Saturday, 30 August 2014

Cheers

I'm sitting at a small table in a busy cafe, Cafe Nero, it's a chain here that remains me of Starbucks but is more homely. Sipping on a Cappuccino I absent-mindedly listen to two men talking next to me. I can't understand a word: they greated each other with a "As-Salaam-Alaikum".

Mind you, even if they spoke English there's a good chance I would be at a loss as well. The accent is thick here for me...

So, a few days ago I was sitting at my flight's gate at the Montreal airport, having bid farewell to my parents over a gigantic plate of stale nachos. I don't know why, but I felt nervous, more than the first time I left, I felt more excited back then. This time I was nervous and anxious for reasons I cannot explain. I'm not trying to get away from anything this time and had been looking forward to this day for a year and a half... Maybe it was because this time I knew how long I was going to be gone?

The feeling dissipated once the plane left the ground and I was about to relax enough to fall asleep on the flight, a first for me.

I barely made my connection from London to Leeds. Some man tried to get past me at the security check and I showed him my ticket so he could see that I was pressed for time as well. We were getting in the same flight! The British man became more friendly and warned me of strong winds near Leeds, making the flight more... exciting. He was short and ginger and looked a lot like Simon Pegg, and in my mind I built an image of an entire nation populated by Simon Peggs.

London Heathrow was clean and well organised (besides the connection security) and the Leeds one was small and plain in retrospect.

I got my bag and met Ben who was enjoying a beer in the getting area. Awkward hugs ensued, but the excitement of seeing each other after so long quickly took over and it was like we saw each other just last week.

A quick bus ride through Leeds to go to his house and I was already in love with the country... Beautiful stone and brick houses sided the road and in between those I could see green rolling hills dotted with sheep and lined with old short stone walls... So close to the city!

Jen met us shortly at their flat with a friend and we went for a walk to the grocery store, all the while I was walking wide-eyed, looking at the architecture who seemed common here but it's only found in Old Montreal back home, or on Sherbrooke street. Me and Ben have very similar interests which include a natural curiosity for history and so he proved a pretty able guide.

We met another of their friends at the grocery store, where we looked for maple syrup (for advice on which one to get next time) but since it was "a shit one" they didn't have any.

I tried to take it all in, looking at my favourite thing to observe: the people. Canadians have a reputation of being nice, well, Brits put them to shame. No one taking the whole sidewalk, everyone talking to the clerks and such...maybe because it's a smaller town than Montreal (700,000)...our walk was pleasant. We stocked up on proper English foodstuff (including black pudding, which I only discovered post-meal that it's made of dried blood) and Cobra beer and went back to the flat whet we all shared beer and Sortilege.

That evening we went to a pub for food and trivia (couldn't really understand the organiser) and again it was beautiful. Big red benches instead of just cheap wood chairs, nice ambiance and a selection of beers I've had never tasted... great first day and welcome group!

Monday, 25 August 2014

Canada-UK fool

 As part of a small project in continuity I'll post a picture of what I look like on my passport versus what I look like at the border. Here goes, the first Fool Pic (Canada - UK):

Friday, 15 August 2014

Inventory: Starting Point

I've seen these things on reddit and other travelling websites and always thought they were cool. Also, on my last trip, my inventory list RPG-style was one of the most popular posts.

So here's mine, at starting point. More or less accurate, with a list, details, tips following!

Just click here!
(Sorry for potato quality)

We'll start from the top left, since this is how I read (probably how you read too. If not, holy shit! I have exotic readers! Or people who read way too many mangas).

1- Rainproof/windproof Camo jacket. I bought this in Chiang Mai, Thailand, for $10. There's nothing to keep me warm in there, it's pretty much just plastic. I love it, it weights nothing.

2- Black "meh" hoodie. I try to keep my black clothes to a minimum because I don't think that they separate laundry types in hostels and the likes, but I don't have a colour hoodie (at least if I have everything in colour they can just throw everything in the same load with minimum impact). I also bought this shirt for the sole reason that it would be hilarious to have a shirt that says "meh" when you're pictured in front of medieval castles or jaw-dropping scenery. I don't expect to wear it often in asia but it should come in handy in England and during cold wet-season nights (had some pretty cold ones in Laos last time).

