Six weeks, six provinces.

A quick update on our current state of affairs:

6Provinces

Six weeks have passed since our return to Canadian soil. In that time, we have been lucky enough to to set foot in six of Canada’s ten provinces.

WIth Amber and Auntie Judy

Nomads we have become, having returned only briefly to Edmonton in between jaunts here and there to connect with family and friends spread across this vast country.

Visiting Nana

While the constantly changing scenery and ongoing reunions have made the past six weeks a fun and exciting time, we are hoping that August brings about a bit more stability, and that September yields a teaching job for Mel.

Mountain sunbeams

At the same time that we long to be settled, we are trying to embrace each moment and physcial location we find ourselves in, and savour this time to reacquaint ourselves with our beautiful home country and the people within it.

Sunrise

Thanks, Canada, for the warm welcome home.

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Siem Reap: Getting there.

Cambodge.Border6

Though it is difficult to tell from this photo, crossing the border from Thailand into Cambodia at the sordid town of Poipet was perhaps one of the more chaotic experiences in our journey.

The crossing itself went relatively smooth- there were no lines or hangups at the border, but it was immediately upon entering into Cambodia that the chaos began.

Cambodia3

While trying to locate the bus that was supposed to take us the rest of the leg in our journey, we were swarmed by a number of aggressive touts (sales people) trying to sell us items and transport services. We were told that our bus had already left, and were bombarded by by taxi drivers trying to take us to Siem Reap.

With the cultural gap, it was difficult to tell the shady characters from those that could be trusted. It seemed that most people (who approached us anyways) had ulterior motives for personal gain.

We still had 150km to go in our journey, and weren’t quite sure about who to trust to get there.

Going with the theory that there is greater safety in numbers, we found ourselves another young pair of travelers from Spain, and teamed up to find a taxi that would give us a fair rate. With a little bargaining, we found a driver who agreed to our price of $35, and hopped in his car.

Cambodia4

At this point, we were getting into an unknown person’s vehicle, completely trusting that they were taking us to the right destination.

Lucky for us, our taxi driver turned out to be a trustworthy fellow who liked to honk his horn. Constantly. Not to tell people to get out of the way, but moreso to let everyone else on the road know that we were passing through.

Cambodia2

While driving in Cambodia, it can be difficult to discern, at times, the direction of traffic flow. Do you drive on the right, or on the left? It appears that the right side is generally the more acceptable one, but left is ok too. The two hour journey from Poipet to Siem Reap was an interesting, needless to say noisy, two hour journey.

Once within Siem Reap, we were dropped in a parking lot where two separate tuktuks were waiting. The driver told us to get out and go with these people, who would take us the rest of the way to our hotel. We were definitely confused and highly suspicious at this point. It took a bit of convincing on the driver’s part to assure us that this was not a scam. “It’s ok, my friend,” he turned and said to Brendon.

Cambodia7

Luckily, it all worked out, and we soon enough arrived safely at our hotel, The Golden Mango.

We’ll leave you with just a few snapshots of our first glimpses of Cambodia, before we debrief in more detail through the next few posts.

Cambodia1

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Cambodia8

Breno and Mel’s Thai Food Awards.

Seafood lemongrass curry

THE FOOD.

One of things we were most excited about prior to our trip to Thailand was the food. We couldn’t wait to surround ourselves with the tastiest Pad Thai, and discover all sorts of Thai delicacies that we hadn’t yet fathomed.

Pizzeria

To our surprise, however, we discovered Thai people don’t just eat Thai food. As it turns out, sometimes Thai people like a bit of Mexican, or Turkish, or a good Italian pizza.)

King's Palace

Finding the best Thai food in Thailand turned out to be a bit of a mission, but we did track down some extremely tasty Thai delights and would like to hand out some awards to the dishes that stood out the most to us in a number of categories.

Pomello salad

Best vegetarian dish: Pomello & Coconut Salad from Khun Churn, a delightful vegetarian restaurant in the northern city of Chiang Mai that we searched for hours to find (and eventually did!)

