Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Sons of Cambodia - SHAME of Cambodia!

Have you ever written a well-thought out post that you spent a lot of time on, only to lose it? I totally just did that. 24hours later, here's attempt two...because this is something that's really rubbed me the wrong way.

This past weekend, I visited a shop here in Phnom Penh that has a great reputation - "Daughters". This shop helps girls and women transition from sex work to 'functional living' by having them work in a sewing shop making items to be sold in "Daughters". (There's also a restaurant/cafe that employs these ex-sex workers as well). The money spent in the shop by customers then goes to funding therapy and education classes, I'm assuming, to help these women adjust to life outside of the sex work world. Surface level, this seems like a great organization, right?*

Whilst in the shop, I came across the "Sons of Cambodia" label on some items. I bought these items below because I thought I was doing a good thing. It didn't strike me until I had a conversation and did some research that I realized I had made a big mistake. I felt sad, offended, and disgusted. On all of the tags at the shop, there's some information about how the "Daughters/Sons" organization is 'helping' people:

When you look on the website, this is what is written under the "Sons of Cambodia" tab:

Can you see the wrong?

What's written above is wrong on so many levels. These 'boys' are not boys, for starters. They're GIRLS/WOMEN. Through "Sons of Cambodia", "Daughters" is demeaning lives and violating human rights. "Sons" think they're helping by having these women work and deny their true identities and actually pride themselves on successful 'transitions' back into male lifestyles. Don't believe me, this blog post excerpt from daughtersofcambodia.blogspot.com should prove this:

Sokun says his anger toward himself and others is reducing and, in an outward sign of his inward transformation, says he wants to start dressing like a man again.

The above excerpt is from a blog post is titled "Sokun's Shame" as if being transgender was a shame. Please read it for some emotional insight into this organization.

If you're going to truly save these women and make a difference, start by recognizing them as women. There shouldn't be a "Sons of Cambodia" label for the ladyboys because they're, in fact, "Daughters" too! Why not accept them for who they are and offer them employment options outside of sex work AS FEMALES? Sadly, employment opportunities for transgender women (and men) in the world, let alone in Cambodia, are limited so why isn't "Daughters" recognizing this and REALLY trying to make a difference here? Sadly, it all boils down to a religious conundrum.

Why can't we just be good people trying to help others without an ulterior motive? You know, 'non-believers' can be pretty extraordinary, helpful, caring, giving and open-minded people. I know I'd never expect anything in return from anyone I help nor would I begin harping on about my beliefs or my faith with an expectation that they'll follow suit. At the end of the day, we're all entitled to believe in what we believe in. However, you should do good things and help others because it's the right thing to do...not because it's dictated by your faith or religion.

*For the record: Sex work is a career that is shunned by a majority of people, abused by many others and that has been around forever. I think there will always be sex work, whether it's legal or illegal, so why don't we start thinking about ways to make it a safer practice? 

Thursday, March 5, 2015

All you need is love! :)

I watched this video with on of my dearest friends this evening and had to stop because I would have burst into tears. The video is beautiful and it's so profound. Love and life are gifts that come in all shapes and sizes so squeeze onto whatever love you've got! :)

+Brookers, this made me think of you! :)

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Happy 2015!

Wow, this year, I'm going to make an effort to post more and share more!

In July, I'll be starting a new adventure in Cambodia and I'll be back in the classroom - I'm really excited about it! However, I will be extremely sad to leave Munich - where I've called home for the past 3.5 years. I'll be saying 'farewell' to some of the best people and friends I've ever met in my *gasp* 10 years of living abroad but know that we will meet again. Until then, I'll be making a list of things to do in Munich and checking them off - I'll be sure to share the best and the worst of this awesome little city in Bavaria!

If you're keen on travelling, and lists, then here's a good one that includes Cambodia! Start planning your visit to see me! :)


In addition, I just wanted to share this little clip I saw on Facebook today. I think it's great and it's important that we start the year off motivated to ensure we live a healthy and happy life - we've only got one after all! :)


Tuesday, November 11, 2014

I Remember, I'm Thankful!

