Well, I guess this is my annual blog post. I’ve been neglecting writing, I actually haven’t written since my 2017 recap. A lot has happened in 2018—milestones & learning experiences basically shaped most of this year. I guess that’s a good thing, that means I’m growing…right? Because I haven’t written in a while, my blog post writing may be extremely boring. Be warned that this post is extremely mundane and I apologize in advance.

I’ll start with the beginning of this year. January was filled with adjusting back to the America life. I was really focusing on myself, taking in everything I’d learned abroad, trying to get myself readjusted or as they call it “reverse culture shock”. While I wasn’t gone for too long, the best way to describe my mentality was that reality was really setting in. My life wasn’t just about my next adventure: sleeping on beaches, eating delicious street food, running in the rain, getting drunk with people from all over the world. Getting back to reality meant that I couldn’t be as carefree as I was in SE Asia. It meant responsibilities, finding a good job with benefits, settling down, paying bills and basically living for the weekends. So, January I tried my best to visualize my impending reality, while also focusing on my well-being and spending time with my pup and friends.

In February, I finally got a job. I was offered a contract role at Gymboree, a kid’s clothing company. So this month, I focused mostly on adjusting to my new job and working (& commuting) again. I went to the Erykah Badu concert with my boyfriend for Valentine’s Day, visited my brother at his work at Alpine Meadows in Tahoe, and went to a few more shows.

March was my birthday month, and I celebrated all month long. I went to some dinners, had a huge dinner with all my friends, and my boyfriend took me on the Wine Train in Napa for our first time ever wine tasting. It was a great month filled with friends!

April is still adjusting to working full-time but also counter-balancing it with a lot of socialization and activities. I went to a music festival with some of my besties and Puerto Vallarta with my boyfriend for our 10 year anniversary. We’ve been dating since we were 15, so it was only right that we celebrated it big. A lot of tequila & tacos were ingested during our stay & that’s the only way to do Mexico.

May was very bleh for me. Nothing major happened and I think this is when my mini-depression really kicked in. I was not happy. Working every day, not really going out but when I went out, I went too hard. My reality finally set in—I’m going to be working for the rest of my life. Living for the weekends, not being able to leave whenever and wherever I please, realizing this 9-5 work life will be the rest of my life for 40+ years. I’m pretty sure my drinking became too excessive during this time. I was being reckless, drinking too much without thinking about the consequences.

June is when the drinking became too out of control. I had a scary incident that literally scared me straight and I started to change my ways. The Warriors had won back-to-back championships (should’ve been 4 in a row & I’m still salty about it but oh well) and I celebrated in downtown Oakland just a little too hard. I spent the rest of the month making sure I would never be in the predicament again.

In July, we actually did stuff for the Fourth. We were scrambling, not sure what we were going to do, and in the last minute organized a little BBQ at one of our local parks. It was really chill and we were there all day (from 11am to 8pm) just listening to music, playing some ball and of course eating. This month I also hung out with my brother a lot, we actually waited in line for Aggretsuko for like 3 hours just to see the creator get up and leave…July was also a birthday month for two of my closest friends. For Esther’s bday, we had a little surprise dinner at a AYCE (all you can eat) KBBQ & went to Temple. For Bekah’s bday, we went to Vegas!!! This was my first time ever in Vegas and I was blessed to go with 4 beautiful & chill ass girls who made my first experience amazing. I didn’t realize how awesome it’d be as a girl in Vegas, but basically we got in for free everywhere, got free drinks & didn’t have to wait in line anywhere. It was like the VIP treatment on a broke budget and I loved it. Oh yeah, and I also became full-time at Gymboree! I was on a contract in the beginning, but my amazing boss extended the job offer to me, and I couldn’t say no. I’ve been a contractor for majority of my working life, and becoming a “real employee” is one less stress I have to worry about.

August was a huge month for me. First off, my baby brother was leaving to Japan for who knows how long. He says probably 4 years, but it might be longer knowing him! While I’m so happy for him, I’m also so so so sad because it’s always been just us two for my entire life. Now he’s living his dream in his favorite country, I guess I’ll just have to visit him too many times to miss him. I also went camping this month with the Barrera’s, which is always an epic time. So much alcohol, gourmet food & sunshine was ingested during this weekend. And the most exciting thing that happened this month was that I got MY FIRST APARTMENT! My boyfriend and I found this quaint, cute & affordable apartment back in my hometown of San Leandro. It’s pretty close to Bayfair, so I can walk to bart in the morning for my commute. A lot of nonstop packing, unpacking, cleaning, chores, shopping, moving, building happened in the last few weeks of August. We weren’t even able to live in our place for the first week because of all the things we were doing.

September was a lot of moving & building. We were trying to get settled and we spent a LOT of $$ trying to get everything situated. I did a lot of cooking, trying to meal prep for the week instead of eating out. We need to cut costs, and eating out is one of those costs that we can definitely cut. Plus, when you cook at home, you’re eating healthier too. So within a month, I’d fulfilled one of my biggest goals in life: living in my own place, cooking my own meals & being productive on a daily basis. By the end of the month, JM & I were on a plane to Hawaii! It was a vacation we planned before the new apartment, which we had to jump on immediately since rare spots like these are really hard to find. Hawaii was amazing. We had great food, went on fun adventures, met up with my girl Alli, and just relaxed and had a good time.

October, November & December aka the “BER Months” were a whole lot of celebrating, eating, and hanging out with family. Gymboree’s Halloween party was freaking insane. They went all out and so, we went all out. The copy team was “Crazy Rich Asians” for Halloween and we won the group costume contest at work where we got $50 gift card to a restaurant. Basketball season also started in October, the last season the Warriors will be playing in Oakland (sad). November was the crazy wildfire month, where we choked on smoke for a good 2 weeks. My boyfriend was also gone for the majority of the month doing work trips. One of our best friends also got married! Our first peer wedding ever, with many more to come (eventually). We also did 2 Friendsgivings & 2 Thanksgivings this year with our respective friends and family!!! December was a lot. Some sad news for our work was announced, which basically shook me. I did a lot of shopping (sample sale at my work was super insane), did a lot of wrapping. We also had our first Christmas tree and decorated our first apartment. For Christmas, we had a lot of celebrations (6 in total) and did a lot of eating.

This year has been a good one. While I didn’t do a lot of traveling, or visited a new country (like my goal each year), we got our first apartment and had a lot of firsts that put me on the path of becoming an even better adult. 2018 is a milestone year, the year where I earn benefits, got a real job, and got my first apartment. I really can’t put into words how monumental this year was for me, but it’s something that I’ve dreamt about for such a long time. Living on your own in the Bay Area isn’t an easy feat, but we were able to do it! So here’s my list of achievements since I graduated college:

  • 2015 – Graduated from USF, went to London on an internship, got a job working for Gap!
  • 2016 – got a real job at Gap, went to Costa Rica & Hawaii on vacay
  • 2017 – traveled the world on my first solo trip in SE Asia
  • 2018 – got a real job at Gymboree, got my first apartment!

Thanks for a great year, I can’t wait for 2019!

2018 Update (Feb Edition)

Ok, ok…I know how late this is. I wrote this blog post in February & then was going to add pictures & just forgot about it. But, I still think it’s worth posting since I took some time to write it. So here it is:




February 2018

Hello, all! It’s been a minute (or a month and a half to be exact). I’m here to just update you all on my life: what’s been happening, what I’ve been doing, etc, etc (if there are any of you who are actually interested). Not like I’m that important, but I’ve had a lot of time on my hands to just enjoy life and reflect. So without further ado, let me give a little update about my life.

All of January I was able to relax: get my mind, body, and soul right. I needed to detox the high that I was on after my travels and integrate back into daily life. Some may call it “reverse culture shock” but I just call it readjusting. My dad went on a trip back to Bali (for personal reason I shall not discuss on my public blog) on Christmas, so I was in charge of taking care of the love of my life: Carl (da dawg). Carl & I spent most of our days going on long walks around Lake Merritt, going on hikes or trips to the dog park. I was able to reconnect with friends I hadn’t seen since before I left.

It was a really good month, filled with rejuvenation and readjusting. I started to workout again (since I lost about 8-10lbs being abroad) and actually started to take yoga classes at my gym. My first ever yoga experience was in Vietnam, when I went to that all-inclusive backpacker paradise called Ninhvana. They had a yoga teacher on site that held yoga twice a day. I attended my first ever class the night we arrived (along with 30 other backpackers who wanted to try yoga). The next morning (after drinking all night the day before, then waking up at 7am to go paddle boarding) I decided to try yoga at 8am, even though I was ridiculously tired. Well I guess everyone partied too hard the night before as well because I was the only student. So, my first yoga experience I was able to take basically a free yoga class with just me and the teacher. It probably was the best thing that happened to me because it gave me an introductory crash course and the opportunity to really understand and try yoga without feeling judged.

So, January was filled with Carl, hikes, concerts, get together with friends and all together loving my new outlook on life. I also did a lot of job searching this month and actually scored a contract job with Gymboree on the second week of February! I’m really excited I get to work doing things I love (writing) in the industry I love (fashion). I wish I could add more exciting things but I’ve really just been enjoying being back home, surrounded by my loved ones (& Carl). But, since I’ve been back I’ve been itching to be back on the road again, traveling and exploring. At least I can day dream about my next adventure…but for now, back to reality.

2017 Recap

Well, this year was a year for the books. It will be a year I will forever remember. There are a few years like this, ones that stick out with personal milestones and dates to remember. Years like 2007, when I graduated from Assumption after 7 years, or 2011 when I graduated from high school and the swim team I was apart of for 8 years. Years like 2015 when I graduated from college, went to London for an internship and got my first job at Gap Inc.

2017 will be one of the years I will remember forever. It’s the year that I finally spread my wings and dove straight into deep end (lol how many idioms/analogies can I put into a sentence? hint: a lot). I threw myself into a situation I knew would make me uncomfortable and possibly scared, but that’s what life is all about right? It’s about taking risks, never looking back, and making memorable experiences. Backpacking solo and traveling is not all what I did this year (although it’s the biggest thing), so here’s a little list & recap of the things I did (it’s not a lot).

  • I brought in 2017 with a hike/date with my loves Esther, Jade & Bekah
  • Had an amazing 2016-17 ski season with record breaking snow fall
  • Went to Disneyland twice (one for my birthday & one for my Christmas present courtesy of my boyfriend, who know’s Disneyland is my favorite place)
  • Experienced my first hockey game at the Shark Tank for playoff’s where the Sharks won 8-0
  • Saw all my favorite ladies in concert including Leilani Wolfgramm, Little Simz, Kehlani (& my favorite boyband the Bassheads)
  • Spent time with my friends ranging from my childhood friends from Assumption (with our monthly trips to Harry’s) and my Alameda friends (with trips to the club, hiking and going away parties)
  • Hung out in Chico for my brother’s university graduation! (Yaaaay Pat!)
  • Went to the Warrior parade after their Championship win!!!!!!

Now for my highlights from my travels

  • Partied hard on Khao San Road
  • Had the most expensive cocktail & took tons of pictures at the top of the Sky Tower
  • Played, bathed, fed, and had fun with rescue elephants
  • Learned how to cook 5 Thai dishes at a cooking class
  • Enjoyed the view with my 2-day journey down the Mekong River from Thailand to Laos
  • Went drunk bowling in Luang Prabang
  • Swam in the iconic Kuang Si waterfall (after an arduous hike)
  • Tubed down the river in Laos stopping at random bars on the way down
  • Made the bestest group of friends in Laos called the Los Banging Fabu Team 11!
  • Learned how to cross the street in Hanoi (& dodge motorbikes)
  • Trekked in Sapa with hill tribes
  • Kayaked and hiked in Halong Bay
  • Tried egg coffee and tons of delicious street food in Hanoi
  • Explored an abandoned water park in Hue (one of my favorite things I did)
  • Cruised the streets of Hoi An on a bicycle
  • Treated myself to an all inclusive resort called Ninhvana
  • Did yoga for the first time, then did it again, and again, and again
  • Tried & failed at stand up paddle boarding
  • Rode a really fun “roller coaster” down a hill to a beautiful waterfall
  • Learned about the horrible genocide that devastated Cambodia
  • Visited the famous Angkor Wat & partied on Pub Street in Siem Reap
  • Did yoga & saw some monkeys in Ubud
  • Partied really hard, biked around the island, did some yoga, saw a turtle in Gili T
  • Learned how to surf in Canggu
  • Saw my first traumatizing death (& possibly beat death) in Canggu
  • Was pampered and spoiled by my padre in Seminyak
  • Met and bonded with my family in the Philippines
  • Ate the best food, was treated impeccably kind, had seriously the best time in Manila and Palawan
  • Partied so hard (& hurt myself so bad) in Koh Phi Phi & Koh Phangan
  • Shopped till I dropped at the Chatuchak Market in Bangkok
  • And got a huge half sleeve tattoo in Bangkok

2017 was an amazing year. I’m so happy I had the opportunity to backpack solo for three months. It just makes me appreciate other cultures, beliefs & religions, foods, people, and nature as well as gain an appreciation for my own life. It put into perspective what’s important in life, why I shouldn’t moan & complain, and really just love and live life to the fullest. It allowed me to break down my walls, meet strangers from all over the world, vibe and enjoy different people’s company. It helped me learn about myself, my limits, my potential, my vices and my virtues, my inner demons and my best qualities. It reminds me of how life should be, it gives me something to work towards, and gives me a glimpse of a life I’d love to live.

I’m so grateful to have had this experience. Being laid off at my job was the best thing that could happen to me. 2017 was one of the best years ever. Hopefully 2018 can be even better (although it’ll be hard to top).

Goodbye 2017, you’ll be missed!!!

The Last Episode of Melissa’s Southeast Asia Adventure

Dec 5, 2017

I know, I’m extremely late with this blog post. After coming back I had to get over jet lag (which by the way I just started feeling normal after 2 weeks) and my boyfriend surprised me with a trip to Disneyland for Christmas that was scheduled 5 days after I got back. Plus, I’ve been visiting friends and family, this is the time of year where all of that matters…so that’s why this blog post has taken this long.

Anyways, let’s get back to what happened my last week. I’m not going to go to into detail of everything since I literally did nothing my last week. Today I was going to Koh Tao, an island most famous for it’s diving and cheap diving certification process. Well, the night before I left I took off my band-aid on my shin to let it breath and clean it before going to bed. There was no toilet paper left in the toilet (remember there’s one bathroom for 26 of us in a dorm) so I wanted to tell the staff that there wasn’t any TP left (I’m not going to go into detail of how neglected this hostel was, but basically they didn’t clean the dorm rooms nor the bathroom every day). When I went to go outside to alert a staff member, I didn’t step on the gross towel that they put on the stairs (that they left there all day) because it was nasty and I was barefoot. Well, I guess they put it down on stairs for a reason because once I put my foot down I immediately slipped and fell. But I didn’t just fall, I skinned my hurt leg on the edge of the stairs, right where I took off my band-aid.

I was in intense pain, the worst pain I’ve felt in a long time. The skin around my already scrapped wound was very sensitive, and I just made it worse. I couldn’t do anything but lie on the couch in pain, almost in tears. One of the staff members helped clean it up and bandaged it, but I was so angry that I just re-hurt the wound I was hoping healed right before Koh Tao.

