Almost six months into this trip and not a single trip update made. Not too bad compared to what
many of my friends would accomplish (no offence), but pathetic compared to Ashley. She
honestly spends more time writing than sleeping, and for anyone who knows her, you know that is
a significant amount of time. Taking into account how far behind I am, I've decided that the only
way to catch up to her is to tell a single story about an experience in each country we've
been to so far. Good enough? Best kind. Here we go.
Spent a week in Seoul visiting my old buddy from the St. FX days, the one and only Gord
McCoy. Or the "Reel McCoy" as we used to call him. We actually ended up spending even more
time with his love interest Semi Kim, who was adorable. Myself and Ashley liked her right from
the start. She was/is completely comical and sweet as pie. But the story isn't about her, so we'll
We had spent the whole week with Semi eating chicken as Gord was working in some winter
camp. Finally Gord got home for the weekend. We meet up with him at some palace; perhaps it
was called Kyoungbok. The look he gave me the first time he see me was a look I'd seen
before. The same one my mother, father, brothers, and friends (Newfoundland & Nova Scotia)
had given me perviously. A look that says "You've gained weight". Anyways, that was fine, no
insecurities here. But it ties into the punch line so I'll continue on.
I can't recall if it was that evening or the next, but Gord got into his head that he was going to
show me me the Gangnam District. As in the rich, over-the-top area of Seoul made famous by
"musician" Psy. Sure, why not. Not really taking into account that our mode of transportation
was Gords scooter. At that point I'd seen entire Korean families share a scooter, so I thought
that me on the back wouldn't be an issue. Not true. Never got 200ft. before I flattened the back
tire. Which makes it hard to drive considering that's 50% of the tires on her. Locals were looking
at me from every corner. Pointing and speaking in Korean. I imagined them saying "serves you
right, fat American!". Regardless, I felt a clear message had just been served to me: time to
drop a few pounds. So I can "loose that basketball I swallowed" as the tactful Jamie Hayes once
told me. On to Thailand.
Thailand's a nice spot. Full of tourists though; for the most part anyways. That is unless you
"divorce" your girlfriend and happen to have a buddy spending time on an isolated island not far
from the divorce's epicentre. So, by myself for the first time on the road, I left Koh Phi Phi Island
to find Shane FitzGerald who was chilling on some beach with his friend on Koh Chang; an
island to the north of where I'd left earlier that day. "Getting there as cheap as possible too!" I
thought to myself. Which means you don't take tourist buses, but rather local buses for a
fraction of the price, and 6X the duration (with no A/C). So as a result of my frugal nature (and total lack of planning), I land at the "bus stop" at midnight in the middle of nowhere in a Thai ghost-town called Ranong.
Thank God I had a room booked I thought to myself. But how would I ever find it? You have to
realize, at this point I have no internet, no phone capabilities, nor can I speak Thai, and vice
versa of the local people. I was shaking for a a drink to settle my nerves. But before I got the chance, some super
sketchy, 40 something year old man decided to stare me down. "Hotel?" he asks. I tried to
verbalized the name of the place I had booked. In his attempt to reiterate it, he absolutely
butchered it. I just looked at him, and said the exact same thing again. So did he...a vicious
stalemate. Then he says "get on now", and points to his rickety scooter. I had flashbacks of
Gords scooter and how I wish I were on that one instead. Being a typical unnecessarily polite
Canadian, I respond with "OK!". Such an idiot.
Again, this dude was super sketchy. He had that "I'm a crackhead and there are bugs all over
me" kind of feel to him. So I grabbed my Gerber pocketknife, and held it close in case I needed
to kill him on our way to his crystal meth lab. In a turn of events, in the far distance I recognized
the signage of the hostel I was staying at. He dropped me off without issue, and I felt relieved.
Maybe I shouldn't be so judgemental. Maybe I shouldn't divorce Ashley again...maybe
(Foreshadowing!). It was real beautiful in Koh Chang all the same.On to Cambodia.
What an amazing country. I won't get into why. If you're truly interested, go read one of Ashley's
blogs, she'll break it down for you. I'll tell you story that happened in Phnom Penh. Phnom Penh
is the capital of Cambodia. Known to be quite sketchy. In typical fashion, myself and Ashley
gets into a big old fight. So, I stormed off and got drunk by myself. At some point, I left wherever
I was to try and get home. Naturally, I ended up completely lost. Combine that with the fact that I
was wearing cargo shorts and a "deep v" t-shirt, and you had a typical, vulnerable tourist that
screamed "please, take me for what I'm worth" walking down the road. The kind of person a
locals eat for breakfast. So, stumbling down the road, I heard a crowd of locals balling out. As I
approached, I realized they were yelling at me. "Shit. Where's my knife?" I thought. Not in my
pockets, so what odds. When in Rome.
So I marched right into their little circle like I was a Khmer myself. "How are ya?!". No response,
just smiles. Good enough I thought. So I sat down on a milk crate like the rest of them, and
that's when the fun began...approximately 3:00am. They had a bag of Cambodia beer, tons of
fresh mussels (seafood, not guns), and loose cigarettes. Without hesitation, I dug right in. In a
supposed sketchy city, here I was drinking warm beer, slurping mussels, and smoking damp
cigarettes with a bunch of locals in the city centre. Wicked. They couldn't speak english and I
couldn't speak Khmer, but through body language, we made due. I was full when I arrived, so
you can imagine that state I was in when I left about 1.5 hours later...closing in on 5:00am.