Pineapple curry

Most unique curry: Pineapple Curry from the Koh Mak Resort Restaurant.

Fish in red curry

Best surf dish: The fish red curry from Koh Kood Resort.

Chiang Mai sausage

Best turf dish: Chiang Mai Sausage (mentioned in a previous post), available from the Gourmet Market at Siam Paragon in Bangkok.

Best pad thai

Best Pad Thai: The Pad Thai we enjoyed at the Thai Navy Restaurant with our friends from Thai Orchid. A good pad thai was surprisingly hard to track down in Thailand- especially in the North, where it was almost non-existent on menus.

Yellow curry

Street food

Best street food: A flavorful yellow curry with pork enjoyed from this street stand on our very first morning in Bangkok (before we were cautioned by our Thai Orchid friends to only eat street food that was cooked before our eyes.)

Morning Glory

Most healthful dish: Morning Glory. Available pretty much anywhere, though not often on the street. Basically, it’s a stringy green vegetable called “morning glory,” fried with garlic and sometimes a bit of red pepper. Simple, but tasty and healthful. An excellent way to get your greens while in Thailand.

Som Tam

Freshest flavors: Som Tam. This refreshing salad consists of grated green papaya and carrot, seasoned and tossed with peanuts and lime juice. Sometimes it comes with dried shrimp. Available at most Thai restaurants.

Spicy Mango Salad, Oasis Koh Chang

Best use of fresh herbs: Spicy Mango Salad from Oasis, Koh Chang. Similar to Som Tam, but jam-packed with fresh basil and a bit of a kick from some chilies.

Thai Rice Soup, Oasis Koh Chang

Best breakfast: Thai Rice Soup from Oasis, Koh Chang.

Thai coconut yoghurt

Best breakfast on the go: Thai Coconut Yoghurt. Available at your nearest 7-11.

Mangosteen

Most delightful fruit: Mangosteen. Available from streetside fruit vendors everywhere.

Chiang Mai restaurant

Best ambiance: This lovely little open air restaurant with wicker lighting, located down one of the side soi’s along Nimmanhemin, Chiang Mai.

Siam House

Best service: Siam House, in the Silom district of Bangkok. Also home to the best green curry.

Fresh coconut shake

Best beverage: On a hot day in Thailand, nothing beats a fresh coconut shake (served in the real thing) from the beachfront restaurant at Siam Beach Resort, on Lonely Beach, Koh Chang.

Mango Sticky Rice

Best dessert: Mango sticky rice from Viewpoint Cafe on Koh Kood.

Thai crepe

Best new discovery: Thai crepes, otherwise known as Khun Dao. Mentioned on a previous post and available from the Gourmet Market in Siam Paragon. Easily savoured as a breakfast, snack, or dessert.

Koh Kood: Getting away.

Beware of coconut drop

Should one feel the need to “get away” even further from any sort of noise or distraction, Koh Kood is waiting for you.

Away, Koh Kood

While we were fully relaxed and content on Koh Chang, the reality that we will probably never be this close to Koh Kood again propelled us to purchase tickets and hop aboard a Bang Bao boat, bound for Koh Chang’s neighbouring island of Koh Kood.

On Koh Mak

Four hours later, after a quick stop on Koh Mak for lunch, and then transferring to a motorboat, we found ourselves on the Koh Kood’s blissful shores.

Koh Kood

Also known as Koh Kut, this small, peaceful island boasts a mere population of 2000 people, spread over its 162 squared kilometers. Its economy is driven by a few laidback fishing villages, some coconut plantations, and the growing presence of resorts. The island is not touristy in any way, so there really isn’t much to “get amongst.”

Beach side.

But if the desire of your heart is to relax beside a beach or paddle through warm, soothing waters, Koh Kood is definitely for you.

Stranded

Important travel advice: Even though you have booked a return ticket to the mainland, and your hotel calls to confirm this ticket for you, it does not necessarily mean that you will be picked up. We recommend not making any paid travel arrangements (tours, transport, or hotels) until you are back on the mainland, as sometimes travelers are stranded/ forced to spend some extra time on the island, due to being forgotten by their transport company.

