Paradise Laos’d

Last weekend I spent two days on the slow boat from the Thai border down the Mekong River to Luang Prabang, Laos. While I was sad to say goodbye to ‘the land of smiles’ after almost seven weeks, with the last two spent exploring the north (Pai, Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai), lots of people had told me how beautiful Laos is. I haven’t been disappointed.

I’ve read online that some people found the border crossing from Thailand to Laos chaotic; since I’m travelling in low season, immigration was all but empty except me and two fellow travellers from my bus, who navigated it pretty easily, picked up our visas, and then waited for a tuk tuk to take us to the slow boat pier.

The journey down the Mekong on a wooden boat, carrying a mix of backpackers and locals, was magical. Nothing but lush, green jungle for miles and miles, interspersed with the odd small rustic village, with locals embarking and disembarking periodically.

Occasionally you see local children playing by or in the river, and the odd water buffalo grazing by the riverbanks. At one point we also saw some elephants being lead back up hill, presumably after a bath, and presumably to go and work logging or similar 😦

It was so peaceful, and great to be back in nature after several days in cities. I thought I was obsessed with the sea, but on reflection I think maybe it’s actually just water.

I’d highly recommend the boat trip if you’re planning to come from Thailand to Laos. It’s about £40 including a transfer from Chiang Rai (about two hours) and well worth it for the experience.

The boat isn’t exactly luxurious but it’s comfortable enough; the seats are minivan seats which aren’t properly fastened to the floor, so you have to be careful not to lean back too hard or they get a bit wobbly.

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The slow boat, and minivan seats. A bit like the arc, all in twos, although we mainly had a double seat each

I imagine when it’s busy it’s difficult to find a seat, but most of us had a double seat each, so we had plenty of room to spread out. All the locals sat near the front, presumably to be further away from the engine (or maybe the tourists?), but it wasn’t too noisy. The boat also served beer so several of us partook in a few Laos beers – which are actually pretty good. I’ve sampled a few since then 🙂

We spent the night half way down the river in Pakbeng, which seems mainly geared up as a stopover for people travelling between Huay Xai, where you board the boat, and Luang Prabang. It’s about 7 hours the first day, then 8-9 hours on the second day, covering around 400km (I couldn’t find a reliable measure online so this is an estimate).

I booked my accommodation in Pakbeng before arriving, although there are plenty of people trying to sell you a room when you dock. While I don’t like to plan too much, I prefer to have at least some idea of what to expect from a place from the photos online, and the certainty of having a bed before I get somewhere! Here’s the view from where I stayed – which was the closest place to the pier.

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View of the Mekong from my guesthouse in Pakbeng

I finally got to sleep after battling with the light fittings which was like a really shit version of the Crystal Maze where you had to work out how to turn the lights off without also turning off the aircon and fan. There were several switches, on either side of the room, so it was a case of turn one on (or off), then go to the other side of the room and try another switch, and see what happens until you get the right combination.

Literally took me about 20 minutes. And I didn’t even get a crystal at the end of it.

After buying breakfast and sandwiches wrapped in banana leaf for lunch (Laos does good bread – something I’ve really missed the last few weeks!), we changed to a larger boat in the morning,  to continue for another few hours.

Arriving at Luang Prabang pier, me and two fellow boat friends got a tuk tuk into town. We were pretty confused when the driver unceremoniously just dropped us in the old town and refused to take us to our respective hotels – I don’t know what the point was of telling them specifically where we wanted to go. Luckily my hotel was only up the road so I walked, but the boat friends had to hail another tuk tuk who then charged them 30,000 kip (about £2.70) to take them to their hostel. Which was 10,000 kip more than we’d paid for a 7km journey, and their hostel was only 5 minutes away.

My hotel for the first three nights was right on the river, which meant another lovely sunset on night one. I do love a good sunset. Especially with a beer.

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Sunset view by the Mekong River

I’ve since moved to a different guest house as I like Luang Prabang so much I’ve decided to stay on for a full week. This one is very similar, but a bit cheaper and tucked away down a cute little street a bit closer to the night market.

Interestingly there is a set of accommodation regulations in Luang Prabang. According to them, I am not to make any ‘sex movies’ or bring any ‘prostate’ into the room. Not much danger of either of those happening, tbh, but I’ll pack the video camera away.