3- Boxers. Nothing special about them, except that they're coloured and not 100% cotton. Try not to wear 100% cotton underwear as you can start chaffing when in warm countries. That can lead to heavy discomfort and in some cases, itchy fungus between the thighs (they call it athlete's crotch). I also met a dude that was sweating heavily from the buttcrack and a mushroom developed there! SUPER itchy and hurtful apparently. He had to apply a cream 3 times a day and sleep with no underwear on. Both of these things can be quite annoying when you sleep in dorms. He couldn't go anywhere so he lounged at the Hostel for weeks, losing precious travel time. I promised to not tell anyone so no, I won't tell you who it was.

4- Green and Red bandana headbands. I can't get over how useful these were last time around. I will probably buy more of them as I like collecting them. They're great wrapped around your forehead for sweat. Too hot? Dip them in cold water and wear them around your head or neck to cool down. Too sunny? Wear them ON your head! Some drunk guy in your dorm is walking around with the lights on? Pull it down over your eyes! It also served me as impromptu plate, book protector, or wrapped around a fresh tattoo to keep the sunlight off. They take minimum space and weight nothing. Love 'em.

5- Green Marley tanktop. A gift from Ben. Originally purchased in Thailand, passed on to me in Laos.

6- Long-sleeve button shirt. It's warm but you can pull up the sleeves or open it up when it's warmer. Sometimes you just want to keep the sun off your skin. I might end up throwing it out but I doubt it. Fun fact: apparently it looks exactly like my friend's dad's shirt that HE wore around the world, more than 30 years ago.

7- Swimsuit. On my last trip I took an old one which ended up ripping at the spot you don't want it ripping at. The 2nd one, I bought during my last trip. It was fugly and the net was giving my parts a rash. The 3rd one I bought was stolen. The 4th one was too big but I would still wear a lot, it's a great excuse to go commando when it gets REALLY hot. The one on the picture is nice quality, great size. A nice swimsuit is important, folks!

Back to the left, 2nd row:

8- Jeans. I might end up throwing these out or making shorts out of them. Last time I brought them and didn't wear them AT ALL. They are hot, and heavy. I will wear them in England though and that is why they are going in my bag at the start of my trip. They can be useful when visiting sacred sites, however, as sometimes they don't let you walk in wearing shorts. Useful at border crossings too - for me anyways - because they let me dissimulate my leg tattoos. Les tattoos = less questions.

9- Montreal Canadiens pyjama pants. I might end up throwing these away. It's mostly comfort stuff and to make sure I don't freeze at night in bamboo huts. Can also double as warmer garment if I'm hiking in cold mountains (what I plan to do in China).

10,11- More underwear. 3 pairs in total, the maximum I will allow myself to carry in total during this trip. I tend to wear these 2 days in a row and go commando or wear my swimsuit when it's laundry day.

Right underneath the headbands. 12- Black winter hat. You never know.

Underneath that, and then to the right:

13- Red Belt. In the buckle is a bottle opener, super useful. Last time I had a leather belt with holes but my weight fluctuated a lot (lost 50 pounds in total) so this adjustable belt is better for me.

14- Montreal Canadiens T-shirt. It's getting old so I don't mind throwing it out at some point but it'll remind me of home. Also a conversation starter.

15- Black dress pants. These are for the British wedding. I might keep them instead of the jeans since they are lighter. They are less durable however and I don't know how they will fare against hostel washing machines (on my last trip the t-shirts I started with lost ALL colours over time. That is also why you shouldn't bring fancy clothes or ones that mean something to you. I lost one of my favourite band shirts like that). I was also invited to a lot of Laos weddings on my last trip and I plan on staying there 6 months this time around so they should be useful, as you shouldn't wear shorts to a wedding (even if on a small, super laid-back island) and jeans can get hot.

16- Brown shorts. I bought sturdy black shorts for the trip but the buttons keep falling off. I don't want to have to deal with that over there. I still have my trusty camo shorts from the last trip but they go down to half my tibias. These brown shorts go just below the knee. Less fabric means it'll be less warm. The shorts also pretty old so I don't mind throwing them away when they get ripped. I found them in a box of my brother's old clothes when I moved back to my parents.

