Travel Blog 14; SE Asia Worst & Best Part 2

Alright! Now that we’ve got the negative points out of the way we can start to focus on the real fun stuff; the best things to do and see in SE Asia.

Now I must ask you to keep in mind that unfortunately I did not get a chance to experience Vietnam, Myanmar or Borneo (ones for the future) and that, again, this list is purely subjective. All of the items listed are in no particular order and I haven’t reserved one spot for each country as I feel that some countries were more deserving of more spots than others. It was a little tough to narrow it down to the final six and I had to make a few cuts here and there that I’m sure were achene to a Father having to cut his kid from the soccer team because, and although the wife will never forgive him for it, the kid just sucks! Not completely sure though as I don’t currently own a soccer team or a kid but you get what I mean when I say it was tough!

So here we go with Tha Bozz’s personal list of the six best things to do/see/experience in SE Asia. Why six? Because I have way too much time on my hands being stuck in this airport for five but seven would take me over my word count.

The Elephant Jungle Sanctuary, Chiang Mai, Thailand – Its a day of hanging out with Elephants; what’s not to like right!? Now please be aware that there are a number of legit and not-so-legit equivalents of this dotted around Thailand and the rest of Asia for that matter. However this day with the majestic, big nosed beasts (that eat and s*it like there’s no tomorrow by the way) featured no riding, or ‘ridding’ as its referred to on many flyers but this isn’t a spelling bee, no painting, the Elephants were never tied, chained or forced to go anywhere or do anything that they didn’t want to at any point.

Whilst there you get to feed, bathe, walk with and, if there up for it, have a good old fashioned cuddle and a heart to heart with some of these amazing animals. I had a heart to heart with Stevie the Elephant about this girl I liked and he told me to relax and just be myself. Don’t get me wrong she dumped me the next day but at least we both knew where we stood.

Truthfully; this isn’t the cheapest attraction in town but as a truly unique, ethical and above all else fun day out I’d highly recommend it. Follow the link for info https://www.elephantnaturepark.org/.

Yi Peng Lantern Festival, Chiang Mai, Thailand –  Its another one for Thailand and although this one is time of year specific I’d highly recommend catching it if you can. Granted the Lantern Fest isn’t as mental as Songkran (which I’m gutted that I didn’t get to experience personally but I’ve heard…) but the sight of so many people coming together to set off their lanterns at the same time and then seeing them literally coat the sky needs to be seen to be believed.

Now I’m not a superstitious person and I don’t believe that the lantern that me and my friends set off (complete with Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney and Sting quotes) is going to grant us good luck, help us win the lottery or get JLo to return my calls (don’t ask how I got the digits). However their is something oddly majestic, peaceful and uplifting about the whole scene and I’d personally recommend it over a p*ss up in the Old City. Or you can just go and have the p*ss up afterwards like I did and that would be good as well. More info including dates etc can be found here http://www.thaizer.com/festivals/yi-peng-lantern-festival-chiang-mai/.

 Boat Party, Anywhere in SE Asia that does them! – Okay; here comes the part where I feel like an uncultured British swine who only goes off on his holidays for a fore mentioned p*ss-up but it could be worse, I considered putting Khao San Road on the list…

Though on as serious a note as one can write when discussing such a subject the boat party that I attended in Siem Reap, Cambodia was epic! Rather hilariously it was advertised as a ‘Cultural Booze Cruise’. Truthfully the things in question exist together in about as much harmony as a full Bathtub and a plugged in Toaster but we did go through a few Floating Villages, got to hang out with some Crocodiles and took a dip inside as well. Not with the Crocodiles though; that’d be f*cking crazy.

Yes there was alcohol, excessive amounts of it in fact. We played drinking games, blasted loud music, enjoyed a gorgeous sunset and by God had an awesome time. Plus these events are a great way to meet people, make friends and then tell them about your near-escapades with a Transgender person in Bangkok…Not making that up folks, no reason to do so…

The party I went to was organised through Mad Monkey and you can get more info here if this sought of thing floats your boat…Sorry. http://www.madmonkeyhostels.com/

Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum & Killing Fields, Phnom Penh, Cambodia – Now this one doesn’t have a light-hearted tone surrounding it unfortunately. I’m sure many readers are familiar with the events that took place in Cambodia in the mid to late 1970’s and many people who are still with us are haunted by the memories.

The truth be told, and without going into too much detail, the Museum and the Fields are not easy going and leave little detail unexplained. Literally everybody present was either crying real tears or was damn close (myself included) and its for this reason that I would recommend making yourself experience these two sites. The fact that the events that took place in this lovely country happened relatively recently and the fact that despite these horrors the country still remains so welcoming and upbeat is a true credit to the people that live there.

I’m not generally one to put myself through too much heartache but in my personal opinion this is a massively important piece of history that you owe it to yourselves and the people affected by the events that proceeded it to visit and get to know the details of. They are truly shocking. More info can be found here as I would recommend a basic understanding before visiting to give yourself an idea of what it is that your going to see http://www.killingfieldsmuseum.com/.

