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Top 5 travel moments of 2014

I am moving to www.thelitebackpacker.com 🙂

Blogging… it isn’t easy.  I still remember my first post about my favourite village in England.  It took me hours to write, days to re-write, weeks of feed back from friends and family, and countless hand wringing moments.  When I finally hit the publish button I felt simultaneously elated and exhausted.  The next few posts got only a little easier – and then suddenly I had an epiphany – no one but people I knew was reading my blog, I stopped taking it so seriously.  Over night, I relaxed my writing style, poured more of my heart and personality into my posts and found fulfilment in just writing.

Then suddenly there were people following my blog who weren’t related to me…

The excitement I felt at seeing that email in my inbox to tell me that someone was following my blog… AND I DIDNT KNOW THEIR NAME! I then called my mum (obviously), texted my best friend and spent the whole day smiling.

That was the beginning – 2 1/2 years ago!

Lyme Regis in Snow

The last couple of years has helped to shape me as a blogger and a writer. Through the highs of getting likes to the lows of feeling un-inspired.  I have loved every second of it and through this blog I have learnt so much, about writing, connecting, networking, how big and small the world is, and about my own strengths!

The time has now come for me to take the next step, to build further on the foundation of this amazing blog.

I have spent the last couple of months building a website that will embody all of the things that I loved about this blog and have the platform to build so much more.  It’s still about travel (obviously) but with a healthy twist!

Check out www.thelitebackpacker.com to keep in touch with my adventures!

Here you will see some of the posts that you have loved from this blog, such as:The Lite Backpacker

Looking forward to connecting with you all through my new site.  Would love to keep in contact and continue to share. If you are my wonderful family and friends who have faithfully followed this blog from the beginning – I expect you are already following my new website… 😉

Thanks,
Helen AKA The Lite Backpacker

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Are you a suitcase snob?

Santa Monica Beach - how do you travel?

This morning I had lunch with one of my oldest and dearest friends.  She has been off travelling the world for the last year, roaming around Europe and Asia – she has made a pit stop in Sydney over christmas before she continues her adventures in New Zealand… oh what a life!

Over breakfast she was telling me a story about how she had met a Chilean guy while traveling, at first she didn’t think he would be cool to hang out as he was travelling with a suitcase but then on further acquaintance she learnt that the reason he had a suitcase was because he was so broke he couldn’t afford to buy a new backpack.  She looked at me and said with refreshing honesty “I’m a suitcase snob”.

Cambodia - to suitcase or backpack - how do you travel?

It got me thinking – previously I have written about how we are all travel snobs, how we judge people for not travelling in the way that we think “real” travel should be done.  What it came down to is that there is no right or wrong way to travel – but you may not get along with someone who is cocktail bar hopping when you are chasing down the cheapest beer in town. Fact.

My friend is a very practical lady, throughout our misspent youth there would be many times when her practicality would win out – such as at 3am after dancing all night in heels and a short dress… suddenly my feet were sore and I was cold.  Whereas she would be in cute but sensible shoes and would have packed a cardigan – all warm and toasty! So she practically unpacked her comment – suitcases just weren’t a sensible travel accessory if you want to travel on a budget. Therefore anyone travelling with a suitcase is either a) travelling in “style” or b) not sensible.

Croatia - taking a suitcase or backpack... oh so many stairs

After a few moments thought on my last few trips I had to agree.  Suitcases were not sensible for the budget traveller!

So can your travel bag define your travel style? And does it determine the travellers you will associate with while on the road?

Yes, your travel bag is definitely going to determine your travel style. Without the money to splurge on door to door taxi’s wheeling a suitcase through most cities would be a nightmare.  I could mention the crowds and the numerous stair cases but I think the main problem would be the cobbled streets – your arm would vibrate off! Then imagine schlepping it through the underground in London or New York – up and down those escalators with people rushing past climbing over your bag – just awkward. If your island hopping through South East Asia try wheeling your suitcase through sand as you walk along the beach looking for the path to possible accommodation.  None of this sounds like fun. So you wouldn’t do it – if you are travelling on a budget a backpack is always going to be your choice (unless of course you are one of those people who common sense eludes).  You would catch a cab from the airport instead of public transport.  You probably wouldn’t go to little off the beaten track islands which have no resorts on them to avoid getting bogged down in the sand. And the underground was never an option. Therefore a suitcase would be no hassle and actually the right bag for you.

