Yup! It’s as beautiful as they say!!! Will post more detail later, but enjoy these photos for now!
Check out the exquisite detail in the marble and semi precious stone inlays.
Yup! It’s as beautiful as they say!!! Will post more detail later, but enjoy these photos for now!
Check out the exquisite detail in the marble and semi precious stone inlays.
You’re testing my patience. I love you, then I hate you, then I love you again. You have pulled at my heart strings, slapped me in the face, filled me with radiance and kicked me when I’ve fallen down. Is this some kind of abusive relationship? Maybe its me… I’ve been unwell for the past several days with some crazy form of Indian cold that my immune system does not recognize. I have tried resting, I have tried your local remedy of Tulsa, and I have tried medicating myself to the hilt. So far, I am still sick. Sick and tired.
I came here to find peace, to get away from my crazy world, and learn patience, rejuvenate and fill myself with love again. Aside from testing my patience, I am far from satisfying my goals. Many travelers I spoke to warned me about you. Like a red-headed step-sister with Attention Deficit Disorder, you are difficult to love. But I am trying, very hard to find your beauty. I know its here…. somewhere. I saw it on my day in the slums of Chandigarh. In the dirtiest place I have visited, I saw your beauty shining through the smiles and love of those I met. Thank you for sharing that with me. I need more of that, please.
My other experiences here have been less fulfilling, I find you to be uncooperative, even though we are trying to ‘go with the flow.’ You try your hardest to disrupt our plans, or lack thereof, at every opportunity. So far, more time has been spent negotiating, traveling, and waiting, and seeking safety than really, truly experiencing you. I know that its possible to see the real you, and I have learned from others who have fallen in love with you that although you’re callous at first, you soften up over time. Perhaps I need to open my heart more… I am trying to trust the process, but its difficult when you cheat me, argue with my intentions, and taunt me to give up on you.
I have already given back to you and your people in my short time here. It’s not much, but I’ve done what I can to help the DIR project in Chandigarh, and will continue to help them when I return home. I hope to do more during my stay here to give what I can to contribute to the health and sustainability of your beautiful country, but if you continue to deplete me of the energy I bring, there will be nothing left for me to invest. I beg you to hear me, to help lift me up, heal me, and show me the real you.
I won’t judge your filth, stench, or grating personality… I will look past those traits and understand that you are doing your best to shine in your own way. Please offer me the same courtesy. Understand that although I may seem ignorant to your culture, intrusive, or just another spoiled Canadian romping through your territory, I come with the best intentions. I will share your joy and love you forever if you can just offer me some light at the end of this very dark tunnel.
I’m not going to lie… The LAST things I expected to see in India were Inukshuks and the beautiful Premier of our beautiful province of British Columbia, Canada! However, this is what the universe delivered on day 3 of our India adventure…
On the night of our arrival here in Chandigarh, our hosts Guy and Colleen asked if we might be able to assist with building an Innukshuk made of ice the following day… We thought they were kidding!! Nevertheless, the next day we found ourselves sitting in the backyard of a beautiful home in India where we were carving ice blocks that weighed about 70lbs each into two Inukshuks as well as a platter to house the BC wine that had been imported for the occasion. What was the occasion? Well… Evidently the Premier of our our province, Christy Clark, was on tour in India and happened to be making an appearance in Chandigarh later that evening!! Ironically, we can walk to the Legislature from our home in Victoria to see the Premier in action any day they are in session. Yet somehow, as backpackers, we managed to get ourselves invited to an intimate VIP event more than 12,000km from home where she would be speaking that evening. What are the odds?!
We spent the better half of the afternoon helping with preparations for the party by building two giant Inukshuks out of several blocks of ice that had been dropped off. We were amazed they didn’t melt before the party started as the temperature was upwards of 25-30 degrees celsius. In fact, the heat worked in our favor as the blocks of ice actually fused as they melted so we didn’t need to use anything else to hold the structures together… Success!
