Monday, September 17, 2012

The Daily Destination- Cochin, India: Ayurvedia

Ayurvedic Massages or Awkwardly Hilarious Nudist Rubbing Massage

One of the most relaxing things about Asia is it's cheap massages. Yes, you have to deny 100 people a day for their 'masaaaaage'. Yes, about 50% of the time the woman giving you a massage is not enjoying her job that day. Yes, 25% of the time there is a dude or ladybody giving them. But you can't deny that ~$5/hr is an incredible deal! Getting a Thai massage is an experience no backpacker misses. So it is ingrained in my mind that I can assume the same principles for India. I was wrong. Go figure!

There is an ancient healing practiced in India called Ayurvedic medicine that bases on Hindu principles of treating the mind, body, and spirit all in one. Just the idea of a natural holistic medicine practiced for over 6000 years adds to the mystique for me. Read through India's books of wisdom, 'The Vedas', Ayurveda is living through principles of a balanced life found in the simple and permanent laws of nature. Therefore it is thought by many as the first form of medicine, the one we were born instinctively with. Everyone is treated as an individual and therefore everyone is placed in three basic body types with a margin for body combinations of the three. It is said by those who practice to be considered the fountain of youth in it's simple yet affective way of treating ailments. Basically the way we look physically, move, and behave is directly correlated to the way we treat our bodies. Changing your diet and exercise to match your body type is natural science, the Science of Life.

Whether you're a believer in these holistic approaches or not, I'm not here to judge, but I'd love to share my story with you.

Me being me I decided to have a day of New Experiences in Cochin, India. I went and got fitted for a saree, then went to see a Keralan Kathakali dance performance, and topped the day off with an Ayurvedic 1.5 hour therapeutic massage. So I have it all booked out at this lady's house who was recommended to me by my rickshaw driver-turned impromptu friend. I go there and everything seems ok. She makes me fill out a questionnaire filled with all sorts of questions from eyelash thickness to stool frequency.  I am then lead into a room where she closes the door behind her and shuts the curtain. She instructs me to take off all my clothes and lie down on her wooden table. She doesn't leave the room. I didn't even get a towel or anything. So I'm down to my granny panties and she say something along the lines of "yes all of it, it's nothing I haven't seen before" in that Indian-Brittish accent. I don't think I've ever been fully naked in front of my doctor before, never mind a random Indian lady in a strange country. Naked. And of course I went for the hour and a half treatment!

 I should've known better to do something like that here, but I just couldn't resist. I just couldn't believe that Indian people, who by culture could not be any more conservative in their beliefs and behaviours, were rubbing close to the private parts of people with hot oil! You can never expect what is expected in India. Take my advice.

To be honest, it was hard to relax at first. I started the massage lying on my back, legs slightly spread while she did some routine prayer and dabbed my pressure points with scented oil. I'm just naked and uncomfortable at this point. There was no bedside manner, there was no protective towel, and there was nowhere to focus my eyes except the back of my eyelids. I actually opened them once or twice, got freaked out when she caught my gaze, and promptly went back to fake-relaxing. And then a thought occurred to me that I will never see this person again in my life. Who cares if she is erotically massaging me? I might as well enjoy it because I paid for it!

You know what? It worked. I just relaxed and let her do her thing. It wasn't erotic at all when I just stopped panicking in my head and let go of my insecurities. She was a professional and was doing her job. When the massage was finished she started her home-made steam bath made out of a wooden box, I sat with just my head poking out-absolutely roasting in the Indian summer heat. As a finishing 'touch' she toweled me off (all the dead skin came with it) and I can promise you that I've never felt better in my entire life! Although it was a 10 minute walk back to my guesthouse and by the time I arrived I was already dusty. That's India for you!!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Daily Destination

Who Am I on Coming Home.

