Bruce’s Caves – Perusing the Peninsula

By sheer luck, a close friend from Hong Kong has just moved to Ontario, and has a cottage up in a scenic area north of Toronto called the Bruce Peninsula, so we’ve been up there quite a bit this summer, enjoying the fantastic natural scenery.

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The Bruce Peninsula is on Lake Huron, which has a long coastline of sandy beaches, and crystal clear waters. At least now I can say that I swam in a lake once this summer, though looking back, it should have been a lot more.

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One of the attractions in Bruce Peninsula are the Bruce’s Caves, where an easy 10-minute walk through a quiet forest takes you a handful of caves which were, amazingly, formed by the crashing forces of waves a long time ago when that area of the peninsula was under water. Very cool.

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The caves are indeed very impressive, and you can go through some crawl spaces to get through to other ones, if you are very brave, but that day, I was only brave once.

There were a few dozen people there, but we stuck around a while to hunt for fossils, because where there are layers of rocks, there must be fossils!

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I spotted this little nugget in the rock – could it be something with legs? A crab? A spider?

 

 

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Weekend in Winnipeg

Lucky for me, there are two new ultra low-cost carriers operating domestic routes out of Toronto and nearby city Hamilton – Flair Air and Swoop –  which means that there’s going to be a whole lot of local travelling going on around my new home and native land.

One of the first places ended up being Winnipeg – often jokingly referred to as ‘Winterpeg’ by those who live there – and though it isn’t a place I exactly dreamed of going (ever heard someone say ‘I’m just dying to go to Winnipeg!’), it was an interesting quick jaunt and a very decent city!

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We spent the three days in the city itself, and unfortunately didn’t have enough time to venture out into the wide open spaces of Winnipeg’s prairies, but maybe one day in the future we’ll get to see the polar bears and bison that are in the northern part of this flat, central province.

In the city you can see that Winnipeg has a long history, with many preserved old buildings with classic architecture, including the Hudson’s Bay Company and the Bank of Montreal.

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We also visited The Forks, a historic site in downtown Winnipeg along the Red River which has a 6,000 year old history, dating back from early aboriginal settlements to the arrival of European fur traders, buffalo hunters, the building of a railway, and thousands of immigrants. Today it has cultural activities, a riverwalk, a big playground, and lots of restaurants and museums. You could spend the whole day at the Forks exploring its sights.

The incredible Manitoba Museum is another place you can spend an entire day, but after a few hours you do get ‘museumed out’, so we left, and walked over to the nearby Chinatown to have some awesome and authentic dim sum, which just goes to prove you can take the girl out of Hong Kong, but you can’t take the Hong Kong out of the girl.

What was surprising was that downtown Winnipeg had a ‘sketchy’ feel about it. I hate to be critical, but while taking the public bus you can see a lot of people who are clearly on drugs. And there are many rehab clinics, and signs on the light posts saying things like ‘USE METH? COME GET CLEAN NEEDLES, FREE!’. This was especially noticeable with the Indigenous people, and it came as a surprise. Living in Southern Ontario, you don’t ever really see Indigenous people as I suppose they were ‘priced out’ or ‘moved’ to reserves a long, long time ago. And living in a quiet, peaceful suburb like Pleasantville, you don’t get a lot of exposure to drugs (not that it doesn’t exist). But in Winnipeg it was visibly obvious that Winnipeg has somewhat of a drug crisis on its hands. I remember seeing a lot of druggies in Vancouver too. But at least in Vancouver, it isn’t freezing cold.

Nonetheless, Winnipeg was an interesting trip, just wish I had had a bit more time to get out of the city to see other areas of Manitoba, but Canada is just such an insanely massive and mostly empty place, you need a LOT of time to travel around.

In the meantime, these little domestic trips will have to do.

 

 

Mono Cliffs – Instagram lies!

You can’t always believe everything you see and read about online, especially when it comes to travel.

A lot of times we see an incredible image and think, ‘Wow, I want to go there just to see THAT, to stand there and take the same picture of this exact spot’. 

Well, sometimes Instagram and Facebook can paint a picture of something that is not quite a true reflection of reality. Kind of like that article from Bored Panda about Travel Expectations Vs. Reality which lists famous sights that tourists dream about and then shatters the fantasy by showing the reality – overrun with tourists, dirty, crowded.

It seems people have been flocking to Mono Cliffs Provincial Park in recent weeks to find this one specific spot called Jacob’s Ladder, after popular Canadian website Narcity published an article with beautiful photography of the area. We were not the only ones drawn in by promises of limestone crevasses and ‘caves’, because another family we met on trail said quite bluntly ‘We read about these caves on Facebook and came to find them. Do you know where they are?’  At least for us it was just a 15 minute drive from home – but those people had driven all the way from Toronto!