The next challenge was finding something to wear to the event! As backpackers we certainly didn’t prepare to be attending any fancy occasions, and our usual ‘uniform’ of lululemon wares and cheap Thai t-shirts wasn’t appropriate for the evening. Luckily Colleen and Guy saved the day by lending Chris a tie to wear with the one collared shirt he brought and me a lovely skirt with matching top and scarf. We were set!!
We were one of the first people to arrive but the crowd quickly grew as the audience eagerly awaited Premier Christy (Has a nice ring to it, don’t ya think?! I could get used to sharing a name with one of the biggest movers and shakers of our Provence!) In fact, since I was one of the few caucasian women in attendance, who also shared a name with the VIP of the evening, I was mistaken for her at one point when someone said “Christy, so nice to meet you. We saw your picture in the newspaper today,” my response- “Really?! I’ve been in India for like 48 hours, how could I have made the paper already?!” at which point I realized they had me mixed up with THE Christy of the evening. We all shared a laugh and I made sure to introduce myself and Christy SMITH for the remainder of the evening.
Eventually the guest of honour arrived and made an inspiring speech which was very well received by the audience. Knowing that she had began her day at sunrise, and had not even had time to stop and eat dinner that evening before the event, I was blown away by her positive energy and radiant glow. Whether one supports her politics or not, I think we can agree she is an extremely intelligent, driven, progressive, engaging, friendly, relatable, energetic leader who deserves a huge amount of respect. Call me cheesy if you like, but I was full of pride as a British Columbian to have an ambassador like Christy Clark representing my geographic region all the way in Chandigarh India.
My next mission; to capture a photo of myself with Christy. Evidently the majority of the audience shared my aspirations so I had to wait my turn as Christy was smothered by media, prominent businessmen and delegates who did not want to miss the photo opportunity the evening presented. Eventually, I was able to share a few words with the premier, tell her we had flown all the way from Canada JUST to build the Inukshuks 😉 and snapped a few pics of my new found hero.
Having satisfied my goal I was ready to continue mingling with the fascinating individuals gathered at the event. Speaking of which, I wish we had brought more business cards! This is turning out to be a working holiday… I met an incredible woman named Cyndi who works with Royal Roads University. We discussed the opportunities for RRU brand growth in social media marketing and I hope to arrange a meeting to discuss things further upon our return to Victoria in the new year. Chris also introduced me to Kyle, who has been taking daily video footage of the Premier’s activities and editing them into short YouTube videos to share. Then we met Gabe who is the Premier’s personal Executive Assistant and Barinder who has been busy taking care of the social media outreach for the BC Government. In fact, Chris and I ended up receiving a generous invite to accompany our new friends to the brand new Marriott hotel for the after party. Needless to say, it was a late night filled with unexpected events, amazing people and lots of fun. We arrived home shortly after 1am with smiles from ear to ear.
Just another day in India – thanks for reading!!
BRACING OURSELVES FOR INDIA!
After our stint in paradise, we caught the night bus and ferry back to Bangkok. We found a nice hotel adjacent to Khao San rd to spend a night before catching our flight to New Delhi.
Several hours later on the plane we could see thousands of twinkling lights below- we were almost ready to land in India! We touched down, deplaned, and followed the lineup of travelers through immigration. We met another Canadian couple Kelly & Kelly who gave us the name and address of the hotel they booked (we hadn’t made any reservation in advance for ourselves) so we proceeded to embark on the adventure of getting a taxi. We quickly learned that the prepaid taxi stalls inside the airport were a total ripoff (shocking…. Not), but realized that the smaller kiosk across the street was offering prepaid fares for a fraction of the cost. We hopped in a taxi and were on our way to ‘The Star Hotel’. Little did we know that anything named THE star, translates to ONE star quality.
Within 10 minutes of getting to our room we noticed the lights flicker before the power completely shut off. Fumbling around in the dark for a flashlight, suddenly I realized I could smell smoke! I told Chris and we ventured out of our room and noticed that directly beside our room there was arching electrical zaps coming from a boarded off area with wires hanging out of it. I quickly walked downstairs to notify the front desk that we would need to move rooms.