Today is a very important day. It's a day that we Canadians (along with other Commonwealth nations) stop and be thankful for the freedom we have thanks to the veterans of the wars we've fought.

Today, I spent the day at home sick but it gave me the opportunity to tune into the Remembrance Day service at our nation's capital. I cried my eyes out. For one, at the ever decreasing number of the vets who fought for our freedom. I already have a weakness for old men (my heart melts when they throw out a smile) but these elderly people (women included) are the cream of the crop. While there are those who continue to fight for our freedom today, for the vets of the first world wars and the Korean and Vietnam wars, their fights are distant memories that likely have haunted and shaped the people they lived the majority of their lives as. We wouldn't know the world we know now if it weren't for these courageous individuals.

Secondly, I'm so proud to be Canadian. I'm so proud to be part of a nation that takes pride in our past, our present and our future. I'm proud to be part of a nation that has a reputation for being friendly, open-minded, caring and adventurous. I'm so proud of the veterans that made this a reality.

I am so grateful for the life I get to live now. I'm grateful to be living in Germany, where for decades this nation was scorned for the actions of their past until the youth finally stood up and said enough is enough. We won't ever forget the lives that were lost or the battles that were fought but we can move on and learn from our mistakes. I am grateful that people have it in them to forgive and move on and make the world a better place.

Finally, I've got to throw a special thank you out there to my grandfather and my uncle who are both deceased but who fought in WWII. I've also got to thank my uncle Colin who fought in the Korean War and who gave me an incredible moment in my life when he met my ex-fiancé from the country he fought to protect. All of these men are tremendous individuals and I feel so lucky to have/have had them in my life and I feel eternally indebted to them and the others who have made Canada/the world the incredible place it is today. I took my minute at 11am but also took note that I need to be more grateful for all that I have every minute of everyday.

Thank you to everyone for your service to our country, to humankind and our universe. Lest we forget.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Oh hello again! :)

It has been sooooo long since I made a post on here. I've thought about several things that I could post about but thinking and then actually taking the time to sit and post are very different things. A lot has been going on in my world so let's catch up!

Unlike here, my MIS PE Blog has actually been kept up to date. I've been so busy with work and after a week off to catch my breath, I'm ready to jump back in and push through until Christmas; I'm actually looking forward to it and this is such a great feeling! Within the blog, I've also decided to have a "Learner Profile Athlete of the Week" - it recognizes one or two students each week who are outstanding in PE class by either demonstrating the learner profiles and/or demonstrating awesome athleticism. After having taught several students the past couple of years who have excelled in PE but struggled in the classroom, I thought this would be something really motivational for them. It's been very well received so far!

This year has also added a new responsibility to my role at MIS - I am now the Tanzania Project Coordinator at the school which has been a big undertaking. I've also set up a blog for this but it's not been so well maintained with the other things I have on my plate. I'm passionate about the Tanzania Project at our school but it seems that we're having an 'off' year with not a lot of interest in the trip and the incredible projects that the school has set up to benefit these amazing people in different areas around the country. I am having a hard time getting the non-believers to understand how awesome it is to be a part of this 25+ year tradition that the school has set up but it's hard. One big issue is with the Masaai culture - a number of people can't find it in themselves to support a culture that doesn't accept the LGBT community and that still believes in female circumcision. Do I think these things are good? No, certainly not. But I respect that the Masaai are a culture that I will never quite understand...much like they will never understand Western culture and our need to get boob jobs, have anal bleaching or the need to have an automatic weapon in a gated suburban home. The bottom line is that these people still need our help - we have so much more than they do so why not share? We need to develop these intercultural relationships better so maybe they can begin to understand our way of thinking and vice versa. We can't just expect things to change overnight and because someone tells us/them that what we're/they're doing is wrong. Imagine a world like that...! When it comes right down to it, my passion lies with the children. We need to help the children. Would you discriminate against a child in need because of the beliefs of his/her mother and father? Grandmother and grandfather? These things are embedded within a child's upbringing and we can hope that changes will be made over time...but in the meantime, take a hard look at these faces.

