Travelers… what are you doing?!

I might sound like a judgmental asshole and I am not sorry about it…

Looking at travelers (backpackers) just make me a bit “sad”. It seems like many of them traveling half way across the globe just to get drunk and shag? Wasted half of next day being tired, feeling sleepy (and sleeping), hangover, headache? A bit of sight seeing? A bit of shopping? Seriously…really?!!! You can do those shit back at home!!! I mean, yeah you did contribute to the economy of the country and the locals by spending money but what’s the contribution to yourselves? Is there anything you learn? Any valuable, priceless life-lesson experience? Any spiritual growth? I wonder…

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A drunk backpacker @ Perhentian Island, MY

Hats off to few of travelers that I met and befriended with that volunteer(ed) as a teacher (English & Mathematics), as an animal keeper (orangutan, elephant, ostrich, etc), as NGO staff (for saving kids from child prostitution, human trafficking, orphanages, etc). You guys rocks! Not only you guys helping those unfortunate but also I believe it open your eyes to be more a grateful and kind human being. Let’s do this again!!!

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Unfortunate kids working hard for the better tomorrow in Battambang, Cambodia

I am not any better but in years of traveling I don’t think I ever getting fucking drunk every single fucking night? I love sex, yes I do but I did not have sex every single fucking night. Hell yeah I love drugs too but I did not go around high and dry. LOL! And I am proud to tell (a story about me) that I saved a girl from a pedophile (in Siem Reap), helped enroll a prostitute back to school (in Chiang Mai), taught kids to grow sustainable plants and cook (in Battambang), educate young women on safe sex education in order to prevent STIs/AIDS (in Sihanoukville), and many more…

Stop being a drunkards kids! Help yourself by helping others. WHILE YOU CAN.

