A day not be categorised.

I woke up at 7.00, sharp. My internal clock is still running in Dubai’s timezone. Exhausted, I stumbled out of bed and help myself to a big breakfast; I’m starving. Muesli and a croissant – that’s a first, in a long time. I lost my appetite a bit ever since I retore my ACL. Sadness, fear … or just an overall feeling of futility.

I go for a lovely walk in the morning with JM and Ronnie. i then do a little bit of lazy effort yoga and physio- I am tired, demotivated and too wary of my surroundings. I feel alien in a new surrounding – although old and familiar, I’ve just been tossed around, back and forth.

I rush to get ready to head to my 2nd appointment with Dr. Spicer. It says he deals with hips, too. I want him to look at that and make my £250 worth it. I feel strong and independent as I walk by myself to the train station.

My Oyster card declines itself as I attempt to swipe through the turnstiles. After topping it up £20 last night, it seems that it’s, SOMEHOW, been automatically cancelled. Need to call and sort that out. Luckily, I came to the station early. I miss the 11.45, but jump on the 12.00 which I was planning to try and catch originally.

Never have I ever been on a train from Sidcup that DIDN’T go to London Bridge. However, today decided to be the first. I wistfully watch the London Bridge platform edge away from me as we entered Waterloo East. ‘No worries,’ I thought to myself. I jumped on the tube and got to London Bridge station, and the hospital was conveniently infront of me (which was pointed out to me ironically by a guy in front of the station who thought I was an idiot for even asking)

All going smoothly; but they can’t open my MRI CDs. I had forgotten a bunch of CDs in Dubai. Why am I perpetually disorganised? How am I ever going to survive in EY? Spicer sees me. Says that my problem is too complex for him to look at. Sends me to see Dr. Bliss. I’ll be meeting him in an hour, at 7.

I have a physio session at 3pm which I am umm-ing and ahh-ing about. Do i really need that extra 80 quid appointment? I’m pretty good when it comes to understanding my body, and I do know the exercises I need to do. My indecisiveness is crippling. I didn’t go and I’m scared that I’ll get billed for it.

I took my simcard back from JM. I kept it in a safe place in my wallet to snip into a microchip size. When i find a shopowner who agrees to do it for free (only because I am female, probably) – I discover that I dropped it on the floor. Decide to go to the Vodafone store   to get a new simcard (easy process, usually), but my account is being ‘migrated’ that weekend. So nothing can be done.

I go to the bank, and they tell me i have negative pounds in my UK account.

AAAH

Our journey ends

1st of June marks the end. It’s been a long 5 months. In some ways, I feel like I want to keep going but there is a void in my daily lifestyle as I travel. I miss the intellectual drive, the familiarity of routine and meaningful connections with people who matter.

The last week after the yoga course, however, was exceptionally good.

I’ve found numerous diary entries which started with 5 lines of writing, and then sizzled out mid-sentence. It’s mainly because everyday was a boring routine of the same thing; waking up at 6.15 to head to morning practice, then running out of the shala to sneak in a good morning kiss from Mimi. Breakfast started first by respecting each other’s silence, which actually was an enjoyable task to do. In some ways, I wished I didn’t have JM so that I could indulge in being a ‘yogi’ more in depth. But at the same time, upon reflection, I think this is an unrealistic and narrow-minded approach to have when it comes to life. I don’t understand why I continuously thought that JM hinders me with my everyday life, when he is the most easy-going and patient person I know. Anyway, I’m crazy.

After my morning breakfast of porridge, we then headed to Anatomy class, where Alexa frequently drifted away from the scientific elements of the body to talk about chakra and energies. Zonk. This was then followed by a class with Karo, talking about ‘The Art of Teaching’ ie ‘The Art of Talking A lot of Bullshit’. After this chat session was over, lunch was finally served. I guess this made me more aware of how…stupid…people are. I hate saying that, but I think it’s true. Something which even will transcend into EY; people just love talking bullshit. Talking about nothing. Talking about the obvious.

Something we all missed were Trimurti’s food. As soon as that stopped, so did our regular bowel movements. We were all distraught; Divine Nature were giving us measly, teensy bowls of muesli; bland disheveled Thali’s and tasteless soup. Day 1 with Divine was met with everyone running to Unity and Munchies, and myself forming a group to boycott and protest against the café. The next day, they were very sweet and tried their very best to increase their portion sizes. This lead to me becoming their best friends; and friendly quickly turned into creepy. Jean Mi’s daily greeting was, ‘ Hello! Where’s Sara?’

By the middle of the 2nd week, I believe, was when Shannon suddenly became a bitch to me.

I am suffering from a Frappucino coma. I decided to treat myself with a choco frapp in the airport. I then passed by Starbucks to get myself a salad…and then someone offered to buy me a Frapacinno as part of the Starbucks competition. I first tried to politely decline…and then thought, SHIT, this is a free smoothie! Take it! I regret it now.

Continued…

Last week of yoga culminated with me teaching a class. All well and good.

The week off was lovely and relaxed. We woke up for breakfast every morning and generally just lounged and went shopping. I went through the process of colon cleansing which was… interesting. I feel like my Frapp binge kind of undid all the good work, though. Shame.

The wedding, too, was a little bit of a let down for ourselves since we actually didn’t participate heavily in the celebrations! Not surprising though – the wedding is for the bride and groom’s friends and family, not food stealing Westerners! We also ate lots of cake and Rosie was not in a good way.

We then hiked to Triund, which was a gorgeous grassy patch at the top of the mountains, overlooking snowy peaks. We met Rosie, Benny Sam and Gypsy there. They had stayed the night and it was just a great way to top off our entire journey. JM and I hiked alone and after some bickering about the path (we ended up going up the hard way) we managed to get there together. The walk down was easy – Rosie and I chatted our heads off together for 2 hours straight.

What can be said about India? Lot of cafes, lots of eating out (Unity, Munchies, Sansu’s, Pacha Mamma, Om Café, Spaced out) and lots of Chocolate balls (that explains my weight gain…)

India’s been gorgeous; but it hasn’t been real India to be frank.

June 8th

And here I am, back in luxury. The sandpit of materialistic dreams.

I’ve written a lot of entries, actually, but never bothered to post them. I find it a lot less organic to post for the past; almost a cop-out to my ill-organised fashion. So perhaps I will make myself suffer for the lack of updates.