We did indeed find it, and yes it IS scenic, but what the Narcity article doesn’t mention is that is actually just a tiny little area, really just a small set of steps through the rocks.

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It was nice to see, don’t get me wrong, but the article fails to mention that the bottom of the steps is COMPLETELY FENCED OFF and not even part of a trail! We were quite disappointed. It literally took 30 seconds to see and then that was it.

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At least one person isn’t disappointed!

Ah well, it was still a beautiful day for a hike. After going back up the steps, we did the loop called the McCarston’s Lake Side Trail which took us around a beautiful lake and back to the parking area. It was around 4km and took roughly an hour and a bit. The signs in the park do not give any indication of trail length. There were LOTS of mosquitoes out so if you go be sure to wear long pants and carry repellant.

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If you still want to see Jacob’s Ladder, don’t let me deter you. Mono Cliffs IS indeed a very beautiful provincial park with many different trails. So as my gift to you – other than the gift of knowledge that the ladder area is teeny tiny and fenced off and not some magical gateway to a hobbit’s village –  is the map which shows where the damn thing is.

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The red STAR is my recommendation on where to park. This is not the main parking lot, which is on the east side of the park. But this is the closest parking area to get to Jacob’s Ladder.

Park at the red star, walk straight on the path into the park, go to the Viewing Platform, and then after the Viewing Platform on your right is Jacob’s Ladder, the metal steps going down into the ‘caves’ (not real caves, sorry).  Jacob’s Ladder is marked with a red circle, above the word ‘stairs’.

You’re welcome! Happy trails. And, please, realistic photography.

 

Biking Island Lake

Since Island Lake is literally right around the corner, we’ve been there a lot for hiking and sightseeing. But this was the first time to do the entire lake, which is 8.2km long, on bike. What a great workout! And what a beautiful day.

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Island Lake is a 400 acre reservoir with a number of small islands in the middle which are connected by wooden bridges and walkways. Many people go for hiking, fishing and kayaking in the spring and summer, and ice fishing and cross country skiing in the winter. Unfortunately you cannot rent bikes there, which is a shame because except for a few uphill areas the paths are mostly very easy!

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We have walked the entire 8.2km before, which took more than 2 hours.

You can either pay to park inside the conservation area, or there is free parking at the Home Hardware on Highway 10. Then just cross the roads at the traffic light and join the Vicki Barron Lakeside Trail.

 

Belfountain Conservation Area

So the goal this summer is to go somewhere, every single weekend, rain or shine, and enjoy the great outdoors before the deep freeze returns, forcing people to hide indoors for roughly five months. There’s nothing like the threat of winter to make you carpe that god damn diem!

Last weekend we hit up Belfountain Conservation Area, which has lovely hiking trails, a big pond with picnic tables, and an iconic suspension bridge which draws in lots of visitors from the city, being quite close to Brampton and Toronto.  The trails are quite easy and the walk is fine even for small kids, and you pass over some very scenic parts of the West Credit River.

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What I do have to say, though, is that the websites all make it seem like the suspension bridge is really big – but it’s small! Not that it was disappointing, it was indeed beautiful, just a wee bit shorter than we expected.

If going, I’d really suggest you get there early in the morning, like before 10am, because by the time we left in the later afternoon, the place was swarming with people and the parking lot was completely full.

Here’s some info about the hike itself:

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From the parking lot, turn right and walk on the Pond Loop until you reach the suspension bridge on your left (Gorge Loop, purple). Cross the bridge, then turn right and do the rest of the Gorge Loops. It takes you back to the suspension bridge and the pond again.

Yonabaru Giant Tug-of-War

We could hear the festival coming from a distance, starting with the low, mournful sound of huge conch shells being blown, somewhere up the street. Booooooo-eeeee. Booooo-eeeeee. The road had been closed off to vehicles, and a smallish crowd of people were on the sidewalk, waiting, and watching. Then we heard the drums and percussion, and saw them coming; the two teams, red and purple, who would vie that day to become the winner of the Giant Tug-of-War.


This part of the festival, the procession up the road before the battle, is called michijyune. The street filled with people dancing in traditional Okinawan yukata (robes), their hands moving in the air. In the crowd I could also see a handful of men in very elaborate kimono, representing previous kings from when Okinawa was the Kingdom of the Ryukyus.

Once the michijyune was over, the crowds all headed towards the field where the battle would take place. We found the teams laying the rope out on the road — it was massive! Apparently it weighs five tons. No wonder it takes dozens of people to carry and pull it.

