We are an expat, travel, and lifestyle blog ready to give you a peak into what life is like living in the Caribbean. Get ready to see the ups and downs of expat living and learn a few tips and tricks along the way. This blog will heighten your sense of wanderlust as I explore a new culture through food, the arts, scenery, and some comic relief along the way.
Four o clock am quickly turned into four thirty, then five am. I need to drag myself out of bed. Not having slept the night before, I was wide eyed with a pit in my stomach. It was a day unfamiliar to my routine of waking up early for work. It was the day my “new life” was about to start. I kept hearing, “good luck on your new life” the few days before. New life ? I didn’t want a new life. I wasn’t ready for this. Maybe I could just close my eyes and when I wake up, I would still have a duration of time left.
It was the day I was about to move to a new house, a new country. The day my life would infinitely transform.
“It’s a bittersweet thing, knowing two cultures. Once you leave your birthplace, nothing is ever the same.”- Sarah Turnball
Leading up to this morning, my mind travelled to every hole of the unknown that was ahead of me. What would it be like ? Would I meet people ? Would I have a life? What would happen with my friends back home ? What would my family think ? Am I just being dramatic ? On the outside, I was collected and fine, but on the inside, I was filled with fears, doubts, and worries. Am I being a baby ? I’m not the only person that’s experienced this but in that moment I felt that I was.
As we reached the airport, all I could think about is if my bags were too heavy. The next few hours, I went through the motions of the airport and boarded my flight.
As I stepped on my flight, I was filled with a new sense of excitement. There that feeling was. The feeling I had before the fears set in. I was on my way to see my fiancé who I hadn’t seen in a month, and my new golden retriever puppy ! I was about to start a new life…
Want to find out the rest of this story ? Stay tuned for our next installment of Expat Series !
Are you an expat or currently making the move to a new country? Would you like to share your story ? Contact us for more details !
Okay guys, so this restaurant is by far my favorite place to eat in Santo Domingo. No, not just SD, but in all of Dominican Republic. La Dolcerie, located in Piantini is by far the best culinary experience I have had in this city and country. So I decided it deserves its own post. I am a self proclaimed foodie and I love to eat, so Im always trying to find the next best spot to go based on food, atmosphere, and service.
La Dolcerie, has it all.
Food: The food here is like heaven in your mouth. Literally. The menu is extremely extensive ranging from Italian dishes like risotto, to black paella, to sandwiches, sushi, and more. They also have a large brunch menu for all you Sunday brunchers. The appetizers and desert are out of this world. Our favorite appetizer here is the goat cheese croquettes. O.M.G in your mouth. I would have no problem eating just these for my actual meal. They are garnished with caramelized onions and dulce de membrillo. For your main course I would recommend sweet sausage risotto or one of the risottos. These Dominicans can cook Italian food like no ones business. And for desert, you HAVE to try the fondant de coco. Sweet heaven in your mouth again.
prices: : $10-25
Atmosphere: From the moment you pull up to La Dolcerie, you know you’re in one of the nicer neighborhoods of Santo Domingo. Luxury apartment towers, houses behind walls covered in green vines. This is the place to be. La Dolcerie is an extremely trendy spot with indoor or outdoor seating. We tend to sit on the terrace and enjoy the music and breeze. The atmosphere is great and you feel like you’re dining amongst the whose who of Santo Domingo.
Service: The service here is by far the best service of any restaurant Ive had in all of Dominican Republic. From the moment you walk up the steps, you are greeted and seated by a host or hostess, which is out of the ordinary in this country. The staff are extremely warm and friendly and give great recommendations on what to order. I’m talking filling your glass with ice the minute they see its low or holding the door for every person that walks in side. They are super attentive which is an extremely nice plus of dining here.
So if you’re ever in Santo Domingo, check it out. You will not be disappointed!!!
Everything stated in this post, are my own opinions and was not sponsored in any way.
I’m almost about to hit my one year mark since moving to an island. Although I am still newer to island living, I’ve already acquired quite a few new skills and lessons. It is inevitable that while living on your rock you will obtain abilities you once would have balked at. While I used to worry about keeping hair fly-aways at bay, what new high end lipstick I would be buying, and having perfect manicured nails, living in the Caribbean, things have changed a bit. Ok, ok I still worry about my hair and makeup, but the skills I have gained living on my island far outweigh the skills I learned living in the states.