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Luang Prabang is the former capital of Laos. The whole city is a UNESCO World Heritage site and when you arrive you can see why – the architecture is a beautiful combination of traditional wooden buildings, with French and Vietnamese influences. It’s unlike any other place I’ve seen so far.

It also has a very laid back feel; while there are enough people, it’s pretty quiet; there are numerous little wooden guest houses (think creaky floors and lack of sound-proofing – which I think would put paid quickly to making any potential sex movies…), shops, boutiques, cafes, restaurants, a daily (or rather, nightly) night market, and in the evening the streets twinkle with fairy lights and lanterns. It’s quite possibly the most beautiful place I’ve ever visited.

The influence of the French is obvious in the cafe culture – baguettes, croissants, patries and bagels abound (including ‘bagel eggers’ which I thought was a typo until I’d seen it in multiple places. It’s a bagel with eggs on it lol). It’s generally more expensive for food than in Thailand, but since it’s basically in the middle of the jungle, it must cost more to transport everything. Beer is just as cheap though!

I sampled some amazing Peaberry cold brew Laotian coffee earlier this week while overlooking the Mekong, from a coffee shop which works with local hill tribes to produce the coffee. Well worth a try if you’re here (it’s called Saffron). It’s so good I went twice in two days. Nothing like establishing a routine immediately after arriving somewhere new.

I’ve also been to a small theatre to listen to Laos folk tales which were enthusiastically told by a young local, accompanied by a much (much) older gent playing a Khaen, a traditional Laotian bamboo wind instrument. It was fascinating to hear these stories, including how Mount Phousi (pronounced ‘pussy’) – which is not really a mountain but the tallest hill in Luang Prabang at 100m high – was formed, apparently by a Monkey King who brought it from Sri Lanka.

I climbed Mount Phousi the next day to watch the sunset. It’s 328 steps and when it’s 37 degrees and 80% humidity and you’re not used to working your calf muscles, you definitely feel it. The view from the top was amazing although half way down me and a few others got stuck in a ridiculous thunderstorm and torrential rain, and had to wait at the ticket booth for an hour before we could continue. It was pitch black, I didn’t have an umbrella, and I lost my torch in Pakbeng. Doh.

A couple of nights ago, me and my boat friends went to a French restaurant which has an extensive vegan menu and excellent ratings on TripAdvisor. On the way I managed to fall into a 3 foot deep ditch (good job I still have some antiseptic cream for my leg) which was a great source of entertainment for my boat friends as they didn’t realise they were hanging around with Clumsy McClumsy-some, and which (apart from the sunset) was possibly the highlight of the evening as the food was pretty disappointing – every course was either cold or inexplicably lukewarm.

Yesterday I went on a trip to Pak Ou caves, which is at a junction where the Mekong meets the Nam Ou river. Inside there are hundreds of Buddha statues which are thought to have been left there over hundreds over years. There are two parts to the cave, upper and lower. And a ton of steps again. I should be getting used to this by now.

Afterwards we went to Kuang Si waterfalls. This place speaks for itself – beautiful! I had a dip in the bottom waterfall as the top one was full of people; the water was freezing which was a welcome relief from the heat.  I even took a cheeky selfie. It was nice to actually see a waterfall – many of the ones in Thailand are dry because of the season, so the only one I saw (in Pai) was more of a watertrickle than a waterfall.

This morning I got up at 5am to watch the alms-giving ceremony. Luang Prabang has 34 active Buddhist temples, and every morning at sunrise the monks walk around the town barefoot and meditating, collecting alms from the locals – typically sticky rice and fruit, which serves as their single meal for the day. This is a ritual which has been taking place for over 600 years, and in exchange for giving alms, the locals receive spiritual ‘merit’ for their good deed, making it a reciprocal relationship. It’s become a major draw for tourists to observe.

However, it is of course a deeply religious act, and apparently a lot of tourists use it as an opportunity to take selfies or get in the way (idiots). I was asked by a local if I wanted to take part, but I don’t think that’s appropriate unless you’re Buddhist, so I sat on the floor at a safe distance observing, from a side street just around the corner from my guesthouse (partly to avoid other tourists who typically go onto the main street). Admittedly there’s a bit too much floor in these pictures as I was trying to be discreet and avoid being one of the idiots!

During the alms giving, women have to keep their heads lower than the monks at all times, and no eye contact – or physical contact – with the monks is permitted. It didn’t last very long but it was pretty special to watch.

Then I went back to bed for a couple of hours. Unlike the locals, I’m not used to being up at that time!