My Story : A Prostitute Named Sarah

2012. The first time when I was in Chiang Mai, I got kicked out (with Pablo, from Spain) from A Little Bird Hostel after 2 nights there because we smoked weed and made lots of noise pollution by strumming the guitar and singing during broad day light, at noon to be specific, and just 5 meters away from the grumpy receptionist at the reception area. LOL! Well, let’s not go there. That’s not what I want to babbling about here right now. I wanna talk about my experience with a then-prostitute named Leng during my second visit to Chiang Mai. Kindly put away all the dirty mind away from your brain because this life-story has got nothing to do with sex. Cheers!
I met Leng when me and another backpackers from my hostel visited Zoey Bar. It was crazy. There were so many prostitutes roaming around hunting for their preys which normally a white dudes a.k.a walking-ATM-machines. I just sat by the bar and people-watching. It was fun though. Some of them were lucky enough to get young, good looking guy. Some just have to satisfied with fat, bald, dirty-old-man. Some of the clients were sober but most are drunkards. Heh!!!
While busy people-watching, suddenly a young lady approached and say “Hi” to me. She is kinda pretty and sexy. And the conversations begun:-
Her: I no mood tonight. I don’t want to do business tonight. I hate it. Drink with me? I buy you drink, ok?
Me: Well, OK. Jagerbomb then.
(And then she ordered 4 fucking jagerbomb in Thai language from the bartender. 2 for her, 2 for me. Awesome)
Her: Are you from Hawaii?
Me: (Laughed out loud). No! No! From nowhere and my name is Anita. How about you?
Her: Leng. My name is Leng. But my business name is Sarah.
Me: Business name?
Her: Yeah. Dirty business. Selling my body. I’m a prostitute. Still want to talk to me?
Me: I am not in a position to judge anyone. We can talk, if you still want to talk.
Her: Thank you. I am just tired. Day time have to work, night time have to open my legs.
She looked really depressed. We talked a bit but the whole environment just wasn’t that right for a so-called serious conversation. The music was getting louder and the crowd getting bigger and insane. I asked her if she has to work tomorrow during day time ?  She said no. I gave her my number and ask her to meet me 2pm at McDonalds. She was so happy (I don’t know why?!), she hugged me and thanked me. Oh wow!
So I met her the next day, as promised. She wasn’t as sexy as last night. With loose straight-cut jeans, long-sleeves t-shirt, a pair of trainers and light make-up, I almost unable to recognize her until she smiles. We were having our McD lunch together and having a quite heavy conversation at the same time.
According to Leng, she have a good job, a decent job during day time. She work as a admin personal in a good office but her salary is not enough to feed her elderly mom and sick dad and she also have 5 younger brothers and sisters to feed. All of them still in school. She doesn’t want any of them to quit study to just because they pity her. She doesn’t want any of them to be like her. She believe in good education will helps to change the life of her family. She turned into prostitution 1 and a half year ago when one of her sibling been accepted into local university but the scholarship received was not enough.
Why prostitution? According to Leng, she could get another job as a cashier or bartender or waitress during night time but it gonna take lots of time (as she have to work in a office during day time, and she loves her decent career) and the pay was shit to cover 8 of them. She has tried and all she got is exhausted-ness. Meanwhile, being a prostitute, an educated English-speaking prostitute like her, she only have to spend 2-3 hours per night with her customers and receives quite a handsome amount of money (if accumulate those money) that not only able to feed the whole family with good meals but a bit of luxury such as TV, washing machine, bed, etc and most important, on-going treatment and medication for her parents.
Then I asked her, for how long she wanna be like that? She said “until no one wants me anymore” and I saw tears from her eyes. I asked her, if there is one thing she likes that she could swap with prostitution? “Tailoring! But I don’t know how to.” I asked her again, will she really going to stop prostituting if she know how to tailor? “Why not? It is a decent job, decent business. One day, I want to have a boyfriend, have a family. I don’t want my dark past to haunt me. I also want to be dependent and not cling on my husband all the time. Sharing responsibilities is good for making a good family”. I nod. Understood.
I asked her if there is any private tailor or dress-making school in Chiang Mai and she nod. We left McD and took a tuktuk to Ratchamanka Street to Uangdoi Design (a tailoring school). After listening to the explanation on the course of studies, duration of studies and  the fees, I did not think too much or too far. I asked her to sign-up and agree to pay for the whole course. Well, that time I was pretty loaded and have no financial problems at all, so for few hundreds bucks, it wasn’t even a big deal at all. She cried a lot when she signed up for the 12-months part-time (8 months for full time) course.
Kerrie Hess Pink Dress
Me: Promise me, save up money to buy a modern sewing machine and once you graduate, stop selling yourself. You are good girl. I have faith in you.
Leng: I promise! I promise! I will never let you down.
Me: Not me. I want you not to let yourself down. Have a fresh start in one year. You have to update me with your progress. You don’t have to pay me back. I don’t want that. When I visit you again someday, you have to make me a nice dress. Deal?
Leng: Deal! (She hugged me and cried, non-stop).
The reason why I write this story is because recently Leng sent me an email and her graduation picture (sorry, I couldn’t share it here as I want to protect her identity and I don’t want people to know her as a prostitute anymore) and told me that she going to start her tailoring business (at night) soon but will keep her day job. So she will have 2 incomes and more time spend at home to look after her folks and siblings.  Congratulations Leng. I am proud of you.
**Although I am broke now, I am happy that I’d help when I was still capable of doing so and I did.
We kept in touch until 2014 and I guess it was my fault that I was a little bit too busy traveling around that “pushed” her away. I never heard from her since July 2014. I went back to Chiang Mai in March 2015 and tried to find her but she no where to be found 😦 I did asked around and nothing. But Leng, wherever you are, whatever you do, I wish all the good life.

Hanoi, Vietnam : Getting Tattoo In Vietnam

So you are in Hanoi and plan to get a tattoo?
I’ve visited 6 tattoo studios in Hanoi and to be honest, I only impressed with two studios. But if I have to choose one between these two, I go for Hanoitattoo Studio based on their studio, the equipment that they use, the prove of their tattoo artists’ artworks, professionalism and well, the price offered for sure. The other one is equally good but not in term of price. The rest is just a little bit too shady and didn’t give me a good impression of professional in tattoo studio/artists. Few of it look more like mafia hiding place rather than a tattoo studio!
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Not that I am a pro about the whole thing related to tattoo but well, at least I know what I should know. I don’t have huge art piece on my body, to be honest. I only had 8 “stamps”. At I got myself 2 tattoos at Hanoitattoo Studio. It was my 7th,8th and 9th tattoo. The #7th – The infinity symbol + anchor + 3 birds + “faith” + “refuse to sink”. The #8th – Calvin & Hobbes and the #9th, shark in tribal design 🙂
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 So far many backpackers that I brought to Hanoitattoo Studio were happy with the results of their tattoos. They love it as it was very detailed, very beautifully and carefully done and most important they are happy with the price which pretty a good deal (well, thank you to me, I always negotiate the price for them as the people in the studio know me pretty well already. Hehehe!).
So yeah, if any of you wanna get a tattoo in Hanoi, I strongly suggest you to go to Hanoitattoo Studio for the best tattoo works. Click HERE for their facebook and more info!
Oh! Before I forget, there is lovely, shy yet friendly pitbull dog at Hanoitattoo Studio! You’ll love that big boy! Cheers!
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Vang Vieng, Laos : Easy Go!