Fast-forward to the morning, once I woke up it was storming outside. It was the most violent storm I had experienced so far in SE Asia, and I was really nervous about getting on a boat. I guess everyone was leaving that day because there were tons of people in the hostel lobby with all of their stuff. We were waiting outside for the taxi to pick us up to take us to the pier. As I was waiting, I saw other taxis go by with backpackers’ stuff in garbage bags. I have a rain cover for my big backpack but not my small one, and I was sitting there thinking, “fuck, that’s a good idea, I’m going to get soaked.” I wore my rain jacket and my quick-dry pants, but that was it. I went to the mart to see if they had ponchos, but no luck.

Once one of the taxis arrived, I immediately went in. From the hostel to the taxi I already got so wet, and the ride to the pier I got even more wet. Once there, there were so many people. Everyone from the Full Moon Party were leaving that day and it was evident most of them were either going to Koh Samui or Koh Tao. There were massive amounts of people standing outside in the rain, ladies selling ponchos (where I picked one up as a cover for my little backpack), bodies and backpacks everywhere. It was absolutely miserable. The rain came and went, but it mostly came. It was also very unorganized (not saying that I expect it to be top notch service). So people were standing in the rain, not sure where to go, not sure which line to stand in, not sure what boat to board. Also, our boat was supposed to leave by 12, but since it was storming and raining our boat was obviously delayed.

Once our boat came, we all stood on the pier, waiting to board. It was a little ridiculous, but we were all standing on this pier when it started to come down hard, I mean really hard. So we’re all standing there, miserable, in the wind and rain, waiting to board this boat that’s 2 hours late. Finally, after making a few friends (and chatting about how miserable we were), we got onto this really tall boat. Most people chose this one to go to Koh Tao because it’s the cheapest option (it’s slower and not as nice as the others) so it was really crowded. I sat with this girl, Dez, who I met out on the pier. We sat at the top with some crazy backpackers (I’m pretty sure these people were drunk because they were loud as fuck) and braced ourselves for a rocky journey. We’d heard that the ride from Koh Phangan to Koh Tao was extremely rocky because there’s really no other landmass, it’s just complete open water. Well, our ride was more than extreme. Since our boat was tall and not wide, it would go over the waves like a buoy–the base would stick to the top of the ocean but the top would sway. Since we were on the top, we were swaying uncontrollably. The boat would rock so violently that it seemed like we would almost sit parallel to the sea.

I was able to nap a little bit and luckily didn’t get sea sick. Once at Koh Tao pier, our hostel’s taxi was waiting for us. This was nice because I didn’t have to haggle with a taxi driver to get to my hostel. I got in the actual cab part, but these taxis were just pick-up trucks with benches on the bed. So, when it started to rain again on our way to the hostel, I was really glad I was in the car. I immediately noticed the streets leading up to my hostel were completely flooded, like almost knee deep flooding. I guess they have really bad draining systems because it was just not an ideal way to get around.

Once at the hostel, I got some tacos since it was a Tuesday (and my hostel was literally called “Taco Shack”) and went back to the room to dry everything off and shower. The rest of the night I just chilled, watched some Netflix and YouTube, a theme I would find myself doing for the next 3 days.

Dec 6, 7, 8

These days I didn’t do much. In the morning I’d go to a cafe and FaceTime my boyfriend. I couldn’t go in the water or do yoga or anything active because I didn’t want to further injure myself or re-injure my cut (since I’ve already done that once). I was also a little down in the dumps since I wasn’t able to get my diving certification, my whole point into going to Koh Tao. I was also a little over trying to make new friends and socialize. I mean, I couldn’t even do that many activities (since we’re on an island and surrounded by water) so I thought there was no point in trying to make friends. I think at this point I was ready to go home. I couldn’t go in the water because I was told by the doctors in the clinic to not go in bodies of water. I didn’t want to risk it and I was completely fine sitting inside and doing nothing.

One day I went to the beach and actually chilled in the shade. That was the only day where there was actual sun and the beach wasn’t flooded. I also had dinner and went out with my friend Kristen, the girl from San Jose that I met in Cambodia. It was nice to actually socialize with people, but I’m glad I had those last few days to myself.

Dec 9

Today I was making the journey from the south of Thailand (the islands) to Bangkok, it would take about than 12 hours. First was a ferry ride from the island to the actual mainland. I actually got to ride in the nicest boat, with a whole row to myself, and my luggage inside. After that we sat at a rest stop where we got food and waited for the bus to come. The bus then arrived at 12pm, I sat with this guy from Israel. He was really nice and insightful and we talked for an hour or so. The ride itself was a whole 8 hours, luckily I had some Netflix movies downloaded to my iPad, I would have been so bored without it.

Finally around 8:30pm we arrived in Bangkok. They actually dropped us off a block away from my hostel, NapPark, the same hostel I booked when I first got to Bangkok. I really like my experience there, I met really cool people and Liv & Josh who I ended up traveling with for majority of my trip. I thought it’d only be right if I stayed there for my last remaining days.

Kristen hit me to hang out that night, she also went to Bangkok that day but flew instead of used the bus. I knew it’d be my last night out, so I said why not. I wanted to celebrate my last time in Bangkok with people I actually enjoy. We got some buckets (of alcohol), bought some balloons (filled with laughing gas) and just enjoyed the night. I was really tired so I ended up leaving around 1ish. Traveling all day takes a lot out of you..even though you might not think it does.

Dec 10, 2017

Since today was a Sunday, I decided to go to the Chatuchak Market, or the weekend market. I went here the first weekend I was in Bangkok with some friends, but this time I wanted to go solo. I really enjoy shopping solo, I get to go where I want to go and see what I want to see. I don’t have to cater to anyone’s needs or slowdown to someone else’s speed (or speed up). Plus, I needed to shop for people’s pasalubongs (souvenirs) and their Christmas gifts. This was a very daunting tasks since I had a lot of people to shop for and a lot of options to do so.

Chatuchak Market is one of the biggest markets in Bangkok. It’s so overwhelming I like don’t know where to look, what to get, where to go…it’s just so much. I ended up spending almost 3 hours there, got no where near the amount of stuff I wanted for people, and spent an hour in traffic getting back home.

Since I couldn’t find a lot of the touristy stuff at the market, I went to Khao San road to find the rest of my souvenirs. Here I almost found everyone’s before I got tired and bored (of shopping). I went back to the hostel, chilled, got some street food, relaxed, and watched Netflix before going to bed.

Dec 11, 2017

I did more souvenir shopping today, nothing too exciting. Yeah I don’t think I did anything exciting today except chill and shop…wait just kidding I got pampered today at the salon. Got a waxing in, got my nails did as well as a pedicure where they actually trimmed the dead skin off my feet. Lovely!

Dec 12, 2017

So…here’s the breaking news. Lucky for you if you read to here…but I got a tattoo. And no not a small tattoo and no, not one of those bamboo stick tattoos. I did my research, found the tattoo parlor, found tattoo inspiration, contacted the tattoo place, told them what I wanted, gave them pictures of what I wanted, and scheduled an appointment.

This tattoo place was one of the most renown places in Bangkok. They’ve won countless awards from tattoo conventions, and were the first tattoo studio in Bangkok to get certified at the Paris Tattoo Convention. My tattoo artist was Tom, the tattoo artist with the most experience and one of the first artist at that particular tattoo shop (called BKK Ink). In fact, think he helped open the shop.

I got there at around 3, Tom didn’t show up until 3:30. He then had to wait until the guy at the sketching table left so he finally started tattooing me at 4:30. Well, I wasn’t done until 11:30 so I basically sat for 7 hours. It definitely hurt, not as bad as my first tattoo on my side but enough to where I was wishing it was over. At first I scheduled 2 dates, but once the tattoo machine hit my skin, I knew I wasn’t going to come back the next day to go through the pain again. I told him to just finish it that day, I knew my skin was going to be even more sensitive the next day, and I really didn’t want to go through the process again. So, instead I just sat through it, biting my tongue and hoping it would finish.

After sitting for 7 hours, I was really really hungry. The first thing I did was get some soup from one of the street stalls because I hadn’t eaten since 12pm (it was almost 12am). Then I went back to my hostel and went to sleep.

Dec 12, 2017

Today I didn’t do much. I tried to find more souvenirs, the last few I needed to finally finish up my souvenir shopping. I watched some movies at the hostel and finished the night with an “expensive” dinner (it’s in quotes because expensive for me is like $15). I got a nice steamed whole snapper prepared Thai style along with a banana and coconut smoothie. It was a nice way to finish off my last night.

Dec 13, 2017

I only had a few hours to kill before the shuttle picked me up for the airport. I went around the street food stalls to hopefully find something delicious for my last meal, but nothing was really open. So, instead, I ordered breakfast at the hostel. I got banana yogurt with muesli, the first thing I ordered when I got to Bangkok. It’s crazy how everything came full circle for me: I stayed at the same hostel where I first stayed, ate the same food for my first and last meal, and even was assigned the same bed, in the same dorm, on the same floor as the first time I stayed there.

My last few hours was seriously icing on the cake. As I was sitting in the hostel eating my food, one of the local staff’s kid was hanging out in the lobby, too. I’m sitting on this table, enjoying my breakfast, when he comes up to the table with his game (this chutes & ladder looking game with little balls) and starts speaking to me in Thai (I honestly think he thought I was Thai because I’m the only Asian person other than the staff there). I also think he was bored, so he came up to me and I started speaking to him in English. He asked me if I wanted to play his game, which didn’t make sense but we made it work. Before you know it, he gets these stickers from his mom. I told him to decorate my phone and man did he go at it (mind you, he’s like 4). He spoke some English, as much as the staff who worked there, so he could understand me. He would speak to me at Thai at times but when I responded to him in English I think he realized I wouldn’t speak back to him in Thai.

We played for a while, but I had to go upstairs and pack and check out. Before I did, I told him to stay there–I remembered all the small animal erasers that I wasn’t able to give out. I think this was fate, because this was literally minutes before I had to get on the shuttle to the airport and I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to give out all my erasers. So I raced upstairs, got the erasers and gave him the whole bag! He was speechless, but happy. I went back upstairs to pack my stuff and check out. When I came back downstairs the staff spoke to the kid in Thai. He ran and gave me a hug, at first he just hugged my legs because I was standing, but once I bent down he hugged me hard. It was such a touching hug, he even wrapped his legs around me, that’s how big the hug was. I wish I got a picture with him, but being a little kid he got so distracted afterwards.

My flight home was nothing special or exciting. The only amazing part was once I was in California airspace, the sunset was absolutely stunning. There was every single color in the sky, and it was such a warm welcoming. I started to tear up from how beautiful it was and just got really emotional reminiscing on my trip. Like, I did this. I was able to travel alone and literally have the time of my life. I met amazing people (hopefully life long friends), experienced beautiful cultures, ate the most delicious food, saw the most breathtaking views, partied till I couldn’t party anymore, and just absorbed everything around me.

This experience exceeded my expectations, and I feel as if I came out a better, more well-rounded person (as corny as that sounds). I’m able to trust and open up to complete strangers, adapt to different environments, push my limits, and just be my complete, raw, vulnerable self. Writing all this down has helped me reflect on my thoughts. It’s helped me remember and learn from my experiences as well as my day-to-day trips. I’m really happy I made the decision to do a daily blog, even if it wasn’t written daily. I also just uploaded all of my video footage to my computer (and re-watched it) and I’m so glad I took video as well. It helps me remember this amazing experience and I can’t wait to edit it into a video!

To everyone who’s read my daily blogs or just followed along with me during this experience, thank you. Thank you for being interested in my trip, thank you for taking the time to read my very long (and sometimes boring/repetitive posts) and thank you for your support. It’s nice to know that my blog writing effort (which isn’t easy) wasn’t gone unnoticed. I plan on writing a 2017 recap, if not tomorrow then definitely in the upcoming week.

This is Melissa signing out, thank you for all your support of MELISSA’S SOUTHEAST ASIA ADVENTURE!!!


Krabi, Koh Phi Phi + Koh Phangan (aka Full Moon Party)

Nov 26, 2017

It’s really sad to say that this is probably my second to last blog post. It’s also sad because most of this leg of the journey I’ve been sick & injured. But…the good news is I met up with my friends in Koh Phangan for the Full Moon Party, which was absolutely a blast.

Let’s see, Nov 26th was mostly a travel day. Mom woke me up at 3:30am to get ready while Tita Pett made me breakfast. The Uber came at 4:20ish for my flight at 6:45am and I said my last goodbyes to my family. I gave them all huge hugs, sad but happy that I was able to spend a good amount of time with them. The Uber driver dropped me off at terminal 1, but after frantically looking for my check in counter, I realized I was in the wrong building. I asked a worker which terminal AirAsia was in. He said 3 and that I would need to take a taxi to get there. Great. I was a little frantic at this point because it was almost 5am and I still hadn’t check my bags in yet.

The taxi driver said that it would take 500 pesos to get to terminal 3, which is kind of outrageous. I told him I only had 200 pesos and he said that would be fine. I also had to pay 45 pesos for the sky road fee, so I’m glad I had some pesos left. Once at terminal 3, I saw that lines to just get in were really long, so at this point I was panicking. A worker saw the discontent on my face and told me I could skip the line by giving him $10, so that’s what I did. Then he wanted a little tip for letting me pass the line so I gave him a $5 because at this point I was stressing out. I get a little anxiety when I don’t know what’s going on. But, I got through immigration and security really fast so I essentially didn’t need to pay the guy money, I just let him talk me into it because I was all stressed out.

Once at the gate, it didn’t say the proper name on the screen nor did it have any flight attendants sitting at the desk. So, I was also a little panicked because I wasn’t sure if I was in the right area. I asked like 3 workers where to go and they all told me to sit at my assigned area and if my gate was changed it’d say over the speaker. Well, I was all paranoid that I didn’t hear it on the announcement so I was lost for a good 1.5 hrs until they finally announced the boarding of my flight with still no workers or flight number by the waiting area. Then I just realized that Manila airport is one of the most unorganized airports ever.

So, after that morning craziness the rest of the day went pretty smoothly. I landed in Kuala Lumpur for an hr layover then boarded my flight for Krabi at 1:25pm. Thailand is an hr behind so I ended up landing in Krabi at 2pm, got a shuttle bus to Krabi Town, then finally got to my hostel around 3:30. I was really hungry so I walked around to find food and settled at this hole in the wall. I love Thai hole-in-the-walls because they’re usually cheap and delicious. I’ve also missed Thai food SOOOOOO much and was happy to finally eat it. I asked the lady for Rad Nah even though they didn’t have it on the menu. The dish is my absolute favorite, it comprises of wide noddles in a gravy-like broth with Chinese broccoli and meat.

After that I went on a search for a massage. I found this place that would do a Thai massage for 250 baht, it was a little cheaper and at this point I don’t care about spending, it’s the last 2 weeks of my trip and I’ve been pretty good so far not spending a whole hell of a lot. I almost forgot how much Thai massages hurt, especially because I don’t workout anymore so I don’t really have that much to workout. After an hour of torture (just kidding) I walked around the night market. There were a lot of vendors, food, souvenirs to check out. I ended up getting this cool tiger shirt (that was way too big, dumb purchase by me lol) and my nails done for super cheap at this stall. So I guess today was a “pamper thy self” day.