Or; I change my mind and here you are (to Erin and Liz as the sole subscribers to my blog haha)

17th May 2015

Today, for the first time ever, I practiced Ashtanga by myself. No queues, no teachers, no help, no guidance, just me and my Asanas. I wasn’t sure how long to hold each pose, but I took my time. I completed most of them; only leaving out those which had to do with my hips.

The second week flew by equally as fast. However, it was a greater struggle for myself. I cheekily took a day off to ahem, get my Tetanus jab. The next day, though, I was feeling really off. I was feeling frustrated and angry – and Aliya’s hip opener class didn’t help. I ended up skipping a healthy chunk of the day to sort my brain out.

We listened to some live music on Friday night. I don’t seem to have a life other than Yoga, and Trimurti. I think doing the course in May was the best thing for me, ever. All the doubts and unhappiness about doing it at the end of my trip was so unnecessary. Maybe it’s a massive lesson to learn. It’s a massive lesson that doesn’t seem to stick in my brain. Make MOST OF NOW. Worry about later….when it’s NOW. Or just don’t worry at all. Make the most of the current situation, no matter what it is. Even grandma passed on the same wisdom. If it’s a shit situation, enjoy that shit situation and make the most of it.

On Saturday night, we went out to the same café for some live music. I’m not drinking at all; I really don’t enjoy it and I like keeping to my schedule of early days and nights. Mimi stayed out a bit later, and came back late…Fidel and co played extremely loud music and it vibrated through my room, keeping me awake. I slept at 3.30, and awoke at 8. My body clock is pretty cemented in my body to wake at 6.30am. What a beautiful habit to maintain.

21st May

Nearing the end of the TTC course.

I am pretty tired of

28th May

It has been a long, long, LONG time since writing.

I’m done. I’m a qualified yoga teacher. There is a weird energy going around lots of people; particular people. Especially the teachers – well, just Karo and Ajay for myself.

Ate some cake yesterday and it got me feeling really sleepy – and

5th June

I’ve recently done a lot of research on FKA Twigs. Upon first impressions, I didn’t have a very good vibe about her. I thought she was a drug-riddled, materialistic high-pitched wannabe hipster. But after reading her interviews and getting to understand her background and intentions a little better, she’s got me inspired.

I’ve realized my constant feeling of restlessness is due to a lack of purpose. When I stopped figure skating, I think this became more apparent.

I’ve spent the last few days just getting reacquainted with being alone. It’s actually quite lovely. I don’t know why, but always seem to feel like I am a nuisance to JM and can’t function. Even with something as simple as cleaning or getting myself sorted; if someone else is in the room, I get antsy and can’t get the job done.

Today, Friday. I spent the morning (05:30 awake) just getting myself out of bed and did the Kayla Itsines workout. 28 minutes of not-so-bad hell. I then did half an hour of yoga – but my room was so messy that I couldn’t rest my mind. I decided to clean my room – I sorted out my entire wardrobe by throwing around half the contents away.

Yesterday…Thursday. I went for a swim at Yanni’s after my private yoga practice, and then we went to Lime Tree Café to read/blog/sort life. I seem to be a lot more efficient when working away from home.

Lunch at home with family, and then I decided to clean the contents of the kitchen by throwing out all of grandma’s expired crap. Papa and I went to watch a movie after that and I bought ingredients to make chocolate balls and other healthy treats for myself.

Today, I made a rainbow falafel salad and some choccy balls!

After grabbing a huge breakfast with Mimi (an Israeli breakfast; fitting for Dharamsala. It seems like that’s all there is here; it’s basically just Israel here.) I walked around to do some window shopping and present shopping. It’s tough buying stuff in India, I feel.

9th May in Dharamsala

It’s a very late entry because I’ve not had ANY time to write…

The day in Delhi was incredible. I was already feeling a bit under the weather, and it kicked in. We checked into our 20 dollar hotel room which was in a questionable alley. We shared a taxi with a guy who bought things from overseas, like India or Thailand, and then sold them at all the English festivals over the summer. It was very interesting to meet him; he was a nice guy, middle aged and a little chubs but a solid man. He’s been to all the festivals; but unfortunately not really enjoyed them all since he had to concentrate on sales.

Anyway, our hotel in Delhi had a huge colourful glass elevator in the centre which was quite interesting. We had landed at around 1am and then we woke up at 10am to go to our free buffet breakfast – some weird sandwiches which were delicious and Indian foooood. Now, the night before on the plane was a strange journey because we had stopped off in Bangkok to pick up more passengers; a bit like a bus ride. However, on both rides, we received a meal which was lovely. To my distress, I had ordered a Low Sodium, Low Calorie, Vegetarian meal (WHY?! WHAT?! I DO NOT REMEMBER DOING THIS). I received boiled veggies whilst JM had delicious , steaming, chicken curry.

Anyway, after our free brekkie, we decided to go to a temple. A sikh temple .. and it was the most MAGICAL experience ever. Since it was a Sunday, there were hunderds and thousands of people collecting and praying. It was a special Sunday, no less, so there were even more people than we expected. As we approached the large building, it was white marble with streams of water surrounding it, for people to wash their feet. People kept guiding us and advising us on what to do; where to put our shoes, what to put on our heads, where to get the (free) food from, where to walk. Everyone was exceptionally nice to us. It was obvious we weren’t there for prayer, but still, everyone welcomed us into the temple, not annoyed at the tourists for coming in and ruining the serenity. As we entered, there was a splaying of gold encasing us, as we heard the buzzing and chiming of Indian instruments with a delicate voice vibrating harmoniously over us all; enchanting us.

We sat down on the side and enjoyed a few songs, where people offered us their food and told us more about their customs and traditions. There was a large screen on the right which transalted the music into English, which, although insightful, made me enjoy it less because of the devotional lyrics. I guess that’s the point though…

After this, I wanted to go home but we bumped into a lovely guy (damn me for forgetting his name). We were first a little bit hesitant at first – after all, we were in Delhi. We were wary about where we were walking, but he offered to walk us to some place to show us around. We passed the centre of Delhi (it’s arranged in 2 circles; an inner and outer and encompasses shops from the West. The structure is British colonial) and as we did, we saw some people injecting themselves, and someone else smoking some sort of drug. I’ve never seen anything like that, and can’t ebelieve it was happening in BROAD daylight, on a Sunday, in a public space.

