle sounds like the kind of feeling you want in your life, look no further than Gili Trawangan (Gilli T to its friends). 

Lucy, my partner in crimes of loving life, and I had grand plans to do and see so much of Bali "we'll climb the volcano", "we'll visit the monkey temple", "we'll check out the floating temple in the sea" ... 10 days later we've sacrificed all of these beautiful plans for Gili T "we're stuck, we'll leave but not today!" 

If my passion for this slice of paradise hasn't quite shone through just yet, read on for my 11 tips on the "perfect Gili T experience" .. 

1. Stay at the infamous Gili Backpackers hostel for a guaranteed meeting of legends of your holiday/ your travels / your life. 
The dorms are hotter than what I imagine hell to be like "we're melting" but stuff it, it's worth the discomfort for the f u n! 
I spent one of the best nights of my life in one of the private rooms too, if you've got extra money to cover it then go for a private room .. room 15 will welcome you with open arms, see if you can have as much fun as we did (pretty sure that's not possible but you can give it a go, good luck!)

2. Spend a night at a Surf Bar party, ask the barman who looks like Simba from the Lion King to give you the "strongest shake" he has and then proceed to enjoy the journey that follows .. with any luck you'll be transported clean off the Gili's in the highest sense of euphoria .. we visited another world at the Dark Moon party on Thursday night, I can't put into words what happened - it was unreal. "That little Buddha DJ is an absolute weapon! Is he for real? Is he taking the piss? What a man!" 

3. Spend a day "professionally lounging" at Horizontal Bar on the beach front. Those "comfiest bean bags in the world" won't lay on themselves! Get your treasured ones and new friends around you for numerous Bintangs and endless laughs. 

4. Drag yourself away from the island itself and go on a glass bottom boat trip for the day (100,000 IDR / $10 / £5). Our boat saw an 8ft shark, turtles, loads of fish and a shipwreck. 
We went for lunch on Gili Air, lovely little island that is !! (Try not to choose a stormy day like we did ... a little wooden boat in the eye of the storm is scary, especially when you're hungover, which you're bound to be).

5. Eat at Scallywags on the beachfront, Lucy had Mahi Mahi fish and I had Butterfish. For once we both ate really slowly to savour it, it was Sam Divine! One of the best meals of my life and that's saying something .. it was a steal at 300,000 IDR / $30 / £15 "the view is amazing, I can't get over it!".

6. Rent a push bike and explore the island, check out the swing in the ocean and head for the Sunset Bar as evening draws in. Keep a look out for the "seahorses" too .. one of our friends did a night ride and came back with a tattoo of a bike on his side, he had such a good time he wanted to save the memory forever! 

7. Get a full body massage (160,000 IDR/ $16 / £8) at a spa on the beach front, there are loads of luxury places to choose from .. take your pick, lay down, relax, listen to the sea while your body gets a well deserved pamper after your nights out. 

8. Eat the street food at the night market, the range of choice put on by the friendly staff at the Green Cafe is amazing !! Dirt cheap too, we loved it (20,000 IDR / $2/ £1)

9. Skip a night on the strip and stargaze from the Gili Backpackers "watch tower/ sky tower/ skyer tower/ treehouse/ David Attenborough's spy place" yes friends we spied on you all trying to pull each other when you got in at 5am, sorry - not! Ha ha.
.. anywayyyy, call the tower what you will, climb the "tricky steps" to the top, lie back and watch the world tick by the for the night with your music on (Glen Horsborough podcasts are the perfect soundtrack). Shooting stars aplenty to be seen over Gili T, as the stars fade the sun comes up, every sunrise is as special as the last. 

10. If you've got cash to splash go shopping in the boutiques, so many things I wanted but couldn't justify "we'll get it cheaper in Seminyak" 

11. Saving one of the best tips 'til last here .. go on a Drunken Monkeyz boat party, with a reputation as "the best boat party in the world" it didn't disappoint! As soon as we stepped foot on that massive wooden "pirate ship" I knew it was going to be one of the best days of my life "I've got goosebumps all over". 
If you like house music and love dancing you're in for a treat, we missed sunset we were so lost in the party. So damn good we did it twice! "We can't afford it, whatever!"