I was a little exhausted from waking up so early so I went back to the hostel, took a shower, then went to sleep.

Nov 27, 2017

I woke up today with a purpose (aka alarm). My shuttle to Koh Phi Phi would pick me up at 10:30, so I went to the cute little coffee shop 2 doors down for an iced green tea latte & banana’s n milk. The ferry to Koh Phi Phi was very uneventful (that’s kind of a lie, I just can’t remember anything of significance that happened). Once on the pier I walked to Blanco’s Beach, my next hostel, which was literally on the beach. When I tried to check in they couldn’t find my name, so I showed them my email confirmation. Well, turns out that I booked for the night before so my deposit was lost & room given away…great. It was bound to happen once. Instead of a nice social 10 dorm I ended up in a more expensive 6 dorm.

When I got to the room I realized that everyone but me (all 5 of the other beds) were in a group and it was just me, by myself. It wasn’t that bad though, they were all really nice people, but I was hoping for a dorm where I could meet others to hang out with. Since this wasn’t possible, I asked the reception where I could find some cheap Thai food. She told me where to find the this restaurant called Hey Mama, where they serve food for 60 baht. There I got some gra pow, or spicy basil with meat, usually Gai (chicken). This is my boyfriend’s favorite and one of my basic favorites I’ve come to love in Thailand.

After filling my belly I decided to lay on the beach and read. It was finally sunny and I could get some nice R & R on the beach for once. I was here for probably 2 hours before I got bored lol. I brought all my stuff back in then just sat at the beach in front of my hostel trying to watch the sunset (there was none though because it was super cloudy). As I was sitting there, this girl turned around and told me to join them (I think she was really amused by me fanning my legs–there were a lot of flies bothering me on my legs lol). She introduced herself as Taryn, she was also pretty drunk haha. She was with a South African guy named, Herman (he spoke Africon, I’m not sure the actual spelling, but this language derived from Dutch when the Dutch colonized South Africa), and a girl from Canada (or America) named Lindsey. I was actually really happy that she included me in their little group, I wanted to meet people to hang out with that night but wasn’t sure if I had the enough courage to go up to anyone that night.

I hung out with them a little and chatted. They wanted to do shroom shakes that night while Herman had to go get his bandages changed at the hospital from a crazy night before (this shall be a foreshadow of my 2nd night in Phi Phi). I ate a chicken sandwich from the hostel then went with them for their quest to find shrooms. They drank their shroom shake (Taryn was a little drunk still) and went back on the beach where we watched fire dancers and I got a bucket (of alcohol). The rest of the night I just hung out with Taryn & Lindsey. We drank, danced, smoked, and enjoyed the night. It was really fun but the only sucky part is that the music doesn’t turn off until 2am & you can hear it so loudly in every dorm. So I guess they kinda force people to be out of their dorms till 2am. I finally went in around 1:30 since I knew they were turning off the music soon and fell asleep once there was some peace and quiet.

Nov 28, 2017

Or shall I say, the day I don’t remember? Just kidding, I remember most of the day. My dorm mates were leaving that day so they all sorta quietly left. I was really exhausted from the day before so I didn’t really wake up. I got some breakfast/lunch somewhere, where I got Rad Nah (obvi). And went back to get ready for the booze cruise. I didn’t know anyone going on, but I was pretty sure I was going to meet friends.

Once on the cruise I immediately met these girls who were also from SF. They were really nice and sweet. The whole rest of the day I just sorta made friends with a group of girls and we enjoyed the day together. It was a little weird because I was the only solo person but there were a lot of duos, so I would bounce from duo to duo. The booze cruise was supposed to show us all these cool places, I really thought we’d be doing more. The first stop was monkey island and I already know how monkeys are so I just chilled in the water while everyone else was taking pictures of these things (I even saw a girl get bit but I said I wasn’t doing shit for them this time). The next stop was the beach where they filmed the movie that Leonardo DiCaprio stars in called “The Beach”. Our last stop was this little cove where you could jump off the boat, snorkel, or kayak in, but at this point the alcohol was flowing in us.

After we got back in the boat we had some food, drank more alcohol, and I’m gonna say now that I don’t remember anything after that. I sorta blacked out from the end of the booze cruise to the pool party. Because after the booze cruise, most of us were talking about going to the Ibiza pool party, which was right next to my hostel. So the next thing I remember was finding Lindsey and going into the pool with her, then losing my stuff (misplacing), then finding my stuff and putting it back in my room, then losing my flip flops, then going on what seemed like an hour mission to find them, then finally finding them. I also danced a lot and didn’t drink anymore alcohol. Since I’d been drinking since like 2pm I started to sober up around 12am. I then took a shower and assessed the damage: I had a huge scrape on my shin and 3 deep cuts on my side. I kinda assumed that I got the scrape trying to get out of the pool swimmer style (where you get out on the ledge) instead of getting out on the stairs like a normal drunk person. The other cuts I assumed I did myself when I was trying to take off my bathing suit and just cut myself (cuz I have extremely long nails right now, longer than I’m used to).

So other than that I had a great freaking time. I just wished I gotten people’s social media that I met on the boat…but I didn’t cuz I was too drunk LOL.

Nov 29, 2017

So I woke up a little hungover today, but since I went to sleep pretty early I woke up a bit early. I went to brunch at this place I read about on the internet. It was a cute cafe good for brunch, but I ended up getting rice porridge again. It was just mediocre for an overpriced meal. It was also raining when I woke up, so fun. My throat was hurting so I got some tea and the warm soup in the morning helped a little bit.

My ferry for Koh Lanta left at 11:30, so I grabbed my stuff and headed to the ferry. I should have left earlier because there were barely anymore seats. They also let us put our luggage in the front of the boat since it was raining outside. I saw some girls that were on the booze cruise the day before and we chatted a little about what happened. They filled me in on some brief things but nothing to the extent of what I needed (I mean why would they, they’re not my keeper lmao).

Luckily I was sitting inside the entire time on the boat because it was raining. I also booked a taxi to my hostel from the boat since it would just be easier that way. The ferry was pretty quick, and I’d gotten to my hostel around 3ish. The first thing I did was went to find food, but like I said it was raining so I opted for the little restaurant across the street where I had some fish that I didn’t like that much. I thought they were going to prepare it Thai style but I got it and it was Western style with hella heavy cream and stuff…so I was a little disappointed. I went back to the hostel, La Non Mer Hostel, where I just relaxed for the rest of the day since it was raining.

At around 7/8pm I tried eating, but I realized I didn’t feel good. I started to get the chills and my throat hurt. I didn’t want to get sick so I got the rest of my food to-go and went to the hostel where I went to sleep really early (like 9pm).

Nov 30, 2017

I woke up super sick this morning. I barely got sleep that night because I was going from really cold to really hot. At one point I was so cold I got a blanket from the bed above me and had a double layer blanket. Since I woke up sick I wanted to go to the clinic, I was afraid that I might have gotten an infection from my cut that I got 2 nights before. I got some toast and a cup of tea at the hostel and asked the lady at the front desk where I could go since I felt sick. She advised me to go to the clinic, just a 5 minute walk.

At the clinic they took my blood pressure, temperature and pulse. They saw that I had a slight fever and brought me into their room. I showed them my cut and they said I didn’t get an infection in my cut but they wanted to do some blood work to make sure I didn’t have dengue (which I was also nervous about). After some blood tests they told me that I luckily didn’t have dengue but that I had a bacterial infection. They were going to give me a drip bag, 2 shots and lots of meds. The shots they gave me actually hurt a lot, I think they were trying to find a vain on my arm for a long time. I also got a shot on my butt for the first time and it was such a weird sensation that my whole butt check and thigh spazzed when the needle went in (sorry for that visual).

So after about 2 hrs at the clinic I was finally finished. I felt immediately better. I’m proud to say this was my first time at the clinic because I’ve been so skeptical to go before. This time, I was really nervous that I had some type of infection or worse dengue and I wanted to be healthy for the Full Moon Party in 4 days. So, I went back to the hostel where they were showing movies (it was pouring out again…). We watched Hangover and Wolf of Wall Street so I killed a good 4 hours. During this time I also heated up my leftovers from the night before (this is the first hostel I encountered that had a fridge and microwave).

After the little movie marathon I went upstairs to my room where I met Sophie. After talking we realized we were taking the same shuttle and going to the same hostel the next day so we sort of banded together. The rain had stopped and I told her I needed to see some of the island, to say that I actually did something in Koh Lanta other than just sit in the hostel all day & night (and be sick). So we both decided to walk to the beach to actually say we’ve seen the beach lol. It was chill, we just strolled and chatted. After our little stroll we went to the downstairs bar where we ate burgers. I told her I was going upstairs to get some sleep since I was still sick and chilled on Netflix for the rest of the night before bed.

Dec 1, 2017

I had to wake up a little earlier today to go to the clinic. They told me to go back where they replaced my bandages and gave me another drip bag. I felt 100% better today but I wanted to go back to make sure that I would feel even better by the time I got to Koh Phangan. It would be a full day of traveling since Koh Phangan was on the other side of Thailand. There were a good 5 of us from the same hostel going to Koh Phangan that day, so we were all in the long ride together. We first boarded a van, that then boarded a ferry, then drove 2 hours to Krabi, then got into a shuttle truck, then boarded a bigger bus, then boarded a boat, then boarded a taxi to finally arrive at our hostel in Koh Phangan.

The van picked us up at 8:30am and we arrived in Koh Phangan around 7:30pm, so it was a long long day of traveling. I texted Liv that I was at the hostel, and she came running out and we gave each other the biggest hug ever. After checking in, I went to the room where they were staying and saw Josh, Charlie and Hannah. I gave them all super long hugs, I felt like I was with my family again. It’d been around 5 weeks where I wasn’t with them and I missed them so much. Just being comfortable with friends again and not worrying about trying to meet more people or trying to accommodate others. After traveling solo for so long you start to appreciate the deep friendships that you make. It’s not always easy to meet new people every day, especially meet people that you have such chemistry with.

So, the gang was all back together again. I wasn’t very hungry and went to grab a pizza toastie from Family Mart as a suggestion from Hannah. Later, we all decided to go out and celebrate our reunion! We went next door to Phangan Arena, where they were having a pool party. While we didn’t get in, we all had 2 buckets each and were just so happy to be together again (mostly me haha). We ended our night at this cute little bar where we had a few joints by the ocean.

Dec 2, 2017

It was a slow morning. I got food with Liv and picked up my bathing suit that I’d left at my other hostel from my friend Lindsey (thank gosh she was still at the hostel and we’d exchanged information before I left or else I would be shit outta luck). She ended up joining us for lunch at this place that serves pretty cheap food. Back at the hostel, we knew we wanted to be productive today, so we decided to go to the waterfall.

We took a taxi there, luckily it wasn’t raining like a few days before. Someone was telling us about the waterfall, how there was a cool pool at the top that’s like a private waterfall. So we decided to hike up there. It was a really nerve-racking, this long hike that we didn’t realize we were getting into until it was too late. After around 30-45 minutes we finally got there and I was sweating buckets at this point. I couldn’t even go in all the way because the doctor at the clinic told me that I should keep my cut out of water. Nevertheless the waterfall was awesome and we were actually productive today! I bought a bracelet there to add to my collection (I’ll take a pic later to show you guys, I’ve been basically getting a bracelet in every country I go, each is symbolic of something!).

Once back we just chilled, got some dinner, and waited for the Jungle Party. I think I took another nap because I knew we were going to be out late that night. We some drinks at Phangan Arena again before heading out to the Jungle Party around 11pm. Once there we made a pact that if we get lost, we’d meet at the Waterfall. After some more alcohol the group had to use the bathroom. I didn’t need to use it and plus I didn’t wanna spend $$ (there’s a fee to use the bathroom even though you pay 600 baht to even get into the venue so I have no idea). I told them I would be standing HERE and made sure they all knew. Well, I ended up seeing a lot of people I’d met in Koh Phi Phi during that time (like 3 different groups of people) and thought maybe I’d miss them coming out of the bathroom. Well turns out they were all just really fucked and all forgot where I told them to meet me.

I went to the waterfall to find them and saw Liv there with a group of people trying to help her out (she was pretty drunk). So we just spent the rest of the night trying to find the others, sort of dancing (it was really hard it was trance, electronic music), and doing balloons (I got like 3 or 4 free from a Thai dude). We didn’t end up finding the rest of the group and by 3am we thought it was time to go back. We got some delicious chicken nuggets as drunchie food and got into a taxi. We found Josh, Charlie and Hannah almost passed out in bean bag chairs at the Phangan Arena. We were all tired and drunk so we went back to our 26 bed dorm (I forgot to tell you that we were in the biggest dorm at the hostel and the bunks were 3 beds high, I luckily got a bottom bunk) and went to sleep.

Dec 3, 2017

I told Liv last night that I wasn’t waking up until after 12 and that’s exactly what I did. Finally around 1pm, Josh, Hannah, Charlie and I decided to get food. Liv was dead asleep in her bed so we left her lol. We got some yummy cheap Thai food–I got Tom Yum Soup with noodles, the first time I was actually craving the spicy soup. After food we basically went back to the hostel and chilled for the rest of the day. I took a 2 hour nap that was well-needed.

Once we all woke up we went to the shop across the street to buy some clothes for the Full Moon Party, got ready, and went back to Phangan Arena to pregame. We bummed some paint off of others who were very kind to share and put some war paint on. Then it was time to go to the Full Moon Party. So we loaded up on a taxi, got there, got some more alcohol, and finally walked onto the beach. I wasn’t as drunk as I’d like to be, but it was a pretty surreal experience. It was basically a huge beach party filled with different bars and people outside partying. Josh and I got a bucket but it was absolutely disgusting I stopped drinking it. We kept using the bathroom because of all the liquids I was taking in.

The night was pretty fun. We found a bar that was playing good music and stuck to that one for the rest of the night. There was nothing too awesome about it other than being with my friends (I wish I was more drunk and had more energy). One notable thing that happened was I saw a guy wearing a Native American headdress. The conversation went a little like this:

  • Me: Why are you wearing this?
  • Him: Why not?
  • Me: Because it’s culture appropriation, it’s a sacred symbol in Native American culture. Are you Native American?
  • Him: Yeah, it’s the *insert tribe I’ve never heard of* tribe, have you ever heard of it?
  • Me: No bu–
  • Him: YEAH YEAH THAT’S RIGHT *in an extremely douchey, trying-to-be-macho tone* IT’S A TRIBE IN MAINE (Once I heard Maine I already knew what kinda dude this was)
  • Me: No you’re not, if you were Native American you wouldn’t be wearing that. It’s disrespectful.
  • Him: yeah, yeah I hear you but can you just leave me alone
  • Me: Whatever dude

So other than that fiasco we had a good time. I got a piece of pizza and it was delicious. Liv and I got a taxi home and that in itself was drama. We were one of the last ones to fill this taxi and we immediately paid the dude, but there were people already on the taxi who he told to pay. They said that they already paid the taxi driver and they’ve been sitting there for 20 minutes. The taxi driver insisted that they didn’t pay and that us girls were the only ones who paid. The taxi driver wasn’t letting up so we went to another taxi who was also almost full. Once in that one, the same thing happened to the people who were already sitting in there. When that happened, Liv and I finally discovered what was going on: they were scamming the tourists, making them wait for a long time then insisting they didn’t pay. I can see it working on people who were really drunk but we were fine. So Liv and I got into a taxi and told him that we weren’t paying until we got to our destination, so another taxi guy had to sit on the back of ours and collect our money once we’d gotten to our destination, I think the taxi driver heard our plight and felt bad for us (he was a good one) so he made the other worker sit on the back and collect for him LOL.

