Friday, 29 August 2014

Home time.


I thought I'd just quickly explain why I left in more detail/ give an update on the illness as people keep asking me about it. The diagnosis was Staphylococcus aureus, a gram-positive coccal bacterium. It was getting progressively worse to the point where I just didn't want to move from my hostel room because every time I moved my legs, they ached and I was so scared of spreading the infection even more if I got bitten again, scratched it and got an open wound - this was how they all started. I had eight of them, and they were all purple and yuck! There's another picture of them now, they're all mainly better after a week of antibiotics.

Being home is just dull. Read the article that just sums up everything called 'The hardest part of travelling nobody talks about'.

'The sad part is once you’ve done your obligatory visits for being away for a year; you’re sitting in your childhood bedroom and realize nothing has changed. You’re glad everyone is happy and healthy and yes, people have gotten new jobs, boyfriends, engagements, etc., but part of you is screaming don’t you understand how much I have changed? And I don’t mean hair, weight, dress or anything else that has to do with appearance. I mean what’s going on inside of your head. The way your dreams have changed, they way you perceive people differently, the habits you’re happy you lost, the new things that are important to you. You want everyone to recognize this and you want to share and discuss it, but there’s no way to describe the way your spirit evolves when you leave everything you know behind and force yourself to use your brain in a real capacity, not on a written test in school. You know you’re thinking differently because you experience it every second of every day inside your head, but how do you communicate that to others?'

Not many people know this as I don't talk about it much, but I have depression & a BPD, and this is one of the main reasons I travel so much. I have an inability to face routine, I just melt into a pit of sadness. I always have to be busy and active and have people around me - which is exactly what travelling is. Although I travel alone, I am never actually alone. I don't need people to be talking to me, I just need the presence of other people. 

My BPD is the main reason I'm in a house with 14 people I've never met this year at uni. The whole housing process caused a lot of arguments in our kitchen, and I was just very stressed and wanted to remove myself from the situation, so told everyone I'd find my own place. I am awful at maintaining friendships, I just get into an odd mood and decide to cut people out even though I know I need them around. It's a stupid and vicious cycle. 

So, being back home and sitting in my bedroom alone is very hard and scary for me to do because over my holiday, I forgot what sadness felt like, something I thought would never happen. But I can honestly say, hand on my heart, that I was the happiest I have been in years. Travelling also helps me through the months as it gives me something to look forward to. Mums been watching over me since I've been back and making sure I set myself things to do in the day so I don't just spend it lying in bed... I have written 2 articles for my university paper and sorted out photos, ordered quilt covers for uni & been to several parties. I am planning things to do for the upcoming week to ensure my schedule is kept full. I am just really looking forward to going back to university to learn more as that helps to keep me busy so long as I am happy and have the ability to focus.

I can't wait for my next adventure. 

Sunday, 24 August 2014

The end of a sub-continent.

After 2 and a half months, 14 flights, over 150 hours on long distance buses, numerous trains, boats, tuk tuks, tricycles, jeepneys, mopeds and goodness knows what else, I made it home from my first long-term solo adventure in one piece.

I can’t say this journey didn’t push me to my limits at points, but I don’t have a single regret. From rock climbing and tight rope walking in Koh Phi Phi, Thailand, to trekking through the Cameron Highlands, Malaysia, to trusting a complete stranger and ending up riding a bull in Masabate, the Philippines…. it’s been a wild trip. I laughed, I cried, and I laughed again. I learnt what independence really means, and I felt an attachment to my family stronger than I ever had before after seeing the importance of familial relationship out there.

I’ve returned wiser than I ever thought I would. I have learnt a great deal about Asian history and culture. The locals unknowingly taught me so much. From the way I take education for granted, to how meaningless money is in determining happiness. I’ve seen kids who have nothing but their family yet never before have I seen a face so filled with joy playing around in dirt, on the beach, or splashing with friends in muddy water.

As much as we increasingly lose faith in humanity due to the all the wrong doings in the world, I’ve been shown the strength of a community, and how generous and loving people can be without having reason. The world is warm, welcoming and ready to embrace you. It’s a shame the minority ruin this image for us.

