Along the southern coast of the Western Cape lies the Garden Route. From Mossel Bay to Tsitsikamma River Mouth to Port Elizabeth lies bays, beaches, cliffs, and rocky mountains. Within these cities, you can do a number of activities from visiting ostrich farms, caving, and outdoor water sports. With the Friday off of work, a few and my friends and I are able to do the famous trip for the weekend.
Before coming to Cape Town, my aunts and uncles raved about the city and how it is in their top city list. So, I was extremely pumped about coming to Cape Town. The flight was long and the same amount of time as going to Hong Kong. I arrived at night and went right to bed excited about the next six weeks.
Settling into Cape Town was a lot easier than I expected, which is probably because the organization I arranged my internship with, Masambeni, was great in showing me around. Within the first week, I had learned how to navigate the train station and enrolled in a gym. With that in place, I was able to get back into a daily routine and got into a groove quite quickly.
Being home after a year abroad is flat out weird. When I went to Sevilla, I didn't experience culture shock when I first arrived in Spain but when I returned to America. The same can be said about Hong Kong. I didn't really experience a culture shock going to Hong Kong but I feel it now. I think traveling through South East Asia has effected me as well.
In South East Asia, the way of living is differen and adjusting back has been a bit of a struggle. After an awful flight home from Hong Kong, I'm still jetlagged. This is longest I've gone with having jetlag too. I'm usually so good with it but this time around not so much. It's very weird hearing English all the time since I was surrounded by Cantonese mostly but slowly and surely, I'm getting used to it.
The first thing I ate was obviously Chipotle that my brother kindly bought for me. In addition to that, pizza was definitely in order. It's so good being back to have all the foods that I missed but I also realized how expensive food is here. I'm so used to paying less than a few USD on street food or at my favorite noodle stand that $8.99 for a dish just sounds so pricey to me.
Getting to the Gili Islands was a huge mess though. Unlike Thailand and the Koh Islands, the ferry system is very disorganized. There are a lot of companies at the ferry point of Pandang Bai and nobody really knows what's going on. You just kinda see the ferries come into the port and wait for employees to shout. It was really stressful but totally worth it when you get to the island. I feel islands in general have a really laid back feel and this was definitely the case with Gili T. There is a dock but all the ferries just pull up to the beach where you get off. Our Airbnb hostess, Esther, met us as we docked and took us around the island. The island is the biggest out of the three but still small enough to walk in maybe three or so hours. There are no cars or motorbikes either. Everyone either has a bike or uses the horse carts.
Finally, my last country on my backpacking trip. I arrived in Bali on Saturday night completely exhausted. Jordan didn't arrive until Monday morning so I spent all Sunday resting my ankle and chilling by the pool. When Monday came around, I went to the airport to pick up Jordan and we relaxed at the beach and explored Kuta since Jordan was jet lagged. We also sat at this amazing rooftop bar that overlooked Legian Beach and watched the sunset.
Tuesday we planned all our day trips for our time in Bali. There is so much to do that we decided that we would be adventurous and explore Bali and relax in Gili Trawangan. So we booked everything and explored another area of Bali called Seminyak. Lovely beach but the beach vendors are savage. Women kept coming up to us asking if we wanted a massage while other kept asking if we wanted any of the items they sold. A little annoying but the beach was so nice that it made up for it
The tours we booked with our hotel very much reminded me of Siem Reap where you pay for a tuk tuk and they show ou around the whe day. For 45 USD per day, we had our own driver who took us around Bali from 8:30 am to 7 PM. Our first day tour was focused mainly on temples. So we went up central Bali and visited the Pura Taman Ayun Temple, the Ulun Danu Temple on Lake Beratan, and the Pura Tanah Lot Temple. All absolutely gorgeous. Ulun Danu Temple was my favorite and sits out on the Lake Beratan. Pura Taman Ayun is in the middle of a small village while Pura Tanah Lot sits on a cliff on the South West Coast of Bali. We also visited a coffee plantation where we tried the famous Luwak Coffee. This coffee is famous in Bali because the Luwak eats coffee bean and it's poop is used to make coffee. Jordan said it was good while I thoroughly enjoyed the tea. We also visited many different villages as well. There are so many in Bali that specialize in something. We visited a silver village where I bought a silver bracelet and a Batik village where I bought handwoven and hand painted tapestries. And then we finally, ended the day with visiting a monkey forest. I didn't know there was so much to do in Bali until this day!