Happily stranded.

But if one is stranded anywhere, a tropical island is a pretty great place for this to happen.

Scootering Koh Kood

When forced by circumstance to spend an extra day on a tropical island, why not make the most of it? We took advantage of this extra day on Koh Kood, rented a scooter, and ventured out to explore the rest of the island.

A few of our Koh Kood highlights:

Klong Chao Waterfall

Splash

A visit to Klong Chao Waterfall. Surrounded by lush greenery, with winged creatures fluttering about, we felt like we had stumbled upon the Garden of Eden. With the whole place to ourselves, a dip in the lagoon (and a turn on the old rope swing) proved tranquil and refreshing.

Coconut ice cream banana split

Viewpoint Cafe

A coconut ice cream banana split at Viewpoint Cafe. Specializing in homemade desserts and cool drinks, Viewpoint Cafe boasts that it is the best place on Koh Kood to watch the sun go down at the end of the day. We would probably concur with this statement.

Monkey riding a tractor

A monkey riding a tractor.

massive gecko

This friendly (foot-long) gecko in our room.

Koh Kood sunset

By the end of a day adventuring about Koh Kood, we came to resonate more deeply than ever before with these wise words:

“Adventure is misfortune, correctly understood.” Well put, G. K. Chesterton.

Koh Kood staff

Another enjoyable aspect to our Koh Kood experience was getting to know the lovely staff at Koh Kood Resort, most of whom are originally from Cambodia. Sincere, genuine, and warmly hospitable, they were a lovely bunch of young people, with big, gorgeous smiles. Everyone seemed genuinely happy and thankful to be working there, even though most didn’t have or own a lot. Most workers spoke English quite well, and we enjoyed conversing over meal times.

Paya

One worker, Paya, ran out and climbed a coconut tree to hack down a fresh coconut for me when the restaurant had run out. A couple of the workers also waited with us on the dock for over an hour while waiting for our boat (which did not come).

Paya

It was quite a thought-provoking and humbling experience to get to know this beautiful bunch of people.

Our encounter with these kind Cambodians gave us the feeling that our next destination of Cambodia would hold good things.

Koh Chang: Elephant island.

Hammock

We purposely wanted to set aside about a week’s time in our journey for rest and relaxation, and to process the major life change we were in the midst of. After doing some research on Thai islands, we found that there were loads to choose from, each with their unique offerings.

Koh Chang

To save on travel time, and also based on some recommendations from friends, we chose the island of Koh Chang.

Koh Chang

Located in Thailand’s eastern province of Trat, near the Cambodian border, Koh Chang has a population of about 5000 people. The 217 square kilometres that comprise Koh Chang include dense rainforest, a mountainous interior, and gorgeous sandy beaches.

Tourism, Koh Chang

Although fishing is an essential part of the island’s economy, its primary income-generator is tourism. There are also a few coconut plantations and lychee farms on Koh Chang.

Lonely Beach, Koh Chang

Koh Chang boats a laid-back, hippy vibe, making it a very chill and relaxing place to dwell.

One of main factors that made our stay on Koh Chang so awesome was our accomodation.

Oasis, Koh Chang

Nestled up amidst the treetops, away from the bustle and noise of the beach parties, is Oasis.

Oasis air-con bungalows

Comprised of a handful of bungalows scattered up a hillside, just a 10 minute walk from Lonely Beach, Oasis is a haven waiting to be discovered by the traveller seeking rejuvenation.

Oasis

The main building is a covered, open-air structure which boasts a tasty menu of Thai delicacies and a spacious, comfortable lounge. Many hours were spent here soaking in the chill ambience, planning the next leg of our adventure, and enjoying tasty Thai treats.

Open air bathroom

Most our nights in the more basic, jungle bungalow, which consisted of a double bed, fan, mosquito net, shelving unit, and a porch with a hammock out front. We loved the open air bathroom attached at the rear. Sunlight streaming in during morning showers, and the stars above at night- amazing.