It's hard to believe people out there who have so much can deny supporting a cause that supports children like these. I understand that there is poverty and financial struggle for children in a lot of different places in the world but it was here that I was touched the most - because I met people who are making a difference! I admire MIS for having these projects at the school but most especially I admire (and thank) the people who have set up the Tanzania Project and who have made a difference! I'm so proud to be a part of it! :)

This year I've also moved from Starnberg to Munich and it's been awesome. I love my new apartment, its location and everything about it. I regret that I didn't make the move sooner but it was pretty convenient to have a 10 minute bike ride to school and my own schedule to work with. I carpool now which is also a new experience and I enjoy the morning company but it involves more organization on my part in the mornings...and less snooze button hitting! No complaints! :)

Well, that's it for now! Keep on smiling people - life's good! :)

Friday, April 4, 2014

My Top 3 Scariest/Worst Travel Experiences - Part 2

April 30th - May 8th, 2011 - Lhasa, Tibet - Mount Everest Base Camp, Tibet

This was an incredible, once in a lifetime trip. Again, I was travelling with work colleagues/friends and we began planning this trip months in advance, what with visa regulations and requirements. One of my companions was my best friend at my school in China and the other was a colleague who worked at one of our sister schools that we'd hung out with a few times and who we got along well with. My best friend's boyfriend would also join us but he would meet us in Lhasa, while the rest of us hopped on board the train in Shanghai that would take us to Lhasa...in 47 hours and 40 minutes.
Map of train to Tibet
We were prepared for the trip with lots of snacks, books, laptops, iPods and chargers to keep 'em juiced. On the train ride, we'd gradually acclimatize to the altitude as we climbed higher and higher and closer and closer to Lhasa. On the train, we'd reach a maximum elevation of 5,072m. Equipped in our soft top sleeper cabin, were oxygen tanks which released oxygen into the train gradually but you could control how much intake you would get by opening or closing the vent, like with air-conditioning in a car, I guess. While my best friend and I were adjusting well, our other mate began to experience fatigue and headaches as soon as we started to climb...not a good sign.
Information on monitor in train
This is a before shot of the bathroom - it got pretty nasty as you can imagine! Not a very friendly toilet for many, either! :P 
Our sleeping car and one sick lady!
The train ride itself was pretty incredible. Within an hour or two, we'd see completely different landscape, especially on the second day as we entered Tibet. Once in Lhasa, we were greeted by our tour guide (it' pretty strictly regimented there), given a khatak - white scarf given to visitors by Tibetans to indicate their pure heart (I still carry mine in my travel backpack) - and then taken to our first hotel.
Tibetan landscape featuring a couple of yaks! :)
Most amazing blue skies and some mountains...
And then this big lake, the biggest in China, was absolutely beautiful!
The next day involved sightseeing and shopping in Lhasa, before heading off to the Himalayas and eventually Mt. Everest Base Camp in the coming days. Lhasa was amazing, but the first thing I noticed was the awkward Chinese presence in the area...soldiers marching around in unison...it was kind of freaky at first and seemed completely unnecessary. I had wished that I had seen the city before Chinese domination, but then again that'd be pretty hard, seeing as the Chinese built the railway I had just arrived on. Aside from that, Lhasa was amazing. Potala Palace, Jokhang Temple, Barkhor Street, Drepung Monastery and Sera Monastery were all sights in or around Lhasa and all must-see experiences if you find yourself in Tibet. As I write this, I realize I should probably dedicate a whole post to how amazing Tibet is; despite the 'bad' experience I had here, it was such an amazing place and the trip was incredible. Tibet remains the place where I found the people to be the friendliest, to have the best smiles and the most amazing culture, as it still seems pretty far removed from Western Civilization. I hope that doesn't change!
Potala Palace 
One of my fave pics :)
Barkhor Street...lots of people walk around the Jokhang Temple (just in the background) with these prayer wheels.
Jokhang Temple
Monks preparing tea at Drepung Monastery 
Prayer time in Drepung Monastery
My new friends :) 
Watching these guys take part in the famous Monk debate at Sera Monastery
Prayer wheels at Sera Monastery
After our full first day in Lhasa, our travel companion/my roommate was really taking a turn for the worst; she wasn't acclimatizing well and was feeling the effects of altitude sickness. She excluded herself from the monastery visits on day two, as they involved lots of stairs, and instead visited an orphanage with blind children...I have to say, kudos to her for doing this! I guess it was also an amazing experience! But, after a day in Lhasa, she was already relying on oxygen cans to help her breathe from time to time, as she was struggling. Lhasa is at 3,650m...where we were going was 5,150m with one higher ascent than that en route. I remember her mentioning that she said she wished she could help out at the orphanage some more, I suggested once that she do that, but she insisted she'd carry on with the travel itinerary...and higher and higher in altitude.