But should we backpackers be snobby towards the suitcase pullers? Like my friend, when I am in a hostel and I see a group of girls with suitcases – my first thought is always “they are probably not my sort of travel people” and yet 9 out of 10 times once I have chatted to them I have learnt that the suitcase never mattered – they are girls, I have had a good gossip with them, maybe even borrowed their hair straightener – which they mercifully had room for in their spacious suitcase – and found some fabulous new friends. In short, no – lets not judge the suitcase pullers for their bad decision.  Their travel style is just a little different is all. You can still travel on a budget and have a suitcase – you may choose to spend your money on those methods of transport that make your life easier rather than the numerous beers your average backpackers consume every night. Or you may enjoy carrying a suitcase up several flights of stairs as it’s how you get your daily work out in while travelling.

I ask you fellow backpackers out there – are you a suitcase snob? be honest now!

Backpack or Suitcase - how do you travel;

Wanderlust Wednesday – a Mental Break in Langkawi

“So She ran away in her sleep, and dreamed of paradise" Coldplay - Taking some time out with day dreaming of Langkawi

There are so many places in the world that I want to visit, I wonder how I will ever have the time, let alone the funds! It can be a disparaging thought when choosing the next place to explore. Do I want a winter vacation or a summer holiday (I will pick summer every time), do I want to relax or do I want to jump out of a plane, do I want to dance all night long or curl up by a fire with a good book? Choosing a new place to visit is a task in its self.  Today, I am not dreaming about an unknown shore or a lonely mountain peak, but about a place I have already been, a place that I have sworn I will make it back to, a place that completely satisfied my desire for sunshine and adventure.  On this Wanderlust Wednesday I am dreaming about heading back to Langkawi, Malaysia.

Wanderlust dreaming of Langkawi, Malaysia - closest thing to complete paradise!

Why visit Langkawi? Apart from the pristine beaches, crystal clear water and soothing weather. Langkawi is still a relatively untouched must see destination by the backpacking crowd.  Most backpackers get caught up in the Thai full moon scene and never make it down to this charming archipelago – it may be that they are scared off by the alcohol restrictions. The infrastructure in Malaysia far outstrips several of its neighbours so the streets on Langkawi are well-lit and feel safe. The hotels and hostels are all amazing and still cheaper than you pay across the major touristy parts of Thailand.

Quick facts: Langkawi is a group of over 100 islands off the coast of Malaysia in the Andaman Sea near the Thailand border – the largest and most popular island is Pulau Langkawi. As Malaysia is a predominant Islamic country alcohol can be hard to find, however, on Pulau Langkawi you can purchase duty-free alcohol. The few islands that are populated are generally geared towards tourism, with it being a favourite holiday destination for the Malay.

Wanderlust dreaming of Langkawi, Malaysia - closest thing to complete paradise!

How to get there:

  • Fly – Langkawi has its own airport which you can get connecting flights from Kuala Lumpur or Bangkok
  • Ferry – if you are travelling around the main land there are plenty of ferries that go from the main land as well as the neighbouring island of Penang.  If you are travelling down from Thailand you can catch one from the Thai town of Satun.

Let’s talk about food: The British Empire colonised Malaysia and used it as a trading and military base with the rest of Asia, in doing so it has collected an extremely diverse population which has been reflected in the food. Malaysian food is often mistaken for chinese, however it generally uses a wider variety of vegetables and fruits and incorporates its large Indian populations love of curry into many of its dishes.  As a rule – if you don’t like things spicy or hot, ask for the REALLY MILD version of any dish.  If you do like things hot, I would still suggest starting low and working your way up as the Malay’s have a unique take on what constitutes a “little” chilli.  Malaysian food is one of my favourite cuisines – not only because of the chilli but because they often create a great mix of spice, fruit and fresh vegetables. Make sure you clean out your sinuses with a big bowl of fresh Tom Yum Soup.  Or instead of your boring toast for breakfast go in search for what some of the locals have – it’s often curry.

