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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DIY: Mosquito Traps

It’s Week 3 in Mexico and I may have breached 60 mosquito bites since arriving! There are 20+ bites alone on BOTH of my feet, so you can imagine my annoyance when it comes to a bad itch… I’ve used bug spray with DEET, lime juice, Raid mosquito coils, but I’m amping up my protection by making DIY mosquito traps!

DIY Mosquito Traps

Here’s what you’ll need if you decide you want to set some traps for your house or in your backyard:

  • 2L plastic bottle
  • 1 cup of water
  • some strong tape
  • 1/4 cup of sugar (I’ve seen brown and white sugar used)
  • 1 gram of yeast (this apparently can vary and you can experiment since different mosquitoes are attracted to different amounts of CO2)
  • black construction paper or black plastic bags

Steps:

  1. Boil a pot of water. (I made four traps so I boiled about four cups’s worth of water)
  2. While you’re waiting for it to boil, take your 2L bottle and slice it at the top of the label. You can poke a hole with a scissors and then cut the rest through, or take a sharp knife and slice it like a piece of really plasticky cake 😛
  3. Measure 1 cup of hot water and pour it slowly into the bottom half of the bottle, that way you don’t get any hot water splashing everywhere and burning you.
  4. Add 1/4 cup of sugar into the bottle and mix thoroughly.
  5. Wait for the sugar water to cool to at least room temperature!
  6. Add 1 gram into the bottle. DO NOT MIX! It’ll last up to 2 weeks if you don’t mix it.
  7. Take the top half of the bottle, invert it and place it into the bottom half of the bottle, and take your tape to seal the two pieces of the bottle together. This is to give only one entry way into the bottle and not let those annoying zancudos escape!
  8. Take your black construction paper or plastic bag and wrap the outside of the bottle, leaving just the opening exposed. Apparently mosquitoes like dark colors so they’ll be attracted to your trap!

You’ll want to place the mosquito traps somewhere with low foot traffic so you don’t accidentally spill it. Instructions say to keep it away from you, but I kept two in my room on the opposite side of the room where my bed is, since those annoying creatures like to hang out waiting for the moment I least expect them. I also left one by my bathroom sink since I’ve noticed they like to chill there too.

I’ll let you know if it ends up working!! Comment below if you tried this DIY idea before, or if you have other tried and true ways to protect yourself against mosquitoes and also what you do to kill mosquitoes in your home.

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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DIY Toothpaste & Deodorant (Same Recipe Base!)

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Hey everyone 🙂 A loooong time ago, I wanted to write a review comparing different kinds of deodorant since I wanted to eventually move away from the ones that are filled with aluminum compounds, parabens, triclosan (FDA labeled this as a pesticide) propylene glycol (also known as “non-toxic” anti-freeze, guys!!), and more, many of which can cause skin irritations and allergic reactions, and have potential links to cancer… Not to scare you guys away from reading, but it’s important to be informed what you put on your body, especially since deodorants get absorbed through your skin and goes into your system! There are a whole bunch of lymph nodes that reside in the vicinity of your underarms, and can become inflamed and swollen from the toxic additives that are in your deodorant.

I’ve been following many zero waste vloggers and bloggers, and quite a few of them have switched to more natural, zero waste alternatives for deodorant, such as making their own! The tubes that your deodorant and toothpaste are packaged in are often made from plastic that can’t be recycled, so if you want to make a more conscious decision to produce less waste, you can consider making your own deodorant and toothpaste! I’ve just made my first mini-batch of both deodorant and toothpaste, and wanted to share my experience with you.