Our next place of stay on our journey was Shigatse, a city situated at 3,840m above sea level, and it was here that my travel roomie really started to have a hard time. She was nauseous, fatigued, had diarrhea and at this point, began taking Diamox for altitude sickness. Her oxygen intake from the oxygen cans became more frequent and now she had severe pains in her right hand. Things were not looking good, yet she still wanted to try to move on more the next day as we would have been arriving at Everest Base Camp. On one hand, I can understand that you don't want to miss the opportunity to stand facing the world's highest mountain - it is pretty darn special! But, at the same time, to push your body further and further when it's trying to give you signs to stop, isn't really the smartest idea. Before the trip, I was nervous about altitude sickness never having been very high up, so we had Diamox on hand, just in case. I was going to the gym to ensure I was in good shape before the trip, though I was also told your physical state of health can have no effect on you chances of getting altitude sickness. Luckily, I was fine for the entirety of the trip, and only experienced a slight headache and racing heart overnight at Base Camp.

So, we headed off to Base Camp on the morning of May 5th with a lunch stop in a small town called Tingri, 4,300m. It was here that our mate could go no further. She couldn't breathe. She was in a bad way. One of our two guides stayed behind with her, which was risky seeing as we had several Chinese check-points left to go through (basically Chinese authorities flexing their muscles and severely inconveniencing travellers with roadside checks where we had to get off the bus with our passports and sometimes even have our bags searched!). Also, a few more people in our tour group of about 14, began to experience symptoms of altitude sickness - headache, nausea and they were using the oxygen cans - well what was left of them. I felt a bit guilty leaving my roomie behind, but there would have been nothing I could do, I spent a lot of money to be there, I wasn't sick at all, I'd probably never get the chance to go back there AND I wanted to be with my best friend, who was beginning to experience some symptoms now. She did have her boyfriend, the French mountain goat, but does this make me a bad person? I don't think so...

So, I continued on. Seeing Mount Everest and the final six hour drive through the Himalayas and all that it entailed was just incredible; there's not much I would trade for it, nor would I trade any of my travel experiences for anything. Of course, I was worried about our fallen friend but all I could do was hope she was okay.
Yamdrok-Tso, one of Tibet's four holy lakes
Gyatso Pass, 5,248m and a lot of prayer flags :)
Our first glimpse of the Himalayas and Mt. Everest...and some crazy switchback road action!
Guess which one is which?! 
We slept in tents owned by Tibetans at the Base Camp and had meals inside of our tents shortly after arrival. There was a big fire stove in the middle of the tent (I guess a cross between a tent and a yurt) but at bedtime, it was put out to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning (I guessed?). It's cold at 5,150m and the solution was a yak skin blanket. I didn't sleep that night as all I could hear was my heart beating in my ear at, it seems, 100km/hr and my best friend throwing up from a combo of food poisoning at lunch and altitude sickness. The blanket was also so heavy that I felt I couldn't breathe right when it was on me but I was too cold to not have it on me! I ended up seeking refuge in the bathroom about 150m away from the tent and visited there 4 times during the night (just to be able to walk around) and even called my boyfriend for comforting advice - probably not the cheapest phone call! Before you start picturing luxurious heated bathrooms, these 'bathrooms' consisted of a wood hut with two holes cut out in the floor to squat and do your business without any privacy. The benefit of being there was that everyone else was probably too cold to leave their huts so I was the only one out there - I guess it just felt good to stand up and move around.