On Sunday I’ll be heading to Vang Vieng before moving on to Laos’ capital, Vientiane. And perhaps I’ll blog about that. I’m conscious I’ve missed out the whole of my time in Koh Phangan, Phuket, Pai, Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai over the last few weeks…must try harder (again)!!

8 things I’ve learnt in a month of travelling

It’s been exactly a month since I left Singapore. Already! And it’s already about 3 weeks since I last wrote a blog, so I’m overdue for writing something.

The initial idea for this blog was ‘8 travel tips from my first month of travelling’, but now I’ve written it, I can hardly say ‘don’t wee on your own leg’ is a travel tip (see point 7) – or really any kind of tip, because it’s just common sense – so I’ve entitled it ‘8 things I’ve learnt in a month of travelling’ instead. Yes folks, I’ve finally learnt weeing on yourself is not advisable. So at least something good has come out of my leaving my job and travelling around Asia. My parents will be so proud.

Anyway, that little treat is towards the end, once you’ve read points 1-6, so let’s start where all good listicles start – at the beginning. Here’s what I’ve learnt (it’s groundbreaking stuff):

1. I have great intentions about blogging and writing, but intentions don’t always turn into actions. While I work well under pressure and can smash things out when I need to, it turns out I am pretty good at procrastinating unless I have a pressing deadline (who knew?! Haha. BTW, this is not new news to anyone who knows me. But it’s certainly been proven true in the last month). I think I need to start setting myself a goal of writing, say, at least one blog a week.

2. Despite my initial trepidation, I am perfectly capable of living out of a rucksack. In fact, I massively over-packed and will be sending some clothes with my friends back to Singapore after their visit this weekend to give me a bit more space. This is what my rucksack looked like initially – it needed its own seat on the ferry from Koh Samui to Koh Phangan.

rucksack on ferry

It was packed so high that when I put it on, I not only almost toppled over backwards with the weight (20kgs, which was lucky in a way because that was my maximum luggage allowance on the flights I’ve taken so far), I had to walk with my neck tilted forward like a right muppet because it’s not designed to be packed all the way to the top; the top has a drawstring and it’s supposed to roll down and sit behind your shoulders. Probably should have done a trial run of packing it before I left Singapore but, well, I left that until the last minute. See point 1.

While it’s definitely do-able, living out of a rucksack can be frustrating. Even though I always pack the stuff I think I’ll need near the top, this never seems to work, and I always end up needing something from at the bottom and emptying the whole thing out whenever I get to somewhere new. The solution? Just take everything out when you arrive at a new place, and dump it on the bed/floor/some other surface. Doesn’t work so well in dorms unless you want to encourage people to rifle through your stuff (maybe to take some of it and free up some space?), but okay when staying on your own. Another solution would be to use a suitcase, but no self-respecting travel wanker uses a suitcase.

3. After three years of living on the equator I thought I was used to the heat. Wrong! I was used to occasional heat in the 10 minutes or so I would typically be outside in between home and public transport or the office, and used to maximum airconditioning in almost all other conditions (trains or buses, home, work, shopping malls, bars, restaurants…). My first couple of weeks travelling were in places with a fan rather than airconditioning and in the last few days, I’ve upgraded to AC rooms. Turns out this is money well spent because not being able to sleep when it’s too hot is pretty rubbish, and waking up drenched in your own body fluids (not those kinds, get your mind out of the gutter!) loses its novelty very quickly. The heat is also exhausting and makes you sweaty and rank and I am by no means used to it at all, which brings me to point 4:

4. Make-up is overrated. It’s especially overrated when it’s so hot outside (and inside, if you don’t have aircon) that it drips off you immediately with sweat. It’s also overrated when you’re in ‘the zone’ of being a traveller and you don’t actually give a shit what you look like any more. I don’t usually wear a lot of make-up anyway, just a bit of foundation, mascara and lipstick, but I can’t even wear a tinted moisturiser here because as soon as I step outside, it slides off and drips down my face. Mascara is displaced by the sweaty drips and runs into your eyes; the panda look isn’t cool, and it’s also not cool to not be able to see because you have black chemicals in your eyes (maybe a waterproof mascara would solve this? But I don’t have room in my rucksack, so…). And lipstick – well, if we’re sacking off foundation and mascara and going ‘au naturale’, lipstick seems a bit redundant. I made an exception last week when speaking at an event in Phuket, but that’s only because a) it was kind of work-related, and I wanted to look like a professional speaker and not a traveller who definitely lives out of a rucksack, and b) we were in an airconditioned hotel, with minimum chance of profuse sweating (or make-up melting down my face) on the cards.

