Giants in the sky – Ha Long Bay

Idyllic.

These giant bodies of jungle rock boulder over the bay’s tides. Almost as if they are protectors of the lands. They hang there majestically watching down upon the green enormity below. Their silence echoes all around, you couldn’t help but be engulfed by their beauty. The weighted jungle cascades down from the rocks in every crack and crevice. They are its inhabitants and rightly so.

Charcoal black and jungle green mixed well on this particular occasion.

I dreamt of pterodactyls flying over the masses; I was in a world different to my own. A Jurassic world. It was so surreal. I was in paradise and I could not be happier.

The calm before the storm

The sound of heavy rain engulfed the room. It was rainfall in the jungle. It’s clouds spat out warm downpours that seemed to never end. I could lie there listening for hours.

 

Serenity.

 

I silently drifted off into a deep sleep. It was just me, my dreams and the sound of the jungle. I was calm and content and peacefully asleep.

 

UNTIL

 

“Help! Help! I need a doctor.” Screamed a frantic Irish lady. For a moment I lay there thinking “Am I still dreaming?” I later realised I was not and the voice turned into a voice I recognised all to well.

 

It was the cry of Anita O’Shea.

 

Scrambling to find my phone,

 

I turned on the torch, put on my shorts and faced the wilderness.

 

Wallo had just had a seizure and was throwing up at the side of her mouth. She needed medical attention. When she did wake she wasn’t lucid and her eyes were dilated. She wasnt with it. It was like she was talking but it was as if she wasn’t there. After several stumbles later we managed to get her back to what seemed like normal.

 

Ciara rang her mum, a nurse. She explained possible reasons for this seizure and told Una to get her to a doctor asap. Una, our leader for the evening isn’t a rep and so she never received any first aid training before venturing out here. This is a foreign country to her and in that moment I felt like the world was swallowing her up. But she pulled through.

 

After the persuasion of the group wallow was taken to hospital. I think the scariest thing about all of this is that we were in the middle of nowhere as newbies with a newbie as our rep. I took little notice o this however to avoid anymore hysteria from the group. Instead I tried to get back to sleep ad surprisingly I was out quicker than you could say flash.

 

Once again: sweet dreams and hopefully no more disturbances in the jungle.

 

Goodnight.

 

The purpose of friendship – what do you think?

My friends are my family and they know that. I’m bad in the sense that I don’t always text them that often but they’re always in my thoughts; even old school friends who I haven’t necessarily kept in the loop. I do however stay updated with them whether it be by just having a nose on their social media. Its here I  realise the mistake in this but it’s an easier way for me to check in on them from time to time as I can’t exactly just drop everything and travel from london whenever I feel like it.

I wish I could but I can only catch up when I’m home for the holidays and even then that is only a limited amount of time. People have their own lives, they move on, they work. But I often find myself longing for how it used to be. I miss the familiar faces but I do know that if ever we see each other in passing it’s always back to how it used to be.

 

And I like that.

 

I’m sat here writing all of this on a park bench in the middle of Saigon, Vietnam. A group of students have just stopped by and asked to film me learning simple Vietnamese sentences; that was fun. It’s weird how the thought has just struck me now though. I guess I’m regretting not keeping in touch with people as much as I should have. After all a simple text really isn’t that hard to send now is it.

 

But in light of this topic, I’d like to discuss the interconnections and relationships we have as human beings. What exactly draws us, as people, together? Is it the whole opposites attract idea or the complete opposite? Do we base our relationships off of what we need from someone. For instance we all have that go to friend for advice or the friend you want to let your hair down with.

I guess if you asked me this question years ago my view on the matter would be different. Blame it on the high school culture and the idea that popular kids don’t mix with the non popular kids. Fortunately this was never exactly the case with me. Yes I was in the ‘it crowd’ so to speak but the way my year worked out was that we all kind of mixed well together. More so in the latter half of our education. I would like to think I also mixed in with the majority of people. I made friendships that my group never necessarily made and I’m so glad I did. It’s these guys that I miss from time to time. They’re the ones I stalk.

Sorry not sorry.