So we got back and I went to sleep (at 5am).

Dec 4, 2017

The day after the Full Moon was a lot of relaxing. I didn’t wake up until like 2pm, the latest I’d slept in this whole time. We all went to get food at new place where I got some garlic chicken with rice. We chilled at the hostel until 5pm. Liv and I watched a movie in the communal area of the hostel before we left to go smoke some joints and watch the sunset at Amsterdam Bar.

Well turns out there was no sunset just a shit ton of clouds. In the distance you could see a dark cloud approaching and we were all paranoid that it was going to rain on us. From the first touch of raindrops we’d immediately went in the overhang and sat inside. Here we just chatted and chilled till we were ready to leave. Back at the hostel I wasn’t hungry but the rest of the group decided to eat at the buffet the hostel was putting on. I decided to get some spring rolls and call it a night. They had to wake up really early to get to Krabi while I was heading to Koh Tao.

So, the prognosis after this trip is that I’m so freaking happy I was able to see my friends again. Like I said earlier, it’s been really tough having to meet people over and over again. Sometimes I just wanna relax and put minimal effort in, especially traveling solo. This leg of the trip was mostly relaxing and recovering…and a lot of partying. So I guess I partied really hard then relaxed really hard the rest of the time. I’ve already done some much in terms of sightseeing and activities and now it’s all about partying and taking it easy, especially after all the injuries I’ve sustained this far. I’ve already been lucky so many times this trip that I’d rather count my blessings then try something stupid and compromise my life. Seriously, I’ve heard way to many horror stories that I’d just like to stay alive and healthy for the rest of my trip. I basically have about a week left then my time is up! So crazy how time moves so quickly, but I think I’m ready to go home. So stay tuned for the last and final episode of MELISSA’S SOUTHEAST ASIA BACKPACKING ADVENTURE!!


Nov 16, 2017

Being in the Philippines has been a very emotional, amazing, humbling, weird sensational journey that’s finally given me some sense of wholeness after what seems like a lifetime of wondering exactly who & what I am (I’ll get to that in a little bit). I sat at the window seat, overlooking the Manila as we began to descend. I’m not exaggerating when I say I had tears in my eyes as I had my first look at the city. Overwhelmed with excitement and the fact that I finally made it, after years of begging my mom, encouraging my Titas, hoping that one day I could visit my homeland.

I landed in Manila at around 10am, right on time. The day before I basically spent the entire day in the Bali airport–my dad and I took the taxi at the same time to the airport except his flight was at 4pm & mine was at 11pm. So I spent a good 9 hours in the same spot, blogging, watching YouTube, trying to kill time. Once I was finally on the plane, I ended up landing in Singapore at 1am in the morning, my flight to Manila wouldn’t leave until 6am. So I spent majority of my time trying to get comfortable on airport chairs and sleep, I probably got only an hour of sleep.

After I landed, immigration and baggage claim were really fast. I was out of the airport in like 30 mins and walked over to the pick up section. I walked towards “W” for my family name Wong. There I saw my Tita Pett & cousin August waiting for me. They left at 8am to pick me up at 11am, the traffic in Manila is freaking ridiculous. My Tito Teddy was getting us hotdogs from Jolliebee when I saw him, it’s been a while since I saw him last. I gave them all a bigggggg hug, it was the first time I was meeting them, afterall (I met my Tito only one other time when he came to stay with us after my Lola, his mom died, this was probably 15+ years ago).

Driving through Manila was crazy: the traffic, the busy-ness, how cramped everything seems. We stopped to get some chicharrones from Lapids, the best place according to my Tito. We finally arrived at the house: 22 Manhattan St. This was super special to me because this is where my mom & her siblings grew up. As I walked into the house, all these feelings rushed to me. I immediately saw my Tita’s portrait hanging on the wall, it looks like it’s been there for at least 30 years, untouched from when it was hung. Pictures of all of us sat on the mantle: a baby pic of my mom (who I look just like, chubbiness and all), a picture of my Lolo (grandpa, who died when I was 2) walking my mom down the isle during my parents’ wedding, pictures of my cousins and I. Even though I’d never met my family here, it seems as though they’ve always known us. I can’t stress enough how special this was to me. Being here, in person after speaking to my cousins only via Facebook, finally seeing their faces, finally stepping into the house I heard so much about.

This trip to the homeland was way overdue, I’d been wanting to come here ever since I was the age to understand that I had a significant culture I was ignoring. My mom came to the States when she was 9, and being different back then in an unforgiving city like Yuba City, California was especially difficult for a young, innocent girl. I mean they couldn’t even say her name right, Carolina (pronounced care • oh • lean • ah like the Spanish pronunciation), so she assimilated. She got rid of her accent, learned how to be “American”, married my Dad–the whitest Chinese guy you’ll ever meet (he’s 2nd generation, born in another farming town. Watsonville, who’s parents basically raised him during the civil rights era). She didn’t speak Tagalog in the house because my dad couldn’t speak it and cooked Filipino food every once in a while. Growing up in such a multi-cultural area like the Bay Area, I learned my culture through my peers. Even though it wasn’t really a thing at home, I wanted to know what & who I was, so I sought out all things Filipino: I had Filipino friends, joined the Filipino Club in high school, and even date a Filipino boy (becaues Filipinos are extremely attractive lol). I was so fascinated and attracted to my culture, but I just didn’t feel like I was truly a Filipino. Maybe because I felt like I was forcing it, or maybe because I was figuring this stuff out myself and not really taught it like how cultures should be (passed down from generation to generation). Something didn’t feel right, like my journey to understanding my true identity wasn’t complete…until now.

My family welcomed me with open arms and gave me the best hospitality you can get, from people I’d never even met! My little cousin, Therese, was waiting for me at the house. They were cooking all day for me, the Filipino dishes I told them previously that were my favorite. Tita had gotten me Sisig, cooked me Sinigang as we snacked on Chicharrones. I was so tired from traveling (and getting a total of 2 hours of sleep) so after I ate I was immediately sleepy. They gave me the only air conditioned room in the house (this is how amazingly sweet they are!!), and I passed out. I must’ve slept for 3 good hours when finally woke up. The rest of the day I just chilled in the living room with my family until my Uncle told me we were going to his friend’s house.

At Tito Lito’s house, my uncle’s childhood friend and literally just down the street, we ate and drank. It was his birthday celebration and it was mostly their group of friends and family, a really small intimate dinner (with tequila). His friends were really fun and accommodating to me (because I can’t really understand Tagalog, Tito Lito helped translate for me during times where they wouldn’t speak in English). We spent a while there because his friend’s really like his company and we were having a good time. By the time we got back to the house it was 10:30pm. Tita had been up cooking for me, and I felt bad I was out so late. She had prepared Mongo & fried fish…man was it delish. All I’d been doing the whole day was eating, so I fell asleep with a full belly.

Nov 17, 2017

I woke up this morning around 9:30am, I was really tired from the day before & needed to catch up on my sleep (plus, by now you have to know that I like to sleep in). Tita Pett had an array of food for me in the morning, she was already cooking for my mom, who’d be arriving later that day. My Tito & cousin August already left early in the morning to make sure they made it on time to the airport because traffic is insane.

My mom arrived at the house around 1ish and man was I happy to see her. It was the first time I’d seen her in basically 2 1/2 months and I missed my mommy. This was her 2nd time in the Philippines since she left when she was 9, the other time was about 8 years ago when her Lola, my great grandma died. She brought with her a huge bag full of pasalubongs (souvenirs) and a balikbayan box, a custom in the Philippines to bring back goods if you’re from a fortunate place like the States (the Philippines is a very hard place to make money, it’s the haves and the have nots here). KC, my other cousin, also went with Tito and August to pick up my mom, so I finally met her since she wasn’t at the house when I was yesterday. Once my mom ate her Kare Kare, her fav Filipino dish that Tita Pett cooked, it was time to open their presents. Christmas for them came early, my mom and Titas had bought them a whole bunch of goodies! Seeing their faces when they opened up their gifts were of pure joy and gratefulness. It was so exciting to see them so happy.

Later on in the day, mom and I went with KC to the mall to get her a pair of sandals for the upcoming vacay. She showed us how to take a tricycle, a motorbike with a car attached to the side, and showed us their local mall. We got some San Miguel’s (beers) and got KC her shoes. Once back at the house we ate some more, hung out, and packed. We were leaving in the morning to Palawan and we had to wake up extra early (4am) to beat traffic.

Nov 18, 2017

We were up and ready by 4am when Tito Teddy’s friend came to pick us up. Mom had been awake since 1am, still jet-lagged and in California time. We got to the airport fairly quickly, aka no traffic. Once there we realized that our flight would get delayed because the first 2 flights to Puerto Princesa were delayed. So after we checked in and got our boarding passes, we sat by the gates and waited, and waited…and waited. We got to the airport really early in the first place (6am) and were supposed to board at 9:55am. But our flight was delayed a whole 2 hours later…so we waited for more than 5+ hrs.

We got to Puerto Pricessa around 3pm, where our hotel picked us up. We were staying at the Docle Vita Hotel, a really cute hotel with a restaurant and swimming pool. We were pretty hungry, so we all had a late lunch at the hotel restaurant. I got some delish pasta I was craving (I dunno what it is with me and pasta out here but I don’t eat this much pasta in the States…it’s probably how they prepare it, a lot of garlic and spicy, is the reason why I like it so much). We then went back to our hotel room and took a nap, we’d all been up since 3:30am.

Mom woke me up, we had a Firefly dinner that night. We all got ready and were picked up for Firefly watching. We opted to see the fireflies first, then eat because we were still a little full. The firefly watching was a boat tour in the mangroves of Palawan. They protected that area, since fireflies are very sensitive to pollution and noise and usually are the indicators of a healthy ecosystem. The fireflies were really cool to see, they looked like the capis (shell like things) that we’d seen earlier in the trees. It was the first time I’d ever seen fireflies and it was a really cool thing to witness. Our tour guide, Paul, was really informative as well, giving us a very comprehensive speech about the mangroves, the stars & constellations, and of course the fireflies.

After our boat tour we had a buffet dinner. Tito Teddy said he didn’t really like the boat tour because he was afraid of the dark (lol) and spent a lot of time wailing and being afraid haha (our guides paddled us through the dark, artificial light was only used briefly to have the fireflies show their light). It was a cool activity to have in the evening (especially because I’d never seen fireflies before). We went back to the hotel and passed out.

Nov 19, 2017

This morning I heard my uncle get in the pool at 6am. My mom and I shared a room right by the pool called the Bahay Kubo or a Filipino hut, usually made from bamboo. Since we were right by the pool (and my uncle is a little loud), I heard his excited screams in the pool at 6 in the freaking morning! Then mom woke me up at 8:30 because I guess everyone wanted to eat already. I ate delicious corn beef with garlic rice and egg.

We were picked up at 11am for our city tour of Puerto Princesa. Our first stop was a church and a place called Plaza Cuartel, a base used by the Japanese during WWII. Here, the Japanese took over the island and captured around 150 American prisoners of war. They burned the American POWs alive in the trenches only 12 survived after guerilla Filipinos took back control of the base and drove the Japanese out. It was really interesting to learn about that, I now want to read the book that one of the survivors wrote in hopes of remembering the tragedy that took place.

The next stop was lunch at a popular restaurant. This place has deaf staff working there, which is a pretty unique concept. They show you how to do basic commands in sign language and have the sign language alphabet on the menu. I had sinagang (of course), my favorite. After lunch it was pasalubong shopping (you know Filipinos love to get their pasalubongs) and finally, the Crocodile Farm. It was a really short tour but they basically rescue eggs and crocodiles from being poached and sold. They had huge crocodiles there, probably 50 years old or something.

The rest of the day consisted of pretty lame sites, nothing worth mentioning because it wasn’t that interesting of a tour. Nevertheless I had fun with my family, which is all that matters. Back at the hotel, my cousins and I went swimming and we had sushi for dinner.

Nov 20, 2017

Today we had to be ready and checked out by 8am. We were going to the Underground River, a UNSECO heritage site and making a 5 hr drive to the northern tip of Palawan, the beach town of El Nido. It took about 1.5 hrs to get to the harbor. Once there we had to take a boat taxi to the actual area where we’d catch the boat through the underground river. The underground river itself was really cool looking. It wasn’t THAT special, but it was definitely interesting hearing the backstory behind it. Apparently the natives believed this cave was spiritual and housed spirits, which is why they didn’t go inside or rarely touched it. During the tour they discourage you from touching the cave because the oils and chemicals on human skin can alter the ecosystem and preservation of the cave. Since it is a UNSECO heritage site, they’ve made it a pretty interesting and top notch tour, even if it is just a cave.

After the cave, we had another buffet lunch that was super delicious. I forgot to mention that on our way back in the boat I got soaked because the water was super rough. So on our way to El Nido I basically had no pants on (since they were wet) and just used my sarong to cover me. The drive was absolutely beautiful. Our driver said that 70% of Palawan is virgin forests. We passed water buffalo in rice paddies, kids on their way home from school in their little uniforms, more bahay kubos (the rural Filipino house), tons of greenery, coconut trees, and our driver tried his best to not hit any dogs or chickens that might have ran into the middle of the street. I thought I was going to hate the drive since it would take 4 hours, but it was such a rewarding drive. It’s not like the drive from SF to LA in California, yenno the one on I-5 that’s absolutely boring as hell. This drive actually has character, things to see, people to watch, nature to admire.

Our driver tried to race so we could see the sunset and although we didn’t really see it go down, we were able to catch the sky turn colors. We finally arrived at our Airbnb where Tita Pett made eggs and corn beef for dinner. We were all really tired, so we went to sleep,

Nov 21, 2017

Today we had to wake up a little earlier to catch our boat. We were doing tour “A”, I guess here in El Nido they have 4 different tours: A, B, C, D. Not really sure you can do any other tours, but we heard that tour A & C were the best. Our boat was called the “Northern Star” and our first stop was Commando Beach. It was a really beautiful beach equipped with white sand, blue water, and a cute little beach bar. I even got Buko Halo, Halo-Halo (a Filipino dessert) in a coconut which was so delicious and refreshing.

The next stop was a snorkeling area where we snorkeled in between two islands as the boat crew cooked our lunch on their boat (on a coal stove). We had lunch on the beach, which was just so picturesque and amazing. Our next stop was the little lagoon which was my favorite. They call it small lagoon because the entrance to the lagoon is really small, but inside there’s nothing really small about it. Therese and I shared a kayak, which is the better way to see the lagoon (the other way is swimming in, but there are jellyfish so it’s better if you’re not in the water). Here we really just enjoyed being in this beautiful lagoon. The boat crew also kayaked in to make sure we were all ok. They convinced us and another kayak to swim in a small cave which was absolutely amazing. The small cave had holes at the top which let light in and so inside the cave was actually really bright. It felt like we were in the Little Mermaid movie, that’s how unbelievable it was, it felt like we were in a Disney movie.