He invited us for a cup of chai, and we were both a bit scared but he was a lovely guy so we were inclined to trust him, ensuring we stayed in a public area. We went to a restaurant and had the most delicious cup of chai. He was, indeed, just a nice guy, and even paid for us. He set us off in a taxi to get us safely home, and said bye. He even showed us where the tourist office was, and sat with us for a good few minutes as we had a pleasant chat with the tourist officer. Everyone, so far, even the tourist guy, has been exceptionally, incredibly, unbelieveably nice. As we sat in the taxi, we got talking to him and he was young and too friendly too. He offered to take us to places all around – different market places. I bought a cheap Punjabi outfit for 6 quid – a 3 set piece. Pretty cool because many people think I’m Nepali, even without the outfit. So, I get local prices.

The guy was lovely and even though we were probably aware that he gets commission, we were pleased to meet him and he was a nice guy. He didn’t even tell us how much to give him, we just gave him 200 Rupees which is 2 pounds for his time. We also bought him lunch; he took us to an incredible spot for some street food, where we paid 50p for a full meal.

10th May

Didn’t get to finish writing.

We then got a night bus from Delhi to Dharamsala, which took around 12 hours. A fairly easy ride and the bus wasn’t bad either. Cambodia and Philippines were, by far, the worst of the lot.

I’m still a little confused as to how exactly McLeod Gange/Dharamsala/Dharamkot or whatever is structured. We’re staying in a large green building…decent bathrooms, laundry done for us, wifi shaky and unreliable..the town just a few minutes walk away but a tremendous steep hike…people walking around with dreadlocks, an intense hippy-vibe spread throughout. Not sure if this is a positive or a negative thing – there is a weird feeling of stagnancy and oppression, as well as hostility.

The course is interesting. I’m not in a very writy mood at the moment but I feel like I should take the opportunity to type whilst I have the time. It’s quite intensive. I wake up at 6.15, get to yoga for 7. We practice till 9. We then have anatomy classes, philosophy classes (which are pretty hilarious) and alignment/adjustment classes. We end the day with 5.30-7 practice. Generally speaking, I’ve never spent so much time doing nothing. In terms of, being stationary and calm. I guess that’s better for the mind.

I was sick on the 3rd day and had a day off.

I think I’ll write more in depth about the experience when I’m done.

Trimurti gardens is owned by a German/Indo family, and their bread is amazing. I’m eating really healthily nowadays, and decreasing my portion sizes by a tremendous amount. Guess this is all I needed!

Went to the Tibetan doctor today to see what it would be like. He felt my pulse and told me numerous things; perhaps general, but fairly accurate.

Here’s to my one day off this week. Namaste!

2nd May 2015

Hoi An was a romantic, wonderful little bubble. It was probably the most picturesque little town, and it was such a relief to escape Hanoi’s hustle.

(26th April) After the initial 13 hour bus, we arrived in Hue. I went to 2 different hospitals in the space of 15 minutes (on the back of motos) and they had both said, “ Sorry, it’s Sunday. No injections today!) I managed to meet up with my friends for a quick coffee and a game of pool. I then decided to wait for the bus (which I had assumed to be the same one) at the location where I was told to wait, then to meet them on the bus. However, I, along with 4 other lovely Brit girls and a couple, were rejected from going onto the bus.

The 4 girls were 19 but looked 25. It was a little bit ironic when they asked for my age; they probably expected to hear 15. It was actually really lovely to chat to them, and we got along really well. I told them that we should stick together if the second bus rejected us.

Suddenly, the woman who handled tickets for the first bus zooms back on a motorcycle, pointing at me and apologizing for the mistake. I was meant to be on that bus! (Told ya so). So, apologies flying, I jumped onto the back of her bike…only to realize a few minutes later that I had forgotten my big backpack. Hilarious and cartoon-like, we drove back and picked up my comically large bag. The girls and couple were amused by my optimism as I disregarded the gum which stuck to the bottom of my bag, leaving a delicate trail behind as we rode off again.

As I boarded the bus, I was excitedly searching for 11 familiar faces to screech success at them. Alas, I, of course, ended up on another bus which wasn’t theirs. Yes, yellow. Not theirs.

Sending whatsapp messages to them, it turns out that the girls and couple eventually boarded the same bus as my 11 friends. The irony.

I was stuck in the back left of the bus, next to 3 shy Vietnamese boys. To confess, I loved taking the bus by myself. I loved having my alone time to think, to write, to read and to nap. If I was surrounded by my friends, I would have felt pressured to make conversation shudder.

Upon arriving in Hoi An, I see 2 figures; an abnormally tall man, and a short little stocky dwarf (hah). It turns out to be Alex and Janosch, 2 guys I met on Catba island 2 weeks ago! They were motorbiking North to South, and it was by freak chance they were walking along the road of the hotel I was staying. Lots of smiles and hellos, they asked to meet up for dinner. I, regrettably, told them that I was going to have dinner with my 11 friends, who are quite awkward and cliquey when it comes to meeting new people. I felt like it would be an inconvenience and massively rude for me to invite these 2 to dinner. Additionally, I don’t think that anyone would’ve gotten along, which is a massive shame.

I head to the Hoi An hospital by myself, again on moto. It turns out that the hospital is only 5 minutes away, and I walk in at 7pm, and probably walk out less than half an hour later. This was even with lots of waiting. The nurses were lovely; I had a sign-language conversation with her about her baby, who was the wallpaper on her phone. She kept phoning the cashier to rush her dinner, so that she can let me pay for my Verorab RABIES injection. As soon as she came down, I paid the 30 dollar fee, and then had a nice man jab my shoulder and in a millisecond, it was done.

I took a moto to the Indian restaurant, Namaste. Why we were in an Indian restaurant in VIETNAM…in HOI-AN…was beyond me. It was just a suggestion made by Ian, which was fair enough. However, there was such a strange vibe of uncertainty and hesitation whenever we were in a large group together. Everyone was so self-conscious about being too demanding, or wanting to speak out about what they actually wanted to do. We had a group of followers, and Teeky and Ian being leaders. This made me feel a bit annoyed, to be honest, which is why Leigh and I often broke off from the too-large to manage group.

