Travelling is all fun but it comes with its fair share of drama and headaches 🙇. I never thought I’d ever be detained, but well, we spent hours in a tiny room at the Singapore-Malaysia border unsure of what exactly it was we had done.
With picturesque sea-kissed mountains, that make you feel like you are approaching Dragonstone, an ocean so blue and vast it will remind you of the Caribbean, an endless array of stunning mountain scenery that disappears perfectly into the horizon, with fauna and flora so extensive and diverse, you’ll want to go back to varsity and register for a Degree in Botany & Zoology and a drive so scenic you’ll want to make a U-turn, so you can experience it all over again, there’s no way you won’t fall madly in love with Cape Point!
Oh what a feeling, walking on the ceiling!
Phuket is loads of fun (Although in all of Thailand, I found it the least enjoyable), but after about the 4th day or so you kinda start getting bored. Then you know it’s time to leave the beaches and head into town for some fun and adventure.
I like a challenge, so the more reviews on TripAdvisor said the climb up Dune 7 was not easy, the more I wanted to do it! Three days into our Walvis Bay trip, we decided to brave the climb. I’ve always been intrigued by deserts hence my choice of Namibia as a holiday destination. Dune 7 is the highest sand dune in the Namib desert and one of the highest in the world.
So I recently went on the MSC Sinfonia for a 3 night, 4 day cruise from Durban to Cape Town. Meaning we left Cape Town, went to Durban just so we could come back to Cape Town. Sounds silly when people say it out loud but it was hella fun! Imagine endless food, entertainment around the clock, heated pools, jacuzzis, standing on a deck looking at endless stretches of water aah the life! And when you tired of it all, you can lie back on a sun bed and have a waiter bring you a virgin strawberry dauquiri. Heaven.
We arrived in Chiang Mai around 10 am on the overnight train from Bangkok. The train had been very clean and comfortable, the berths and bedding were large enough and clean enough.
We woke up well rested. From Chiang Mai station to Chiang Mai Inn (Our little inn) we walked, Lovemore thought we should take a cab but I thought we should walk so we walked. I kinda underestimated the distance (totally my fault) and we ended up walking about 5 km. But it was all good because we are used to walking long distances and we were not in a hurry plus it counted as sightseeing.
The inn was decent enough except for the shower pressure! The water trickled at a painfully slow rate making it a total nightmare to take a shower!
We spent the day sightseeing, we’d seen more than enough temples in Bangkok but we visited some more anyway. We walked to the river, to the gate, around the town and just took everything in at a chilled pace.
Chiang Mai, the city, is not that big and it’s not that busy, plus it’s super cheap, the cheapest part of Thailand we went to. It’s quaint and not buzzing with tourists and for once we could walk around without someone trying to sell us something! It was a breath of fresh air.
Chiang Mai Night Market
So Thailand is full of all types of markets! Day markets, night markets, weekend markets, you name it! They are everywhere and contrary to what tourists think, they are not cheap (by Thailand standards). They are targeted at tourists so why would they be cheap? But of course compared to South African and Zimbabwean shops they are stupid cheap, besides, it’s fun to just shop around for everything you want (and don’t want) under one roof.
On our first evening we walked to the night market. We first had pizza from pizza hut and although it translated to like R300 we didn’t care, our stomachs needed a break from all the spices and rice.
That pizza must be the best I ever had!
We didn’t buy anything on that night, we just observed and looked for things to buy on our last day and watched how negotiating is done. The market is quote large, theres the outside section with stalls on the side of roads and as you walk further in, you enter a large building with many stalls inside. On the side of Pizza hut, there’s a food market with many vendors selling all kinds of foods amd there was a live band playing. We learnt a few things from walking around and talking to people.
1. In Thailand, avoid buying wooden and ceramic souvenirs (very popular in Chiang Mai market), they will cost you quite a bit and then crack when you get back to Africa due to the temperature and humidity changes.
2. Don’t buy your things the first time you go there (except if you pressed for time), first go and get a feel of the market and see how negotiating works. Then return another day and haggle like a pro.