So here are some of the valuable lessons I have gained so far.
Killing Bugs. You will kill bugs like never before. Forget panicking every time a large unidentifiable insect is near you. You will pick up whatever is closest and can be used as your weapon, and you will kill that bug. You will smash it in all it’s glory and not look back. Along with learning to kill bugs, you will learn to keep fly zappers on hand, have lots of Tupperware, and know how to ant proof your kitchen. At one time I would squirm at the thought of a bug, such as a spider or a cockroach, being within a few feet of me. I mean, who doesn’t ? To be honest I hadn’t even been in the same room as a cockroach until living on an island. But now, I take it like nothing. Killing mosquitoes, flies, cockroaches, beetles, you name it, it will be second nature to you. And on that note, let me say the issue of bugs has probably been one of my hardest adjustments to island living. As soon as you get rid of one bug family, a new one will surely appear.
Island Time. You will learn to take life a lot more slowly. This is what we call island time. Island time is a real thing. This can include the staff in restaurants taking their sweet time to waiting days for maintenance on your apartment. On an island, Monday means Wednesday or Thursday. No, Monday means Thursday. I came from the east coast, which is extremely fast paced, as in darting from one place to another like your life is dependent on an hourglass running out. So for me, learning to deal with island time has been a struggle. But if you’re lucky enough to take life more slowly like we do on the islands, you may just be lucky enough to stop and enjoy the little things in life and all the beauty around us. Your appreciation for everything around you grows when you accept island time. Maybe this is why island time became a thing ?
Electricity is Overrated. Electricity is overrated right? On islands, unless you have a generator, hell even with a generator, you will experience power outages on a regular basis. There’s nothing like being in the middle of curling your hair or that really suspenseful part of your favorite tv show and boom! Power’s out. And why is it, that your power will inevitably go out at the most in opportune of times. My best friend and sister recently visited and on my friend’s last day here, the power went out for 8 hours. I wish it would have been a surprise but it really wasn’t. Need I remind you with that, your wifi goes out too. At one time, I would have huffed and puffed at just the thought of this. But with power outages on a regular basis, you learn to just relax and unplug from the world.
Driving. So of course I knew how to drive before moving to my island. I learned to drive in New Jersey, where everyone is in a rush to get somewhere. In case you hadn’t heard, New Jersey boasts some of the more aggressive drivers in the states. Naturally, I thought I was a great driver, but move to the Dominican Republic and you will be given a crash course in defensive driving. I thought driving into New York City during rush hour was bad, well Santo Domingo has nothing on NYC traffic. You will be given a crash course in serious, anxiety ridden driving. Driving on an island can be a bit daunting. Drivers don’t use directionals, or lanes for that matter. Not only are you trying to maneuver around other drivers, but also cowboys, throw in potholes, unpaved areas, and the occasional cow. You will learn that your horn is your best friend while driving on this island.
Showering with a bucket. So this is definitely one of the less glamorous lessons I’ve learned on an island. Unfortunately some islands don’t have the best water supply and at times you will run out of water or maybe your water pump won’t be pumping. If you run out of water in the middle of a shower, you will learn not to be alarmed and instead you will fill a bucket and use that. Hey, you do what you have to do while living on an island at times. You will also learn to troubleshoot your water pump and sometimes even watch your fiancé climb to your roof to check your water tank. Along with this lesson you will learn to shower with less than warm water at times. I remember for the first few weeks on my island, our water heater wasn’t working. Waking up early; turning on the water; to be hit in the face with fairly ice cold water, now dripping down you. Talk about a culture shock quite literally. But you will learn that it’s not that bad when you live in summer weather all year long. By the way, you can forget about that superb water pressure your shower once boasted in the states. When my sister was here, she turned on the sink and her exact words were “thats it?” with a look of pure bewilderment. “Yup thats it”, I said. And they thought I was kidding about the water..