Home for the night at 5,150m
Where I slept...or tried to :) 
I know, gross...but it was dark...
The next day, we took a bus (because we weren't allowed to walk - we were told there were wolves, which was a lie as I'd have seen them on my bathroom trips, I'm sure :P) to the pedestrian only access point of base camp. We all went through a security hut one by one, had our bags searched, passports checked then we waited outside for the rest of the group. Once everyone was done, we were told to get on the bus. What?! We were not happy but we were told Base Camp was closed. No reason why but there were a lot of angry people. What could we do? We're foreigners in a foreign country who just got deprived of the chance to step on the beginning trek of one of the most infamous climbs in the world. We later found out, as we were stopped and completely searched en route back to Lhasa, that someone had gone into the base of the trek with their country's flag and waved it around. This was seen as very offensive and apparently reason enough to disallow anyone else from entering for the coming weeks. Great. So we left later in the day, deprived of this experience...but at least with a good story.

And there it is - Mt. Everest! The highest point on this earth at 8,848m..and the closest I'll ever get! 
View of Mt. Everest from Rongbu Monastery - the highest monastery in the world, obviously.
Once we reached Tingri again, we stopped for a bite and picked up my sick travel roomie. She was really, really ill by now - she couldn't talk, had cushions full of oxygen that were constantly in or very close to her mouth. She was coughing now, a very congested cough, and in a lot of pain. She also had a doctor come visit her there who told her she had a 'lung infection' and gave her some kind of medicine. We helped her onto the bus where she sat motionless and colourless with an oxygen pillow and a blanket. Along the way, we stopped to have a bathroom break (just on the road - boys on the right side of the bus, girls on the left) and our friend had to go. Since she couldn't really walk, we helped her off the bus, two of us held a blanket and the guide held her hand as she tried to pop a squat next to the bus. I'm sure it was a humiliating experience for her, obviously extremely scary too, but it was something my close friend and I never thought we'd do, not having known her very well. We got her back on the bus and finally to Shigatse. It was there when she realized she needed more than just the guide to take care of her; while we were gone to dinner (she obviously had no appetite), she was taken to the Shigatse hospital for the night.

The next day, my friend and I had the bus take us to the hospital to pick up our mate before heading on back to Lhasa. She was hooked up to an oxygen machine, in a hospital bed and still looking pretty bad. At this point, she was still considering (and wanting) to take the tour bus back to Lhasa with an oxygen tank. I found this pretty irresponsible. That would make me feel somewhat liable for her health as well as the guides on the trip - not really fair! Finally, the decision was made to transport her back to Lhasa (the whole 8.5 hours) by ambulance. The bus would still be stopping at a base where the Tibetans fought off the English from invading via India and this was something I was interested in seeing, but I thought I'd make up for leaving her behind when we went to Everest and I took the ambulance back to Lhasa with her. Well, what a trip this was.

The ambulance had it's full speed on for as much of the way as it could, but, it was an old piece of shit ambulance from the early 90s so going fast wasn't exactly fast. It. Was. Awful. There were Jeeps, Land Cruisers and other SUVs passing us left right and center; I couldn't believe it really. We also had to stop for my friend to relieve herself and since she was in such pain, couldn't move or breathe, it took the doctor (who was with us), the guide and myself to get her down from the ambulance to pee on the roadside. I also got to go empty and rinse the bed pan. Once back in Lhasa, she was taken to the army hospital. I waited until my other friend (and her boyfriend and the rest of the tour crew) arrived to pick me up later that night...there was some really bad traffic with road construction which was the only benefit of having the ambulance to bypass it!

We spent our last day in Lhasa running around getting things for our mate because the hospital provided nothing. It was a scary, scary place...and having a white girl in there, was like a tourist attraction. Initially, I was annoyed at the whole situation, despite her being very, very ill, because I had to give up some of my trip because she was too stubborn to just stay back and listen to her body. She could have prevented her condition from worsening by staying in Lhasa...it put a big stress and responsibility on us that I felt was unfair - especially since I should have been the younger, naive one! She was nearly 40 and me in my late 20s - why did I have to even suggest she stay behind as she should have done this herself anyway! As it turned out, she was in such a bad state that she was unable to fly back to mainland China with us and we had no option to stay with her with the visa situation we were in - we had to get out! So, we left her in Lhasa at the hospital with the tour guide (who was an amazing woman) and she was airlifted to Chengdu a few days later. She had pulmonary edema, a life-threatening illness and the worst thing you can have happen to you when you've got altitude sickness. I resented her even more because I thought, what if she would have died?! That day in the ambulance, I had to communicate with her family on the phone about what was happening and that was also pretty unpleasant and scary - we weren't that close, they didn't know who I was...it was just a nightmare! I felt she brought a lot of this upon herself and she ignored the advice I sheepishly gave her...I shouldn't have had to advise her at all, surely your body's warning signs would be enough to tell you to stop!