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The rope enters the field

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The rope is so big, the Kings can stand on it

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The two teams push one loop through the other using long sticks, and then a large pole is inserted to lock them in place. Only then do they drop the rope and start pulling

And then, BOOM. The rope fell to the ground, the kings standing on the rope almost tumbled off, and people exploded into action. The crowd swayed and moved to either join in or avoid the rope. The air filled with the sounds of people chanting hai-ya! hai-ya! But then, much to my surprise, the whole affair, the actual pulling, only lasted a minute and a half! The purple team took victory. Apparently the longest contest ever was only 15 minutes. But after such a lead up to the tug-of-war, it felt a bit…. anti-climatic!

However, the event was not done. The second tug-of-war, obviously designed to please the crowds, allowed families and small children to get in on the action. So we decided to join in too, from the very back of the rope, because with little kids it’s not so safe to get too close to where strong men are pulling with all their might. At the back of the rope, there are smaller sections to hold on to.

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This little boy does not look so enthused

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Pull! PULL!

Boy did our hands hurt from all that pulling! The second tug-of-war took a bit longer, but the opposing team won. Afterwards we even took a bit of the rope home. Apparently it’s good luck to tie up a piece of the rope and take it with you after the event. I watched as the officiators took a mallet and break open a huge straw barrel of awamori (Okinawa liquor), so I guess it was party time.

The next tug-of-war takes place in Naha, but apparently attracts thousands and thousands of people. So if you are averse to crowds, then smaller events like the Yonabaru tug-of-war may be more your style!

 

 

 

Year in Review

This has been a great year for travel, and I hope this is proof that just because you have a baby it doesn’t mean you can’t travel. In fact it’s quite the opposite — babies fly for almost free up until the age of 2, so now’s the best time to get some stamps in that passport.

So in the past 12 months, here’s where I’ve been.

Click on the pictures to read the full story about the trip. And yes, in case it wasn’t obvious, we LOVE Okinawa.

JANUARY – OKINAWA

FEBRUARY – OKINAWA

APRIL – TOKYO

JUNE – OKINAWA

 

AUGUST – VANCOUVER

AUGUST – ALASKA

AUGUST – TRINIDAD & TOBAGO

SEPTEMBER – OKINAWA

OCTOBER – MALDIVES

NOVEMBER – GUNMA AND TOKYO

Perhaps I could have reached my goal of getting 12 trips in 12 months… but The Child’s passport expired and I sent mine in as my form of ID, effectively grounding me in Hong Kong during December. This really pissed off The Husband because he found out that he had five days off in a row and now had no travel buddies. But hey, 10 out of 12 ain’t bad.

Happy travels in 2015!

 

 

 

 

 

The Travel Bucket List

We all have a list of things we’d like to see and places we’d like to go before we kick the bucket — what’s yours? Bali? Paris? Kyoto? Kilimanjaro? It all depends, really, on what kind of tourism you are into and what kind of traveller you are.

Me, I have a hard on for history. I like wandering the streets in ancient towns, or standing in something that has been around for thousands of years. It always makes me realise how small our own existence is, how we are just a blip on the radar of the planet, and that we should not take life too seriously.

If time, money and safety were not an issue, these are the Top 10 places I’d go to if I could (in no particular order). To read more about them please click on the link to the original writer/photographer.

1. Yemen

Despite nowadays being the alleged hideout of the Taleban, one of the most unsafe places on the planet (many tourists have been kidnapped and killed), and probably a terrible place for a female traveller, Yemen is one of those ancient cities in the Middle East that looks amazing and remains largely untouched by tourism. Must be a very interesting place to visit. Too bad it has so many problems.

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… and if I ever made it to Yemen, I’d also go to Socotra — the weidest island on earth, just off of Yemen mainland, just to see these Dragon’s Blood trees.

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2.  Mt. Nemrut, Turkey

Should have gone while I was in Turkey but ran out of time — these giant stone heads sit on top of Nemrut Mountain and remain somewhat of a mystery. How cool is this?  If I ever make it back to Turkey, I’ll do the hike for sure.

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3. The Hanging Monastery of Shanxi

Having made five trips to China I probably won’t be going back any time soon. It’s a tough place to travel and often quite stressful, and though the sites are incredible it is not in ANY way, shape or form a relaxing holiday. But this place has been on my list for years, the Hanging Monastery in Shanxi province. Don’t look down!

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4. Petra, Jordan

We all saw the Indiana Jones movie where he rides horseback through a beautiful pink gorge and emerges on the other side outside a huge stone temple. That’s Petra and no it is not just a movie set!



5. Yonaguni Island

This tiny island forms part of the Okinawa chain of islands in southern Japan, and not too long ago divers found a strange area of what appears to be an underwater temple or some kind of man-made structure. Can these 90 degree right angles be formed in nature, or is there a deeper story? Advanced diving certification is required — I guess my open water license is not going to suffice.

