Category Archives: Travel

Travel experiences, tips, tricks, hacks, your mileage may vary…

FB Black & White 5 Day Challenge: Day 3 Hong Kong Kowloon Hallway

5D CHALLENGE HK Kowloon apt hallway BW_

Here is Day 3 of the Black & White Challenge!

I lived many places during my Sabbatical, and this is the hallway of one of them.  I was finding it challenging finding a place to stay in Hong Kong, and tried out Couch Surfing.

I stayed with a very generous and wonderful woman.  She shared the flat with her young daughter, and a German fellow, that had been in China for a long time, and was renting sleeping space.  The space was so tiny, even including the toilet and kitchen areas, that the generosity of allowing me the sofa made me feel a powerful gratitude.  The sofa was half my length, but gratitude made it a wonderful two nights sleep.

 

Friendships made while Surfing Couches and flying from Singapore to Hong Kong

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Often people ask if I’m traveling to find myself. I, happily, really like who I am. I also know who I am. It is because I know myself that I choose, or perhaps feel driven to travel.

I absolutely love the people in my life, and my home. I also deeply love experiencing other ways of life and making new friends when I travel.

Traveling for an extended time is an amazing experience, and challenging, too. Unless you are in a single place for at least a month or so, it is hard to make new friendships, and not to be looked through by shop keepers. Even when you are quite comfortable with your own company, it can occasionally be a bit lonely.

So far, I’ve used AirBnB for most of my lodging. The idea is that people rent out a room in their home or entire flat, and thus have some cultural exchange. Many times it has been a wonderful experience. A few of the times the rentals were run by a rental company, and not very personal. I don’t enjoy those as much. As I was planning Singapore and Hong Kong, most were agencies or hostels, not homey. So, I tried something different.

I just experienced Couchsurfing for the first time.

Couchsurfing is a online board that people can use to find travelers to Host or Couches to Surf. There is no expectation of payment, just cultural exchange, help around the house, or maybe a small souvenir from the Surfer’s home. Or even just conversation.

The process is like this:

  1. Go to Couchsurfing.com and create a profile.
  2. Start a search on where you want to visit, and look through the Host profiles, and see what is a good match. See if your interests mesh, do they have something to share that would be meaningful to you? Do you have something to offer to teach, learn, share with them?
  3. When you find a Host that looks good, send a CouchRequest to them and see if they offer to Host you.

There are all kinds of people in the world, and it is the same in the Couchsurfing world, too.

My first Couchsurfing experience was great! Weizhen, my Host in Singapore is a great person, and we had wonderful conversation about Massage Therapy, which I practice, and Traditional Chinese Medicine, which she is practices. She picked me up from the metro stop and we went to dinner. She asked what I liked, and chose the place, and I treated. I think she was planning on treating, but I beat her to the register.

After dinner and great conversation, she took me to her clinic, where I slept in the treatment room on a massage table. I’ve slept many a time on my own table, and on more uncomfortable beds, so I slept well.

She returned the next morning, and when she found out that I was having some, shall we say, “abdominal discomfort of the travelers variety”, she gave me a consult and prescription of Chinese herbal medicine. THEN, she said when I return to Singapore in a couple if weeks, return to her and she will provide a treatment for another issue (was also diagnosed by a TCM practitioner in NH, USA).

As I write this, I’m flying from Singapore to Hong Kong. I “kind of” have a second Couchsurfing spot lined up. My next Host’s English is loads better than my Chinese, but seeing as I only know how to say “Hello” and “Thank you”, that isn’t saying much.

My seat mate is a woman from Singapore named Lillian. We are having wonderful conversations, and she has been brainstorming on possible options for who she knows who could host me. Her thoughts are so generous! She insisted on buying me a muffin and coffee! If our schedules allow, we may meet for coffee while she is in Hong Kong, and she offered to take me to dinner when I return to Singapore.

A day or so ago, I was feeling not so good, and like a stranger every where I went. (Cuz I am – LOL). I thought hard about what I wanted from my experience, and wished to find warmth of spirit and to feel cared for, and like magic, I was gifted with these people.

My first day walking around Siem Reap

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My first day I spent walking around, getting the layout of the land. My goal was to find food and the Old Market.

Traffic here is mostly bikes, mopeds, and tuktuks. “Laadyy, tuktuk?” Is something I’m hearing so often, I’ll hear it in my dreams. I mostly walk, as long as I have water and sun cover, like a hat or umbrella. I can mosey at my speed and get photos along the way.

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Here are some small children on the side of the road.

Before I got to the market, I stopped for second breakfast. The first breakfast was much earlier in the day.

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Khmer Noodle Soup

Once I slurped down some noodles, I found my way to the market. Loads of t-shirts and touristy things on the outskirts, but a more local style market in the center.

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Some kind of juicing contraption, and coconuts.

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MEAT!!!