3. All the labels you’ll find there are fake. No matter how good they look, they are still fake. Surely you don’t expect to buy a Louis Vuitton for R400 or a Rolex for R500, do you?
4. Only in Thailand can you buy a very good fake Louis Vuiton or a Rolex, with a cop standing next to you. It’s totally legal and some vendors will tell you ‘it’s fake, but genuine’ but most will lie and tell you it’s the real deal. So if you don’t know what sets the real deal apart from an imitation, you could fall for the trap.
It’s interesting to watch people negotiating and buying things they probably don’t need. We left for our inn around midnight and walked all the way. It’s totally safe.
We booked a 2 day, 1 night trekking tour with Trek Chiang Mai. We were picked up at 9 am in a Thai-type taxi and joined 5 other people; 2 from Denmark, 2 from Ireland, 1 from Egypt.
We drove for like 2 hours out of town seeing nothing but large trees.
First stop was the Orchids and butterfly farm. It was beautiful but I’m not really a fan of butterflies. They look good but that’s just about it. So we just took silly pictures to pass the time.
We then drove for like 30 minutes to the local market at Shan village, a thai ethnic group. We bought snacks and debated on whether we should buy roasted scorpions or not.
After a while of looking around at the fascinating goods on sale, we drove off to an elephant camp where we had lunch of noodles with chicken and vegetables.
Then after lunch, the real fun began. We went elephant riding, I shared my elephant with Lovemore. After a nice slow ride through the river and into the forest, we returned and bathed our elephant, laughing as it sprayed water on us with its trunk, then we fed the elephant and thanked it for a good ride. I think me and elephant really bonded, I need to go back and visit him.
It was sad to leave Elephant behind but we had a lot of hiking to do.
The sun was scorching hot or maybe it was just me heating up from all the hiking. We hiked for like 1 hour 30 minutes. I was so tired and my small back pack felt like it had bricks inside, Lovemore had to put it in his back pack and carry it.
Mental Note: Playing with elephants before a hike is bad, it drains you!
We made a stop at a waterfall where we soaked into the water. I just took off my shoes and got in with my shorts and tshirt, I didn’t have the energy to disrobe (Had a swim suit underneath). The sun was burning anyway so I knew I’d dry as soon as I got out. Boy was I wrong!
Then there was more hiking, steeper this time, and my clothes were not drying and they felt so heavy, just dragging me down. I just soldiered on and our friendly guide, Tom, who’d become my bff, kept waiting for me. Tom didn’t look like he had walked a metre! He wasn’t sweating! He was wearing flip flops! He wasn’t breathing like he’d drop down dead any minute like the rest of us! He just walked as if on flat ground!!! Just before sunset we made it to the top of the mountain, to the Lahu village. We were shown to our lodgings and we dumped our back packs and went to watch the sunset, all tiredness forgotten.
This place was so serene. No network, no electricity, no stress, just nature, beautiful nature. We walked around the village greeting the locals who didn’t understand a word we said but smiled at us anyway.
We had candle lit dinner of egg fried rice with an option of chicken or tofu and lots of vegetables and a drink of our choice. Our guide cooked really good.
We then all sat around a bon fire under the stars answering questions about Africa. The way I spoke about how great and magnificent Africa was (the Egyptian backed me) you’d swear I was trying to sell Africa to the Europeans! We spoke late into the night and decided to go to bed way after midnight. We played with a flash light and the go pro, taking silly pictures as usual.
The sleeping arrangement was hostel/domitory style. It was just a pick a bed (extra thin mattress), make the bed, let down the mosquito net and sleep. The beds and blankets were Asian size so Lovemore had 2 choices, either to fold himself to fit or to sleep with his legs dangling and he wasn’t happy with either choice.
We woke up to a breakfast of bread and eggs. Then we just brushed our teeth and were off. We took a different path down and after about 2 hours of walking we came to a large, beautiful waterfall flowing down into a river.