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6. Bhutan

The tiny kingdom of Bhutan wedged between India and China has extremely strict limits on how many tourists it allows in and a spending requirement per head, which makes it one of the lesser explored countries in Asia. It has fantastic looking temples and architecture set amidst stunning mountains. One day, one day…

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7. Tibet

But I doubt I’ll make it there before it becomes too ‘mainland-ized’ by China. There is a high speed train there now from Beijing and apparently Tibet is being flooded with Han Chinese. Only a matter of time before it loses some of its charm as it becomes over run.

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8. Hot Spring Monkeys in Japan

How cool is this? These monkeys only started going into the hot springs about 50 years ago. Guess they figured out the hot water was a great way to beat the winter. Up in the mountains in Honshu the monkeys spend the winter close to the springs. There are one or two where the monkeys get into the water with you.

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9. Hakka Walled Village – Fujian, China

Again, very cool architecture, found in this specific region of China, all made out of mud and wood!

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10. Riomaggiore, Italy

(or anywhere in Italy, but Riomaggiore is on the list) Look at these colours! Look how cute! Oh would someone please take me to Italy? I don’t only want to see things in Asia — Europe is also on the list. Italy, Spain, Croatia… one day!

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In retrospect it seems most of the places I’d like to see are in the East. But trust me, Europe is definitely a place I want to go too. Maybe there are just too many places to put on one Bucket List. I could go on forever!

The Top 10 Worst Kinds of Travellers

 

Travelling can be a stressful and exhausting experience. However, the problem is not really the flight itself. The problem is more the people that you have to share the plane with who. If everyone knew what they were supposed to do, and followed the slightest bit of plane etiquette, flying could be a much more pleasant experience. So for your reading pleasure, I have compiled, based on my own experienced, a list of the worst kinds of travelers.

(Caution: Rated M for mature language! I am not mincing my words with this one so if you don’t like cussing hard luck!)

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The Top 10 Worst Kinds of Travellers

 

  1. The douche bags who wear those inflatable pillows around their necks, and walk around wearing them like an accessory for the entire flight, whether they are sleeping or not
  2. People who dress in their semi-pajamas to ‘be comfortable’ for the trip. You don’t have to wear your Sunday best, but at least try to have a little dignity, could you? This is an international airport, not your living room.
  3. People who have giant pieces of carry on, and hold up the entire plane finding a compartment to stow them in. I actually saw someone the other day with a real live BOOM BOX. It was the size of a small coffin. I didn’t know people actually owned boom boxes anymore.
  4. The first timers who have never been on a plane before, and don’t understand that after take off you are not allowed to ‘sneak’ into a business class seat just because it happens to be empty.
  5. People who take off their shoes and then walk into the bathroom in their socks. Don’t they know the entire plane pisses and sprays on the floor of the bathroom? Gross! Your socks are now covered with the residual pee of 500 passengers! Again, GROSS!
  6. Screaming kids — its not their fault, and I’m sure it’s hell for the parents too. It’s just worse for the people around them because, unlike the parents, we don’t give a biological rat’s ass about the future Aretha Franklin wailing in the seat in front of us. This is why ear plugs are, hands down, THE most important thing to EVER take on a flight.
  7. Assholes sitting in the aisle seat who won’t get up when you need to pass, and instead turn their legs sideways to let you clamber over them. Yeah, good idea, you lazy prick. EITHER GET THE F&&& UP WHEN I NEED TO GO AND PEE, OR DON’T SIT IN THE AISLE SEAT.
  8. The technophobes who refuse to use any kind of scanner machine and take three hours to check in and get their asses on the plane. “Must… talk… to… a… human… cannot… trust… machines…”
  9. People going through JFK who try to do stupid things like take a knife in their carry on. I once saw a Sikh family try to convince the JFK security goons that Sikh men have to carry their dagger at all times. For the love of god, it’s JFK. Your chances of getting ANYTHING pointy and metal through JFK are about as high as getting bumped up to First Class and sitting next to a naked Johnny Depp.
  10. Pillow biters who actually travel WITH THEIR PILLOW. A full sized, pillow-cased, fluffy pillow, straight from their bed at home. Seriously, what are you, five? Did you bring Fluffy the Bunny too, to keep you company during your trip, so you don’t feel afwaid on da pwane?

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Do you have any other gripes about flying? Please feel free to add!

 

The Downside of Travelling

Travelling extensively is something that few people get to do, unless you are fabulously wealthy and can take a lot of time off. And taking a year off to do nothing but travel is something that even fewer people ever get to do in their lives. Luckily I was one of them, but now my year on the road is officially coming to an end. I finally have big news — after months of uncertainty and wondering what the next move will be, finally life has direction again.