Thom's Elephant Camp- Pai, Thailand (amazingly                                                                                            sweet and respectful to all the animals, which is quite rare in Asia,

Building my Empire!  Wild Child! Up for anything!! Adventurist! Love love love Mother Earth so please respect! Can't get enough....of life! I'd rather you Love me than Leave me but really it's all the same to me, I cannot control those who want to be a hater. It's not my job. I want to fill My world with beautiful people who are enlightened and teach me new things through their experiences daily....I am not lonely! I embrace change and challenges, without it life would be...Boring!!   I have walked through the fire and found my wings. I know what true passion is, but not who it is. I work for a purpose, not to luxuriate in prestige. I will take happiness over money any day and to be happy you need to make others happier. I am proud of myself and my accomplishments and yet I am aware enough to realize how far I still need to go. I respect myself as well as others who deserve to be respected. I am aware of who I am. I do not seek validation from others, nor do I look to replace self-love with the love of another. I am a woman that walks with feminine grace, speaks her will, and articulates her needs. I am strong enough to relinquish my fears and to pursue my dreams. I would like to learn to be able to give and receive love unconditionally, but I still need daily reminders to love myself in the process. I use my strengths to where they lie and lie my weaknesses down as stepping stones to the future. I have learned the lessons of my past, and am thankful for the present and embrace what is yet to be determined. I understand that life holds many lessons and I welcome them as a tool for greater self-knowledge and personal evolution. I am learning to understand the nature of true power and the fact that it stems from those who do not truly want or need it. I am the writer of my own destiny. Quite simply, I am me, transparent and open. Welcome to my life.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Delhi Gets A Rave Review

Delhi gets a Rave Review!

 I wish I had more time in Delhi! I should first explain that I've been in India for 3 weeks and have met a total of about 13 people! For a social person I view that as a fail on my part. But anyways, I left Varanasi on the evening of the 21st and traveled overnight to Agra. Obviously I did the touristy thing and went to the Agra Fort, Baby Taj, and of course the Taj Mahal!! I went alone and only had the day, so I wanted to go and do everything at my own pace. I paid the rickshaw driver 500 rupees ($10) to take me around all day. He suggested I get a tour bus to Delhi in the evening so he took me to a travel shop and the man said that "yes yes they speak English" and "yes yes you will get to Delhi at 11:30pm" and "yes, no hotel? I book one for you and the bus will drop you off at the hotel" and "yes yes, you go to Mumbai? I book train for you and it arrives at 12pm on the 24th". Well, all of it sounded good, but it was all bullshit lies! A- I was the only foreigner. Thank God this 14 year old girl loved foreigners and made me sit next to her. Her family spoke a bit of English and they took me in for the evening. B- they did NOT speak English! C- I soon found out that we were getting to Delhi at 2am! D- I felt like a total outsider because we made stops at Hare Krisnas birthplace, who is the major God that the Hindus follow. Everyone was so focused on staring at me, it's really not the best feeling. I honestly dont know what they are thinking to be honest! I feel like an alien in India, sometimes you come in peace and sometimes they are thinking of bad stuff, who knows. E- the bus of course of course did not drop me at my hotel and I found out I paid like 10x more for the bus than anyone else. F- maybe the worst lie they told me was that the train gets in at 11:30am the next day, but it's 11:30pm. A 24 hr train!!!!! Ahhhhhh. So then G- EVERYONE LIED TO ME!!! I didn't think I was that gullible!?
Needless to say, I'm not going to another travel agent in India. Screw em, I was a travel agent and I can do it all myself! Trains, planes, busses. I'm quite capable at this point!
Side note here: The Taj Mahal was truly amazing. I don't want to go too much into it and ruin it for you, but it was dramatic and brilliant and took my breath away! Also I should have only paid 400 rupees for the day, but I didn't bargain around and then he's like "where's my tip?" he did do a lot but he also got tons of commission when I bought an expensive saree. It's annoying being asked for a tip- especially because I was on my own. Needless to say I spent a ton of money that day!