The next 2 stops were the Secret Lagoon and the Big Lagoon. The Secret Lagoon wasn’t really secret, but in order to get inside you had to step through a little hole and inside was this enclosed lagoon. This reminded me of Peter Pam (I’m telling you, it’s so beautiful I’ve only seen things like this in fairytales and fiction movies, yet I’m seeing this site in real life it’s unreal). Uncle Teddy had to get taxied by one of the boat crew members to the lagoon from the boat (meaning he was pulled by them in his life jacket). It was such a funny site, I should have gotten a picture of it.

Our last stop was the Big Lagoon and they call it this because the mouth to the lagoon is well big enough to fit boats through it. Here you could just swim and enjoy your surroundings. Therese and I snorkeled with the little snorkeling that was there. We saw some huge sea urchins (I’m pretty surprised I didn’t step on any) and this one really territorial fish that freaked me the fuck out. I was just watching this little fish stare at me and all of a sudden he starts to swim really fast towards my face which scared me LOL. As we were walking back to the boat I was looking with my snorkel in the water to see if I could see anything cool then I saw it. It was a freaking sea snake. I freaked the fuck out when I saw that too because I’ve never seen an actual sea snake in the wild. Therese asked one of the locals if it was poisonous and he said yes so we made a huge circle around it to make sure it wasn’t gonna come at our heels.

Then it was back to shore. We were all really tired and hungry because the boat tour was basically from 9-5, an all day event. Once we got back to the town we were ready to eat, so we went to this place called Art’s Cafe. Apparently they have really good pizza made in a stove oven so that’s what we got along with some pesto pasta. Once we got back to the AirBnB, I immediately took a shower and got ready. KC and I were going out that night (Therese can’t come because she’s not old enough yet). We ended up at this fancy bar called Sava. There were a lot of foreigners here, something that I’m pretty used to being a backpacker, but KC wasn’t used to seeing so many Westerners. We met people from Czech Slovakia, Australia and Sweden. The bar was also right by the beach which was cool. Over all it was a nice night out with my cousin.

Nov 22, 2017

I got to finally sleep in today and ended up waking up at 9ish. Tita was making lunch for us with fresh ingredients her and mom got from the market. She made a delicious array of dishes like fried fresh fish, adobo, pinakbet, and garlic rice. The fried fish was so delicious because it was freshly caught that morning along with the good sauce my uncle made. After lunch we all just relaxed because it was pretty hot.

KC, Therese and I went out around 3:30 to find a place that would do henna. We walked around the town, went into different shops, enjoyed fruit shakes on the beach (and petted the cutest beach dog), and finally found a place that does henna on the beach. I wasn’t picky I just told the guy I want a henna on my hand/arm for 500 pesos, he said he would just freestyle, which is nice that’s how I like it. Therese got some flowers on her thigh because she’s still in school, Catholic school to be exact, and they’re pretty strict on body ink, even though henna is temporary, so she picked an area that would be covered.

We then walked back home where Tita Pett made dinner. It was all our leftovers since it was our last night in Palawan. Mom and I got some pasalubongs then watched a movie in our bed before bedtime. We had to wake up really early the next morning since we had to make another long drive from El Nido back to Puerto Princesa.

Nov 23, 2017

I was woken up 2 minutes before 3am. Our driver came at 3am and we loaded the car and were off. I mostly slept in the car this time because I was tired af. We stopped a few times for potty breaks and pasalubongs. There was this really cool place we stopped for pasalubongs where we saw people using natural materials to weave and make products called Binuatan. It was neat to see a native product being produced right before your eyes. We stopped at Jolliebee before getting to the airport, this is my first time going to Jolliebee since I’ve been in the Philippines and I was craving a good chickenjoy.

The Puerto Princesa airport was really nice compared to the Manila airport. When we were boarding our flight we were given umbrellas to use to protect us from the sun, which I found really strange. The walk itself was less than a minute (maybe 15 feet at most from the doors to the plane) and I just found it hilarious and excessive haha. The flight itself was really fast. It was so funny my Tito Teddy is sometimes a little helpless without his wife. When we were boarding she was helping her daughters and Tito Teddy was floating by himself. He ended up sitting in the wrong seat, not even looking at his boarding pass. The flight attendant then had to kick him out of the seat he was sitting at and escort him to the assigned seat on his actual boarding pass LOL. He’s a character I tell you.

Once at the airport Tita Pett’s brother-in-law picked us up. We sat like 2 hours in traffic because traffic in Manila is ridiculous. Mom wanted a draft beer and Tito Ted said that Shakey’s Pizza has San Miguel on draft, so that’s where we went. However, once we got there we realized they didn’t sell draft beer because their restaurant was right next to and under a church, so they had a contract with the mall that they wouldn’t sell alcohol there (so stupid). We ate there anyways and mom told me that it was apparently an American chain that’s been phased out of American (I’d never heard of Shakey’s ever but they’re everywhere around here). Then we finally made our way back home where we chilled and fell asleep.

Nov 24, 2017

I woke up to my Uncle’s yelling, which is usually what I’ve been waking up to since I’ve been in the Philippines. Most of the day I just hung out. I need days like this, especially after a lot of activities, sometimes I need to recharge. Since it was Thanksgiving in the States, we FaceTimed my brother and dad along with my mom’s side of the family. I didn’t end up doing anything all day except blogging and admiring clothes online (not buying though, that’s pretty impressive for me). At around 6pm I left in an Uber to meet up with my friend, Marco, who lives in here in Manila. It took me 2 hours to get to Makati, where I was meeting up with him because traffic is ridiculous here.

I finally got to the mall where I met Marco. We were friends at USF when he came to study abroad in one of my last semesters in college. We’ve kept in touch ever since and when he heard I’d be coming to Manila he immediately hit me and we agreed to meet at Rockwell in the up-and-coming part of Manila. The Powerplant mall in Rockwell was really stunning compared to the other mall, Gateway, that I’d been in earlier that week. Everything was decorated beautifully in Christmas decorations. We ended up eating at this Korean place at the food court because I was craving Korean food that day.

Later, we went to this stretch of street that had a lot of hip, cool bars. There were more Western people here then I’d seen in any other part of Manila. We first went to this bar called Alamat, a Filipino-fusion bar where they had craft beers from all over the Philippines as well as Filipino cocktails. After we went to a small bar called The Workshop that was basically a leather goods shop during the day then a really hip bar at night. We got rum and mango cocktails and I met a whole bunch of cool people who were expats and locals living in Manila. Marco was such a lovely host. He brought me around and made me feel at home. It’s so cool to reconnect with people you’ve met around the world. That’s what I’m so excited about for my future travels. I can’t wait to visit everyone I’ve met during my travels in their native country. Social media and the internet make it really easy to reconnect with people and it’s not like you need to talk to them all the time to maintain friendship. Marco and I basically picked up where we left off, and it’s a really good feeling to have these abroad friendships. Everyone has the same mentality, and they’re all open-minded who just want to enjoy life.

The Philippines has been such a special leg of my journey. I’ve had a great time making memories with my family and friends and just absorbing my culture and how it feels to be apart of a community. This trip was long-overdue but I’m so glad I was able to experience it with my mom. I didn’t know how she was going to feel here, but she seems to love it as much as I do if not more. I can see the joy in her eyes when she sees nostalgic things like a tabo bath (bucket bath), or going to the market and picking fresh fruit, or even getting home-cooked meals everyday. We loved our time with our family and they did everything they could to make us comfortable here. That’s another thing I admire about Filipinos is that their hospitality goes unmeasured. They sacrifice and work so hard, it’s just an amazing vibe to be around.

I definitely cherish this short but sweet holiday I’ve had in the Philippines. I just can’t wait to come back and make more memories with my family and friends here. Now I’m headed to the South of Thailand, where I’ll be finishing the last leg of my trip. It’s so crazy that this backpacking journey is coming to an end. While I’m excited to go back and see friends and family, I really don’t want this adventure to end. I get to look forward to seeing my Liv, Josh, Hannah, and Charlie in Koh Phangan for the full moon party! So stay tuned for the next episode of MELISSA’S SOUTHEAST ASIA BACKPACKING ADVENTURE!

Bali with Dad!

Nov 8, 2017

Dad came to visit me in Bali! I almost had tears in my eyes when I saw him. It’s been 2 month since I’ve seen him, and while that may not seem like a long time to people, it was really comforting to be in his presence, especially after what happened a few days prior. He wanted to treat me at the W, the hotel chain with a location in Seminyak.

Before he got to the hotel, he informed me that he would be landing at 10am, so I booked a car from my hostel to the hotel that morning at 10am. Well, dad’s not very good at this stuff, and he meant that he was landing in Hong Kong at 10am & not Bali, where he’d arrive at 3pm. So, once I got there I got to explore a little by myself. I had one of the most expensive meals I’ve ever eaten on this whole trip, just for lunch (around $23 USD or 300,000 rupiah–mind you, I’ve been eating 50-90K per meal), hung out in my hotel room (and used the really nice toilet, yes I’m excited I get my own toilet), and ate a pastela (Mexican ice cream bar) at the pool after taking a dip. Dad finally arrived at the hotel around 4-5pm since the traffic was terrible.

He was really exhausted from traveling (and still jet lagged), so we took it easy that night. We watched the sunset and ate dinner afterwards. Dad was so tired, he almost fell asleep at the dinner table (props to him for even staying up that late). We ended up just hanging at the hotel in the evening. Dad fell asleep right away as I watched Netflix.

Nov 9, 2017

I woke up around 10am, dad said that he wanted to let me sleep in but that he got me breakfast. He’d been up since 4am and already took a nice walk on the beach, went to get breakfast, and was feeling antsy by the time I woke up. We didn’t plan anything for today, but we wanted to talk to the concierge about the best things to do. I saw that swimming with Manta Rays were a big thing here and found a place that does it (a little expensive). When we went to the concierge to inquire about it, he told us that he recommends this other place to swim with Manta Rays. It was half the price of the other one, so we opted for this one. I’m not a certified diver yet, and the one that I picked out was actually a free diving lesson/site seeing place. You would swim with Manta Rays and get lessons on to how to free dive. Looking back I wish I did that one. We’d also booked a night trip to Uluwatu for the next night. That includes a trip to Uluwatu Temple to see the views and the Kecak dance as well as a trip to Jimbaran for seafood.

We didn’t really do much for the rest of the day. We went shopping in Seminyak Square and watched the Warrior game at a random bar. It was the first time I’d seen the Warriors play this season, since I left for my trip before the season started (I’m really excited to see a game when I get back since we have season tickets!!). I also got my nails and brows done (I’m a little sad about my brows, the lady not only took skin off my eyelid, she also did it too thin, I’m very picky about my brows). That took a while, and after that Dad and I went to this Japanese-ish restaurant. It was such a weird concept because they served japanese food but the decor and everything was Safari/African themed…STRANGE.

After that we went back to the hotel where we just chilled for the rest of the night. Like I said in my previous blog post, most of what I did with dad was relax in a nice hotel room, in my own privacy, with AirCon, and watched TV for the first time in forever. We ordered pizza for a mid-night snack since we had dinner at weird time. It was a bad idea because it gave me the bubble guts (that noise that your stomach makes when it doesn’t agree with what you ate, usually accompanied by a few sessions on the toilet). I didn’t sleep well because my stomach hurt so much and I was really worried I might’ve gotten Bali Belly.

Nov 10, 2017

I woke up with a bad tummy ache. We ordered room service for breakfast and I got their version of Congee (like I do everywhere in Southeast Asia, the rice porridge) and they call it Bubur Ayam. I didn’t really like this version because you pour like a curry broth inside it and I just didn’t like the taste of curry in my jook (what I call Congee, the Cantonese version of rice porridge). We hung out at the pool before the car would pick us up to Uluwatu.

We got picked up around 3:30 to Uluwatu. We wanted to watch the Kecak dance and see the sunset at separate times. Our driver said that they have 2 performances of the Kecak, at 5 and 6pm. We wanted to do the earlier one (or so we thought) so that we could see the dance before the sun went down. Once we got there, it was almost 5pm, so we raced to the area where they were selling tickets in hopes they didn’t start yet. Well, it was really empty by the time we got into the stage area. We didn’t even explore the temple at this point because we thought we would have the opportunity after the show. Well it turns out that there’s only one show at 6pm and we sat down at 5pm. So we were waiting for almost an hour before the actual show started, time that we could have used to walk around the temple. Oh well…

The Kecak dance itself was a cool show to witness. The performance takes place right next to the temple, which overlooks the ocean (it’s on the top of the cliff). There’s no actual music to the dance, the beat and rhythm are done by vocals of a choir-like group of men who make it with their voice. It’s pretty impressive since they have to shout for a whole hour, it must get tiring after a while. And on top of that, during the last scene of the dance, the monkey general kicks fire balls at them and they have to put it out with a walis ting ting (that’s Tagalog for a type of broom made out of sticks). It was a cool cultural dance to see.

After the dance, we went to Jimbaran, a stretch of beach known for their seafood. We went to one of these restaurants on the beach where we had delicious snapper that was super tasty. We were serenaded by a band, watched a few more cultural dances, and even saw some fireworks on the beach! It was a pretty cool experience accompanied by delicious food.

Nov 11, 2017

We had to wake up earlier today to make it downstairs for our pick up for snorkeling (with the Manta Rays). We were picked up, driven to the dive center and then brought to the beach. The 2 other couples were diving, one was a really old couple from Spain and another was a relatively younger couple from Bulgaria. We didn’t know beforehand that this was the woman from Bulgaria’s first time diving, I could have dove for the first time without even being certified. 

All dad and I did was snorkel. We thought we were going to be brought to the place where the Manta Rays were, but we were told that we weren’t going there. Dad and I were confused and a little mad. He paid a good amount of money for us, just to go snorkeling. The snorkeling was cool but nothing super special (especially for the price). We should have gone to that one I found online instead of listening to the concierge at the hotel. So, no Manta Rays…I was a little bummed about that. The day consisted of 2 snorkel trips. I love snorkeling but I’ve done it a few times already and it was much better (and 3x cheaper) in Gili T where I did it last. Nonetheless, it was fun snorkeling with mi padre and spending time with him.

Once back at the hotel, we took showers and hung out. We went to the hotel’s happy hour and got some cocktails before dinner. It was our last night at the W before switching hotels, so we splurged on some really tasty steak. The hotel bar also had shisha (or hookah) so we did that after dinner, which was a nice way to end our night.

Nov 12, 2017

I woke up earlier today to make it to yoga at 9am. I find that I do yoga more out here then actually going to the gym. It fits the scene better and Balinese people are Hindus, so I’m sure they do yoga in their daily life (maybe some, I’m actually not really familiar with the practice of yoga in Hinduism, but I know they belong together). Yoga was a really nice way to start my morning. Dad and I got breakfast and said goodbye to our favorite waitress, Sari. She was so sweet and kept giving us discounts, she even gave me a mug the night before!

Unfortunately, we had to say goodbye to the W and checked into our new hotel in Legian called Padma Resort. This one was way more low key. It was more family friendly and had more places to eat and swim. Dad ended up upgrading to the Garden Club, where we got a room that opened up to the pool. It also included free booze happy hour (which was the selling point for dad). 