Finally, I’d like to also take time to say thank-you to certain people for accompanying me along parts of my trip and making it all that much better. I really did meet some amazing people along the way. Of course it wouldn’t be right if I didn’t mention my Asian partner in crime, Olivia, for kindling my love of Asia last year. I wish you’d been with me girl, you’d have loved it, I miss you.

With that, I guess all I can say is I urge you to travel and push your boundaries.

Die with memories, not dreams.

Until next time South-East Asia, it’s been a fun ride.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Go to Burma, I urge you!

So today, on my final day of real travel before I head home, I decided to treat myself. I left my hostel at 11am and crossed the street to this beauty salon called VIP treatment, and wow... They spent TWO hours giving me a manicure and a pedicure! Talk about hard work. I mean, they scrubbed at my hands and feet, cleaned and re cleaned them, filed and re-filed, worked on my nail beds again and again. Anyway, just when I thought they were about to stop they found another bit they needed to work on - it was endless! It was relaxing but also slightly awkward as they couldn't speak English, so casual chit chat wasn't on the agenda.

I ended up paying a lot for the service but that was by choice. It came to $15 USD, so £9, but because they were so nice, has taken so long and were so careful, I gave them $20. The lady who owned it even treated my leg wounds! She got out some latex gloves and asked if she could patch them up for me as my current plasters were coming off and they looked grim. She then got saline solution and iodine and sorted them all out for me far better than I ever could have done. Bless her, she was so concerned for me. 

Anyway, after popping to the shops to get some drink and new plasters, I decided to head off to find my new hotel so I could spend the after lounging around (as usual) and washing myself to feel acceptable enough to spend the day roaming around Bangkok tomorrow before boarding a flight back home. Sigh.

I read about a $20 USD double room that provides a free lift to the airport. I mean, a whole £12 worth of luxury. So I got a $4 (£2.50) taxi to the hotel... Only to find out the prices were VERY old and it's in fact now $50 USD a night. In annoyance I slumped out of the hotel, unsure where to go. So, I had to get another $4 taxi back to the centre to return to the hostel I was in! Great use of $8... Now I can't afford dinner as I have to pay $7 to get to the airport later and I don't want to withdraw money again. Booooo. 

I'll spend the evening curled up with a book. I've literally been tearing through books like tomorrow's never going to come. If only I could get into reading non-fiction! Problem with non-fiction is that I always want to write down everything I'm learning so I can't just enjoy the book. Either way, it's a good way to pass time and it helps to quicken the speed at which I read. 

I really have loved Burma and it was worth the money. Admittedly I'd have liked someone to travel with throughout Burma, but it has been the safest country in the whole of South East Asia which is ironic because this is the one people had most feared me being in, and I myself was most worried about visiting here. I’m telling you now, they treat their tourists like royalty – I’ve never had to worry about anything getting stolen either. People walk round with wallets and phones sticking out of there back pocket so clearly, and if this were London, it'd be gone instantly. However, nope, Yangon has little crime. 

All I can say is, go to Burma, see the country, engage with the people and see how beautiful it is before it turns into the next Thailand and becomes westernised beyond recognition. A lot of people I spoke to see it as the medium between for India and Thailand. It's somewhere on the edge of both at the moment, and for me, that's perfect. 

Monday, 18 August 2014

Sad news - coming home early!

It is with great sadness that I announce I shall be ending my trip early and coming home Thursday. I was originally supposed to be flying home today, however I changed my flight to the 8th of September as I wanted to learn to dive on koh tao and chill at the Islands before I return home. However, today I felt very illl. Last night I vomited, and today I felt dizzy and faint and had a stomach upset. Also, my legs ache very much and whenever I shower the wounds get a lot worse and therefore it seems silly to submerge them in water for days on end whilst I learn to dive. 

Thus, my parents looked into it as they too want me home and found that I could change my flight for free to the 4th of September, or... Pay £350 and change it to Thursday. I could have easily survived and I told them not to worry about it if it was over £150 as it wasn't worth it, however, dad just really wants me safe and at home, so he wanted to pay for the flight to be changed. I kind of paid £100 towards it because originally I was going to ask dad if he could reimburse my medical fees, but because he just paid for the flight, I didn't bother. I still feel awful about it though, I didn't want them to spend that money, it's my fault I'm ill as I chose to be out here, so it's awfully nice of him to pay to return me home. 

