Closer to Nature: Emny’s Survival Guide to Petting the Animals in South East Asia 

 

  (More pictures to come)

This one is for you my hippy, animal-loving twin sister, to who I am more similar than I would like to admit.

And, mother, father, as you are well aware, I cannot afford the de-stress therapy you may require upon reading this, and for your information, the postage for sending such bills to Thailand would be outrageous.
To everyone else:

I am 100% not responsible if you are insane enough to utilize anything in this blog- except for the respect and rationality with which I believe every living thing should be treated.

I give you:

Emny’s Survival Guide to Petting the Animals in South East Asia

Would you pet a con man? Would you talk in a baby voice to a throng of pick pockets? Of course not, so

 1. Don’t touch the monkeys.

They’re rude. I watched one leap on a woman’s back and attempt to bite her through her shirt. They are the #1 reason I got my rabies shots before coming here, and everything you hear is true. Every time I’ve walked by one, he/she has sized me up and looked to see what I was holding and how tightly; therefore I interact with them as though they are humans. I glare when confronted, secure my valuables, and occasionally point and say “I see you”. And they know. They know I see them. Don’t coo, don’t beckon. They are not your friends, they are your rivals, and they have betrayed me with their lack of cuddly-ness.

 The cats are hardly better, I am sad to say. They are teeny and cute, but have apparently not been made aware that even whilst playing you cannot scratch at a tourist with your vicious little paws.

 I have pet 7 cats, 4 of which were tiny kittens who thought I was either going to feed them or ruin their lives (they froze with fear). Another mildly successful interaction was that of an immensely pudgy flat-faced adult cat in Chiang Mai who was carried to us as he saw little reason for our attention. He seemed too large to adequately struggle or scratch, which leads me to my next rule.
 3. Only truly trust the fat puppies who seem lazy and appear physically unable to exercise agility- this will be evident in a lack of flexibility to their furry quarters and belly. There are several distinct body shapes of the dogs here, and the short legged midget puppies are among the best tempered. I believe that realizing society does not take them seriously, they have decided to milk this and receive as many table scraps as humanely possible.

 The Pai Puppy shown above has been my favorite, and i hope to some day exhibit even half as much nonchalance whilst walking down the street. You just can’t teach that kind of self confidence.

You will encounter many a critters stationary, but you will also encounter many as they go about their day. It is here that I state our fourth rule.

 


  

4. When a given cute animal seems to be venturing as though they genuinely have somewhere to be, an appointment, a lunch date, it is at this moment that you should abandon whatever pointless thing you were doing, and follow the animal. They clearly know where they are going, and more than half the time in Thailand, I don’t know where I’m going. Therefore, logically, they should be followed.
 5. The reptiles are unpettable- as in, they do not wish to be pet- however, their pauses seem to be moments of intense focus, especially when talked to, and it is for this reason I believe they are gathering info. Being that they are harmless in nature (from my experience), I have let them flee to their leaders with greetings and promises of Cheerios. I feel like reptiles would like Cheerios, or atleast the chance to the try them (everyone has tried Cheerios).

It is evident from my (admittedly limited) social interactions, as well as their readable faces, that

6. Majority of marine life believes itself to be superior to humans.

 Given the whole breathing-underwater-plus-fins-and-tails thing, I have to admit, they are right. But depending on where you are, they love to show off and socialize. When/if you do get a chance to interact with marine life, avoid feeding or disturbing to garner attention; they interact much better when it’s just because, and if you have to feed or grab them for attention, they’re just using you.

 7. All of the spiders (large) and strange bugs (also large) are coincidently named “God-Damn-Terrifying”, but they rarely mean you harm. In fact, they are often so afraid, they lose their wits and are beyond calm negotiation. This often leads to violence and bloodshed, though I am happy to say we have endured/dealt neither in the last 50 days of traveling.

I hope with these 7 simple rules in mind, you can enjoy a nice, critter-filled trip in South East Asia. Here’s some pictures of a fat puppy trying to play.  (the video is pure gold)    
All the best,

Em

Advertisements

The Little Sister of the Lower Gulf: Koh Tao

 We got back into Bangkok from Cambodia and headed straight for Khao San Road. We booked a night bus-boat combo ticket to Koh Tao from a roadside travel agency (1100TB, we later saw some as low as 850TB) and headed to our hostel to crash. We wandered around the area the next day and did some island research (this includes me booking my SSI open water course) before catching our 7:30pm bus. We were supposed to arrive on Koh Tao at 9:30am, but overnight the bus driver made some executive decisions and we weren’t there until 3:40pm. This would’ve been fine, had I not made plans to start my course at 4pm that day. Everything worked out in the end, but in the future I’m going to leave a buffer day between the boat-bus combo and any solid plans. Here’s a picture of the bus sunrise to reassure you.