For the rest of the day we just relaxed, got some food, drank some free alcohol, watched the sunset on the beach and had sushi for dinner.

Nov 13, 2017

Dad woke me up to make sure we made it to breakfast. The breakfast was a buffet, something that I’m not used to (for breakfast) but definitely all for. We decided we wanted to do something that day, so we opted for a trip to Ubud to see waterfalls, the Water Palace (temple), and rice paddies. The first place we went to was a waterfall, however I wasn’t really feeling well. I think I must have been dehydrated or something, but I just didn’t feel up to it.

The waterfall was cool, but I’ve been to so many waterfalls at this point that I was kinda over them (this one wasn’t that cool anyways). Plus, the last one that I visited I fell so hard that I almost passed out, so maybe I’m just over waterfalls in general unless they’re the really cool kind, like the Kuang Si waterfall in Luang Prabang. The next place we were going to go were the rice paddies, but the weather didn’t want us to have fun. While we were driving to our next activity, it started to pour down rain, The sky was really dark and gray, and it didn’t seem like the type of storm where it would rain for an hour or so then stop. The whole sky was dark and it spanned for miles. It was hard rain too, and we were going to be outside the whole time. So we opted to do something different. Our driver recommended we do the “cat poo coffee” since we didn’t really need to be outside for that.

Once we got there, a tour guide was waiting with umbrellas, His name was Wayan, a name that I later learned is a Balinese name every family names their first born–they have 4 series of names for the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th, after their 4th it goes back to Wayan. He was really knowledgeable about the place and spoke very good English. He told us how the Lumaks (Weasel, cat, land seal-looking creatures) are let out during the night to roam the coffee plantation. They then eat the coffee beans and poop them out, then he and the other workers go to locate their excrement. 

While I learned all of this back in Dalat when I did the poop coffee tour there, it was nice to do it with my dad and meet Wayan. He let us try the coffee as well as other coffees and teas that they sold on their plantation. He engaged in really good conversation. I asked if he liked his job, his response was “I have to like my job, jobs in Bali are really hard to get, so I have to love what I do.” We asked him if he wanted to go to college, but he said it’s too expensive and that his family needs his support through his income. We were sad to see that he was such a young, eager guy with a lot of potential and very intelligent, but we understood his situation. It’s very humbling to come to these countries and  speak with the locals. Most of them don’t have a lot, but they seem so happy and are genuinely optimistic, polite, and friendly. I really like the Balinese/Indonesians the most out of the countries I’ve been to so far. Maybe their traditions of Hinduism make them very contentious of the way they treat people (karma) and in turn treat every person with love and respect.

So, we ended up buying a “shit” ton of coffee because dad liked it so much. After the poop coffee plantation,there wasn’t much for us to do (it still was raining), so we went back to our hotel to hang out and relax. Dad ended up having a date that night, so I went to the buffet to eat by myself. It wasn’t that bad though because the buffet was Italian themed, and I was craving pasta earlier that day. Satisfied with a full belly, I went back to the hotel and fell asleep.

Nov 14, 2017

Today was more of a relax day for dad and I. We ordered room service for breakfast and had a late start to the day. We finally used our pool (with the private entrance) and went to the beach to go for a swim and hang out on the sand. We also walked around Legian to find him some sandals and got a late lunch. I had sunset yoga at 6, which turned out to be really cool. The place where they usually hold sunset yoga was being used for a private party, so we were relocated in the Presidential Suite backyard. It also turned out that I was the only person doing yoga, which ended up being a private lesson for me (basically). It was really soothing, although the downside was getting eaten alive by mosquitoes (they love me). Even after drenching myself with cancerous deet bug spray, they still seem to find the places where I’m not thoroughly applying spray. They even bit through my leggings and onto my ass, real nice mosquitoes, real nice…

After yoga I took a nice shower and waited for dad to be done with his date. We had our last dinner of Bali at the hotel’s sushi-themed buffet. Dinner was really nice and it was a perfect cherry on the top on such a relaxing and enjoyable vacation. He’d leave back to the states the next day while I leave to the Philippines! This time with dad was exactly what I needed. I think all of the traveling, partying, activities, being hot and sweaty all the time, really wore me down. This mini vacation inside my bigger vacation gave me the opportunity to relax and refuel, especially after the tragedy that took place a week earlier.

It gave me a chance to gain my energy back for my next leg of my journey. I’m now with my family in the Philippines (my first time here!!) and it’s been such a great experience so far. So stay tuned for my next post about my wonderful vacation with my wonderful family here in the Philippines on the next episode of MELISSA’S SOUTHEAST ASIA BACKPACKING ADVENTURE!!!

Canggu & possibly the scariest moment of my life

Nov 5, 2017

Today was probably the scariest & saddest moments of my life. I was there when it happened, in the water, taking surf lessons, too. I was in the same water, doing the same thing as he was, it could have been me. After about an hr into our surf lesson, a huge bolt of lightning came down from the dark, ominous sky & struck another surfer. He died there, on the beach, the same beach where I was surfing. I saw him, I saw his girlfriend collapse in shock, I heard her screams.

Let me back up a bit, and give you context as to what I’m speaking about…

Nov 4, 2017

Today was mostly a day of travel. I was leaving Gili T and going to Canggu, a beach town in Bali. I said goodbye to the girls I met, hopefully I would meet up with Hannah & Anna in Canggu, they’re going to be there for a day before heading back to the UK. As I was filling my water bottle before heading out, I met Kirsty, she was also filling up her water bottle. We established that we were taking the same ferry at the same time to Bali and so we decided to go together.

The ferry to Bali took a little longer. We stopped at Gili Air, Gili Meno & Lombok, which took probably 2.5-3 hours all together. I ended up taking a nice nap on the boat, I don’t know what it is with me and naps but I seem to take them often now. It might be because of the weather, the alcohol, or the fact that I like sleep, either way I’m getting a good rest in. When we arrived in Bali, we were bombarded with people asking us if we wanted to take a car to our destination. Our ferry ticket included a shuttle to the town of our final destination, however, I learned that Canggu would be the last stop (after Kuta, Legian, and Seminyak) and would take 3-4 hrs. Kirsty and I decided to take the private car, it was a little extra but it would drop us off at our hostel and we wouldn’t be on a crowded bus with a lot of people.

The private car ended up being a good idea. We got AC and just got to sprawl out. Kirsty was dropped off in Seminyak, and even though it was only 2-3 miles away, it took me a good hour to get to Canggu. The traffic in South Bali is terrible. You won’t move for 20-30 minutes, it’s just an insane concept of traffic. But I was finally dropped off at my hostel, Lay Day, in the evening. The atmosphere was kind of intimidating, so I just ordered food, booked a surf lesson at 1pm for tomorrow, tried to walk around, ate more food, and ended the night with some Netflix.

Nov 5, 2017

It was a slow morning getting up. I walked around and got some money from the ATM, got a falafel plate for lunch, and got ready for surf lessons. The surf instructor said that I would be joining 3 other girls for lessons that day. We all caught a cab to the beach and met our instructor there. He gave us rash guards, introduced us to 3 more instructors, one for each of us and gave us our boards. They were very kind and carried our really heavy foam boards to the beach while we carried their’s. They taught us how to get up on the board and paddle, what to do when a big wave came, and showed us the proper stance.

We got in the water, excited and ready to “surf” (aka wipe out, we were all newbies). Alexa, Lexie, and Shaleen were the girls I was taking lessons with, and we were all so happy to be there. The sky was dark, it was raining, but it didn’t seem like a storm was coming. The waves were good that day, pretty big for beginners like us, but really fun to ride if you got up. I maybe got up once or twice, but it was really hard for some reason. The waves were rough, the water was crowded and when I did get up I was nervous I was going to run into someone. There was lightning off in the distance, but we only saw one flash. I asked my instructor if we should get out of the water and that I was a swimmer. During swim practice, if there was any indication of lightning or thunder, we had to get out no matter what. The instructor told me it was okay and that we’d be fine.

Maybe 15-20 minutes later, it happened. A huge lightning bolt came down and struck about 100-200 meters in front of me. It was the closest I’ve been to a lightning strike, and the sound that accompanied it was the loudest boom I’ve ever heard in my life. The lightning strike was almost blinding and it happened in a split of a second. The noise shook my entire body and almost knocked me off my board. From my perspective, I thought the strike hit land (mind you, I was blind because I didn’t have my contacts on and actually trying to locate this strike was difficult since it happened in milliseconds). I was facing towards land, on my board, while my instructor was facing me. His facial expression once it hit was of pure shock and scaredness. Out of innocence (and probably shock) I started laughing at him, saying that his face was really funny.

After talking it over with the other instructors, he told it was time to go (even though we’d be ending 45 minutes early). He said we would take a break at the beach and to catch one last wave in. Me and Alexa took the same wave in, just laying on our boards laughing, enjoying our last wave in, oblivious to what had just happened. Once we hit shore, we saw it: a huge group of people surrounding a body and a lady being consoled by others as she screamed out of complete horror. Lexie came running up to us, in tears as she cried, “someone’s just been struck by lightning!” We dragged our boards on shore, and walked slowly towards the hoard of people. The lady who was being consoled kept screaming & collapsing in pain. “PLEASE, PLEASE, NO!! PLEAAAASEEEE!” she sobbed and yelled. Tourists were trying desperately trying to resuscitate the lifeless body. It was white, almost blue, and I couldn’t come to terms with what was happening. I started to sob, overwhelmed with the fact that he might not make it, overwhelmed with the magnitude of the situation, overwhelmed with what exactly I was witnessing & experiencing.

Once on land, the instructors also were trying to grasp what happened. We walked to where we put our stuff, somberly and still in shock. People who were out in the water surfing as well said that they also felt the shock of the lightning, they were probably closer to the guy. At that point I didn’t know whether he was walking towards shore in the water or sitting on his board, but it was clear that he was in fact in the ocean. Lexie was in complete shock, she was closer to the shore when it happened and one of the first people to see what was happening. She said that she couldn’t stay here, and that we needed to leave. So we took a taxi back to the hostel, shaken and sad.

The rest of the day I was just trying to come to terms with what happened: realizing that it could have been any one of us in the water that day, realizing how lucky I was to be alive, realizing how close I actually was to that lightning bolt. After a long shower, the instructor came back to the hostel. He said that the guy didn’t make it, the ambulance took a long time to get to the beach and they didn’t even have the right equipment. Even at the beach there were people (mostly Westerners) running around asking for a defibrillator, but the locals didn’t know what that was. The news of the guy dying from his wounds completely broke me. The instructor said that the lightning had hit him in the back, either his back or the back of his head. Alexa said that she saw his chest, blue and like jelly, almost like all of his insides were fried. The girls were leaving that day to Ubud, so I didn’t really have anyone to relate to or heal with.

Patrick and Stephen, who I’d met in Pai, were also at the hostel. I tried to talk to them, hoping that maybe a familiar face could consol me. But I just found it extremely difficult to socialize. I drank, hoping it would take my mind off of it, but nothing felt right. I felt like I was forcing myself to have a good time, to try and forget, but I realized that I didn’t want to forget. I didn’t want to drink and have a good time knowing that his girlfriend, the same girl I’d seen riding the same waves as me, was grieving & mourning. I didn’t want to enjoy myself knowing his girlfriend’s holiday was over, knowing that they’d probably have to ship his body back to his respective country, knowing the pain and agony his family would be in. He went to Bali to have the time of his life, to relax and enjoy, and instead it was his time to go.

After 3 Long Island ice tea’s and 2 beers, I still couldn’t muster the energy to go out. It didn’t seem right. So instead I watched Netflix on my iPad and went to sleep.

Nov 6, 2017

The next morning I switched hostels. It was probably best, I needed a new environment anyways. I took a taxi to my new hostel, Tipsy Gypsy. This hostel was closer to the main strip, something I wanted (because I’m still afraid to rent a motorbike after all the stories I’ve heard and bandages I’ve seen). I dropped my bags off and walked to the Main Street. I settled on this cafe called “Garden Gangastas” it looked very hipster-like and healthy, something I’m all for. Once I sat down I heard “Melissa!” It was Hannah and Anna, and I was so excited to see them. It was fate, probably the universe telling me “here, heal” because man did I need them. We’d plan to meet up the night before but they missed their earlier boat and I “couldn’t be arsed” (British slang for couldn’t be bothered) going out that night. But here they were, at the same exact brunch spot at the same exact time.

I’d texted Anna the night before telling her about my traumatic experience, so she already knew what I was going through. It was just nice to see a familiar face and open up as to how I was feeling. They’re also 2 really great girls who I wish I had more time with (remember I met them on Gili T), but they were leaving that day back to the UK. Nevertheless I was very happy that I saw them at a time I really needed them.

The rest of the day consisted of a lot of retail therapy. At this point I didn’t care about the price or space in my bag–my dad would be coming in a few days so I wouldn’t have to spend $ and I could unload a lot of my souvenirs on to him. I also wanted to look for a place to do yoga, I needed to meditate and get my mind right. After a lot of shopping I got ready for yoga at 6. This yoga was more of a meditative sesssion, which was exactly what I needed. During the class I realized it was hard for me to focus, I kept fidgeting, I couldn’t be still or be completely relaxed.

Back at the hostel, I saw that there was barely anyone, not that I met anyone there earlier, but I did wanted to go out because I needed to be distracted. I saw that there were about 4 or so people at the table, I asked if they were going out and they let me know they were in a few minutes. I was a little sweaty from yoga but I said fuck it and got ready really quickly. There were about 6 of us, only 2 motorbikes, but we all squeezed onto them, riding 3 per motorbike. We went to Old Man’s, the bar right in front of the beach where it all happened. I knew I needed to enjoy myself, so I gave myself a tab and ordered the cheapest alcohol (other than beer), which was their local wine. It was pretty gross but I had 3 glasses, along with 4 shots. At this point I was feeling pretty good and enjoying the people I was with. We walked down to the beach once Old Man’s closed to this bar called Sand Bar, a bar literally on the beach. This was so fun, I mean partying on the beach with blaring music, your feet in the water and toes in the sand. While this was the same beach where it happened, it was dark, I couldn’t really see where it actually happened. Plus, I wanted to enjoy myself and finally enjoy Bali. I ended up going home earlier than most of the people in my hostel, and passing out.

Nov 7, 2017

It’s a little hard to sleep in at this hostel–you can hear everything in the common area, and people are constantly coming out and in. I ended up getting brunch/lunch with one of the guys from the hostel and met up with some of the girls I met at the other hostel. After brunch, I went back to the beach where it all happened. I tried to enjoy myself there, but I found that I couldn’t really enjoy the rest of my time there. I literally walked on the beach, realized I couldn’t sit here all day, and walked back. As I was walking back I stared at the surfers for a long time. I just stopped and stared, watching them try to catch the nonexsistent waves (it was a really calm day), trying to forget but at the same time remember.

The rest of the day I just shopped, went back to the hostel, napped for about 3 hours trying to remember/forget everything that happened in that split second that day. Once I finally woke up, I realized the rest of the hostel was going out that night to Taco Tuesday but not until late. I was hungry so I got a snack at an empty restaurant. I guess I like empty restaurants while I’m solo, I don’t know why. Once back at the hostel, Deo, one of the local guys that worked there told me I needed to go out, so we went to Old Man’s to meet up with the rest of the guys from the hostel. From there we went to Taco Tuesday, where literally everyone from our hostel was. I met Katie, a girl who was in my hostel room in Dalat. She was there with her boyfriend, but I saw her at Taco Tuesday solo. She said her boyfriend went back to California, and that she missed him so much but she wanted to have fun tonight.

