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30

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Last night at 11:59pm, I was snuggled in a king-sized bed between Cathy and Michelle, a pair of sisters I’ve known for nearly 20 years, and Cathy, who has been one of my closest friends since we met in elementary school, was pointing at the clock on my computer screen, gleefully crooning, “Soon!! Soooooon!”

The clock rolled over to midnight and that was it. The end of my twenties. I am now 30 years old, same as Cathy, who had left her twenties behind a week earlier.

Of course, nothing has really changed and as I am spending my birthday at a beautiful resort on the tropical island of Langkawi, Malaysia, there’s absolutely nothing to complain about. I can’t deny that my life for the last six months has been more than agreeable and celebrating not one, but two New Years (Western and Chinese) in addition to this landmark birthday, has given me a lot to think about in regard to my “real life” back home. It’s strange how leaving home can put it in the forefront of one’s mind.

Happy birthday to me! I’m a lucky girl with a blessed life and I couldn’t be more thankful; hopefully 30 will be as auspicious a year as 29 ♥

Photo taken in Vang Vieng, Laos

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Delay-sia

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I am so happy that my long time friend Cathy and her lovely sister Michelle met up with me in Singapore yesterday and that we are now traveling in Malaysia together, ending on the island of Langkawi where we will be celebrating our 30th birthdays. Traveling alone meant I had lots of time to edit photos and compose lengthy blog entries, so while I’m being entertained by the Harrison sisters (or entertaining them, in kind), things will slow down around here. There’s still so much to share from Japan and my travels beyond, I don’t know how I will ever catch up but I promise it will happen sooner or later.

Thanks to everyone who has sent me nice comments lately– I really appreciate it, especially being alone on the road for so long. I feel like I have friends all over the world now ♥

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One Photo Every Hour (or so)

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08:00: I wake up and ruefully gaze at the contents of my backpack– all clean laundry, but needing to be coaxed back into my bag within the next hour or so.

09:00: While packing, I choose to immortalize this plastic bag from Cambodia before I discard it.

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10:00: I don’t have to be at the travel center where I’ll catch my bus until after 1300 so I finally stop in at Wat Sisaket. It’s totally gorgeous, rows of golden Buddhas before thousands of tiny niches containing even tinier Buddhas.

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11:00: On my walk to JoMa Bakery, I choose to immortalize a fierce tuktuk decoration.

12:00: A soy chai latte and a salmon/dill/cream cheese bagel at JoMa Bakery. After weeks of watching Sandy Cohen tear into bagels on The OC, finding this place in Vientiane was like stumbling onto an oasis in the desert.

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13:00: When I bought my bus ticket, the saleslady had smirked slightly and said, “It local bus.” I feared that this truck/tuktuk hybrid, so popular in Laos, was going to take me all the way to the airport in Udon Thani, Thailand, a few hours away.

14:00: Turns out it just dropped me off at the local bus station.

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15:00: Local buses are a bit more rickety and the aisles are usually lined with tiny plastic seats for extra passengers. Almost all buses, VIP or local, include regionally-specific karaoke videos for your viewing pleasure. This particularly meta karaoke video featured guys on a bus watching karaoke videos.

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16:00: Packed in, shoulder-to-shoulder, crossing the Friendship Bridge that takes us from Laos into Thailand.

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15:00: I’m in Udon Thani, Thailand! Yay! I’m greeted by some ewoks in t-shirts. And yes, this was the first thing I ate in Thailand. NO JUDGING.

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16:00: A friendly tuktuk driver takes me to the airport, while I admire his Big Gulp vase.

17:00: On an Air Asia flight. It felt like we were in the air for about 20 minutes. The flight cost me around $50 (plus about $10 for transit to the airport in Thailand) but shaved like 22 hours off my travel time from Vientiane to Bangkok. Sometimes it’s worth spending an extra $25.

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18:00: I’m in Bangkok!!! SAWASDEE!!!

19:00: Now I’m REALLY in Bangkok. At first glance, it’s a crazy, gritty, fabulous city.

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20:00: I absolve myself of my McDonalds-related sins by going for street food with some girls from the hostel.

