small changes can lead to big differences.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The world is the backpacker's inn.

To know me is to know that I love to travel. You can take me anywhere. Driving to Indiana? Ok, I'll go. Going to Arkansas? Sign me up. Iceland? Greenland? Denmark? Tanzania? LET'S DO IT!

I haven't been to nearly enough places yet. When I was 20, I backpacked across Southeast Asia for two months, and when I was in high school, we went on a short trip to London and Paris. However, in about a week, I'll be taking a cross-country train ride to California to visit friends and family. In July, I'm backpacking across Central America for a month, so I'm making up for the last 3 years of light travel.

In celebration of my upcoming backpacking endeavors, I've decided to post my top 5 places in Asia! I went to sooo many places while I was there. However, there are a few that REALLY stick out from the trip, and I'd like to share with you my favorites!

5. Kanchanaburi, Thailand

Kanchanaburi is known for a few things - one of them being their Tiger Temple. I went twice while I was there. It was such an amazing experience! They have so many random animals walking around (wild hogs, horses, deer, water buffalo, ducks, everything!) and of course, tigers. The tigers weren't exactly walking around, haha. They were chained up and sedated (ah, tourist thailand. they'll do anything for a buck) and we were allowed to take as many photos of them for free. (it was 400 baht to get IN to the entire place - that's $12)

For more pictures of the Tiger Temple, visit my Picasa Album.

Some other things the Kanchanaburi Province is known for:

Bridge over the river Kwai

Disco Rafts - "Not so long ago, Kanchanburi Town had grown to be rather infamous for its Disco Rafts which used to sail down parts of the River Kwae all night long blaring out loud disco music." hahaha! I definitely missed the memo on this one while I was there! But really, I'm not surprised!!

4. Lop Buri

This town was amazingly scary. It is known for their "infestation of monkeys". YES, MONKEYS! I'm not a fan of little creatures who aren't at all intimidated by people (read: monkeys. Particularly these monkeys) so I was kiiiinda freaked out. But nevertheless it was a very hilarious experience, especially for those people watching me.
There was a particular temple where all the monkeys hung out, and you could purchase "treats" to feed the monkeys. We bought some, and we had to hide the treats and go inside the temple to feed them! (it was a small temple, and there were bars we could feed them through) Otherwise they would have swarmed us. A monkey also decided to jump onto my backpack and try to open it. TERRIFYING! I know, I'm a wuss!
But really, if you ever do end up going to thailand, TAKE THE TIME TO GO HERE! It's completely worth the train ride. It only takes a few hours (unless the train delays.. ours was delayed or broken or whatever for.. well.. I don't want to tell you. JUST GO!) I believe it's a little west of Bangkok. Honestly, though, it's incredibly easy to get anywhere from Bangkok and also ridiculously cheap.

Oh yea, this is how it happens.

For more pictures, visit my Lop Buri Photo album!

3. Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Compared to everywhere I've traveled in Asia, Cambodia is so...different! In many ways. It's a lot dustier + dirtier than Laos (sorry, Cambodia, but you know it's true!) It was a lot more unorganized in a way, and the architecture was very different. I loved it, though. I stayed at Okay Guesthouse (ask anybody, that's one of the best guesthouses in Phnom Penh!) and saw a lot of different areas. I sat in on a musical performance in the park, gazed over the river watching fisherman, went to several markets and malls, nonprofits and cafes. Oh yea! I also went to a few bars and hung out with the locals. That was fun too!
The people in Cambodia can be friendly, but you have to remember that if you're traveling alone (and are female), you have to be careful . I was stupid, I went places on my own a lot, I would be stubborn and walk back at night when I should've taken a tuk tuk, and I was overly friendly to everyone I met - included strange men that weirded me out very quickly! This stuff goes for anyone anywhere but this just happened to be when I learned these things! They really ARE friendly there, whereas in Bangkok they usually left me alone if I didn't want to talk. I'm sure everyone has a different experience, though. Anyway, definitely go to Phnom Penh if you get a chance. It's fun, there are a lot of things to do!

oh! Fun fact. That box in the photo with all the numbers - that's a "phone booth" aka, someone with a cell phone was sitting there.