Gili T has most definitely stolen a big piece of my passionate heart, I'll never forget the people who have made it so special, the many many laugh-crys I've shared with them, the being unable to breath for laughing, the golden moments of clarity, the pure happiness, "I love my life, I love it so much I almost can't believe it"

Gili Trawangan, you absolute beauty, you've over-delivered 1000% .. the only thing I don't like about you is having to leave .. 


Sunday, 9 November 2014

She's only gone and done it ladies and gents !! 2nd year visa farming, regional work in Australia

My beloved blog hasn't been updated in so long, too long! I moved to Bundaberg in Queensland on 21st July and since then life has been a whirlwind of farming, fun, friends for life, more farming, lack of sleep, trying to save money, farming, great people, laughter, best times, farming, a few lows, many highs, farming, treasured moments and more farming ..

Today I finished my job and waved goodbye to life as I've known it and to Slim, the farm dog. After working 89 of the last 111 days ... it's fair to say I'm understandably shattered both mentally and physically (also hungover too, of course) but above all I'm happy, so happy!

Farm work is h a r d, 4.30am starts and 7pm finishes killed me. When I arrived it felt like I'd never reach the golden ''88th day'' but it has happened and my 2nd year visa for this amazing country has been safely secured.

I worked on 5 different farms in total, picking and packing zuchhinis (known as courguettes back home!), capsicums (aka peppers!), citrus fruits (oranges!), $3 million dollar Kellog's Corn Flakes corn (yes, 3 MIL!) and most recently (for the past 3 months!) cherry tomatoes !!

Before coming to Bundy I had grand plans of updating my blog ''I'll have loads of time to write'' and getting it back up to speed. As noted on my previous post, I had written about my months in SE Asia but sadly since then my phone died and I think I've lost them all, I will need to really dig deep to remember everything I wanted to cover now but I'll manage it !

Basically Bundy swallowed me up, when we weren't farming we were partying and when we weren't farming or partying we were sleeping ... there has been no time to write!

I leave here on Tuesday to go to Brisbane for two nights, then it's off to Bali and the Gili islands to celebrate life again and enjoy some of these hard earned dollars!

I plan to write while I'm lounging around over the next couple of weeks in paradise, so much to share! Farming has undoubtedly been one of the best things I've ever done, I've loved it. I cried when I left my farm today, as people who know me know I have been known to shed a tear or two in life . .my passion for life takes over me sometimes.

I hope you will continue to enjoy reading my blog when I get my content back on track .. it's all possible now I have my life back!

I'll have to cover the ''real'' side of farming to give people thinking about doing it the honest account of what really goes on and I need to do a ''Bundy best bits'' or similar kind of post too.

To all you fellow backpacking farmers out there, I salute you! If I can do it anyone can, freedom beckons! Go for ya life!!!


Thursday, 24 July 2014

"It's my favourite place, we have to go back", Koh Phangan, 2nd visit

5 months of seeing, doing and traveling have passed since I last visited my memory bank and posted about my 'story', this Thailand post took place across 2 weeks from February 19th ..
With this in mind, a few things are bound to be missing but it was a great time that I just couldn't miss out!
The times that follow this in Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam have pretty much been written up already - I had a surge on inspo on a long haul flight from Brazil to Australia a couple of weeks ago so let's just take this one for what it is for now and then I can crack on with the rest of them (which somehow I remember much more clearly!) 
Here goes .. 

The scene
Jen and I left James behind in glorious Pai and spent a steady 12 hours (bus, 2 flights, boat) going South then East across Thailand to Koh Phangan. The final two weeks of my 60 day Thai visa would be spent here, the place I'd loved best so far, with my still relatively new friend Jen "girls only, woo!", 19th February.

The story
Leaving Pai at dawn, hungover but feeling frisky we made our journey to the island. Koh Phangan had treated me so well on my first visit back in early January that I couldn't wait to set foot on its white sands again. We arrived as a pair and ended up with a new friend, Jake (Shakey;), a solo traveler from New Zealand. We also randomly reunited with Bert again too - I'd met him during that first January Phangan trip and then traveled on to Koh Toa, Phuket and Koh Phi Phi with him and his other two friends Bas and Richard. 