5. Mosquito spray is definitely not overrated. Mozzies are everywhere, and I’ve been bitten like mad. I even seem to get bitten while wearing spray and hiding in bed under a mosquito net. Maybe there’s something special in my blood. Mwuahahahahaha. I can definitely see the appeal of elephant pants now, with their covery-leg abilities and elasticated mozzie-up-your-leg-prevention system at the bottom. So I’ve bought some, which I don’t really have room for, as you’ll know if you read point 2. But, elephant pants are very much like rucksacks for the traveller – essential equipment.

6. Doing nothing is definitely underrated. I’ve managed to do nothing in 7 locations so far (1 in Koh Samui, 3 in Koh Phangan, 3 in Phuket), and to fill a whole month by doing very little, and it’s amazing! I’ve read about 8 books (separate blog with a list and short and probably useless reviews to come, which I’ve been writing as I write this one, so screw you, point 1), sat on beaches, been for a few walks, spoken at an event, eaten lots of Thai food, drunk plenty of Chang beer, watched multiple sunsets, been to a full moon party…you might notice none of these are particularly active activities. The most action I’ve seen was a yoga and meditation retreat for a few days on Koh Phangan. To be fair, this was more exercise than I’ve done in a long time. And it also involved more sitting on the floor than I’ve done since I was about 5 years old (which is probably about the same time I last did so much exercise). Never mind the yoga, sitting on the floor cross legged is *hard work* people. Another blog to come on the yoga retreat. Assuming I can get over point 1 (again). Here’s a picture of the place, just to give you a sneak preview. And break up the text a bit:

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7. The smell of mothballs (or whatever those gross smelling white balls are that look like old fashioned mint sweets which they put in urinals) makes me gag. Dis. Gus. Ting. Seriously gross. I have discovered this because some toilets in cafes have one toilet with a toilet and urinal in the same room, I haven’t gone loco*. I used a toilet today and actually weed a bit down my leg in my hurry to get out of there without throwing up. Which then actually meant I was in there longer because I then had to wipe wee off my leg as well as the regular ablutions associated with having a wee. The moral of that story? Don’t breathe through your nose in public toilets (really shouldn’t have taken me 37 years to figure that out), and don’t wee down your own leg (again, this shouldn’t be a thing at my age. What can I say? See point 8…).

8. I’m clumsy. Okay, this is also not new news, but having fallen off a moped in week 1, I went on to stub my toe a few days ago on the edge of a wooden bed (no injuries were sustained with the weeing on my own leg, you’ll be pleased to know). I thought I might have broken my toe initially it was so swollen and bruised, but I was still able to move it, which according to the NHS website – and my own previous experience of injuring a toe (this was not my first rodeo) – is a good sign. And after a few days, it’s definitely getting better, I’ve managed to walk to the beach today. That’s two injuries in a month. At this rate, I’ll have to replenish my first aid supplies soon – or at least the painkillers. At least a first aid kit was a useful thing to have packed in my over-stuffed rucksack. And I’ve learnt quickly to keep that in the front pocket so I don’t have to empty the whole bag if I ever next time I need it 🙂

Stay tuned for more properly insightful blogs, if I can be be bothered to write any.

*Edit – I used the facilities again before I left, and it turns out I was in the men’s toilet. Oops. It’s definitely still a thing though, I’ve seen it elsewhere.

Encounters with the locals: local wildlife, that is, I’m still largely avoiding people

Earlier this week I left Koh Samui, and boarded the ferry to Koh Phangan. Again, I’m staying away from the main touristy parts [read: far enough away from the full moon party that I can go tonight, but won’t be kept awake by all night partying by all the youths if I go to bed early. Disclaimer, my transfer to the full moon party is at 10.30pm, so it’s not going to be a particularly early night either way. But at least I can escape afterwards when I realise I’m the oldest person there].

I’m in a co-working space this week, so there are plenty of people, unlike last week. There are several bars, cafes and restaurants all along the beach (just as well as I won’t be riding a moped to travel anywhere), and apparently Haad Yao, where I’m staying, is one of the nicest beaches in Koh Phangan. Boom.