Anyway, I'm upset I won't get to dive but I know that I'll have plenty more chances in the future. You know me, I always have to be travelling when I get the chance! No doubt in the next few years I'll be in an amazing dive spot and will learn then. At least on the upside I get to save money for this year to start university with a bit of cash. That will be nice.

Illness is getting worse.

Today I didn't roll out of bed till 2pm, even then I could have stayed there all day as I feel horrid but I knew I needed to get hold of the doctors as my leg was getting much worse and I needed the antibiotics. So I rung them and they eventually got back to me, so I hopped in a taxi there and back, collected it, $27 USD for 14 tablets, ouch. Not awful though.

On the way back I had to stop by my old hostel to pay them as I forgot last time, and then tried finding a hairdressers but none of them knew what blonde was, and once they finally understood, they knew they didn't have the colour... I guess it was a push. 

Anyway, I wandered around trying to find my hostel, and I started to feel awful again. I had tried to eat but I couldn't stomach it and it was too spicy. I was so glad when I finally got back to the hostel, I had to collapse in bed, put the air conditing on full and try not to vomit. I ended up having a really dodgy stomach too and just blah. I felt awful.

I'd been speaking to mum and dad and we agreed if I could come home early, I probably should.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Beauty of boats on Inle Lake, Burma

Today we woke, had our breakfast and then followed our boat driver down to the docks. It cost 15,000 MMK (£9) to hire him for the day, but since it was split 3 ways it was only £3 each. Bargain. The journey down to the lake took about 40 minutes but was beautiful and fun to see all the little kids running around and all the fishermen beginning and ending their trips out. 

The lake itself was a lot bigger than I expected and dirtier too, but given the backdrop of lush green mountains and sunshine, it was still a beautiful place and I'd definitely say it's a must do for those visiting Burma. We first went to see a pagoda and I bought a few souvenirs. One of them I am totally in love with, this wooden boat with a little fisherman and his net on the back. It was just cute and I'm looking forward to add it to my travel memorabilia shelf. 

On our way to the water village we passed some of the fisherman and their technique is just incredible. It's hard to describe but basically they control the paddle/ row using their foot leaving both hands free to work with the net. Of course they don't want to use the motor otherwise they'll disturb the fish in the water. It was actually amazing. I have a video I'll post when I get home, but yeah... Just... Awesome! Some of the people doing it are so young too, I mean... When I was 8 years old I was busy worrying about what Pokemon cards I could swap to get a shiny, yet here they are, helping to make a living for their family and seemingly happy to do so. 

The water villages themselves are also fantastic. So much effort has gone into each building and the fact they have to row to get anything beyond their houses seems like an awful lot of effort! Lots of little kids were enjoying themselves swimming in the lake and as usual, were excited to see us pass which was pleasant. They even have floating gardens where they grow their crops. Watching them work on them was something else, so much skill and patience required!

We stopped at the jumping cat monastery, named that because a monk had previously taught a cat to jump through a hoop. However, to my sadness I learned that the monk and the cat had both passed away. There were lots of baby kittens there though, and they were just adorable! 

Eventually come midday we decided to head back because the heat started to come through the clouds causing us to fear burning. We'd also seen everything that we wanted and so headed back.

Back in the village I stopped at the market and bought myself some jewellery. I also bought my dad a little gift heheheh. I hope he loves it 😉. After going to the bakery I met Athenia back at the hotel and all I can say is, well, remind me to learn about strangers before I offer to share a room with them to split the cost! This girl is VERY odd, she is a total hygiene freak. She keeps pressuring me to take a shower. Girl... I'll take a shower when I want thank you! (Don't worry it's not because I smell, I've already showered today she just insists on every morning and night despite the fact the waters freezing cold and it takes my hair forever to dry). She also is very selfish - she wouldn't let me go to food places I liked, and wouldn't let Nicole and I look in any shops because she despised them. She also wouldn't let me charge any of my gadgets because hers were so much more important than mine to be at 100%! Gah! She's also the worlds slowest walker it's actually painful. I ended up just walking ahead with Nicole and leaving her behind haha. She was getting on Nicole's nerves too. She had gone really weird over the fact that she had the tinniest cut on her foot, making such a huge deal of it even though Nicole and I could hardly see it. It's so weird that for someone so selfish she's an aids worker... How does that work. Dunno. Just yeah... I'm glad I'm a very patient person.

