Rainy Day Bliss

The clouds are thick and dark, all you can hear are the rumbling sound of the thunder and the heavy rain falling hard on the concrete roads. Every now and then someone on a scooter completely drenched rush by.

I’ts Monday and the weather is shit. The streets are practically empty, giving me the feeling of a ghost town. But it doesn’t matter, because I’m in Thailand. I’m in Koh Tao drinking coffee, and I’m the luckiest girl in the world.

I’ve been ‘on the road’ for almost 3 and a half month now, and it’s crazy to think of how much I’ve experienced so far, all the memories that’s been created. And most importantly – all the people I’ve gotten to know.

In Bali I continued to meet people supporting me while I was dealing with the loss of my friend, everyone being warm and kind. I went to the Philippines for a whole month, and saw the most stunning nature and beaches I have ever seen, and I was never alone (unless I chose it myself). People treated me like family and cooked me dinner and took me on boat trips. Great conversations were had, and friendships were made. And then I made it back to my dear Thailand, where I feel like I belong. To everyone I met, you know who you are. Thank you for the memories, the conversations, the drinks, the jungle dancing, the drumming and the laughs.

After a week in lovely Koh Chang, and a quick weekend in Bangkok, I’m now in Koh Tao. The rain is pouring down cleaning any slate that needs cleaning.

And I am grateful.

Love, Charlotte

 

Next stop on the road will be Koh Phangan, and then back to Tonsai, where I will set up camp for a little while. See you when you see me.

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When reality strikes

Nobody plans to be half a world away at times like this..

You get comfortable in your travel bubble, you see beautiful new places, meet amazing likeminded people and create wonderful memories. It’s easy to forget that that things go on back home also when you’re not there. No matter how well traveled you are, nothing really can ever prepare you for bad news back home when you’re at the other side of the planet.

I woke up one week ago to a Facebook message from a friend from my home town, telling me he had some bad news. My stomach twisted as I read that sentence. What do you do when you are completely alone in a hotel room far away, with none of your close friends near by when you get the news that someone you loved has died?

After a melt down and a panic attack I pulled myself together and messaged Erin, a girl I met at a local bar a few nights earlier, who immediately jumped on her scooter to come and meet me so I wouldn’t be alone. We walked to a quiet beach and sat and just talked and looked at the waves for a few hours. Thank you, Erin.

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The morning after I checked out of my hotel and got the first taxi back to Canggu, a place I visited and really enjoyed a few weeks back, just to be in a more familiar environment.

There’s a Facebook community called Girls LOVE Travel with hundreds of thousands of women talking about all things travel related, and I reached out to them regarding dealing with sorrow while traveling. A girl named Megan saw my post and chose to come over to Canggu for some support. We went to the beach for the sunset and lit a candle for him, and this friendly stranger held me as I cried my eyes out as the sun sank below the horizon. Thank you, Megan.

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I’m writing this in hope that it might help someone else that’s in the same situation. Don’t be afraid of reaching out to strangers. Most people are good people. Take one day at a time. And if that becomes too much to handle, take an hour at a time. And breathe.

And for me, I’m getting by. In a couple of days I’m heading to Filippines, and I’m really looking forward to that.

– Love, Charlotte

Here are some pictures from my ventures around Bali the last few weeks.

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Brothers and sisters

Brothers and sisters

The moment I stepped of the fast boat in the harbor of Gili Air, I felt that I had arrived in island paradise. Gone were the traffic and the noise of busy Seminyak, Bali. Here I found the slow, easy going laid back island life I had been longing for.

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The Gili’s are a group of islands just of the coast of Lombok, and they belong to the Lombok region. Not Bali, as many people think. All though Bali is mainly hindu, Lombok like the rest of Indonesia, is mainly muslim, which means the culture and religious elements are a little bit different here than in Bali, where most people travel from when they go to the Gili islands. In the middle of Gili Air is the Mosque, who calls out for prayer several times a day, which you quickly get used to (even the one at 5 am I stopped noticing after a couple of nights).

