How to avoid travel mishaps

How to avoid travel mishaps

This is an update on how to deal with challenging events when you are travelling. I travel solo most of the times and have encountered all the scenarios below.. but it doesn’t mean I won’t travel again despite all those misfortunes.. the world is too beautiful not to see before our mortal time is up and these setbacks should not discourage us from travelling.

At least we know these can happen, so we can all be prepared.

Don’t get caught in the delusion that travellers are always happy and having a fun travelling life.. that will make some of the readers get envious instead of being inspired. Well reality check, it’s not always rainbows and butterflies. But some people chose this as a way of life, together with the mishaps that goes with it.

I don’t have the control of your feelings after you read this.. But I do hope it will help you be ready and do necessary steps just in case unfortunate incidents happen to you while travelling:

0. If you arrive in a place that is currently undergoing floods and storms.. I strongly advise you to store lots of food and don’t go out until the storm has subsided. If you feel down because you can’t enjoy the holidays, you can always create ways to have fun indoors. Bored from staying indoors? Join volunteering and aid relief groups, that will give meaning to your holidays.. that’s an extra adventure too. Here’s a video of me and other volunteers trap in a far flung village.. looks exciting ya?




1. If you lost or broke a stuff during travel… learn how not to be too upset about it. I lost a few things during my travels including almost loosing a toenail when I was travelling solo in Mindanao. But while I travel, I have become more and more unattached to stuffs.. I buy inexpensive phones, buy dress in bargain stores.. if I lost them then it doesn’t hurt too much… The downside is some cheap stuff gets easily broken.. Oh what about broken hearts? Wait, I don’t know how to deal with that too. Go ask other experts xD

2. If you get ill while travelling, oh dear, take all measures not to get ill… Get appropriate Hepa shots if you love eating at local shops, rabies shots if you’ll be dealing with crazy dogs while walking around, and mosquito repellents if you want to avoid dengue. Although even if you are traveling in style and being careful, sometimes you really can’t avoid getting sick, so make sure you have enough medicine emergency supplies.. and a doctor or nurse friend on your facebook account just in case you need advise and no one is around to extend a helping hand.. and if you really got ill, please make sure you have travel insurance so you don’t have to pay huge medical bills.

3. And in case you get into an accident, make sure that travel insurance get it’s worth. This is for people with a birthmark on their butt. That’s a way of saying that you’re prone to mishaps.. I don’t have a birthmark on my butt but I’m really prone to misadventures because I’m special. Yeah you can sing – trouble, trouble, trouble.

This makes me think – Is someone voodooing me?


voodoo doll


4. If your ATM card is not working, have backup ATM/Debit/Credit Cards. Better yet, make sure you have enough money ready in your wallet. I really don’t recommend getting a credit card specially if you have an addiction to buying and don’t know how to manage your expenses.. But if one of your ATM is not accepted in a country, then you can try another ATM/Debit/Credit card… if all else fails, make sure you have money on your phone so you can call someone in an emergency. To have a rule of thumb, as much as possible, don’t withdraw your money from an ATM if the country you are in doesn’t have a good reputation to these kinds of transactions.

5. Speaking of money, if you are travelling in Myanmar/Burma, have ready crisp dollar bills.. I’m not sure about the status now but the last time I went, people do not accept dollars that are folded or old..

6. If you encounter harassment on the road.. learn the basics of self defence, or carry self defence tool such as pepper spray. Be sensitive with the culture and don’t go around wearing only a bra and miniskirt in most parts of India and other conservative countries because you might be inviting rape in the eyes of the men.. Good thing I never really experience being harassed to the point of getting raped when I was there, just men looking at the small mammary glands even if I make all the effort to hide it. I’m sure I disappointed them.

7. If your bus or boat gets stranded in the middle of nowhere.. have emergency snacks and water so you can munch on something. This was my smart move when I was travelling solo in Laos. The bus broke down that left us stranded for a very long time… The bus is expected to arrive in Vientiane at early morning and its already lunch time and we’re still on the road! Good thing I brought snacks with me and i was able to take one bite and one gulp every hour.. and was still able to share some to the kid in front of me..


Stranded in Laos


8. If your footwear got broken.. well don’t buy cheap ones specially if you are walking a lot. It happened to me when I was walking along a sleepy posh village in Chiang Mai, Thailand and suddenly, voila! the pretty pink sandals I bought in Hong Kong broke.. and like a stroke of luck (feel the hint of sarcasm?), there was no one else along the road and I don’t know where I am. I walked barefoot for like 10 minutes until I saw a human being. Armed with my basic Thai, I asked for directions on how to go back so I can get another footwear from the house I was staying in. Yeah that’s embarrassing.. it’s okay, they don’t know me there anyway.