Wanderlust dreaming of Langkawi, Malaysia - closest thing to complete paradise!

When you feel like relaxing:

  • There is no end to the beautiful beaches that surround the main island of this archipelago – so even if you don’t make it to any of the smaller islands you can spend numerous days and hours lolling about on the sand with a coconut in hand. The main beaches are sparsely populated unlike the other major beach destinations on the beaten track.
  • If however, this is too crowded I suggest hiring a scooter or car and heading in search of a more private beach… there are plenty of them around!
  • If you feel like leaving the beach but not doing anything to strenuous – head up to the Langkawi Cable Car for spectacular views of the rainforest and the whole island.
  • Depending on what time of year you are there you may encounter some afternoon monsoon rains – I believe that this as an instruction from the earth to go have a nap.

Wanderlust dreaming of Langkawi, Malaysia - closest thing to complete paradise!

When you feel like exploring:

  • If you have a bunch of energy, climb up the 500 stairs to the top of the Telaga Tujuh Waterfalls, when you reach the top you will be glad you dragged your swim suit all that way.
  • There are loads of boat tours that can take you around to the other islands nearby – such as Dayang Bunting Island which has a freshwater lake in the middle where you can take a quick dip.
  • Snorkelling is always a must – its not as good as you will find in other parts of South East Asia but if you aren’t too picky about how brightly coloured your fish are then it is still quite spectacular.
  • You can also do a tour through Kilim Karst Geoforest Park which is jam-packed full of monkeys, birds, insects, mangroves and stunning photo ops!

NOTE: Loads of tours offer eagle feeding as part of the experience – if you feel strongly against exploiting animals out of their natural feeding habits make sure you research your trip thoroughly first.

Shutting Down the Day Dream: Langkawi is the closest thing I have been to the fabled paradise, so much so that when I am having “one of those days” where you wish you were somewhere that would sooth your soul and help you relax, I immediately picture Langkawi – I definitely have to go back one of these days!

FINAL NOTE: Don’t trust the monkeys!

Wanderlust dreaming of Langkawi, Malaysia - closest thing to complete paradise!

Little sneaks stole someones tabacco right out of their back pocket! You have been warned!

Cambodia: What to do, What to see, What to eat? Kampot!

Cambodia: things to do Kampot

When travelling through South East Asia it is easy to stick to the main tourist attractions and big cities – they are a tourist attraction for a reason after all! If you are strapped for time in a country jam-packed full of interesting things to do and see like Cambodia, stepping away from the tourist hordes is even more difficult. Kampot near the Vietnamese border is a little town that isn’t quite off the “beaten track” but it’s not on the main tourist route either and is a great way to see something a little different.

Falling off the “beaten track” in Kampot is the perfect way to finish my four-part series on a sample of things to do and see in Cambodia. But if sleepy rural towns are not your thing check out the earlier posts:

PART 4: Kampot

Kampot is nestled up on the Vietnamese border, surrounded by farmland and mountains.  It is a great place to base yourself if you wish to explore Bokor national park.  The town itself is still heavily influenced by the French colonial architecture, combined with the many bakeries that dot the town you would be forgiven for thinking you had somehow stepped into the south of France.

Make sure you look before you cross the road

Make sure you look before you cross the road

How Long: Kampot is a sleepy town, with limited things to do a few days here is usually enough.  If however you want to base yourself some where quiet where you can still easily travel to the other major attractions in Cambodia then this is a great town for a longer stay.

Beware: Cambodia is one of the most heavily mined countries in the world – and I am not referring to gold mining.  During the Khmer Rouge land mines were buried throughout various places in the countryside, killing tens of thousands over the years.  When in any rural area in Cambodia be careful not to stray off the road – there are still huge efforts to clear the country of these horrific bombs but it will still take many more years and a lot more money to give the country the all clear – caution if the key to maintaining your limbs.

Cambodia: things to do Kampot

Things to do:

Bokor National Park is one of the countries largest protected areas and contains many animals and birds that are on the verge of being extinct – including the tiger. You can do one day or multiple day tours from Kampot. The ruins in the centre have a somewhat eerie feel to them as the jungle slowly creeps out to reclaim them.