That evening, a few of us went out for drinks and a dance, whilst the others went to bed. To be honest, I was itching for a dance. We met up with the couple from the bus, and they were super keen on hanging out. However, the others were bored by their company, which is a real shame since they were lovely (the girl lived in Angel, too!) I forced everyone onto the dancefloor, where the DJ was taking all our song requests.RL Grime, Opiuo, Koan Sound, Breakbot, Madeon, all sorts were dropped and I danced till I was drenched in sweat. I managed to also get 2 very exciteable Vietnamese girls onto the dance floor, and they shrieked every other second. It was hilarious.

(27th April) 12 pm, home to wake up early the next day. The sleep was lovely. It was the best sleep I had in ages, due to no snoring and no noise of traffic. Bliss. We were greeted by a MASSIVE breakfast buffet – fresh eggs any way you want ‘em, and fresh pancakes too. I helped myself to the salads – OH I LOVE VIETNAMESE SALADS – and coffee. Day 1, we rented motorbikes and went straight to the beach. I was on Spence’s back – he’s been riding since he was in 8th grade so I felt fairly safe on his back.

Diving straight into the ocean was a wonderful feeling – I hadn’t been on the coast in too long. After lunch (seafood salad of course!), everyone relaxed….but I had forgotten my headphones and my book, and I was too antsy to sit and do nothing. People were joking about the excess energy I had, calling me the energizer bunny as they do back in London. Henry offered to take me home to pick up my stuff, which we did…and we also took a detour to check out the tailors called Wall Street. Incredibly skilled, the woman took me through all the possibilities of suits and shirts that I could have made.

Back to the beach, and we played a game of catch. Much fun.

That evening, we feasted on all you can eat spring rolls. It was magical. For 5 dollars, we had unlimited sticks of BBQ pork thrown at us; patties and fillets. Unlimited veggies, unlimited rice pancakes, unlimited springrolls to put inside other springrolls.

We then attempted another night of drinking and dancing. I didn’t have a drink though. We went to a place called Backpackers…and I think everyone wasn’t very bothered about drinking nor dancing. The group separated, and people went to the market. Leigh and I pretty much stuck together and had a look around the market, and enjoyed some gorgeous coconut ice cream.

People then went to the rice fields to take photos. Leigh and I, however, decided to stay home and look into leather jacket designs, as well as planning a cycling route. We slept early at 11.30.

(28th April) Day 3 in Hoi An, I may have had a bad night of sleep. I’ve been eaten alive by mozzies, and generally too hyped to sleep. Just in a good mood, overall. Leigh and I took this morning to go to the tailors, where she had to sit through my fitting and indecisiveness. I feel sorry for her and I always feel awful to put people through such inconveniences.

We had a lovely salad whilst I did more research for my suit tailoring, as I was utterly unprepared. Thank god Leigh did the research for the jacket – we basically got the same thing! I hope she didn’t mind too much. I should’ve, really, done more research myself but I don’t feel that bothered going through fashion websites.

The boys then picked us up from the centre of town to go back to the beach. It was great getting back into the water. Someone carried a humongous jellyfish the size of 2 heads out of the water. That was enough to keep me out.

Dinner on this particular night…it was just in some random restaurant. I think I remember getting a little bit annoyed that we were all following each other like headless chickens, and no one really knew where anyone was going. L and I were frustrated and were suggesting places to go, but in the end we settled for something quite expensive in the Old Town. We passed loads of cheaper, just as delicious (if not better) hole in the walls.

On this night, we went out to Tiger Tiger, I believe. I was getting annoyed at everyone since no one wanted to dance, and people only came onto the dance floor after their 4 games of pool (playing pool…in a club…). By this point, many other people flooded the dance floor; and since I was controlling the music with the laptop, people started taking liberties and changing the music mid-song, and putting on awful music. We left early, unimpressed.

(29th April)

I slept awfully this night. I was still pretty pumped up from all the dancing, and I had organized Mimi’s flight to land today. I’ve missed him a lot. I wish I had organized him to land that morning, but stupidly, on account of us being frugal, we decided for him to land at 10pm.

I need to stop having regrets. I constantly do that. There is no such thing as a bad situation, nor something as good. Something happens and it just happens; there is no need to define it on a scale of 1-10.

Anyway, I spent the morning getting a mani pedi with Leigh. We then had to go for fittings, for both the jacket and my suits.

I met everyone for lunch, and tried a gorgeous dish called ‘White Rose’ – effectively, yummy rice noodle dumplings. They all decided to bike off to Marble Mountain, but I had to do my fittings. We were all meant to bike to Danang tonight to catch some fireworks. However, I was exhausted, wanted to be alone, and wanted to meet JM in time. I decided to stay in Hoi An by myself. I went to a wonderful café where I had fresh spring rolls and read more of Murakami – whose book, 1Q94, has been annoying me tremendously. I find his prose weak (I’ve probably said this already) and his themes recycled. However, I want to finish it because I’m concerned if it’s just my impatience which isn’t dealing with the book properly.

I went back home and napped. 6pm, I was expecting JM in 3 hours. I walked along the river by myself, and grabbed some street food. Cao Lau – an al dente version of Bun Cha with sliced pork on top of a sweet suit. Deliccciiiousss. I sit next to a couple who are from NZ, and we get talking. They once lived in London too, and will be moving there. We briefly chatted small talk, and I told them about my volunteering. They, too, were tired of travelling and wanted to have some more ‘purpose’ to their travels. I warned them of IVHQ’s scam (who, by the way, refuse to refund me), said our polite goodbyes, and went on.

I also tried Che that day – jelly with a sweet tea-like syrup.

JM’s flight was delayed, and I managed to greet him at 11.30pm. There was a lot of traffic coming from Danang Airport too – my friends arrived at midnight, too. I snuck JM into the dorm that I was staying in. The people in the dorm replaced my friends as they were too disorganized to book the room. I stayed. Was that rude of me? They didn’t ask me to relocate, though.

(30th April)

Mimi and I move out of the dorm to the homestay, which is in some lovely family’s house. They give us a delicious banana smoothie to greet us. More fittings, more fittings, more fittings. Leigh and Mimi meet, and we have lunch at the same place with salads. We then rent cycles and head to the beach, where there is a mean hip-hop battle happening. Some good waacking, locking and breaking on the beach front, and I’m itching to dance. General fun picture taking and chilling.

More fittings.