9. If you got lost.. make sure you know the number of your hostel/guesthouse/hotel. Buy a local sim so it will be cheaper to call people. Getting lost almost always happen if you are new to a place. It is safe to wander with new found friends but if you’re a true blooded soloista like me sometimes, make sure the place you are exploring is safe. I met a Japanese young lady in Melacca Malaysia almost bursting with tears as she struggle with her English telling me she is lost and don’t even have a map or number of her hotel. It’s a good thing that people in my hostel are very kind to assist her so she can safely go back.

10. If you don’t have clean clothes because there is no time to wash or get changed… at least have the effort to smell good. I have seen lots of travellers wearing the same clothes in 2 or 3 consecutive days because travel schedule is hectic and simply there is no time to wash or change… It’s okay to wear the same clothing but please take pity on your travel companions and make an effort to smell nice.

When I was travelling nonstop from Phonasavan Laos to Chiang Mai Thailand I also wear the same clothes in 2 consecutive days and by the time I was in Non Khai, I was really already filthy.. imagine the horror in my eyes when I boarded a van and it was full of good smelling newly bathe handsome Filipinos!!!

So folks, please be ready when you encounter such mishaps. Currently I’m taking a break from travelling, which means taking a break from collecting misadventures.. so people who love me can breathe..

For those embarking on a new adventure, kindly bookmark this. If you think this won’t happen to you and it did, don’t tell me I didn’t warn you. ^_^

How to Get Free Accommodation When You Travel

How to Get Free Accommodation When You Travel

I have to tell you something.. most of the places we stayed at when I was traveling with my mom were free..

And surprisingly, those places were very nice.. almost glamorous. And did I mention free? You can read more about how to stay in hotels for free here.

hotel in Thailand


 

Ok before I make some of you envious (and plot a way to rob our house again like what happened last 2013), let me tell you that there are ways for you to have free stays too. Here are some options:

1. Volunteering –  I was able to go to India and Thailand because of a volunteer agency. In exchange of the work that I did for non profit organizations, I was able to learn the language and culture of the country, was able to get a nice apartment, and I was able to travel as well.. on a budget of course.

 

2. Couchsurfing – although people see this as a way to get free accommodation, you are expected to barter something. Like cultural exchanges, and a little bit of household chores. There are generous souls who I met that did not ask for anything but as a responsible guest, I did my best to reciprocate the generosity I’m receiving. This is my room when I was in Nepal, not bad for a “couch”


 

3. Stay at family homes – because most Asians are family oriented, most also prefer to stay in houses of relatives when traveling. That’s why sometimes it’s the advantage of a large family clan. My family clan is scattered around the Philippines so when I get to travel around, I almost always have free places to stay. You don’t have a large family clan? No worries, families can be in a form of organizations or friends.. ask to be adopted by one ^_^

 

4. Join Contests – well, unfortunately I was not lucky enough to win in such contests.. so I made my own contests :)).. check out my posts about how grasya.com gave free accommodation in Nepal and Thailand, hopefully grasya.com can give away more contests in the future ^_^

 


 

5. Get sponsored – From our last trip, I was not able to volunteer or couchsurf, we also don’t have families in Thailand and Vietnam. But lucky enough, advertisers are able to fund my trip so we got to stay in fancy hotels. I also got promo codes from Airbnb so it reduced our accommodation budget significantly.

 

Despite that, since I’m all about transparency, I still will post stories about not so nice experiences don’t worry :P

There are also other creative ways to get free accommodations which include house sitting, woofing, work exchange, and I’m still experimenting on Trampolinn. But I haven’t done those yet, probably I’ll do it when I get to Europe as I intend to stay in that continent for a bit longer.. as you see, I do love long term travels… We’ll see what the future holds.

 

How about you? Do you have tips on how to get free accommodations when you travel? Do share your tips.

 

 

 

Tips and observations when traveling with elderly people

Tips and observations when traveling with elderly people


travel with senior citizen


Finally, my mother, a senior citizen, was able to travel out of the country last month. We did not do many activities since we don’t want her to be too tired as it’s normal for elders but we still managed to travel and visited different places in 2 countries.

We traveled to Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, and the golden triangle in Thailand. Then we moved and went around Hanoi, Hoa Lu Tam Coc, Bai Dinh Trang An and saw awesome mountain formations that looked like El Nido Palawan.. we skipped Halong Bay because everybody goes there.

