Mountain top camping

Life in Koh Samui is endlessly surprising and entertaining. Just when I think i’ve done it all, a new opportunity comes up and shows me that there is so much more to do and see on this island than I think. Just a few days ago my boyfriend asked me if I wanted to go camping on a mountain on a Thursday night. After considering it for 5 seconds I enthusiastically accepted the offer. Not knowing which mountain we’d be heading to I packed up my bag (aka my tent, a flash light, and whatever was in my purse) and set off to meet up with the group going camping.

IMG_5552One of the nice things about Koh Samui is that because it is a relatively small place, it’s easy to get to know people quickly. As the island is a major tourist destination, that most of the people living here work in some sort of business that has to do with tourism. Knowing different people in the tourism industry meant that we were able to ride up the mountain in a huge truck used for the island “safaris”and we were able to camp literally at the top of the mountain on someone’s private property.

For our camping trip we didn’t end up leaving to get up to the mountain until the sun had already gone down so the drive up there was interesting to say the least. My friend and I decided we’d take the opportunity to ride on the top of the truck for part of the ride which felt like a roller coaster that you had to constantly dodge trees on. It was an amazing ride though non the less. I managed not to throw up which made it all that much better. IMG_5568

The night spent up there was fantastic as we spent our time cooking on the BBQ, chatting, and drinking some beers. The best part about being up there though was the amazing view. You could see almost a 360 of the entire island (there were some trees in the way of that complete 360 view). When you live on an island it is easy to quickly get used to everything the island has to offer and you tend to forget how big the place really is. Seeing everything from way up there really put into perspective how big Koh Samui is and made me appreciate it even more.

After staying awake for a good amount of the night we decided that it was time to retire to our tents as we all had to work by 9am the next day. Sleeping in a tent as you probably know is not the most comfortable thing to do but it’s all made worth it when you get to wake up on the top of the mountain and look out over seemingly the entire Gulf of Thailand.

The specific place where we went and camped has just opened a restaurant at the very top by the name of 360 Jungle Route Koh Samui. I highly recommend this place as a great stop the next you are in Koh Samui as it is highly unlikely you’re going to get to see the view up there in many other places. If you’re lucky enough maybe they will even let you pitch a tent and spend the night so you can wake up in paradise. Thank you for reading! IMG_5572

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My first experience with the sex industry

If you know anything about SE Asia, you know that sex industry is big here. So surprisingly it did not take me long to have my first encounter with this industry which taught me some valuable life lessons.

In Phnom Penh Cambodia there is a street called street 51 which is a place where a lot of tourists hang out. It is full of bars and restaurants, and a lot of western faces. One night my friend and I decided that we wanted to head out to take advantage of some happy hour specials after school and not knowing much about the city we decided that street 51 should be the place to do that. We sat down in this open air mall sort of area with lots of different bars. As we sat there and had a few drinks and some food we noticed that this particular area was full of prostitutes and old western men. Seeing this was not all that surprising however we did not realize that the place we were in was known for that sort commerce; we were pretty much in the center of the main area for this business. Seeing these interactions between these very young women and quite old men was just not something that we were used to seeing every day.

As we sat there we noticed a couple across from us which was made up of an older British man and a younger Korean woman. They were looking at us with very strange expressions on their faces and we’d noticed it a few times but did not think much of it. A little bit later the man walked up to us with his wife and asked if she could sit with us and talk. He said “this is my wife Jay, is it alright if she sits and talks with you for a little bit, she doesn’t have any friends. She was sitting with a group of girls over there before but maybe she can sit with you girls now.” I knew that something was off about this situation but at first I did not know what exactly. Not wanting to be rude, we let Jay sit with us and we spoke to her for about 5 minutes. She looked very scared and nervous and kept saying how stressed she was about her new job. We were so confused but after a few minutes we kind of concluded that she was working as a prostitute. Her husband was clearly facilitating this and he thought that we might show her the “business.”