I’m might even have an actual conversation with someone who isn’t my Airbnb host this week. Although maybe not, since it’s Friday so almost the end of the week, and my main conversations so far have been with a couple of friends on WhatsApp (including a 3.5 hour marathon call with Lauren this week, which replaced our usual Wednesday night out in Singapore) and the barman in what’s become my ‘local’ on the beach. However, I said hello to the woman in the next cabin when I arrived the other day – woah. Turned out she’d found a scorpion in her bathroom. She asked me if that was normal. Errr…no? I hope not!

But actually I’m enjoying my own company – this is not a particular surprise to me, but it is the longest I’ve ever spent on my own. I’m getting used to having the time and space to do whatever I like, even if that’s not very much. Including sleeping whenever I like. In my defense, I didn’t sleep well at all the first night I arrived in Koh Samui.

While a tree house in the jungle sounds idyllic, I hadn’t really thought through the associated jungle noises and creatures who would be sharing the space with me. All night, hearing creatures on the roof, bees buzzing, toads and frogs calling, and countless other noises I have no clue about. I’ve since worked out what one of the weird noises you can hear at night is…it’s a lizard, see the video below. They are soooo loud! They’re also pretty big, as I spotted one on the wall of the treehouse when I got up in the night. But they eat mozzies so they’re welcome to hang around.

On night three last week I got horrifically bitten by mozzies; my Airbnb hosts put a mosquito net over my bed, which made a big difference. The bed here in Koh Phangan already has one, which is definitely appreciated, although I’m still getting bitten pretty regularly, but not in bed, which is something.

Here’s my hut (shed) for this week. It’s again very basic and it doesn’t always have running water, but it does have a totally useless hammock which isn’t tied up high enough, so if you sit on it, you basically sit on the floor with your legs up; you can tell this by looking at it, but I tried sitting in it while drunk the other night, just to be sure. I could always retie it but I probably won’t bother. However it’s very close to the beach and I have a pretty sweet view while I’m blogging from the co-working space (picture on the right).

Anyway, back to the wildlife. In less than two weeks, I’ve seen lizards (small and big), birds, squirrels, a snake (which I was assured ‘probably’ wasn’t poisonous; just as well as it was pretty big and about 2 inches from my feet while I was brushing my teeth one morning), spiders, bees, crabs, fish, frogs and toads, a couple of baby sharks in the sea (at least, they looked like baby sharks), and a parrot behind the counter in a supermarket. The parrot reminded me of Kev and Mel. I wonder if they’re missing me. I WhatsApp called them when they first got back to Manchester because I was missing them. As they’re not so familiar with WhatsApp they probably found that extremely confusing.

As I’m writing this, I’ve realised I’ve had a massive fail as I have a grand total of zero photos of any of the wildlife I’ve described here. So here’s a picture of me with Kev and Mel instead, just before we all left Singapore.

Family portrait

Note to self – take more photos! (And use fewer brackets when writing 🙂 )

 

Learning how to fall off a moped

While I did very little all week in Koh Samui, on the one day I felt really adventurous, I decided to have a go on a moped.

Let me set the context. In Thailand, in fact in most of South East Asia, everyone rides mopeds. And not only do they ride mopeds, they carry shopping on them, and whatever else they might need to transport, which can be anything from a dozen crates of chickens to furniture.  If you’re not riding a moped…well. You’re probably a bit safer. Thailand is apparently the most dangerous country in the world to ride a moped.

While I have no particular ambition to carry shopping and animals on a scooter, getting around on moped is what most people do in Thailand, locals and tourists alike. It’s cheaper and more convenient than relying on taxis, easy to explore the local area, and since I’ll be in Thailand for a few weeks, I thought I should probably learn to ride one.

Since I was staying in a really quiet area with peaceful roads and hardly any traffic, I thought this would be the safest place while I’m travelling to learn how to ride a moped. Ha! I forgot I was using my own uncoordinated body. I do technically have a licence for riding a small moped, even though I’ve never ridden one before – apparently if you passed your driving test pre-2001 in the UK, you can ride up to 50cc mopeds without taking the test. Must be easy then, right?

Dave, the Airbnb host, showed me how to control it. Apparently most people forget to stop accelerating and brake at the same time, and this is a key reason learners come off. Okay, I said, confident. I’ve got this.