We are moving back to Hong Kong! Surprise!

A nice new job awaits, and we go in just four weeks. It is an incredible relief. I am definitely looking forward to returning to a normal life, re-joining a group of wonderful friends, finding a new job, and just getting on with the business of regular old living.

The past 15 months or so have been some of the weirdest and hardest of my life. In fact, since we sold everything we owned and left Hong Kong a little more than a year ago, let’s just say nothing has really worked out. Or, perhaps in a strange way things actually HAVE worked out, and going back to Hong Kong is simply the closure of this cycle of change.

So today I want to talk about the downside of travelling, and trust me such a thing does exist. When I was a cubicle slave, I dreamed of the day that I would unshackle myself from my desk, burn my black suits, and take off for some little piece of paradise and do nothing but sit under the coconut trees and swim in the sea.

When I had enough savings, I did just that. It sounded like a good idea — to take a year off ‘to travel’. A vague and very nondescript plan. Something that I thought was a golden opportunity. Something I might never get to do again in life. I had no mortgage to pay, no kids to support, and enough dollars in the bank to take the time off. I figured it would be fun, so I gave it a try.

Well, be careful what you wish for. Sometimes fantasy is better than reality.

We packed up and we left and rented a little house on the beach in Thailand. Sounds nice, right? But what did I learn? I learnt that 30 is much too young to drop out of the real world. Thailand is a wonderful place to live if you are a 60 year old retiree with a pocket full of Viagra. But what was I doing there? I went to Thailand, but real life simply continued without me. I had no job, all my friends were back in Hong Kong doing their thing, and I was just bumming around on the beach, wondering what to do with myself.

What ensued after leaving Thailand was months of living out of a suitcase. I had a great time visiting friends in England, China, Japan and so on. I spent five amazing, incredible, dream-like weeks in France. But after a while, what I really started longing for was just to have my own home again. To not live in a hotel any more. To wake up and cook breakfast in my own kitchen in my buss-up pajamas. To walk around naked in the living room. To sit on the couch and watch a movie. To call up a friend to go liming. And when you’re constantly moving every few weeks, you just can’t do those things. Life has no stability, no real direction. And we humans, are creatures of habit.

Here’s another thing you don’t realise about a life on the road — you get fat! When you don’t have a real home you don’t have a real kitchen, which means you end up eating out all the time. And you are not a member of any gym either. It starts off innocently enough. You think, oh man I am in London! I better eat some yummy fish and chips! Then it’s oh wow I’m in China! I better et some dumplings while I am here! Next thing you know, you’re buying a new pair of jeans to cover up your fat ass! You read the book ‘Eat Pray Love’? Remember how she puts on 10 pounds in Italy? I can vouch for this phenomenon!

After the six or seven months of travelling, The Husband got The Job in Dubai. I wasn’t keen on going, but I had to admit it sounded pretty good, and I was ready to settle down somewhere (anywhere!). Dubai gets you with what are called the Golden Handcuffs — the perks and the so-called sweet life that you just can’t give up because you could probably never afford that lifestyle back home. Our house, fully paid for. All the bills paid for. Interest free loans for cars. If we had stayed and had babies, we would not have paid a cent of tuition until they turned 18. It is no wonder people are flocking to the Middle East for work. Those Golden Handcuffs sure are shiny.

But god how I hated Dubai. I thought it was a horrible place, for a number of reasons I won’t get into here. I loved where we lived, I loved having four toilets, I loved our massive living room and all the new furniture and appliances we bought. But overall, no I did not like Dubai one bit. Then what happened? A disaster and a miracle of sorts. We left after just a few months! The job didn’t work out, and if you ask me, it was the best thing that could have happened. I didn’t really want to spend three to five years there, deep down. We spent a few very stressful weeks frantically selling everything we had just bought, but when the plane took off from Dubai International Airport, I never looked back.

So for the past three months we’ve been in Tokyo, doing an intensive international job hunt to try to find our next home. We both sent out dozens and dozens of resumes to different countries, from Malaysia to Mauritius to Malta. But somehow, deep down, I just knew that Hong Kong would be the place we would end up in again. I’ll be honest, part of me wasn’t 100% sure about going back to those crowded noisy streets and the endless hustle and bustle and pushing and shoving. After all, we had tried so hard to get out of Hong Kong just a year ago! But finally, two days ago, the job offer came through, and I received the news with a huge sigh of relief.

So in conclusion, what have I learned from this mad, insane, ridiculous year of constant immigration?