Under that:
17- Black dress shirt. I'm invited to a wedding in England and that's the shirt I will be wearing, I don't feel like renting a suit or wearing somebody else's shirt. I will probably keep it for museum and temple visits or when I feel like hiding my tattoos or looking nice, to make a better impression on the locals.

Back to the left! From here, it'll be more of a vertical flow.

18- Blue sunglasses. Last time in Laos I bought 40 pairs of these sweet fake Raybens to sell when I'd get back home. I'd carry a few pairs with me and sell them to my friends in order to have money for beers. I also went through 4 pairs (the pink ones) while landscaping, they were my protective eyewear. This is the last surviving pair.

19- Under the glasses are a small notebook, a bigger notebook and a sketchpad. They take a LOT of room but I'm going to be doing most of my writing in these. I plan to be less "connected" to Bragbook and the internet in general this time around, these will help me stay off computers.

20,21- Headlamps. They use AA batteries. SUPER useful. You can read with them in the bus, overnight train, bamboo hut with no electricity, etc. I'm bringing two pairs in case one breaks and for impromptu buddies.

Underneath that:
22- Pens, pencils, crayons. Like I said, I plan to write a lot but also draw, sketch.

23,24- Sharpeners and erasers. I will probably just bring 2 sharpeners and chuck all these in a tupperware.

25- Red necklace wallet. I don't know how else to call that. Super useful. Put your money and emergency info in there. Also harder to get pick-pocketed. Last time around I pretty much walked around with my money right in my pockets and ended up "losing" a few bills at a jungle dance. Not pictured: waterproof neck wallet. Bought it in Bangkok during the water festival for something like 15 cents. It's transparent so people can see how much money you got in there, which I don't like, but your passport fits, which is great when in airports and the likes. Easy access, ya know?

26- Books on Laos language. Half of my trip will be spent on Don Det and I plan to be able to speak Lao by the time I'm done. Also necessary for a future project involving Laos.

27- Stormtrooper with removable helmet. This little dude was with me last time around! I had a plan to photograph him in front of famous landscapes but felt kind of silly when I was trying to position it in front of a temple with the monks pointing and laughing at me. He is the one pictured in the background of this very blog! Great at following orders, not so great at aiming. Yes, he's a little short.

28- Playing cards. I thought about bringing Settlers of Catan: travel edition or Cards Against Humanity in order to make friends in hostels (everyone's on their iPads/laptops! So boring) but the weight and size threw me off. You can also learn new games with a simple playing cards (Germans know tonnes of drinking games).

29- Asia iPod charger. I got this in Bangkok since the last one I owned burned out due to the power outage difference. I hope it still works.

30- Damaged iPod with earphones and cord. This little buddy was my favourite tool on my last trip. Internet access, camera, music player. It did fine for 6 months across Asia but I smashed it when I was back in Canada and didn't bother repairing it. It still works fine, I just can't play games on it any more, which is kind of a good thing.

31- World power socket adaptor. I can plug anything into anything with this, super useful. Kind of heavy though, sometimes it falls out of flimsy sockets.

32- Portable speaker. Not very loud but still fun when you want to have some ambiance, like music in a hostel bedroom. Instant party! Trust me. It's also rechargeable so no need to worry about batteries. I bought this at the Russian Market in Phnom Penh for $6 on my last trip.

33- Rolled solar power charger. I bought this thinking it was a great idea. I would charge my electronics with it to avoid burning them with the power outage difference. After a few tests I realised that it takes about 12 hours of sun to be fully charged and it only charges my Kindle for about 15%. Not a great trade-off... I will probably charge it under my room windows when I'm out during the day and keep the energy for Kindle power if I'm somewhere with no electricity and I feel like reading. It's super light and small so I don't feel bad about bringing something I might use.

34- Earplugs. Super useful in dorms or when sleeping in rooms with paper-thin walls where you can hear party tourists fucking each other loudly (yup) or locals up at 5 am going about their business. Or in buses, trains, planes, you get the idea. Sleep is sleep.

35- Kindle Fire HD + plugs. So happy with this. My dad's birthday gift. Last time I was carrying around the Game of Thrones books, which ended up taking a LOT of space and were pretty heavy. I would mail them home when I finished them. I should have just left them in hostels but they are SO GOOD. This Kindle is loaded with travel guides (I know, I said to stay away from these but they ARE useful) and books I've always wanted to read like Isaac Asimov's Foundation series and the Chronicles of Narnia. It's also great for the internet and I can store videos on it. Entertainment is great when you find yourself alone for extended amounts of time. With this, no dealing with space and weight consuming books! Merci papa!