Today, the old city is more crowded than ever. We didn’t even bother going by the waterfront – which is a shame because that’s all I wanted to do with JM. But, we anticipated it to be too busy, and then met up with the rest of the group at a restaurant, where, once again, everyone was awkward as hell. We said our goodbyes, and then Mimi and I went home to our too-hot homestay. It was a little hellish, reminiscent of the homestay we had in Cambodia but no-where near as bad.

(1st May)

Our last day in Hoi An. The final fitting. JM and I rented bikes and biked through the countryside. I love it. I really love it and will take it up as a new hobby. I will invest in a bike and make frequent trips to the countryside to bike.

How JM deals with me, I don’t know. All these fittings and errands I run.

We then settled in the same café I went to when I was alone, enjoyed lassies and salads, and then back to the homestay to shower. I’ve been showering 2-3 times a day. We caught our flight to HCM, whilst rain suddenly poured onto our heads. Hoi An was cleansing itself; it seemed appropriate during this holiday season!

A BK meal later, we found ourselves on the hour delayed flight which we slept straight through. We taxi’d to Yen Hotel, a beautiful little find in Saigon, and passed out at 1am.

(2nd May)

Awake at 9, we nab our free breakfast of packet noodles (d’oh). I am officially addicted to coffee and feel GRUMPY and SNAPPY before it. 2 hours later, we then head over to the Museum of War Remnants – closed for lunch. Oops. JM is dying because of the heat and can’t think. I get us a cab, and we head to mall to buy him some shorts. I buy a pair of blue vans for 150 Dhs. Beauties. Although…a size too small.

Back to the hotel, I get my last Vietnamese meal of rolls and salad (all I god damn ate. Along with Ca Phe Sua Da – I make up for my calories with condensed milk!) Cabbing to the airport, to take our flight to Delhi. We’re currently in Bangkok, where we’ve stopped off for an hour, which is interesting. Like a bus ride.

Delhi for half a day, and then we take a 12 hour bus to Dharamsala.

I’m not even phased by the journeys we have to make because I have JM with me, all the while. Is that lame?

26th April – re: the dog bite, IVHQ scams and Hoi An night bus

I began the morning hungover and tired. I had to first chat with the director of IVHQ, who turned out to be an absolute goon. Reeve refused to take any responsibility for the mistake he made to me; that is, not warn me that there was a public holiday during my 2nd week of volunteering, which essentially shorterns it to 4 days of volunteering. I opted to skip the morning because there was no other direct way of getting in contact with Reeve.

After a fruitless call (I’m sorry, IVHQ’s policies state that there can be no refunds made….I’m sorry, my director (a director of a director…), Margarete, says that she will not accept it…), I decided to go for a walk around the lake. Ian wanted to join.

As we stepped out the block, little Noodles sat in the corner. We usually pat him on the head/face, but since there were 2 of us, I opted to go for the side. I didn’t, and wouldn’t be able to, approach Noodles by surprise, so no, I didn’t scare him. As I petted his back, he trembled and I asked Ian,’ Aw no, why is the poor thing scared? Do you think they hit him?’

AND THEN HE BIT ME. IN THE RIGHT QUAD and then I think he may have grazed my left quad after.

We went upstairs to the office, where I had already given Hiep and Hang hell (poor things) about my refund. We got into a taxi and rushed off to the hospital. I thought we faced with a hospital akin to China’s or Cambodia’s, and so I posted a pic of my leg on Facebook for help. Ian insisted that I didn’t need shots. I was on the fence.

The doctor was old, and French, and unbothered. I was in such a state of shock that I didn’t really handle much very well. He asked if I wanted a tetanus shot. I asked my family for help. I opted to get it. I walked in and out of his office about 5 times. The first to get antibiotics, the 2nd for the tetanus shot, and lastly, the rabies shot.

Noodles’ owner said he was vaccinated. I demanded for paperwork. 2 hours later, I found out he was lying. That’s why I opted for the shot.

The rabies shot was probably the worst injection of my life. I had antibodies pierced 4 times around my right quad, and twice around the left leg. The one in the hip was a killer.

And there we go. That’s what happened. Now I’m scared of the cutest little puppy dogs. L

I think I commit my mistakes too repetitively. I am extremely indecisive, because I always want to do ‘what’s best’. I think this is perceived as being cunning or sneaky, though. I hope that’s not what people think of me. I just always want to have the best situation.

And this is bad luck (well, not really THAT but just an inconveniene) part 3.

(Part 1 – issues with the volunteering project of having no refund and being on the most disorganized placement. Part 2 – dogbite)

I asked to refund my ticket because I had realized I was spending around 500 dollars on medical fees, and also I had no chance of getting a refund from IVHQ (cheating bastards). I already bought myself a ticket from Hanoi to HCM on the 1st so that we could catch our flight from HCM to Delhi. Why should I spend an extra day on travel, in an awful night bus, and delay time further to see JM?

Well, I haven’t been to Hoi An yet, which is one of the places I really wanted to visit in Vietnam. Beautiful, relaxed, cafes, yoga, beaches….and I just met a group of lovely people. I should go, right?

I thought I shouldn’t initially because of money – but then Tran pointed out to me that I had insurance (d’oh). However, I already asked the lady who sold my ticket to me for a refund – and she said yes. I then asked to reverse it and I wanted my ticket back – and she said yes. Misunderstanding, one thing lead to another and upon boarding the buses (absolutely fantastic, best in Asia) with my friends. I was asked to leave.

As my 11 mates all rolled away in their seats, I was desperately trying to get another bus. He offered me another seat, in another bus…on the floor.

I took it – JM was offering me support on the other side and chatting to other travellers in Sapa who claimed that the seats on the floor were actually MORE comfortable since you could stretch out. Upon entering, a woman tried to give me her seat for the floor seat. Standard me, I couldn’t decide which was better but I opted for the floor and slept like a baby for the full 10 hours or so. Probably more. May be because of the antihistamines though. Knocked me right out.

I got out the bus at Hue, and my friends did at their bus too. We were all expeted to grab another bus at 1.30 to continue to Hoi An. Obviously the same one, right? I ended up alone again, in the back corner of the bus. It’s not so bad. A good time to think, reflect, read and blog.

25th April – Hanoi Volunteering and Noodles bit me

The scam that is ‘voluntouring’

Jean-Mi was always reluctant to partake in any sort of volunteering that involved PAYING to volunteer. I simply brushed it off and said that I would be more than happy to support a cause which didn’t take advantage of the money we would/could give.