Ok preamble finish. I got to Delhi at 2am and finally found my hotel- at least there was 24 hour security! Stayed at the Maharajan Palace- which is nice but expensive and I recommend staying right in The Main Bazaar of Pahar Ganj area.

So I wake up and I'm in the middle of a ridiculously crowded city, no foreigners in sight. Sorry boys but I actually had to buy tampons here and it was funny. Trying to ask people who don't speak English for a very private feminie product. I eventually had to ask like 10 people and the guy who sold it to me was very embarassed. Anyways, I heard about the Main Bazaar and wanted to buy some new clothes for the south of India. The first thing that impressed me was the my cycle rickshaw told me a normal-not-overinflated price! 30 rps to get me to Main Bazaar. I asked him to stop at the ATM, we ended up going to 3 to find one that worked and I ended up giving him 100 rupees (about $2) as a reward for not trying to screw me over.

Next impressive thing was that no one was shouting at me to buy their crap in the stores. Actually people generally ignored me until I wanted to buy something. Now, this might not seem nice, but when everyone has been glaring at the alien for the last month, it was nice just to do my own thing unnoticed. And the prices in the store were generally fair for India. There wasn't much bartering- the price was fair and so I bought it! I think because everyone flys into Delhi, they are used to tourists and its not so weird being foreign there. I actually met travelers!!! Two Israeli guys started talking to me, and before I knew it I was having lunch at this beautiful rooftop bar called MOONLIGHT (See my blog on Backpacker Hotspots in India). Please go there! It's owned by this nice Nepalese guy and all the food is cold and fresh and perfect! I had a lovely lunch- and dinner there.
From there the Israelis came shopping with me. We walked down all the back streets. No one stared at us, it was amazing just to be aable to walk and observe the way people worked and played without any pressure. To me, it was so much better than the major city of Kolkata and I recommend travelers start in Delhi!

Like I've stated at the beginning of this post, I wish I had more time in Delhi. I was planning on doing a bit of sightseeing, but seeing as how I just did so much of it the day before I was just happy being with people who wanted to talk to me. If I do end up there again, I would absolutely love to see the Lotus Temple (shaped like a lotus and has meditations there in the peaceful garden), Jantas Mantar, Jama Masjid, and the Red Fort. There's actually a shit-ton (excuse the language) to see in New and Old Delhi.

Damn, I wish I had time to explore. I know I will come back to India and I plan on staying in Delhi at least a week :)



Imagine you are walking down the street in India. Every part of a house is painted a shade of vibrant, gaudy color personifying personal taste. Every truck has a 'blow horn' sign on it creating a cacophony of a deafening orchestra. Every chai wallah is preparing clay cup after clay cup of sugar-infused deliciousness, just waiting to create mini flavor explosions on your tongue. Chai time declares that it is break time. These five minutes enable the mustachioed men to enjoy time away from laborious jobs, discuss politics, and allow us tourists to escape the hectic heckling. My tongue is dancing around in my mouth and I am chai-ddicted!
Even though the British brought the tea cultivation to India, the Indians have done what they do to all foreign influences- add spice, in every sense of the word! The preparation of chai is not only a culturally practiced tradition but each single ingredient adds value for the body, mind and spirit. For example Ginger to prevent disease and cardamom to help digestion.
 Chai is the constant companion in all the lands here. With regions varying distinctly in religion, politics, and hygiene, it is wise to assume that all chai is not the same chai. Going from East Bengal to West Bengal by train I had the uncomfortable experience of waking up early in the morning to find my milk and sugar substituted by salt and lime! I later discovered the difference in the chai stemmed from both economic and cultural views; in the smaller, rural areas sugar is unaffordable and milk is revered because it comes from the holiest of animals.
 As I sip the dregs from my clay chai pot, I realize that tea is the basis of culture in many countries but in India it visually represents the sweetness in life- which is needed when life gets hard here for many millions of people. Through India's chai culture, I have learnt that Eastern mentality emphasizes visualization and creation whereas my Western mind requires reasoning and rationality and that is the main reason why many foreigners find Incredible India to be frustrating at times. For this chai moment in time I have adopted their philosophy and savored in every minute detail that awakens each one of my senses like never before. To me, my chai-ddiction allows me to sit back and take in the sensory overload comfortably. These rare moments in life create everlasting impressions in my memory and are essentially what I live for as a traveler.
The perfect masala chai!
- crushed white peppercorns
- sliced dry Ginger
- cinnamon
- clove
- black tea powder
- sugar
1. Mix half milk and half water in a pot. Open flame works the best.
2. Add all above ingredients
3. Heat until the milk boils and bubbles to the top. Froth milk by lifting on and off the fire a few times.
4. Strain into a tea pot and serve for amazing responses.
*come to India for the real authenticy stuff! You won't regret it