The Borobudur Temple, Java, Indonesia – Well there was no way that I was missing this when in Java. If I’m honest the journey to get there consisting of a bumpier than bumpy bus ride and 4 human beings climbing into a wheelbarrow attached to a car less than the size of the average car boot was as much of a highlight as anything. All in p*ssing rain as well.

Once we arrived the real fun kicked in when we realised what a money-making opportunity we’d missed out on when every kid and their parents wanted a photo. Seriously, we couldn’t take two steps without it. I’ve never experienced anything like it in my life. I had been asked the odd time in Cambodia and Fiji in the past but nothing to this extent. Honestly though; it was a blast. The people were so polite, chatty and kind that it felt more like a privilege than anything else. Many groups of kids learning English were asking to interview us for school projects as well; I swear to God if I ever have a daughter who’s half as cute and charming as some of those kids then I’m getting a gun and she’s not going out without a chaperone.

Oh and The Borobudur? Yes its cool and looks amazing up close but honestly it wasn’t the highlight of this very special day. Indonesians are great it must be said…

Eat, Eat, Drink, Drink!, All over the Place – It goes without saying that the food in SE Asia is phenomenal and as a self-confessed foody myself this for me is a particular highlight. The noodles, the rice, the chicken, the beef, the pork, the eggs, the fruit I could go on forever!

If I absolutely had to pick a favourite country in this department I THINK I would have to go with Thailand but its a close one and it changes by the day.

Whether its the small restaurants or the street food its never expensive unless you really want it to be and its never unsatisfying, again, unless you really want it to be. I would actually make a habit of ordering something I’d never eaten at least once a day or sometimes something that was literally written in the local language because I was that confident that it would rock my world. Just as a side note though; some of it might also rock your belly the first time you try it so take it slow and no your levels as things can get insane, as I learnt the hard way once or twice.

There you have it folks my completely un-definitive guide. Well, no actually, its just a list of some cool s*it that I’d recommend doing whilst in SE Asia. There’s loads of other stuff that I did and didn’t do that is equally awesome. In all honesty the best experiences are often the smallest and most inconspicuous anyway; jumping out of moving Buses, sneaking into 5 star Hotels, snorkelling in the Sea, pulling all-nighters on party roads and just meeting awesome people and having a laugh and a good time with them.

I’m still at the airport and I still kind of miss SE Asia but I’m optimistic about Australia and I’m sure there’s more good times ahead. Shame that I’ll have to get a job though!…

I’m Tha Bozz and that’s my opinion.

Travel Blog 5; Bashing the Bucket List

The other day as I stood in the kitchen area of my current workplace with my head in the clouds wondering if my human rights were being violated I suddenly got to thinking about something else; my bucket list. I have a theory that whether or not they realise it or not most people have a bucket list. A list of goals to accomplish or things to do that exist either subliminally or in plain sight in a persons mind. These goals or things to do can range from anything from a marathon to the hot Brazilian chick who works in your office but make no mistake about it, when one of these things gets ticked off the feeling of pride and satisfaction is undeniable!

How do I know this? Because I’m a very lucky boy that’s how! Travelling, fun as it very often is, is not always an easy way of living and being the ‘Pommy C*nt’ that I am I do like a good vent every now and then. As a Brit its practically my civic duty. However, I am still very much aware of my fortunes in life which are plentiful and I should be grateful. This could not be better illustrated by the fact that in the last month I have been able to tick four items off my personal bucket list and have more in the pipeline. See, there was a reason for that off-beat opening after all.

The first of these was an act that in this day and age is referred to as an Extreme Sport and around 8 decades ago was referred to as an act of Extreme…Suicide, how things change. I am of course referring to Bungee Jumping. Despite my phobia of heights along with my phobia of recklessly leaping from them I’ve always fancied the idea of a bungee jump, mainly because of these very real and very rational fears, the mind truly is a strange thing. There’s something exhilarating about facing such a fear and the feeling of dread before and the feeling of satisfaction afterwards did not disappoint! I woke up on the morning of the jump to the sound of heavy rain outside and the kind of nerves usually reserved for any poor sod unfortunate enough to step into the ring with Mike Tyson in the 80’s. The pre-jump proceedings didn’t help either; making us sign a paper stating that we understand that this activity does carry the risk of death was not an ideal confidence booster and having to stand on a scale revealing to the whole room how many extra digits my new beer-gut has added to my girth wasn’t either.  When it came to the actual jump my legs turned to jelly and every rational thought in my mind led to the same conclusion; “Bad idea buddy, do not jump!”. Luckily the guy in-charge of setting up my equipment knew the buttons to press and after uttering the completely irrational response of “I don’t know how!” when told to “Just Jump!” he asked me what I would tell everyone back in Wales if I ‘B*tched out?’…I jumped, I screamed, I serenaded the canyons of Queenstown with some of the worst profanity they’ve likely ever heard and then went back home and drank some beer. It was an awesome day and the fact we got the jump for half price made it all the sweeter!