Anyway, we sat around in the hotel for ages as we were told the tuk tuk would take us to the bus at 4pm, but it didn't get there till 5:30pm then the bus didn't leave till 6:30pm and it was hot on the bus but luckily I got two seats to myself. The bus finally arrived in Yangon at 5:30am. It was an awful bus ride as I vomited and felt ill most of the way! It was weird because it was fine when I first got on. I read the book 'will you remember me when I'm gone' about a mum dying of cancer... And oh my gosh, once again (as with me and all books lately), I cried my eyes out! I finished the book in one sitting and it was a great book. Anyway, Athenia was much more poorly than I and threw up loads along with having awful diarrhoea. Yuck. 

When we got to Yangon we got a taxi to a hostel she had booked for us and again we only have to pay for one night even though were really staying for two as we arrived at 6:30am. The hostel is really nice and we get our own air conditioning units each and a curtain to hide us from the world. There's also a million plugs which is really handy because most places have a severe shortage of them! So yeah, I passed out right away. 

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Rest day

So, inle lake. Today we weren't feeling very active so went and got lunch after walking round for what felt like forever. Even though loads of restaurants we passed I liked food at, she insisted to keep looking... Then forced me to go to a restaurant where I didn't even like any of the food! I was a good little girl though and ate vegetable rice with chicken before strolling home.

I spent most of the day in bed but we did go out at 6pm to meet Nicole (another girl from the bus) for dinner where I had a nice, but very expensive, pizza and got swarmed by Mosquitos that I was desperate to hide from. Inle lake town is very very quiet, there are few tourists and nothing goes on. They're just a rural town with a peaceful relaxing atmosphere. 

Bed time. 

Friday, 15 August 2014

Hiding from the heat.

Today I spent the day sitting in front of a local pagoda reading a book on Burmese history - yes, shocking, I know, me! Reading a history book! (I was impressed with myself too). But again, it got too hot I headed back to the hotel and laid down in the lobby as it's the coolest area in the whole hotel. I began to read we were liars again to piece together the things I didn't quite link at the time and it made my eyes well up all over again.

Finally, hours passed and a tuk tuk came at 6pm to take us to a bus that left at 7:30pm to inle lake. It cost 11,000 MMK (£6.70) and we arrived at 4:30am, overall taking 8 hours. There was a bit of drama on the bus though as this girl had her doggy bag stolen where she'd put her camera and iPod in. The police got involved and luckily they found the group of French people that had just got off the bus. They were really drunk and rowdy the whole trip apparently, but I'd taken a Valium so I was fast asleep. Turns out one had accidentally taken it thinking it was his friends. Apparently they weren't very apologetic and were being stereotypical obnoxious French lads. The police also weren't that fussed about this girls missing belongings until she said she had a US passport. Because she's also got a Korean passport and is from there, they didn't care. But international problems with large countries really worry the police.

All over Burma there are signs that say to be kind and look after tourists, it's nice because it works and everyone is lovely. 

Anyway, we arrived groggy and tired and all hopped into a tuk tuk. I ended up finding a double room with this girl Athenia, who had her stuff stolen, and we didn't even have to pay for that night, they allowed us to check in super early and only charged us for the night that evening. Relief! 

Thursday, 14 August 2014

The thousand temples of Bagan.

The train gently rocks you to and throw, causing your body to bounce calm up and down whilst you look out across the sun setting and the most beautiful peaceful landscape you've ever seen. There's no glass in the window that's in front of you and so a gentle breeze keeps you cool in the sticky heat and allows your senses to be filled with what you're passing thus giving you the sensation of being at one with the country. 

