once upon a wing in…Cambodia

Once upon a wing, after sailing on a little wooden boat along the Mekong Delta and spotting a very sweet little tree cottage, my friend Emma and I arrived in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. As our boat pulled into the shore, we scrambled up the steep, rocky steps and ran straight for the ATM. After two days on a boat having only consumed one bottle of water and half a pineapple, money was our first thought. Hello food.

We jumped aboard a tuk-tuk and found a little street-side balcony hostel to call home for a day. We then met a local Cambodian Couchsurfer and had some more food. Wandering the streets, we stumbled upon a gem of a bookstore. Sweat was pouring from every inch of my skin; I realised I was very sick. We rushed to buy me magic medicine and I tossed and turned the night away in my little room.

We woke up bright and early and headed for the Royal Palace which was very grand and majestic. The sky was bright blue and meshed perfectly with the bright whites of the palace and the fusion of pink flowers splattered around the block.

Before long we were on a bumpy, but beautiful bus journey through the soul of Cambodian countryside. Our destination- Siem Reap. We were immediately whisked away in yet, another tuk-tuk. This time we found ourselves at a wedding, a random Cambodian couple’s wedding. We danced the night away, pretended to speak French, got chased by duck heads and laughed until our faces were tomato red.

We awoke barely three hours later to be taken by the same tuk-tuk driver-minus yesterday’s enthusiasm- to Angkor Wat for sunrise. And it was beautiful. As we neared closer, the moon got smaller and began it’s smooth journey down towards the lily pads floating on the pond as the giant round sun emerged from behind the temple, colouring the sky the way only our imaginations dream of.

We saw elephants and a little girl that seemed at one with the temples. We played and climbed and walked and walked. It was so beautiful.

Siem Reap was our favourite place. We decided to stay for a few more days and get to know it better. Butterflies flew around our heads as we ate, kittens danced across our feet. There was a lot of curry eating and we drank rainbow juice from luminous green buckets with straws. A day of cycling led us on the greatest adventure being chased by children through emerald fields, all the while singing Edward Sharpe’s ‘Home’ continually. We spotted a rustic gate from some forgotten fairytale, and we basked away an afternoon in road-side hammocks.

Cambodia seeped into our hearts and we didn’t want to leave. We let little fish nibble on our feet in lost lanes. I spent a day talking to children in masks at a cute cafe while I waited for my plane to other lands, far away from the postcards of this friendly temple town, tucked away in my notebook.

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Cambodia, ‘I want kiss you’, I do.

Love,

Luna

André Chocron

I can’t stop listening to Mikhael Paskalev after I saw Emma-Jane talk about it on her blog. I am obsessed. One song in particular- ‘I spy’- is amazing! Infact, I needn’t say any more; just watch this video and those dance moves- epic!

Mikhael Paskalev is a Norwegian/Bulgarian musical genius and his music is pop with a twist of indie and a touch of folk thrown in for that extra cool. He says he is inspired by The Shins, Edward Sharpe, The Mamas and the Papas, so yup- he also has good taste. I like him.

And I like the music video above too, and not just for that dancing! The director of it- André Chocron, a film director based in Oslo, he has got some skills. A friend of mine introduced him to me tonight and then we realised that he also directed Paskalev’s ‘I spy’. Check out this crazy stunning video that he directed:

Yes, those businessmen are skateboarding down that beautiful road. Isn’t this just incredible? He only graduated in 2010 from The Norwegian Film School, so this guy is clearly one to watch. I can’t wait to see what else he’s done! That is creativity right there in all it’s underwater dancing glory. Yay!

Have you seen anything else this guy has directed? I’d be so keen to watch! Thank you.

once upon a wing in…Vietnam

Once upon a wing, my friend Emma and I traveled to Vietnam. We left the chilly China winds behind and entered the crazy motorcycle city of Ho Chi Minh. There, we danced and darted across streets ablaze with colour and engines. Our senses were greedily satisfied as we gorged on fruit shakes, fresh spring rolls, pho upon pho upon pho.

We didn’t delve down the tourist tunnels. Instead, we set sail on a little wooden boat and found ourselves wandering in forests alongside the Mekong Delta in search of a challenge. We feasted on more pho, which due to some handy ‘mime’ skills, allowed us to be served without uttering the local lingo, which so bewildered and discombobulated our little ears, due to us being so a-tuned to our Chinese.

We slept on a boat, floating under an incredible sunset, nestled in the safety of our mosquito nets. We sang with locals and harnessed a little wooden number to deliver us across the delta. Our curiosity always got the better of us, and despite the rain, we ran and laughed, burning our tongues with spices from spice.

Cambodia was our destination, but that’s a story for another day. Before we knew it, we were back in Ho Chi Minh, devouring more Pho and nibbling on candy floss under the light of sporadic fireworks, welcoming in the new Vietnamese year.