Don’t get me wrong I miss my closest friends terribly when I’m away and I have done ever so much on this trip to Cambodia and Vietnam. But, I know I can and will always see them whenever I like. I’m regularly updated with their lives and its such a joy to see them moving forward and creating new paths for themselves in life. We, like anyone you meet in life, are massively different to one another and that’s what glues us together. I like to think that I’m the ‘voice of reason’ within my friendship group back home and even though they hate me for it sometimes, they know I coming from a place of truth and just in terms of what I think and how I perceive the world.

As I’ve grown older I’ve noticed that I find beauty in people completely different to me, they give me an opportunity to learn and to grow. Yes, its much easier to form a connection based off common interests but I challenge you to do something new. Speak to a stranger and get to know them. They might be worlds apart from your norm and you as a person but sooner or later you’ll realise you’re not so different from one another after all. I’ve tried to embody this on my travels here in South East Asia through both the locals and tourists who fly past you from city to city.

I once read that life was all about perception and how you see the world. If you’re only ever looking into the word from one viewpoint how are you going to see the beauty and magic from all of the other different viewpoints around you. You have to allow yourself to see; see with your whole eyes, not just the eyes of someone who has lead you to believe that this is the only sight to see.

Sometimes that person is yourself; I know that.

Harper Lee paints it perfectly.

 

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… until you climb inside of his sling and walk around in it.”

Out here on the road I’ve been witness to the kindness of humanity and strangers. From simple directions to general help, from an invitation to join people throughout the night to free lifts on the back of a motorbike. And it doesn’t end there. If you put yourself out there, people will come flying right back to you.

I do believe that.

The purpose of friendship to me is about being open; open to both the old and the new. Open to new people, new worlds in fact. If you branch out people will climb on board. They will listen but so will you. You have friends throughout different stages of your life and as selfish as this may seem they serve you. They have a purpose. Just as you have a purpose and serve them. It works both ways.

Never forget that.

It’s about showing kindness and gratitude to your friends for being there in the hard times as well as the good times. It’s about having the courage to tell them when they’re wrong and being able to accept when you are also in the wrong. Friendship is the purpose of life, your companions aid you on your journey just as you do them. You needed them once and you’re sure as hell going to need them again. So keep them close and shower them with both your gratitude and your love. When you meet someone great, hold onto them because it’s within each other that you find your own greatness.

Overnight stay at the elephant sanctuary

This place is the jungle. It’s the home of ‘Save the Elephants’ here in Cambodia and what an absolutely terrific job they’re doing. In comparison to the elephants I had seen at Angkor Wat carrying paying tourist after another, these elephants looked over the moon. They were joyous and loud and full of life. Maybe that was because it was dinner time. But I think more importantly it was because these elephants have been rescued, saved from unnatural labour. They had their mojo back and it was a flame that is never ever going to burn out again.

We started the day off by teaching at a nearby school. Our topic for the day was Time. A lot of them couldn’t understand us that well and had difficulty reading through the texts but we endeavoured to do our best and make it work. The children were extremely grateful. We then played a few games with them outside before we left.

Next, it was elephant time. I helped chop up the sugar canes for the elephants whereas one of the locals prepared Kimlin’s rice bowl. She’s 65 years old and blind. She even sprayed Emma with water – amazing.

It was so nice being up close feeding the elephants. They genuinely looked happy and were free to roam. They were loving life and their food hampers. You can tell this sanctuary really helps make a difference in rebuilding the animals confidence in knowing that they truly have their soul back and are free.

“We must protect, preserve and care about more than just ourselves. Humans are just one small component of a much larger ecosystem here on planet earth.”

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Today I learnt that the elephants lean on something to go to sleep and only catch about 2-4 hours each night. They’re such majestic creatures and it pained me watching the videos about their brutal past and present situations. Logging is now banned but elephant tourism is still here mainly due to travelers endorsing into the industry. It’s wrong on so many levels. If only people knew what exactly goes on in this industry. They’re often tied up, stabbed with hooks and de-animalised everyday. And for what? A 20 minute ride and a pit stop for pictures?

I wish I had more time here to experience more of what this place actually does.  But so far, the outcome and future prospects are incredible.

I did enjoy sitting out on the benches watching the elephants from sunset to dusk. It was tranquil ad peaceful and allowed for me to sit there and take everything in.

It was a great writing spot.

