my happiness tools

To anyone heading to Laos I would highly recommend paying a visit to the small town of  Luang Namtha, whisking yourself down to the Green Discovery office at the end of the road and booking yourself a three day trek through the jungle.

It was three of the best days of my entire trip, and the relief I felt to be away from the hoards of day-drinking British tourists is quite indescribable.

I was terrified before my trek. It was perhaps my first time doing anything truly alone, Plus, as much as I hate to  admit it, I don’t actually really like walking.

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Today has been my first full day in Laos! Whilst Alex has stayed in Huay Xai to do the Gibbon experience, I have whisked myself off to the beautiful Luang Namtha to do a 3 day trek and kayak. I know, I can’t believe it either.

I was dreading the long bus journey from Pai to the boarder town of Chiang Khong. But, as per usual, I slept pretty much the whole way. I think this is a combination of too many dodgy Thai anti-nausea pills mixed with doxycycline and an iPod with far too much Bon Iver on it, but I’m not complaining. We were told the bus would get us to Chiang Khong at ‘9 or 10pm’ and we would be in a room with a fan. We got to the boarder at nearly 1am and there was no sign of a fan. But we did have a lizard, although he did little to perk up the horror that was our room.

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Monkey Beach Thailand

After a few requests from my diehard fans (my parents and Alex’s parents) I thought it was time to man up and write a blog post instead of lounging around in a hammock drinking a strawberry smoothie which is just so tempting when you’re in a town as laid back as Pai.

Luckily I have been stuck in bed sick for two days and as I am getting a bit bored of lying staring at this view, I thought I would do a blog on our time in Thailand. 

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We’ve been here for a week now and Alex and I have fully emersed ourselves into the Japanese way of life and we love it! We have mastered the metro, the buses, eating out, and learned how to say ‘thank you’ two different ways.

We’ve seen some amazing things this week and definitely made the most of what Kyoto has to offer, such as :

Kinkakuji temple or ‘the golden pavilion’

Fiushimi inari shrine, or 1000 arches

Bamboo forest

The monkey park with great views of Kyoto

We also ate some amazing ramen…

 

 

And today I decided that my number one priority when I get to Thailand is to get a tan…

 

If anyone wants to mail some fake tan over for the time being then feel free. (Khaosan Theater Kyoto).

So all in all its been a pretty brill few days! I just about managed to stop myself from booking a flight to Korea because ‘Korea would be sooooo cool’ and I’m spontaneous like that. Then I remembered that we do still have a fair amount of Japan to explore including Nara tomorrow for a festival where they apparently shower you with flames, so that sounds fun. I’ve decided to embrace the fact that I might catch fire though because the flames are meant to help you have a good year, which I definitely need after my rather unfortunate fortune in Tokyo.

On Thursday we visited the monkey park. Before we climbed the mountain (I’m calling it a mountain not a hill because it sounds more impressive) we were given a leaflet with the monkey park rules on it.

Here are the top rules

1) do not look the monkeys in the eye

2) stay more than 3m away from the monkeys

3) do not show the monkeys any food

Needless to say I was terrified of the crazy human-killing monkeys, so at first just looked at them through my camera lense. Then I got even more terrified thinking that if you look at it through a camera lense they might just petrify you instead of kill you (lol HP joke) so I resorted to pointing my camera at them and then looking in the opposite direction. However, all the monkeys seemed pretty chilled, apart from one who literally squared up to a Japanese teenager because he waved his coke bottle at him (he was trying to impress his mates).

Here are some pictures I managed to take in between looking down at the ground and trembling whilst praying that the crazy monkeys didn’t smell the banana in my rucksack and murder me

 

Luckily Alex was calm and rational in this situation reminding me that they ‘probably don’t have rabies’. Thank you Alex, thanks a lot.

Today we did the Path of Philosophy which is a walk alongside a canal. It was so sunny and pretty and we even saw our first cherry blossoms

Then we sat in a cafe writing in our journals, being all zen and stuff (drinking choccie milk because I’m a 7 year old at heart).

The closest we’ve come to anyone hassling us in Japan was the little old  man in the cafe who wanted us to order his wife’s homemade apple and cinnamon cake. We couldn’t really say no despite the fact that my diet obviously starts today. Don’t worry though, once we get to Thailand we will be back to the independent, down to earth and assertive gals you’re all used to us being.

 

 

 

 

As Alex and I had a whole day before our night bus to Kyoto we decided to do a few more touristy things and visit the Imperial Palace. After packing our bags for the thousandth time (we really like our bags to be organised) we checked out of our hostel and gave them our luggage to store for the day, before sauntering to the station, confident that with our new metro and map reading skills, we would be able to make it to the Imperial Palace no probs.