Needs become just wants. On an island, you can walk into your grocery store looking for all the ingredients you need for that special recipe, to walk out with a new idea for dinner. You can walk into your local hardware store needing a specific piece to walking out empty handed. Sometimes you won’t find what you “needed” on an island. But in turn, you will learn those needs aren’t needs. They are wants. You learn to improvise with what you have and what you can find. We can all use a little MacGyver-esque in us though right.
Appreciation. This may be one of the most important lessons learned on an island. Living on a rock, you learn to appreciate the simple things in life. You learn to appreciate everything you have in your life. These are many things we often take for granted before we come to an island. It may be a cliche but you literally learn to stop and smell the roses. You learn to appreciate life and all the beauty around you. You learn to appreciate sunrises and sunsets. The islands and her lessons make us stronger, and we can thank them for creating some of the most kick-ass women and men around. And last but not least you learn to appreciate how fortunate you are that you’re able to call paradise your home.
Before moving to a rock, I had been warned that there would be lots of bugs and crawly creatures. I googled and googled what kind of predatory animals and creatures were here, and came to find out there really aren’t any. Just lots of bugs and reptiles. I thought, okay I can deal with that, they will be outside. In their own habitat. If only I knew then, what I know now. I should have expected it wouldn’t be so simple. Some things you have to find out the hard way though, am I right.
Living on an island, you quickly realize that you will inevitably share your home with certain creatures. Lizards that slip in under the door, ants that continually find that one little crumb that was left unswept. Its hard to avoid no matter how much you bug proof your house. Believe me, I know, because I have tried everything the trusty internet has provided me with.
So this is a cautionary tale of an island houseguest. A human houseguest you might think. No, not quite.
On this one particular night, it started like any other. I walked down my stairs to let my golden retriever puppy out. Mind you, its dark inside and out. The kind of dark where you can see only the shadows of anything moving. As Im approaching the bottom step, I see something on the pure white, tile floor. Thats weird; it looks long, black, and skinny. Is it a centipede ? I immediately run back up to turn on the light as a precaution.
Instantaneously I scream the loudest ear-piercing shriek of Ivan(my fiancé) and grab my dog. I suddenly know what Im looking at but avoid saying it; as if that makes it less real. Ivan comes running down and there it is, in all-encompassing eyesight; a snake! Or so I assumed. Granted it was a very tiny one; but still ! So as we’re both staring at it, not really knowing what to do; it starts slithering in its S shape towards our bathroom door frame. Frantically Im yelling and my fiancé is just staring. Many phrases, probably too inappropriate for this tale were said right there. That will be left to your imagination. All I can comment is that my true New Jerseyan came out in that moment. Meanwhile, our dog is going senseless trying to get me to let her go hunt this new creature. We’re at the point now of something that can be portrayed only as a scene out of a National Lampoon movie.
Yup, there it goes, slithering right under the bathroom door frame. So both of our faces now have a look of pure disbelief. Now what? All I can bring myself to do at this point, is really freak out. Were going to have to remove the door frame I think. Instead my fiancé tries poking anything under the door frame he can, to get it to come out, spraying raid (like thats going to work). Yea, it didnt work. Hey, we’re no snake charmers.
Next step, the door frame is coming off and that snake is going to get out of this house one way or another!
I sat on my stairs in disbelief for a little while, thinking this cant be real. I thought snakes live in jungles and woods. I sat, wallowing in my own self pity for a while thinking why is this happening to me, WHY IS THERE A SNAKE IN MY HOUSE? We live in a city, not a jungle ! I had only just started accepting the fact that bugs here are inevitable. But snakes, I will never be able to accept.
Needless to say, I stayed up all night googling snakes in the Dominican Republic, anxiety ridden, trying to find out if this is normal and how it got inside. After my nightlong google sessions, I realized it was a Brahminy snake which is often confused for a really long worm. But, and you can believe that is a big BUT, you can bet that I NEVER walk in the dark without some sort of light source now. Lesson fully learned.
And, for those of you wondering, unfortunately it is normal. As much as I cringe admitting it, snakes are a natural part of island life. Like I always say to my friends back in the states, living on an island is not for the faint of heart.
p.s I never shared this incident with my Mom, in fear of her not visiting, considering her deathly fear of snakes….Surprise Mom !
