Thursday, 31 March 2011

When Paradise turns into Hell....Part 1

Travelling is probably the best thing for most of us. You barely have been away for a few days and already the best time of your life has rolled in and Facebook is flooded with pictures of you on a beautiful beach looking tan and healthy. But what happen when things go wrong. We all try to take care of ourselves while away, however sometimes you let your guard down for a minute and everything goes wrong.

In this miniseries of articles, I will tell the stories of several backpackers that had more than what they bargained for, whether it is caused by one too many buckets or whether they have simply been unlucky.

Koh Pha Ngan, Thailand - February 2011
Home of the famous Full Moon Party, Koh Pha Ngan is THE backpacker party destination. More than 30 000 people flock to the beach of Haad Rin for cheap buckets, jumping through ring of fires and mushroom shakes.

Pamela Wu, from Cerritas, California, was also looking forward to some serious partying on the famous beach. Although recently arrived in South East Asia, she wasn’t a rookie traveler after months spent backpacking in Australia. But the beach, bucket and banter combo did not quite go according to plan when she was victim of an attempt of rape.
“ I was with my Danish friend who is a boxer. And we went out with some of the Thai boxers that are locals,” she recalls.
Everything was fine and after a few drinks they headed back to their bungalows.
She says: “I said I needed to pee so the Thai guy said that he would show me where the toilet was. And since my Danish friend didn't need to pee, he just waited for me outside.”
But once she came out, her friend was nowhere to be seen and the Thai man was waiting for her.
“ ‘So are you going home to sleep?’ he asked and I said ‘Yes I am’ and he said, ‘ come sleep in my room.’ And I said ‘No..I'm going to go home and sleep in my room.’"
Before she had the time to do anything the man grabbed her and pulled her into his room.
“He picked me up and started to drag me to his room and I struggled to pull away from him. And then he tried to just pull me towards the room by my arms and I was pulling back. And then when I got loose, I ran for the door, but then he came behind me and tried to pick me up again. So I struggled with him for longer.”
“ I was thinking: I just need to get out.

“I managed to free myself and just ran out the door and looked back to make sure he wasn't following me. And then ran to my friend and buried my face in his shoulders and started to cry. He wanted to go fight the other boxer, but it just wasn't worth it.
“When I talked to some locals about it, they told 'He wanted boom boom with you, it's just boom boom'.Warn the other girls,” she concludes.

Pamela’s case is far from being isolated. It could be anyone so just look after yourself, you might be in paradise but the excess of travelling can have consequences and yes it could have happen anywhere but after all you are miles away from home.

In Koh PhiPhi I got spiked with what I believe was roofies or something and to be honest, it was probably my fault, I did not watch my bucket and was running around the beach. I was lucky as my best friend carried me home and looked after me while I was lying in the bed, where it was impossible for me to move a muscle. But anyone could have done anything I would have been just laying on the beach.
Thailand is trying to improve the safety of their visitors, with volunteer patrols on Haad Rin, and the government is trying to crack down on drugs and violence issues and the islands. However with a astonishing rise of the number of travelers visiting Thailand (from 4 million to 14 millions in the last decade) the police finds itself stretched to the limits. So remember, safety first.

More stories:

Did you know...about Durian fruit?

Haaa the Durian fruit. “It’s smells like absolute c**p” is what you will hear the most about it. True story. However for who dares to go past the smell, it’s actually a really tasty fruit. It’s just a little bit confusing for the senses. But did you know:
-Durian fruits are banned from public places in Malaysia just like the Singapore Massive Transit. Can’t travel with that one I’m afraid. Should not try either.
-In Singapore if you get a ticket for road infraction, well I hope you have no durian fruit in the car, because if so you’ll be charge double. Bummer really.
-If you mix the fruit with your bucket then expect some strong stomach spasm and flatulences. Way to be remembered in your dorm. And don’t mix it with ANY carbonated drinks as it can lead to bowel movement and even DEATH (not kidding you don’t want to make the headlines for that)
-The Durian fruits comes with a nice little tale: The tale talks about an old, ugly king who although powerful, was unable to win the love of his young bride who constantly refused him. He consulted a hermit, who asked for three peculiar ingredients, which when mixed together lead to the growth of the Durian tree. As soon as the bride ate it, she was charmed by the king. However, the king forgot to invite the hermit for the later celebrations, which conduced the hermit to curse the fruit borne by the tree. He replaced the aromatic fragrance by rotten odor and replaced the smooth surface by thorny humps. (
-It’s low calorie, and full of proteins and Vitamin C! No worries about diet then.
So be adventurous, or simply pinch your nose. Try it. Really it’s only just as bad as eating a fruit in a boys locker room after a intense football match in the sun.

