Friday, 18 December 2015

My Bucket List

 With dreams so big - It's great to keep track! 
1.     Go on a yoga retreat in a beautiful country (2013, Chang Mai, Thailand)
2.      Climb the Leaning Tower of Pisa (2010)
3.     Climb a mountain (2016, Clouds Rest in Yosemite NP) 
4.     Visit Niagara Falls (2001)
5.     Visit the pyramids in Egypt and strike an ancient Egyptian pose
6.     Visit Iguazú Falls (2015) 
7.     Visit Grand Canyon
8.     Go to Russia - Moscow and St Petersburg (and see a ballet)
9.     See the Northern Lights
10.  Road trip across the USA 
11.  See Mount Everest
12.  Visit the Taj Mahal
13.  Visit Rio and see Christ the Redeemer (2015)
14.  Spend 'spring break' in Cacun. 
15.  Spend christmas in New York
16.  Spend christmas in Lapland
17. Visit the Great Wall of China
18.  Fight wild bears in the Colosseum, Rome... Ok, maybe not fight bears. (2010)
19.  Try sushi in Japan
20.  See Kilimanjaro and stare in awe. 
21.  Bungee Jump off a bridge
22.  Sky Dive (2015, Igauzu Falls)
23.  Eat steak & Learn to Tango (separately of course) in Buenos Aries. (2015)
24.  Visit every country in South-East Asia (2014 completed)
25.  Visit every country in South America
26.  Visit every US State (and be able to name them all 2015)
27.  Fly in a hot air balloon
28.  Ride a horse (2015, Campo Grande, Brazil) 
29.  Go paragliding
30.  Run a marathon
31.  Learn to knit whilst bored on a bus
32.  Attend a film premier 
33.  Gain a scuba diving qualification (2016, Koh Tao)
34.  Scuba Dive in the Great Barrier Reef
35.  Dive off a cliff (2014, Philippines) 
36.  Reach 1000 likes on facebook for my blog
37.  Make £100 from my blog
38.  Learn to speak a language/ improve on my existing
39.  Sleep under the stars in a hammock or see-through pod 
40.  Try local cuisine in chile. (2015, traditional BBQ in Santiago) 
41.  Visit Machu Picchu and get an iconic photo (2015)
42.  Go to the white house and big Abe. (2016, Washington)
43.  Go to Miami and sing 'I'm in Miami bitch' (2015)
44.  Have an article published in a well-known publication (one for History and one for travel)
45.  Learn to cook an authentic thai dish
46.  Visit Hanoi & Saigon to remember the Vietnam War/ learn more about the history. (2013)
47.  Go chill on a beach in the Philippines (2014)
48.  Go to Bali and learn to surf (2014)
49.  Go to the Full Moon Party (2013)
50.  Learn to say hello in 15 languages (currently on 9 : Hello, Bonjour, Hola, Guten Tag, Sabaidi, Sawasdee Ka, Chao, Ni Hao, Ciao)
51.  Go to the Galapagos Islands and pretend I'm Charles Darwin
52.  Drink from a coconut in Barbados 
53.  Visit the Amazon (or pantanal) and see a monkey (2015, Campo Grande)
54.  Ride an elephant (2013, Chang Mai, Thailand)
55.  Go on a safari in Africa
56.  Go whale watching
57.  Swim with sharks
58.  See the sunset in Bagan (2014)
59.  Ride route 66 singing 'Life is a highwayyyyy'
60.  Moped through the mountains (2014)
61.  Drive the Great Ocean Road in Australia. 
62.  Go on a cruise *(2013, Ha Long Bay - would like to improve this though!)
63.  Go Volcano Boarding
64.  See the waterfalls in Croatia 
65.  Explore Auschwitz 
66.  Swim with dolphins 
67.  See the Golden Gate Bridge (2016)
68.  Spend too much money in a Casino in Las Vegas (2016)
69.  Antelope Canyon & Horseshoe Bend Arizona
70.  Go skiing in Salt Lake City and pretend I'm on Getting There with Mary-Kate & Ashley
71.  Visit Salt Flats and pretend I'm Capitan Jack Sparrow (2015, Bolivia)
72.  See a penguin in its natural habitat 
73.  Poop myself on the swing at the edge of the world in Ecuador
74.  Drive the Romantic Road in Germany and visit Neuschwanstein's castle
75.  Go to an authentic christmas market in Germany
76.  Take a Gondola ride in Venice (again - because I don't remember it from when I was little!)
77.  Go snowboarding in Canada (obviously not in Ontario where I used to live - but somewhere like Whistler!)
78.  Visit Lake Louise (2016)
79.  Swim in the Blue Lagoon, Iceland
80.  Go to Barcelona's cathedral and pray
81.  Visit the Parthenon in Athens  (2012)
82.  Skinny dip in the ocean (2014, Philippines) 
83.  Cry my eyes out cycling down Death Road in Bolivia (2015)
84.  Go to Carnival in Brazil
85.  Go to October Fest in Berlin
86.  Go tubing in Vang Vieng (2013) 
87.  Experience proper white water rafting (not the shit I did in Thailand haha)
88.  See Petra (2017)
89.  See Laguna Verde, Bolivia 
90.  Visit Victoria Falls
91.  Rock-climb somewhere awesome (2014, Koh Phi Phi Don, Thailand).
92.  Go to Delhi and avoid Delhi Belly
93.  Swim in the Red Sea
94.  Go to Tibet and pretend I'm barbie from the PS1 game I used to play
95.  Spend a night in an igloo 
96.  Uluru, Australia
97.  Ride the Trans-Siberian rail-way 
98.  Explore a ship-wreck (the awful one I visited in Zante doesn't count)
99.  Visit all continents
100. Visit 100 countries

