Wednesday, May 24, 2017

My Diary Exposed: Greenland Trip With Explorers!

Um, I'm Going to Greenland? (Unpublished old stuff from 9 years ago because why not)

In the summer of 2008, the ex bf told me for our anniversary that we would going to Greenland because his dad is a bit obsessed with the north poles (yes, there is more than one pole). Also, there was a solar eclipse that we were going to see with a bunch of Scandinavian scientists and north pole adventurers, which was best viewed in the north. NDB. Waitressing a whole year to save up to study abroad in Paris was as adventurous as I thought my life would/could be, so NEVER IN A GABILLION LIGHT YEARS WOULD I HAVE IMAGINED GOING TO GREENLAND WITH EXPLORERS. Caps lock was not an accident. Pinch yourself for 'Is this real life?' moment.  Anyways, this was pre-blog in the age of real live writing in my (geeky gasp) diary. 

July 27, 2008

I can't describe how excited I am for this trip. First of all, the things we will be experiencing are unreal. Secondly, the people we will be travelling with are all exceptional. And thirdly, we be travelling in stylez. All of it makes me feel as if this is a dream, but in a way  I know exactly how real it is and just can't wait to take it on. 

Was too excited to sound excited, but really,  I couldn't breath or stop smiling. 

The Amour slash ugly partner in crime. 

Wiseman: One of the great characters of this trip. An old Danish scientist who was so smart and always had something about his youth to share..‎"Look here... when I was young, I had trouble sleeping, so I opened up my french lesson book, and boum... hohoho"

Ibrahim. Another great guy from Dubai. "I'm not leaving until i've jumped into the water! Who's coming with me!?!" He was obsessed with skinny dipping. 

Sasha, cool Russian guy. No one seemed to know what he did or who he was...mysterious.

Mike McDowell: A real modern day adventurer. Goes diving in the arctic and antarctic in Russian submersibles, has a company that will shoot you almost to space. Crazy Aussies. 

The rest of the team comprised of some French documentarians, more explorers and scientists. 

And lastly, our ride. No roads between cities meant mad air time, baby! Now to start the trip. 

Ninja jump next to glaciers!

10 Years Later: Exchange at SciencesPo and How I Hated Paris

From the Archives: How I Hated Paris 

Over the years I've been struck with the amount of foreigners and French telling me they hate Paris. They find the Parisians are awful human beings, the streets dirty, the service industry mean and dismissive and more. How dare they say this about my favourite city in the world? But I understand. Paris does not give off a good first impression. It's a place that takes time, effort and the right circumstances to truly fall in love with.

When I first arrived in 2007 I hated it too, but not for the same tired reasons. I had never seen a place so perfect and beautiful and it was exactly this divinity that repelled me. Because perfection and beauty are two of the coldest bitches out there—cold enough to slow my pounding schoolboy heart to the sad and melancholic tremor of closed doors, used toilet paper and unknown love.

For when you first peruse those streets with the low rise white immeubles, in a world that sparkles as if christened by baby angel tears you feel as if you've fallen into glossy magazine or a cheap postcard, inviting you to accept a visual promise that could never be kept.

How can I describe this accurately to you? You could tell that capitalism and efficiency were the last things on the creators’ minds (for better or worse). As an old architect acquaintance of mine once told me, ‘Democracy has been cruel to architecture. The most beautiful cities were produced under autocrats.' Seems so. Paris Center does not have a millimeter of the dreadful dreary box buildings where they pack humans and offices like they do sardines, and the boring grid system and that was product of the boom of the 50’s and 60’s of North America.

The fundamental problem, when I arrived starry eyed and without a clue, was that everything was beautiful but nothing was real. 

That's how I felt anyway in that first sad month across the sea. Some may enjoy that cold postcard feeling, it makes great Facebook albums, but for me I felt claustrophobic and depressed, stuck in a 2-D world.  As I looked for an apartment near SciencesPo I remember just walking around Les Invalides with my mouth catching flies when I saw the shining MAGNIFICENT top of La Tour Maubourg (the grave of Napoleon) as I exited the metro and the Eiffel Tower peeking over the horizon on the other. All I wanted to do was take a jack hammer to the core of Paris'  hardass bitch soul and bury myself inside forever. But alas my stimulation was limited to my ocular senses as I saturnly slid from one postcard site to the next.