A few weeks before I spent a month back in my home state, I posted a list of the 11 Things I Missed Since Living Abroad . While I was in NJ, I thought about the things that I was missing from our island, better known as Dominican Republic. When I started writing this, I didn’t want to truly miss that many things about island living, but I quickly realized I did. So here it goes
The Weather. This one kind of goes without saying but the weather here is perfect right now. It’s winter, which means mid eighties during the day and low seventies at night. Its not too humid or hot. Its just perfect. While in NJ, everytime I felt a shiver, I would dream about being back in the glorious weather of the tropics.
My hair and skin. This one goes hand in hand with the weather here. My hair stays fuller and my skin stays fresher. In other words, humidity here does wonders for my hair and skin. I hear most complain about humidity with their hair, but for me, it plumps up my dry, thin locks and transforms them into luscious, straight out of the salon chair locks. My skin stays way more moisturized and you get that straight off the island glow.
The sky. The sky here is just plain different than “home” in NJ. The stars are brighter and the clouds are bigger. Theres nothing like sitting outside at night on our balcony looking up at the stars.
The sunsets. The sunsets and sunrises on an island are more than extraordinary. The colors in the sky transform the landscape to something out of a postcard.
The scenery. Along with the sky, the weather, and the sunsets, you are presented with beautiful scenery on this island. Everywhere you look theres palm trees and beautiful flowers. The greenery is just a bit greener than back in the states.
The Animals. I love all the wildlife on this island. I think my mom and sister could attest to the fact, they receive thousands of messages from me sending them pictures of the wildlife here. Whether its cows on our street, to lizards, to puppies, to pigs and goats. I love them all.
The music. I can sit on the patio in my backyard at any time of night and hear music so loud, its like I’m right inside a club or bar. The music hear is louder and the glasses are fuller. The people in Dominican Republic are always ready to have a good time.
The atmosphere. I think the atmosphere in this country is so amazing partly because of the music thats always playing. Everyones ready to have a good time. You can see people dancing merengue in the airport to dancing bachata in the gas station. Yup, you read that right. I said the gas station. This country is always up for a good time. Not only that, but they are some of the most welcoming people I have had the honor of being around.
The laid-back attitude. While being on the east coast, I can’t say I didn’t miss the laid-back attitude of island living. Life is more simple here and it takes away a lot of the stress that can build when you’re living in a fast paced environment.
Our house. Of course I missed our house after being away for a month. Okay, okay I didn’t miss the low water pressure or the palmetto beatles that took up lodging. But sometimes, something as small as your water pressure doesn’t mean so much when you get to be back in your “home”.
This past month, my fiancé and I traveled back to our home state of NJ with lots of luggage and two dogs in tow. Experiencing the chaos of traveling through the airport and onto the plane with two dogs, I’m left wondering what it will be like when we have kids to travel with. Anyway, back to the point. I sat in my uber with my pup in my lap, reflecting on the time I had been living in Dominican Republic. I was overly excited to be getting back to NJ to see my family and friends. But I couldn’t help but have this nagging feeling in my stomach that brought tears to my eyes. Why did I feel like this ? Maybe it was the fact I was emotional that day or maybe sentimental. Or maybe just the thought I was about to enter a snow globe. Anyhow, I started feeling attached to this new place we have been calling home. When we started our descent down to New York City and I started seeing the lights, it again brought tears to my eyes. God, I missed the East Coast. I had never been away from the states for this long. I had never lived anywhere other than NJ.
When I landed, I got off that plane as quickly as I could and darted to immigration and customs. Funny thing in the United States, when traveling with your puppy in her carrier, no one seems to notice you have a dog. After clearing immigration, grabbing my bags and beelining it to the exit, me and Arya (my Dominican street dog pup) started shivering instantly. Wow, it was cold. My twin sister and best friend quickly arrived, and I don’t think I’ve ever been so excited in my life to be back in the metro area. That drive from JFK to my little town in NJ was one of the best car rides I’ve ever been in.
