The Adventures of Menace and Cheddar Bob started with the decision to leave the safety of the bubble at home and travel across the world. We left the comforts of the familiar behind to take on the challenge of teaching english overseas. This is our story....
After 10 months in Taiwan, one month traveling parts of South East Asia it was time to return to our friends and family back in Canada. But it seemed sooooo far away as we stood in an impossibly long line at the airport in Bali. We were catching a flight from Bali, Indonesia to a layover in Japan. In Japan while we were going to our connecting flight we heard our names over the speaker in broken English. SHIT! Never a good sign. At the desk we were informed that our plane to Detroit was overbooked (how do they fuck that one up) and they wanted to know if we would accept being bumped up to Business Class but it would re-route us to Hawaii and take longer to get home. Our flight was already like 26 hours of travel time. We were NOT interested in being in airports any longer then already planned. We declined and hoped someone else would take the offer. The lady gave us our tickets and we thought we were on our way. Nope. A Security Profile Officer stopped us cause our names had come over the PA we were now some kind of suspicious characters. I think they were just pissed we didn't take the other flight and they wanted to make our lives a little shittier. He asked us weird questions and looked over our passports and flight info. It was a giant waste of time and we were sent on our way once he was finished. I slept almost the entire flight from Japan to Detroit, missing both take off and landing. This plane ride sucked big time too so sleep was a blessing! We had no personal TVs in the seat ahead of us and were in the middle of a row of four. I hate waking a stranger next to me so I can climb out to pee. It is even worse when he is taking FOREVER to eat his gross meal. The guy next to Carrie had the right idea and he just pounded booze. Next stop...Detroit. Now we are so close we can almost taste it! But of course Detroit immigration had to have a mean girl working that day. Carrie is laughing with the other officer who was letting her through while I am being grilled with questions and being accused of being a liar. The girl really didn't like it when I informed her that the reason I said I was just in Bali and Japan was because she didn't ask where I was all year. (Even though she could see in my passport where I was and when.) She did not enjoy this one bit and I was sent to be searched. My luggage and I were pulled aside as a guy questioned me and searched through all of my bags. He was much nicer then the girl and he asked if I knew why I was being searched...I said NO even though I wanted to say that I was there cause McBitchy was on a power trip. He asked me if I knew what Laos was known for....I said for backpackers. He said and.... I said and for being really beautiful? WRONG. It is a huge drug smuggling country. I thought that is a dumb question to ask cause if I knew that or was trying to smuggle them did he think I would admit knowing about it? Anyways as we chatted away about life he said I am not going to find anything am I. I laughed and said no. He just smiled and closed up my bags and told me to have a safe trip home. Out I go. Thanks Detroit for the stress. One last flight and of course it is delayed. I felt awful for Carrie's parents, Jenalyn, DT, Jillian and Jenna who were waiting for us in Toronto. As we arrived in TO our hearts were pounding. Carrie really hoped the immigration officers would, say Welcome home but this thought was pushed out of our thoughts the closer we got to family and friends. Finally, the doors opened and we heard a squeal of happiness from some familiar faces. Big hugs, some tears and an overall sense of comfort was felt b everyone. It was strange to be home and feel as if we had never left.
The adventures of Menace and Cheddar Bob are far from over but the path has changed. We have both grown so much as individuals and as friends. We are stronger now for leaving and for keeping connections at home with people who matter the most.
Some people say that when you leave home you are running away so that you don't have to grow up and settle down but living abroad is not wasted time. It is time to think, change, save, travel, meet new people, have new experiences, and see new things within yourself.
Currently, Carrie is attending teacher's college in Canada. I have returned to Tawian where I am teaching for San Min Primary School, which is part of the government funded schools in Hsinchu.
We are both lucky because a teaching certificate is like a passport to teach anywhere in the world. So, in contrast to what others have thought we are not running away from growing up but we are expanding our opportunities to do just that.
Finally, I want to take an opportunity to say thank you Carrie. Thank you for being one of my best friends. Thank you for saying yes to this crazy adventure. For actually wanting to move to the other side of the world with me. Thank you for living in a tiny apartment with glass walls, in a country where neither of us could speak or read the language. Thank you for sharing a scooter and not killing me for crashing it with you on it. Thank you for your understanding and love when times were hard. Most of all thank you for the laughs and the memories I will have for the rest of my life.