And while I hung out with cool exchange students that first month, like the smell of old cheese in a Frenchmen's fridge, the feeling of isolation refused to leave and got worse. It was all too much. The tiny winding streets, the hidden courtyards of buildings and balconies that all face each other, cafĂ©’s on every corner with beautiful people drinking out of dollhouse size coffee cups, each bridge crossing the Seine is made with care and detail, the Eiffel Tower winking at you every hour through the darkness, lovers partout in the most passionate embraces that make old tourist bible-belters glare in disapproval; you see it all and your heart melts and cries at the same time and you wonder, ‘How can I be a part of this all, how can I make this mine?’ All I wanted to do was feel less like a tourist in this place I was to call home. But it felt impossible as an outsider who spoke passable French with a Quebecois accent.

My misery followed me for the first while in Paris. I simply could not peel myself out of the postcard. I walked and I walked, I mingled with international student after international student and yet, Paris did not feel like it was mine. My misery was probably compounded by the fact that I had just left an old sweetheart behind in Canada, as well as the frustrating administration involved with settling down (internet, insurance, it was all so hard). No matter now though.  What's important is that the metaphorical old cheese smell did indeed leave the fridge.  And oh boy did it ever.  I had French kisses, fell in love with a French boy, I made some of my best friends there and I experienced the insanity and dynamism that Paris has to offer when you know where to look and what to do.

Ten years have passed since I was an international student and I am thinking that it is time to return to the place that I have come to love.

See Also..

  Indie Guide to Paris: Eating

A Night in Paris or How I Tried to Get an Interview with Kavinsky

A Day in the Life

France: Le Mans and an Adventure Outside of Paris

Get more photos and embarrassing and awesome details here.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

How to be the Dumbest Person Ever Travelling India

Because being dumb is cool!

1. Arrive at midnight in Delhi with no hotel booked, a dead phone and without an adaptor to charge it. Planning is overrated. People have voices. Ask locals for help. This is especially useful when they don't speak English.

2. Despite having zero clue of where to go and how to get there, follow locals' finger pointing and mysterious head bobbles and take public transportation to the ICBD, Kashmiri Gate. It may take an hour and you may be the only girl of a bus full of men, but when did that ever turn out badly?

3. Make sure to wear tight leggings. With a disturbing lack of women in public spaces, especially when travelling by night, it is a great idea to covet the heavy blunt stares of Indian men. Breath in the tension, girls! It's a whole new ozone really.

Why I Decided to Do 10 Days of Silence in India: Vipassana Jaipur

How Jim Carrey, Roses and the US Foreign Service Convinced Me to Meditate

The first time I heard about meditation, it was in this philosophical film. A pillar in my young life, really.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Indie Food Guide to Bangkok: Picks for Best Curry, Seafood and Brunch

Before I had ever visited Thailand, I asked my best friend Andrea what she thought of her experience. Normally a talkative sort, she had only one word for me this time: Delicious. 

Her laconic response was apt. Everything about Thailand is delicious. When it comes to food, the Thais know how to enjoy life. Instead of McDonalds or Tim Hortons on every street corner, in Bangkok you'll find a fresh faced Thai woman selling fresh coconuts or a mobile meat skewer man with sizzling chicken, pork and innards brochettes that he can roll away with at any time to find better corners. 

You'll have your neighbourhood fruit lady with glistening watermelons and mangoes cut for your convenience and a neighbourhood noodle soup guy with some spicy boiling liquids with ghostly white glass noodles. Less prevalent but still everywhere are bbq fish and seafood stalls. It still amazes me that nearly anywhere you go to eat Thai food in Bangkok you will be in ambrosial heaven. It almost seems impossible to have gross Thai food. 

That being said, a lot of people will have their "special spots" and personal recommendations. I have no doubt that they are delicious. Permit me a bit of arrogance by saying that I know the BEST of some things. Such as best crab curry in Bangkok, best seafood, best vegan, and best western restaurants! I'm joking of course, I have a penchant for hyperboles. Joking aside, I've been living in Bangkok for three years and have been on an infinite quest for bestness. Here is my best list. If I'm wrong, don't be shy to share your spots!

Defining "Best": My 3 Pillars of Awesome
My criteria consists of three pillars: taste, ambiance, price. To make it on my list a restaurant has to satisfy at least 2 of 3.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Indie Guide Bangkok: Wonderfruit Music Festival 2015 and

When people ask if I enjoyed Wonderfruit , I just heave a deep sigh and look at my half-polished nails in shame. It's not that I didn't enjoy the music art festival (Southeast Asia's fresh, less commercial answer to Burning Man) but more that, my possee and I were not prepared at all. And it's all my fault. Hence the burden of shame weighing my head low upon mention of this magical wonderland

Listen, using my free time, a resource with ever decreasing amounts of freeness, to plan for partying camping festival weekend is not the top of my priorities.  So when my friend asked me to join their shanty town of tents, I figured I didn't need to prepare much except awesomeness and some sweaters. That was a mistake.