Explore the local countryside by hiring a tuk tuk or moto driver for the day. Ask them to take you to some of the places that they think are important in the ares, such as the famous Kampot pepper farms which is regarded as one of the finest peppers in the world and a staple on most five-star restaurant tables.

Cambodia: things to do Kampot

Ancient bat filled caves are just a short moto ride from the town.  The climb up to the caves is one of the highlights as you are able to look out at the vast region of fields and mountains below you.  The caves themselves contain ancient shrines and loads of bats – wouldn’t recommend using flash photography in there.

Take a breath while you enjoy a coffee or a meal in one of the many amazing restaurants that line the river bank. Spend some time just collecting your thoughts and admiring the sun setting over the mountains and the eye-popping steel bridge.

Kep is a ghost town just near Kampot. It was once a thriving holiday resort built by the French, but war and famine meant that it was all but deserted until recently.  A new tourist trade is slowly taking hold here. But it is even more sleepy than Kampot so I would recommend just doing a day trip there.  Walking along the seafront that is lined with huge beautiful and opulent white French buildings is simultaneously amazing and creepy as the place feels so lonely and sad.

Cambodia: things to do Kampot

Cambodia is a country that has so much to offer travellers of all interests – from the ancient ruins of Angkor Wat, to the heartbreak of the Killing Fields, to beach time in Sihanoukville but if you want to see a little piece of Cambodia that isn’t a tourist attraction head down to Kampot.

Cambodia: things to do Kampot

South East Asia is a region packed with things to do and see but at times it can be stressful (such as when you accidentally wash your passport) and daunting, sometimes you need to remember to take a deep breath and go with the flow. Once you relax you will create memories that will last a life time as the region is full of history, culture, shopping, amazing food and some of the friendliest people in the world. But if you need a little help working out this amazing region click here for 25 tips on how to survive South East Asia

 

Cambodia: What to do, What to see, What to eat? Sihanoukville!

Cambodia: Things to do Sihanoukville

On a trip to Cambodia you can be mistaken for thinking that it’s all temples and history lessons, yet there is so much more to this beautiful country.  With so many amazing things to do and see it is easy to feel overwhelmed.  This is a four-part series on just a small sample of the amazing things your can experience in Cambodia.  Once you have poured your soul out in Phnom Penh or stubbed your toe on too many ancient ruins in Siem Reap head down to the coastal city of Sihanoukville for some down time.

PART 3: Sihanoukville

The small coastal town of Sihanoukville has really taken off as one of the must visit places in Cambodia and its no surprise with its laid-back atmosphere. The town is sprawled out over a small peninsular but the most popular area is Serendipity Beach.  The roads and infrastructure are still a work in progress but this just adds to the charm and fun of the place. If you are in need of a beach escape this is the place to go! NOTE: Make sure you research what the weather will be like as it does have a rainy season and a hot season.

Cambodia: Things to do Sihanoukville

How Long: Depends on how much time you want to spend on a beach? There are also some great day trips to be done from Sihanoukville so factor in a couple of extra days on top of your lounging to do these.

Beware: There you are walking down the street, minding your own business when suddenly you hear “You want a smoke?” “You buy Marijuana?” “Hash for you?” coming out of the darkness.  Don’t be fooled by the laid-back feel of the place, drugs are illegal and having them on your person is grounds for arrest. Also there are rumours that some of those oh so friendly drug pedlars are in fact undercover cops who will exert bribes after arresting you.  Be sensible and think twice about what a Cambodian jail would be like.

Things to do:

Beach time is generally the number one thought on most people’s minds when they come to sunny Sihanoukville. However the main beach Serendipity has been divided up by the bars that line the shore front, if you sit in one of the many luxurious reclining chairs be prepared to pay for it.  You can walk down the beach to where the bars run out and set up your towel for a good old-fashioned sun bake.

Cambodia: Things to do Sihanoukville

Island hopping is a great way to spend a day feeling like you are doing something when really you are just lolling on different beaches.  You can book a one day tour at most of the tour agencies in town which usually includes some snorkelling, lunch on a nearly deserted island, more snorkelling and maybe another deserted island for some more swimming. Pack sunscreen!

