7 Tips to Prepare for Southeast Asia

It’s been about a week since I’ve arrived in Siem Reap and I must say my body seems to be accepting this humid, hot climate in October. In NYC, I could probably enjoy the cool autumn breeze, but here…nope!

My friend gave me the scoop about living in Siem Reap, but you can’t really know what you’re getting yourself into until you’re actually here. With that said, I’d like to share some of my tips on how you could prepare yourself for living in Siem Reap.

  1. Learn to ride a bike.
    You’d be surprised to find out how many people don’t know or were never taught how to ride a bike during their childhood. Here, it’s one of the most common methods of transportation after tuk tuk or motorbike.
  2. Practice riding a bike in a real street, not in your backyard.
    Trust me, this one is one of the most helpful tips I can give you. I learned how to ride a bike when I was a kid, but I only practiced in my driveway and at the park, both of which were car and traffic-free! This week, my office’s tuk tuk driver let me and the two other volunteers fly from the nest and we were on our own riding our own bicycles. AND LET ME TELL YOU, it’s not easy when maybe 80% of the streets are unpaved and/or do not have traffic lights or signs. You’ll be dodging traffic left and right, in front of and in back of you. If you’re a noob like me, you have to signal with your left arm out when you want to make a left and risk getting it whacked if you stop too close to a tuk tuk or a zooming motorbike.11918__870x_148
  3. If you’re feeling lavish, hail a “trusty” tuk tuk.
    Tuk tuks are one of the most common ways tourists get around in Siem Reap, and probably in other parts of Southeast Asia. A little seated carriage is attached to motorbike and will be your “taxi” while you’re in Siem Reap. For a modest $1-3 USD, you can get around most of the city without issue. Make sure you negotiate the price with the driver BEFORE you get in, or haha good luck 😐
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  4. Book someplace to stay for the first week or two, and book another place for the long term later.
    If it’s your first time living in Siem Reap like me, it would be prudent to book a short-term stay when you first arrive. You won’t really know what you’ll be close to, so if you decide you like a particular neighborhood, you can easily find a cheap apartment for under $200 USD a month pretty much anywhere you want. There’s an “Expats and locals living in Siem Reap, Cambodia” Facebook group that advertises apartments for rent/sale and also many other helpful items that you may be interested in!
  5. Bring DEET insect repellent.
    If you know me, you know that I’m literally a mosquito magnet no matter where I am in the world. Name a place, and there will be at least one mosquito that’s lurking near me…When I was in Mexico this summer, I had brought and bought insect repellent but I still got bitten quite a bit. Turns out you need DEET percentages of at least 10-15%, and even that might not be strong enough depending on how evil the mosquito is. I ended up purchasing 8 bottles of 40% DEET repellent spray and lotion (yes, overkill but really I’m trying to avoid getting any mosquito-borne viruses). So far, I’ve been using the spray every morning before I leave my home and it’s been pretty reliable. I did apply lotion to my feet after I wash them in the afternoon (we experienced quite a bit of flooding from the rain so there’s some stagnant water outside the office) but it didn’t seem to work as effectively as I’d hoped repellent lotion would. :/
  6. Bring cheap quick-drying sandals.
    Echoing what I mentioned above about the flooding…I brought a pair of leather flip flops that tend to absorb water, and I didn’t want it to be contaminated with stagnant water that potentially can carry parasitic worms, so I was lucky to find sandals for only $1.50 here. But hey, Old Navy sells $1 flip-flops, so invest in that in the US or wherever you can find a cheap water-repelling shoe that is easy to wash!

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    Just to put things into perspective, this is supposed to be a rice field but was flooded due to the heavy rains two days in a row!

     

  7. TRY the local food! (But bring travel medicine, just in case)
    If you’re going to a new place for the first time, you need to try the food, at least once! It’s almost guaranteed that your home city won’t have authentic cuisine the way they have it in the country in which you’re traveling. If you want to err on the cautious side, go to an actual restaurant where they serve the local cuisine, and if you’re feeling brave, try the street food in the stands lining the streets. Use your judgment when you try these foods–if it’s meat, you want to see that it’s either refrigerated and cooked in front of you, or that your food is very hot when it’s served to you. If you have a sensitive stomach, you can bring any of the following items with you: Pepto Bismol (helps with upset stomach), activated charcoal (apparently it clings to the toxins in your body and helps you expel it), Imodium (anti-diarrheal), psyllium husk (to stay regular when you go #2)

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    Some delicious homemade Khmer cuisine 🙂

These tips can definitely apply to nearly every country in SE Asia 🙂 Please remember to buy your medicine where you’re from before you go traveling, JUST in case it’s difficult to find! Hope you enjoyed reading and please let me know in the comments if these are the kinds of posts you’d like to read!