The next day, I got a Taylor ham and cheese bagel for breakfast and chipotle for lunch just like I promised myself. The next few weeks were filled with eating all the foods I had missed, booking and planning our wedding, hanging out in the city, and spending time with my friends and family. Oh and how can I forget, shopping at my favorite store Sephora !
As our trip came to a close, and we headed back to Santo Domingo, I realized a few things. I now call two places home. When I’m in Dominican Republic, I call NJ home. When I’m in NJ, I call Santo Domingo home. I started wondering, what truly makes a place your home. Is it the people there with you, the feelings you have there, or the place you live everyday. It’s a funny thing considering two places that are so far apart and so unalike to both be your home. I may not know the answers, but I wouldn’t have it any other way !
p.s… stay tuned for 11 Things I Missed About Dominican Republic !
~Today, we have a fellow expat as a guest writer who will bring you on their trip through Cambodia with tips, tricks, and advice~
Perhaps you’re thinking about travelling to Cambodia either for a holiday or as part of a longer journey. If it’s your first time in Cambodia or maybe even South East Asia then hopefully this blog post can help ease any pre-journey jitters or provide you with a little peace of mind. I’ll take you through my own experience while providing some hints, tips, must-see/do activities and things to watch out for. To help things, I was not a traveller before. In fact, this trip was my first to take me outside of Europe and was my first without a “responsible adult”. So you wouldn’t be wrong to assume that I was excited but also incredibly nervous, verging on scared. Yet here I am, a little older, a little wiser and with some incredible memories.
Hostels and Travel
My journey actually kicked off in Bangkok, Thailand. You can get a bus to Siem Reap, Cambodia from any major travel agency that you’ll find scattered around Bangkok. After surviving the long bus journey, the somewhat intimidating border, and the general uncertainty of what my “plan” was, I eventually made it into Siem Reap in the evening. One piece of advice that I cannot stress enough is to buy a sim card for whatever country you are in. Being able to access HostelWorld can be a lifesaver if, like me, you lack the forward thinking necessary to book hostels in advance. I can sum my entire Cambodia hostel experience up in only two words: Mad Monkey. The famous (or perhaps infamous) party hostel may not sound like your place if you are in Cambodia to explore the culture and history. Before I went, I couldn’t have agreed more.
For me, this trip was a journey not only abroad, but of self-discovery. Feel free to cringe at the cheesiness of that sentence. I figured I could explore the country, push the boundaries of my comfort zone, and experience a culture that I knew almost nothing about. That being said, whether you are travelling alone or with friends, Mad Monkey is an ideal place to stay for a way to meet new people. Everyone is in the same boat as you, so you’ll find that they are friendly and just want to enjoy themselves. Speaking of boats, the Mad Monkey in Siem Reap has a boat party that I would definitely recommend. Let me just stress that I am not a party animal. Give me a temple to explore over a party any day of the week…but I would recommend this one. I befriended many people at this event and ended up travelling with a few of them. Not only that, but you’ll get to see some crocodiles and swim in a giant (if a little brown) lake.
Forget your Prep
When you’re not enjoying the beer pong or Westernised meals at Mad Monkey, Siem Reap has many must-see locations. If you’re prone to mosquito bites or forgot your spray then I have a recommendation for you: Go to a pharmacy and ask for a mosquito bracelet. They cost about $10 but they are worth every bit of it. You’ll get a sort of cloth bracelet with a little yellow tablet. This gives off a lemony sort of smell. You can wear this day and night and boy, does it work wonders. I thought a bottle of Jungle Formula bug spray would keep me safe but it did absolutely nothing. This bracelet however…well, like I said, it works wonders. You don’t smell like mosquito spray and you don’t have to worry about getting wet. The pharmacy isn’t really a “must-see” location but I’d still recommend a visit for this purpose.
You may already know this but Siem Reap is home to the incredible Angkor Wat. It is literally the largest religious monument on the face of this planet! It was built around the 12th century. I was completely oblivious to this knowledge before googling “things to see in Siem Reap”. There are a series of temples to visit here with Angkor Wat being the largest and arguably the most magnificent. My favourite was actually Bayon. Walking around some of these temples is just indescribable. You should note that to get to these temples you need a ticket. You can purchase a one day ticket but in all honesty, getting around them in one day would be a nightmare. We got a three day ticket which is definitely what I’d advise.