We bought our tickets without any help this time, thinking we knew exactly where we were going. We didn’t. Our tickets didn’t work in the gate (we had bought the wrong ones). The guard in the booth took our tickets and gave us our money back then told us exactly where to go to get to the station we wanted to. Even though it was completely our fault! Seriously why aren’t people like this in Britain?

So anyway we moved to a different line and re-bought our tickets. Wrong again. A different guard this time was slightly less helpful. So we went back to the machine and bought more tickets, but we were still wrong! Eventually we had to admit defeat and ask the lady at the station (whose job specifically is to stand around and help people buy their tickets, so clearly it is difficult!). We finally got on the metro about 3 hours after we had woken up – partly because of our ticket drama but also because we spend roughly 90 minutes of every adventure faffing (‘should I put my jeans on?’ ‘I don’t know hun its up to you’ ‘I might put them on. Are you ready?’ ‘Hang on I might quickly organise my bag’ etc)

When we finally got the Imperial Palace we discovered it was closed! I know, we really need to start checking these things. But lesson learned, we decided to head to the electrical town instead to visit the biggest electronic store in the world, where they have Winnie the Pooh microwaves and about a million other cool electrical gadgets (and yes, a Winnie the Pooh microwave is a cool electrical gadget)

After exploring the electrical town and going into a really creepy ‘adult amusement shop’ (we honestly thought it was going to be bouncy castles), we headed back to our trusty supermarket Family Mart to buy some very questionable miso soup for dinner at our hostel before our night bus.

We decided to treat ourselves and get a taxi to Ueno station, where it was just a straight line to Ikebukuro, where our bus was leaving from. We got a taxi so that we wouldn’t get wet as it was absolutely pouring.

Once we got to Ikebukuro the real test began, as we had to find bus stop number 8 in the pouring rain at 11pm (although we have decided no one ever goes to sleep in Tokyo because the tube was still rammed). After wandering around in the rain for a while (and realising that the taxi was a waste of money) we asked a lady at the information desk in the station who sort of vaguely showed us on a map. We still couldn’t find it though and started to get a little bit stressed as we were drenched, our stuff was drenched and we were terrified we would miss our bus.

We finally asked someone walking past if they could help us to find it. He looked up bus stop number 8 on his phone and seemed very confused. Instead of saying he didn’t actually know and leaving us to it, he told us to stay where we were and wandered off.

Meanwhile, Alex decided she was going to run up the road to see if she could find bus stop number 8, so she scuttled off into the rain whilst I stood in the downfall with our bags.

Later, Alex told me of the sheer liberation she felt running through the rain without her backpack, without the restraints of her material possesions, such as her gold nail varnish which is ‘just so versatile’. She said to me she felt like a ‘gazelle’ bounding through puddles desperately searching for bus stop number 8 whilst others looked on in amazement. I think she had a lot of energy to burn off.

Meanwhile the man returned with a map on his phone and directions to bus stop number 8. I know I say this all the time but I genuinely cannot express enough how helpful everyone has been, really going out of their way to help us find places! (We get lost a lot).

I took a picture of the map on my phone and stood waiting for newly exhilarated and at-one-with-the-elements Alex. I wish I could say we found the bus stop with moments to spare, but we were still roughly 40 minutes early. We hopped on the bus feeling excited about our cosy nights sleep, hoping to wake up in Kyoto bright eyed and bushy tailed.

It started off well. It really did. I fell asleep just chilling and listening to the Gladiator soundtrack, as you do.

Then it all went wrong. The ladies in front of us reclined their chairs so far back, their heads were pretty much in our laps. Before the chair was reclined I had my legs crossed, once she had reclined it I couldn’t physically uncross my legs because the chair was pushing on them so hard.

I dealt with this the only way I knew how – passive-aggressively.

I kicked and rocked the chair in front pretending that I was ‘just trying to get comfy’ for a good 45 minutes. I honestly don’t know how she didn’t get car sick or wake up. I even started doing it to the chair in front of Alex too, I was so frustrated. Eventually the lady woke up and I asked her if she could move her chair forward. She moved it about an inch. I decided now was the time to be mature and just try to sleep, trying to remember that sometimes things won’t always go my way and I should try not to throw a strop.

Poor Alex still pretty much had a woman’s head in her lap.

Seriously well done Alex for remaining calm and not repeatedly slamming your knees against the chair in front like I exerted far too much energy doing.

We made it to Kyoto, somehow managed to navigate the metro during rush hour, and arrived at our hostel roughly 7 hours before we were allowed to check in, before heading out for breakfast and to breath a sigh of relief.

It’s also snowing in Kyoto which is excellent news because Alex and I, anticipating sub-zero temperatures in Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and Burma have a fully stocked winter wardrobe inside our backpacks.