The 3 weekend trip might be a lot for some elderly but most of what we did were food trips and we preferred hotels when looking for places to stay in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, or Hanoi.. so for restless young travelers, it’s not much of an adventure.


sukhumvit


Nevertheless, it still was an adventure for my mom since she rarely get out of the house nowadays.

These are tips and observations that I managed to capture while we were traveling. Hope those who are in the stage of planning to travel with parents or elder people, read and hopefully you’ll get some good information:

1. Senior citizen 20% discount is only applicable in the Philippines, unless someone amends the law to make the rest of the ASEAN nation adopt this best practice *cough*

2. Prepare them about what food to expect when they travel.. For Filipinos, tell them beforehand that there are no Jollibee in some places. We were at an expensive restaurant eating my favorite sushi when my mom blurted out – “let’s not go to this place anymore, how come food are not delicious and there are no Jollibee here.” She did not even care how I invested quite a large amount on my favorite food xD

3. Make sure you have a link to the live streaming of their favorite telenovelas in case they miss it. Good thing my mom, although a telenovela fan, did not miss her favorites when we were traveling.. But I have a friend whose mom became cranky when she found out we did not have a television in the place where we were staying in Tagaytay. So to the children of these kinds of parents.. please be prepared. ^_^

4. Do not make them walk a lot unless they want to. Although to be honest, we saw elder people jogging along the streets of Chiang Mai.. I wonder how were they able to maintain such impressive active lifestyles.

5. If you make them walk a lot, and they get cranky and get heatstroke, make sure you have insurance. Well.. reality check.

 

golden triangle

 

 


On the other hand, aside from not being impressed on that expensive restaurant, there are a few insights from my mom that I think is worth noting. Here are a few:

1. People in this region are slender.. Even pilots are very petite which reminds me of the book – The Little Prince. So lesson learned is don’t be fooled by the thin figure.. they might look malnourished but you may not know they are actually rich.. I’m not talking about me, I’m talking about slim pilots xD

2. Noodles.. big noodles, white noodles, dry noodles, noodle soup.. NooOodLes galore. That’s what we observed in Hanoi. We also noticed people like to eat raw vegetables in Thailand and Vietnam.. guess that contribute to the slender figure? For a change, this picture does not show noodles :D

Vietnamese restaurant

 

 

3. Country divisions are interesting, you just ride a bus, or a boat, you’re already in another country. Filipinos in particular find this interesting because we are surrounded by sea, so if you want to go to a neighbouring country, you have to travel far… In Thailand, we just went to Golden Triangle, and we are immediately in the center of 3 countries Thailand, Myanmar, and Laos.

4. We also noticed how tourists are very casually dressed.. some of them just brought random plastic bags that seems like going to the wet market to buy veggies or meat.. I think the secret is to dress down like the locals to not get attention of kidnappers..


vietnam


 

5. There were actually rude people including a policeman inside the train and rude restaurant waiters in Bangkok; and the rude hotel staff in Hanoi.. probably because we’re Asian too and do not have the white privilege.. We could have avoided that if we just go via tour trips where we’ll be treated nicely like the proper tourists in a bubble but we wanted to do what the locals do so we rarely did tours while traveling around. This way, we have captured genuine reactions of people.

To conclude, there were nice and not so nice aspects of traveling. It is rather annoying when friends and some family members always think traveling is fun. I’m talking about my reality.. and most likely it’s reality to every normal person too. But nevertheless, like the yin and yang, such is life.. and we don’t focus on the annoyance but the bliss that travel has to offer.. and I’m happy my mom just experienced it too…

 

How about you? Do you have any suggestions/additions to the tips and insights above too? Share them away and let us learn from each other.

Thailand Street Food Part 2

Thailand Street Food Part 2

Travel to Thailand always includes food. And here’s the second part of a list of Thai street foods that my beautiful local friend Khun Nok has given me.. Click here to see the first part.

Now the challenge is how to pronounce some words right, but you can always show the picture so you won’t get lost in translation.

 

 

Kaw-man-khai

Rice  is cooked with chicken oil in the  rice cooker. The whole chicken is boiled and chopped and put on top of the oily rice.  It is served with chilly soy sauce and clear soup from chicken bone.


kawmankai


 

Kuay-tiew

It is a noodle soup that is served almost everywhere along the street. You can choose dry or with soup and there are different types of meat in it. At a noodle shop you will see a set of sugar vinegar fish sauce and grind peanut that you can add on to suit your taste. Here’s a picture of me and Kechi and a bowl of kuay tiew.. Kechi was once my roomie in Thailand.. ^_^


me and kechi


 

Pad-See-Iew

Fried noodle with  garlic , egg, meat and Chinese kale. You can choose chicken , pork or seafood. The noodle that is used for Pad -See- iew is rice noodle which is white in color. The noodle will turn darker from sweet soy sauce.


