July 31, 2013

Lately . . .

by Laura - Chronicles of Passion

They say time flies when you’re having fun. Time flies faster when you’re travelling and on the move. Here’s a snapshot of this life I’ve been living lately . . .

1) Wondering thorough tea plantations and trekking through jungles across inland Malaysia.

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2) Late nights beach partying followed by early morning runs and days diving on the Perhentian Islands. Shark sightings were totally worth the trip.

3) Naan bread. Malaysia has a strong Indian presence in the country, leading to a little India in almost every city. That means lots of cheap naan bread made right before your eyes and served steaming hot. At 20-30 cents a piece, you know I have gotten my fair share and then some.

4) I’m back on a stumbleupon kick. Honestly, I find it really educational. I learn so much on any given stumble rampage, and become enlightened to some sweet websites I’d otherwise never have found. Like this one. And this one. And it’s a pretty sweet deal for travel inspiration too . . .

5) I had a love affair with one of Brett Dennen’s songs back a few years ago. I’ve rediscovered him again. I’m all over it.

6) Sometimes working out while travelling can be hard, for a whole host of reasons. As a bit of an added challenge, I’ve been doing the squat challenge as I traipse through countries and foreign lands. I’m pretty sure I’ve been doing it for 30 days, and should be done by now, but with a few hiccups along the way, I’m only at 130. Regardless, I’m still going strong, and really just love that I can do this many consecutive squats. Give it a try.

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7) Speaking of this exercise thing, I’m desperately missing good running days. Between the relentless heat, the chaotic car and moto filled cities and staying on islands less than a kilometre long, I haven’t had a decent run in such a long time. In the spirit of keeping up my spirits, I venture regularly to Runner’s World and read about running instead. Here’s the latest good news for all you like-mind pavement pounders: Nine Surprising Ways Running Helps Your Body

8) And just because. This quote is in Bondi beach, Australia, and then I found it again yesterday on, you guessed it – stumbleupon.com:

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July 3, 2013

Angkor Wat

by Laura - Chronicles of Passion

It’s probably one of the most photographed tourist spots in Southeast Asia, and I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t as incredible as the pictures and articles claim it to be. A little less than 10 kilometres from the centre of Siem Reap, lies the Angkor Wat Temples, spread across lush green fields and amidst forest and lakes. It’s an impressively well-preserved and maintained area showing surprisingly few scars or trails from the no doubt millions of tourists that traipse through every year. The sheer magnitude and grandeur of them alone is enough to leave you staring, but add to that the picturesque scenery all around, and they truly are something of a wonder.

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Apparently most people go at sunrise, but I wasn’t willing to sacrifice the one short window of time during the day that offers a little reprieve from the heat for running. Not that it’s cool or anything, but it’s the closest you get to cool in these parts. I finished my run, and donning my newly acquired “elephant pants,” as I call them, purchased specifically to meet the temple dress code, I set out shortly after 7am towards Angkor. I guess the crowd comes at sunrise and leaves, because it was quiet as I wondered awestruck through this stone phenomenon and the heat had not yet settled into its relentless, penetrating normalcy. For the next few hours, I walked through stone archways, long stone hallways and narrow stone stairwells. I stopped and stared more than once at the overwhelming immensity of these structures, and happily succumbed to the true tourist, complete with a backpack and camera around my neck. I’m not typically the follow-the-tourist-scene-type when I travel, but every once in a while, it’s okay to be a follower.

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I’d like to say my photos can do justice to these thousands of year old beauties, but that’s not really the case. It was with the best of intentions, but really it’s only seeing them in their real existence that you can have a true appreciation for them.

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June 27, 2013

Views on Vietnam

by Laura - Chronicles of Passion

I haven’t written in a while. I haven’t read other blogs in a while. I haven’t uploaded photos in a while. And perhaps, most devastatingly, I haven’t been on Foodgawker in weeks – it’s too depressing to look at when you know you can’t cook or bake any of the images you’re drooling over. It’s partly the lack of reliable Internet, and partly the lack of inspiration. You see here’s the thing: travelling doesn’t always entail butterflies and roses, great times and great places. Sometimes you end up in a city with so much chaos and motorbike mayhem that your best option is to spend the afternoon jumping between rooftop bars and drinking beer with an Aussie. Yes I did that. Sometimes you’re better off to rent a bike, hit the road and just ride away from it all. I did that too. Because the other thing with travelling is that when you don’t like where you are or what you’re doing, you can just change it; pack it up, move on, pack it up, leave it behind. Sometimes you just have to find the good in the bad, the highs in the lows and the smiles in the frustrations. There’s always something to smile about. Amidst Vietnam’s early let downs and honking horn too-much-city scenes, here’s where the greatness was:

1) Halong Bay – Once you get through the tourist traps, throngs of relentless vendors trying to sell you overpriced package of Oreos, and streams of Vietnamese on their weekend getaway, this place truly is beautiful.
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2) Louisiane Brewery – In hot weather, beer is my alcoholic drink of choice. And when it’s made just down the street from your hotel at a microbrewery on the beach, how can you not splurge for the pleasure. I tried both their dark lager and passion fruit beer, and walked away more than satisfied. This place is certainly a win.

Credit: Lyndal  Buchanan

Credit: Lyndal Buchanan

3) Cheap Beer- Here in Vietnam, if you do it right, you can get draught beer from bars and restaurants for 18 cents. Bottles at the convenience store on the counter are closer to 50. It’s expensive when it’s a dollar. Works for me!

4) Vietnamese Coffee – Brewed slowly in individual cups, by passing hot water through a mini coffee sieve, the rich, dark, bold goodness of Vietnamese coffee is something Like I’ve never had before. With hints of hazelnut and vanilla, and so incredibly smooth, some days, this and the fruit smoothies on every corner are the best things about Vietnam. I’d come back for coffee any day!

Credit: Lyndal  Buchanan

Credit: Lyndal Buchanan

5) New Beats – The life of a backpacker is fairly predictable: Get on an overnight bus to a new city; arrive at some ungodly hour of the morning and find a hostel to stay in; spend the next couple of days exploring the city the local food and culture and indulging in a few beers and coffee; get on the bus and go to a new city; repeat again and again. You get pretty used to this life, but all that time on buses, in between, in transit and waiting around requires more than a few hours plugged into headphones. Here’s the newest music along for the ride:

6) Fresh Spring Rolls – After cheap beer and coffee, nothing screams Vietnam like Pho and fresh spring rolls. In the beginning, I was buying them, but now, after an outstandingly successful cooking class, i just make my own! I casually carry around a package of rice paper sheets, make a stop at the local market and more than once have turned the nightstand of my hotel room into a spring roll making station. Best deal ever!
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7) Books for Backpackers – When I’m not deep in Lonely Planet’s “Southeast Asia on a Shoestring”, I’ve spent my time powering through some good reads:

Alex Cross, Run – James Patterson
The Timekeeper – Mitch Albom
Three Cups of Tea – Greg Mortenson and Dave Oliver Renin
Love Does – Bob Goff

8) Hoi An – And then there was this gorgeous city, not anything like the rest. Situated along the river, this place is sometimes known as Lantern City, because at night, all the restaurants and streets are lined with lanterns that are all aglow. Truly gorgeous. The city itself is packed with character and ambience, more than a few good restaurants and too many beauty rooftop bars to count. And despite the continuous heat, finally running on quieter streets along the river made it totally worth it to stay an extra night.

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