Air con bungalow, Oasis

For one night, we upgraded to the more luxurious air-con bungalows, which are beautifully done-up on the inside.

Oasis Crew

The owners, from the Netherlands, were super lovely, as were the rest of the staff.

Lunch with Urai

We got to know Urai, one of the Oasis employees, a bit better over lunch one afternoon. Hearing her story was quite neat. Though Urai’s English was quite good, Google Translate helped us out a few times with more topic-specific vocabulary.

Other highlights of Koh Chang:

Fresh coconut

Fresh coconuts on the beach.

Warm waters

Waters warmer than we ever thought possible.

Scootering on Koh chang

Exploring the island by scooter.

Sunset from Oasis

Sunsets.

Ban Kwan Chang

Oh, and the elephants.

Ban Kwan Chang Elephant

The name, “Koh Chang,” literally means “elephant island,” a tribute to the shape of its headland. Fittingly, there also happens to be elephants on the island, although they are not native.

Ban Kwan Chang Elephant Camp

One morning, we paid a visit to Ban Kwan Chang Elephant park, a sanctuary for retired elephants. The organization is sponsored by the Asian Elephant Foundation.

Ban Kwan Chang Elephant Park

It was cool to see that the elephants are well-cared for here, and that most are allowed to roam free about the camp (although the “naughty” ones did have their ankles chained.)

Naughty

Ban Kwan Chang

The workers sleep at the camp, amongst the elephants.

Ban Kwan Chang

Riding an elephant

We got to ride this beautiful creature named Numwan, through some mangroves.

Ourelephant

Un-guided elephant trek

Early on into our trek, our guide hopped down off the elephant, leaving the elephant to continue the tour un-guided. Mainly, Numwan knew where she was going, though at times she got distracted by tasty-looking plant life along the way.

Elephant skin

Breno riding the elephant

Brendon was invited to sit on the head of the elephant, an invitation he keenly accepted. Upon return to the camp, we finished off our time at Ban Kwan Chang by feeding the elephants some bananas.

Riding an elephant

A big shout out to Numwan, our humble elephant, and Oasis, for making our time on Koh Chang so awesome and memorable.

Thoughts on home.

Canada Day in the Bruns

We interrupt the travel stories to bring you a current update on our lives here back in Canada.

Browns Beach, NB

Our current location: West Quaco, New Brunswick.

Altogether... in the Stillness

We are here “In the Stillness,” at Brendon’s parent’s place. Brendon’s younger sister, Kendra, got married last weekend, and since then, we have been enjoying reconnecting with family and friends out here, and soaking in the beauty of Canada’s East Coast.

St. Martins

For the past 10 weeks, we have been without a physical abode to call “home.” Through this time, we have questioned where “home” is and what “home” means.

East Coast

Edmonton was home, so was New Zealand, and we probably won’t have a permanent place to call home for a little while.

With the parents.

It is a bit of an unsettling feeling, although we are very thankful for the benevolence of friends and family who have been willing to take us in while we sort out our lives. We are trying to embrace this unique, nomadic season in our lives, and enjoy sharing life with different people and acquainting ourselves with new places.

Fundy Trail Parkway

Is home a place? Or is it a feeling/state of mind? If ‘home is where the heart is,’ what about when your heart is in multiple locations?

Jungle Bungalow

Since leaving New Zealand, ‘home’ has looked like many a hostel or hotel room, a hillside bungalow, a tree house in the jungle, or the cozy basement of friends.

Cabin in the Stillness.

Our current dwelling place is this cute, little cabin, tucked away in the woods on Brendon’s parent’s property.

So for the present, this is home.

On Canadian soil once again

Bangkok: Transportation, innovation & degustation.

Bangkok

Bangkok is a city that we loved much more than we thought we would.

Bangkok

Surprisingly, we were not overwhelmed what can be perceived by others as a sensory overload. Bangkok has got some fantastic things going for it- namely, excellent and efficient transport systems, innovative design concepts, and an inspiring food scene. We would have loved to spend more time in this vibrant city, if it were only possible.

Transportation

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Bangkok has some effective, well-established transportation systems which allow people to get around quickly and independently.