Occasionally you past little villages en route and the kids eagerly spring to their feet and begin frantically waving in hope you'll respond. With a quick acknowledgment in return these kids squeal with delight as their mums also look at you gleefully. Thankful for having made their day. 

You speed past wondering where these people will return to. What type of building they call home and what lives they lead. Whether they are educated or responsible for making income to help look after other members of their family. 

You pass little huts held together by string and filled with holes. You can't help but wonder what they do when it rains, or when the weather gets cold, or the river overflows and their houses flood. Their few possessions destroyed. You want to believe they'll go on to exceed their expectations. They look happy though, happy and thankful for what they have and so that's surely all that matters? Family means everything to these people.

The countryside is beautiful but beyond the sites I see, I know there is ongoing pain and struggling we could never comprehend. In Burma there's currently eleven bouts of civil-war related violence going on. The country was only opened to tourists recently and even then, a lot of the country is restricted due to danger. They have the worlds longest civil war going on... How do these people stay so optimistic? I admire them.

The train journey wasn't the worst thing to ever happen to me... In fact, it was pleasant and relaxing. A refreshing reminder of my surroundings. It had 2 double beds and 2 single beds between three of us. Admittedly they weren't the most comfortable things in the world, but far better than I had expected. The journey though... There were some very rough points along the way where I thought my brain was going to fall out of my head I was shaken up and down so vigorously. It was pretty mentallllll. Of course I didn't sleep very well at all but at least I had space to move around.

Before night fell I read the book 'we were liars', and on my gosh, I recommend every girl out there to read it. I had tears streaming down my eyes in the end. It's such a good book and it's a really easy holiday read. 

When we arrived in Bagan it was 11am and I've never experienced such excruciating dry heat in all my life. We went from forest shrub area to dry sand and the temperature just soared. It was unbearable to move in. We jumped into a taxi and paid the dodgy $15 entrance fee and checked in at the PanCherry Inn. I definitely wouldn't recommend to anyone. The rooms were hotter than outside and I didn't think that was possible. I was just melting into my bed. I showered (no warm water of course) and went to get changed, and by the time I had moved to my room I was already sweating and sticky. I slept for a few hours then decided maybe the weather had cooled down to go explore...

Boy was I wrong. I hired an electronic bike for 3000 and set off, only to have it break down on me a mile up the road! I then had to pedal it back... Let me assure you, these bikes are not made for pedalling. It was hard work and the heat just added to the nightmare. Eventually I got another bike and set off again. 

Finally made it to old Bagan and just searched round temples all day. I'll be honest, it was a bit repetitive, but I guess I'd been so excited for it that I wanted it to be amazing. 'Same same but different' as the Thais like to put it. All the temples were similar, but just slightly different in their own way. My favourite temples were the small ones with nobody around. I bought a book on the history of Burma and sat down at one of the temples to read it. 

I ended up feeling very faint and ill in the heat so found a cafe to sit in for a while. The man kept bringing me out food to be polite but obviously I wouldn't like it... Some of it I tried, then just hid the rest in my bag hahah. I felt too bad just not having any of it. 

At sunset, 6:30pm, I went to meet Christian and Edith (the couple that shared the train with me) on the main temple. It was nice, but it was too cloudy for a proper sunset which was a shame. My bike ride home alone was most enjoyable (other than the bike almost running out of power). It was just so chilling to know how ancient these temples were and how many of them there were just all around me. Talk about being in the center of history. It's a shame though because a lot of them have been re-done meaning they lost their authentic touch. I heard this is why it can't become a unesco world heritage site. It's sad really. It was still a beautiful little town though and housed some wonderful temples, but the number of them was just overwhelming!

I had the worst nights sleep I've ever had. The fan I had automatically turned itself of every hour, and I remember turning it back on at least 5 times even though it did nothing and I still sweated from every place possible whilst trying to semi cover up to avoid bites! Gah! Good day though. 

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Hospital trip in Burma: Walking Wounded

Yuck yuck yuck yuck. So my legs are all infected and I spent the morning at the doctors being poked and prodded and now I have to wait 3 days for the results. They want me to stay in Yangon but I can't miss going to Bagan... that's the only reason I came to Burma! So I'm going go to go to Bagan today at 4pm on a 16 hour train (I chose train as it was same price as bus but has beds - 16,500 local currency £8). Then I'm going to wait for the results, go to Inle lake then come back to Yangon before my flight leaves from here a week today. 