The highlights;
- Jen kicked off in Chiang Mai airport because cafe staff gave her hot milk for her tea "why do they do that?! They just don't get how to make tea over here!!". We agreed from that moment that if we wanted "proper tea, a proper builders cup" we'd have to make it ourselves.
- Having a "pamper" session in the bungalow with 100 baht facemasks that felt like they were made from paper mâché and singing "we're going Tinderrrr' before a beach/ buckets night out "don't take photos of me!" Sorry mate, photos of us looking great appear to be seen below..
- Jen putting a Welsh flag up in the window much to my delight "Wowww! A Welsh flag! Now our jungalow bungalow feels like home!" Little ties with family really do become so important on the road!
- Shania our resident Gecko whom I've previously mentioned in earlier posts brought a boyfriend back to the "bungalow of love" one night. Fat Frank the toad appeared through the bathroom drain hole, luckily he survived us not seeing him at first "we nearly washed him away, Shania would have been devastated!".
- Hiring scooters "they're both called Ben" and exploring the island "there's so much more to Phangan than the Full Moon Party!" Jen was nifty on a scooter and burnt me off at every chance "I'll succeed and finally lose you one day!".
- Going to a Coral Pool Party and being told party tales by staff "people aren't allowed to jump off the roof anymore but they keep doing it".

- Chatting to Jake on the beach on our way to the Half Moon Party and ending up going as a three to check out the event we'd heard so much of. We'd already been on the buckets on route and I remember paying 600 baht to get in then later thinking "swear I was only in there for 10 minutes..". Annoyed to report that Jake told me the next day "you were only in there 10 minutes, I saw you leave". Jen shouted "one of the best nights of my life" when she got back at 10am .. Yes, I'd bailed early, passed out and missed the fun! Too many buckets is good for no one!! 

- Discovering the garlic mayonnaise at The Lazy House! If you're ever on the island, you must go there to watch a film and eat chips with that! "Can we get some more mayo please?" "More than that, more than that .. thanks ;)".
- This deffo isn't considered a 'highlight' but we saw a man nearly drown in Haad Rin, 6 men went in to save him then they got stuck out in the current and he managed to get back to shore. Everyone got in safely in the end and the original drowner was carted off (literally!!..) in a tractor to the island doctors. Don't swim if you can't swim folks!! That sea looks pretty but the locals told us it's got a bad rip "this happens all the time".

- Starting a big night at Mushroom Mountain, we decided to all "hop on the fun bus" and "never get off". Handily the bus "drove us" up to the highest point of the island, all the way into the Black Moon Party. 
It was a night filled with neon, laughs, weird trance music and an unusual crowd; "that guy looks like Gandalf","I'm the only person to go to India and not go to the Taj Mahal", "that guy just tried to lick my face, I had to lose him in the crowd".
We spotted a group of boys (Hi Alex and Darryn;) in matching kimonos and recognised them from the beach a previous night when they'd all been wearing matching shirts, neon glasses and had been running under the fire limbo "they always wear matching outfits, love it!". We made friends and danced the night away "this place is nuts, look at the view out over the whole of Phangan" "Ahhhh! I never wanna leave this island!". 

- We decided to go by long tail boat to The Sanctuary on nearby Haad Tien beach for a "break" and ended up having one of the wildest nights of the fortnight. It all started with cocktails in the bar then feeling energetic/ tipsy we raced up the dodgy steep steps and ran across the mountain in the dark moaning at each other the whole way "are we there yet?!" "I can't breathe". Our destination was Eden, a night we'd heard so much about ..
You can buy anything over the counter in Eden, a wooden shack/ bar/ crazy dance floor on the mountain. Jen, Jake and I exchanged baht for a good time with the bar man and got in the mix. 
Eden dance floor is not for dancing, it's for stomping! Bare foot stomping, wriggling your body and shaking your mane like there's no tomorrow stomping! It was a sweat fuelled night full of laughter that we couldn't piece together the next day "Lar, you look like you've been in the shower" "Whatever! Time of my life! Jake take a photo!". 
Eden is an absolute must do, you can get directly there and back by boat from Haad Rin for just 150 baht each way. It starts around midnight and goes on into the morning. The music and atmosphere can't be compared to other Phangan parties, it's just different! Many people visit Phangan and never go there - don't be one to miss out! 