I’ve learnt first and foremost that as a young person you need to have something you care about to do every day. You need to be productive. You need to be needed, to have people depend on you, to have challenges and successes and milestones.

I’ve also learnt that having a good group of friends you can rely on is incredibly crucial, because no man is an island. Travelling around for a year was actually very lonely because life goes on with you while you are off gallivanting.

I’ve learnt there is no perfect place, but once you have a job to do every day and good liming partners, then life is pretty damn good and you should be grateful.

And last but not least, I’ve learnt that travelling is a fun hobby, but is not a healthy lifestyle, both physically and mentally.

I asked myself, do I regret this year of never ending homelessness? Absolutely not. But will I ever take a year off again? NO WAY IN HELL. My moving days are over, officially.

Everyone needs a place to call home.

Looks like Hong Kong will be home, once again.

Year in Review

One of the fun things about running a blog is that you get to read all the site statistics, see where your readers come from, and more importantly, how they find your blog in the first place. I love seeing the weird and random search inputs that somehow landed an unsuspecting reader on The Travelling Trini, and how many times people searched for this phrase. So to do a Year in Review, here are the Top 10 Searches that brought people to this blog:

Snorkelling Boracay — A Trip Report about a tiny island in the Philippines that was rated the Best Beach In The World a few years ago. Perfect beaches lined with bars and cafes and massage parlours, Boracay is a hot spot in Asia and famous for diving, kite surfing and snorkelling.

Herbert Visa Run Koh Samui — When I lived in Thailand I embarked on a “visa run” whereby you cross the border into Malaysia/Cambodia and then re-enter with a renewed Thai visa, thus extending your stay. Many tourists who try to live in Thailand do this indefinitely, or at least until they get caught. I’ll certainly never forget my visa run with the notorious Herbert, a crazy German who has the run down to a T.

Pulau Bintan — Another isolated little spot in Asia, Bintan is a tiny, quiet island off of Indonesia but closer to Singapore than anything else. I spent new years here a few years ago in some very quaint water bungalows.

Curfew Pass Trinidad — Ah the joy of being in Trinidad during the SOE and the days of curfew passes. After posting this story, my site visits went up dramatically and in fact it was the busiest month of the entire year!

Rapid Penang — I don’t know why this is such a hot search, I simply mentioned the Rapid Penang bus during a Trip Report to say that it is easy for tourists to get around in Penang. I guess a lot of tourists are concerned about public transport in Malaysia?

Wreck Diving — Again something I’ve never actually done, though I did go diving and SEE some wrecks. I however did not have the cajones to swim through the wreck, and I am not certified to dive on wrecks.

Mount Emei — Not surprised many people looked for this one, as this giant mountain in China has pretty much no information in English, other than that provided by tourists who have been there. Located in Sichuan province, Mt. Emei is a World Heritage Site and one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen. The climb almost killed me but it was worth it.

Dim Sum Pictures — Yum! Yes, pictures of dim sum. I have many of them.

Trinis in Hong Kong/Singapore/Thailand/Dubai/Japan — Oh Trinis, how we love to travel. I guess there are a lot of Trinis out there in faraway places wondering if any of their kin are also out there. I also got a lot of searches for ‘Shipmate Services’ from people interested in working on a cruise ship, ‘Can Trinis Work in  (Fill in country here)’, and ‘How to Teach in Japan’.

Why Do Thai People Want White Skin — Haha, another weird top search. It is true, Thai people put ‘whitening agent’ in damn near anything that you can rub on your skin… soaps, creams, moisturisers, face masks, sun block, and so on.

 

And here are some other weird search terms that I have no idea about:

  • Your head looks weird turned like that
  • Onsen boys naked
  • Funny pictures of Kamla   (of which I have none)
  • Japanese men in onsen
  • Housewife happy
  • Asian girls squatting
  • Island girl Philippines thick ass

Okay, so all you perverts out there — I may write about travel in Asia, but I am not promoting any kind of sex tourism okay! And please stop looking for naked Japanese boys in hot tubs because it’s GROSS! Get some help will you?!

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!

 

The worst airport in the world…

… is freakin JFK freakin International freakin Airport in freakin New York City!!

Know why???

Because they treat every traveller like a common criminal!

So I reach home after a long long trip from Trinidad to Dubai, and notice my zips are not in the place where I had left them, tucked down into the righthand corner of the bag. That’s strange, I thought. So I plopped the bag down, and ta daa! What do I find? That I’ve been punked by the US Transport Security Authorities, and they opened up my bag, busted open all my stuff, and left a nice little note as an apology.

..

Patriot Act, in effect. Thanks George W. Bush.

