Tag Archives: cambodia

Traveller of the Week: Chelsea Smith

Name: Chelsea Smith

Age: 27

Nationality: United States of America

Time on the Road (this trip or general outline):

This is a hard one. Well, I’ll try an overview everything: six months combined travelling in North America, five months combined travelling in the Mid east/South Africa/North Africa, six months combined travelling in Europe, 4 years in England/Greece, 3 years in Germany, 1 year in South Korea, five months combined travelling in Asia.

Funds (saving/working/’freegan’/mixed):

In some places abroad I was working (eg: Greece, Sweden, South Korea, England), but sometimes I was travelling on savings (eg: the Middle East, South East Asia and some European trips.

A visit to Damascus, Syria A visit to Damascus, Syria

What initially inspired you to travel?

A love of learning about new cultures, a curiosity about the world and the call of the wild. That and food.

How have your inspirations to explore the world changed since you began travelling?

I think I used to enjoy shorter trips to more places, whereas now I enjoy spending more time in a country and getting to know it better by working there.

Buddhist temple stay at Bogeunsa temple in Seoul, South Korea. Buddhist temple stay at Bogeunsa temple in Seoul, South Korea.

What has been your most memorable experience abroad?

Too many. I would say going to South Africa when I was 19 opened my eyes to how wonderful travel could be outside of my comfort zone. At the time I was young, had only been to Europe and North America and it was a stretch for me.

As far as a memorable experience go, I could say Palmyra, Syria, the most beautiful Roman ruins I’ve ever seen. Sadly, I believe the war has affected them. That and fulfilling a life long childhood dream of seeing the Angkor temples in Cambodia and the Luxor temples in Egypt.

My sister and me at the Pyramids of Giza, Cairo, Egypt. My sister and me at the Pyramids of Giza, Cairo, Egypt.

What would you say has been your most difficult or testing experience whilst travelling?

A string of horrible things happened in Budapest. I got fined for an improperly validated subway ticket, I got bed bugs, a machine ate my ATM card, and I had some horrible experiences with men. That made me question why I travel at all. While I love many aspects of India and would return in a heart beat, I would say it is a challenging place to be a traveller, especially as a woman. It is exhausting to deal with the sexual harassment and scams in India, but I could say the same thing of Turkey and Egypt. There isn’t an experience or country visited that I would take back, however. I enjoy many aspects of all of those countries’ cultures.

Where are you right now?

San Francisco, California! And loving it.

Do you have any survival advice for new travellers in this country?

Don’t forget to eat and drink enough water! I forgot this often at times during my first Asia trip, which was three months around Cambodia, Thailand and India. I lost a lot of weight and I think the worst times on the trip were related to me not taking care of myself enough. Basically, be kind to your body, take care of yourself and you’ll be in better spirits to enjoy the trip more! That – and don’t be afraid. You will survive.

A walk through Chefchaouen, Morocco A walk through Chefchaouen, Morocco

If you had to recommend one place in the world to visit, where would it be?

This is hard. I would say the Mid east, particularly Syria, but I was fortunate enough to go before the Arab spring. Syria was a really special place when I visited, a magical place with castles and temples from my childhood imagination, and an honest kindness from the people that I haven’t experienced anywhere else.

Otherwise, I would say California. I’m endlessly delighted by the diversity of cultures, people and landscape. Well, also Morocco has a rich culture of art and design, as does India, as does Czech Republic, as does Mexico… I’ve loved many places!

Where do you plan to visit next?

Iceland! I’m doing an artist residency there in June 2014.

The Gyeongbokgung Palace Gardens in Seoul, South Korea The Gyeongbokgung Palace Gardens in Seoul, South Korea.

You can stay up to date with Chelsea via her current blog: http://chelseaelizabethsmith.tumblr.com/

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Broken toe!

Broken toe!

Just left the clinic in Sihanoukville, Cambodia. The x-ray showed a transverse fracture of the distal phalanx (my little toe broke in half). I had been running down the beach to see the plankton at night time, and collided with a little stick that was poking out of the sand firmly. I heard it crack (my toe, not the stick, unfortunatley).

How To: Barter in Asia

In a Western society this is not something one has to learn how to master and therefore can be a bit daunting when arriving in Asia for the first time. However with a bit of practice and confidence you can achieve very low prices in Asia and avoid being ripped off once you learn two things: how to negotiate to a reasonable price with the seller, and learning what the reasonable prices are for each respective country.

Bartering skills are only really necessary where market stalls, open air establishments and ‘hawkers’ (sellers often found scouting the beach selling jewellery and souvenirs) are concerned. If buying something in a shop, or if you see a price tag, the price is almost always fixed and non-negotiable.

Generally speaking, Asian prices are low by Western standards. In many parts of countries such as Thailand, Cambodia and Indonesia, tourism is one of, if not, the biggest economy, so they do aim to make as much as possible out of you when you visit. The average wages in many parts of Asia are very low and they get very little support from their government if business is not going so well. For this reason, touts and the market people will naturally talk to you, sometimes walk after you, to try and make a sale.

For some travelers, while an exciting part of the experience, this can become tiring. Some days you want to be left alone and other days it can feel nice to stop and chat and have a bit of banter with the locals, maybe even practice some of the language. If the seller is confident and you seem to be getting nowhere with your negotiating skills, the etiquette is usually to thank them for their offer, walk away and advise that you know of a cheaper deal elsewhere. Most of the time they will call after you with a ‘final offer’, which can often be a reasonable price. If you are not so lucky, there are usually plenty of other sellers to compare prices with.

In order to be sure of whether or not you are being ripped off, well, it comes as a learning curve, and we all get stung at first. But one of the most magical things about travelling is that we get to meet other experienced travelers who can share information on deals that they have found, and people often sit together in hostels and run prices by each other to compare who has paid what.

Many locals that I have met have personally told me that it is very difficult for them to travel outside of their own country, mainly due to financial reasons. They have said that they see Western tourists as “very rich”. This idea can feel strange at first when you are backpacking and you can be feeling pretty poor or on a very tight budget at the time. This can also make you feel quite pressured at times when you are in a local village with people who may have never met a foreigner before and it can make you start to think about the cultural differences and your perspective of money.

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