 My diving experience:

I didn’t need to book ahead, but with conscious tourism on my mind, I wanted to attend a dive school that gave back to the environment it used. So among the Eco-conscious schools I approached, I chose Roctopus mostly because they emailed me back quickly, but also because the entire process of enquiry was exceptionally relaxed. I was looking for a dive school that could set me up with accommodations that both Darrian and I could stay at, and I didn’t want dorms (we’re up early for class and dive sessions). They said they could help me out, as well as drive me to the resort/dive school when I landed.
 There is no shortage of dive schools or hostels on this island, and while I would recommend research, this really is something you need to feel out. Roctopus was super helpful over email and they had everything I wanted. You’ll have your pick of the crop for dive schools and accommodations so definitely scope it out, keep in mind the prices will all be relatively the same (and the same is cheap so don’t complain), hovering between 9500TB and 8500TB. The smaller the group the better (I only had one other student in my class), and the quality of your instructor matters, though you won’t have to worry about that on Koh Tao. The competitive environment keeps all the schools performing at the highest standards.

You’re up early so you catch the sunrise.

 I would like to take this moment to thank my mom and dad for putting me in swimming lessons, for taking us consistently to the sludgy pea soup beaches of Churchill (Alex and Nicci, I know you guys had this responsibility too, all the thanks), to my mom for passing down her love of the water, and my dad for making boating and water sports so accessible. I was spoiled rotten, and as a result have a comfortableness with the water that I see now is not necessarily a given.

Our accommodations:

  
 After 3.5 days of doing my SSI Open Water certification, I can now do a whole bunch of other technical stuff that contributes to keeping myself alive whilst under the waves. Tons of people get certified so it’s not a big deal, but I mean, I can now conquer the last frontier of earth as long as it’s above 30m. But yeah, not a big deal. They start in the pool and move you up.

  
All joking aside, it was a great experience and if you enjoy the water and silence (there’s no talking, it’s beautiful) I highly recommend hitting up Koh Tao for your certification. To continue diving as far north as Canada you need to take an additional dry-suit course, which is calling my name this coming August.


There was a nice walking path that people insisted on driving down, and I found the nightlife uncomfortable and forced. Word of advice, do your research on Koh Tao, there’s no point in me saying what every guide book will tell you. The roads are terrible, we didn’t explore more than Sairee Beach, and with my class taking up my daylight, I didn’t have the time. We found the island to be a little more expensive and if you’re not diving, I hate to say it, but there’s no real reason to head over when you have a perfectly good adventure at Koh Phangan calling your name. I’m lucky to be traveling with a very innovative and active person who was willing to pick up a new past time while I took my diving plunge.
Darrian’s Muay Thai experience:


Two daily sessions, 8am and 4pm, and make no mistake; this is not the place to be rubbing sleep from your eyes, or taking a break from the midday heat. Of course, if you do happen to find yourself at Monsoon Gym, I’m sure one of the trainers will be able to drag you from your stupor.
There’s no walls, only punching bags outlining the training area, a slot from the roof to hang the skipping ropes and a stretching area-turned training area once the session gets going.
All skill levels are welcome, and all skill levels are present. The circuit system allows you to push yourself as hard or as soft as you’d like, and the one on one time with the trainers doesn’t leave you feeling out of your depth or bored with a slow pace.

It begins with a 15 minute cardio warm-up of skipping, which transitions into shadow boxing. From there, 4 trainers take 4 individuals and everyone else takes out their inner frustrations on one of the numerous punching bags.
After everyone has been with every trainer atleast once, sometimes more depending on the circuit, one trainer takes control and the entire room spends 45 minutes doing core training as well as stretching.
All in all? I was sweating just watching them. But it was a great set-up for learning, and the personal structure of the workout makes it appealing to all levels of fitness.
This gym has dorms and hosted several students who worked and trained for various lengths of time, in case there’s any wrestlers currently living in Medicine Hat who might be interested (Eric!).
The weather started to take a down turn, so we decided to see what Koh Phangan has to offer. After a 6hr ferry delay and 6m waves when we were on the water (I’ve never been so seasick in my life), we landed and the adventures began.
Adventurers of which, will be talked about in my next blog when we actually finish our adventure here.
All the best,