I had booked myself in for two full weeks in Gili Air, to completely let my shoulders down, relax and enjoy the slow life. My days passed by with laying on the beach, taking walks around the island, and snorkeling. Nothing more, nothing less. And that was exactly what I needed. Many places around the island they offer Half day snorkeling trips for only 100 000 IDR (60 NOK). It takes you around different great spots around the 3 Gili islands, and I saw no more than ten sea turtles. Amazing! I also saw the very poisonous black and white sea snake one other day snorkeling just off the beach. But they say they aren’t aggressive toward humans.

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Traveling solo can sometimes be a little bit lonely, but the friendly guys working in Legend Bar up north of the island always made me feel welcome, and treated me as their friend. And I also consider them my friends now.
Sisters or brothers are something people commonly call you in these parts, and it feels so nice. It gave me a feeling of belonging and being included. So I hope all my new brothers and sisters of Gili Air reads this, I’m going to miss you all.

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After two weeks I decided to check out the infamous party island Gili Trawangan before heading back to Bali. I was completely overwhelmed by the crowd and the noise arriving here, compared to the quiet of Gili Air. But I had booked myself into a very nice and charming homestay called Three Little Birds owned by Norwegian Yvonne which she runs with her husband Yandi. They really make you feel like part of their family. The second night everyone (the owners, staff, and the guests) shared an amazing Indonesian meal together in the yard, and it was absolutely delicious. Terima Kasih!

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And here’s a bunch of photos I took these last two weeks.

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Until next time!
– Charlotte

First stop – Bali

So this was me just a few days ago:

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This was 5 am in Norway and I’m waiting for my bus ride to the airport. Nervous, excited, a bit sad and a bit happy at the same time, and with a one way ticket to South East Asia in hand.

It took me about 20 hours to get from there to here, Seminyak, Bali. And with absolutely no sleep the entire trip, I quickly crashed in my hotel room.

Since then my days have pretty much consisted of lounging by the pool, writing, reading, and walking around eating delicious food and drinking Bintang. I’ve also tried motorbike taxi for the first time, as I realized that after visiting this part of the world a few times now, I really had no excuse for not using their most normal and cheapest taxi option any more. I was shit scared for the 20 minutes (4 kilometers) it took from Seminyak to Kuta on the back on a scooter, but for less than 1USD i need to just get used to this.

If you ever come to Bali, i recommend you download the app GoJEK. It’s like UBER, where you can order taxi though the app and see the price and distance before ordering. Ordering through that is a lot cheaper than getting a scooter taxi out on the street, even though they are more available (you will be offered transport every 5 meters or so). Sometimes there might be some waiting time for an available GoJEK driver. But I suggest you stay clear of Kuta, though.

Today I’ve booked my boat ticket to Gili Air, where I’ll be staying for a couple of weeks. I’m really  looking forward to small island vibes and no traffic. So I’m headed there this friday. The Gili islands belong to the island group Lombok, and I might check out the main island Lombok after Gili, as it’s supposed to be a lot less touristy than Bali, but I’ll figure that out when the time comes.

Here are some pictures of my days so far in Bali. DSC01478DSC01484DSC01487DSC01490DSC01495DSC01499DSC01500DSC01509DSC01521DSC01524DSC01528DSC01537DSC01543DSC01546

 

Back to reality

I’m back in Oslo, the city I call home. Right now it feels a bit strange, rather than home, though. 

Soundtrack of the day: Bob Marley – Redemption Song.

After arriving in Saigon I forgot to blog, and got more focused on taking in as much as I could for my last week of traveling before headed home.

I stayed two nights in Saigon, but unfortunately I wasn’t feeling well while there. So I mostly spent time near my hostel, which was in a side street of Bui Vien, the main party street of Saigon. I did some shopping over at Saigon Square, got my hair cut and my nails done for a total of about six dollars, and I caught som live music at Universal bar. The guys who work there are super friendly by the way. 