The second item ticked off the list may not carry the same extreme implications as the above, although it did at one point involve me singing and kissing a cross-dressing scouser, but it holds a special place in my heart all the same. My 26th birthday was the first that I have ever spent outside of Wales and although I’ve always wanted to spend a birthday outside of the UK the thought of it was a little daunting. When travelling things like Christmas and birthdays tend to take a back seat in my mind as I have know idea where I’m going to be during them and even less idea of whether or not I’m going to have anyone to celebrate them with. During my 10 hour shift at my current job no mention was made of the fact that it was the 26th anniversary of the day I came shooting out of the womb ass-first (true story) and my Father responded to such a scene by rushing to the local chippy and returning with a large cod and cone to feed me as my first meal (again, true story). End of the day I never bought it up as it all seemed rather unimportant. However when I got back to the hostel I was greeted to a surprisingly tuneful rendition of ‘Happy Birthday’, a card signed by everybody staying there including Charlie/Garfield the hostel cat and we hit the town and got smashed; lovely! As a person who is more than aware of the fact that the world does not stand still every time a new grey hair appears on my egg-shaped head and that many people have jobs, financial commitments and just flat-out don’t know me that well, seeing so many people make the effort to come out and make my 26th a memorable one was a sight that really touched my heart and made me smile. The hangover and the 6am start the next day?…Not so much.

Coming in at number 3 is a personal bucket list item that I had no plans of ticking off in New Zealand. In fact I had pretty much desensitised myself to the idea that I wasn’t going to tick it off at all. Yet, low and behold whilst walking through Wellington City Centre I came across a flyer announcing a Hip-Hop festival taking place in Auckland this month and that its headline act would be Bone Thugs N Harmony aka my favourite Hip-Hop group in the history of ever. Years ago they cancelled a gig back in the UK a mere day before they were due to hit the stage due to visa issues so even comprehending that they were going to be in the same nation as me took a minute or two. Three minutes later I decided that hell would freeze over (something that currently seems quite possible with the weather in Queenstown!) before I let this hot ticket pass me by. Days later me and my Irish-Sister booked our tickets and weeks later were stood in the front row of the ASB Showground enjoying live music from the likes of DJ Quik, Mobb Deep, Twista and of course Bone Thugs N Harmony. Such names likely mean very little to many people but picking a more perfect bucket list for yours truly without resurrecting a certain rapper who’s name rhymes with ‘lumberjack’ would be a tall order. The fact that I shook hands with Quik, Twista and Layzie Bone, got a fairly respectable pop from a number of spectators (predominantly attractive females no less) on the opposite end of the stage for word-for-word rapping Regulate by Warren G and Nate Dogg along with many other classics during a DJ set and am able to remember the whole experience due to being completely sober throughout (I know, I can’t believe it either!) made the evening all the more special to me. The walk back to the bus stop in the closest thing to a tropical storm that Auckland has likely ever seen in nothing but a polo shirt and jeans may have seemed like a chore at the time but on hindsight I think it kind of made it better. All in all it was a weekend of great company and great music in a great city that I won’t be forgetting anytime soon.

Last but by no means least is a bucket list item that is sure to leave my dear old-man back in Blighty as green as the weed in Cali with envy and leaves me feeling cooler than the other side of the pillow. This June I will be heading to Dunedin with several friends to witness the mighty All Blacks (that’s the NZ Rugby team for anyone unfamiliar) take on the not-quite-as-mighty-but-still-pretty-mighty Wales and frankly I’m buzzing like a wasp on heat for it. The tickets are booked, the jerseys on the way and I’ll be taking a vow of silence 2 days prior to make sure my singing voice is at full strength for proceedings. Frankly I’m a realist so if we can keep the margin between us and them below double figures I’ll be over the moon and I’ll be out of the stratosphere if it doesn’t rain. Seeing Wales compete outside of Wales has been a massive dream of mine since the first time I saw them compete on home soil back in ’99 against Samoa. The less said about the final score the better but seeing Neil Jenkins break the current conversion record at the time was pretty special. So what better place to see them play again than in the ‘Land of the Long Grey Cloud’ and arguably the biggest Rugby nation in the world?

So that’s bungee jumps, birthdays, Bone Thugs and ball games all in the space of a handful of weeks. With talk of a skydive in the near future amongst other things I have a feeling that by the time NZ’s immigration police are gearing up to breakdown my door that my personal bucket list will already be looking a lot thinner that it did last year. Add-on the fact that I’ve finally settled into a great hostel in Queenstown, made some more great friends and am working next door to a curry house where you can get a ruby, a nan bread and a bottle of Pepsi for $15 and all-in-all life is pretty darn decent right now and I haven’t even touched Asian, Samoan or Australian soil yet…

I’m Tha Bozz and that’s my opinion.