Backpacker Hotspots in India

Backpacker Areas for India

For me, india was hard to meet people. It's not like Asia where backpackers are everywhere. I found it really helpful to not have specific places to stay, but more of a general idea where to go in each city. Here are some tips for places to stay or places that a lot of travelers hang out in!
New Delhi- Pahar Ganj, moonlight rooftop restaurant
Kolkata- Sudder St., Spanish cafe
Agra- backside of Taj (so you can see it during breakfast)
Varanasi- near the burning ghat or Assi ghat
Brown bread bakery near burning ghat, Blue Lassi, or pizza place near Assi ghat
Darjeeling- go up the stairs, anywhere up from drop off point
Joeys bar is awesome, and warm
Mumbai- Colaba, leopolds cafe to eat near the Gate of India
Goa- anywhere by the beach
Gokarna- paradise beach- hippy hangout, free to camp out, bring a hammock but nowhere to put valuables
Half moon beach- quiet and cute family owned place, great food and people pass by all day
Om beach- relaxing, more restaurants and people same with Kudley beach
Gokarn- if looking at the sea go right along the beach to find something, wear shoes the sand is hot
Cochin- Fort Cochin. You can get free rickshaw if you go into a store. Don't need to buy, but driver gets 100 rps gas voucher!
Kashi Restaurant :)
Varkala- cheap places on the beach. If looking at the sea the right side cliff is busy with homestays and shops and the left is more quiet with Ayurvedic spas and nice guesthouse overlooking the cliff
Allepy- houseboats
Jaipur- peacock restaurant above pearl palace hotel
Pushkar- anywhere around the lake
Udaipur- central area near the lake with the palace
Hampi- across the river, but make sure to check out the ruins on the front side too!

Friday, March 16, 2012

1 week in India- Some things I have noticed

1 week in India and some things I have noticed.

