Hong Kong, Our Port in a Storm

Often, not the Storm but the Fear of Storm beats us.

Day 72: My alarm has never endured so many pre-sunrise wake-up calls as in the last two months. Especially those crucial mornings when you have a flight to catch are heavily protected with five to ten alarms and snooze opportunities. We depart Hanoi in the early morning and arrive two hours later in the metropolis of Hong Kong. The Airport Express brings us from the airport to Kowloon, the neighborhood where we spend our next couple of days.

Our hostel is located inside the Chungking Mansion on Nathan Road, the busiest and most known street in the district of Kowloon. The Chungking Mansion, a 17-story building spread over five blocks, once was a notorious place for prostitution and drug deals but now traded its bad reputation for little restaurants, hairdressers, and other commercial businesses but also tons of guesthouses which entices a lot of backpackers due to the cheap rates. The cheap rate comes mostly with minimal space. Don’t be surprised if you have to crawl over each other to get out of the bed. The toilet is also installed in the shower, just in case you want to speed things up during your morning routine and privacy is limited.

We nestle our backpacks in the room and go out to discover what this city has to offer. During our stroll through Tsim Tsa Shui, the southernmost area of the district of Kowloon, we notice how the Pokemon Go frenzy has won over the world. We move through the herds of teenagers who are glued to their phones and end up at the pier overlooking Hong Kong Island. For a moment, it felt like we were undertaking a little western city trip weekend getaway during our eastern backpacker voyage.    Continue reading Hong Kong, Our Port in a Storm

Cambodian Daydreams and Night Terrors

There are no wrong turning. Only paths we had not known we were meant to walk. 

Day 52: After a quick layover in Bangkok where Luke kissed his Mary goodbye, we set foot on already the sixth country of our whirlwind trip through Southeast Asia, Cambodia. Our stay in Phnom Penh is short-lived as we decide to hop on the night bus with direction to Siem Reap, which entails a 6-hour ride up north.

Day 54: Another brutal early morning but we have a great reason for this. Today we have one of the World Wonders on our travel menu. My alarm wakes me at 4 am. I try to be as quiet as possible in our 30-bed dorm and notice other shadows moving around in the room who are getting ready for the same adventure, visiting the Angkor Archaeological Park. The best time to visit is very early in the morning for several reasons. It is less crowded, it is less hot and you can see the sunrise over Angkor Wat. Continue reading Cambodian Daydreams and Night Terrors

Southern Comfort Blackout

Day 29: On our way from Georgetown to Hat Yai, we are due for another passport stamp. The fourth one on our adventure in Southeast Asia already. Collecting these stamps has been one of my favorite things on this trip as we are always curious about how the stamps will look like. We have been on a whirlwind trip so far but our journey suddenly comes to an unexpected halt at the border between Malaysia and Thailand. Sebastian encounters visa problems and is not allowed into Thailand. Although I pass without any problems with my European passport, he needs to provide certain sufficient funds (the equivalent of 10,000 baht) in order to be able to pass with his passport from Chile. But with little cash in both our pockets, they are being stubborn and do not let him pass. Sebastian has to return to Malaysia and get to the nearest ATM to get some cash. He asks one of the locals if he can hop on his motorbike to be dropped at the first ATM. The local guy nods and Sebastian jumps on. In the meantime, I have to convince the driver and the passengers to wait for us (and our luggage) until things get sorted. Every minute waiting next to the van feels like an hour and the looks of the other passengers become more and more sourly but luckily Sebastian finally shows up with the necessary cash and not much later we can continue our drive to Hat Yai. Continue reading Southern Comfort Blackout

Malaysia, My Cup of Tea

Day 23 – Our first couple of hours in Malaysia are hectic. This also must be one of the first (of many) times where we are trying to find our way through a non-touristy area which means there are fewer communication techniques available and lots of locals around you who do not speak or understand much English. We must have looked really clueless and ‘easy targets’ upon our arrival at the bus terminal when a few local guys approached us and tried to sell us bus tickets. I admit, my very pale complexion tends to stand out like an approaching headlight so it is sometimes hard to lay low. A little overwhelmed, we followed one of the guys to the little bus ticket office where we purchased our bus tickets. Luckily, we checked the price of how much a bus ticket would go for so we wouldn’t end up being scammed but the price seems to be accurate. With our bus ticket in hand, we get on the long haul bus that departs from the busy Larkin Sentral and will take us 330 kilometers further up north to Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia.  Continue reading Malaysia, My Cup of Tea