“Ummmm excuse me sir, there is a problem with our room. No power, and electrical fire next door!! Lots of smoke…” I said. Their response: “Yes. NO problem mam.” they flipped through their book to find us a new room and followed me upstairs to help us move our things. By the time I got back to the room it was full of smoke and Chris had packed up the few things we had managed to unpack while settling in earlier- eyes wide as saucers. We were “upgraded” to another room that was larger but still had dirty sheets (thank god we had purchased silk sleeping sheets earlier in the day in Bangkok), leftover kleenex in the garbage bin, and a lovely view of mothers and their children working to pour cement from the alley below. This was our introduction to Delhi. Talk about ripping off the bandaid!!
Obviously by morning we had made our minds up that we MUST get out of the city as soon as possible. We ate some breakfast, decided on a game plan and ventured out to find sim cards for our mobile phones so we could contact each other or family at home in case of emergency. We had NO idea getting a sim card in India would be such a challenging experience!!! First of all there is an extensive paperwork process that includes a photocopy of your passport as well as a small passport photo for each sim card. It took over an hour to complete those steps before we realized the sim card we were given wasn’t compatible with our phones!! No refund. No big deal…. 2.5 hours and 4 trips back to our hotel to gather more photocopies and passport photos we were FINALLY connected.
Step 2: check out and get a rickshaw (like a tuk tuk for those familiar with Thailand transport) to the New Delhi train station. Being dropped off at the train with a large backpack on your back and a other bag attached to your front is like being a pound of fresh meat in a shark tank. We were quickly bombarded with Indians wanting to offer us taxis, misinformation, and scams galore. Luckily we had been sufficiently warned and were able to wonder around the station ourselves until we finally found a way to buy a train ticket to Chandigarh. SUCCESS!
From the train platform, we sent a text message to Colleen who is the sister of some friends back home and told her we were on our way for a visit! The train ride was lovely and we were given an unexpected meal and some Indian newspapers to enjoy on the ride. We arrived in Chandigarh 3 hours later and Colleen was waiting for us on the platform. We were sooooo relieved to see her there and excited to have some time to adjust to India with the help of our new Canadian friends.
Colleen works for the Consulate here and helps to process visas for those wanting to immigrate to Canada. She has been posted here with her husband Guy for two years already and they expect they will return to Canada at the end of next year when their term has finished. We are soooooooo grateful for their hospitality and it’s been very interesting to have a glimpse into life as an x-pat overseas.
Pros: they have a lovely gated house, with an armed guard who ensures their safety, a housekeeper, a gardener (although Colleen is an avid gardener and does a lot of the work in the beautiful garden too), and a car with driver. Also- groceries here cost only about $20 per week, so big savings compared to home.
Cons: we really don’t see many cons, aside from the obvious distance from friends, family and culture back home, but they assure us that it can be a challenge to adjust to living in India. After 2 years here already, they feel they are still getting used to things… Though it definitely gets easier over time.
We admire their sense of adventure to have embarked on such a wonderful opportunity! I would love to live abroad some day- if only for a period of time. Traveling has opened my eyes and my appetite to a world MUCH bigger than life in Canada. That, I know for sure.
Arriving at Shiralea Backpackers Resort was like returning to a home away from home! After spending several days relaxing poolside at Shiralea on my last trip to Thailand, I knew we had to make a stop there again this time- and boy are we ever glad we did!! Our original plan was to skip the full moon party island in exchange for exploring northern Thailand as I rushed that area on my last visit…. BUT, the flooding in Bangkok and surrounding areas disabled the train service thus making the airfare unreasonable and the bus rides less desirable. That’s the nice thing about not REALLY having much of a plan to start with… Makes it easy to change our minds!