Em

Siem Reap, Cambodia

We bought direct bus tickets from the northern bus terminal, Mo Chit, for 750TB, but I’ve heard rumors that this can be done online, and seeing as this is something that needs to be done in advance (they fill fast), I would recommend trying the online method if you can’t get to the terminal. If one were to google “direct bus from Bangkok to Siem Reap” they would find the numerous and very helpful articles that I did. Read em’, they help you to avoid scams and misfortune. Word of caution- don’t buy a ticket from anywhere but Mo Chit or the website located here: thaiticketmajor.com
 The visa process to get into Cambodia (Aranyaprathet-Poipet, a main land crossing) was a little disorganized, but we just kept our eyes focused on the signs and other streams of tourists. You basically get off the bus, you need to stamp out of Thailand, buy a visa for Cambodia (you need a little passport picture for the visa, we brought them with us from Canada), and head across the border (all done by walking) to get your passport stamped into Cambodia. It took us 45min but I’ve heard horror stories of hours. Yikes. We did have to pay an additional 200TB on top of the $30USD fee (1100TB is acceptable) for the Cambodia visa- it’s basically an undisputed bribe that, if you’re willing to literally make a scene and risk a long wait, can be bypassed. We didn’t feel like doing either so we paid (begrudgingly).

Upon arriving in Siem Reap, we were dropped off at the Nattakan office (the Cambodian side of the direct bus route) where a tuk tuk driver from our accommodations picked us up. We stayed at a place called “The Siem Reap Hostel”, original, I know. A bed in the dorm cost 300TB, aka $8-$10 USD (everything in Cambodia is basically done in American dollars, except for the small change. The atms even dispense it. Our dollar to the American dollar was awful so that sucked, but we managed). The in-house restaurant was great and well priced, and the pool was a perfect escape from the heat after a day of touring.



We met a lot of people to do things with, which was all the better, as the hostel itself was great at organizing excursions to local sights, as well as arranging trustworthy tuk tuk drivers for sunrises/sunsets, and Angkor tours; you signed up on the whiteboard the day before and off you went in the morning. Trips cost between $7USD (sunrise) and $32 USD (day trip to a waterfall). Not all trips had to do with Angkor which was really nice. With the exception of the waterfall, the prices $7-$15USD could be split between maximum four people so it made things relatively cheap. Keep in mind, passes had to be bought for Angkor:

1 day pass- $20 USD

3 day pass- $40 USD

7 day pass- $60 USD

 

Word of advice, if you are trying to catch the sunrise and want to be in the park and seated before 5am, you will need to have gotten your pass the night before; they don’t start selling passes until 5am on the dot, this little hiccup almost derailed our Angkor Wat sunrise excursion. If you already have a multi-day pass, you’re good to go.

Siem Reap itself is quite the tourist center. The pub street features a highly active nightlife, while the art market and pretty city lights across the river seem to burst with trinkets and color.

 

  We got a chance to hang out with some great eastern-based Canadians. Darrian was feeling rather brave by the end of our pub street adventure. (Yes that’s a snake).

With all fees considered, Siem Reap wasn’t the cheapest option for renewing our Thai visas, but it was worth it. I didn’t see everything that I wanted to (not even close), but I’m starting to learn that you never really do, and the more you look, the longer your travel wish-list grows. Being that our stay in Cambodia was so short and limited, I am hesitant to say much more, as we really didn’t stay long enough or go far enough for a proper taste of the country’s culture. Having said that, I know I will be back, next time a little more educated on the history and details of Angkor, as well as the history of Cambodia itself. I am not condoning ignorance, but Thailand (besides their world-record number of coups) does not have the recent bloodshed that Cambodia has experienced, and it’s possible to visit Thailand without so much as touching the country’s history (though some research on the royalty does explain a lot). For Cambodia, I can’t help but feel a trip to this country isn’t complete if you don’t acknowledge and open yourself to the darker days of the Khmer Rouge, and the hardship that ensued.

And realistically, I didn’t sign up for a resort vacation, right? I asked for the good, the bad, the beautiful, and the ugly, in no specific order or quantity, and at this point (day 30), if I’m not atleast a little unsettled, I’m not pushing myself enough.

 I’m unsettled, and wanting more.

I’ll see you in round two, Cambodia.
All the best,

Em