Dear Diary,

As I was travelling for the past few years, I was always trying to carry a little black book with me to write when, you know as a “journalist” and “writer” in the making, I get “inspired” etc….Well, really just so I can have some memories before everything blacks out after one too many bucket. Sadly I lost one of my notebooks in Australia in January, which breaks my heart as I have things very personal written since my first trip to Hong Kong. However I have a few entries from Thailand from another book. I will randomly type out a few.

Lop Buri- 7th September

I used to think that I liked monkeys, monkeys are cute and fluffy. Well…I don’t anymore. After a scenic journey on the train through the verdant thaï coutryside we arrived in LopBuri, “a charming pit stop” on the way to Sukhothaï according to Lonely Planet .
Yeah, Riiiighht. With the stuffy heat making our spirits just as hot as the temperature with each other, we thought that seeing a few monkeys, whom made the city famous, would be a nice change and make the pressure drop. If I was fidgety at the sole idea to see one these cute little furry things…I got served. Not one, not ten, but hundreds of monkeys up to no good populate the city.
It’s too much for me, at the third monkey attack. I give up and beg my friends to retreat into a monkey free area of the city. I do still kind of like monkeys, but may be only a stuffed one. Real ones are terrifying. Word.
Now what is do in Lop Buri appart from the monkeys. Not much. Our train leaves the city a 11.55pm for Phitsanulok. We walked through the street until we found a lovely little reggae bar called “Come on bar”. Good music, nice staff and cool posters everywhere in there. After a few Changs, time to head to the station. Tonight is particularely hot and the air is so thick that I can barely breath. As we sit on the old leather seats on the train, I can already feel the sweat dripping along my back. Hopefully the wonder of the ancient kingdom of Sukhothaï will be worth it.

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Music for the ears.

If I cannot think of my life without travelling, I think I could not think of even breathing without music. From jazz to wonky, from deep tech to indie, I am a passionate. And if both can combine it’s even better. I remember feeling very emotional listening to The Hush Sound’ s Lighthouse while on the express train from Hong Kong airport to Central while looking at the montains in the dark. I remember the limestone cliffs of the Mekong in Laos being so much more intense listening to Daniel by Bat for Lashes.

So sometimes I’ll make a playlist. I got way behind anything happening musically while my time in SEA. Caught up a little bit in Sydney, but still working on it now.

The Mid March Playlist.

Gold Panda - You
David Guetta ft. Kid Cudi - Memories
Chinese Man - I’ve got that tune
Birdy Nam Nam - Abbesses
Crystal Fighters - Swallow
Funeral Party - Finale
TC- Where is my money Caspa Remix
Jonny L.- Back to your roots Friction & K-Tee Remix
Rusko - Hold On Sub focus Remix

I’m in a dancey mood this days. So a bit of dubstep to get me going.
I can already see myself dancing on the beach in Koh Tao or Koh PhiPhi.

279 days to go.


Finishing your course? Easy. Save up for travelling? Possible. Pay back your debts? Just take your time. Find a job and move to the other side of the country? Why not. But when you have less than 300days to do it, it is not that simple.

Everything started when I could not find a job. No that’s a lie… All really went to hell when my plane touched down in Heathrow two months ago. I remember the pain. Terrible. The one from the burnt skin on my back from my last tanning session on Bondi but mainly the one in my heart. I was home. Party is over.