1. I have yet to see any cockroaches or rats in Culcutta yet- whereas I had seen them every day in Asia and India is suppose to be dirtier.
2. The dogs are not your friends
3. Honking is part of their culture
4. They don't really have a word for 'please'
5. Cab drivers will Avoid using the meter at any cost and ultimately screw you over with the price asked. If you do get one with a meter, the price will be doubled (I have yet to find out why). Also, if you are carrying your backpack expect to pay double what that journey would normally cost.
6. Everyone will stare at you, get used to it. Although Indian men are generally shy and usually won't cat-call or touch you
7. Going on the internet is a process. Bring your passport and expect to get your photo taken
8. Buying a train ticket is a process. Bring your passport. Try and go to the tourist quota 2 days before departure. Use or Don't get MB (middle berth). I prefer the UB (upper berth) or SB (the side). This works good for sleeper class. If you don't want the hagglers and chai wallahs in your carriage, go for the AC section. Those get booked up months in advance, but there's something called Tatda (please someone correct me here because I forgot the spelling) that holds back AC tickets. If you go to the train station the day before at 8am, you can get one of these tickets for 200-300 Rps more expensive. If I'm with a friend I just go for sleeper class. It's really not so bad! Unless you're sick.
9. Getting accommodation is a process. Bring your passport. Try and call to make reservation because places get booked quick.
10. Don't let 9 year old girls give you henna. Even if it's cute at the time it is ugly for the next 30 days
11. Everything is interesting. If you give a drunk monkey a camera he will eventually snap a good photo, but give a camera to a drunk monkey in India and they will all be good photos.
12. Everyday you wake up and you play the game of India. Some days you win, most you lose, and some days you are really moody and just don't feel like playing their game. Those are days you should stay in your hotel/hostel.
13. If you plan on going higher up in altitude, bring appropriate clothes.
14. I can't believe how much pushing and shoving goes on at some of the places of worship. I was at the Kali temple in Culcutta and it was everyone for themselves. You would think that their religions- or any religious place anywhere, you would try and be respectful of others. But no. I guess they don't call Kali the God of Destruction for no reason!
15. Anytime you don't want something, like chai for example, a chai wallah is always around. But, anytime you actually want something like chai, you can't actually find it!
16. Everything sucks mad donkey balls when you're sick. And it's not a matter of if you will get sick, but when. YOU WILL GET SICK. And everything that was once interesting, will become tiring and horrible. Especially getting sick on a train. Not fun! Prepare to be in bed for a few days, so look for a good hotel with a tv. (They have Indian Discovery Chanel!) If you have antibiotics, and you should, just take them. It's definitely not the best approach, but it will put you back on your feet much faster than anything else. Don't take cloggers that block you up. There's obviously something that needs to come out.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Not Recommended by the Lonely Planet!

Side note here: everywhere in Asia has stupid advertisements saying "recommended by Lonely Planet". Everyone walks around clutching the lonely planet, therefore leading almost the entire 'n00b' backpacker community to the exact same destinations and to have the exact same experiences. Furthermore, it's not even for backpackers! Yes they have the Southeast Asia on a Budget and those books, but for the most part it has high end eats and comfy posh sleeps. The reality comes in 2 parts. One being the fact that as soon as they leave their "westernized" fanciness and hit the street, they will inevitably be even more culture shocked than stepping off the plane! And the second thing is that I would say 90% of travelers are between 20-35 and probably don't have that kind of money- especially if they are on extended trips. Then you get those people who take holidays, but let's be honest, most people get 2-3 weeks a year holiday and why would you need an 1000 page book for 21 days? So why is the lonely planet so damn popular? I scrapped reading those even before I left home! My advice: talk to people!!! Not only will you have a conversation starter, meet new friends, but get valuable CURRENT information regarding the place of your choosing, and you might even find out about something that wasn't on your radar! Also, buy local maps from local people. Don't be afraid to throw your lonely planet out and eat where YOU want. Eat street food with the locals (watch them cook it and you should be good)! Sleep in dorms with other backpackers to share experiences with them! Go on a walk and discover something new! Excuse my blasphemy but screw the lonely planet and be an Adventurer and explore these places for the first time- not through second hand knowledge!

If you haven't traveled before, and still want to buy a lonely planet after reading this than this is what Bob has to say "Sayin' don't worry, about a thing. Cuz every little thing's, gonna be alright!" Okay, but all jokes aside, the hardest part about traveling is deciding to go and booking your first ticket. The rest is easy, piece of cake, walk in the park. Seriously! The wonderful thing about backpackers is the friendliness and openness- especially if you are on your own. I could walk into the middle of a conversation and be welcomed instantly. It is amazingly easy to meet new friends, make connections, and hear advice. The best part is that all these people you meet are on your brain wavelength of experiencing new cultures, food, people, etc. No, no, the best part is that generally backpackers all have a similar route and you can see eachother again down the line. I met this girl in Airlie Beach, Australia last April, and then I saw her in Kuala Lumpur at the end of November! It was so random and pleasantly unexpected. Actually no, I changed my mind again. The best part of meeting backpackers is having a free place to stay everywhere in the world and potentially meeting invaluable business partners ;)

Anyways, I've gone on a huge tangent when all I really wanted to say was that I personally think a better advertisement for tourists and cool backpackers is "Not recommended by Lonely Planet". Or better yet "Not even in the Lonely Planet!"