I strapped on my helmet, got on, lunged forward a bit, braked a bit, accelerated a bit, thought ‘I’ve sooo got this’, set off onto the road and managed to get about 30 yards before someone overtook my rapid 5mph speed and I panicked and fell off. Doh.

Fortunately I fell onto the grass, although I did sustain some scrapes and minor cuts and bruises – and had neck-ache the next day, who knew you could get whiplash at 5mph?? But without a doubt the most damage was to my ego. How embarrassing!!

Dave came over to check I was okay and to drive the bike back, which took him about three seconds because I was still within spitting distance of where I’d set off from, and the woman who’d freaked me out by overtaking me – not her fault at all – was very reassuring that it happens to everyone, don’t worry about it, etc. etc. Yeah, but where are all those learner muppets falling off bikes now eh?? Only me coming off it here lah!

Well, that was certainly enough excitement for one day, so I went down to the beach instead, where I couldn’t hurt myself or anyone else. The next day I borrowed a push bike, which was considerably safer, although I haven’t ridden one for years so I was still a bit wobbly. I didn’t fall off it though, so, you know, could have been worse.

I rode down to a nearby wat (temple), which actually wasn’t much further than I’d managed to walk down the beach the day before. But I went a different way so it definitely counts as exploring.

Here’s a crap picture of the bike (to prove I rode it) and wat in the background. I had to stay at a distance as I couldn’t get into the temple, having stupidly forgot to bring anything to cover my knees. There’s also a slightly better picture of the boat temple which was close by.

And so ended my adventures with mopeds. At least until the scabs have healed anyway.

 

 

The adventure begins; getting used to doing nothing

Now I’m officially unemployed for the first time in, like, ever, at the grand old age of 37 I’m taking my gap yaaah and travelling around Asia. Woooo! Bring on all of the cultural experiences! And maybe even some blogging 🙂

From what I’ve heard and read from people who go travelling, they often pack as much as they possibly can into the time they have. Have all of the experiences. Make all of the memories. See all of the things. I plan to do that at some point, but first I’m taking some time to chill out and experiment with doing nothing.

People always say you get bored of doing nothing. You know, like when people retire they say they’re bored, there’s nothing to do. Ha!

I decided I’d start my gap yaaah by seeing how long it would take me to get bored by doing nothing. I thought this would be a good experiment and nice way of settling into being a travelling hippie (which is of course, the goal).

I left Singapore last Monday and flew to Koh Samui, a Thai island. Bearing in mind my pursuit of doing nothing, and the fact this ruled out much contact with people or the outside world (because people have ideas and want to do things and such like), I booked a tree house above a cafe on the south of the island in Laem Sor, well away from the main tourist areas like Chaweng.

In the week I was there I didn’t venture more than about two miles in any direction from where I was staying. I realise Koh Samui is a beautiful place, but when you’re a two minute walk from the beach, are literally staying above a bar (even though you’re the only customer most of the time – good for avoiding conversations with other humans), which serves beer as well as nice food, has a hammock and a Peter Andre shower – an outside Peter Andre shower, no less – why bother going anywhere else?

To be fair, I did feel a bit guilty a couple of times. It’s hard to switch out of business mode where everything’s busy, busy, busy, emails, meetings, calls, and constant ‘doing’, to doing absolutely nothing and not having any kind of routine. Plus, at the moment I feel like I’m on holiday, rather than taking an extended break, and holiday usually means doing all of the things, having all of the experiences…

I kept feeling like I should go and explore the island, see some waterfalls or markets, anything which meant venturing out, even a little. And then I thought, why should I? If I’m happy doing bugger all, what does it matter? No-one’s relying on me or expecting me to do anything. Just enjoy the freedom of doing nothing!

My week was therefore filled, if you can call it that, with reading several books, sitting on the beach (in the shade, obvs, living on the equator for three years have proved to me that the sun is not friends with my skin), and watching the sunset.

With views like that, I could definitely get used to doing nothing 🙂

1 second everyday: year 3

For the last 3 years I’ve been taking a one second video every day and then using the 1SE (1 second everyday) app to mash it all together at the end of the year. A video of my life. Every. Single. Day. And no, I still haven’t missed a day. Yaaaaas!

Even though I’ve now been doing this for 3 years, I’m still amazed at how cool this idea is and I’m so glad I decided to try it back in 2015. Originally an experiment to capture my move to Singapore and share it with friends and family, 1SE has now become my ‘thing’ and I’m continuing it in 2019 which will be year 4 (so watch out for my annual blog next January 🙂 ).