- Bert joined us at The Sanctuary for a night then we all hot footed it back to Haad Rin "we've had enough of a 'break', we wanna party more!". It was so good to see him "yayyyy! I'm so happy you're here!" after what felt like years apart when really it was only a matter of weeks since I'd left him on Koh Phi Phi, the beautiful crazy island at the South end of Thailand. We all swapped stories that night in the bar with Bert telling us how some place in Krabi had got him "closer to nature" (free hugs from "bed rats" anyone?). Having Bert bring our little group to an even 2 girls / 2 boys was fab, we spent a lot of our time together winding each other up, eating ace food and watching movies when we weren't out "driving the fun bus" on the beach.

Those two weeks were filled with sun, massages, cups of teas, green curries to die for, endless laughs and famous island parties. Jen and I decided to part ways with plans to "meet up in Cambodia if we can, we should be able to, we'll work it out". 
Jen went on to Koh Toa then Phuket and Koh Phi Phi but I'd "already done them all, can't go again, plus my visas out - I need to leave Thailand!". I made plans to travel on to Laos alone. 

The minibus picked us up to transfer us to the ferry port and I remember thinking "this music is making me feel emotional!". I looked round at Jen "are you crying?!!" She nodded. Then I started crying and we started laughing "ah, can't wait to leave you! Hate you so much!". 
Think we realised right then how close a friends we'd really become, we'd only traveled for a month together by that point but as any traveler will agree, a month is a long time to spend enjoying loads of unforgettable experiences together. We waved each other off "why we crying? Pair of divs!", "don't drink tea without me!".

I remember sitting on top of the ferry looking back at the beautiful island and its surrounding turquoise waters as if it were right now. It felt really weird leaving Jen but I was excited for the next stage of my trip, what would Laos hold for me? I couldn't wait to explore it and meet the new friends I knew would surely be there. 

Leaving Thailand ticked off the first 2 months of my solo travels. It had been amazing, unreal, the best, more than I could have wished for. I'd been ill a few times, lost endless pairs of flip flops, met people I loved "I love him" and had an all round unbelievably happy time. It was pure magic, I left knowing I would be back soon "best two months of my life, love that place, love the people, love the feeling of being constantly free". But for now it was time for the night train to Laos!!

Monday, 19 May 2014

"Never forget the power you hold in your finger tips"

Writing this post with a little bit of a heavy heart, it dawned on me a couple of days ago that I won't be able to blog while I'm on the next two chapters of my life, of '#Larasstory' ..


I've just written about Pai in North Thailand, early February 


Thailand (2nd visit to Koh Phangan) 

Laos (Vientienne > Vang Vieng > Luang Prabang > Don Det)

Cambodia (Siem Reap > Koh Rong > Phnom Penh)

Vietnam (Ho Chin Minh > Hoi An > Hanoi plus Halong Bay for the Castaway Tour)

Thailand (Koh Phangan, 3rd and final visit! > Bangkok final visit pre Australia)


I've been in Melbourne for nearly a month and absolutely LOVED it. If you follow me on twitter/ insta/ bookface you'll see how many great times I've experienced here (many thanks to my amazing friend Rhia for showing me so much in a short time;).

Tomorrow I fly on to Sydney for 8 nights, can't wait to explore the new city .. after I've been to Sydney I'll make my mind up as to where I potentially want to be based in Australia (when I'm done traveling around and exploring it - no planned time scale on this at the moment!).

Melbourne has stolen my heart; Sydney has a lot to live up to, we'll see!

After Sydney I fly (for 35 hours!) to Brazil on May 29th to volunteer on World Cup campsites. Based primarily in Salvador we'll be on the Rio and Natal sites too. 
The whole 'Brazil thing' came about through Jen, the girl I met in Bangkok in the first week of February and then ended up spending most of my time traveling SE Asia with. 
She was already going and I jumped on the bandwagon - we traveled Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam together - I still can't believe we'll be sharing South America times now too!! 
Meeting Jen changed my life, a chance friendship formed while watching the Wales vs Ireland rugby game in a grotty travelers pub on Koh San road has led to us crossing the world together for 2 "once in a life time" months.


I didn't have a phone during my 4 months traveling SE Asia and lived things through my iPad, blogging when I could. Not having a phone meant many missed opportunities for amazing photos and captured special moments but the times I did have it made for 5000 photos and 400 videos across those 4 months (Jan to April).