We took to Mui Ne, a beach land of wonder. It was there that we discovered the best mango mojitos in the world and spent lazy days watching kite surfers take to the ocean and the sky.

For our next adventure, we traveled to Dalat. We went deep into the highlands and got lost in a giant house that could have been straight from Alice in Wonderland. We cycled around lakes and up hills and we even abseiled down waterfalls. It was there that we also said farewell before embarking on our solo journeys.

I hopped aboard a motorbike and got rushed to a bus to take me back to Ho Chi Minh. I prayed for my life as we fled through the land, sharing half a seat with the driver and half a seat with a family of four. I laughed and I arrived.

I flew North to Hanoi where I wandered and admired the cute architecture. I watched puppets dance in water and explored old, worn-out museums. I took a day trip to Halong Bay where I threw myself into a spot of kayaking through the caves. I ate fresh fish straight from the bay and marveled at the famous limestone peaks.

On my last day I said a little good morning to Vietnam and enjoyed one last exploration before being fed a shot of very strong alcohol by my guesthouse owner and being sent on my merry blurry way, back home to China.

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Cheers Vietnam!

Love,

Luna

August, where did you come from?

Surely it cannot be August 2013 already…I’m quite sure it was just yesterday that I was watching the fireworks over Taipei 101, saying farewell to 2012?!

Yup, I’m clearly getting old because time is whizzing by and it’s just a little scary. But that is precisely why we must make the most of every single moment, enjoy and take notice of the little things in life and keep exploring everyday.

2012 was one of the best years of my life which I wrote about here, and 2013 has been pretty darn lovely too, and hey, we’re only just past the halfway mark- I’m sure there are plenty more adventures up 2013′s sleeve!

Here are a few of my favourite experiences and accomplishments from this year so far…

* Getting above 90% on all my Chinese exams

* Interning at Lomography Taipei for three months and hosting events where I mainly spoke in Chinese

* Receiving emails from strangers to say that my writing has inspired them

* Cycling in South Africa and having beautiful up-close encounters with giraffes and zebras

* Showing friends from afar around Taiwan

* Cycling for days around Green Island in the sunshine

* Celebrating my birthday at a ceilidh at home in Scotland with my family and some of my best friends from Rhodes

* Frolicking in Bath and London town

* Being a bridesmaid for the first time in my life

* Making big changes in my life and embracing the unknown…

Here’s to the next adventure!

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Assemble Backpackers in Jiayi (Chiayi) 嘉義

When my friend and I decided to go to Alishan National Park, we planned it so that we’d stay a night in the closest city first- Jiayi 嘉義. Now, I’d searched for hostels and nothing had come up, but as soon as my friend searched in Chinese, she found a very sweet-looking place.

Assemble Backpackers in Jiayi is like a home away from home. From Jiayi bus and train station it’s just a short walk and pretty easy to find- just look out for the sign on the outside and if you book beforehand- print out a little map or use the address found here on their Facebook page.

We booked in advance and even though we arrived quite late at night, the owners were still waiting up, ready to welcome us. I immediately fell in love with the hostel due to the huge selection of indie and foreign movies, the library of books and magazines, the African prints against the bright pink walls and the little chalkboard with our- the guests- names and country’s flags drawn on. It was such a nice, fun touch!

We stayed in a private room, complete with en-suite for around 500NT each a night. It was the comfiest bed ever and perfect for a cosy night before the thought of waking up for sunrise at 4am the morning after the following night in Alishan.

There are also dorm rooms and I took a peek and they look lovely too!

The owners were extremely friendly, and filled with knowledge on the all goings-on in the area, as well as giving us lots of useful info on Alishan and a handy map for both Jiayi and Alishan National Park.

Most people probably use Jiayi as a base for taking the bus to Alishan, but actually if you do have a day or so there, you might as well explore.

Firstly, I recommend sampling the local famous dish- turkey with veg and rice. Yes, it’s that simple, but believe me- it’s delicious.

There are also a few temples dotted around the centre and some cute alleyways to wander and get lost in. They’re also good for getting a glance at how the locals go about their daily lives.

If I had more time, I’d have been more than happy to get better acquainted with the Assemble Backpackers movie and book library as it looked that amazing! Those owners have got good taste!

One last thing that made the hostel so unique was all the random toys chilling around the place. Very funky and quirky! I’d definitely stay at this hostel again! A belated thanks goes out to the owners for a warm and welcoming stay- 謝謝!

Some useful info:

Address: No. 279, Xirong Street, Chiayi, Taiwan. / 嘉義市西榮街279號, Chiayi

Contact no: +886 978 101 770

Email: assemble.backpackers@gmail.com

You can also book here on their hostel world page- they are rated at 96%! Yay, I told you they were good!

Otherwise, this is their Facebook page here.

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430909_10151344904035100_1674095859_nThis last photo and the the chalkboard photo are courtesy of my friend Angel who I traveled with- 謝謝 Angel.