I’m back! Ottawa was cold Saturday, but the forecast for the next two weeks is over 10C every day – I’ve missed winter! (knock wood). Despite my general sleepiness, I managed to upload my photos, so here’s a bunch! I promise not to drag out blogging about my trip much longer, I just want to go into a bit more detail about the food, and then it’s back to my regular… oh wait. I don’t blog about anything regular. Burn!
When I arrived in Hong Kong, I lucked out and got a room with a great view at the YMCA (no, seriously – it was the nicest hotel during my trip). Although I was only there for about 18 hours, I felt good enough the next morning to go explore the neighbourhood, so I went up Tsim Sha Tsui to Kowloon Park.
The park was beautiful – it had all these different sections to it, from a pagoda in a lake to a bird sanctuary. And even though it was a weekday morning, there were a ton of people using it!
Once I got to Manila, I didn’t take as many photos as I would have if I was on vacation, because I was working. The first weekend there, I did get out on Sunday with some other staff to go explore Intramuros, the old walled city.
IIt was really fun to get out of Makati and see the “real” Manila, which was much less sanitized and anonymous.
I was also able to go pearl shopping (with a local who knows her pearls – very important!). The variety was stunning, and it was so fascinating to watch the vendors make the jewelry, rapidly threading tiny pearls and expertly knotting the thread in between each pearl.
During my weekend in Bohol, I toured around with a really nice Philippino family, who by the end of the day had “adopted” me. I thought it was so interesting that despite our reputation as Canadians for being friendly, if my family had been on a tour and a solo traveller joined, we would probably have exchanged pleasantries and then left them alone the rest of the day. So many people seemed perplexed that I was travelling alone that weekend.
We saw Tarsiers, which were really cute (and asleep – they’re nocturnal). I was actually kind of uncomfortable with it though, because despite the fact that the tour brochure said that it went to the official Tarsier Sanctuary, it didn’t. The place wasn’t terrible, and they seemed to be taking efforts to protect the animals, but after all my reading about how delicate they are, it seemed a bit off. I said something at the hotel when we got back, so hopefully they take steps to make sure the tours are actually going to legitimate stops. That’s actually the main reason I don’t like tours – you don’t have any control about where you’re going and how your money is being spent.
Once I arrived in Bangkok, I had a day before Eric got in, and I took a cooking class at Silom Cooking School. It was awesome! The instructor was hilarious, and the food was amazing… I was so full.
Eric’s first day was a Sunday, so I dragged him to Chatachuk Market. It was a blast to wander through all the maze-like stalls, but the highlight was definitely our first Thai-style coffee – an iced latte sweetened with sweet condensed milk. The coffee shop I worked at in grad school was owned by a Vietnamese couple who had a drink just like that on the menu, and it was just the thing to cool off.
After that we headed to Koh Samet, where we basically lay in the shade all day long for a few days. Although I get why other people like beaches, we’ve both definitely determined that we aren’t beach people. Too much sand, mediocre food, and burnt people. Also, mosquitoes.
Then we headed to Kanchanaburi, where we sweated on the banks of the river Kwai and I ate the best pad thai of my life at a street cart by the bus station (Eric didn’t have any because he was sick). We took a day trip to the Erawan falls, where we hiked up 5 of the 7 waterfalls past more sunburnt overweight Europeans in thongs than I ever thought I’d see. This peaceful pool was where we called it quits, after I stuck my feet in to get nibbled on by those little fish.
Our last few days were spent in Bangkok, where we finally relented to the pace that 45-degree heat requires – slow and filled with plenty of air conditioned malls. We bought bespoke suits (best decision ever – the sleeves are long enough! the shoulders are broad enough!) and hung out and ate more street food.
Honestly, I didn’t love anywhere the way I loved Ecuador this summer (other than the food). It was mostly the heat, and then the fact that because of the heat, we couldn’t be as active as we normally are. I didn’t like having to shower 2-3 times a day and still feeling gross. I would love to go back and see the north – Chiang Mai is supposed to be gorgeous, and it would be cool to hike into Laos. But beaches and sultry Bangkok nights just aren’t my thing, really.