Now I have a phone I've decided not to bring my iPad on the next bit of my journey. I'll be reunited with it in August when I get back to Melbourne. I feel like it's too precious to risk getting stolen and it's one less thing to worry about, safety alerts will be on high in South America!! 

So, I wanted to thank YOU for reading my 'story' to date. I've been so happy with the amount of readers and amazing feedback I've received so far. 
Come August I'll be back in Australia and having missed writing, I'll be raring to pick up where I left off. 

I've got a new notepad (complete with Steve the unicorn) on the cover to record notes on posts to come next, it will all make the blog one day not too far away!

I'm going to publish my 4 months in SE Asia into an ebook and hopefully a paperback too. I go back to the UK to visit home for a month in late October so will have my blog updated and my book in process then. 
I hope my stories will inspire others to travel and make girls realise that with guts, a bit of planning, savings in your back pocket and a willingness to embrace life you really can go out there and explore our world alone. 

Can't wait to get my blog going again, I have sooooo many unreal times and truly fantastic people yet to be introduced, some of the very best times are yet to come ;)

Ciao for now !! I will be tweeting and Instagram'ing @LaraLain while I'm gone. 
Look forward to hearing from you on there.


**** "Whatever you do be playful with it" **** 

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

"I I I I I iiiiiiii like you veryyyyy much", Pai

The scene;
James, Jen and I head off to Pai with the wisdom of our crazy friend Helene ringing in our ears; "theres 762 bends in the road on the way up" she warns - armed with sick tablets off we went! 16th February.

The story;
We'd heard the bus from Chiang Mai was "3 hours of hell but worth it in the end", as it goes the journey was fine! The "762 bends" were indeed a fact, not a myth, but since it was so damn bendy the driver couldn't get up too much speed, phew!
Apart from someone yodelling at the back of the bus "earphones are going in, can't be dealing with this shit!" our journey was good, we arrived in awe of the beautiful scenery we'd seen on our way.

We explored Pai's infamous Walking Street (no cars allowed but dogs on scooters are A OK..) and fell in love with the place, it was small with just 2 'main' streets full of cheap, interesting shops that were different to others we'd seen so far in Thailand. 
We raided the 7eleven (the 'Tesco Extra' to every British traveler) and made a bar in the bungalow on that first night. Jen was running the joint; "I haven't got a beard, am I still allowed in?" "Yeah I'll let you off, Samsong and Red Bull is it love?".

James provided the entertainment as we got ready "Tom Jones is in the shower". He joined us on the Red Bull high then we had the "all of a sudden I was down Coolers on the wazz" Welsh banter going on and him singing "10 songs in a row! Boom! Your turn!" for us. 
We ended up in the Don't Cry bar sitting around the fire chatting with fellow travellers. At one point we ventured into the 'club' area, only for the sound system to completely cut out the moment we started dancing "No way!! Ha ha, we're the only divs in here, let's go back to the fire!".

Next day James (aka The Crazy Frog) hired a scooter and went off on adventure arvo with friends he'd made on his Chiang Mai trek. While he was gone Jen and I shared an afternoon that neither of us will ever forget; our friendship took a turn down the "you're as mad as me, we'll deffo be mates for life now for sure, forever, there's no going back" route.

It was one of those "you had to be there moments" (don't you just hate them!) but basically .. Jen was telling me something about someone and it was just the way she described one thing. 
I was lying on the balcony facing away from her looking out over the mountain and she was in the hammock. Her voice piped up sounding all quiet and meek (which let me tell you, she is not!) behind me, just the way she said it made me roar with laughter like I'd had 20 laughing gas balloons in a row. 
Laughing turned into hysterics "Whaa? Whaa? What's so funny Lara?" and next minute I'm crying so much my sides are hurting. 
It went on for ages, the more we laughed the more we couldn't stop. She laughed at me laughing at her then we were just laughing at laughing. We rolled around that balcony like a pair of goons "are we on day release?" "The neighbours are guna think we've lost it".
I'm laughing as I write this just thinking about it. "Laugh cry or die" was born that day. It's hard to make such a feeling come to life here but it was hands down one of the funniest moments of my entire 4 months in SE Asia.