And so, back in March when I was in Cambodia, I decided that I wanted to take part in some volunteering. It was never part of the original plan, because JM and I were travelling together. But I realized I really would regret if I didn’t do any; and China and Vietnam could be the next places to do it.

IVHQ looked like a reputable company with the lowest costs to host volunteers and organize their stay. Only $550 for a week, and $650 for two; the price increasing by $100 thereafter. Compared to all the others, IVHQ was the ‘cheapest’.

The pick up was arranged from my hostel at 3. I say bye to Mimi tearfully and have a little cry in the taxi (laaame, I know) but then collect myself in a few seconds. I am driven South, out of the old quarter (thankfully). I arrive at a huge complex building…and there’s a gym in it! I greet the first 2 newbies, and we meet Henry who shows us the ropes. We chat awkwardly and went for a drink on the lake. By this time, I discovered that there was a public holiday for Vietnam the next week. Therefore, no one would be working next week…and therefore, my money would be going to waste. I was not happy. And now, the battle vs. IVHQ began.

I spent every single bloody day last week trying to e-mail, call and coordinate between 6 people – all of whom re-directed me to another person. I tried demanding a refund, but everyone refused. They claim that I should have known – but the country coorindator himself didn’t know.

The problem was, there were too many people ‘in charge’. Also, no one wanted to take responsibility for anything.

Anyway, let’s talk about the experience itself. The night before, before 10, we must mark on a tally if we would like to have ‘BUN OR BREAD’ – a pork bun, or an egg sandwich for breakfast. All the new volunteers were waking up at crazy times – 6am, or even earlier. Myself included. For me, it was because of the noise of the traffic in the mornings…and so we went to the gym on the first 2 days.

My placement was at the disabled children’s centre – and it was tough. Firstly, I was nervous about dealing with children with disabilities. I’ve never really been exposed to ANYONE with a disability. Being surrounded by kids who can’t do much of anything; walk, talk, go to the bathroom – it was a real shock. To confess, I felt physically ill sometimes because I just wasn’t use to it.

On the first day, I took 3 kids on a walk around the lake. This was actually fairly easy – one of the boys though decided to take his peepee out in the middle of a park and take a wee. Luckily I had hand sanitizer.

The centre was really chaotic, and the teachers disciplined using negative reinforcement, which, according to the booklets provided to us by IVHQ, was the total opposite way in which is should be approached. There was only one teacher in my class, and around 8 kids. I basically just had to babysit them and make sure they didn’t do anything out of the ordinary, whilst entertaining them. I just felt like there was no real support, or supplied, to do much of anything. I combed their hair, pleated it, fed them, sang to them, coloured with them, played ball to them and just sat next to them sometimes, giving them emotional support. There was a girl who was extremely skinny and couldn’t eat; she could never speak but she quite liked the local volunteer Long, who was a guy. Apparently, those who are autistic and with Down syndrome experience puberty quite strongly, and we are warned frequently to maintain our space between the kids and ourselves. No sitting on laps, no hugging, kissing, etc. The boys were all asking about my name and age; I said 55. I think that worked.

There were 2 boys with Down syndrome; one who kept repiling the chairs, and one who was actually quite intelligent. The former enjoyed my singing; I changed from singing Freres Jacques and Twinkle Twinkle to Les Mis ballads. He loved to clap and bounce up and down. The latter was the one who peed in public, but on my last day I played catch with him with a yellow bouncy ball.

There was a girl who coloured beautifully and maintained her concentration for hours on end ensuring that her red crayon did not escape the black lines of the horse she coloured. She also played with these little lego-like things, which created little pictures using circles.

Another little girl was quite violent, hitting others and myself…but also went to the other extreme of wanting to sit on everyone’s lap and kiss them. She looked like a little boy though, and I thought it was wrong to hug her – but upon finding out she was a girl, and seeing her aggressive behavior, I began hugging her and she was markedly in a better mood.

None of the kids could speak. There was a lot of sitting around and staring into space. They had nothing to occupy their minds. I sang the majority of the time, to the point where my voice hurts. The Vietnamese teacher must’ve been so sick of me; but she marked exam papers whilst I took care of the kids. The teachers in Tran’s (the other IVHQ volunteer from USA) class were always on their phones.

We also had a 3.5 hour break, which is pretty ridiculous. I did a yoga class in between one. Now, I’ve only actually done 2 days of complete work. The first day was orientation, where we were shown around. Day 1 and 2 progressed; due to my bad sleeping, Day 1’s rest was a nap in a café.

Day 3 I spent staying at home, fighting for my refund by calling New Zealand’s headquarters. Also, the previous night, we had too much rice wine and I was tiiiiiiiired.

I then needed to take a walk, and my mate Ian wanted to come. He’s a Noodles lover. Noodles is the little shit that bit me. Now, I played with Noodles already the previous night and he was adorable with floppy little ears. But that day, I petted him, and since Ian was already petting him from the front, I petted him on the body. I was in full view of Noodles – he’s chained to a corner so there’s no way of surprising him or shocking him. As I petted him, I felt him tremor, and I asked Ian, ‘oh dear, the poor thing – do you think he gets beaten a lot?’

AND THEN HE BIT ME.

Went to the hospital. Ian was saying there was no need to get rabies shots. I was still on the fence. I also didn’t know if my tetanus was updated – I opted twice not to get it done because I ‘knew’ that I wouldn’t be exposed to any metal of any sort (little did I know that it was a requirement for animal bites. Not that I thought I’d get bitten either. At least my insurance covers everything POST the accident!)

Although a tiny miniscule risk of getting rabies, the risk of death is 90% and there is no cure. So I got it. 9 injections in total. It was wonderful.

Day 4 was spent chilling, sleeping, and overall just collecting myself and my thoughts.

I decided to head over to Hoi An with the volunteers. It’s really cool because I’ve finally met a group of people which I click with. I guess it’s a mixture of being alone, coupled with spending more time with them, and them being like=minded people. Had many good convos swapping good music, and I’m sad to leave them a week early.

Looking forward to this 15 hour bus ride. Should be a blast!

20th April – Day 1 volunteering

And again, a country’s public holidays have come in the middle of my plans.

2 weeks of volunteering is now transpiring to become one week. One day of orientation, though, shortens this to 4 days.