Both my best friend and I didn't see her again after that trip and we no longer keep in touch. I had deleted her from Facebook (but then re-added her) because she made a comment about really fit people dying from pulmonary edema or getting really sick, even though they were really fit. This lady was very overweight and before the trip, I remember talking about making an effort to get in better shape. She was going to try to walk more and prepare her body for the trip, while my best friend and I were going to the gym. Well, trip time came and she made no effort to get into any decent physical shape, as she said would, and up until this point, she struggled to even walk around her own city. My best friend was worried about her before the trip and questioned her decision to be coming in the first place, being in her physical condition, but it was a cultural experience she couldn't pass up - I get that! In the ambulance that day, I made a comment to her that I hoped this situation would encourage her to be a healthier person as I thought this was a pretty fair warning (Hi! You're on your death bed!) and she agreed. I'm not sure if she ever did.

So, the scary part of all of this? Almost having a travel companion die on you. No joke, her coughing on that last day, in that ambulance, is still clear in my mind. She was sick. She was really, really sick. What would you do? We had even signed waivers for the train and the trip saying no one but ourselves was liable for our death which freaked me out but we all signed it. The thought of almost having to accept responsibility for all of that, and the way that her lack of commitment to her own health and wellbeing nearly ruined an amazing, once-in-a-lifetime trip, was extremely aggravating, as selfish as that sounds. But in the end, you're responsible for yourself, your life. Don't be an idiot about it and I'd hope I'd never put that stress on anyone near or around me, ever! Scar-y!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

My Top 3 Scariest/Worst Travel Experiences - Part 1

Ok, one word in and I'm already thinking this is going to be a long one...so I'm separating it into three different posts! So, in chronological order, here are my top three experiences in travelling that I'd never wish upon my worst enemy...though I don't have one! :P ...one post at a time!

December 2010 - Langkawi, Malaysia - Koh Lipe, Thailand
My work friend and I went on Christmas vacation from our school in China to Malaysia and Thailand. After a few days in Malaysia, on December 21st, we caught a ferry from Langkawi to Koh Lipe and met a fun Australian couple on board who had some alcoholic bevies with them (a bottle of rum with some fruit juice) that they shared with us. As I'm not a huge drinker (most of the time), I didn't have that much, while the others indulged. We sat at the back of the boat but our company was quite loud and the rest of the passengers weren't incredibly impressed with the drinking behaviours. However, one of the ferry workers, did enjoy some sharing in of the drinking so we won over one person on the boat trip.

Upon arrival at Sunset Beach in Koh Lipe, our new friends, and my friend, were a wee bit drunk; it's vacation - it's allowed! :) We had to exit the boat from behind where the motor was pulled up with propellors exposed, but turned off, obviously. When the Australian female disembarked the vessel, she slipped and her ass bumped the propellor and she stumbled into the water a bit. She seemed fine immediately after and there was no sign of injury, it just looked like it hurt. Her boyfriend helped the crew to remove bags from the boat onto the beach and then the girl, we'll call her Sheila, said to me that her ass was really sore and asked if I could see anything wrong with it. Well, yes I could, once she lifted her sarong! She had a cut so deep that it hadn't really even begun to bleed, hence not noticing anything until she asked. I didn't show my reaction of shock to her, but I was shocked, however, my slightly intoxicated friend saw the wound and immediately exclaimed "Ah Jesus!" at the sight. Of course, Sheila began to panic a bit but I assured her it was okay and we had her lay on a blanket on the sand, with her ass up. My friend held her butt together with her hands while I held her hand and just talked to her to keep her calm. The propellor had cut pretty deep into her ass and all I could think was: a) Thank goodness she's drunk. b) She's so lucky it was her ass and not another part of her body, or else she'd be in more trouble! Keep in mind, huge open wound, on a beach, sand everywhere. Fortunately, there was a doctor on board the boat with us, we thought! She gave us a wet wipe and told us to just keep holding her wound together until help arrived. She then left us to begin her Thai vacation. B**ch wasn't a fan of Sheila on the boat so figured she had the right to just leave her with two Canadian strangers instead. Pretty glad she's not my doctor!

