Archives for posts with tag: by Camille

We file off the airplane, shuffle nervously through customs, collect our backpacks, and step out into the sea of waiting faces.  After waiting for a few minutes, we see my dad stride towards the arrival terminal – a familiar face in a foreign place.  He steers us toward the taxi stand not wishing to repeat the 2 hour bus trip he had just endured to meet us, and off we go.

The India in my head is formed by the many books I have read – A Fine Balance, Shantaram, White Tiger, and many others.  However, we were not in Dehli or Mumbai, we were in Fort Kochi, an ancient crossroads of many cultures in the 12th centuries and onwards.  The city is strikingly civilized, minus the goats roaming the streets and affinity for public urination.

One of the lovely differences between Asia and India is the clothing – “Gucci” and “Prada” are (thankfully) replaced with exquisite colours and patterns of the women’s saris.  Most women wear this, some covering their head and hair with a scarf, some wearing the pant/tunic combination.  Men on the other hand are either dressed in a typical Western uniform – trousers and a button up shirt, or the dhoti, a long skirt that sometimes gets rolled up with the heat to become a lungi.

Internet is much harder to find here, even in the tourist district (explaining the tardiness of this post). The Indian is delicious  – our most memorable meal so far was at a vegetarian place serving an Indian wrap of Indian bread, slightly crispy with a buttery sweet flavour, with paneer and vegetables.  If only I could find one of those in downtown Vancouver…  We also thoroughly enjoyed the pumpkin masala. The tuk-tuks here sound better than Asia, making an authentic tuk-tuk noise.  My dad has joked about importing some to Vancouver and racing around Stanley Park.  (Apparently they’re only $500 bucks each- anyone interested in a new business venture?!)

India – so far, so good.  We have a busy two weeks of travel ahead through the South to wildlife reserves, old temples, spice and tea plantations, palaces, and will spend the last 5 days of our trip relaxing on the beach in Goa.  I have yet to see the famous Indian head-wobble, though my eyes are peeled…

-from Camille

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November 13 – UPDATED: pictures at the bottom!

Hi everyone!

We have arrived in Siem Reap! We wanted to post this while in Laos, but had some internet difficulty.  In case you are wondering, yes feeling much better now – we were back to normal after a day or so of sleeping in Vang Vieng.  Here is our Laos experience.

We arrived by slow boat to the UNESCO World Heritage site Luang Prabang and the boat was in fact as described, slow. Luckily, it was not short on scenery of the beautiful Mekong River and also not short on friendly fellow travelers who we ended up with for a week of our journey.

A bit of background- Laos is the most bombed country in the world by capita (and 35% of those dropped remain undetonated).  Of those 35%, they have so far cleared only 14%.  This mostly impacts the North, where locals look for UXOs with chicken feathers and detonate them without professional help.  They then of course use the bomb material for scrap metal. You start to see this everywhere – the bell at the entry of a wat, planters, cow bells, and so on.  Laos is one of the poorest countries in the world, but regardless (or perhaps unrelated) the people are very friendly.  It’s Laos’s goal to get out of the bottom 20 poorest countries in the world, and tourism (along with natural resources) will likely play a big part in that.  Hopefully Laos can retain its natural beauty and culture along the way.

The highlight of Luang Prabang was biking a not so ambling 36 kilometer ride to the Kouang Si waterfall.  After a refreshing Tarzan-style rope swing into the water, we climbed up to the top to find a fairy-tale like brook where, when peering over the edge of the cliff, you can see all the way down to the bottom of the falls. We also stopped at a mid-way point to the top of the falls, walking along stairs carved out of the rock and getting quite wet while doing it. Luang Prabang is a beautiful town, however we did find it difficult to get an idea of what daily life is like there given the extensive tourism.

We took the wonderful bus ride (see post below) down to Vang Vieng, which could be renamed College Town International.  After learning about Laos modesty (long skirts, covered shoulders) it was shocking to see people walking around in their swimsuits after tubing on the streets around town.  Vang Vieng is definitely not Laos culture, but it was fun.  It wasn’t too difficult to get out of the Western bars to see some of Laos’s natural beauty. This includes some amazing caves – one filled with water in which we floated on tubs deep into the pitch-black middle, another named the Elephant cave with a natural Elephant head formation, and the aptly named Blue Lagoon with turquoise waters and fascinating-yet-spooky stalactites.

We’re now in the capital city of Vientiane, which we actually quite like – maybe because of the number of cafes with delicious Laos coffee (the French influence seems the strongest here out of the cities we visited), the friendly people and less of a tourist focus.   Right now it’s the Boun That Luang festival.  We walked up to the Wat to observe the colourful and joyful procession of Laos people carrying offerings, usually of banana leaves and flowers with money stapled to the leaves to ensure a good afterlife.  This is a time when Laos people flood to their capital city and get together with friends and family.  The festival was accompanied by a Fair-style bazaar where Claudia picked up some beautiful Laos silk.

Next up is a very long bus ride to Siem Reap.  We bought a book on the history of Cambodia, so you can expect a succinct synopsis shortly which we’ll use to keep ourselves busy.

-Camille

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Lurking in the corner, the Vancouver mainstay rainboots called out, their voices amplified by the very raining Friday. Headlines on the Thailand flooding are hard to miss but its difficult to get an understanding of how the first stop on our journey will be impacted. Obviously we can’t control the weather (unless you are the Chinese government a la 2008 Olympics) so no point in fretting. Rainboots, sorry we will not miss you, you’ll get your time when I’m back in February and you wouldn’t enjoy the cramped quarters in our backpacks anyways.

 

 

 

Update: so we’ve landed in Bangkok and the only sign of any water is the sandbags in front of some businesses at our hostel. Stay tuned…

-Camille