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Ingredients:

  • baking soda
  • coconut oil
  • essential oils (for scent) – the brand I use is Calily
  • Stevia (for toothpaste)

Steps:

  1. Mix 1 part baking soda, 1 part coconut oil into a container. **I had done 1/2 cup of each, but I would recommend using less coconut oil since it just sits at the top and doesn’t mix very well!**
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  2. Add an appropriate amount of essential oil (the scent of your choice) to the baking soda/coconut oil mix.
  3. Since I was making both toothpaste and deodorant, I separated them into two containers since I wanted different scents for each.
  4. I added peppermint essential oil into the toothpaste mix, and tea tree oil into the deodorant mix. **I put in about 6 drops in each set, but if you want to add more or less, that’s up to you! I’m not a fan of mixing scents, but if you’re adventurous, go for it ;)**
  5. (So I didn’t have Stevia…BUT I highly recommend you invest in some for your toothpaste)

When I tried using my toothpaste sans Stevia, I have to admit, my mouth just felt really greasy from the coconut oil, and salty from that strong baking soda flavor! If you can handle that overwhelming taste, then there’s no need to get Stevia, but I am going to hold off on using my mix for brushing my teeth until I get some… 🙂

For the deodorant, many bloggers have mentioned that your body will take some time to detox and get used to not having chemicals block your sweat glands from producing sweat, so I’m being patient and waiting for the magic to happen! It’s important to mention that sweat should not smell bad; it is the bacteria that would cause an unpleasant odor, so make sure you wash your underarms thoroughly and pat dry after you shower, before you put on the deodorant! Another important tip is if you’re going to transition to your own DIY deodorant, it’s best to do it during the fall going into winter, or in the spring before the summer, that way it’s still cool enough that you won’t produce much sweat, and your body gets enough time to adjust!

There are some people who say that baking soda can be really irritating for their skin, but so far I’ve been okay (maybe it’s the coconut oil that protects my skin!)

Be sure to create only small batches since there’s really no sure-fire way of keeping out random bacteria from creeping into your products, and you don’t want to create a whole vat of this mix only for it to be unusable–coconut oil ain’t cheap, y’all!

Hope you all enjoyed reading 🙂

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5 Quick Tips to Declutter Your Home

 

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I was kept pretty busy back at home cleaning up my house since my family is moving, and I wanted to share five quick tips for decluttering your abode. 🙂

  1. Work on one room or space at a time. You’ll get overwhelmed if you try to tackle the entire floor of your home at once, especially if you have years of clutter that has built up over the years.
  2. Have a ton of large plastic bags ready. Focus on three types of garbage bags: one for regular trash, one for recycling (separate the plastic/glass/metal from the paper), and one for donations.
  3. When you go through your items, organize them based on a common theme! I came home for winter break to help my family move, and I had over 20 years of clutter to sort through (imagine my shock of the endless amount of items I was looking at). We had items such as stuffed animals, arts and crafts, kids’ toys, etc. I organized them into categories such as these, and for the items that were good enough to be donated, I set them aside.
  4. If you’re in a time crunch and need to clear your home quickly, Craigslist is going to be your best friend. Within days, and sometimes hours, I was able to donate bags of assorted items to people who [I hope!] will put them to good use for their families.
    • if you do have the time, you can definitely list items for sale on Craigslist or eBay, but since we needed to move things out FAST, listing them for free was the most efficient way to go!
  5. When you go through your clothes, look at each item and decide if it’s something that “sparks joy”, as the KonMari Method describes. I really like this article that describes the importance of joy when going through your closet and picking out the clothes that bring you joy. The article describes how there are different ways to bring joy, and that the initial joy in purchasing the item can wear off and it is okay to let it go.

If you haven’t seen, used, or thought about the item you happen upon while you’re decluttering your home, chances are, you don’t need it! That’s the best advice I can offer you after going through three floors and one basement’s worth of stuff x_x

What are your methods of decluttering your home?

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Water-Saving Tips & Tricks

water-savingtips-tricksIt doesn’t take much to make a difference and conserve water within your home. If you need some tips and tricks, this is the post to read! New Year, new resolutions… to make a difference and lower your carbon footprint, perhaps? Try out some of these water-saving tips found here at my public health blog: Water-Saving Tips & Tricks 🙂

DIY Canvas Art: Floral Letters

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Quick post today 🙂 April showers will hopefully bring lots of pretty May flowers, as the saying goes… and we were feeling festive at the Project Sunshine office with an arts & crafts themed birthday party! We had the options to decorate wooden plaques and blank white canvases, and I felt like making something bright and colorful.

Supplies:

  • oil-based Sharpies (or paint, preferably acrylic)
  • blank white canvas

You can use your imagination or venture into the Pinterest realm and see what catches your eye and inspires you!

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