Massages are an even better way to relax than lying on the beach with a cocktail in hand.  With the whole town geared up for relaxation it’s not heard to find a place for a deep relaxing massage.

Happy hour bar hopping is the cheapest and best way to get to know the Sihanoukville nightlife.  At nearly every hour of the evening a different bar will have a happy hour going.  During the day work out which one has the earliest and start there – ending at the one with the latest. NOTE: As mentioned previously the infrastructure isn’t very developed, including street lights, if you are pub hoping to a new place go with a friend as there are many dark alleyways which may not be the safest place for a drunk traveller.

Feeling hungry or need a place to stay? Hit up Mick and Craig’s an institution of Sihanoukville, for affordable food in a clean and homely restaurant. If you are there over christmas they do a great roast turkey dinner.

Ream National Park is another great day trip that you can do from Sihanoukville.  A great way to see the countries natural landscape filled with jungles, mangrove swamps and beaches.  Most tours involve a boat trip down the river to the sea, where you might see flying fish and if you are REALLY lucky – dolphins (I wasn’t lucky), a jungle trek and some beach time to finish up.

Cambodia: Things to do Sihanoukville

Make yourself pretty by getting a pedicure and manicure.  For the low price of $2 you can spend half an hour having your hands and toes preened leaving you feeling sparkly and fancy!

Did you say all you can eat Indian? Head to Tajmahal Indian Restaurant for some of the best Indian you will ever have.  On the night I was there they had a buffet and for the equivalent of $5 you could eat as much as you like! I am not sure if this is a regular thing they offer but it was absolutely amazing. I went back for thirds and fourths… which was a great way to line the stomach for the happy hour pub crawl that happened later. If it isn’t a regular thing I would still recommend it – because it was absolutely heavenly!

Make sure you leave some time for this gem of a beach town as Siem Reap is great for temples, Phnom Penh is full of political history and heart renting tales, but head to Sihanoukville for some sun, sea and cocktails!

Cambodia: Things to do Sihanoukville

Cambodia: What to do, What to see, What to eat? Phnom Penh!

Cambodia: Things to do Phnom PenhCambodia the small palm tree filled country in the middle of South East Asia, full of happy  people, ancient wonders and rivers.  A place that has captivated everyone from your average soul-searching backpacker to the Hollywood Icon Angelina Jolie.  If you are travelling in the region it is a place where taking it slow to absorb everything is a must.

This is the second blog post in a four-part series on things to do, places to see and morsels to sample while exploring this laid-back nation. Part one featured Siem Reap – the launch pad to the ancient capital of the Khmer Empire.

PART 2: Phnom Penh

Phnom Penh is a city that is throwing all of its energy into finding a way to recover from the atrocities of its past.  There is a strange feel about the city, it doesn’t have the comfort and ease of Siem Reap, nor does it have the excitement and energy of Ho Chi Minh – it is hectic, intense, full of colour and the people are friendly and welcoming.

I had a somewhat traumatic time during my stay. I had somehow washed my passport (this is my biggest embarrassment as a backpacker) and so needed to visit the Australian Embassy to get a new one, I also had to visit the Vietnamese Embassy to get new visas for the next stage of our trip.  When I wasn’t standing in lines waiting to speak to someone through a tiny window about how stupid I had been (way to compound the humiliation – explain washing your passport to half a dozen officials) I was able to explore the city but when your passport is not in use you tend to feel stressed.

Cambodia: Things to do Phnom Penh

Cambodia: Things to do Phnom Penh

History is the key in a city like Phnom Penh.  So much of what you do and see is affected by its recent history.  Not reading up on the Khmer Rouge before you go would be like visiting Berlin and not knowing about why the Berlin Wall was erected – and torn down. Spend some time reading books like When the War was Over by Elizabeth Becker, The Gate by Francois Bizot or watch the movie The Killing Fields.

How Long: You could spend as a little as two days in Phnom Penh if history isn’t your thing. I would recommend at LEAST four days as some of the “sights” are rather emotional and if you are like me you may need time for reflection before moving on to the next item on the list.