It’s a great way of recording and then remembering the sights and sounds of everyday life, and the many little, insignificant things I’d have forgotten about if I wasn’t videoing every day. It’s also a brilliant way to look back on bigger events (or sometimes more ridiculous ones, in my case), and having a highlight reel of the way the whole year played out.

This year I moved apartments, starred in two plays – The Vagina Monologues and Mr and Mrs Perfect – tried (and failed) at going to the gym, despite having a free membership for 6 months (a pretty epic fail really), and drank the odd (!) gin and tonic.

Business-wise, I worked with lots of new clients, spoke at several seminars and events, wrote a few articles, was interviewed a couple of times by different publications, and started a keynote speakers training course.

I said goodbye to a colleague who left the business, as well as a couple of friends who left Singapore, but said hello to a friend’s new baby (which I threatened to steal, as evidenced in the video), started a new blog (the irony, given how little I post on this one), did a bit of sewing, and celebrated the life events of my little bro getting married and my Mum’s 60th birthday.

I was lucky to be able to travel to Dubai, Spain (Marbella), Thailand (Krabi which was amazingly beautiful, plus Bangkok a few times, including the most ridiculous weekend of my life with Bax, I’ve never laughed so much), Myanmar (Yangon), Malaysia (KL, as well as Malacca and Langkawi), Indonesia (Bintan), India (an epic trip – one I might even blog about at some point), and of course back to the UK – 3 times! Despite living so far away, it’s fab to be able to spend quality time with family and friends on my trips back, and especially with my nieces, who are all growing up way too quickly!

I tested Singapore’s health service with a minor operation – all good in the hood now, but it did mean I had several weeks of not drinking, which probably was a good thing for my liver, given the aforementioned ‘odd’ G&T – dabbled with veganism (which I’m trying again for 2019), and went to some fine and classy establishments for eating, drinking and cavorting, as well as some, well, not so classy ones (Orchard Towers and Kho San Road, I’m looking at you). I also went from having no ink to having two tattoos, had my eyebrow pierced, and changed my hair a few times.

2018 was a pretty busy year, and it’s amazing to be able to share the highlights, so a massive thank to everyone who was a part of it, and here’s to more adventures in 2019! I highly recommend you think about starting your own 1 second every day to capture your own memories; you can find out more about it here.

Sooooo…here’s my 2018 in just over 6 minutes (the detailed-orientated might note it’s one second too long for 365 days; I cheated, there’s one day with an extra second, because I didn’t want to miss out some of the family on a trip back to the motherland). Enjoy!

Here are 2017 and 2016’s videos if you want more of my life in your life.

2017 in just over six minutes

In 2016 I started documenting my life by taking one second of video everyday. I mashed it up at the end of the year into an app, so my whole year is condensed into just over six minutes, which is a bit quicker than reliving the whole thing. Think of it as like a highlight reel.

I loved 2016’s video so much, in 2017 I decided to do it again.

Creating something like this really makes you reflect on the big things and little ones over the year. As well as travelling as far as Fiji and the US, I’ve met a lot of awesome people, done some totally random things and had a LOT of fun. As you might be able to tell.

Thanks to all my friends and family for starring in my 2017, for making it such an amazing year, and for putting up with me taking videos all the time. A special shout out to Bax who is in it almost as much as I am.

If you want to do your own 1SE (do it, do it), download the app. Here’s mine…cheers! (Edit, this is version 2 of the video, which has an extra second on 30th December so I didn’t leave out Dani 🙂 )

And if you need more one seconds in your life, you can check out 2016’s video here:

 

2016 in just over 6 minutes

2016 was a pretty momentous year for me. It was the year I packed a suitcase, said goodbye to everybody and everything I’d known my whole life, and moved 7,000 miles away from Manchester to Singapore to run a new business and start a new life.

I didn’t really have any idea what I was letting myself in for, but to document my new life and adventures (assuming I was going to have some. I did…) in Singapore, and to do another image-based challenge – plus give me something to do, since I came on my own, and didn’t know anyone in Singapore – I decided to take one second of video everyday. There’s an app called 1SE which you can use on your phone which runs it all together for you and helps you create your own video-diary-blog-thing. I was introduced to it at the end of 2015 by a client at work and I’m so glad I was, as it’s been a fab project to do.