Faces of Bayon
A Sunrise like No Other
In terms of when to go, well, seeing Angkor Wat at sunrise is a MUST! That’s one of the reasons I recommend the three day ticket. That way you can get up (or stay up), go see the sun rise and then go back to bed. You don’t want to give yourself temple-fatigue as it really will ruin your experience. Getting to the temples is simple enough. You can hire bikes and cycle around, but we simply got a tuk-tuk. If you want to see the sunrise, you’ll need to arrange this with a driver beforehand to make sure you can get a tuk-tuk. Our next destination was Koh Rong. If you stay at an established hostel such as Mad Monkey, they often allow you to book transport through them. We did just that and it means you get picked up from the hostel and taken to the bus.
Sunrise at Angkor Wat
There are a few things note-worthy of Cambodian bus travel. First of all, whatever times they tell you, just assume they are wrong. If it says 3 hour bus journey, it’s probably 5. If it says 12, expect it to be at least 15. Always give yourself at least 50% more estimated travel time. Secondly, if you get a night bus, expect to be sharing the equivalent of a single bed with someone. If you have travel companions, it’s not nearly as bad, but if you are alone, it can be uncomfortable to say the least. I have social anxiety so this is my worst nightmare (more on this later) but luckily I was with people I’d met in Siem Reap. Sharing a nook at the back of a bus with an Australian man wasn’t really on my to-do list but hey ho!
This brings me to my third point, I don’t travel well normally, I certainly never sleep very well while traveling and being sideways (as my bed was) at the very back of a bus, next to someone I barely knew, for upwards of 10 hours. This is not my idea of fun. Just be cautious. Many travellers on this trip, will get an anti anxiety medication from the local pharmacy to ease this bus ride. Tip: Don’t take them if you’re unsure OR if you have to get off the bus at any point e.g. a border crossing. The group I was with ultimately slept right up until we got to the port at Sihanoukville, the next morning. Getting a boat from here is incredibly easy but there are some warnings to make note of before you leave!
Before you leave the mainland, make note: you will NOT have Wi-Fi or access to an ATM on either Koh Rong or Koh Rong Samloem. There may be exceptions to this and some of the bars do have Wi-Fi. Likewise, some of the streets do have ATMs but they are hard/all-be-it impossible to find. So it’s best to assume that you won’t have access. Likewise, if you want to take supplies such as alcohol, best to buy them beforehand. Getting past that, on Koh Rong we stayed in an incredible hostel called Suns of Beaches. I have never seen such a beautiful stretch of beach in my entire life. It’s quiet, private, the water is beautiful and the staff were incredibly lovely.
One incredible part of this island is the plankton. At night (particularly on the night of a full moon) you can swim in the water and see something completely spectacular. There are glowing, phosphorescent plankton. As you move around them, you see what appears to be green static electricity. It’s almost impossible to describe but it’s certainly something worth experiencing. While staying at this hostel, we were in small, thatched huts: Nothing between us and the jungle. As someone with SEVERE arachnophobia, I was a little anxious to say the least. I had a couple of intense encounters with my 8-legged enemies but I survived. There is one thing worth noting about Koh Rong. Many, many people had warned me beforehand but I thought it was an exaggeration. They all told me: “If you go to Koh Rong, you WILL get ill!”
Koh Rong Samleon
Next stop was Koh Rong Samleon. Getting a boat from the main town is simple enough. We were booked in at the Mad Monkey there. My experience with the hostel so far had been positive, but the staff at this one were less than helpful. This was a lovely hostel though: great rooms, great facilities, great options of food and drink. Most importantly: on the night of the full moon, there is the full moon party. Even better, is the party the night before this: the jungle party. I heard it was “the best party” people had ever been to in their entire lives. You see, I couldn’t make it as I felt like I was at death’s door. I won’t go into details but I’ve never been so ill in my entire life: Two days of absolute hell! The warnings of Koh Rong were spot on!
