A walk through Bangkok's Khao San road, the Grand Palace, Wat Pho, and other touristy sites generally results in more than a couple tuk-tuk drivers touting trips to a floating market. While many will accept their offer, there are some who shy away, not wishing to visit an overcrowded market that is filled with more tourists than locals.
You've made the first step, you've decided to say no to riding elephants, and yes to visiting or volunteering with elephants in a sanctuary that promote health, freedom, and natural behaviour, now what? What should you know about being a volunteer? If you're visiting for a day, how should you dress or behave? What are the unspoken rules for interacting with elephants in a sanctuary like Elephant Nature Park?
As I sit in a wooden chair on the platform, surrounded by fighting dogs and cats that could care less about what is happening around them, I look towards the grounds of the park as the sky turns into soft oranges, yellows, and pinks; In the distance I hear the deep roar of an elephant, followed by a sharp trumpet from another.
My fingers are sticky and wet, and I can feel juice slowly trickling from the corner of my mouth to my chin; looking around I notice I'm not the only person who decided to eat with my hands, and I feel a sense of relief; I tend to worry about displaying bad manners when eating in a foreign country.
The boat chugged to a stop as we reached Inle Lake and I started cursing myself: I should have known something was up when the guide I had hired told me she wasn’t going with us, leaving me in the boat with a Burmese boy as ‘captain’. Unlike the guide I thought I had hired, my young boat captain only spoke Burmese.
It's early morning and I've just walked through a gauntlet of souvenir stalls, locals setting up their wares and getting ready for the onslaught of tourists to hit. At first, I was reluctant, I'm not interested in shopping, I want to get a glimpse of local life and culture; and while souvenir hawkers represent a small sliver of a community's culture, this is not what I had in mind.
When I started researching my trip to Myanmar, one of the things I had decided to do was the circle train line. A three hour journey, the train ventures into the outer edges of Yangon, for K300, which is about 31 cents.
It all started with a Skype call with my editor at Bootsnall (a popular indie travel website that I've been using since 2009), a conversation about solo travel in Southeast Asia, and adventure. A conversation where I ended up suggesting an article on travelling solo, and before I realized what was happening the word 'Myanmar' had trickled off my tongue. I didn't even thinking about getting my Myanmar visa.
When you're a bigger person, in a much smaller world, things are going to be different, and sometimes they may even be hard, but that doesn't mean you need to fear them or avoid them. Body image in Bangkok and most of Southeast Asia is vastly different than what we face at home.
The sun was beating down on me, it was mid-afternoon, and I had been walking through the ruins in Ayutthaya for all of ten minutes, and desperate for some shade. Of course, I didn't want to sound like a wimpy tourist in front of my Thai friends, so I plodded along, praying for a wee break.