Monday, 14 December 2015

5 Top Historically-Engaging Locations to Visit in South-East Asia

After having explored the whole of South-East Asia whilst studying a history degree, I felt it necessary to share the top locations I found the most engaging along my travels. I hope you can see why I have picked the locations I did and I urge you to venture out and see them for yourselves. In addition to the ones listed, I would recommend watching the ancient ballet at the Prambanan temples in Indonesia, exploring the National museum of the Filipino people in Manila and gaping at the beauty of Ha Long Bay in Vietnam.

1. Killing Fields/ S-21 Prison, Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

The sign reads ‘Killing tree against which executioners beat children’, a mass grave is then located next to it where one hundred babies’ bodies were found from where they were tossed into the pit after being killedShamefully I was unaware of the terrible atrocities that unfolded under the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia in 1975. I have been even more shocked to since learn that every time I bring it up in seminars, nor have half of the class. One quarter of the Cambodian population was killed in the space of a year. Since the event is still so fresh, new pieces are uncovered every day and walking round the Killing Fields you can see emerging pieces of clothing through the mud, bringing home how real the whole event was. Likewise, Pol Pot’s systematic process of execution involved taking photos of every person that was to be sent to the Killing Fields. Therefore, the former S-21 Prison is now lined with photographs of every person that was executed under his regime. The Killing Fields and S-21 Prison will undoubtedly break your heart and it is a very tough and emotional day out. However, it is truly moving to see how Cambodia has progressed in such a short space of time.

The sign in the photo reads: 'Killing tree against which executioners beat children', a mass grave is then located next to it where a hundred babies bodies were found from where there bodies were tossed into the pit after being killed. 
2. Ayutthaya City, Thailand.
ayutthaya city
Ayutthaya was previously the capital of Thailand before the Burmese invaded and burnt down most of the city thus forcing them to relocate to Bangkok. The temples that remain in the small city are truly breath-taking. I would, however, advise you to research the temples before you venture out to see them as there is a serious lack of information boards due to the fact that, despite its beauty, Ayutthaya is unfortunately missed by most of those doing the classic Thailand loop. In a way though, this contrast against the overwhelming popularity of sites such as Angkor Wat allows its beauty to radiate far more. My friend and I were alone in most of the temples allowing you to fully explore them without worrying about whose photograph you were stepping into next.

3. Bagan, Myanmar.
Built between the 11th and 13th centuries, with over 4,000 Buddhist temples erected here, and with over 2,000 remaining, Bagan has more history than you have the ability to cover in a lifetime, let alone one day. If you are lucky and the weather is in your favor then you must head to Shwesandaw temple to watch the sunset over the ruins. Personally I find that the most beautiful part of Bagan is that every person can have his or her own temple. I was able to bike out and find a temple to claim for myself, sit down with a book on the history of Burma, and picture the triumph that occurred right where I sat.
4. War Remnants Museum & Chu Chi Tunnels, Saigon, Vietnam.
war remnants museumwar remnants museum 2The War Remnants museum, previously named the American War Crimes museum, caused me to well up on every floor. Very graphic photographs are displayed of the civilians that were killed along with stories of those who witnessed the crimes. The most moving section was one that showed the effects of the US chemical Agent Orange, a herbicide and defoliant used as part of Operation Ranch Hand. Again, graphic photographs show the deformities that have occurred as a result and those screaming for help after the attacks took place. The Chu Chi tunnels similarly had me in tears and feeling physically sick. There were around 200km of underground tunnels used by the Vietnamese to hide from the Americans and this location allows you to go down into the tunnels to see how they lived. I found out I don’t do well in small spaces, but these were unbelievably tiny. Not knowing how far the next exit was sent a wave of panic through me. How 20,000 people lived inside these tunnels I’ll never know! Of particular note is the re-structuring of the booby traps used by the Vietcong that resulted in 10 percent of all US deaths. Although it feels as if you are watching the next setting for a SAW movie, you have to pinch yourself to remind yourself that this is real life. Although these locations were of course very biased, the reason I feel they are essential to see is because they really highlight the horrors of warfare.

5. Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, Cambodia. 
Built in the 12th century by King Suryavarman, Angkor Wat is a phenomenal temple complex. There is a steep 20 USD entrance fee, and it will set your group back 15 USD for a tuk-tuk driver for the day, but it is worth every penny. Personally, I found the mass crowds somewhat detracted from the beauty at the main temple, Angkor Wat, however by visiting surrounding temples within the complex – such as Bayon temples – it is possible to step back in time and picture the civilisation that reigned there. The place itself is rich with nature too as the trees have grown around some of the temples and wild monkeys climb round the ruins. I’ll confess, my heroic moment of the trip was chasing after and wrestling a monkey who had stolen a lady’s flip-flop!