It was so good to be back in Vang Vieng, Laos.  I spent 12 nights in August 2012 in Easy Go Backpackers Hostel, few days before the tubing activity got shut down (re-open again) by Laos PDR government and all the bars along the river and also on the “party island” being torn down and torched.
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I am not gonna touch the tubing shut-down issue here as I already did.
Coming back to Vang Vieng in 2013, 2014 and the whole month of April in 2015, brought me straight to Easy Go Backpackers Hostel without thinking twice. They’ve improved a lot! Last year, they only have few rooms and few beds. This year, they extend it to bigger volume. Not only that; from self-made wood and bamboo beds with thin mattresses and mosquito nets full of holes everywhere, now they get a proper beds with better mattresses and good mosquito nets. Although they’ve improved in that area, they still maintain the chill, backpackers-friendly environment, Laotian-style. Bamboo walls, cross-legs common area with floor mattresses, dining table and chairs, coffee & tea and hot water. The pool table is still there next to the reception counter, wifi still working although not the best, toilet & bathroom still the same and lockers still there too. And for less than USD$3 a night, I am not complaining!
The best part of this hostel is the view from the common area – facing the mountains that lay just next the Nam Song (Song River). The panoramic view is just breath-taking especially in the morning and during sunset. It is just very beautiful.
Should you come to Vang Vieng, Laos PDR, I strongly recommend you to stay in Easy Go Backpackers Hostel which you can book via Hostelworld and Hostelbookers. If those website are too difficult for you, check on their facebook 🙂 Cheers!
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Note: Easy Go (with sister company Spicy Lao) recently open a brand new Easy Go branch in 4000 Islands (Don Det), Laos.