So if you plan on doing these two islands, be warned that Koh Rong may be beautiful beyond imagination but it comes with consequences. Similarly, it’s worth noting that the Mad Monkey on Koh Rong Samleon does a tab system. If you can’t pay the tab at the end, you’re basically stranded there. Despite barely being able to eat the entire time I was there, I almost couldn’t pay mine! Mad Monkey runs their own boat service which takes you back to the main dock. The boat on the way back for us was rough. Most boats had been cancelled due to the weather but I NEEDED to escape that island. Luckily, singing sea shanties is a surprisingly entertaining way to distract you from sea sickness. Upon safely arriving back to Sihanoukville, we then got a bus to Kampot.
A short drive away includes some rare sights held within the Preah Monivong National park. For starters, there is an abandoned casino. It doesn’t sound like much but walking around it is incredibly eerie. Another stop was the waterfall. You can climb down to it and look over the edge.
One of the monuments at Wat Sampov Pram Buddhist Temple
Perhaps the most unexpected gem we were led to within the national park was Wat Sampov Pram. This is a Buddhist Temple, that while appearing very old, is also awe-inspiring. I’m not religious and probably wouldn’t even describe myself as hugely spiritual, but this place just connected with me to a deep level. I could have easily spent the entire day there or even longer! You can book a ride around the national park through your hostel which makes things very easy. It’s a beautiful site and a relaxing day trip; this is exactly what your mind, body and possibly soul need before the next stop: Phnom Penh.
If you haven’t heard of Pol Pot or the Killing Fields, then you wouldn’t be alone. It’s not something they teach in school. I’m actually ashamed that I didn’t know about these atrocities that took place in Cambodia during the 1970s. I mean, it happened less than 50 years ago! I won’t explain the history here because I won’t be able to do it justice. If you are in Phnom Penh, there are a few sites to visit. Prepare yourself emotionally; visiting these sites will leave you with an unpleasant feeling as you’re being confronted with the type of evil inhumanity that took place. The sites will rip out your soul and tear it to pieces. Facing Cambodia’s painful history is not a comfortable thing. With that said, you definitely have to go to the Khmer Rouge Killing Fields and get the audio guide. After that, go to Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. Just prepare yourself for quite the emotional rollercoaster..
A dark truth from the killing field
Time to Leave
This marked the end of my trip and from here I got a bus back to Bangkok. Just to end this post with a story, perhaps with a lesson to be learned and an explanation of where some of my previously mentioned tips came from. My bus was supposed to take 12 hours. I got a night bus that took 12 hours…to get to the border, then another 4 at least. I got on the bus and into my child-sized bed. I started off alone, but soon shared the tiny space with a very large, local man. This ended up being the worst, most uncomfortable leg of the trip that I’ve ever been on. When I got to the border, I was basically pushed off the bus and told someone would meet me at the other side.
I’m an adult. So I shouldn’t need someone to hold my hand while going through immigration. The issue being that I actually had no idea where to go. I found my way through immigration fine, but on the other side nobody met me. I walked around for a while before, through a series of hand gestures, I managed to explain to someone what I was looking for and get directions. I found the taxis, got pointed to one and when I asked where the toilets were I was told “No time”. That’s right, there was not time for my bus (which was now a people carrier) to wait for me while I went for a pee. I had to wait until we stopped for a break at risk of not making it back to Bangkok on time for my flight.
So to Summarise…
If you’re thinking about visiting Cambodia, especially if you are travelling alone, Mad Monkey is a great place to meet people. Don’t leave Siem Reap without doing some temple exploration but visit Koh Rong at your own risk. If you survive until Phnom Penh then prepare to shed your weight in tears at the tales of the horrors that took place there. Ultimately, Cambodia is the trip of a lifetime. You’ll meet some incredible people; I sure did, so if you’re travelling alone, you’ll most likely find some companions to journey with. When the time comes that you have to leave your friends and this country, you’ll wish it never had to end!