And I, Carrie, would like to give a BIG hug and thank you across the pond to my bestest Denise. You are like the sister I never had and I can't imagine not having you in my life. Thanks for helping me become a better teacher while I was there. Thank you for being able to share your whole life with me, (and pretty much only me), for almost a year. Thank you for sharing in crazy new experiences with me and making them unforgettable. Thank you for your friendship...you are one of a kind. And thank you for putting up a blanket on those glass walls. :)
And to all my friends still in Taiwan. You have made my life so much richer and meaningful since having met all of you. Please know that I think of you often, miss you and can't wait till I see all you again. Because, don't worry, we will meet again soon!
Also, thank you to everyone and anyone who followed our adventures.
As Carrie and I planned our trip (mostly Carrie) before we left Taiwan one of our major expenses was going to be the ticket home. So, we searched the internet looking for the cheapest flight back to Canada from any countries close to us. We tried them all and for the time we wanted it turned out that Bali had a decent price. This meant we had to work our travels around our flight home and make sure that before August 2nd we were in Bali. Ohhhh tough one eh. So, we decided to stay in Bali for the last two weeks of our trip. (Later it was decided that JP would join us in Bali) Two weeks gave us time to see the island, have all the cultural experiences and lay out on the beach, which is something we had not really done much on our travels. By the end of the trip we wanted to have time to just eat, drink, unwind, and get a tan!
After a short flight to Kulua Lumpur, Malasia and a connecting flight we made it to Bali! Bali is one of the most gorgeous places we have ever been. It even smelled good. The people are sooo friendly, the beaches are amazing and the food was great! We spent our first couple of days in Kuta which is one of the most popular cities. It is a party place with a beach club vibe. Everyone surfs all day and parties (hard) all night. The town is full of Aussies and the locals all assume because we are white that we were Aussie too. A man on the beach was relentless trying to sell random crap. He kept pacing up and down the beach yelling, "Bloody good! Ohhhh Bloody good!"
Sunset in Kuta Photo by Jean-Paul Mouton
JP arrived a couple days after we got to Bali. I was so excited to pick him up at the airport. As I waited patiently pacing back and forth at international arrivals I begin to worry because his plane landed a while ago and I still could not find him. Suddenly somone wrapped their arms around me from behind. I jump then realized in the same moment that it was JP. He was laughing as he said, "Domestic arrivals." Silly me forgot that he had flown into Jakarta, Indonesia a couple days before to get a VISA for Taiwan and was flying into Bali from there.
The night life in Kuta is alot like a first year university scene. It is wild! It is like they are all out for the first time unsupervised and everyone is right drunk in the bars. It was hard to find a place that was low key to grab a few drinks to start the night. All the popular places were filled with people who were complete messes. You also had to watch out for Kuta Cowboys (local men who like to hook up with female travelers) the dance floor was full of them. Some of the great things we did in Kuta included laying on the beach, whitewater rafting, and watching epic sunsets. JP went surfing and I totally regret not taking a lesson. Next time for sure! Also, we drank alot of Bintang (the local beer), went shopping and played cards together. We stayed in Kuta about a week and then our friend Mandy arrived from Korea. She was keen for a holiday. Carrie and Mandy decided to stay a couple more days in Kuta but JP and I had planned to move onto Ubud which was the culutral center of the island. In Ubud we visited Monkey Mountain, some stone temples, natural springs and rented scooters so we could drive through the rice patties. At night we watched beautiful cultural dances and had amazing meals.
Mandy & Carrie in Kuta Photo by Mandy Wishak
Monkey Mountain Photo by Jean-Paul Mouton
After Ubud we moved to a few ocean side towns on our way to the Gili Islands. The Gili Islands are a small island chain off Lombak (which is beside Bali). Carrie and Mandy did the same thing but took a different route. There were many options of how to get there. We took a slow ferry for five hours on the way there and the one hour fast boat on the way back. The fast boat was maybe one of the most awful experiences of my life. I would take the 13 hour death bus ride from Loas twice before I would go on that fast boat again. You are flying through 3-4 meter swells and I swore the hull of the boat was going to smash out. We were white knuckled the entire time holding the seat a head of us as we dropped off the huge swells and smashed into the next. People were getting sick the entire ride and we were positive the driver didn't really know what to do other then go fast. The one positive thing about the fast boat ride is that you save travel time between places.