The rest of the night involved hanging out at the hostel (Udee Bangkok, by the way, one of the nicest hostels I’ve ever seen) and interneting. There you have it– a day in my life on the road in Southeast Asia! Thanks to Hello Sandwich for inspiring me to do this.

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Typhoon Day

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This morning in Vientiane, I woke up to the sound of pouring rain. I’ve had good luck with the weather so far in Southeast Asia, with only a few downpours sending me running for cover, but for the most part these were intense but brief.

There were a few days in Japan, however, where it was almost dangerous to go outside: TYPHOON! I was in Kobe for one of them, happily ensconced with Julie and Hiroki in their cozy home. To a Canadian, a typhoon is something of a novelty, though their deadly nature is well known– take the Philippines, for example.

I braved the howling winds and piercing rain to run to the grocery store.

“Watch out for flying objects!” Julie told me as I left.

I think I chuckled at the idea and then walked into a sheet of furious weather that had me laughing hysterically and running full speed for shelter at the same time. It was so insane, especially because we were apparently experiencing only a small corner of the typhoon, the main force of it focused on Shikoku.

Luckily for us, a typhoon day meant watching funny (to me, at least) Japanese TV shows and discussing whatever we were surfing on the internet at the moment, editing photos, writing and eating Japanese snacks Hiroki brought us from the conbini. I even made us spaghetti for dinner. I hope any future typhoons I may encounter will be just as nice.

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Vietnam to Tokyo

I was so lucky that my boyfriend Jordan was able to get some time off work and join me for a few weeks of romping north to south in Vietnam. Then, to my great jealousy, he did a few days’ layover in Tokyo, so he was able to experience the chaotic madness of Hanoi and Saigon, and the organized madness of the scale of Tokyo. I love that he got to be a part of my trip and I wish he were back with me now. We had a lot of fun together– this video he made can attest to that ♥

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New Year

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At the stroke of midnight on New Years Eve, as the calendar transitioned from 2012 to 2013, I found myself clambering out of a bog, clutching the soaking wet corpse of my DSLR camera. Me and some friends were staying at a campground on Koh Ta Kiev, a small undeveloped island off the coast of southern Cambodia. A few minutes before midnight, I had raced back to my tent to grab my camera to capture the beachside fireworks. To get there, I had to cross a narrow makeshift footbridge, hastily assembled to counter a boggy creek created by the rising tide. On my way back, I lost my balance half way across the bridge and fell into the water, camera and all.

It was certainly an inauspicious start to 2013, the chant of “10, 9, 8, 7…” in the distance ringing in my ears as I waded out of the murky waters. My camera, my most steadfast companion for the last few months, was dead, flooded with destructive salt water. I’m in Siem Reap now, home to the famous Angkor Wat and its sister temples and ruins, and to fill the void, I bought a Canon G12. It’s been challenging adjusting to it, to say the least.

Back at Koh Ta Kiev, a dreadlocked, shirtless guy wearing a seashell on a hemp string watched me stagger down the beach in shock, holding my dripping camera.

“Maybe it’s a sign!” He said earnestly.

A sign of what, I’m not sure, but I am going to use the opportunity to push myself creatively. I’ve become used to framing the world in a certain way, through one lens and one machine, and now I have to break out of that comfort zone and develop a new vision. I had never ruled out the fact my camera might be destroyed or stolen on this trip, but when it did happen I was surprised at just how devastated I felt. Photography has come to mean more to me than ever and losing my camera has made the last few days feel almost aimless.

I’m feeling better today, a great part in thanks to a very special pep talk from Anja, and I am looking forward to seeing the world in a different way with the G12. Thank you to everyone who has supported my penchant for shoving a camera in everyone’s face and for your kind words, praise and help since I’ve left on my trip. It means a lot to me and I promise to continue sharing in the future.

Here’s to 2013!

The photo is of Angkor Wat at sunrise… taken by my cellphone.

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Merry Christmas

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Merry Christmas from southern Cambodia! My festive cleavage and I would like to wish you happy holidays and hope that where ever you are, you’re as warm as I am in the Cambodian sun, heh heh. Hope you’re all enjoying good family, friends and FOOD!! What I wouldn’t give for my dad’s mashed potatoes right now. My gift to you all will be catching up this blog with my current whereabouts (SE Asia) eventually.

xoxo Rachel

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