Amidst all of this, she wanted to see what it looked like so asked us to take a photo. It's pretty held together here, but initially, it was a pretty gaping wound!
Her boyfriend started to panic and act like an idiot until help arrived; a 4-wheeler with a trailer hitched on back. Koh Lipe is a very small island, with no roads (well, some sandy, dirt, bumpy roads) and no cars. I doubt the medical facilities are very extravagant and was told there are limited or no police force as well, which is totally part of the charm of this paradise, but not in a situation like this. As we had just arrived from Malaysia, we had to go through customs, or in this case, have our passports taken from us to be stamped and wait for them to be given back to us. Well, Sheila and her boyfriend were carted away and we had been left with their bags (and ours) and we had to wait for their passports as well. They had a friend on the island and we were meant to find him. How hard could that be? After hauling both our and their bags through the sandy pathways that they'd call roads for a couple of hours, we realized it wasn't as easy a task as they had claimed. We asked loads of people but no one knew their friend or where we could find him. It was a bad start to our Thai vacation time. Booooo!

Eventually, we found their friend and this shop that was run by his Thai girlfriend. Moments later, Sheila and her boyfriend came by with a woman in the 4-wheeler with the trailer. They passed us, boyfriend yelling, and came back again five minutes later. Weird. Sheila was still drunk and now high on ether she was sniffing from a cloth...and had 18 stitches to hold her ass together. We finally got to walk to our resort and boyfriend offered to help us out by carrying our bags. On the way, we ran into the husband of the woman driving the 4-wheeler...actually, he had found us and followed us onto the beach and then encircled us with his friends. Apparently boyfriend also turned out to be an a**hole who yelled at her and husband was NOT happy. He then pushed him, screamed at him and tried to fight him. Great, could this get any better? My friend used the power of her persuasive talk to diffuse the problem, made boyfriend apologize and said he'd also find the wife to apologize. It was all ridiculous...and kind of unbelievable. My friend and I should have taken our cue to stay away but he insisted we have dinner and drinks with them and their friends who lived on the island, to thank us. Being naive, and thinking things can't get any worse, we agreed.

That night, we met up. We had some dinner, drinks and things were going well. We then went to this private beach bar that was really awesome and chilled out there for a while. Well, it was then we realized boyfriend was a real dirtbag. It turns out he was looking to buy some drugs on the island to bring back to Australia with him. We also realized that Sheila and he had only been dating a couple of weeks when she decided to take this trip with him. We tried to tell her she should probably leave and go back home without him, because he was a douche, but also because we didn't want her to get in trouble. She was quite a bit younger than us and pretty naive and he was in his late twenties, I believe. We decided to fly the coop and leave these guys to themselves. We saw Sheila again, she told us that he wasn't going to traffic drugs anymore (thank goodness!) and that she was going to break up with him when she got back home. I hope she did. We remained Facebook friends for about 5 minutes, until I realized, though it's a good story, I don't really want anything to do with my new Australian friends and their ridiculous dramas! :P

DISCLAIMER: Despite this negative (and random) experience, Koh Lipe remains my favourite island/beach vacation of all time. It is paradise there and I will return one day! On Christmas Day, two friends from Korea (Nova Scotia originally) met us on the island and we spent an awesome day together on the island together. Thinking about it, makes me smile. I wouldn't hesitate a second to recommend this place as a MUST visit place for any traveller looking for a relaxing holiday! :)
Me in Paradise! :)
To date, still the best Chicken Pad Thai I've ever eaten!
View of Sunrise Beach
View of Sunset Beach from a cool bamboo walkway that brought you to a very private beach on the other side of the island!