After a couple days at the resort we decided that we would like to do some diving with Vic and the fabulous staff at Reefers Diving. Chris became a certified open water diver while I upgraded my certification to an advanced open water diver with specialties in underwater photography, navigation, deep dives and multilevel diving. Due to the monsoon season and flooding run-off the visibility was very poor on our first 3 dives, so I decided to postpone finishing the rest of my course while I topped off my tan poolside and relaxed in the Shiralea hammocks. This ended up being the best decision EVER! Not only were we able to spend time getting to know the amazing crew at Shiralea, but we were also lucky enough to SEE A WHALE SHARK AT SAIL ROCK on our last two dives!!!!! It was epic. Words do not offer any justice to the feeling of swimming alongside a 3.5m whale shark (just a baby I’m told, as they can grow to 8 or 9 meters as adults!)
I swear, I bonded with the whale shark on my first dive. She was right at the side of our boat when we first entered the water and actually bumped into the boat she came so close at one point. Thanks to my advanced certification, Martin, who was my AWESOME instructor for the course, and I were able to get some one on one time with the shark as it dove down to almost 30meters. The other divers were only allowed to go down to 18m so we spent about 20 minutes of our dive alone with the biggest sea creature I’ve ever seen with my own eyes. Suffice it to say, I fell in love. The whale shark was loving life and was as curious about us as we were about her. She would slowly and gracefully meander through the water allowing us to keep up and swim so close we could touch her (of course we didn’t touch since human bacteria can be very harmful to sea creatures). Several times she would swim past me, then circle back and come swimming straight at my face, mouth wide open as she gulped as much plankton in the water as she could, and the. We would look each other straight in the eyes as I dodged left right, or down to avoid touching her as she swam past. If I wasn’t focused on keeping my regulator from falling out of my mouth I would have had a jaw dropping grin from ear to ear!!! Martin snapped several photos of my whale shark flirtations so for the first time ever I have proof of an underwater experience I will NEVER forget. We were super lucky to spend our second dive of the day with Wilma whale shark as well- which was really cool because Chris and I were able to both enjoy together since she stayed much more shallow on the second dive. Sooooo cool!!!
Another first for me on the dive was suffering from my first underwater anxiety attack!!! About 10 minutes after getting in the water on my first dive with Wilma whale shark I was soooo excited to see her and kicking sooooo hard to keep up with her as she plunged deeper and deeper that suddenly I realized I was having a very difficult time breathing!! It felt like no matter how deep of a breath I inhaled from my tank, it just wasn’t enough air to satisfy me. Not a good feeling when you’re 20m underwater- especially when I knew that if I headed for surface I would miss out on the chance of a lifetime! Luckily I was able to mentally talk myself out of it, slow my kicking and recover so that i could calm down and breathe normally. Crisis averted. Lesson learned. Milestone reached! Not
many people can claim that they finished their advanced dive course with a whale shark as a dive buddy!!
My second favorite part of our time in Koh Phangan was expanding the spice creative portfolio to include our first international client!! We ended up doing social media marketing with both reefers diving an Shiralea backpackers resort! We had a ton of fun sharing our knowledge with the guys and teaching them how to create online content using only an iPod touch! We also built custom Facebook welcome pages and launched a new ‘Stories’ contest at Shiralea. We have been invited to return in January to continue consulting/relaxing before we head home in February. YES PLEASE!
Suffice it to say our 10 days in paradise were well worth it, and despite the fact we still have yet to explore northern Thailand to the extent it deserves, we are very happy with our choice to extend our stay on the islands. Huge thank you to the amazing Shiralea crew we now consider family. WE’LL BE BACK!
Check out this little video I made with my iPod touch!
For more like this visit Chris’ blog
We are having a super awesome time here on Koh Samui – I highly recommend the Passage Samui to anyone looking for a romantic getaway in Thailand! WOW. We have enjoyed spectacular service, outstanding food, and we are thoroughly enjoying the incredible facilities they have here including 3 infinity pools all with an ocean view. Like I said… WOW. Today we will be taking a Thai cooking class around lunch that was included in our package, as well as enjoying a couples Thai massage just before sunset … does life get better than this? Don’t be too jealous though… in only a couple weeks time we will rip the bandaid off as we drop into chaotic India! Anyway, gotta run now as we’re about to miss the free shuttle into town so we can use the ATM machine if I take any longer! Love and miss you all! xo