Later, James returned high on life and told us of winding roads, rock climbing and walking the Pai Canyon "today has been one of the best days of my life". Having just about got over the laugh-cry episode James scootered me up to the Buddha that overlooks Pai before sunset fell and we admired the beauty of the wonderful place from above. 
One of James' fave pastimes on a bike is waving to his friends, I clung on like a limpet on the back, he didn't go fast though I was just being a baby because the light was falling and I "can't see James, I can't see!".

Jens friend Brock joined us from Chiang Mai that day, we went for a lush meal, no food is bad in Pai! Then on for drinks with Adam (Sandler). We discussed the glorious thing that is "piss shitting" (travellers out there, you know what I'm saying), pretended to be Buddhas and 'enjoyed' strong cocktails that had "too much lime in them".

Later, me, Adam and his mates went back to ours for a "party! Let's have a party!" and bugger me I shit you not the party did not last long!
Our (locked!!) door was opened by the bungalow owner, who I recall had a rifle in his hands "no noise after 10pm!" "Whoaaaah sorry we'll be quiet!". Of course we did not mean this at all and had no intention of stopping the fun. 
Andddd of course it all ended about 20 minutes later with these words "you've had 3 chances, if I liked you you could have stayed but I don't - if you don't leave I will kill you". 
Well!!! Calm down, we were only jumping around the bungalow blasting music and drinking from 'Jens bar', easy goes sir ;) Anyway, the party was pooped and we had to leave. Shame we 'couldn't read' the sign on the bungalow hey..
Adam went back to get his top at one point and told us "he was staring at me through the hedge with a sniper, swear that looney was guna shoot me". Note to self, stay ay Spicypai Backpacksrs next time, friends have since informed me it's THE party place to stay in Pai. 

I ended that night running around random bungalows at 6am shouting "Jen! Jen! Are you here? We're guna miss the bus!!". We found each other at 620am "Hiya loveeee, Koh Phangannnnn" and we're on the bus loving life by 630am.

2 nights in Pai was never goi to be enough, if we'd know how special a place it was we would have got 'stuck' there for who knows how long. It's a little gem in the north of Thailand, one of my ultimate fave places in my 2 1/2 months in Thailand. In the words of Arnie "I'll be back" ... 

So, as the story goes .. James stayed on and Jen and I left Pai in a state of euphoria, we'd had little sleep after our eventful nights but we didn't care, our next stop was Koh Phangan. 
My second visit on my trip and Jens first ever ... I knew what awaited us and Jen couldn't wait to see what fun I'd been talking so highly of. As you can see from the final pic below we laughed out way out of Pai in hysterics, what was going on in that pic is anyone's guess. 

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

"What happens in the jungle stays in the jungle", Chiang Mai (part II)

The scene; 
Deciding to be 'proper' travellers, Jen and I signed up for a trek with Travelhub. For just £30 we'd be off on an adventure into the 'unspoilt' Samoeng depths of the Thai jungle .. leaving lovely Chiang Mai behind for a few days - we didn't have a scooby about how it would REALLY be.

The story; 
The idea of an "epic 3 day 2 night trek in the jungle, it's amazing!" came from my travel buddy James. He'd "done it before" and reported it was "the nuts Lar, our guide set the bungalow on fire when he was smashed on the first night, you gotta do it!" James told his tales of previous fun with gusto and I was sold, I wanted in!

Jen was game too, she signed up for the 1 night/ 2 day option and I went all "going hard, not going home" and chose the 2 night/ 3 day option. James went off on a different trek as he'd done the one we'd booked on to before. All was well as we split at the SoHostel "see you in a few days buddy, enjoy!!"

Well! It all started rosy; pretty, green, boiling hot to the point of burning alive in the never forgiving Thai sun but still rosy. It didn't stay that way though did it, oh no no no, that would have been too easy..

High highs and low lows; 
Our tour guide was called Rocky, a teeny tiny little Thai man who appeared to have rockets attached to his (what I assume to be) size 4 feet. Keeping up with Rocky and his trusty bamboo stick was a challenge from the start. 
Me and Jen got our whinge on pretty fast (only to each other of course) "does he have to go so damn fast? I AM SWEATING!".
The first day brought lunch at a beautiful waterfall; a waterfall that had some wild dogs trying to nick our lunch and also an amazing rainbow within the fall itself. I'll never forget seeing that rainbow, it was perfect timing "I'm going to find the pot of gold so I can travel forever".