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Ahka Villages in Phongsaly


I've had the greatest pleasure to welcome you to Phongsaly, Laos. The Northernmost state that borders both China and Vietnam. Now, this whole experience has a little bit of a story leading into an incredible experience so bear with me. I have known Phil Hendry since I started traveling in December 2010. We met on the boat from the North Island to the South of New Zealand. We had also met briefly twice in Australia after that. Needless to say, he is a great friend of mine. So, we had plans to meet in Chiang Mai, Thailand at the beginning of February, however, I had sent him a message when I got to Luang Prabang telling him that I still had two weeks left on my Visa and that I wasn't leaving Laos yet due to the EPIC time I had in the country thus far. (More on Laos in another post I promise). Anyways, he agreed to meet me out there with a girl he had met in Chiang Mai from Australia, Tahlia, in a few days time. During that time I had considered going north in the country on a trekking tour. What enticed me is all of the shops promoting eco-tourism trekking packages. One place in particular caught my eye, called Phongsaly. Maybe it was because it was so far away, or maybe someone had mentioned it to me in passing, but regardless I wanted to go! Now, Phil was on a bit of a budget (who isn't really?) and the tours got up to about $255 USD for 5 days, so I figured that if it's a local bus and we figured it out ourselves it could be much cheaper!

Haha, so I pitched the idea to Tahlia and Phil and they loved it! Everyone does a trek to the minority villages in Chiang Mai, this would be something really different and personalized. The next day we departed at 6pm for our 17 hour local bus ride up north. To my surprise Phil introduced me to this lovely English boy named Jack. He's like "Kailey, Jack, Jack, Kailey. Do you think he could catch the bus up with us?" Apparently Tahlia and Phil had told Jack the night before and he was completely down with the idea. Now, that is my kind of person always up for a random adventure and see where it takes you! Plus, in my experience, local Laos busses are very easy to hitch a ride on. They don't care how many people they take by the end of it. And that couldn't be more true as the end result. By the time the bus had left Vientiene and traveled to Luang Prabang there must have been about 60 passengers on the seats, another 5 in the aisle already, not to mention piles of rice and coconuts everywhere, and chickens in the boot to boot! As we snuggled in the aisle I was wondering if I dragged 3 unsuspecting people to the most horrible journey of their lives. I have to give it up to them though because they were troopers on the bus as the high-pitched Laos music came on blaring from the speakers. All. Night. Long. I'm not gonna lie, I took 2 Valiums and they did nothing! At one point I must have dozed for half an hour and when I woke up again, there were another 6 or 8 new people in the aisle! It got so packed that I was climbing out the window and back in just to use the bathroom!!

By the time we got there it was mid afternoon and we were starving. Instead of going to eat right away we checked out the prices at the one and only travel centre in the village. They were pretty astronomical and everyone was a little bummed. We decided to go eat then when we heard lots of music and decided to walk past this Laos party. Well, didn't they just about drag us off the street to come party with them. There was a cute girl singing Kareoke and then all of a sudden we each had beers in our hands and were damanded to drink them. Well, okay! Pretty soon the ladies had cooked us about 5 fresh dishes, and the men had cut us some fresh sugarcane, and we were learning the locals dance and everything! No one spoke any english, but it was such pleasant company nonetheless. We found out they were celebrating the Chinese New Year- which lasts for a month and makes everyday seem like a holiday. I spotted the first westerner across the street and I had to go ask him if he had done any of the treks. He gave me some useful info that the tourism office offered better prices and more selection on their treks. The office happened to be right next to the party, but they were closed. No worries for the Laos people! They simply called them and asked one of the guys to come and see us right away! As a Thank-you, we performed a little Beatles Kareoke for them. I think they loved it!
We decided to do a 2 day trip to the Ahka villages that were close in the area. The Ahka people are known for their handicrafts and for being former opium growing villages. They are a very large tribe and diversify all over northern Thailand and Laos. The trek ended up costing us $25 USD per day which includes guides, food, and accommodation . So on top of the $16 USD paid for the local bus there and double it for back, we really ended up only paying $100 or so for the whole trip! We saved over $150 USD from doing it on our own.