As one can probably imagine, I was not happy about many parts of this situation. I decided to ask her husband exactly what was going on. He said to me “Well this is my wife’s first night on her new job and she just needs some help. We are looking for safe places to go.” I asked him what business exactly he thought we could help her with and he looked at me and said “she is in the ‘hospitality’ business,” and then winked. We made it clear that he had made a huge mistake thinking that we knew anything about this and politely made our exit.
I walked away just feeling scared and horrible. I felt awful for Jay knowing that her husband was doing that to her, and I just couldn’t shake the feeling of disgust. The whole next day I couldn’t get the situation, or Jay off my mind and it really upset me. I actually took some time to sit and reflect upon the whole thing that happened and was able to kind of come to terms with it. I realize that people around the world live different lifestyles and I cannot be the person to judge someone for doing things that I would not. I felt bad for Jay and at the time I felt hatred towards her husband but I realize now that it is the way of the world. All I can do is hope for the best for people.

Since this encounter during my first week in SE Asia I’ve seen countless other incidents involving the sex industry and I am completely desensitized to it now. In some places in Thailand it is practically thrown in your face and it just becomes a normal part of life. I’ve befriended people working in this industry and doing so has helped me to become a lot less judgmental and suspicious of other people. In America it seems like we are meant to think people who are involved in this industry are bad in some way but I know now that they’re not. People are people are people are people and we are all the same in a sense no matter what sort of line of work we decide to go into.

First arriving in Cambodia – a look back in the past

When I initially arrived in Cambodia in the first week of January 2014, I immediately started writing down my experiences. I’ve included below an excerpt from my writing at that time which will show the culture shock I was experiencing. It will also detail a lot of observations I was making for my first time being in Asia as an American.

Written circa January 2014:

“Being in South East Asia has been dazzling so far. I’ve only been here for a week and a half and all of my 5 senses have experienced a plethora of new sensations.

Everything looks different: foggy, colorful, dark, smiley, cute, hilarious, naked, dangerous, and shocking.

Everything smells different: fishy, delicious, cheap, rancid, raw, fresh, comforting.

Everything sounds different: loud, foreign, peaceful, exciting, bouncy, over-worked, fast.

Everything feels different: silky, slimy, hot & sticky, bumpy, rough, worked over.

Everything tastes different: greasy, fishy, fresh, succulent, sour, unknown.

Now obviously all of these adjectives do not describe one thing but hopefully anyone reading this understands the point I am trying to make. Phnom Penh is an interesting city. It is so busy and crowded and full of life. We are staying in a hotel here in a part of town that isn’t particularly nice but that is ok because we get a ride to and from school every day. I am staying on the top floor of our hotel and my view out of the window is a nice big sewer. Sometimes I see children walking through it and picking trash out, and once unfortunately there was a kid washing some piece of clothing in it. It is truly amazing how different life can be just 7 floors up.

70% of the people in Cambodia live on less than $1 a day which is pretty unbelievable in my opinion. There is a large amount of poverty here but from what I can see the people are generally happy. For the most part people are smiling and friendly and they share everything with each other. It seems that most people look out for each other because most people are all in the same situation.

I mentioned previously that we get rides to and from school each day. We ride to school in tuk-tuks. A tuk-tuk is a carriage that is attached to a moped. It can comfortably fit about 5 people in it. Almost everyone in this city gets around by a moto (moped). There are thousands and thousands of mopeds crowding the streets at all times. In America we would probably put about 2 people on a moped max to go a short distance right? In Cambodia people put as many people and as much stuff as they can on their mopeds. Things I’ve seen on mopeds: entire 5 person families, two men and two gutted full grown pigs, naked babies with no helmets, boxes stacked 10 ft in the air, a few people and about 10 dead chickens, a moped carrying a 15 ft trailer with people and tools riding in it. The list goes on and on. It really is quite a sight to see.”

For me it is quite interesting to look back on what I previously wrote and see how much has changed. How many of these things have become a normal part of life now, and how I now view the world in a different way. I urge everyone to get the experience of spending time in a country that is significantly different than your home country. You will be amazed at how much your perspective on life and world will change.

More to come on Cambodia….

Thank you for reading