Now I’m in bed, like a princess under my mosquito net. Hopefully it keeps the bugs out.

But

For right now, I don’t really care that much. I can hear the crickets singing and the insects dancing. It’s a lullaby that I dont ever want to end.

Sweet dreams.

 

 

People watching – Hoi An

Open front window, only silence among us. People come and go as they please on foot and on bicycle. The roaring of the motorbikes can be heard from the outside in, invading our seclusion on a somewhat crowded street. But what was really fascinating about the spot, other than the Reaching Out Teahouse offering jobs to physically impaired people with a sense of immersing them back into the community, was the people.

Let’s take a look at those people.

2 Asian girls – red dress and pink dress. Long dark hair, phones as their accessories; they are stopping to take pictures of the ancient town.

Vietnamese guy – early 20s. Charcoal striped shirt rushes past on a motorbike leaving only the wind and the street behind.

Woman – late 50s, red vest and beige shorts. Walks past fanning herself with a red fan. This heat is too much.

Asian young adult – Khaki backpack on his back and a navy blue fisherman as hat on his head. He is holding a map.

A young Asian woman – ponytail and pink bobble gazing peacefully at the nearby shops adjacent to my tearoom spot.

Asian family of 3 – all wearing straw hats and backpacks. They wander off down a tiny alleyway headed for where exactly?

The sensible couple – mid 40s wearing both caps and an umbrella for shade. They are lining arms and strolling idly down the street. They look happy.

Girls just wanna have fun – I think possibly South Korean x3. They are laughing with ice creams and battery-powered fans.

Bearded man – green hat, mid 20s eating some form of fro-yo or ice cream.

A woman who means business – white shirt, black ants, pink mouth mask and an updo hairstyle that would make all the men know not to mess with her. She zooms past on her automatic motorbike.

Local seller – Vietnamese pointed hat, mouth mask and a brown checked shirt. She rides past on her bicycle with her stall attached. I couldn’t quite make out what she was selling.

Holding hands – Asian couple. Man wearing a blue polo and woman in a straw beach hat with black ribbons. They are looking at fabrics in delight.

Guy with all the flair – white and red floral shirt with a white cap and black jeans to match. He walks by with confidence and an abundance of flair. He is quite the handsome chap.

The tormenting team – 2 people clearly in love stop by to gaze at the opposite shop. They get bored of looking and begin to squeeze and poke at each other’s ribs. The girl gives him a light slap before playfully wandering off.

The runner – young Chinese girl, navy blue striped t-shirt and white and blue Nike trainers. She runs past with her pink shoulder bag rising and falling at her every stride.

Bald guy – very tanned, flamingo pink t-shirt and grey cargo shorts. Standing outside a shop smoking a cigarette and looking at his phone. Most likely looking for his wife?

Guy with the umbrella – 60s? Vietnamese local in a blue shirt walks by with a sense of direction and a blue checked umbrella for company in his right hand.

The shaded woman – straw hat, white cardigan and a blue floral dress on underneath. She is wearing glasses. She stops off to the right of me for a moment away from the heat.

2 smiling locals on their bikes – covered head to toe in patterns of fruit – bursts of colours. They cycle by with great big grins on their faces. Must have been a good day at the market.

A tourist and a local – young Chinese woman sat in a chariot-like seat with an elderly Vietnamese guys cycling behind her pushing her along the street.

The ponytail returns – only this time she has a bag in her hand I wonder what she bought?

The mixed race beauty – faded navy blue vest and black tight shorts. He strolls past with his hands combing through his silky black hair.

Elderly posers – guy with a camera ad blue shirt. Woman in a straw hat and a green floral dress – maybe linen, I’m not that sure. She stops to take his photo. They soon move out of the way though after hearing the beep of an ongoing local.

Daddy and his little girl – the pigtailed girl is strapped around her fathers neck in a piggy back as they walk past admiring the boutique stalls.

The one who skips – Asian lady mid 30s skips by joyously; her husband walks off slowly in front. She seems like a lovely lady.

Father and his son – they ride past trying to avoid the pedestrians and the motorists. They do so successfully.

A guy on a bike – lost? Green shirt with an orange logo and black shorts. He has sandy blond hair and is looking at his phone a lot. Possibly for directions? He proceeds on his journey.