 

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Tips: Packing Light

Packing Essentials for Your Carry-on Luggage

Hey everyone! Summer is already here, I can feel it! My WordPress has been kind of wonky these past couple of weeks and I wasn’t able to save or post anything–even trying to log on to post on the forums for help didn’t work! I finally managed to take back my website and I’m here to share with you some tips for packing light when you go on trips 🙂

Whenever I travel with my family, I always have the habit of over-packing and then having to sit on my luggage to get it to close. However, since I watch so many minimalist bloggers share their advice on living in a tiny house, or zero waste, or traveling with minimal items, I decided to give it a try and share with you what I packed for my trip to Mexico! I’m currently in the state of Jalisco in a little town south of Puerto Vallarta. My host family is already so warm and welcoming and I think I am going to like it here very much.

**DISCLAIMER: this is a post about packing a carry-on luggage and backpack! I also packed a checked luggage for a two-month stay in Mexico. This may seem like a lot, but let’s just say that when I’ve lived abroad for three weeks at a time, I had TWO checked luggages and one carry-on, AND one backpack, so I’ve really downsized with my items even though I’m staying for more than twice as long as I had in the past.**

Backpack Items: These are items that I find are essential to have on hand. If you need to whip out your passport or driver’s license, it seems much simpler to open your backpack than to sift through the contents of your carry-on. Here’s a list of items I packed in my backpack:

  • laptop and charger: since I am here in Mexico to do fieldwork for my grad school requirement, I needed to bring this, otherwise I’ll usually leave it at home if I’m traveling for leisure.
  • Kindle and charger: I absolutely love to read, and although the feeling of holding a physical book is preferable, using a Kindle or other e-reader can save so much space and allow you to read as many books as you can save on your device.
  • portable battery pack for your electronics
  • phone charger
  • headphones
  • plug adapters: depending on your destination, you may need a plug adapter if for example you’re from the US and are traveling to Europe.
  • toiletries: if you need to freshen up after an overnight flight, you might want to pack a toothbrush, travel-size toothpaste, wet wipes, and deodorant.
  • passport and/or driver’s license
  • printed copies of your boarding pass, itinerary, travel insurance, etc. — this is optional, but recommended in my opinion!
  • wallet and keys: make sure you don’t have any sharp items on your keychain because it will get tossed!
  • empty water bottle: I can’t stress this enough, guys! It’ll cost you an arm and a leg to buy a measly plastic water bottle when you can easily BYOB (haha, get it? Bring Your Own Bottle!). You will save yourself money, and also not contribute to the massive number of plastic bottles that are littered throughout the world.
  • some warm article of clothing: you never know when you’ll get cold, so bring a scarf or a super-light article of clothing you can fold up and stuff in your luggage.
  • tissues: hey, a sudden onset of the sniffles or a nosebleed from the high altitudes are always possibilities, so better safe than sorry!
  • snacks: if you’re perpetually hungry like I am, I recommend you pack some snacks, especially if you’re on an airline that’s too cheap to give you a bag of peanuts or pretzels!
  • eye mask and earplugs: some airlines will offer this to you, but you’d be better off bringing your own.
  • translation dictionary: I packed this in my carry-on this time around, but I usually pack it in my backpack for quick access.
  • OPTIONAL but recommended: one set of clothes (a top, bottom, underwear) in case your luggage is forced to be checked in and *knock on wood* gets lost and you are in need of a change of clothes.

 

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Carry-On Items: These are items that you want to prioritize and keep an eye on since you never know if your checked luggage is going to get lost in the airport system forever…

Before I begin, I just want to give a shout-out to the person who invented luggage packing cubes. These are SO useful when you want to pack your stuff and I was a skeptic, but it really saves space when I pack my clothes 😀