“Dear traveller”, the note said, “since you come from a relatively poor and dangerous cocaine smuggling country, we thought we would take a few minutes to crack open your suitcase and look through all your stuff. Oh, and the nicely packaged bags of Hong Wing Coffee that were carefully wrapped in newspaper and plastic bags, well they looked suspiciously like packs of cocaine, so we sliced them open to check. Turns out it was delicious smelling coffee instead. Sorry if you got coffee all over your clothes in your suitcase. Oh, and sorry about your bottle of pepper sauce too. We hope you have enjoyed this latest installment of the Patriot Act, which allows us to do whatever we want to do to people coming through our country. See ya!”

Or, something to that effect.

Sigh.

You see me and you, JFK? We done. That’s it. This relationship is not working out. I know you have a foot fetish, but I am getting real sick of having to take off my shoes every time I see you. I mean, at least give us a little carpet to walk on nuh, those tiles are damn cold! I am tired of everyone being treated like a suspect. And the time when I had a little stick of lip balm in my pocket, and the woman at the metal detector felt my pocket and asked me to take it out, when I said ‘it’s lip balm’ she didn’t understand my Trini accent and replied, ‘it’s a lip WHAT?’ and then forced me to put the lip balm (not BOMB) through a metal detector. And this rubbish about water bottles, when is it going to end? This is for sure the last time I go through your horrible stinking airport with its filthy bathrooms, disgusting fast food, and grouchy security personnel! Next time, I am flying through nice, clean, peace loving TORONTO!!!!!

Fuji

Farewell to Asia

Fuji

 

This is my last night in Asia — the region I have called home for the past five years. From Japan to Hong Kong to China to Thailand to Malaysia and everywhere in between, it has been one hell of a journey, and always rich in content. Tomorrow I board a flight to Europe, where I will stay for roughly two months, until it is time for our ultimate relocation to our future home, Dubai. My boxes have been shipped, everything is packed, and this is it. So long Asia, hello Middle East!

I was thinking what are the things I would miss most about life in Asia. Here’s the list:

  • Safety — and the wonderful freedom of never having to look over your shoulder
  • Food — this is a no brainer!!
  • Cheap shopping — I have a feeling London is going to be a huge shock to my wallet
  • Friendly people — Well… maybe not so much in mainland China, ha!!! Just kidding.
  • Cheap flights — but this will be replaced by free flights! Score!
  • Convenience — everything works in Asia and life is extremely easy
  • Beautiful beaches — though there are supposed to be nice beaches in the ME too
  • Freedom? — I’ve been told to be very careful in the ME about drinking… this is gonna be a hard one to get used to after enjoying easy access in Japan, Hong Kong and Thailand…
  • Cheap golf!!!!!!

Things I won’t particularly miss:

  • Insane crowds, trains stuffed to the brim with people, congested sidewalks
  • Dirty toilets with no toilet paper and no flushing water
  • Industrial pollution (thank goodness Dubai does not manufacture anything!)
  • Constantly getting ripped off because of the huge disparity between rich and poor
  • Tiny Asian sizes for tiny Asian girls
  • Markets that reek of decomposing food, and meat left out in the open with flies

But of course, in any country, you have to take the good with the bad. That’s just normal. I’m not sure what to expect of Dubai, though the people I know that live there seem to have a pretty high quality of life, are having fun, and seeing a heck of a lot of new countries. Since this move is going to be for the long run, I’m determined to not make the same mistakes that I made when I went to Hong Kong. I’m going to try to do as much as I can, join clubs and groups, and get more involved in society other than just working and liming with friends. And I do believe that with enough time and effort, any new place can become a good home.

Well, wish me luck! This blog is about to get a whole new flavour…

The travel competition

Over the years, I’ve come to realise that long-term seasoned travellers, especially in Asia, don’t brag about going to famous tourist places like the Eiffel Tower or Lisbon or Greece — they brag about going to totally random unknown places that you would never find in a guide book, places you could barely find on a map, places that few people even know about.

I’m all for exploring, but to me it almost seems like it’s a traveller’s competition; bragging rights over whose been to the most remote place and stayed in the crappiest hostel that cost US$2 a night, a pissing contest over whose taken some shitty train to some tiny village in some war-torn country and lived to tell the tale…. And quite frankly, I don’t see any great glory in it.

For example, here are some recent conversations I’ve had:

SOME GUY: ‘Oh, you just came back from Thailand? That’s nice. I just spent a week biking through the Golden Triangle, I crossed the border through Cambodia and took a 7-hour bus full of chickens and pigs up to a holy mountain in Myanmar where we spent a weekend at a monastery where the monks took a vow of silence. It was awesome.’

ME:  ????????????