The pain then gets greater as I come out of the airport, tears rolling down my cheeks, pushing my backpack on my little trolley. My toes, my fingers, my nose and the top of my ears are in agony. Why, you ll ask. Well, let me tell you:

It’s bloody f**king freezing in this country.

It’s january, it’s 7am and every drop of icy rain is like a dagger through my skin. You see I did not play that one very well. I left Sydney 24hours ago, straight from the beach with a pair of shorts, some ballet pumps and one of those VangVieng “In the tubing” vest. Not exactly London A/W fashion in other words.

As I force my frozen body to get on the bus, I promise myself one thing:

To get the hell out of here as soon as possible. But that was not on the cards.

The original plan was simple: Get a new flat in London and get a graduate job around 20k a year, doing something that has nothing to do with my degree, (because journalism is not really an open field at the moment), in an office, biting my nails in rage while I slowly but surely pay my debts from travelling. Then given that I havent got insane in the city, I would just as slowly save up and take my 25days of holidays somewhere nice and that would be it.

Well, that failed a little bit. Not all of it, I do have a great flat in East London, but most of it. I havent got a job, I have even more debts, and travels are not an option for the next 5 years. Bummer.

So as I was crawling on my sofa watching afternoon telly like any unemployed person, I came up with a new game plan (I like plans).

A. Go back to live at home.
Heartbreaking but necessery. I lived in London for 4 years, but it is now to time to go back to Paris. Also mainly for family reasons but no rent and a magical fridge that always seems full? DEAL.

B.Get a job.
Done. Sorted. Because before travelling and all, you had friends. And for the little circle that is left of them after leaving the country for years; they are willing to help. Cheers Zin.

C. Pay back debts.
No rent. No bills. By August say goodbye to the debt guilt.

D. Enrolled in TEFL.
Yep thats right I m getting my TEFL on and will teach in Asia for a year. That will give me something to blog about. And a good reason to leave the country.

SO that’s it, I am going back travelling and even better, live out there for a while. I’m spending all the rest of my money on a one way to Bangkok. Problem is.


I have 280 days to pay back my debts, save up some money, pass my TEFL and find a job. Easy brrrah.

And this blog is going to be my platform to tell you about it. I’ll try my best to keep it fun and up to date, with news, tips and articles on travelling.

Stay tuned, it should be a laugh.


A new journey.

Back-packing [bak-pak-ing]

–verb (used without object) to go on a hike, using a backpack: We went backpacking in the Adirondacks. It is a little bit more than that, isn’t it? Whether you are backpacking on a spiritual quest, on a budget honeymoon, or on a bucket drinking/elephant riding gap year, it is not ”just” going on a hike. It is however definitely using a backpack.
It is so much more than that.

It is always an adventure, whether you are a first time traveller staying in an expensive Kaoh San Road hostel hoping to see Leo DiCaprio in the vapours of the streets vendors, or an old sea wolfe hunting for untouched places in a tropical jungle in South America.

It is a community, because in one glimpse at the back of the local bus in Shenzen’s suburbs, you will aknowledge each other and know that neither you or them have a clue of what the hell is going on (and possibly where this bus is going). But you and them are ready to help each other.

It is freedom. We are all running away from something. And yes waking up, sweating because of the scorching heat, to the noise of screaming monkeys and crawling cockroaches is the way you want to do it. Because tomorrow you are starting your scuba diving course but in three days, who knows. And getting a salty bills for heating and concil tax will never be the same stress than one for too many Changs (no the same amount either).

The Author:
Anne-Laure Toullec
I have previously worked with these publications: 
Trait d'Union (Hong Kong) Rock Sound (Italy) Rock One (France) Smash It! (Belgium) The River (UK)
To contact me: 
+0044 750 789 3854 (UK) +0033 664 17 33 80 (France) +852 901 702 52 (Hong Kong)
FOLLOW ME! @AllyToullec EMAIL ME! annelaure.toullec(at)