36- Beer opener. I already have one on my belt, this one is for Ken at One More Bar.

37- Old Passport. I'm bringing this one out of paranoia, I really don't know why.

38- Peroxide. Part of the first-aid kit.

39- Comb. I plan on letting my hair grow. Just because you're travelling doesn't mean you should let yourself go and look like a slob. I saw people walk out of tin-roof sheds looking like a million bucks in the Philippines. Asians seem to judge people a lot based on their appearance and being accepted by them is very important to me. So, look clean buddy! Not pictured: nail clipper, scissors for beard trimming.

40- Webber cream. I have fresh tattoos that require attention and I also plan on getting tattooed over there. this is my favourite healing cream.

41- Echinacea pills. Will be transferred into a ziplock to save space. Great for general health, natural product. Not pictured: Gatorade powder packages. When you start feeling weak, drink this with your morning water. It's great.

42- Ninja Turtles band-aids. Also other band-aids of different sizes and shape in the box. Will be transferred into ziplock to protect from water.

43- Toothbrush. Last time I was carrying it in a ziplock and it got all gross from leftover toothpaste. This time I got the cool little head-box, should be cleaner.

44- Deodorant. Yo, you get stinky when you're sweating constantly. That stuff was surprisingly pricey over there. It was on special at the store so I got what I think should last me for a year.

55- Soap Box. Same deal as the toothbrush, last time I was carrying it in a ziplock and it got all gross.

56- Tiny towel. Don't forget to bring a towel! Most places include a shower in the room but no complimentary towels. Also, small equals less space used and shorter time to dry.

57- Tiny facecloth. I don't even use facecloth at home, this will be used for my feet. Last time around, after 2 months walking in flip-flops my feet got super dirty, dry and started cracking. It was super painful! The Thai doctor instructed me to just take better care of them and I felt like a fool. A good clean-up to remove the dirt in the shower did the trick and I had no problems thereafter!

Not pictured:
Baseball hat, great for shadow.
I will purchase a camera in Beijing.
My shoes.

Hope this was sort of entertaining and the tips made some sort of sense!

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

One for the Road? Season 2 Teaser

True to the tradition, here’s a little description of my environment.

I’m writing to you in my parents’ backyard, a nice little apartment on a quiet street in NDG, near bars and restaurants. I am in the shade, under this dome of vines, with my foot petting the family dog sleeping under the table. The air is fresh and construction not too far from here breaks the silence and the birds’ melody (and my concentration, already pretty feeble).

Good morning, good evening dear friends. I know, I know, it’s been a while since I’ve written. The reason is simple: Route means Road and since my return last year, I’m pretty sedentary. Also, I found myself writing heavy stuff. Sad stories, bitching… it’s depressing! This is not how I viewed the blog when I started it almost 2 years ago!

I decided to wait, to exercise patience, and to get back at it only when I felt ready. I was expecting to lose a few dedicated readers, what with not being any updates for months at a time.

Now D day is approaching, the first step on a path that I am undertaking without any maps, kind of like last time. This time however, I do have a few objectives in sights. We’ll talk about it another time.

Some details: since I’ve been back last April, I’ve been sorta quiet. I had a plan in mind: pay off my debts (plane tickets bought on credit cards) as fast as I could, work like a maniac, not spend a dime, and be gone before winter. I gave myself 6 months to respect a promise made to Mr. Ken, my Laos brother.

Today I look back at this and laugh… it wasn’t a very realistic goal!

Oh well. 16 months after my return and I’m finally ready to leave. To everyone who have nomadic friends, and who are telling them: “You’re lucky, you can leave whenever you can, you’re free!”… Well, it’s not done with luck, it’s done with willpower. I stayed at my parents 6 out of the 16 months in Québec (being 30 years old, it kind of hurts your ego). I rented small rooms. I worked 3 jobs in an industry I’ve never worked in before. I slept alone in 7 different rooms. I sold some of my stuff and stopped myself from buying new stuff. I was a little bit more quiet than usual, I became a little bit more grumpy than in the past. I think I grew apart from my friends a little bit, but it’s finally done: the budget is reached, my minimal preparations complete. I’m ready to go.