Thank God I remembered the name of my hostel. So the boys sent me in the right direction and
I actually made it home in one piece. I don't know what I was more shocked about: the fact that
Ashley wasn't that mad at me, or how amazing that group of Cambodians were when they
weren't supposed to be (on paper anyways). What a bunch. Cambodia is my favourite country
so far. Anyways, on to Laos.
I don't have any pictures from this event. So enjoy the filler:
Initially, I wasn't too hot on the idea of visiting Laos. I found the name boring. Nevertheless, can't
be too judgemental I thought, so off we goes. To put into perspective at the time of writing this,
I've been to 9 countries spanning across 3 continents and Laos is in the top 3 for sure. Real
surprise. For the sentimental specifics on why, I'll once again redirect you to Ashley's blog posts.
She's much more articulate that I am. Especially when it involves feelings. I'll just tell ya a yarn.
It's already been well documented (video/blog posts) by Ashley, but what odds. I'll tell it
anyways. We had just arrived at 4000 Islands. Ironic considering Laos is a landlocked country.
We arrived in the evening around 8:00pm. I was literally drenched in sweat, and so fed up with
this chump from Vancouver who kept playing his guitar and refused to stop singing on the boat
ride to 4000 Islands from the mainland. He was so brutally cliche, it actually made me want to
be unconscious. I'd hear him say things like: "I need some bartending work" or "who knows this
one?!", then bust into Tears in Heaven. Seriously, who doesn't know tears in Heaven? It was
just as well if he had to play Smoke on the Water; the song every human can play on guitar. On
top of that, he had this high pitched, goat-like sound when he said the last word in each
sentence. Another guy from Vancouver does this quite effectively, but this guy was no Matt
Good. He was Matt Bad. Anyways, what's my point here? Oh yeah, by the time I arrived at 4000
Islands "Me nerves were shot". So we get off the boat, toss on our 35 pound backpacks, and
begin looking for a hotel/dorm room. We didn't get far before we noticed a well lit area with
concrete walls. Alway a good sign.
Typically, Ashley asks to see a non air-conditioned room. I actually pinched my right ass cheek
with my right thumb and middle finger so I wouldn't start cursing and swearing at her. Could she
not see how much I was leaking? Eventually she looks at me with the "what do you think?" look.
Little does she know what I was thinking was "If I don't get some A/C pronto, I might actually
commit murder". Long story short, we did end up in an A/C'ed room, and I did get me kill the
next day. Like a lion in tall grass, I stalked, cornered, and eventually ended the life of the biggest
spider I'd ever seen. Check out Facebook for the vicious kill!
Very last minute, we decided to go to the Philippines from Laos. We were initially headed to Asia's last frontier: Myanmar (formerly Burma). But we spontaneously both agreed we needed more beaches and diving. Plus, my friend Jasmin and his friend Anqi were there. Based on previous experiences, I was confident myself and Jasmin would have a few solid party sessions.
Fastforward two weeks or so, and the drinks were flowing. Steadily and intensely. As in every 30 minutes for 5 days. Eventually, Ashley has her "fill" of myself and Jasmin's conquests. So on that particular morning, I woke up in typical fashion. Splitting headache and breath so wretched it would actually get you arrested in places like Singapore (which is actually where Anqi's from). One thing stood out that morning was that there was no sign of Ashley. I managed to get to the pool where I noticed Jasmin and Anqi. They were wondering where Ashley was as well. Not a good sign. So there I was with a splitting headache and terrible breath when I noticed a goodbye letter and cash on the table. It was from Ashley. Both the note and cash were for Jasmin/Anqi, and I became lonesome as a result. So I immediately began listening to Garth Brooks and other country legends like Brooks N' Dunn, Alan Jackson, George Jones, etc. Within an hour myself and Jasmin poured a few back and things were on the up and up again. 24 hours later, I once again woke up with a headache and bad breath. This time however, there were no Jasmin or Anqi. Or Ashley.
By the grace of God, Jasmin managed to get himself to the airport, as he was flying back to Canada that morning, and Anqi had gone to work. Headache, bad breath, empty wallet, dead phone with no charger, and reflecting on Ashley's departure, two things became crystal clear: a) Ashley's really gone and b) she had reached a new level of anger. Honest to God, I'm my own worst enemy. What a "shitstorm" I'm going to have to face now. On top of that, I have all these questions going through my head: Where did she go? How do I get there? Where do I get money? What's the weather like in Newfoundland? And so on.
The day before Ashley's epic departure, we had stopped by a travel agency to ask some questions. So I thought perhaps i'd go back there to see if the same lady was working, and If she could recall where Ashley seemed to want to be going next (Ashley did tell me, and I agreed, and then I forgot). In my head, the place she wanted to go to sounded like Pamela. The travel agency lady eventually figured out the mystery for me God love her. So now I needed food and a bike ride to the wharf. I was off to an island called Pamilican.
Landed at the wharf and hour later and a few of the Filipino by's were sitting around shooting the shit until they noticed me. We tried our best to communicate with one another and eventually one of the guys asks "You girlfriend here yesterday?". "Yes!" I happily replied as this meant I was headed in the right direction. Well, you should have seen a bunch of fellas laugh. They exploded. Pointing me out to their other Filipino buddies down the wharf; one of them even says "You drank too much beer!" Clearly, Ashley had vented to these gentleman a day prior. Now I was their entertainment.
I eventually landed at the super quiet island of Pamilican. The owner of the hostel greeted me and directed me right to Ashley who was writing in a hammock. It was nice to see her again I must admit. Not sure if the feeling was mutual all the same. Eventually, we made up and got through "Divorce #2".
Jasmin & Anqi: Thanks for having us. You're both great people capable of holding your breath for exceptional periods of time!