2. Vang Vienne

To me, Vang Vienne is known for 2 things: Inter-tubing and Friends bars. I think that most others will say the same thing.
Backpackers go to Vang Vienne because of all the other backpackers who tell them about inter-tubing. All it is is paying maybe $5 (probably less) for a inner tube, getting driven up a hill, and floating down part of the Mekong River. There are various stops that you can float to where you can pay for a beer lao ($1 for a 40? 32 oz? regardless, it's a HUGE beer) and take advantage of the zip-lines and swings that are there for you to fly into the river from.
I had some epic fails on the zip line! The first time I did it well and made it all the way to the end and then i let go. The second and third times, I just lost my grip RIGHT away and landed on logs in the water! Painful but funny.

Epic Fail!

Same goes for the swings. The photos I have are of me doing it right - swinging far and then letting go. The other 2 times I tried though, I fell off right away. I NEED MORE UPPER-ARM STRENGTH!!! ha ha.

Hello, brown water!

It's so fun though! The cheapest fun evar. It was not so much fun for me by the end, though! I fell asleep on my tube! and my sunscreen wore off so when I woke up I WAS PINK! and by that time, I had lost my entire group, and didn't see them until 3 hours later! I had no shoes, pants (haha) or a key to my guesthouse! It was pretty lame, and I was in so much pain (not only from the sunburn but there is NO pavement around there so I could hardly walk since it was all gravel!) but I think by the next day I was in good spirits, and looking back I think it is hilarious! I feel bad for my travel buddy Kenton, though. He had to deal with my pain! ha ha.

Oh, I almost forgot to mention FRIENDS BARS!
All they are are raised benches/tables that you can pretty much lay on and relax. You can order food or drinks, and watch... yea, FRIENDS!

It was so chill! there are so any friends bars in Vang Vienne! I also watched Seinfeld too, and there were movie nights at some of them! Definitely needed after a day of epic fails and sunburn! ha ha.

1. Luang Prabang

Ok, it's time for NUMBER ONE!!!
Luang Prabang is one of the most amazing places I have ever been. When I originally booked my trip for Thailand, I don't even know if I had ever HEARD of Luang Prabang! (I didn't do much research before I left, because that's not fun! I like seeing where my feet take me. )
Where do I start!? Luang Prabang is GORGEOUS!

Since Laos was once owned by the French, you can see so much French Style in the architecture. (In Vientienne, the capitol, they even have a mini arc de triumph! it's a pretty bad replica though, even Laos apologizes for the lame-ness of it!)

There are so many notable things about Luang Prabang. Besides its beauty, their are plenty of night markets, delicious food, book stores and non-profits, pretty guesthouses, and even a bear/tiger rescue and waterfall park, called Kuang Si Falls.

Swinging into a pool of minty water at Kuang Si Falls!

adorable kiddies playing in the water!

more photos of Luang Prabang and the Waterfalls!

Everything is ridiculously cheap. I'm serious - you can probably get by on $20 a day, and that's including everything - lodging, transportation, food, activities.

There isn't much else to say except GO. GO NOW. Or... soon. Or sometime in your life. If you have any love for beauty, traveling, cultures, etc... Luang Prabang will at the very least inspire you. I know it inspired me! Even looking back on these photos and writing this has reminded me of how much I loved being there and how much I'd love to go back someday.

One last thing I want to say - You can go anywhere in the world (.. well almost anywhere!). Don't be afraid to get up and travel, see another country, even see another STATE. Just GO. You get one life (I think! We might be reincarnated but that's another entry in itself!) one chance to do these things. Do it for yourself. Change your life, have an experience that people will listen to in awe. IT IS POSSIBLE.

Maybe it's just me, but no full time job, no amount of money, stability, etc. will ever keep me from staying in one place. I don't believe that the sole purpose of life is to go to college, get a full time job, have a family and then just grow old. I was not born to give someone else life and sacrifice my entire life for them - that's not why I would have kids! So that they can do the same thing! We are given an entire WORLD to explore, millions of OPTIONS (especially in this day and age!) and so many opportunities that it's pretty overwhelming most of the time!

Money is money. Yes, it's expensive to travel, but you know what? Debt is debt! I would much rather my debt be from seeing the WORLD, meeting new PEOPLE and experiencing things that you can't experience staying in the city or the same state then from buying 10 pairs of $100 shoes!

If you ever need help PLANNING a trip or finding places to go or even advice on backpacking - ASK ME! I love to help other people out and I can set you up with friends/places to stay/ideas/tips/etc! Even if you want to talk about it, I am here! It is one of my number one passions to travel and help others get off their feet! So don't be afraid!

I hope that you got SOMETHING out of this post, if even just happiness from looking at such pretty pictures :):)

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