The next morning we met our guide, Souli, at the tuk-tuk stand nice and early. Then we had a short 24km local bus ride through the morning mist of the mountains to our destination in Boun Neua. After a quick photo op, we started our trek. At first the terrain was all trees with a dirt track that we followed over some small streams. We then started to climb a little on this track and ended up seeing a King Cobra! Cool! At this point I spotted this huge cut down tree stump about 10 meters off the ground and decided to go and sit on it during our little break. I literally couldn't figure out where we were going to trek to, there didn't seem to be any path! I soon figured out that we were so far off the beaten track, that there wasn't even a track to follow!!

We were hand over hand, knees and feet on the ground, dragging ourselves up a steep 45' angle and I was taking the lead behind our monkey-like guide who was so far away he might as well have not existed! So, there I am, gripping for dear life with one hand on a banana plant, one hand on the dirt, and feet precariously slipping, slipping. CRASH! I fell anywhere from 2-3 meters down with the whole banana tree hitting me in the head. My friends thght they were going to have to carry me out on a bamboo stretcher, but I got up and was basically fine. Well okay, my shoulder dislocated, but that happens fairly often and I can pop it back into place! The feeling of accomplishment of getting to the top of that hill will last me the rest of my days alone. And all before 12pm! All I can say is that they don't call it 'hill' tribe treks for nothing!
Our first encounter with the Ahka tribe was mixed. The dogs were going wild barking at us, the kids were alternately 'Sabaidee'-ing us nd running away, and there wasn't a single adult in sight. We were taking to the chief's home to leave our stuff. All the kids gathered around us and we bent down to show them photos of themselves. They LOVED it! They probably have never seen themselves on film before and squealed with delight at the digital. How I wish I wish I had an old-skool Polaroid camera!! We all sat down to lunch together and ate fresh veggies, eggs, soup, and sticky rice while enjoying Lao-Lao whisky made from the fermentation of sticky rice every 3 minutes. I had to use the toilet after a while and he motioned out towards the back of the house. So I just squatted and peed on the ground. And these little piglets came up and started drinking my PEE! EWWWW but funny. I have to say the highlight of the meal was when the chief gave his baby daughter the cigarette to play with!

I completely thought we were done for the day, but oh no! We had to climb yet more hills (right after all that Lao-Lao) and trek for another 3 hours before arriving at our final destination for the evening. We ended up at another Ahka village and I spent the remaining daylight hours teaching the kids to play hockey with sticks and oranges. They were so funny, copying exactly what I said "GOAL" and "SAFE". Pretty soon I was telling about 30 of them to say "KAILEY IS THE QUEEN" and "JACK SMELLS FUNNY". It was hilarious and so sweet. We had a lovely meal with the chief including more Lao-Lao! Yay! We decided after dinner to give our presents to the children. We brought up toothbrushes and toothpaste and taught them how to brush their teeth! I bet they were so excited... On a side note, we had this game we played where as they didn't speak English and we didn't speak Laos, so we created voice-over dialogue. When the kids ran away with the 'presents', 2 ladies came up and said something in Laos. Phil goes "Why did these crazy foreigners give white stuff to the kids? Now it's all over the dogs!". Haha and on it went from Phil all night and the next day after that! I decided to bust out this crazy lamb hat I've carried around with me since New Zealand and see if any of the kids would wear it. No chance, they were all afraid and so I put it on the chief's head! Well he was just admiring himself so much in the mirror that I decided to give it to him as a gift. I also saw the Laos ladies admiring the stitching. Wouldn't it be so great to open a National Geographic in a few years and seeing all the Ahka peoples wearing lamb hats?
The roosters sound like they all have smoker's cough at 6:30am the next morning. I think we were all awake, but pretty lazy and sore from the day before to get up that early. I pulled my blanket over my head to try and catch a few more hours' sleep. When we eventually woke up at 9am or so, breakfast was ready for us, as well as a mini-trek to the river to catch our own lunch. Now, when I mean catch, I mean we sat down and played with the rocks, because it was next to impossible to move over those rocks and catch anything. Even the chief and our guide had some problems and didn't catch much. So we had fresh veggies, sticky rice, more Lao Lao! and hot dogs?? for lunch. Yum!