After a lot of tacos (luckily no tattoos) we went back to Old Man’s where Katie and I had a fun night. She’s so crazy and full of energy, only 19, so she helped me have a good time. She made me shotgun my first beer, we chugged Smirnoff Ice’s, took shots, and petted dogs!!!  She was so fun and crazy, it made me forget what I was dealing with and just be in the moment. I really enjoyed her company and I wish I wasn’t leaving the next day (but also kinda excited to be out of dorms and into hotels). I was meeting my dad the net morning at the W. He was meeting me to spend time with me and have his own, nice, well-deserved vacation.

Sorry I haven’t blogged in forever. I took the vacation with dad as a time to refuel, relax, and get my mind right. I didn’t mind finally being lazy and lounging around, in fact, that’s what I wanted to do. Being on the go all the time and not being comfortable was wearing on me, and I’m glad I had this time to reevaluate and just mindlessly enjoy myself. After that traumatizing experience, I realized a lot of things (near death experiences will do that to do you). To have time for yourself, to do whatever you want whenever you want because life is short, to live life with no regrets, to hug your friends and family all the time and to tell them that you love them constantly, to seriously count your blessings every day. I still can’t come to terms that it could have been me that day, but I take that as a sign to live every day like it’s your last, because you never know when your life will be cut short.

My next blog post will probably just be a brief description of what we did with more pictures, since I didn’t do much except relax. Thank you everyone for following my journey, I hope you took something from this post just like I took something out of that experience. My next journey will be with my family in the Philippines and I’m so, so excited for that! So stay tuned for the next episode of MELISSA’S SOUTHEAST ASIA BACKPACKING ADVENTURE!

P.S. If you’d like to read more about what happened that day, a lot of new sites have reported about it (mostly surfing sites). Below are some articles:

Coconuts Bali

Bali Discovery (the first article I read that reported it)

Fox News

The Sun

The Daily Mail UK

Bleacher Report 

Note, after reading these articles after some time, it was informed that 2 people died, the Westerner and the local giving him surf lessons. May they Rest In Peace.

Bali + Gili

Oct 29, 2017

So, I woke up drunk this morning, at 5:45am. I don’t really remember getting ready, nor packing my stuff. But, I remember that I didn’t forget anything and that I woke up in time to get the tuk tuk to the airport. At the airport, I successfully navigated through the Siem Reap airport, immigration, and got to my gate…still drunk. I got some Burger King nuggets as my drunchie snack (drunk munchies).

On the plane, I was given 2 meals by AirAsia (I must’ve gotten a meal pack or something). But I’d just eaten 6 nuggets and had 2 meals to eat. So I had one, which was curry and saved the second one (pasta) for later, in case I got hungry again. I slept the whole way on the plane because I’m drunk/hungover. Once I got to the Kuala Lumpur airport (where I’d have a 7 hour layover), I had to go through security again. This time, the lady working security asked me if I was carrying scissors. Mind you, I’ve been through at least 4 different airports and no one has said anything about my scissors, plus they’re TSA approved. I said yes and argued with her because obviously I’m pissed I hafta get rid of a perfectly fine pair of scissors. The fact that they make you go through security again is stupid.

So for my 7 hour layover, I basically FaceTimed my whole family for 3 hours, effed around on my phone while it was charging, then finally when it was done charging was when I took a nap. I napped for a good 2 hours on a couch until it was about an hour and a half till I’d depart to Bali. Once at my gate, I had a lovely conversation with a Filipino lady. She’d just lost her dad and she was on her way home for the funeral. She was a maid for a Chinese family living in Malaysia, something very common for Filipinos. 

Finally, once on the plane I watched some of my downloaded episodes of Stranger Things & Orange is the New Black. I didn’t want to sleep since I already napped at the airport and I wanted to be able to sleep once I got to Bali. I’d arranged a car to pick me up from the airport and take me to my hostel in Ubud beforehand, so luckily he was waiting for me after I landed. I didn’t want to get scammed by a taxi driver or other drivers in the area and it was really late by the time I’d landed (12am). The driver took me to my hostel and I immediately went to sleep.

Oct 30, 2017

I woke up a little late today since I came in the hostel late. Plus, I haven’t really slept in since the last few days have been getting up early for temples and flights and stuff. I didn’t have a plan for the day, and I kinda just wanted to walk around to gain my bearings and to check out the town. I left the hostel around 12:30pm in search for some food. I came across this cute little restaurant that was empty (and cheap). It had a little temple inside of the restaurant, and I felt so at peace in there. I tried a Balinese dish, it was okay but I couldn’t finish it and I got tired of the taste after a while.

After lunch, I walked around Ubud looking to buy. I had dollar signs in my eyes, ready to spend, spend spend haha. I picked up some souvenirs for friends and family, got a new necklace since the one I bought in Laos turned brown & started to irritate my skin. I also splurged on some clothes for myself because, that’s what I do. Ubud also has really cute boutiques so I couldn’t resist (plus I don’t have anyone here telling me not to buy things and I have no self control). 

I got back to the hostel around 4:30, hungout, then went out again around 7 to get some dinner. I found a spot off TripAdvisor that looked good (and cheap). It was another Balinese restaurant and I ordered some tofu & Tempe (a sort of soybean cake similar to tofu) curry. It definitely didn’t disappoint me and I was greatly satisfied with my meal. I went back to the hostel where I watched Stranger Things and OITNB before falling asleep.

Oct 31, 2017

Another slow morning, I decided to order fruit and yogurt from the restaurant at the hostel. I chilled a little more until around 12:30pm. I wanted to do yoga at 2, but I had to get there a half an hour early and it would take me 30-45 mins to walk there from the hostel. I took a really quiet road to get there–there were rice paddies, kids playing in the street, dogs wrestling with each other. It’s also the day before the Balinese Hindu holiday, Galungan. Everyone was busy preparing for this holiday, making extravagant poles sculptures made from palm fronds and covering their statues with gingham print robes.

I got to Yoga Barn around 1, so I drank a smoothie to past the time. I was also finally getting over being sick and I really wanted to try yoga again. This time, I tried an “Intro to Yoga” class, which ended up being really easy but very informative. I’m not sure if it was worth $10 for the class, but hey, you gotta start somewhere, especially if you’re learning. When yoga got out it was 3:30 and I was starving. I opted for this place in the Monkey Jungle area of Ubud and got another delicious Balinese dish. 

Around 4:30pm I got to the Sacred Monkey Jungle, a park full of 3 sacred Hindu temples full of monkeys. I’m sure this whole area used to look like this at one point, big beautiful trees, monkeys swinging around everywhere, green and lush scenery. The monkeys are pretty chill, unless you have food, then they sneakily try and steal it from you (or not sneakily). You’re not supposed to look at them in the eye because they think it’s a sign of aggression. If you just kinda watch them and leave them be, then they’re cool to look at. If you do/have any of the things I mentioned then they’re little shits. For example, I put down my huge water bottle in between my legs to video cute little baby monkeys. Another clever monkey saw that my guard was down and tried to grab my water bottle. But since I was holding onto it with my legs I grabbed it away and stared at it in the eyes and it ran away back to what it was doing. I think it got really brave at one point and just grabbed my water bottle while I was paying attention, this time I stood up, stared it in the eye and lunged toward it to scare it off, luckily it did just that and was scared off. For the next hour, I just roamed around the park, watching the monkeys doing their monkey business all while being surrounded by a beautiful forest. I visited all 3 temples, which were closed, but it was still beautiful to look at. 

I went back to the hostel, where I just chilled and chatted with some of the people there. One of the girls I talked to convinced me to go to Gili Trawangan, so I booked transportation that night for the next morning. Since I would have to be ready by 7am for the shuttle, I opted not to do anything that night, even though it was Halloween. Ubud doesn’t really have a party scene, but I didn’t mind. I was still getting over being sick and I couldn’t justify going out in such a peaceful, zen place. So, my night consisted of French fries and Stranger Things. Not a bad night if I say so myself.

Nov 1, 2017

I woke up really early for my shuttle that would pick me up at 7am. After 15 minutes of waiting, I went back to the hostel to ask if they’d forgotten about me. He said they would pick me up between 7-7:30 and guess what, I got picked up at 7:30 (could’ve slept an extra half hour damnit). I slept on the car ride to the boat place. Drank a mango juice while waiting for the boat to Gili T, then slept on the boat again. I guess my sickness/fatigue is still getting to me, I really need a lot of sleep out here.

Once on Gili T, I realized they didn’t have any tuk tuks, motorbikes or even cars. It’s such a small island that everyone bikes around or uses a horse and buggy if they really want to get somewhere fast. These poor horses do not look like they live happy lives. They’re over worked, tired, and I don’t even see them getting something to drink or even being brought to the shade. I didn’t want to take one during my time there, I didn’t want to support that kind of animal exploitation. So instead of getting a horse and buggy to my hostel (which was only 0.4 miles away but a long walk in the sun with all my shit) I opted to walk.

Once at my hostel, My Mate’s Place, I got some fruit and yogurt for breakfast and chilled before my room was ready. Adam, a local who works at the hostel and puts on all the activities, asked if I wanted to sign up for snorkeling the following day, so I did. After getting settled in and relaxing for a bit, I walked around to find food and check out the beach. For some reason I was craving Thai food, so I got some Thai fried rice on the beach and chilled with this cat that kept meowing at me. It even jumped on the chair next to me and made me think that I had a friend lol.

After food I was really tired at this point. I went down to the beach, laid out my sarong in the shade and sprawled out. Gili T is such a beautiful island. The beaches are white, the water is clear and the views are amazing. I was so relaxed at this point I fell asleep for about an hour. I could have slept for longer, but I wanted to get ready for yoga at 5:30. So I went back to the hostel, changed, then went back to the beach for yoga. This time I tried a regular class, it was Vinyasa Flow. The teacher wasn’t as good as the others I’ve had, maybe because it wasn’t a beginners teacher, but I was able to keep up with the pace. I’m really starting to enjoy yoga, the breathing, the meditation aspect, focusing on your movements and being aware of your body as a whole. I want to start doing it as much as possible, that’s how much I enjoy it out here!

Yoga was nice and relaxing and I was hungry after we got out. So I found another cute local spot on the beach. I tend to grativate towards restaurants that don’t have a lot of people in them (aka empty). I find it that a lot of tourists are scared to eat at Bali/Indonesian focused restaurants, they’re more into that fusion/Western food places. The local restaurants usually serve really good food and it’s pretty affordable, especially in Gili T where all the restaurants are pretty pricey.

I went back to the hostel, where I took a shower and got ready for the nighttime. This was the intimidating part, trying to meet people. There were so many dudes when I walked out the hostel, I didn’t know who to approach or what to do. So I went back in my room, regrouped, gained more confidence, and walked up to the first table I saw with actual girls LOL. I asked them if I could join them and they said of course. It was a group of 5 Brits (again) who’d met each other while trekking in Ubud, a French Canadian, an Austrian and Irish lad. We all enjoyed drinking games and stuck with each other that night. We all mentioned that we were going snorkeling tomorrow as well, which was great, I found people to chill with!

We went out that night to a few bars, I was pretty over it by the 3rd bar but I tried to put on a good face. I guess the heat and the sucky music (mixed with the fact that it’s impossible for me to get drunk from this watered down alcohol they have here) just gets me really tired and I become bored. We all walked back around 1-2ish because we wanted to be able to wake up for snorkeling the next day.

Nov 2, 2017

My roomies, two Irish girls, were also going snorkeling today. We got ready, scarfed our food down, got our gear, and walked with Tom and Adam to the boat. We’d be snorkeling in 3 spots today: 2 by Gili Meno and 1 by Gili Air (there are 3 Gili Islands in total, Gili Trawangan is the biggest one). The first one we stopped at was a small reef by Gili Meno. The best thing here was an underwater statue. It was really cool and there were so many fish surrounding it. The water is so warm and clear, an ideal spot to snorkel. I was the last one on the boat, me being a freaking fish and all (I’m a Pisces and I’m a swimmer, I’m just naturally a water lover…that’s why I’d be a water bender!!).

The next spot was the best area in finding turtles! Our guides were looking through the glass bottom to see if they could spot one. Once they did, we all go in the water to try and snorkel with it. If you don’t already know, I’m obsessed with turtles, they’re my favorite animal and been my favorite animal ever since I was a kid. I was really excited to actually spot one, get a selfie with it, swim with it and just be in it’s presence. Turtles are amazing, and I’m glad I had the opportunity to swim with one. Again, I was the last on the boat. I kinda got caught in another group and went the wrong way, luckily I’m a good swimmer and swam back to the boat where they were all waiting for me.

Next was lunch, we stopped on Gili Air to eat at this pretty nice place. I got a margarita pizza because I’ve eaten local food for the past few days now and I wanted some pizza. In the middle of lunch it started to down pour so we all brought our food inside to their deck. After waiting a little while for the rain to pass, we had the option of either going to our next snorkel place or going back to the hostel, because it was still a little rainy. We chose to ride it out and go to our next snorkel spot. This place, we were able to feed the fishies bread. I was really sad that my little cube video thing’s battery died because this was super cool. The fish were all swarming around, and when I dove down to swim with them it just looked like a cool ass picture. I guess I don’t need footage, I can just remember in my mind. I loved every second of snorkeling and the vibe was seriously perfect.

After snorkeling, I went back to take a shower. I tried to nap because I was so exhausted but ended up just relaxing and closing my eyes. For dinner, I opted for a Poutine at the hostel restaurant. I know, it’s not that healthy, but I couldn’t resist fries and gravy. That night all of us drank again. I went with them to the first bar but after 10-20 minutes I couldn’t take it anymore, I was way too tired, so I walked back to the hostel and went to sleep.

Nov 3, 2017

I took a while getting up today. I didn’t really have any responsibilities. Some of the group got home this morning after they watched the sunrise. I was a bit jealous that I didn’t make it, but it would have been way too late for me. I had to switch rooms and my roommates, the 2 Irish girls, had to leave because they didn’t extend the night before. After breakfast (eggs, I know I’m getting adventurous), I wanted to bike around the island. A guy named Freddy from Germany asked if he could join me, I said sure the more the merrier LOL.

Biking on the shoreline was really pretty (but freaking hot). I stopped at some shops, we stopped at Ombok Point to take a picture on the iconic swings. After biking for a while, we got really hot and decided to stop and get drinks. I always get some type of juice out here, they take fruit and ice and blend it and it’s usually really cheap. We saw ominous dark cloud coming our way and we immediately paid for our drinks and left. Well, we got stuck in the rain and it was really sucky because we also got lost. But, somehow we actually found our way to the hostel (yay my sense of direction even when I’m lost haha).

I got another gravy chicken sandwich from the hostel, anything with gravy has my name written all over it. I let it digest a bit before heading over to the gym. It was only a 2 minute walk and our hostel gave us 50% off a day pass. I worked out for about an hour and a half, had a protein shake at their bar, came back and took a shower, then went out with Adam, the activities director to watch the sunset. I was going to go by myself, but he told me it was his job to take us and it was only me because no one else wanted to go.