Singapore Along

Day 21 – Our flight with AirAsia from Denpasar gets us to Singapore smoothly just under three hours. We pick up our backpacks and in our shorts (slowly learning from our mistakes) and make our way with the MRT (Mass Rapid Transit) to our temporary home for the next three days, the Coziee Lodge in the Kallang neighborhood. We arrive a bit early and have to wait for a little before we can check in so decide to indulge ourselves into the local cuisine around the corner. Different smells, a different language we don’t understand, and different currency, the Singapore Dollar. Not too much later we check into our dorm room which we share with a few other travelers. We all have our own ‘coziee’ pod. We hop back on the MRT (two-minute walk which is super convenient) and are ready to discover the touristy spots of this city-state. Continue reading Singapore Along

Flow, Crash, Fly

May 18, 2016

Early morning. I wake up with the airconditioning blasting in my face and think about today’s adventures.  Outside I hear a bunch of sounds I haven’t heard before. The birds sing a different song, the busy traffic noise is now filled with honking motorcycles. I am slowly adapting from one culture to another and I believe Bali is a perfect transition hub for this. I must admit, arriving in Bali wearing jeans was a bold move. 

It is day 3 in Ungasan, a little village in the south of Bali. Sebastian and I have found ourselves a nice guesthouse (Orchid Paradise Bukit Villa) for the kick-off of our trip through Asia. Together with our German friend, Julian, we are spending the first couple of days at the guest house. This guest house rents out motorbikes which allows us to discover the island at its best, especially the touristy Bukit area. Bukit means ‘hill’ and you soon realize why. The area is blessed with a great selection of beautiful beaches (Balangan Beach, Bingin Beach, Padang Padang,…) and every night there is a different party going on somewhere in the area. Continue reading Flow, Crash, Fly

Rise and Shine

It is Easter. Sun is shining and kids are collecting the bunny eggs in their backyard over here. For a moment it looks like the normal daily life has restored. Soon enough I am reminded we are now keeping friends and foes at bay on the streets and going for groceries now has become a real chore. I try to shift my mind to happy thoughts and reminisce about greater days where the world was free to roam and we took all this for granted.

Just like Jesus Christ resurrected, I am bringing my blog back to life today. Although it took Jesus only three days to come back with a good story, it has been over two years since I have been sharing any life experiences on this platform. The reasons for the delay might be several. A backlog of my travels in Asia that I kept procrastinating, a big move from Belgium to Canada and finding myself in a committed loving relationship might be a few of those. The bottom line is, I am still as clumsy, adventurous and hungry for travel and the outdoors as before, with now the Pacific Northwest as my new backyard.

Now my passport is tucked far away, collecting dust rather than stamps, I will try to give you a few travel stories from those ink prints I collected. I see it as a way to escape from this grim 2020 travel season and look back on experiences to cherish even more than before now we are have to stay put in our tombs.

Why blogging? I believe this platform is still a great way to engage and connect with people across the globe, especially now when we are all asked to stay at home. It also gives my family and friends an update on how I am doing 5000 miles away from the place I grew up. And last but not least, it is a great pocket diary for later when you browse through these memories. Because that is what traveling is all about; pushing your boundaries, connections, and experiences. 

Stay tuned and stay safe,

Wim

 

Live A Life Worth Living

“Not that way ! That’s a jump for snowboarders” I heard my friend scream while I was concentrating on how to come down properly down a green slope for the very first time. My friend James told me a couple moments prior that I could use the whole slope to practice my skiing a bit. Everything except that part apparently.

After numerous face plants, cursing and going backwards I tried to finish the night with the bit of grace I had left in my body. Thankfully I wasn’t going to fast and could crawl back out of that lane to come down the ‘normal’ way.

Not bad for my first Monday in my new hometown. It’s been a turbulent week so far with the inevitable ups and downs.

A week ago I was still packing and sorting out what luggage to take with me while squeezing in my last goodbyes with friends and families. Those things are definitely the least fun part of the whole journey. Even though I promised not to tear up I couldn’t contain myself any longer when my little niece hugged me goodbye. Like she knewI went on a long big journey. The idea of seeing her again in a couple months comforts me.

Now the hardest part was behind me I stepped on the train towards Paris with my travel companion Kim. In Paris we would embark on our direct flight to Vancouver. With three bags and a heavy heart I got on board the plane that would bring me to my new life. Permanently this time. No fixed return date. That’s a bit of new concept for me. A million questions and some doubts race through my mind but deep inside I know I’m making a good decision and following my dreams.