People I’ve mentioned this project to have had various reactions. Some don’t get it, or think it’s weird. Which is fine, because I do weird things sometimes. Some freak out a bit when I say ‘let’s do a one second video’ and they don’t want to be in it. (I usually just take them anyway. I’m talking about friends mainly, not random strangers though…that would be really weird, even for me). And often people say, incredulously, one second? What can you get in one second? Ahhh. You’d be surprised; you can capture a lot more in one second than you’d think. And when you run it all together, you get an awesome snapshot into someone’s life.

A few observations from my experience:

  • The app sends you several notifications a day to remind you to take a video, but after a while it becomes a habit. Having said that, I always try to get a video early on (a ‘banker’), advice I gave myself when doing my 365 project a couple of years ago, and which has served me well. You can always take another, better one, later, but it would be really annoying to forget on any given day.
  • After a while, I stopped using the app to take the videos, and used my camera and uploaded them into the app later. You can select the specific second you want in either case, but this meant I didn’t need to commit to which second represented my day immediately. It also meant I had the original video stored on my phone and, I felt, gave me more flexibility.
  • Phone storage can be an issue if you don’t save (on your laptop) the videos after uploading them into the app, at least if you have a phone with limited storage like I do. Or lots of other stuff saved on it, like I do. There were a few times I had to rapidly delete some music or photos to make room to do a quick video. It’s worth saying this is largely because I’m lazy and took ages to get around to uploading them onto the app. The app itself doesn’t take up a ridiculous amount of space, although obviously the size increases the more videos you add. You can delete the original video from your phone after uploading the clip you want to use, as the one second will be stored in the app. So if you do run out of storage, it’s probably because you’re lazy, like me.
  • Some of the videos are wonky as they were mistakenly filmed in portrait rather than landscape. Hopefully a future app update will address this – very annoying when you realise later but can’t adjust it! I now always check I’ve filmed in landscape rather than portrait as soon as I’ve taken the video, to be on the safe side. On that note, if you’re ever taking a video on your phone – use the space, do it in landscape! If you view it on a bigger screen it looks crap in portrait mode.
  • Some of the one seconds won’t have any significance to anyone except me – like when I opened my bank account, or got my employment pass. Or when I used the gym – which with hindsight was actually a pretty momentous occasion, given that it only happened twice all year. Some of them are just run of the mill things, like the train station I use everyday, or spending time with Kev and Mel, my parrots (although since it took 6 months to get them out here with me, they definitely deserved to be immortalised on film a fair amount). But I wanted to document the day to day of my life, as well as the exciting stuff. Plus, I don’t always do exciting stuff, which means you have to capture the day to day as well.
  • As time goes on, you’ll notice more people in the video. Like I said earlier, I didn’t know anyone when I first moved here, so didn’t have anyone to film (sob). I also realised part way through this project it’s much more interesting to record videos of people, and not just things. Plus I had actual friends to film at that point. I’m not big on selfies, but it’s different when you have people to share the screen with you and you’re doing a quick video rather than just posing for a photo. I realise as I’m writing this, there’s actually not that much difference, but it does feel different – to me, at least.
  • It’s easier (and better for your back) doing a project which uses your phone rather than having to lug your camera and kit around all the time. Although as a result of doing this project, I’ve neglected my camera and hardly used it since moving to Singapore. Must sort that out this year.
  • I enjoyed it so much I’m doing it again in 2017. Wooo!

As well as my adventures – and daily routine – in Singapore, I’ve also captured snapshots of my visits to Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, Brunei, Tokyo, Indonesia (Bintan, Jakarta, Yogyakarta, and Bali), Sydney, Phuket in Thailand, Cambodia and of course, Manchester. I’ve got my amazing family and friends in it, my beautiful birds, lots of reminders of the lovely people I’ve met in Singapore – some who I’ve only met once, and some who I am sure will be lifelong friends – the food I’ve eaten, the places I’ve visited for work and pleasure, and…despite the exorbitant prices, a lot of alcoholic beverage drinking (ahem). I think I’m going to love watching this in a few years’ time and remembering what an awesome year it was – the small things, as well as the big ones.

If you’re thinking of trying one – do it! If you don’t like it, then stop, but hopefully you’ll love it too – and let me know how you get on.

Anyway, here’s my 2016 in 6 minutes 10 seconds. And no, Mum, we are definitely not drinking shots out of a rude vessel at any point. You missed it? Have fun trying to find it. Lol.