It’s nice being with a local though, he knows everyone on the island and was able to get me the best spot to watch the sunset. Even though there were a lot of clouds, the sunset was definitely breathtaking. All those colors reflecting on the water, it’s just a beautiful combination. We rode back to the hostel and I had drinks again with everyone. We went out again and I got sweet corn as a little snack on the beach. Well it must’ve given me really bad gas because my stomach really hurt afterwards. I was not enjoying myself and Hannah was tired because she watched the sunrise that morning, so we walked back together. I went into my room seeing that nobody even checked into my room, so I was a little confused as to why they didn’t allow those Irish girls to extend their stay.

Anyways, I’m in Canggu right now. One of the scariest things has happened while I was out here, and I want to save it for my next blog post. But, just remember to live every day like it’s your last. Hug your friends and family and remind them how much you love them. Life is short and can get cut short in a matter of seconds. Thank you everyone for being patient with my posts, I’ve been trying to find time to write but it’s still a little difficult. I’m also finally trying to work out every other day (that or yoga) because wellness and health are very important. So stay tuned for the next episode of MELISSA’S SOUTHEAST ASIA BACKPACKING ADVENTURE!!

Hello Cambo(dia)

Oct 24, 2017

I’m finally on my way to a new country, all by my lonesome. The past 7 weeks I’ve been traveling with people I’ve met along the way. I’ve met Liv & Josh literally my first day in Bangkok, it was all our first days and after speaking we realized we were doing the same route. We met Ida in Pai and Sam & Mike and Hannah & Charolette, the 2 UK duos on the slowboat to Lao which was basically 4 weeks ago. Now, after splitting, it’s a bittersweet moment for me. I’ve grown so attached to these people who’ve basically been my family. I basically don’t know how to travel “solo” without them. But, alas, this moment had to come and I was thrown to the wolves.

Just kidding. Sean was there the morning I left Saigon to say bye to me. At least I was able to transition slowly. We took the bus together and went to the new hostel together. The only real time I was alone was on the bus from Vietnam to Cambodia, and it really wasn’t bad. First off, this really cute little Vietnamese girl was very playful. She was playing with me for a good hour, and I gave her one of my animal erasers. She thought it would be a game to give it back to me and I would give it back to her. The game evolved to her taking the pieces apart and throwing them, then once she started to put the small little pieces in her mouth I told her no and her parents took back. I think they knew she was acting up but didn’t want to be rude to me and tell me to stop.

Anyways, the bus went smoothly. I’ve heard a lot of horror stories across the border. Apparently, the visa is only supposed to cost $30, but the bus facilitators usually say it’s $35. This is for their “service fee” because they basically do everything for you. We just fill out the papers, they give it to the peoples at the Vietnam border, get it stamped and shit, tell us to go to the Cambodian border, give all the paperwork, and all we have to do is follow orders. So, I guess it’s worth it since I wouldn’t be able to understand the Vietnamese/Cambodians since they don’t speak good English anyways. I’ve heard stories of people refusing to pay the extra $5, the bus people telling them to do it by themselves, then after it takes so long, they eventually get left at the border and the people left have to take a motortaxi to catch up to their bus. Moral of the story, it’s more efficient and easier if you just pay the extra $5 to get that shit taken care of than being left at the border to fend for yourself.

On the bus, I met the only other Westerner, another guy from the UK (wow, big surprise) named James. He asked me what hostel I was staying at, and said that he would share a tuk tuk with me to see if they had any space. Once we got to Phnom Penh we found a tuk tuk that took us to our hostel, Mad Monkey. I wasn’t feeling well at this point, I definitely had the common cold. So after finishing my blog in my room (which happened to be right next to the really loud bar), I went downstairs to get some food at their restaurant. I got BoBo (rice porridge, I know…big shock) because I needed something soothing for my throat, which was getting worse. James and I sat downstairs, just talking about life until I told him I needed to go upstairs and get some sleep. I was NOT feeling well and we needed to wake up semi early for the Killing Fields/S21 Prison we booked in the morning and I need to be mentally and physically prepared for that.

Oct 25, 2017

So, I didn’t eat eggs today (WOW). But that’s because breakfast isn’t really included in Cambodian hostels. Another weird thing is that they take USD here, and whatever is less than a dollar you get back in Cambodia Riel. This is a good and bad thing, it’s good because I brought a lot of USD here so I don’t need to withdraw anything and spend more $$ on fees, plus I know how what’s a good deal and what’s not (sorta). The bad thing is that they can charge way more than other countries because things are on the dollar. They can charge $1 and we can’t really go lower than that since no one really carries riel. So, poop on that. But I got a nice big fruit bowl for breakfast with yogurt. I woke up still sick, but I was determined to be productive today.

The tuk tuk driver that took us to our hostel from the bus yesterday picked us up around 10:30. Our first stop was the Killing Fields, the place during the Khmer Rouge where they took thousands of Cambodians to their death. Now, I’ve only recently heard about the Cambodian Genocide, I mean I remember briefly hearing about it in bits and pieces, but never really delving deep into what happened, why it happened, and the whole reasoning behind it. When preparing for trip, was when I actually realized that this genocide impacted the country HUGELY (out of 8 million Cambodians, ~2.5 million died in the genocide) that’s basically 1/3 or 1 out of 4 people that you know, gone.

So, the Khmer Rouge brought people here to die. From 1974-1979, Pol Pot wanted Cambodians to get back to an agrarian society, back to basics and farming, a classsless society. Anyone with light skin, a college degree, glasses, spoke a foreign language, had soft hands, or protested, he killed. Anyone he thought was going to overthrow his government, he brought to this and other killing fields to die. But, he didn’t kill them in any humane way. The Khmer Rouge used objects like axes, bamboo poles, machetes, sticks, farming tools, and tools alike to cause blunt trauma to the head (because bullets were too expensive) and slit their throats, then put them in a pile. They then sprinkled chemicals on them, if they were still alive, to finish the job. Here, at the killing fields, is where they explained what happened here and why (via audio guide). There were so many bodies in mass graves here, that from time to time, especially during the rainy season, bones, teeth, and clothes wash to the surface. There’s even a tree, where the Rouge would smash babies/infants/kids skulls on and throw them into a pit, named the “Killing Tree”.

We spent about an hour, hour and a half, just listening and taking everything in. We even bought flowers and incense to put at the memorial. At the stupah is where they showcased some of these skulls found in the pits, and how they died. You can see that a lot are cracked skulls, some have holes in them, and they put a marker indicating how they died. After there, we went to the Tuol Sleng Prison or S21, where they tortured thousands of people.

This prison, before the Khmer Rouge, was a high school. They turned the classrooms into makeshift jail cells and torture chambers. They basically made everyone write confessions about them being spies for the US and FBI. I’m not sure why they would make them do that even when a lot of Cambodians didn’t even know who the FBI were. The Rouge was really good at documenting their work, much like the Nazis. There are pictures of everyone who went through the prison, being displayed throughout each of the buildings. They killed everyone who went through these prisons, sparing only 12 people. One of the survivors, was an artist who painted the horrors that went on in the prison. He actually spends his days there, selling people his book and trying to educate people of the inhumane crimes went on at this prison.

Whew, it was a really heavy day. I was getting lightheaded while walking around. It was getting to me, the stories, I was also fatigued because of my sickness. So all of that combined plus we didn’t eat lunch made me a bit weak. Once we got back I scarfed down eggplant & minced pork which is one of their main dishes here (and absolutely fucking delish). I booked my bus for Siem Reap and went upstairs to take a nap. I guess I was really sick because I napped for 2 hours. I woke up, went to get dinner, then came back to my bunk to watch some Netflix before I slept again.

Oct 26, 2017

I had to wake up a little early today because my bus departs at 9:45, but I had to be ready by 8:45. I checked out pretty early, got a yummy breakfast wrap but couldn’t finish it because the shuttle picked me up to go to the bus. I took the luxury bus company, Giant Ibis, to go to Siem Reap because, treat yo self. I slept basically the whole time, it’s 6 hours from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap too. I only woke up when we stopped for lunch. I didn’t eat any of the over priced food and instead ate the other half of my breakfast wrap (hehe, I’m getting smart). I stayed up for about an hour after lunch then slept again until we got to Siem Reap. My sickness makes me really fatigued and I guess my body really just needs to nap and refuel.

Once in Siem Reap, I took a tuk tuk to my hostel, the Mekong Hostel. I was recommended this hostel by my friend Nicole, who stayed here. She said it would be really easy to meet people and it wasn’t a crazy party hostel. Since I was sick, I thought I wouldn’t be doing a lot of partying anyways, but I wanted to meet people to hang out with. I checked into my room (an all girls dorm) and immediately met Emily, a girl from Georgia (yay American), who was staying in my room. We talked, went downstairs and I got some fries to snack on. We also met another girl in our room, Kirsten (from SJ yay! Someone from the Bay). We decided to hang out that night and go to the night market. 

On the way to the market we stopped at this Cambodian Restaurant where I got Amok chicken, another one of their dishes. It’s chicken and probably some curry baked in a banana leaf, so tasty. At the market I did some souvenir shopping for my friends and family (and bought stuff for myself). Yenno how I said everything is in dollars, well it makes everything seem way more expensive, and it probably is. Kirsten wanted to look for pants for the temple while Emily bought this traditional skirt to also wear to the temples. Back at the hostel, we all just chilled. I was still sick so I didn’t want to go out. So we had an early night.

Oct 27, 2017

I wanted to sleep in because I thought my body needed it, but I guess sleeping in means before 10 (because my body is just used to waking up at that time now, even though there’s no free breakfast). Emily had to check out and was moving hostels, but we told her we’d tell her our plans for Angkor Wat at sunrise. Kirsten and I just chilled in the morning. She still hadn’t gotten her pants so we went to the Old Market by Pub Street to see if we could find some.

We first got food at a small Cambodian restaurant and I got curry chicken. We roamed around the market to see if we could find pants. The Cambodian sales people are really aggressive and if you even look at their product they’re swarming you. At one of the stalls, this really young girl was speaking to us like people (not like money bags) and her English was really good. We decided to give her our business and we both bought pants. She told us she was 15 and on her lunch break. She said she would go back to school at 1:30 and that this shop was her mom’s. So cute. After walking around a bit more I started to get sleepy, so we went back to the hostel. I took a solid 2 hour nap again. Which is weird for me because I don’t usually nap and for such a long time.

After laying around for a while, we decided to go to the Night Market again. We stopped to get food, this time I got chicken basil yum. My goal at the night market was to exchange a shirt I got for a friend (they made me pay an extra dollar to exchange, eye roll) and get some crystals from this British lady we saw the day before. I got this amazing looking Emerald Jadeite that called to me. At first, I didn’t want to get it because it was $45, but I could tell that it was calling for me so I bought it anyways.

We went back to the hostel pretty early. We had to wake up and check out before 4:30am, when our tuk tuk would pick us up. We also bought Valiums (40 tablets for $5?!?!?!) so we popped those once we got back to ensure we would get a good nights sleep and slept around 9pm.

Oct 28, 2017

Well, I guess the Valiums wore off around 2am because both of us woke up to the loud noise of the lady checking in at 2am! She wasn’t quiet at all. You’d think, if you got in that late, you would just put your stuff down and sleep. Well she didn’t and instead decided to be really loud putting things in different places, rustling about, being really noisy. We were knocked out from the drug but still happened to wake up. After she finally went to sleep her fucking phone kept going off with messages, and it wasn’t like it was on vibrate either, that thing was on full volume dinging and shit. To make matters worse, once I fell asleep again, our dorm mate decided to come in at 3:30am with her boyfriend or whatever and was talking really loud in the bathroom (because the walls are paper thin), mind you this is an all girls dorm as well. I was irate at this point and just as I was about to go tell them to shut the fuck up they left. 

So, I was already awake by the time our alarms went off at 4am. We had to check out as well so we lugged all of our stuff downstairs, where Emily was waiting. Our tuk tuk driver first brought us to the ticket booth and we could immediately tell that it was gonna be crowded (I guess it’s this way every day). When we arrived to the main temple, the actual Angkor Wat, there were so many people there already. It was hard to get a good place to see the actual sunrise, and I wanted to do a time lapse on my little cube but that didn’t happen. It was still very beautiful, a little cloudy but enough to see colors and the sun actually rise. The temple itself is so serene and magnificent. In these historical buildings I really like like to imagine it back in it’s prime. I was even blessed by a monk!

The rest of the day consisted of going to 5 different temples. The main Angkor Wat, Bayon Temple, and the one in the jungle were my favorite. The one in the jungle is the famous one with the trees growing in, on top of, and around it (that’s why a lot of it is in ruins because of the tree roots). These temples were really amazing, and I’m glad to have had the opportunity to see them. It’s a bit pricey ($37 for one day) but we were tired and over it by the time noon came around. But, I can say that I saw the amazing Angkor Wat! (Quick fact: they didn’t destroy Angkor Wat during the Khmer Rouge because they thought it stood for Khmer prestige and a symbol of their power, or something like that).

Since Kirsten and I checked out, we went to our new hostel called the White Rabbit. It’s a cool, new hostel that has themed rooms and cool decor like in Alice in Wonderland. We got some food from their restaurant, I got BoBo (rice porridge) because I still didn’t feel a 100%, but definitely better than the days before. We walked around the area of our hostel, got a chocolate and lemon tart, then went back to the room to kind of relax. I did a lot of “admin”, some work for back home and took a shower and braided my hair (which takes forever but I’m finally getting so good). 

For dinner we ate at this delicious vegetarian restaurant and I finally got falafel, something I’ve been craving for forever. And we got ready to go out. Since everything is in dollars $1-2 shots didn’t seem like a lot (well I guess it’s because it’s not). We went out to Pub Street for the first time since we’ve been here. At one of the bars we put some cool glitter and face paint on. We danced and had a really good night out and it was just the 2 of us. I’m really glad I met Kirsten, she reminds me of my friends back home and it was a blast partying with her! We got back home, I somehow washed all the facepaint and glitter off (I don’t remember doing that) and smartly set my alarm before I drank (since I have to wake up at 5:45am for my 8:30am flight).

Traveling solo for the first time has been a really good experience for me. I’ve met cool people, even just for a day or two, and really got to know them and talk to them about life. I guess that’s the good thing about meeting different people (and being solo), you hear different opinions and stories. I think it helps you broaden your mind to different ways of thinking and doing things. You listen to their life story, their goals and aspirations, their reasons for traveling and wanderlusting, and it’s so cool to actually open up to complete strangers. I’m really glad that I’m traveling solo, being vulnerable in a sea of people in the same position as you can actually be a good thing. When you let your guard down and really be your raw, real self, you can really learn a lot. And, if you take something from everyone you meet, I guarantee that you’ll be a better, well-rounded person.

I’m now on a plane to Bali, I’ve spent a good amount of the morning still drunk from the night before (that’s why I’m really proud of myself that I got all my shit together and woke up to make my flight). I’ve spent 7 hours in the Kuala Lumpur airport and now I’m just really ready to get to Bali and sleep. So stayed tuned for my time in Bali and the next episode of MELISSA’S SOUTHEAST ASIA BACKPACKING ADVENTURE!