We all bathed (if we can call standing under a stream of water bathing), we spent sometime at the waterfall with some people swimming, some ‘bathing’ and me chatting with my bff, the guide. Then we descended a further 30 minutes, coming down to a camp of sorts. We did whitewater rafting for like 45 minutes (now that was fun!). Then we did bamboo rafting for another 45 minutes. With bamboo rafting you sleep on bamboo sticks and someone rows you around the water. Lovemore and I shared a bamboo float and we just lay back and talked about how coming to Thailand was such a great idea. It was so serene with an occasional ‘Sawasdee’ from someone on the river bank or an elephant trumpeting from a distance. Pure bliss.
Then it was lunch time. We had chicken fried noodles, rested a bit then we were off back to town. 30 minutes into the ride home, 2 of the guys started complaining about nausea and stomach cramps but we just said they were tired and they would be fine. By the time we got to Chiang Mai (around 17h30) everyone was sick except Lovemore, Ahmad (the Egyptian) and myself. We got to our Inn and rook an hour long nap and got up to an email from Ahmad saying he too had fallen sick. That’s when I got worried but we felt just fine so we went to the night market to get food and to buy everything we had spotted on our first night as we would leave the next evening. My favourite things that I bought were my cat-bag and my elephant cup.
I bought a couple of things I didn’t really need as well like boobs-shaped soaps which I thought were funny at the time until they started melting the next day and had to throw them away with Lovemore laughing at me.
We went back to our inn early that evening, around 10 pm, to pack. We got to our room and i just felt light headed. Then that’s when I too fell sick. I thought I was dying because the pain just rushed in attacking me from all angles. My stomach cramped so bad, my joints felt weak, my head was pounding, I wanted to throw up but couldn’t, the nausea was killing me, my throat felt so dry. I just felt terrible. Food poisoning is horrible! I self medicated being careful not to overdose, drank a cartoon of milk, drank a rehydrant and then lay on the bed groaning in agony for hours and drinking water till I fell asleep around 3 am.
What do you know! Miracles do happen. I woke up at 7 the next morning feeling as good as rain!
We had a cooking class scheduled and they picked us up at 9. I felt a bit tired but the pain was gone. I just made sure to stay well hydrated.
We spent the rest of the day learning to make Thai dishes and eating them, dessert was my personal favourite. I made black sticky rice and Lovemore made sticky mango rice and I ate both.
Coconut must be the staple food of Thailand. They use it everything!
After class, around 4 pm, we were dropped off at the train station and waited for our 6 pm train. It was already there, so we boarded and just chilled.
I’d spent the whole day waiting for my food poisoning to return but thankfully it never did. Lovemore was the only member of our trekking group that survived the food poisoning!
Of all the places we visited in Thailand, Chiang Mai was the most authentic and the cheapest. For a true Thai feel, go up to Chiang Mai.
1. Book your train in advance especially in peak season.
2. If you going to trek, make sure it’s not the first time you’ve ever hiked and have a good pair of shoes. Unless you are Tom, our guide, flip flops won’t cut it.
3. If your stomach is oversensitive you might want to carry your own dried food. It might make your backpack heavier but I guess it’s better than risking falling sick
4. There isn’t much to see on top of the mountains, for an African it’s just like going to the rural areas so don’t expect much. But the trip there is worth it.
5. If you not into elephants, water rafting, canoeing, butterflies and hiking then skip the trekking.
6. Unlike hiking up Mount Everest, you don’t get a porter, so keep your back pack light. Leave your big bag in the hotel. Pay for the extra night even though you won’t be there, so you can leave your luggage.
7. There a left luggage room at Chiang Mai train station if you want to leave your bags and wonder around while waiting for your train.
8. If you decide to go trekking, wear a swim suit underneath so you can just take off your clothes when you get to waterfalls.
9. Have fun! Be happy! Do as much as you can and see as much as you can! Just have fun.
I will forever cherish the Bahamas because that’s where the next chapter of my life began. That’s where my sun-and-stars got down on 1 knee and proposed. That’s where the white gold ring with the sparkling diamond and pink gold ribbons married my finger till death or amputation do them apart. That’s where it all began. Birthmark.