Dried jellyfish, anyone?

Then I hopped on a flight back to Thailand to visit Tonsai one last time, at least for now. 

After checking in I walked over to Chill Out bar & Bungalows where me and my friend Kim stayed only five weeks earlier. I was immediately recognized and greeted with a “welcome back” from Bee/B, one of the nice guys working at Chill Out. Once again I felt at home in Tonsai. 

Bon getting some new ink at Chill Out bar.

I then caught the sunset from the beach as I always do. Later it was time to go over to my regular Tonsai hang out, the Sunset Bar. It was really nice to see Toffi, Pon and Wat again, it allways is. These guys are the best. 
The day after I went exploring a bit. From Tonsai there are three ways to reach the other parts of Railay. One is a short 10 minute climb through the steep path going from the south end of Tonsai beach, getting you right on the north end of Railay west beach. I’ve done this a few times. Another one is going around the same cliff when it’s low tide, you just walk on the slippery rocks around. But this means you have to wait until low tide just before sunset, so you might not make it back before dark. The last one is the jungle path, which takes about 30 minutes. I decided to try this one out to do something new. 30 sweaty, mosquito filled, creepy crawlies dodging walks in and between jungle and electrical wires minutes later, I got to Railay East, the more laid back part of Railay other than Tonsai.

Welcome to the jungle
Please don’t let there be snakes
 

I walked around a bit and then over to the beautiful but overcrowded Phra Nang beach, the one I kayaked to five weeks ago. Yeah, the one with the penis cave. 

Later that day I got the honor of being asked by Toffi to help out behind the bar at Sunset Bar that night and the next. I had so much fun doing that, so Toffi, if you read this, send me a word, I’d love to come back and do it again. See how happy  I am 😀

Welcome, welcome!
 

I timed my return to Tonsai perfectly for their yearly clean up day-festival. Two days of cleaning the beach, wolleyball, live music and great food, drinks and fire shows. The entire Tonsai community and guests down at the beach for one big party. Pretty much amazing.

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Bon and Bee keeping up the party
 

I left the morning after. I hate leaving Tonsai. But I had to go to Bangkok to catch my flight back to Norway, my journey was over for this time. 

I’m at a coffee shop in my town, Oslo. It’s freezing outside, and I just want to get on a flight back to Thailand. Time to save up again, and hopefully I’ll be back on that beach for New Years 2017/2018. 
Dear Tonsai, I’ll see you when you see me. Why not?

Peace and love, Charlotte. 

17 hours on the Reunification Express

I knew this was going to be a long leg, so I chose to splurge on first glass tickets. What happened on departure I did not see coming, though. 

The Reunification Express is the train route that connects Vietnam from Sapa in the north, to Saigon in the south. When flying wherever you miss a lot of the country while traveling, and I heard only great things about the route, so I decided to go by train from Danang, which is in the middle of Vietnam, to Saigon/Ho Chi Minh city.

You can choose between soft 4 bed sleeper cart, hard 6 bed sleeper cart, soft upright seats, and hard seats. Since this was an overnight train, I chose the soft 4 bed sleeper for most comfort, I also chose to book it through Violette, who offers extra luxury service in addition, so that I wold be certain that the 17 hours in a train would be as comfortable as possible.

Upon departure I was ready, I had bought plenty of food or the trip as I doubted there were any vegetarian options on the train. About 40 minutes late, the train rolls into the platform, and that’s when I realized something was up.

I had trouble finding my cart as it wasn’t marked as it said it would be on my Violette ticket. The train staff just looked at me confused when I showed them my ticket, and as everyone else had gotten on and the train was blowing it’s horns, I was afraid I wouldn’t get on. Then comes this angry looking man in a railway uniform and takes my ticket out of my hands, and starts walking off. I follow, he’s not saying one word in English, I have no idea what’s going on. He discusses with the ticket lady, and then they gesticulate for me to board the train, which by now had started rolling. What else was I supposed to do?