I heard a few times – more often than last time – questions like why am I leaving again, why am I going to the same spots, what don’t I like here, have you thought about your future? WHADAYAWANNA DO IN LIFE?

Well, yes, of course I think about it. I can’t sleep at night because of it.

Thinking about it, the moment I’ve been the most happy in my life was during these 6 months exiled, up until when I came back - too early for my taste – because of small health issues. I don’t know if it’s my ego talking, but I just have to go back, and do it even bigger this time.

I must admit that I am pretty jealous of legendary Bruno Blanchet, with his books, upcoming tv show, poutine restaurant in Bangkok (he’ll tell you it’s not his, but still!)

To stay motivated with my budget goals I took my dear British friends’ date of wedding as the main goal, these friends whom I met in Chiang Mai, Thailand – with who I travelled for 3 months and with who I connected so seamlessly. I would tell myself, if I’m happy here, I’ll go to the wedding and spend 2 weeks in England and I’ll come back. If I don’t feel like staying home, I’ll buy a one-way ticket for London and we’ll see from there. 

To me, it’s no use obsessing over a single goal. Life changes, people change, we change. Better to adapt than to dig in.

Next, I explored other options. I obtained a work visa for New Zealand. I thought about moving somewhere  else in Canada. I almost invested in a small restaurant. All sort of things but in the end, with my shifting mental health I decided that finishing the trip I started 2 years ago was the best solution.

So here’s the conclusion: I have a one-way ticket for Leeds, in the north of the British Empire, where reside Jen & Ben. I will be there for 3 weeks. Then, 1 ticket one-way from London to Beijing, where I will be stocking up on gadgets compatible with the power outage of Asia (cameras are cheaper as well). From there I will be making my way towards Vietnam in the south, where I am planning on buying a motorbike that I will ride all the way to Malaysia, all the while writing to you. Because even it’s just a small project, Bière de Route, the tiny blog started clumsily on a bench park of Mont-Royal street is what gave me the most satisfaction up until now. I can’t share with you the nice messages people wrote to me, encouraging me and thanking me but it pushes me to keep going, to make it better.

That’s the basics, open to change. I can’t wait. 

Before like that however, there’s going to be a nice BBQ in Parc Lafontaine, Saturday the 16th of August, so don’t be shy and come grill some hot-dogs and down a few cold ones!


See you soon! 

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Une Bière de Route? Teaser saison 2.

Fidèle à la tradition, une petite description de mes environs.

Je vous écris de la cour de mes parents, un beau petit appartement à NDG sur une rue tranquille, à proximité de bars et restos. Je suis à l’ombre sous une espèce de dôme de vignes, à flatter du pied le chien couché sous la table. L’air est frais et la construction pas trop loin d’ici brise le silence et les chants d’oiseaux (et ma concentration déjà pas très solide).

Bonjour, bonsoir chers ami(e)s. Je sais, je sais, ça fait longtemps que j’ai écrit. La raison est simple : ça s’appelle Bière de Route, et depuis mon retour l’an passé je suis plutôt sédentaire. Aussi, la plume semblait lourde quand je commençais. Des histoires tristes, un peu de chiâlage… c’est déprimant quoi! Ce n’est pas la raison pour laquelle j’ai commencé à écrire il y a presque 2 ans de cela!

J’ai décidé d’attendre, de patienter, et de m’y relancer seulement quand j’étais fin prêt, quitte à perdre quelques lecteurs dédiés, faute de manque d’activité.

Mais voilà la date décisive qui s'approche, le premier pas sur une nouvelle route sur laquelle je me lance sans trop de carte, un peu comme la dernière fois. Cette fois-ci par contre j’ai quelques objectifs en vue. On s’en reparle.

Un peu de détails : depuis que je suis revenu au mois d’avril passé, je suis resté plutôt sage. J’avais un plan en tête : payer mes dettes (billets d’avions sur carte de crédit) au plus crousse, travailler comme un obsédé, ne pas dépenser un rond, et repartir avant l’hiver. Je m’étais donné 6 mois, pour respecter une promesse faite à Mr. Ken, mon frère Laotien.