My last anticipated week at IVHQ has been removed because of the public holidays. I hope that I can get a refund; I will probably pressure them and will definitely get it.

Over the past few days, JM and I have been taking it pretty easy; from walking around the Old Quarter in Hanoi, to watching the water puppets visiting the Ethnology and the Military Museum (the latter being a ridiculously biased account of how all things Vietnamese destroyed all things American…) We also stumbled upon a lovely hostel, called Flipside. A brand new hostel, we also ended up going when it was the manager’s birthday! Free pizza, shots and cake! They’re really lovely people, and I met loads of cool people that I want to keep in touch with.

A crying shame because I had to leave the hostel scene to my volunteering quarter – I was really excited to get my alone time, but I cried a little when I said bye to Mimi. I always cry whenever I leave him. I miss him a lot!! But I think being apart for a little while is a good thing for the both of us.

So, I arrive here and to be honest, I’m pretty upset about the way things have panned out. I have to decide whether to spend the 4 days working with children with disabilities (which I’ll probably do, as it’s quite out of my comfort zone) or teaching English to university students (who may need the help more as there’s only one English volunteer here!)

Anyway, now the decision is to stay in Hanoi, go North, or go South in my free week! What to do?

Hello Vietnam! 12th 15th April.

It’s been an age since I updated my blog, for the pure reason that I couldn’t access it. I previously sent Majid a massive e-mail to fill in some China posts – but it wasn’t the same! More update to be put on here, for definite.

I’ve been in Vietnam for 3 days now, though. It’s been kinda stressful.

JM had massive cramps and a bad tummy ache on the night before our flight – the 11th. I had told him to go to the hospital, but of course, he point blank refused. His bad sleep caused me a bad sleep, and of course, I spent the morning sorting everything out; checked out, packed both our bags, got him medicine, etc. etc. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love him and I’m not angry at him. But i feel like this has happened many a times in Chengdu – me having to take care of him. This time, I don’t mind, since it isn’t brought upon by his own doing (or it could have been) but when he was hungover and things…I guess I shouldn’t even bring it upon myself to mummy him so much, because he doesn’t expect anything. But it’s hard to leave your boyfriend in bed when he’s feeling like poo.

Anyway, last morning in Chengdu was just me feeling really tired and getting us prepped to go. We then fly off, on the 12th, and JM feel a little better. Land in Hanoi, the air’s bustling and the roads look like Dubai. They slowly transform into Hanoi, as the streets become a little bit wear and tear; the houses long and thin. We’re dropped off by an alley where our hostel, Tony’s Hostel, is located. The cheapest place I could get for a double; $7. We set our stuff down and then set off trying to organise tomorrow. We speak about the Castaway tour (basically a booze cruise where people get as drunk as possible for 3 days) and it really doesn’t seem like what i want to do. However, they kayak, swim in bioluminescent water, eat great food, and etc.

We decide to go to the island of Cat Ba ourselves, after reading about how all the tours starting in Hanoi are generally really congested along Ha Long Bay. JM’s tummy is playing up again. He goes up to bed. I am itching to go out for a drink and meet some people; the atmosphere in the alley is bustling and people are chatting excitedly. I know, though, that I would prefer to have an early night and morning, especially due to my bad sleep the previous night. So, I do the responsible adult thing (as I have been doing pretty much every night…) and go to bed.

13th April

Next morning, I wake up early and do some yoga whilst JM snoozes. We then head out to a lovely cafe which I found; the ‘best in Hanoi’ and it’s AMAZING. The Hanoi Social Club; we get our respective ginger drinks and JM has plain toast for his poor belly. I have avocado, ricotta and sourdough rye. What a treat.

We then decide at 10.20, at the cafe, that we need to grab the 11.20 bus to Cat Ba. I have my other toast piece for takeaway, and we run home. JM runs up to pack, and I buy the tickets (and bargain with them; the assholes are always trying to cheat us. They asked for $18, when they said it was $15 – but we know perfectly well it’s $8 and they’re charging us extra). We jump on the back of 2 motorbikes, and set off.

A 2 hour (and a bit) bus ride later, we arrive at some weird port. We take a boat. We take another bus (this wasn’t advertised!?)

And we arrived. I had bought a kindle and it’s amazing to finally read again. I’m going through Murakami’s 1Q84 and to be honest, I’m a little disappointed by it. Perhaps Bellow’s prose has belittled all other writing for me, but M’s themes are too repetitive and unimaginative, now. Jazz, Cutty Sark, writing, 2 worlds, 2 parallel stories, baldness, cats…same same same in ALL his books. Give me a new edge, M!

We had Pho and spring rolls. JM then proceeded to feel ill, again…we had to go search for a room and a place to stay.

We walked around and found Catba Guesthouse which had good reviews, and 2 friendly Americans sat at the front. They said they didn’t have any doubles, and so we went to the opposite place, Cat Ba Hostel. They had a double for one night. Since JM couldn’t walk any longer, we said we’d do one night in CBH and one night in CG…but CG’s manager didn’t look happy that we picked one place over his. Seems like the reasoning to want a double room isn’t good enough. After a little awkward communication that we just wanted a double (god damn we just want privacy and JM feels ill, I don’t think him lying in a dorm of 8 would help) and a lot of laughter on my part, we ditch CBH altogether.

The double is nice. All these rooms always have 2 beds – one double, one single. I set JM in bed and I hunt for food whilst he lies back. I get him breads; all the bread you can imagine. I eat a chicken salad by myself, sat in a restaurant tucked in a lonely street. I get talking to the owner, and his little baby comes and grabs my hands and blue painted nails. I give them all my cookies. They’re lovely.

I go from tour operator to tour operator, grabbing their descriptions of their offerings and prices. They’re all pretty much the same thing. JM is in no mood to choose, nor to think. I go back to the room and just feel a little bit stuck – I can’t enjoy myself because poor JM is in pain, and I can’t do anything to help him.

Early to sleep, early to rise. 14th April. I go for a run by myself around Cat Ba town. I know this place like the back of my hand, now. I go past Mr. Zoom’s hostel, and ask him again about staying at his. Double for $5. Fantastic.