Pad si iew


Ladna

A kind of noodle with soup but the soup is thick and sticky from potato starch . First, the noodle will be fried with soybean sauce and put on  the plate. The soup is made with vegetable and meat (pork,chicken or seafood) with soybean sauce and potato starch. Put the soup on top of the fried noodle, eat it while hot.


Lad Na


Padthai.

Pad Thai might be popular for tourist more than Thai. It is sold in tourist places as street food like at the walking street or Kawsarn road more than normal street. Pad thai is  type of noodle fried with tamarind sauce sugar and peanut mix with preserved cabbage and tofu and dried shrimp. Some shop has option that you can add fresh shrimp with more price.


Pad Thai


Although, some of the street food is not spicy and hot but if you notice, on the table, there is always a bowl or a jar of fish sauce mix with small green or red chilly. They put some lime in the fish sauce to make it more tasty. So people who want their dish to be more spicy can add fish sauce with chilly in it.

 

You can eat all street food in a vegetarian way. Just request that no meat will be added and use soybean sauce to replace fish sauce and oyster sauce.

 

***

Hope this helps you enjoy the street food in Thailand. For those who are not yet ready to travel out on their own, if you want to have a tour in Chiang Mai, drop me a line at grasya (at) grasya dot com. I can refer you to friends whom I’ve known for a long time.. ^_^ Happy eating!

Saving Elephants, Saving Grace

Saving Elephants, Saving Grace

My first close encounter with an elephant was… in the zoo.. I grew up in South East Asia, in the Philippines in particular, but there are no wild elephants in our forest, there were wild snakes though.. although I think they are also beginning to be extinct as human population are growing and numerous houses are being built in our community..

But we’re not saving snakes here… there goes my focus flying in again.

We’re saving the Elephants.

 


elephant in Jaipur, India
geesh I look like a nerd here.

 

When i went to India last 2008 to be a volunteer to a children’s organization, one of the nicest experience I had was to ride an elephant while on vacation at Jaipur.. never did I knew riding them is supposed to be discouraged.. well its not yet too late to raise awareness about how to treat elephants right.

Then I was stationed in Chiang Mai, Thailand.. Imagine my amazement one evening along Chiang Mai streets, a small elephant was being paraded by a group of kids. i look forward to see that elephant every evening.


Elephant in Chiang Mai
I wonder why tears seems to fall on the Elephant’s eyes

Since I lived in Chiang Mai for more than a year, there was a time when we went to an elephant show.. the elephant danced, perform tricks, even painted in front of us.. the audience were happy.. but do you know how these elephants were tortured just to perform these tricks and make humans happy? Detailed story of the Elephant show here.

Elephant ride in Chiang Mai


Fast forward to my last visit in Chiang Mai just a couple of months ago. I didn’t stayed in my original apartment so not sure if the elephant was still roaming there every evening. So I wasn’t able to see live elephants, instead, I found this posh displays..


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA


 

very posh indeed..

It was for another elephant organization that raises awareness of these nearly extinct animals. Guess lots of organizations and individuals are helping out to raise awareness of the proper treatment of animals.. there are still lots to do to improve the earth and many people seems to be doing their part.. guess the world is getting kinder..

And to reinforce people to do good things, a group of travel bloggers have decided to help Save the Elephant Foundation.. and there are prices to be won for those who donate!

If you head to Travel Blogging Calendar and give some donations, you’ll get the chance to win a trip to Thailand valued at $3,300! That includes a $2000 flight voucher from Flight Network and a $1,300, week long eco-friendly tour from Ian at Where Sidewalks End.

Ain’t that grand?

And because its a calendar we’re not sending you a physical calendar but we’re emailing stories available only to donors. The contributing bloggers has put together a short article about an interesting holidays that’s taking place somewhere in the world. Accompanying this entry is a gorgeous travel shot from some exotic location – Isnt it amaziIiing?

Ok, for those who cannot afford, I totally understand. You can always share this article to your friends so who knows what good vibes can ripple out there..

There you go.. I’m off preparing to go to another beautiful place not just to see things but to contibute in my own wee way on how to make the place more beautiful… that’s my way of saving grace. ^_^