We sailed to the Bahamas aboard the Norwegian Sky from Miami, Florida. I’ll skip the cruise part for another post and just talk about the Bahamas, Nassau to be precise.
We docked at Nassau port and excitedly scurried off the cruise liner. I know it’s not fair for me to judge the whole island based on a cruise stopover but you know what they say about first impressions!
There were many massive cruise liner in the turquoise waters. We stopped for pictures and then we were off to explore ‘The Bahamas’.
After like 50 m we came to the ‘gateway’ and I couldn’t believe my eyes! I thought to myself ‘Is this it?’. It looked old and battered, the buildings looked like they could use some real TLC, there were people everywhere trying to sell you things you don’t need, there were cab drivers trying to take you to all these supposedly nice places! It was chaos. It was totally run down! This couldn’t be the Bahamas! I was confused, that’s not what the pictures said 😦 .
Maybe it’s only bad here, you know how Chris Brown said ‘It could get ugly before it gets beautiful’ maybe if we walk further in, this frog would turn into a prince. No, there was no prince to be found around the port, just more indoor and street markets selling the same ol’ stuff. It reminded me of Small Street in Johannesburg.
I was wearing my Zulu beads and people came up with all sorts of assumptions about their meaning. (Is asking that hard?) Trying to comment on them in the hope of enticing me to buy somethings from them and ignorantly insulting me in the process. And the one stupid guy who asked where we were from and I said ‘Zimbabwe’ and had to explain (yes it’s a country, next to South Africa, no we not dying of poverty idiot and no I don’t know Jimmy from Nigeria, no these beads are not from the Masai tribe! What do you mean how did we get here??). Then after pointing out that Africa was actually a continent with 54 countries and over 3000 tribes, and that we didn’t all know each other, we moved on. Came across a nice soldier and we had a great chat.
Ok, we decided, let’s take a cab and get out of here. We haggled down the obviously overpriced taxi fare and settled to pay $12 ($6 pp) for the trip to Paradise Island. It was just like a kilometre away! And they’d made us pay $12! Talk about daylight robbery! We passed a toll gate and entered a whole new world! A more Bahamas-like Bahamas. This was more like it. I approved. Even the air smelled different, fresher! How such contradicting world’s could be just a kilometre apart beats me but again I live in Cape Town I should understand.
We decided a trip to the Caribbean would be incomplete without rum. So we tried everything rum, from rum cake to rum chocolate to rum rum. Captain Jack Sparrow would have been so proud or upset that we finished the rum!
And what do you know! The Bahamas is beautiful after all. Atlantis on Paradise Island was fit for the god of sea! Poseidon must have really taken his time creating it! It was picture perfect complete with sugar sand beaches, turquoise waters, a stunning aquarium, a casino and a water park [We didn’t have time to enjoy the water park (negative), but now we have an excuse to go back (positive)].
As a day visitor you have to purchase a day-pass. The pass that allows you access to almost everything cost $135 pp (R1800) which is a bit steep and access excluding the water park was $69 pp (R880).
After you done with Atlantis (not that you can ever be done, but you need to leave at some point) you exit to a yatch filled area and cute but overpriced shops.
Going back, we decided to walk now that we knew where we were going. We walked over a bridge looking far into nothingness on the left and into ships on the right.
As we approached our destination we walked past what seemed like deserted buildings and closed down shops. There were not many people in sight and we just wandered around off the beaten path.
Later back in our cabin on the boat, we found a note that had been left by the cleaning staff. It was a WARNING that Nassau was listed as a ‘High crime zone by the US govenment’ following numerous attacks of all kinds on tourists. The warning strongly advised against walking around the island alone. And we had done just that! Thankfully nothing had happened to us, probably because we looked like the locals 🙂
I still can’t get over how under developed some parts of the Bahamas are though! I’ll gladly go to the Bahamas again and stay longer to really get to know it, a day wasn’t quite enough. Maybe next time we will even hop on a carriage for a sight seeing tour.
Then it was back on the boat for me and my muggle with Cuban cigars and turquoise waters in the back drop and blue skies with feathery clouds above and jacuzzis and endless parties.