The walking models – blue patterned shirt and white shorts asks his girlfriend to take his picture whilst he ‘candidly’ walks out of the alleyway.

Sunburnt Susan – older woman, late 50s/early 60s perhaps walks by a reddy purple shade. She is caked in sun cream and what looks like third degree burns. Her dress is lovely though.

The wild thornberry’s girl – a woman just like Elizabeth’s sister n the movie rides on by with an orange bandanna in her hair. She looks like an experienced traveller.

The explorer who bites his nails – khaki Aussie hat with strings, white t-shirt and khaki shorts emerges from the alleyway biting his nails. He looks both left and right before making a quick decision to head right.

A mother and her daughter – camel top, straw hat and denim shorts. Her daughter is dressed similarly. The daughter s looking own towards the door and kicking a stone on the street. The mother is holding her hand and gazing into shop corridors.

Man bun and his beard – brunette, mid 20s possibly Australian. Maybe European. His hair was dreamy. He also looked like an experienced traveller.

The blue and white striped pair – both walking casually on by. The guy stops for a moment.
He has his sleeves rolled up onto his shoulders. They go and buy some pho noodle soup for 30000 VND. The girl is wearing dungarees.

A motorist in a rush – olive green chino pants, white shirt and helpmeet rushes on past the dawdling crowd. This Vietnamese has only one message for the tourists: BEEP, BEEP, BEEEEEEP.!

“Belong to each other” – Asian couple wearing this printed onto their red t-shirts with a golf like umbrella above their heads. Will this protect them from the sun or the outside world? Couple goals?

A woman of feather dusters – of all different colours and sizes. This cleaning lady speaks through a megaphone. Spot of cleaning anybody?

Family trio on their bike – mother and 2 daughters. Denim jackets and dresses and mouth masks. Say no to pollution and yes to good health. They glide on by on the one vehicle

“Exactly Girl” – the Yorkshire girl responds to her friend on thee bicycle in front.

Juice boys – 2 Asian friends smiling and sipping away at their iced tea by the looks of things.

“In Vang Vieng Laos” stud – red vest and a lot of muscles. Beefy Liam Hemsworth lookalike crosses the street with his slightly less impressive friend.

The sweeping lady – blue shirt and black pants, ponytail and a pink dust pan and brush. She sweeps away the dirt from the street.

Guys with shades – creamy white vests and full lips, possibly French maybe Dutch? They cruise along aimlessly with their heads looking in every direction.

Which one was your favourite? And why? Let me know in the comments.

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Race to Angkor Wat

4:00 am start. 1 goal: Sunrise at Angkor Wat. Could we do it?

Yes we must definitely could. Well sort of anyways. We were all up at the crack of dawn, shoved into Tuk Tuks headed for the ticket office.

3, 2, 1 SMILE…

Mugshot. Bad angle. Bad everything. 

Back in the Tuk Tuk we went. Racing against the sun in the morning air was lovely. When we did finally arrive we were taken to the wrong entrance than everyone else. I was then the dick who brought out my iPad to record and take photos. This place was amazing. Dragonflies floated majestically above our heads whist gibbon monkeys roamed the lands and skies. One girl, Georgia, actually got bitten by a monkey. She also had her phone stolen from her earlier on in the trip. I think she had a big dose of bad luck but she soldiered on like the trooper she is.

The temples were beautiful and held such an old charm. I kicked off my flip-flops and felt the grass underneath my toes as I walked. It was wet and crunchy. I was at one with nature and i loved it. These ruins were fascinating. Inside Angkor Wat there was a monk blessing people for donations. I got blessed and he gave me a bracelet, it was such a cute moment between us. It was a struggle getting up the steep stairs in the second part of Angkor Wat though. The walls had such intricate patterns. It’s crazy to think that all this was built centuries ago with the aid of elephants. That would be such an amazement to see. Inside a monkey stole someone’s packed lunch. Ciara had ours – safe hands???

I think not.

Luckily all was well, this time.. we proceeded onto Angkor Thom Bayon – I think :/ This one was a lot more spacious and had the face of Buddha on its structures. The whole day was filled of plentiful photo opportunities and i took 100% advantage of that.

Candid galore, or more like plandid galore.