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A butcher girl.

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View down a market alley to the outside.

Dinner that night was some nice veggie soup.

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Khmer food adventure after a day spent in seclusion.

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Shhhhh!!! Don’t tell my NH Bed that I nearly wrote poetry to my Khmer Bed. The sweet comfy bed, AC, and decent wifi kept me indoors most of the day. By about 7pm I was getting hungry and I read about the “BBQ place around the corner”. People know where it is but not the name. It is huge, and quite local.

I found it, but at first I thought it was a garage. Lol. I managed to communicate that I wanted to sit down and order food. It seemed like they were a bit shocked to see me, and weren’t sure of what to make of me. I was the only westerner there, that was for sure.

No one spoke English except for the word “beer”. I went for a small Angkor Stout. They realized I wasn’t going to be a big drinker, and gave me a younger waitress.

I am deeply grateful that the menu was translated to English and had pictures. There were many wondrous dishes, like Beef Gender with Fire Ant Sauce (yes, it is probably what you think), grilled frogs (which are supposed to be best during rainy season- I may try them), and “The Vilest Parts of a Bovine Creature cooked in its stomach” (I paraphrased that dish – you are welcome).

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I went with the grilled beef and veggies with sauce. The meal came and was presented on several plates, trays and bowls. I started picking and eating away, when a nice waitress stopped by my table suddenly and shook her head, grabbed another pair of chopsticks and showed me how to eat the dish. I was supposed to mix a few of the things together in the sauce, dip the meat in it, grab some of the raw veggies THEN eat it. Laughter translates well. It wa a good meal for $4.50.

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My last day in Bangkok, and arriving in Siem Reap, Cambodia

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I left my lodgings around 10am, totally sure I could get to Wat Po, enjoy a massage, and get back to my place with plenty of time to take a refreshing shower and make my way in a relaxed manner to the airport.

I got everything done except the relaxed and plenty of time parts.

Things don’t look so far apart on the map, and theoretically you can get there from here. Just not quickly, or easily. Each train and boat are run by different companies, & use a different tickets. I got there fine, though, it took a bit longer than I expected.

I was determined to get that massage.

I had to take two trains and a boat there. I had to take the same back, but in reverse. Except, as a result of being over tired, over heated, thinking that I had to rush, I misread the sign, and got off the freakin boat too early. Right about then the effects of the massage wore off. At that point I was just praying to get back in time to hose off, and get to the airport in time.

It was a mad scramble to get myself out the door. I contacted my host via LINE, an app that is like Viber and a bit better than Whatsapp. Sadly, one of his dogs, thy was in the Vet hospital, finally passed away. I felt so bad that I couldn’t talk more with him!

The best part of my dash to the airport was I only had to take one train. Oh, and once I got to the right station, I was worried about finding the right bus, but a nice traffic officer, who was managing the rush hour busses, told me I was in the right spot for the A1 airport “express” bus. Traffic was awful! LOL. I got to the airport JUST in time. AirAsia’s check in area is not well signed, so I asked a fellow at one of the desks if I was in the right place, and his eyes got big and looked at his watch – I got there 1.5hrs before the flight. He and a co worker rushed me through.

The coworker gave me a mild panic attack – he kept asking for my visa paperwork. He couldn’t give me my boarding pass without it. I had no idea what he was talking about, since I was planning on doing the Visa on Arrival – the only “paperwork” I had was the $20USD for the visa in Cambodia. I was sure I was going to miss my flight, but the other associate said, “OH, Cambodia”, the agent was thinking I was going to China. Whew!!!! THEN, as I put the pack on the scale, I brushed against the tape that the security guard slapped on it on the way to the check in desk. It had to be scanned again. Thought I was going to shed a panic tear. The checkin agents said not to worry, that they would take care of it. I was really praying my bag would make it to my destination with me!!! Asia’s low cost airlines are much more strict on carry on weight – only 7kgs. My pack is less than 17kgs, I don’t think I could sneak it past. Plus, I have a supply of sunscreen and bug repellant.

After that things got much easier. Security was fast, and I had just enough time to hit the loo, grab a sandwich, and change 3000 BHT into about $97. I hate changing cash, but I knew I’d need it in Cambodia.

The flight was quick, and I forgot that I had ordered a meal. I’m still glad I got the sandwich, because the AirAsia meal was less than “meh”.

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Once my flight arrived, and I made my way to the Visa area there was quite a line, but it did really move quickly. I had a moment of concern when I saw the people around me take out their extra passport photos, but the Visa agent just charged me $1 extra, and it was no problem. Then you just wait in a group, and once your passport is done, they call your name, hand you your passport, and you are good to go – 30 days for a Tourist visa.

Once I grabbed my bags, I made my way to find my driver. I’m staying at Seven Candles Guesthouse, and they sent a driver to pick me up for free – so awesome!

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