Lombak and the Gili Islands
Photo thanks to Wiki Travel
Photo by Jean-Paul Mouton
There are three islands in the chain: Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno and Gili Air. We stayed on the largest Gili Trawangan. There are no vehicles on the islands or police. The only way to get around was to walk, ride a bike or travel by a small horse and buggie. We were only on Gili Trawangan for a couple days but we all fell in love with this place instantly. It was breathtaking. The clear blue ocean, light sand beaches, and clear skies. JP and I went snorkeling and I got to see my first sea turtle. It was AMAZING! Carrie and Mandy rented bikes and toured the island as well experienced some special local drinks (haha). As we laid on the beach, swam in the ocean, ate great food and drank cold drinks we could not help but think about quitting our jobs to live there. The only problem would be a few people in Canada (Momma Dixon, Momma Ritchie and others) who would not appreciate us disappearing. After Gili we met back up with Carrie in Kuta before our flights. JP's flight out was the night before ours so I rode with him to the airport. Another goodbye in another airport (this was getting old) but it wouldn't be long until I was picking him up at arrivals....and the right gate this time!
Finally, after all our adventures Carrie and I loaded up our backpacks one more time to head back to Canada.
We arrived July 12 and on our first night in Chiang Mai we went to the Night Bazaar (night market) and it was unreal. This thing was huge!! It went forever with people selling everything! You could buy Mac make up, silk robes, t-shirts, "name brand" running shoes, watches, sunglasses, slippers, toys, all kinds of souvenirs and local art. My ability to haggle for a good price is poor to say the least. I was likely ripped off over and over again ... but I felt the stuff was so cheap to begin with I am not wasting my time arguing over a couple dollars.
The next morning we set out nice and early for an all day Thai cooking class. This little package included a trip to the market to learn about ingredients. For me it meant cockroach dodging. The little critters were all over the place! Our teachers for the day were named Boom and Perm. Yes you read that right. After the market we went to the kitchen where we could choose different meals to make. Carrie was more excited at this point then I was. New food scares me as we have learned from previous blogs. I made chicken coconut soup (which wasn't crap!), red curry, pad thai, and sweet and sour chicken. There were other items we learned to also cook as a class together. The cooking course was a lot of fun despite the fact that I was sick for three days after.
Side note: When Thai people say something is only a little spicy...they are lying! After our cooking class we tried out a few local watering holes. We found a roof top bar where you sat on the floor and just relaxed. That lasted one drink as a mouse booked it across the room and we were ready to go.
Also a heads up that a whiskey sour in Chiang Mai = death in a glass and resembles nothing even close to a whiskey sour. Cheers to Carrie for getting that bad boy down.
Day two: Carrie and I set out to see some temples and cultural stuff! We get to temple number one and realize we are not dressed appropriately to enter. Our shoulders were to be covered. On the way back to the guesthouse to change we see a tattoo shop. Our plans change immediately and we spend the afternoon getting Carrie some ink. The temples will be there tomorrow.
Three hours later Carrie has 3 beautiful plum blossoms on her left foot. The plum blossom is Taiwan's national flower and it means perseverance in the face of adversity. The meaning comes from the fact that this flower only blooms in the winter months.
After the tat was wrapped up and ready to go we grabbed some dinner and headed to a Thai boxing match. A lovely "ladyboy" lead us to our ringside seats and got some beers. The first few fights were between boys. I felt awful watching these little guys duke it out. We were also treated with a special lady fight (actual women). As the fights continued they become more like WWF wrestling and less like a sport. At one point guys were tossed in the ring blindfolded and just beat on one another. Finally, we called it a night when a young boy was climbing into the ring to fight a little person. We were done. It wasn't what we were hoping for.
Day three was a lazy pool day. The only really exciting event was the HUGE gecko that was outside my room. This thing was like a squirrel just rocking out on the wall outside our room. I went into the hall and felt trapped cause I didn't want to pass it again on the way back in. So I called Carrie out so she could be scared with me. I am nice like that. She didn't find it funny. Now every time we return to the room at night I am terrified it is waiting for me. Carrie tried to remind me that they are harmless and it is good they are around to eat the bugs. I have an irrational fear that in the night it will get in our room and crawl all over me. Carrie said it was too big to fit under the door like the others. But I think if it really wanted in our room it could just open the door ...THAT IS HOW BIG IT WAS! I didn't sleep much that night.