Things to Do:

The Royal Palace is shrouded with gold gilded roofs and awash with lily ponds, it is an oasis of colour and peace in the middle of the city.  Take your time wandering through the many opulent buildings to absorb the serenity that will take you over the longer you stay within this walled palace. It is also the home of the Silver Pagoda – whose floor is covered with five tons of silver. Napoleon even had a house built here in the French style of the time, but he never stayed in it.  NOTE: Dress respectfully, covering shoulders and legs.

Cambodia: Things to do Phnom Penh

Tuol Sleng Museam was once upon a time, a highschool, it then became a political prison during the Khmer Rouge dictatorship and it is now a museum.  This is where the Khmer Rouge tortured and killed any who they considered a threat to their regime, including several international reporters and photographers. The most compelling room contains the pictures of hundreds of victims who passed through this prison – standing in a room that was once used for torture and looking around at the faces of those who experienced it is overwhelming.

A local bite to eat can be had at the main market in the centre of town – which is also known as the Russian Market. It is full of great souvenirs, clothes for every occasion and a great fresh food market.  Just to the side of the fresh food market are several stalls that are set up to serve lunch – sit at the stall and chat to the owner and other customers as you slurp down a giant bowl of noodle soup. NOTE: Make a note of opening times and days to not miss out

Cambodia: Things to do Phnom Penh

The Killing Fields are by far one of the most emotionally involved places I have ever been.  Located just outside of town you will need to hire a moto driver or catch one of the local buses to get there. I strongly suggest taking advantage of the free guide service that is offered (it is free but please remember to tip, we walked round with another couple who at the end just walked away without tipping – so we tipped double as our guide had been excellent and very attentive to our questions). During the Khmer Rouge regime hundreds of people were killed in this place and others like it throughout Cambodia – their bodies were unceremoniously dumped in these giant mass graves. They can not be identified and returned to their families, instead a giant mausoleum of human skulls has been erected behind glass (photography is not prohibited, and due to the huge number its easy to become detached but please be sensitive)

The Foreign Correspondence Club is one of my favourite places in Phnom Penh.  It is situated right up against the river and the decor inside has been lovingly cared for through the years protecting the giant wood bar. The food is somewhat expensive, but if you are a little homesick you can get some quite good renditions of western food and alcohol. This has always been a place where foreign press would meet and connect – their home away from home and, still is. The walls are adorned with the stories of the famous journalists and photographers who have passed through.

Feeling like a curry? Head to Mount Everest – for some deliciously authentic, well priced, huge portioned indian food. It is also one of the oldest indian restaurants in Phnom Penh.

It is easy to wallow in the dark past of a city like Phnom Penh, but spend ten minutes walking the streets and talking to the people and you will see that despite all of the darkness they are a beautiful resilient people who are working hard at healing the past.

Cambodia: Things to do Phnom Penh

What should you REALLY ask your fellow travellers?

The awkward traveller "getting to know your" conversation

The “are you someone I want to associate with” conversation is something that happens in all walks of life. If you work in a big city the conversation usually starts off with “Where do you work? What industry are you? Where do you live? Oh do you know so-and-so?” these first vital questions when you meet someone can often determine how much energy you are going to put into getting to know them.  If all of their answers show that you have absolutely nothing in common then you may not try so hard to get past those initial impressions.

Of course there are other factors that may determine your how you build your relationship with someone – attractiveness, charisma, sense of humour or they may have another interest that is completely aligned with your so that you can look past the fact that their answers to the initial inquiries were the complete opposite of your own.

Imagine your first day in a retirement home, you would ask the standard identifying questions “Are you married? Oh a widow? What doctor do you see? How many grandchildren do you have? What does your son do? Did you watch Better Homes and Gardens yesterday?” how would you feel if every answer you received from someone was the complete opposite of your own interests? Like a fish out of water I am sure.  Then an off the cuff comment about your passion for parasurfing lights a small fire in the other persons eye – instant friends for life!

Old people funnyTravellers are exactly the same, when you first meet someone you go through the questions that determine whether they are someone you wish to hang out with.