What really blew my socks off was when we were about to leave the chief of the village said "I'm sorry I didn't have more to offer you". (Translated by our guide). It was so overwhelmingly humble that that one moment will stay with me for a long time. When I get back home and get envious of the more material things in life I will remember that this man who lived so simply, had so much to offer. I wish I could've expressed that to him he offered more than I ever dreamt possible from this trip. It was the single most enriching experience I have ever had in life and the absolute epitome of my traveling thus far! The perfect combination of people, nature, circumstance, and luck came together for us all.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Tacome Pai Organic Farm/Backpackers

Just found this interesting little ditty in the outskirts of Hippy dippy Pai, Thailand. A friend of mine had told me about this farm where some of the backpackers gather for various reasons, but the idea is that it is a small self-sustaining community. For 125 B per day (equivalent of about $4USD) you can come and live here and have 3 meals a day. The basic principal of the camp is that everyone pitches in on the daily work such as cooking and cleaning. There is also a job board where daily work is laid out- building houses, tending the gardens, helping with the crops when in season.
The owners name is Sandot and I was greeted really warmly on arrival. He has a glass eye, it's pretty cool. Just mentioning. He also gives a talk every once in a while of how things came to be at Tacome. Unfortunately I didn't get a chance to participate this time around but apparently it is a very inspiring seminar.
The reason for me coming here is that I have seen what Pai had to offer and decided that I wanted to try something entirely different. Get off the grid whilst still being on the grid! Meaning that I still want to hang out with backpackers and be social, but meeting different kinds of people that don't want to get pissed and spend tons of money everyday. This place is all about sustainability and being close to nature. As soon as I got here I was offered to help build a house. And this isn't just any ordinary house! The bottom floor is all made out of mud with cool yellow bottles for stained-glass windows, there is bamboo poles making the second story. Today I went down to the river and collected flat stones for the floor. We poured the mud into the floor and laid it with all the stones we collected. As i  understand it a lovely couple from England are here making that house their wedding present not only for them, but for Sandot and the other backpackers as well. It's such a sweet gesture and a good solid foundation for a marriage. If you can build a house together, and travel together than it's gotta be right!

If you are feeling up for it you can cook and help out in the kitchen. I find it to be too much pressure to cook a meal for 30 people, so I stay out of the kitchen. But I may try to learn a few things too in the process!
It's a very interesting life here. I've never used ashes as soap before, or a rice husker. Everyone is so creative always making things to benefit the camp. I've now wanted to learn more about Permaculture. As I understand it, it is a more efficient way of farming that preserves the natural integrity of the forest. Side note: this is a country that burns everything as a form of regrowth for the next generation, everything in Pai is foggy with smoke from these controlled burnings right now during dry season. Anyways, the reason I am mentioning it is because I studied biology and environmental science in a university based on agriculture, and that was the first time I have ever heard about it!!


I definitely got into the whole vibe of the camp after a day or so. There's a lot to learn so it's best to take things slow and ask if you are uncertain of where things go and what needs to be done. The thing that I have learnt from being there (despite how short it was) was seeing how much work needs to go into sustaining yourself on a farm. It is easy once you get the hang of it, and it is definitely an interesting way of living life. I know if the end of days happens during my time on Earth, I would love to come to Tacome Pai and be safe!