The third temple we went to was the temple made famous by Angelina Jolie’s Tomb Raider movie. I felt just like Angelina when walking through. It was exactly the same and more than I imagined. This one was more jungle-y. Getting here was a struggle. First off our Tuk Tuk driver crashed, then he took us the wrong way and to top it all off he didn’t speak a word of English. It was funny though. Me, Ciara, Emily and James were in stitches.

The heat today was off the scale! My brain was frazzled but it was definitely worth the early start and endless rays of sunshine.

Carpe Diem.

"Stuck in the mud." Out on the open road of Cambodia.

14k on the open road. What a day. 2 wheels and no destination in sight. The roads were mine to explore.

I thought I’d be a lot more scared cycling in the Cambodian congestion but it actually wasnt that bad. You just had to brave it and take the chance. And pray that you dont die.

At first the bikes were quite rickety but I got the hang of it eventually. The city roads were a lot smoother and the paths became a lot more difficult to manoeuvre when journeying more into its countryside. Here the lanes were dirt tracks but the roads were an earthy red shaded brown. It was stunning. It melted beautifully against the blue skyline and green tropics.

We left at 4pm and came back at 7pm. About halfway into it’s leg we encountered a truck stationed in the middle of the road. They wouldn’t budge and so we had to cycle around them via a different route.


Or so we thought.

What we thought was a asafe option turned out to be a pit of sinking sand. We were stuck – bicycles and feet. My knight in shining armour; Nim (Nana’s younger brother), helped me and my bike out of the death pit. Before we knew it we were scraping mud off of each other’s wheels, trying to journey on.

The roads from this point on were horrendous and it was raining so we kept on getting stuck. But I didnt mind it at all, I LOVED it. It was so much fun!


We were meant to visit a hut in the wilderness but we made a group decision to turn back around to avoid getting even more stuck in the rain and mud. On the way back we took a different route. 
The more scenic route.

The surrounding here were so picturesque but not in.  A picturesque kind of way. It was real life in every essence. I was loving life completely, the wind was  blowing, the sun wasnt too hot and the rain was light. The greenery was breathtaking and it was nice to be alone for once. Even if i did cycle past a few people and chit chatted away. I had some beautiful conversations with Karolina on the open road.

All the locals were lovely. Families went by saying ‘hello’ and smiling; children were out playing and running out onto the road to greet us, cows were wandering beside us. What more could you possibly want? Everything was bliss. Utter bliss.


I remember one woman, she was old and cycling past us. She stopped and smiled and went onto gesture that it was hard work cycling this terrain in these weather conditions. It was so simple but so endearing at the same time. 

Back in the centre we cycled the main roads at rush hour. We went around a roundabout with not a care in the world. It was manic and it was crazy but I lived for that moment.

Next time I’ll be on a motorbike, I promise you that.

"Beauty in a bloodshed burial site." The Cambodian Killing Fields.

Exhaustion at its peak. 6.5 hours on a night bus departing Phnom Penh to Siem Reap. 2 lanes of bunker cabins, 2 to a bed and 1 incredibly tiny aisle.

The evening was filled with free beer and the cutest of sleepover chats. Sleep was the bare minimum, only managing 2 hours last night. Ciara was my roomie for the evening – what an absolute geg!

Yesterday we explored the royal palace in Phnom Penh. It would have been better had I not have been extremely hungover. Yesterday was also a day for silence.

Silence in the fields:

The killing fields.

In such a tragedy I found beauty, nestled amongst the greenery and empty pits. To appreciate, one must remember. But how does one remember something that is completely unknown to you? The most I can compare it to is WW2 and its history. But even then its still hard to imagine the trauma. But as I was walking around the empty grounds I found myself becoming more and more aware. It became easier for me to remember. This tragedy was a secret for so long, but it is a secret that I now know and will remember forever.

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Mass grave of 166 victims without heads.

Earlier I mentioned that I found beauty in this place. After so many deaths tallied to its soil there was life in these fields. butterflies flew gracefully across the greens. To me, this represented their souls, the souls of thousands in history’s past. A butterfly itself goes through reincarnation, it’s a transformation to evolve. It was as if their lives did indeed live on. And that’s how I found beauty in a bloodshed burial site.​

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Killing tree against which executioners beat children.
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The remains.