After a few movies and chats with my neighbours and a sore bum we start our touchdown. With that touchdown starts an awful migraine. The exhaustion, last-minute stress and lack of sleep is getting the best of me.

The immigration procedure is going very smoothly and before we know it we are on our way to our hotel in North Vancouver where we are residing for the first week of our journey. An Advil and a hot shower later we are ready to meet up with Kim’s sister and brother in law in Coquitlam for a quick hello.

The next day is set aside for all the necessary paper work.

Getting a SIN number so I can get a job here in BC, opening my bank account, getting a phone plan and gathering information about exchanging my drivers license to a BC license. Make sure you book off enough for these things, they are quite time consuming but all worked out smoothly.

The next couple days consisted of getting used to the new time zone and going on new hikes in the area. Breathing in the old familiar fresh air while staring at waterfalls in the snow definitely feels like a warm welcome, although we were soaking wet and shivering on our way back.

Today, it’s job hunting day, a bit later than expected but more motivated and focused than a couple days ago.

As for now, this is were I will leave you, sitting in a Starbucks near English Bay and with a dozen job ads open on my computer. Back to work, looking for a living for a life that’s worth living or something like that.

Until the next update !

Oh, and just so you know, in Canada you should park at least five meters away from a fire hydrant…

Cheers

52 Weeks Filled with Mementos

Welcome to a New Year, Welcome to a New Blog –

While everyone is stowing away their christmas ornaments for another year, I’m stowing my life away for another quest. Most likely the biggest one so far as I am leaving with no actual expiration date on my adventure. And this my friends is so liberating and scary at the same time.

And now I am sitting here in my room filling boxes with stuff I have gathered over the  years. More than ready to toss out those old cds from the 90s with embarrassing songs and that leather jacket I never wore because I bought it too small in the first place. Golden rule is, if you have never used it or wore it in the last year, toss it. Except for momentos. A lot of mementos from my travels I simply can’t throw out. It is just too damn precious. The memories you made, the experiences you encountered, the people you met on your road of life. Cherish every single on them. From the awkward little love note from your high school sweetheart to the drunken polaroid group shot from your trip overseas or that awesome pebble you found in the Mongolian Desert last year.

Still trying to decide to do something original with these momentos and take them with me or just leave them in the shoeboxes at leave them at my moms’ for now. Any ideas are more than welcome in the comments.

So here is to a New Year, A New Life and another 52 weeks filled with Mementos, which I will try to share with you on a weekly basis. Hope you and I both enjoy the memories we will make this year.

There will be Rain

Welcome to Franz Josef Glacier, one of the wettest places on earth.

Be prepared to have a rainy day during your stay here in this beautiful place on earth that is squeezed between the mountains and the ocean and creates its own special micro climate.

This tiny village is a mandatory stop along the scenic Highway 6 between Greymouth and Queenstown and has a handful of great things to offer for everyone.

Going for a hike ?

Well, needless to say, this lush area has plenty of hikes to offer. If you have only a couple of hours to kill the most famous and visited one would be the Franz Josef Glacier Walk that departs from the village. If you don’t feel like doing the walk or don’t have the time you can take your car up to the Franz Josef Glacier Car Park. From there it is a half an hour walk to the end of the trail where you can have some views of the retreating glacier. The sights of the glacier might be a tiny bit disappointing to you so if you would like to see the glacier in full glory you’ll have to dig deeper into your pockets and arrange a helicopter tour over the glacier. These helicopters tours depart from the village and need to be booked well in advanced as on some days the unsteady weather might give the helicopter tour companies very limited windows to fly out to give you a clear view of the glacier. IMG_9867Got some more time and want to get away from the crowds on a more challenging track ? Great ! Two of my favourite hikes in Franz Josef would be Alex Knob and Roberts Point.  These two tracks are both considered a day trip and you should prepare well for these hikes (water, food, appropriate hiking gear). The views on top won’t disappoint. IMG_0092Thirsty ?

After you return from a day around the glacier you must be hungry and parched. The village offers something for everyone. The Landing and King Tiger might be your best options to fill your tummy while Full of Beans might have a good cup of coffee for you.

And at night ?

Looking for something to do at night ? There is even a brand new movie theater in town which is playing the newest movies out there and if you want to go for a good drink after then Monsoon is your place to go. You drink, they pour….

But always have a rain jacket handy… because there will be rain. But keep in mind, it is up to you to go outside with your rain jacked in the rain and have a laugh with your friends or complain in your room about the shitty weather outside. This place remains a very beautiful place, even with a little rain involved.