Or, here’s another example:

SOME GIRL:  ‘Oh yeah, Bali is nice, I guess, if you like meat-market tourist traps. I on the other hand just spent a week in a remote village in Burma. As someone who is really interested in humanitarianism and human rights, I was skeptical about going to a place that has such a brutal regime. But when I saw the people, people who lived on less than US$1 a day, and saw the beauty of their smiles and simplicity of their lifestyle, I knew that avoiding such places would only isolate the people of Burma more and more from the international community.’

ME: ??????????????????

Look, whatever. If you actually get so bored with the world that you have to constantly seek out some horrible remote place to visit, just so that you can brag about it to other people and show them what a morally superior traveller you are, then go right ahead. But to me, travel is not about proving anything to anybody, especially since I came from a so-called ‘developing nation’ and have seen what the third world is like. If you like the crazy city life of Tokyo, fine. If you enjoy the resort life of Phuket, cool. If you are happy to spend a week in Bali, no problem. What’s wrong with that? I mean, does a person really need to take a boat up a river in Sumatra guided by men in penis sheaths and eat roasted armadillo eyeballs in a forest in order to have ‘real adventure’ and be a ‘real traveller’?

Give me a break!

Appreciate your teachers

I think most people don’t really realise how tiring it is to teach. One of my duties at the ‘Big Blue Machine’ is to give Business English classes to staff. Sometimes this requires me to be in the classroom three days a week, for eight hours a day. And let me tell you — it is exhausting! Especially when you are teaching something like grammar. You don’t want the students’ eyes to glaze over, so in order to teach them you have to be all of the following things, and more…

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What doesn’t kill you makes you more picky

Sometimes eating out in Hong Kong is a leap of faith. Unfortunately, I am forced to make that leap every day because of our company policy that no hot food is allowed in the office.

The financial district of Hong Kong is dominated by mega companies, each with thousands of employees (we have about 2,000 ourselves), and I suppose it would just be impossible to facilitate lunch time inside the office. As a result, at the stroke of 12:30, hundreds of thousands of hungry workers take to the streets of Central to try to find a meal.

As you can imagine, this can create many problems. Firstly, with so much congestion on the sidewalks, it is damn near impossible to walk anywhere quickly. Secondly, unless you manage to slip away from the office ten minutes early, you can expect to wait up to half an hour for a table (which is why people take an hour and a half or more for lunch). Thirdly, and most importantly, you simply must chuck all concepts of ‘personal space’ out the window — everybody must share the tables because there are simply not enough to go around.
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How to Skip Christmas for Dummies

People look at me like I am a bit mad when I tell them that ‘I don’t do Christmas’. No tree, they ask? Yup, no tree. Do you give presents? Nope, not a single present. What about to your boyfriend, don’t you give him a present? No, he doesn’t get anything. Do you send Christmas cards? I’m afraid not. Do you have a Christmas tree? Hell no! No tree, no presents, no cards, no nothing? That’s absolutely correct.

This is my third year with no Christmas. To be quite honest, I stopped liking Christmas long ago, but as you know people force themselves through the stress and bacchanal of the season, spending too much money on gifts, freaking out over wrapping paper, enduring mall traffic, killing themselves over cooking a massive meal, writing and re-writing gift lists, figuring out if this one has enough and this one doesn’t have enough. Quite frankly, I see Christmas as a massive waste of time, so I simply don’t do it anymore. Continue reading

Stupid, stupid, stupid

I realised today that one of the things I liked best about living in Japan is that I couldn’t understand so much of what people around me were saying. In Hong Kong, on the other hand, there are so many foreigners all walking around speaking English all the damn time, there is no escape from the utter stupidity of 99% of the people on the street. Today I sat down in a foot court by myself to have a quick bite for lunch, and a young American couple came and sat next to me. Unfortunately they were yapping their heads off and I had no choice but to listen to their verbal diarrhea. Continue reading

Off to paradise

Even bloggers take holidays! Tomorrow we are off to Boracay in the Philippines for 6 blissful days of relaxation. My bags are packed, and I’m ready to go. I have a strong feeling I will not find my way onto the internet to update this site while I’m there, but stay tuned for pictures of paradise next week.

Peace!

Smmmmmoggggggggg

The air pollution here this week has been so bad you could cut it with a knife. It is truly amazing. I have never been in a country where the air pollution is so VISIBLE and to be quite honest it is more than a little scary to know I am sitting here and have no choice but to breathe it in 24 hours a day. There is nothing I can do about it. On days like today, I can’t even see the mountains that face my apartment just across this small bay. I would hate to imagine what I am inhaling. Hong Kong is a really beautiful place, but this smog is without a doubt the worst thing about living here.

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You know the air is thick when you can stare directly into the sun!