My stay in Kuala Lumpur was very short but great nonetheless! Since I sprained my ankle, I spent afternoon/evening resting in the Airbnb and walking around. The host I stayed with was one of the sweetest people I have ever met. She told me a lot about Malaysia and made me a home cooked meal, which was absolutely amazing. Not sure what the fish was but the curry that accompanied it was so good. The next morning she made me breakfast as well and it was sooooo good! It was tapioca with shredded coconut plus rice of course and small fried fish. I definitely want to try and make the tapioca and coconut dish when I get home!
Oh Koh Phangan. You were quite the treat that ended in me spraining my ankle. After an overnight bus to Surat Thani and a two hour ferry ride, I arrived in Koh Phangan. In between Koh Samui and Koh Tao, Koh Phangan is a popular destination and famous for it's Fullmoon and Halfmoon Festival. I spent three days here and had an absolute blast.
I stayed at Echo Beach Backpackers
Hostel and am so happy I picked this one. The hostel is really chill and just a bunch of young travelers. I met some really great people and ended up spending the majority of my time at the hostel.
After an eight hour bus ride, I arrived in Bangkok. The bus ride was easy but the borders are really different. The Vietnam - Cambodia border was a lot quicker than the process at the Cambodia - Thailand border. Both companies I used had an employee fill out my departure and arrival card but the Cambodia - Thailand border was definitely a lot more chaotic. Many buses are about $10-$18 USD from Siem Reap to Bangkok but I decided to splurge on a VIP Van for $28 USD. I'm really happy I did this because the line for arrival into Thailand was absolutely mental. The wait for foreigners was three hours long but since we paid more for the VIP, we were able to use the express lane, which took about 15 minutes. Crazy stuff but in the end, I'm happy I paid a bit extra.
My first official whole day in Thailand has been the highlight of my trip so far. My friend, Susan, spent a whole week at an Elephant Haven in North Thailand back in March and to my luck, there was one located two hours outside of Bangkok. This Elephant Haven rescues elephants and spoils them in the best way. A lot of these elephants used to be in shows or danger but now are living the absolute dream. The haven has volunteers prepare their food, walk with them, and bathe them too. All they do is eat, play in the mud, and swim in the river everyday. One of the head employees Kahn was telling us that they get absolutely spoiled with all the food that they eat. However, he did say that they used to do elephant rides but once they saw how cruel it was they immediately stopped. Their slogan is "No rides, no shows, just love" which is very appropriate. It's obvious that the staff really care about these elephants and want the word to spread for more volunteers to meet these gentle giants. Hands down the best experience of my life.
After a five hour bus drive (with an insane driver who booked it the entire time), I arrived in Siem Reap. When the bus arrived, I took a tuk tuk to the hotel and could already tell how different Siem Reap is from Phnom Penh. It's not a huge city but there are tons of people and cars everywhere. Since I was still a little sick, I decided to take it easy and just walk around the area, which included Pub Street, which was crawling with liveliness. However, didn't stick around too long since the temples were on the agenda right in the morning!!
If you know me, then you know I'm a morning person. However, waking up at 4 AM was brutal. We left in our tuk tuk at promptly 4:30 AM. We left so early because we needed to get our $20 admission tickets. The office was crawling with people trying to get their tickets and go to the Angkor Wat and see the sunrise. Despite the long line, we made it in time for sunrise. It was absolutely gorgeous seeing the sun rise over the temple and having the silhouette reflect off the water. The early rise was definitely worth it. We then spent the rest of the day visiting the other temples such as Bayon and Angkor Thom. All of the temples we saw were absolutely breathtaking! And a definite must see.
Just traveling the world and sharing my adventures and experiences.
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