He tells me to run up towards Canon Fort. Two large dogs in my path at the base of the incline. I decide to go for it, thinking that I’m not going to let anything ruin this run. I hold my breath and refuse to feel scared. I walk up, and look behind me. They’re wagging their tails. I look forward and run up. I’m met by a gate. 40,000 Dong, please. Of course, I brought no money with me. What a waste. All that anticipation, all that anxiety. I pick up 3 different sticks; one short, hard and stumpy, one long and thing, and one long with 2 sporadic branches clawing out. Protection. I then run down the hill, not knowing where the dogs where, and suddenly, they spring out from the bushes on my left….whimpering and running away from me. They’re terrified! That must’ve been a sight…

Back to Mimi. We have to move hostels. There’s a huge cockroach in our room the size of my middle finger. We head out. Mr. Zoom’s a babe. We rent a motorbike for $4. We go around asking about tours – Asia Outdoors was almost booked but their credit card machine doesn’t work. We get fitted into climbing boots, we give all our deets. 2 days, one night. Swimming in bioluminescent plankton. The main reason I’m in Vietnam; about to be fulfilled!

We then moto to the National Park. We hiked up to the peak, took us an hour. We hiked back down, took us less. Moto home, then JM wants to check out the beaches whilst I want to have a coffee here…but then he feels ill suddenly. He goes to bed, and tells me to sort myself out with anything I want to do. I wanted to settle down with a coffee and sort out my India Visa, but I message JM instead and try and Dr. Google his symptoms. Too distracted, I go back and help him. I go to the pharmacy and pick up antibiotics and all sorts. I lost my medicine pack in Hanoi. Must’ve either packed it in our big bag which is left in the hostel there or left it on the bed as we rushed out.

I give him the antibiotics. Talk to Bayo and Yoyo; Yoyo tells me Omeprazole helps with GERD and acid reflux. I go and get that. I get him rice. I get a salad.

I get talking to a weird Iranian man, who looks a bit liketh. Not even kidding.

2 from New Orleans, one’s a doctor one’s working as a volunteer in HCM. One kind old man from Philly, he’s a nurse. Bob. He’s the best! Lastly, a weird German guy. There’s always one of them, isn’t there?

So we talk about JM and his crisis, and they make me scared; is it gallbladder stones? Pancreatic something what what? They write tests that a hospital can/should perform, and I thank them and say byebye.

Back home, JM is actually fine. No pain, he’s watching Oedipus, and is fine. He refuses to go to the hospital in Cat Ba, where they speak no English. What can I do?

I go back and chill with them and reassure they JM is all good. The Iranian man sits in the middle of the table and dominates all convo in his strange accent, and has too much trivia knowledge for his own good. It’s hard to speak.

Home time, cuddle Mimi, and sleep.

And I woke up at 6am…just because. The light wakes me up automatically. Even through my sleeping mask. Ridiculous!

And I spent a good half hour writing this all.

Ciao! x

22nd March : The first day to Tiger leaping Gorge

After much research about Yunnan, we read about how touristy and fabricated Lijiang is. We’ve decided to just entirely skip going there, and so we grabbed a bus which headed towards Shangri-La via Qiao-tou; the village where we start the hike.

 

We had to actually go into Xi Guan, the new town Dali. We were staying near Old Town Dali in a cute hostel called the Jade Emu. It’s run by an Aussie couple, is really chilled out and has a good café, decked out with a foosball and pool table. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to meet any cool people; there were only 50 year old Irish men who were drunkenly singing on the their guitar. We actually met a lovely Canadian couple just as we were leaving the hostel; a great shame. They must’ve been around 60, judging from their grey hair, but they were so friendly to chat to. Always a shame; seem to meet the best people whenever we say our goodbyes.

We left the hostel at 8.30. We had to grab a very mafan bus to get into new town, which required us to hike for half an hour with our backpacks to the bus stop. After finally finding said bus stop, we sat for half an hour on the bus, pretty clueless about where to get off. Just by instinct, I asked someone for help, and they told us it was the previous stop. Typical. We get off pronto, ask around, check on my laptop for all my pre-loaded info (thank god) and find the bus stop. We manage to get the 10am bus completely by luck. Chinese buses are comfortable but enjoy stopping every hour for a snack break. The worst part was; we passed by our hostel at around 11am and 2 people were grabbed the bus from there. They were obviously local; and we had enquired previously if there was any way to catch it from Old Town Dali. Not for tourists, obviously!

 

All that aside, JM and I grabbed a quick nap and read in the bus. We arrived at Qiaotou at 2pm, where JM almost broke into a fight with a few Chinese men. They were insisting that we pay the entrance fee to enter Tiger Leaping Gorge (60Y normal/32.50Y for students) before we even set our heavy backpacks down. Jean-mi got fired up because they were basically forcing us to pay for walking up a road. He insisted that we were going to pay AFTER setting our bags down at Jane’s hostel, but they pushed and heckled us…to the point where I was scared someone would throw a punch. I just awkwardly laughed and played good cop all the while…apologizing for his behavior. We settle into Jane’s Guesthouse and decide against staying there – it was only 3pm. We decide to set off at 4pm since we could leave our heavy backpacks here for 5Y.

 

The police turned up at Jane’s at around 3.30 – they were extremely sweet and slightly awkward. They just took my passport details (for records’ sake, I suppose) and told us to be happy. And the ticket men came along to force us to buy them – which we were obviously going to do.

 

After a lot of faffing about on my part (forgot my book, forgot my shorts, need to put sunscreen, got a blister, taking a picture, drinking water) we started to set off.

 

The initial roads are dusty and wide, with vehicles frequently passing a sandstorm into our faces. The landscape; incredible. Who knew China was such a beauty? China – known for its brash people and smelly, oily food … has been replaced in my head with all the wonders of nature smashed into one panorama. On our left we have a white summit, layered with green hills, dipping down to a turquoise river, and then growing with a sage green of rice paddies. HOW?

 

We started to hike up an extremely steep mountain – and we were convinced it was the alleged ’28 turns’ where it feels like a neverending winding path. That certainly felt like it…we were struggling for breath. But, that would mean we would have already reached our Naxi Guesthouse…confused, we decided to head on.

 

Turns out, of course, that that was just the entrance into the Upper Trail. Shit. That was tough. 2 hours of hiking later, with frequent stops to take in our surroundings, we arrive at Naxi Guesthouse. It’s a gorgeously little courtyard, and we get a private double room for 120Y.


Dinner down, going to enjoy it now!