Aujourd’hui j’y pense et j’en ris… pas très réaliste comme délais!

Mais bon. 16 mois après mon retour, je suis enfin prêt à repartir. À tout le monde qui ont des amis nomades et qui leur disent ‘T’es chanceux, tu peux partir quand tu veux, t’es libre!’… eh bien, ce n’est pas de la chance, c’est de la volonté! Je suis resté chez mes parents 6 des 16 mois au Québec (à 30 ans, veut/veut-pas, ça affecte l’ego). J’ai loué des petites chambres. J’ai travaillé 3 jobs dans le genre que je n’avais jamais fait avant. J’ai dormi seul dans 7 pièces différentes. J’ai vendu des trucs, me suis empêché d’en acheter d’autres. Je suis resté un peu plus sage que d’habitude, je suis devenu un peu plus grognon que dans le passé. Je crois que je me suis un peu éloigné de mes amis dans le processus... mais c’est finalement fait : mon budget est atteint, mes minimes préparations complètes. Je repars.

J’ai entendu quelques fois, plus de fois que la première, des questions du genre pourquoi est-ce que je repars, pourquoi je retourne au même endroit, qu’est-ce que je n’aime pas ici, as-tu commencé à penser à ton futur? KOSSÉ TU VEUX FAIRE DANS VIE!

Et bien, oui, bien sûr que j’y pense. J’en dors pas la nuit tellement que j’y pense.

En même temps la fois que j’ai été le plus heureux de ma vie était durant ce 6 mois d’exile passé, jusqu’à ce que je suis revenu, trop tôt à mon goût, à cause de légers problèmes de santé. Je ne sais pas si c’est mon ego, mais je me dois d’y retourner, et de me dépasser!

Je dois vous avouer que je suis un peu beaucoup jaloux de ce cher Bruno Blanchet, avec ses livres, son émission, son resto de poutine à Bangkok (il vous dirait qu’il n’est pas à lui, mais tout de même!).

Pour me motiver à garder en vue mon objectif de budget j’ai pris la date du mariage de ce cher couple d’anglais d’angleterre (comme on dit au Québec) que j’ai rencontré à Chiang Mai, en Thaïlande, avec qui j’ai voyagé 3 mois et avec qui j’ai si bien connecté. Je me disais, si je suis bien ici, j’irai les voir 2 semaines chez eux et je reviens. Si j’ai pas envie de rester chez moi, je m’achète un billet allé simple pour Londres et on verra après. Car ça ne sert à rien de rester obsédé envers un seul objectif, selon moi. La vie change, le monde change, on change. Vaut mieux s’adapter que s’entêter.

Ensuite j’ai exploré d’autres options. J’ai obtenu un visa de travaille pour la Nouvelle-Zélande. J’ai pensé déménager ailleurs au Canada. J’ai pensé investir dans un petit resto. Tout plein de trucs, mais en fin de compte avec mon humeur chancelante je me suis dit que d’aller terminer mon voyage débuté il y a 2 ans était la meilleure solution.

Voici donc la conclusion : j’ai un billet allé simple pour Leeds, dans le nord de l’empire britannique, où résident Jen & Ben. J’y resterai 3 semaines. Ensuite, 1 billet allé simple de Londres vers Beijing, où je ferai le plein de gadgets compatibles avec la force de courant d’Asie (les caméras sont moins chères aussi). De là je me dirige pour le Vietnam au sud, où j’ai l’intention d’acheter une moto qui m’amènera jusqu’en Malaisie, tout en vous écrivant. Car même si ce n’est pas grand-chose, le petit blog Bière de Route, débuté maladroitement sur un banc de parc sur la rue Mont-Royal est ce qui m’a donné le plus de satisfaction jusqu’à maintenant. Je ne peux pas partager les beaux messages qu’on m’écrivait, m’encourageant et me remerciant, mais ça donne le goût de continuer, de se dépasser.

C’est le plan de base, ouvert aux changements. J’ai très hâte. Mais avant tout ça, il y aura un beau BBQ au Parc Lafontaine, samedi le 16 Août, alors ne vous gênez pas de venir vous faire griller quelques chiens chauds et couler quelques bières!
À bientôt! 

PS Si quelqu'un veut bien corriger mes fautes, c'est très apprécié!