Vang Vieng, Laos : Same Same, No Difference

I was in Vang Vieng, Laos, in 2012 for 12 days and left just few days before the tubing activity was forced to shut down by the government of Laos PDR. There was number of death and injuries from the past years but what I heard is the tubing was shut down not because of “that” more than 20 young soul (mainly Australians) died on Nam Song (Song river) but just because one of Australian minister’s son died, the Australian government put on pressure towards the local government and … no more tubing for few months.
When I was there 2012, I felt sorry for the locals that their beautiful town was like being rape by drunk zombies, culture insensitive people and well, annoying youngster who acted like they own that place. Although there was (and still) a sign of no bikinis for woman, no spedo for man but these unculture people seems like blind and illiterate – ignorance to the max. Of course the locals not saying anything because they need money from the backpackers/tourists but that should not be a license for one (in this case, many) to act like a douchebag.
It even kindda annoyed me too that to learn that these youngsters came to Vang Vieng just to get drunk, to get high and tubing. Vang Vieng is more that that. Vang Vieng is not just about tubing along Nam Song. In Vang Vieng you can go cave tubing, swim in a chill Blue Lagoon, rock climbing, kayaking, enjoy the scenery with hot-air balloon and well, eat lots of delicious baguette sandwiches or pancakes!
So, I came again to Vang Vieng in December 2013, March 2014  for visa run from Hanoi, Vietnam.  And again in April 2015 (stayed there for a month) before going to Hanoi again for a month – just to kill some “time” before going off, back to Europe.
The town was not as busy as back in 2012 but still I’d still able to see few drunk zombies walking back to their hostel/hotel when the sun already rised. Just few, very few compare to 2012 butincreasing. But still many still on the road with their bikinis, as well on the river side. Well, can’t they just wear shorts and singlet or t-shirt for tubing rather than showing their boobs, bums to the local that definitely not gonna say a shit about it but for sure they not gonna like it? Mehhhh…
On the other note, tubing at Nam Song seems kinda boring after the “shut down” as the river is not as deep as back in 2012 although it wasn’t dry season. The water also pretty cold that make everyone shivering when they off to the land. And instead of line of bars on the left and right of the river, there were only 3 tubing bars open. Maybe more now. The crazy first bar (Q Bar) and second bar (Star Bar) that on-business in 2012 wasn’t there anymore. People will start at the first bar (Mama’s Bar) and 100 meters down to the right is second bar (Kangaroo Sunset) and another 100 meters down to the left after second bar is the third bar (Last Bar). That’s about it. And from my observation, not many people tubing all the way down to the town like last year. They’ll stop at the Last Bar, party until sunset and then go back to the town by tuktuk.
Tubing still charged at the same renting price of 55,000LOK and deposit of 60,000LOK. If you rent the tube, you get to the Nam Song for free but you still have to pay 10,000LOK if you decide to go back by tuktuk. If you are not rent the tube, you still can go to the Nam Song and pay the tuktuk 10,000LOK per person (min. 5 people or else they’ll charge you more).
To go to Blue Lagoon, I suggest to rent a semi-auto scooter at 30,000LOK up to 8pm. But in order to go to Blue Lagoon, you gotta pass through a bridge where the local charge you a passing toll for 5,000LOK return and then you need to pay another 10,000LOK per person in order to enter to the Blue Lagoon. I am not sure how much you have to pay if you want to go to the Blue Lagoon by tuktuk.
Hot Air Baloon or “Vang Vieng From The Sky” available at few tour office around the town and the price is between USD$75 – USD$80. I didn’t do that because I am running out of money. LOL!
For rock climbing, there’s a few climbing school/center around Vang Vieng. For courses, the fees are varies from USD$25 per half a day to USD$165 for 3 days course. Not sure about “fun” climbing fees for those who already have experience in rock climbing though.
**Sorry, I don’t have the picture of rock climbing in Vang Vieng as I am not a rock climber nor did I go to the rock climbing location.
Well, for any other activities like kayaking all the way down to Vientiane (yeap! they have it!), cave tubing and others… I suggest you to check with your hostel/guesthouse or any other tour office and pick the best and the cheapest one 🙂 And if you just too lazy to do anything, get your bum off to Smiley Beach and chill in a hammock or beach bed or tube without moving anywhere. You just need to buy a drink or two and maybe some sandwich or pancake? Or maybe rent a mopet and drive around and visit the quite (and dry) waterfall?
As for night life, this year, during happy hour you have 3 options which is Gary’s The Irish Bar for marvelous western food and live music (this place is have good number of patrons), Kangaroo Sunset for a fish pumping top remix top 40 music from yesteryears to current, so-so food, disgusting cocktails, sleazy ambiance for youngster who looking for horny backpackers (sorry for being judgmental here but that’s how it looks like) and third one is Sakura Cafe/Bar for much chill-out ambiance, decent local and western foods, good music and also pool table, table tennis, beer pong (looks like an empty bar but it is not as the place is pretty big and dark and most people hang out a bit on the inside area). All these 3 bars situated on the same road. After midnight you may go to Room 101 or Viva Vang Vieng which was not my favorite at all. Just my personal taste not quite match it.
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 (Oskar, Alex (now one of the owner), Nikos, Me, Nico & Simon. I am one of pioneers of Sakura Bar in Vang Vieng (2013) before it turned into ou-of-control party place that offers patrons cheap boozes, laughing gas and all sort of “fun”).
I hope any of you that plan to go to Vang Vieng in a near future or anytime, please respect the local. Please be sensitive with their culture. Please put on your clothes. Please don’t act like a scumbags. Please don’t be a zombies. Please stop acting to the level people call you a train wreck, a white trash and such. Most important, becareful when you do weed or mushroom… plain clothes police officers, honest and dishonest, are everywhere in Vang Vieng. And one of my friend gotta pay hefty amount of USD$600 fine after get caught smoking weed in the middle of the night near the river where he thought safe.
Enjoy Vang Vieng. You’ll love it!

Da Lat, Vietnam : Little Paris (well, not really)

If not because of Hannah & Thomas, I probably will never make a way to Da Lat and many other places before reached Da Lat. For that, thank you for Hannah & Thomas for invited me to join them for a road trip to Da Lat. Love it.
Starting from busy bustling crazy chaotic HCMC a.k.a Saigon, it took us 3 days 2 nights before reached Da Lat which only 310km from Saigon. It was not about the distance, it was about the attractive distractions, rains and crazy unbelievable bumpy road conditions that took us that long to be in Da Lat which normally it only gonna take 8 hours if you take a bus from Saigon. Hehehe…
On the way to Da Lat, not only we were distracted by the panoramic view but also waterfalls. Yeap! Waterfalls! We went to 3 waterfalls – Dasara, Dambri & Pongour. They were amazingly beautifully stunning waterfalls I ever been in my life. Alright, sound a lil bit exaggerating heh? LOL. But yeah, they were really interesting.