Like... Holy moly, I can't even describe how much it hurt when they were picking at my infection and rubbing saline solution and iodine all over it. A nurse and two doctors were just picking at me, and it was so so painful. They kept squeezing trying to get more pus out to send off to the lab to see what infection I had. 

Originally it started off with one spider bite that I had in the middle picture there, then I had that for 3 weeks and it just wouldn't heal. It looked like I've been shot by a bullet and will no doubt leave a scar too. Then, in the last week, I got 6 more infected bites. Every time I accidentally knock them, the bites just explode and pus goes everywhere and I want to vomit at the site of it. They're really painful too and just keep spreading. Wahhhh.

Luckily all the people treating me were really nice and tried to keep the cost down. The place was nice too as it was an international clinic. It cost £40 for dressing, cleaning and 2 swabs to be sent off along with the price of the consultation, so it wasn't too bad. 

I have received quite a lot of injuries this holiday I am aching all over. I have a scar on my knee from where I tripped over in the Philippines. In the same event I also damaged my little toe and it spent weeks infected and having to be drained. Yuck.  My backpack also cut down my leg where one of the support poles was poking out and scratched along it ripping the skin as it went. Also lots of mini scars from scratching mosquito bites...

I also got a few surfing injuries - I discovered a large lump on the back of my head from where the board smacked me and I have a huge pain on the side of my rib cage where my tattoo is from where the board also hit me as I collied into another girl. 

I am the definition of walking wounded. Ouch and yuck. 

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Welcome to Yangon, Myanmar.

touched down in Burma at 7:30am and felt awful, so had to sit on the floor for a while till the dizziness past me and I no longer wanted to faint. I slept for a bit of the taxi journey to my hostel too because it was painful being awake. 

From first impressions I really like Burma. It's just so relaxed and calm. I stupidly asked if they ever got traffic here, and sure enough, 5 minutes later I had jinxed the situation and we were stuck in traffic forever. 

When I finally got to my hostel and checked in, I decided to lay down and mope around for a while trying to recover. Upon deciding to explore, I attempted to walk out of the hostel failing to see the sliding glass door in front of me and so smacked straight into it, banging my head and adding to the already terrible headache I had! Nightmare. I just laughed it off and was super embarrassed. 

I headed to the shops to pick up some cookies as there was nothing western around to eat. The hotel dude laughed at me when I asked if any places around here sold pizza... Whoops. But I did meet a western guy who had been living in Yangon later on who told me where I could get some in the future. Priorities sorted! Unfortunately I couldn't actually buy the cookies as this shop wouldn't accept US dollars and I didn't have my card to withdraw local currency.

Instead, I wandered round downtown. Surprisingly, Burma is the country I feel the safest in. I never felt like I had to keep my bag close, or worry about people attacking me... Everyone is super friendly and helpful. They're the opposite of intimidating. Its a shame though because it's definitely the most run down country. All of the buildings lack windows and have moss growing over them. None of them are well take care off.

So many of the men out here wear skirts, they're known as longyis and resemble sarongs. Everyone wears them, even business men and young students. I guess they're just comfortable in the heat. I bet guys back home wish they were acceptable to wear! 

Also, the women, and babies, cover their faces in this yellow powder called thanaka. According to Wikipedia, 'Apart from cosmetic beauty, thanaka also gives a cooling sensation and provides protection from sunburn. It is believed to help remove acne and promote smooth skin. It is also an anti-fungal.' It's bizarre but they all seem to love it!

Anyway, after I picked up my card I then went with a French guy out to explore some more. We went to a pagoda but it was a disappointment. The classic Thai problem where all there is inside is a load of Buddha and little else. We didn't spent long there before heading down to the waterfront... Which again, wasn't anything special! 

I just love the culture here. The people are so interesting so observe. 

I spent the evening in my hostel and just caught up on sleep. Practically the whole city closes at 9pm, you can't get anything after then a part from a few bars that are open.