No tent or booked accommodation meant we had to be super resourceful (luckily we were three Canadian champions). Besides being an eye sore, that orange garbage mound you see above also served as a tent when a chair is under to prop it up. The weekend was a bit rough for my old self, but whateves, still loved it.

Anyways, this post is mega late so I'll just wrap up quickly. Wonderfruit 2015 was a great out of the city experience. It was in no way as magical as what I hear Burning Man to be - lacking volume and probably the right crowd (very family friendly atmosphere) - but something I would do over and over again and probably travel from around Asia to go to. If you imagine it as a weekend camping trip with friends, music and some art and over priced, albeit delicious as, food you will have managed your expectations perfectly. Oh and for a tech plug: the cashless payment system worked very well and was stress free. THE FUTURE!!

Follow adventure travel and life stuff at Snapchat: lil.fel or tweet and abuse me @LilFel

Some of the photos were taken from Cynthia. Check her blog, here.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Hiking Ontario: Hamilton Waterfalls & Spencer Gorge Toronto Day Trip

Orgasm for the eyes, yawn-worthy for the thighs


Day Trips from Toronto - Homeboy Steve & I's "Staycation"


After travelling Thailand's electricity free mountain villages with my old uni friend to erasing our brains on catamaran boat parties of Asia it was time to look homeward for some tantamount level thrills on my annual trip to the patria. It's weird, but I've seen so many of my childhood (and non-expatty) friends become paralyzed by the inertia of routine. You know, when one lives in a place for so long that they lose the sparkle for adventure and discovery simply because they are inured to its existence and availability i.e. death of FOMO for anywhere not typically "exotic"?! It's sad and disappointing for returning expats to see such a paucity of enthusiasm for adventure-- the very stuff that becomes the crack that keeps addict expats away from ever returning to normal. So it was nice to see that Steve (Toronto-based) was still up for Toronto waterfall hike in what he called his 2 days off from consulting a 'staycation'.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

How to stop loathing Parisians: 7 songs to help you make French friends instantly

(Wrote this 5+ years ago, not sure why I never published it, but advance apologies for any anachronistic inaccuracies.)

You either love them or hate them. And justified or not, I know too many of the latter, mainly because they don't speak French but super mainly because French people can be a gelid crew to deeply befriend (and frankly, Parisians can be even worse). I love them (my best friend and roommate, ex amour and lots of friends being of the species), but ask any foreigner who has done a student exchange in France. How many of them had a solid French wolf pack to run with, more than the occasional drink or party invite? Not many, is my humble guess.

Somehow during my own time as a student in Paris, I was lucky to be a part of a super fusion wolf pack of French and Americans (and Canadians, Kiwis, Australians etc). En route to becoming best friends though, there were definitely a lot of awkward moments integrating with a new culture, some romantic faux pas, others between budding friends. But what was integral to every Parisian social

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Vintage Shopping in Jakarta and the New Wave of Indonesia's Hipsterpreneurs

After almost two years buried away in Bangkok (doing that whole young professional thing in tech startups), I am updating my pick for the best vintage shopping in Jakarta. I wrote about Pasar Senen before as a pulsing, sweaty second hand market for the people (ie perfect for a poor UN intern living in an alley with goats) where through hours of digging you could find purple leather loafers for $8 and even designer stuff for under $20.

Pasar Santa is different. To shave the prolixity, it will suffice to say that this Jakarta vintage market has, in the last year, turned from a traditional derelict

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Indie Guide Thailand: Catamaran Party Near Bangkok

How to Escape Bangkok for a Day: Ballin' Boat Party in Pattaya !

You know what has always made me jealous of my friends living in Hong Kong? Mind-erasing boat parties. When I heard about the libertine expat life of Asia, these nautical tales of music x waves x homies teased my heart with promises of the ultimate adventure! What could be more thrilling than dancing with your friends on a boat in the middle of paradise?

But living in Bangkok the last year has not really afforded me the opportunities that Hong Kong expats had. I've been NEAR to water, like this Kolour party, but golly I wanted to be the meat in a sky and sea sandwich.