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Dasara Waterfall – in order to get in/out from that waterfall, you have an option either to walk through a jungle or be like us – drove our own self-controlled roller coaster 460m through the jungle, scream and shout and let it out loud while the roller coaster stroll down the rails. Crazy!
Dambri Waterfall – This one is insane. A visitor gotta take an elevator down to the waterfall. Once you get out from the elevator, hahaha, you’ll get wet and soak from the powerful mists from the about-8-stories-building waterfall. No one swim there. tho. I guess because of the strong streams that stopped people from swimming. But it was really spectacular.
Pongour Waterfall – Normal waterfall compare to Dasara or Dambri. No fancy roller coaster or elevator. But the waterfalls itself is amazingly gorgeous. From the picture, it look like a man-made waterfall untill you see someone in the picture and realize how big the waterfall is. Crazy! Oh and the grilled corn served with chives oil… Haha!
So on the way to Da Lat, we also went to eat at quite few places and I am really fall in love with Banh Beo, a traditional Hue’s recipe of steamed tapioca cake served with croutons or crackers, shrimp, friend onion, minced meat and eat with sweet sauce which I believe made from fish sauce.
Also when almost reaching Da Lat, we stopped by and had an amazing home-made Vietnamese yogurts and artichoke tea. Really really good. Simple and healthy. No one should miss the yogurt!
Hannah also introduce me to this snack where beaten eggs spread on top of rice paper that still grill above the charcoal oven; mix with shrimps, onion, chives and chili sauce. Was simple but yeah, nice.
Da Lat itself is a very unique place. Cold, chill and rainy. I felt like “dude! I’m in Scotland!!!”. Hahaha! It was beautiful tho although it always rains. And in my opinion, there are so much to see and so much to do in Da Lat compare to Saigon. And the traffic less crazy, too. We also picked up a personal tour the last day we were in Da Lat. And before we went back to Saigon, we went to the “longest distance” cable car journey, overview Da Lat.
Note: In Da Lat, we stayed in this cute modern hotel named Tri Giao. For USD$25 a night consisted of 1 queen bed, 1 single bed, mini bar (fridge), LCD tv, wardrobe cabinet,  make-up desk, coffee table and chairs, shower/toilet with hot/cold shower.

Hanoi, Vietnam : Food Hunting Part 4

Well… basically, to be honest, I am tired of the “airy baguette” for breakfast. It is like I’m munching on nothing but air. Also, I just unable to adapt to the way of local people here having their breakfast with Pho – the noodle soup or Bun Cha – another version of noodle soup but they separate the noodle and the soup (eh?). In another word, I just don’t like the local baguette and soupy food. Well, I never was a soup fan anyway. Mehhh…
So, after Michael left to Ha Long Bay and I still had that motorcycle that we rented with me, I just went around Old Quarters looking for non-local stuffs to eat. I was about to go to PUKU but PUKU is a little bit out-of-budget place for me so I kept wandering around the Old Quarters and randomly stopped at Rainbow Cafe/Restaurant at No. 37-38 Hang Hanh, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi because I was so hungry.
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(image from tripadvisor)
I opted for so-called American Breakfast priced at 62,000VND. As you can see, the breakfast consist of salad (tomato, lettuce, cucumber), fries, sausage (really small one, cut like a flower, not enough for me), ham (not really a good one but eatable), 2 sunny side-up fried egg (this one is pretty good, not well-done, loved it!), baguette and butter.
I was so happy that it was a real baguette! I mean a proper baguette! Not that airy baguette being sold by any road side of Hanoi. And… it was still warm when being served to me. So I just stuffed every single other things on plate in the middle of the baguette (and lots of chili sauce, too) except the fries. It was so good and filling too! I was so happy!
And yesterday at night, I followed Nico to Hang Trong street to try this local street snack. The stall only open after 6.30pm and situated next to Pepperoni’s Pizza Restaurant, in front the juction of Pho Bao Khanh. The snack called “banh trang tron” and have no translation for it in English. Hehehe!
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(image from google image)
The ingredients to use this snack is shredded rice papers, shredded/thin-sliced young mango (lots of it!), peanuts, dried shrimps, beef jerky, pork jerky, fried shallots, quail eggs, soy sauce, satay sauce, salt and chili. It is a bit like “rojak” in Malaysia/Singapore/Indonesia because all the ingredients (except the beef/pork jerky) being mixed in one huge bowl and before serving, topped with those beef/pork jerky.
The cost of this snack @ banh trang tron is 20,000VND per serving. It wasn’t big enough to make me feel full but good enough as an appetizer before real stuffs.