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  • extra money: find some inconspicuous places to hide your extra cash, and don’t keep them all in one spot! You never know if the place you’re staying will have a thief so you don’t want them to take your entire stash.
  • clothing:
    • 3 shirts
    • 1 cardigan
    • 1 button-down shirt
    • 1 pair of shorts
    • 1 pair of pants or leggings
    • 1 bathing suit
    • 1 dress or skirt
    • 1 set of PJs
    • 1 pair of socks (you will be wearing the other pair)
    • 3 sets of underwear
    • 1 pair of flip flops
    • 1 pair of sneakers or boots (to wear on plane)
    • 1 hat/cap (and sunglasses)
  • power strip: your room may not have many outlets, so it’s wise to carry a power strip to plug in all of your electronics with little hassle.
  • toiletries:
    • shampoo bar: I’m sure many stores sell these nowadays, but I purchased mine from LUSH Cosmetics. Depending how long you’ll be traveling, I would pack one bar for every 2-3 months you’re away. I’m gonna do a review on them soon!
    • travel-size body wash*
    • travel-size lotion*
    • travel-size face wash
    • travel-size toothpaste
    • travel-size sunscreen
    • toothbrush
    • razor*
    • deodorant
    • toilet paper roll: this is particularly important if you’re going to a developing country that may not have the most accommodating bathroom facilities. I think it’s better to carry a roll with you at all times than to have an emergency situation and nothing to wipe yourself with, right? :X
    • hair ties and bobby pins
    • pads/tampons
    • Q-tips
    • nail clipper and filer
    • tweezers
    • extra pair of contact lens, lens case, and solution (if you wear contacts)
    • glasses and case (if you wear glasses)
    • OPTIONAL: makeup — remember you’re going on a trip to experience your surroundings, you don’t need to pack your entire life’s supply of makeup! Just pack what you NEED on a daily basis and call it a day.
  • medicines: in some countries, it is really difficult to get medicine without a prescription, even if you’re just looking for ibuprofen for a headache. I advise you to carry headache medicine, anti-diarrheals, laxatives, pepto bismol, allergy, and probiotics if you want to stay regular!
  • batteries and a flashlight
  • umbrella
  • tote bag
  • OPTIONAL: journal (I started journaling in Mexico and hope to continue to do it since I’ve been more forgetful when I don’t write things down, so let’s see how that goes :))

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Visit Madrid

Hi everyone, I’m back! The next few posts will feature photos from my recent trip to Europe 🙂

My first stop was in Madrid, Spain. The weather was a solid 100~ degrees Fahrenheit the two days I was there, something I’ve never experienced before in the US. The people there are so nice, and I was amazed and impressed that I was able to get by with my middle school and high school level Spanish and speak with the locals! I loved how nearly every city I visited had community trash bins for regular, recycle, and compost trash to encourage proper sanitation. Flowers were in bloom and families were all out enjoying the fantastic weather at El Retiro Park and Mercado de San Miguel! So excited to be sharing some photos from this fabulous city here:

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There were beautiful arches everywhere we went, this was just one of them
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I absolutely love taking photos of the streets in each city I visited!
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People could go boating in El Retiro Park and watch the ducks and the fish in the water
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Paella is a must-have when you visit Spain. This was super yummy, I can’t wait to make my own version one day~
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Super fresh and delicious looking seafood in Mercado de San Miguel
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Charcuterie stores and cured meat were everywhere we went
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Olives seem to be a big thing in Madrid; they’re super popular, but so salty!

ALL PHOTOS ARE ©magnetically aesthetic. Please do not steal, edit, or use these pictures in any way without my permission. Thank you!

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WHY WE QUIT OUR JOBS IN ADVERTISING TO SCRUB TOILETS (Reblog)

Every day it feels like I see someone or couples quitting their 9-5 jobs and traveling the world and I feel almost envious of their new lifestyles. I would think, “how do they do it? Are they just loaded with money and can afford to country hop for the rest of their lives?”

I came across this blog post about a couple that was one of the pioneers for dropping their stagnant jobs to see the world. This particular post takes off the rose tint from our perception of these happy-go-lucky travelers and shows us another side of this new lifestyle. I’m glad this puts things in perspective and presents the other truth in their travel adventures!

(originally discovered this blog through this Buzzfeed post!)

How Far From Home

After being gone exactly 6 months, I feel it necessary we share the uglier side of our trip. Browsing through our blog posts and Instagram feed, it seems like we’re having the time of our lives. And don’t get me wrong – we are. It’s bloody amazing. But it’s not all ice-creams in the sun and pretty landscapes. Noooooo. So far, I think we’ve tallied 135 toilets scrubbed, 250 kilos of cow dung spread, 2 tons of rocks shovelled, 60 metres of pathway laid, 57 beds made, and I cannot even remember how many wine glasses we’ve polished.

You see, to come from the luxuries we left behind in Johannesburg, to the brutal truth of volunteer work, we are now on the opposite end of the scale. We’re toilet cleaners, dog poop scoopers, grocery store merchandisers, and rock shovelers.

It’s painstakingly hard and dirty work.

And although the last few…

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