After the waterfall, which was only about an hour into the trek it all went sort of downhill. We climbed high, like if you crane your neck back to look up to the sky but instead of sky you see jungle and jungle and more jungle peering down on you. 
The trek was hard !! We were scrabbling upwards on our knees at a few points it was so steep. 

We made it to our first overnight stop without any major issues and we'd seen some amazing views on the way - when you're in the jungle, you're proper in it, miles away from any kind of civilisation. Me and Jen had a Red Bull in the arvo (they're laced with something that really does give you wings in Thailand) and it saw us skipping through to the evening camp.

Said camp came with a little baby monkey "call him Rocky 2", a cat that hugged the monkey and a dog that wanted to 'play' with them both. Our guide said we'd trekked '15km' that day. 
I was playing one of my fave DJ's, Sam Divine, on my iPad as Jen and I shared a Chang outside our hut "yeah I know Sam Divine" - the deal was sealed, me and Jen would always be friends forever now ;)
We visited the Longneck ladies, tried on their long neck gold, learned about their way of life and settled down with our group for a night of Bob Marley, chatting and food by the camp fire.

I've got a video of me waking up after that first night and apart from Jen (since she was there) no one else should ever see it. My head looks like a balloon with pin pricks for eyes. 
"Great sleep, no one was awake 1/2 the night. No we didn't get woken at 4am by a rooster with the wrong time clock". Joking around then and not having seen myself in a mirror, I didn't realise what was coming next.

After breakfast I realised I felt "weird" but tried to laugh it off as I do with anything negative (being in the middle of the jungle I had little choice on my state of health after all). 
I could have asked to go back with the 2 day crew but didn't want to, I wanted to ride the elephants on the next (last) day. I had it all mapped out in my head that I wanted to complete the whole trek and I wasn't about to give in.

ANYWAY, suffice to say I wish I had !! The moment Jen went off with the 2 dayers I turned back to those left on our group and said "can you wait for me up there a minute, I'm guna puke" and with that I promptly turned and puked what felt like my whole life out in the hedge. 
Well! I didn't have a clue what was wrong with me. The day went from bad to worse. We trekked another 15km that day. Across all sorts of terrain in the raging heat. I couldn't keep up with the group and stopped loads to prevent myself fainting, it was so embarrassing! Being ill and weak just isn't me but I had no choice, my body was caving!

We stopped for lunch for 3 hours (dunno why it was that long but I was so grateful!). Rocky showed me a hut to sleep in and the moment my head touched the wooden floor I was out cold. 
I slept until I was woken then dragged myself as best I could behind our group to the Karen Hill Tribe family to stay for our final night. 
Getting there was such a relief, I didn't eat, just slept, praying tomorrow would be a better day. I've got a video of me sitting alone in the dark in my mozzie net saying "if you can't laugh at yourself you've had it, Blair Witch eat ya heart out" ha ha!!

The 3rd and final day brought a degree of better health, thankfully !!! We rode the beautiful elephants through the jungle and laughed as the girls one was intent in having breaks whenever it felt like it and they got left behind. Then my fave part of the whole trek was the last bit, bamboo rafting down the river. It was so mellow and the sound of the water was soothing as we went past lots of Korean tourists drinking Chang on the river banks and playing in the shade.

I can't express enough how grateful I was (still am) to the ace girls and guys in my group (final photo). All of them looked out for me when I was in despair and didn't get grumpy when I had to hold them up.

You don't get pre-warned about how hard the trek is but here it is from me, if you're not fit I wouldn't recommend the 3 day option. You need to be physically on it or you're likely to really struggle and the tour guides walk fast so you don't have many options to take pics of the amazing scenery which is a bit shit. Saying that, as always I don't regret it - can't help my mystery illness, healthy me would have LOVED the whole thing ;)

When I got back to the hostel James had a bunch of new pals from his trek (which he loved of course) and Jen reported back on "one of the best nights partying at Zoe's", damn! It was time to man up for final night our before heading to Pai iiiii iiiii the next morning.

Day 1 & 2

Day 3