Finally on the train, this same angry looking man, from now on known as Mr. Angry, points for me to follow him, but is not interested in actually waiting for me as I try to keep up with my 20kg backpack, which by the way was way to wide for the narrow hallway on the train. Finally Mr. Angry points for me to sit in a cart, which is of the same kind I had booked, so I thought at least that’s settled.  Meanwhile he’s calling Violette, and all I hear is alot of discussion in Vietnamese. I start to pack out and make my bed while he’s making several different calls, sitting in my cart, still angry looking. And he watches me as I does this, not saying anything to stop me. After about 15 minutes when I’m all packed out, Mr. Angry hangs up and says. “Come”, and gesticulates for me to bring my stuff. So this asshole had been watching me for 15 minutes getting settled in without stopping me, and now tells me to hurry and follow him with my stuff. I hated him by now.

Mr. Angry then points me into another room where there was an angry looking lady as well, this was allso a soft 4 bed sleeper cart but without the extra service soI thought “fine, I just wanna relax and settle in for my trip now”. Then he calls the booking company I used and hand his phone to me, and a booking consultant tells me in English that Violette had booked me for the wrong date, and they didn’t have any available soft sleepers for this train, but that they could offer me a bed in a hard 6 bed sleeper cart, which is in no way larger than the 4 bed carts, and far dirtier. So once again I was in the wrong cart, and was asked by Mr. Angry to gather my stuff and follow him once again.

I ended up in an even smaller, hard (as in almost laying on hardwood) 3 bed sleeper cart shared with a Vietnamese family of four sharing two of the beds. I got the third, top bed to my self. So we were 5 people in about four square meters for 17 hours, with complimental cockroaches in the cracks of the room. And the window was so dirty I had no view. No food carts ever came to us at “lower class” tickets, so I’m glad I stocked up on food before departure.

But the family I was roomies with were very friendly, we could not understand each other, but alot can be said with smiles and body language. I also got to finish my book and start another, and the view could be enjoyed from out in the hallway.  At least until sundown. Every now and then Mr. Angry passed by, looking at me angrily.

So all in all it ended up OK, and Violette will refund my ticket. I just need to spend the rest of the day recovering from the mostly sleepless night. It’s days like this I realize that I’m not in my twenties any more!

I have chosen to follow my gut feelings, so I’ve changed my flight tickets. I’ll be gong back to Tonsai the day after tomorrow. It feels right, rounding up my trip where I’ve had the most fun.

Peace! – Charlotte

Rainy day blues

No matter how much I love traveling, it would be a lie to tell you that everything is amazing, awesome, memorable or great every day all the time while you’re traveling. Especially if you travel by yourself.

I’m currently in Hoi An, Vietnam. The country took my breath away from the moment I arrived after flying in to Hanoi from Laos. The old town of Hanoi with it’s narrow streets packed with life, culture and madness traffic. Such a vibrant city, and I loved it. 
I walked around dodging the traffic and breathing in the essence of Hanoi, and probably quite a lot of fumes at the same time. But I did it alone. I struggled to find people to talk with, everyone around me seemed so busy. Now I find myself in Hoi An, the most beautiful town I’ve been to, doing the exact same thing. Walking around, loving everything I come upon, but still I do this alone. 


Maybe it’s the rainy weather. Maybe Vietnam isn’t such a normal destination for solo travelers as for instance Thailand is. Or maybe it’s me not really feeling it here. Which would be sad, because it really is beautiful here. 

This is the only journey I can afford for 2017, so maybe I’ll fly back to Krabi, Thailand and end my trip back at my love, Tonsai, where my heart is. Even though I really can’t afford it. We’ll see. It might feel like a defeat to me, but sometimes you got to follow your heart as well. I’ll give it a few days. If I don’t, I’ll go on to Ho Chi Minh City and Phu Quoc island. If anyone has been to that island and feels that it’s a place I shouldn’t miss, give me a comment and tell me about it! 

I’m fine, though 🙂 

Cheers