Another Thai experience we signed ourselves up for was some Thai massages. Carrie was again the more keen individual, where I dislike the idea of strangers all up in my business. I opted for a foot massage, manicure and pedicure. Carrie goes all out with the full body hour and a half massage and mani/pedi. This was again NOT what I thought it was going to be. My foot massage was painful and awkward. The girl was unnecessarily rough and used a wooden stick to poke and grind at my feet. She rubbed it over the top of my feet and ankles, over and over as I squirmed and winced in pain. The bony parts of my feet got most of her attention. She followed this by slapping my legs and feet and pulling each toe until the knuckle cracked. I could not wait for it to be over!! When the manicure and pedicure began I was more optimistic. WRONG. She barely washed the dirt from my traveling paws. Next, she cut my nails and removed some old polish. I requested a french manicure on my nails, which of course they didn't do. I told her a clear coat was fine then. Some how she understood that to mean I wanted nothing and before I knew it she had keys in her hand and was waving good bye to me. I went into this thinking there would be soaking, scrubbing, lotions, gentle massaging, shaping of the nails and cuticles. I had visions of shiny clear coat and really pretty toes. (This was my first mani/pedi but I have seen such things on TV) My hands and feet looked the same as when I arrived. Carrie on the other hand loved her life. She had a great massage and was proudly displaying beautifully manicured fingers and toes.
I guess this is what you get for going to an establishment that employs women recently released from prison in an attempt to help them rebuild their lives. Next time I will paint my own nails and save myself the money... sorry ladies.
The next day Carrie and suit up for some ziplining in the forest outside Chiang Mai. On the bus ride I fall asleep, as per usual when in vehicles, mouth wide open and head back. A bump in the road (I mean I thought we were crashing) shook me awake and I found myself basically sleeping on the shoulder of a stranger. I smiled and said sorry while trying to secretly wipe the drool from my face. Once we arrive we are geared up in hair nets (yes hair nets), safety harnesses and a sweet helmet. On top of this we were given a short thick stick with a hook on the end. This high tech tool was our brake. Yes, a random stick from the ground is what was going to stop our bodies from launching into a tree as we whip from platform to platform in the tree tops. We were also instructed not to drop it cause we only got one. Despite the brake intro, the whole experience was great! I actually felt very safe the entire time. In the afternoon it started to rain which made breaking a little more difficult and slamming into our tiny guide more likely but other then that it was a total rush. The longest zipline was over 300m and the views were gorgeous. We also got to climb around suspended bridges and staircases. The best part though for me, was the drops. You were hooked to a pulley system and dropped from one platform to another. The drops ranged from 20 - 40 meters and you could let the guide know how fast or slow you wanted to be dropped. We had been joking with our guide most of the trip. He referred to us as TEAHCER (shouting most of the time like a student) and when I asked him to be nice to me before the drop he just laughed and I screamed the whole way to the bottom.
Zipping away and enjoying the view!
Finally, our flight was booked and we set out for Bali, Indonesia on July 19. Although our schedule only gave us time for Chiang Mai I loved it. Thailand is such and amazing place and can not wait to experience more of that country!
PS. I found the biggest piece of lemon meringue pie I have ever seen in Chiang Mai!
After our elephant experience, Denise and I had some time to kill now that we were back in Luang Prabang. Our bus to get to Thailand didn't leave until 7pm so we decided the best possible use of our time would be to lounge by the Luang Prabang pool. So we left our bags with Elephant Village office and got a tuk tuk to the pool where we tanned and swam.
A van drove us to the bus station where we loaded on a very cramped, uncomfortable bus. It was packed with too much luggage and a motorcycle! No, that is not a typo, there was an actual motorbike we had to hop over to get to our seats. I thought this was the VIP bus? We settled in what we thought were comfortable seats but as the bus drove along, Denise discovered her seat had a bounce to it. At every curve and bump and turn, her seat would shake and rattle. Not ideal for a 13 hour bus ride. Luckily, a nice girl sitting by herself switched with us and she sat in the non-rocking chair. Denise and I popped some Gravol in the hopes to doze off easily and sleep the whole way. No such luck. Stops along the way for bathroom breaks consisted of going on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere, possible in the backyard of some unknowing farmers. We just stayed dehydrated the whole ride and prayed we wouldn't have to use a bathroom break. With the bus travelling along the mountain side on roads obviously not made for long distance travel, we bumped our heads multiple times on seats, windows and each other. Needless to say, this was the bus ride from hell. We got to Northern Laos at 8am where we were to take a boat into Thailand and get in a mini van to head another 5 hours to Chiang Mai. Luckily, after the 13 hour death ride everything went much smoother. The mini van is much more comfortable than the bumpy uncontrollable bus. I'm not sure if this was the better option of the 2 day boat ride, but it was too late now. One of our first stops in Chiang Mai may have to be a Thai massage to get out those kinks!
This is the scooter we had to crawl over to get in and out of the "VIP" bus.