Bangkok MRT

Its fabulous train system is comprised of three main lines, and can get you to most ends of the city, as well as most things inbetween. We stuck primarily to the train lines, and got to see a good number of the spots in the city this way. One night, we stopped off at Si Lom Station to join 300+ others for some outdoor aerobics in Lumpini Park.

Thai Aerobics Lumpini Park

In 34 degree heat (at 6:30pm), it was a fun but moist time. We struggled did our best to follow along, but enjoyed taking part in some physical activity with the locals.

Chao Phraya River

Bangkok also sports a reliable system of boats which transport people up and down the Chao Phraya river, making it possible to reach destinations which run alongside the river, such as Asiqatique and a large number of temples.

Innovation

Siam Centre, Bangkok

Siam Centre evidences some of the innovation and design taking place within Bangkok’s shopping scene.

Siam Centre

A melding of inspiring architecture, design, fashion, and food await at this inspiring complex.

Siam Centre

DA+PP

From the physical encasings of the shops, to the way that merchandise was displayed, we were very much impressed and inspired by the innovative concepts in design.

Siam Centre

Siam Centre

At times, it almost felt like we were in some sort of wearable arts/design museum.

Greyhound Clothing

We were stoked to discover that Greyhound Bus Lines has apparently inspired a line of clothing as well as the menu at a cafe/restaurant.

Greyhound Cafe

In honor of my dad, Andy, a 30+ year Greyhound employee, we paid a visit to Greyhound Cafe.

Lavender Ice Cream

Happy Toast

The “happy toast” and lavender ice cream were both highly commendable, and the overall experience rated excellent.

Mr. Jones' Orphanage

Another unique eating establishment which caught our attention was Mr. Jones’ Orphanage. We actually didn’t end up eating there, but the concept of a restaurant that serves only deserts and sweet beverages, in little booths, with teddy bears floating about it just rather cute, don’t you think?

Degustation

Food stall

Bangkok is home to a wide variety of delicious food options. If you want it, Bangkok probably has it. Food stalls line most streets, so if you are feeling daring, you can pick up a tasty meal off the street for next to nothing, or enjoy a (hopefully) more hygienic meal prepared in a restaurant for a bit more.

Siam Paragon

We were beyond delighted to discover- right next to Siam Centre- the foodie mecca known as Siam Paragon. A stroll through the gourmet food market will leave one asking, “How can so many delicious things be available in one place?” From the everyday soups to the unique sweet treats, this gathering of Thai culinary artisans has got everything a foodie in Thailand could possibly desire.

A few standouts come to mind:

Chiang Mai Sausage

The Chiang Mai sausage, a pork sausage packed with the herbs that Thai cuisine is famous for, served witha spicy green chili paste (in the style of Northern Thai food). It was full-flavored awesome.

Dried shredded pork

One of Breno’s favorites was the dried, shredded pork. This was a taste experience which brought together past experiences with beef jerky, pulled pork, and cotton candy! Sweet, and just a bit spicy, it was awesome. (Served with sticky rice).

Thai Crepes

The traditional Thai crepe won my heart at first bite. Once discovered, I begged Brendon each day we were in Bangkok to return to Siam Paragon to indulge in these sweet thai delicacies.

Boon, crepe artist

The flourless crepe, made from a mixture of egg and coconut, is grilled until firm then dressed with sweet and savoury versions of toppings, before the crepe is ever so gently rolled by the delicate fingers of Boon, the crepe connoisseur. These Thai crepes are culinary masterpieces.

Street Pad Thai

We tried to scratch as much of Breno’s street food itch here in this controlled sanitary environment, but we did do a bit of dabbling in the real thing. Thai fried chicken was great, and the street pad thai by our hotel the last few days was delish. We also managed to find an IPA at El Osito, rescuing Breno from hop withdrawl.

Bangkok Transportation

In other words, Bangkok was easy to navigate, inspiring, and extremely tasty. Though known for its smog, chaos, and noise, Bangkok is really a tourist-friendly city with so much to offer.