  • Where are you from?
  • Where have you been?
  • Where are you going?
  • How long are you travelling?
  • Are you travelling alone?
  • When do you leave this place?
  • Have you tried/eaten/seen that amazing thing that you HAVE to see/eat/do?

What does this really tell you about someone? You could have a very different travel style and different interests in where you are going and what you are seeing but that person may just be the ideal best friend/husband/wife/travel companion/cribbage partner.

Relax there is a way to find out if the amazing people you are meeting have more to offer than the what the common identifying questions offer. What you need is a maverick question – a question that will exhibit responses from people who will satisfy your need to get to know them with ease and speed. A way to break out of the mould and standard answers and pull back the layers to find their inner passions.

After a full moon party in Thailand several years ago, in need some time to recover and regenerate I hopped over to the island paradise of Koh Tao.  The island is so relaxing that the two days I had planned there extended to three, then four, then five – before I actuallyThe awkward traveller "getting to know your" conversation had to leave due to visa restrictions.  My days were simple, I would get up, wander down the main street parallel to the beach sipping a fruit smoothie until I found a great place to relax, I would then set up my towel for the day, every time I got too hot I would roll into the water for a splash or a snorkel.  When I got hungry I would find a restaurant that was hanging over the water so I could continue to eat noodles, relax, snorkel, eat, relax, snorkel. When evening came I would sneak back home for a nap before heading down to one of the many beanbag bars on the beach.  I would then sit in a beanbag slowly sipping on my beer watching fire dances and laughing with my many new friends – suddenly it would be nearly dawn which meant hurrying to grab a pancake before flopping back into bed. Repeat!

During one of these beanbag conversations the question was posed – Who would win between a Great White Shark and  a Saltwater Crocodile? Debate ensued almost immediately. Parameters had to be defined before any serious conclusions could be met.

  • Both creatures are fully grown: Full grown Great White is 6 meters, Saltwater Crocodile is 6 meters (evenly matched)
  • Water depth is deep enough that the both creatures have room to manoeuvre
  • The water is salt – as both creatures need salt.
  • Both are hungry and are extremely cranky!

By the end of the evening there was a clear split in the group, half thought the crocodile would have better chance of grabbing and thrashing the shark by the tail or fin taking it into a death roll.  Others argued that the shark could grab and rip off a leg or arm and that its body mass is too big for the crocodile to get their jaws round.

In the end the answer didn’t really matter – what did matter was that by the end of the conversation the four people who were left discussing it turned out to be the best people for me to spend my time with on Koh Tao – and in fact I am still in contact with most of them.

Making friends!

Making friends!

I decided to take this question and try it out when I met other travellers, this then became my barometer for connecting with people.  If they didn’t understand the question or thought it was weird – they clearly didn’t enjoy the absurd and ridiculous the same way I do. If they immediately jumped on google to find out the answer they didn’t see the point was to have a conversation and discuss. If they couldn’t give a reason as to why they thought either the crocodile or shark would win then they weren’t giving it the proper analytical consideration.

What I found is that when you give someone a strange and out there topic to discuss they tell you a lot more about them selves than if you were just discussing the road from Chang Mai to Bangkok.  Suddenly people would explain personal anecdotes, fears, pet peeves, bucketlist items and even fetishes. The best answer I have was from a German guy who I ended hanging out with for a few days, after pondering the question for a while he said “What if we added a fully grown anaconda into the mix” – Wow, mind blown!How to avoid the old traveller questions?

For years this has worked for me – but alas last week the Northern Territory News in Australia may have answered the question (if you don’t read the Northern Territory News I strongly suggest you start – its editorial content is an ongoing joke about crocodiles and scantily clad women).

In reading further into the sensational article I have discovered that the conditions have not quite been met.  The shark in question was a Bull Shark – the Great White Sharks smaller meaner brother.  At a measly 2.5 meters it didn’t have the size or the strength to go up against Darwin’s biggest known corc Brutus who is 80 years old and 5.5 meters long. I breathed a sigh of relief – my get to know you question still works!

Out of interest – who do you think would win between the Great White Shark and the Saltwater Crocodile?