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When we started our move to Dominican Republic, people had lots of concern. “It’s too dangerous, it’s a third world country, you are going to get mugged you know!” These were just a few of the things I was told. I have been asked many questions and told many things about life in the Caribbean that couldn’t be further from the truth, so this prompted me to clear up a few myths. Here goes:
1. It’s too dangerous for a foreigner to live outside of a resort. False. While I do live in a gated community, Dominican Republic is not as dangerous as everyone thinks. I live nowhere near the resorts and haven’t seen or had one sketchy thing happen to me. Well, maybe except that one time we almost saw a machete fight, but I’ll save that for a later post as to not scare you. Fun fact: never shared this with my mom..dont worry Mom, before you have a heart attack, nothing happened. Anyhow, that was right next to a resort and in a very rural neighborhood. Dominican Republic is full of friendly, helpful people. Before we moved here, when I’d say where we were headed, I’d be presented with faces of confusion. And then told that it was way too dangerous for a “gringa” like me to be outside of the resorts. I was told I would get mugged, kidnapped, sick, everything you can think of and believe me it put me on high alert. When I got here though, I realized it’s just like living anywhere else. Yes there is crime here, but theres also crime in my home state and every other part of the world. My fiance saw more crime while living in Hawaii; example: when he had his moped stolen right from his driveway. How’s that for you skeptics of DR? I mean come on people, Dominican Republic is not a war torn country. So far it has been a lovely place to live. So give it a chance, it’s not as bad as you think.
2. Medical care isn’t up to par. False. My fiance and I both have medical insurance here. Quite honestly its better than the plans I ever had in the states and far less money. There are doctors and hospitals here that are just as good as in the United States if not better. The prices are substantially lower for sometimes better care and treatment. With this, there are also many doctors who speak fluent English here, so if you’re worried that your Spanish speaking isn’t great yet, you can still find doctors that may better suit you. Side note: this is in regard to private hospitals and doctors. Public hospitals and clinics are not up to par. For instance, when we got here we didn’t know about this and ended up at a public hospital. Not knowing how it worked here, we were in for a rude awakening. So if you visit or are living here, be sure to visit private hospitals and doctors if need be. On top of medical care for yourself, there are extremely reputable and quality veterinarians for your fur babies that you may bring along or adopt once here.
3. You don’t need to speak Spanish. False. Unless you’re in a tourist area, speaking only English will not get you far. So it is best to learn as much Spanish as possible before moving to the Dominican Republic.
4. There is only one ethnicity here. False. Dominicans are mainly a mix of Taino, Afro-Caribbean, and Spanish or European. They are not one ethnicity or race but rather a mix of many decedents.
5.You can’t drink the water. True. I have heard mixed reviews about whether or not you can drink the tap water here but I wouldn’t chance it. It is best to stick to bottled and purified water while here.
6. The country is not built up. False. Dominican Republic is the fastest growing Latin American economy right now. In Santo Domingo, there are high rise apartment buildings, many shopping malls and plazas, gourmet restaurants, fast food drive thrus, pharmacy drive thrus, and beautifully manicured parks. Santo Domingo is just like any other metropolitan city.
7. The Caribbean is hot all year long. False. While this is true in certain parts of the Caribbean, there are areas here that go as low as 9 degree Celsius (48 degree Fahrenheit) at night. During the days it can be 13 degree Celsius ( 55.5 degree fehreinheit) in those same areas. In Constanza, DR it can sometimes go below freezing at night.
8. The cost of living is extremely low. This one is a mix of true and false in my opinion. While costs such as rent and housing, medical care, and foods are low, most other goods are a much higher price. You are on an island which means that everything has to be shipped and imported in. With importation, you pay a premium of taxes and fees for almost everything. For instance, cars and electronics are much more expensive here than in the states.
9. Driving is sketchy. True. Okay this one is definitely true. If you have read any of my other posts you would know what I think about the driving here. People don’t use signals, they don’t use lanes, and they don’t even have working lights on their cars. It can be extremely risky while driving here but only if you let it. I find that if you take your time while driving and are cautious of the drivers around you; you can definitely manage it, even if you have as much unease about it as I do.
10. Dominicans give the best blowouts. True. For all you ladies, this is absolutely true. The best part is that you can walk into a salon and get a blowout for substantially less than in the States. I’m talking less than a coffee date at your local shop.
11. We just lay on the beach all day. False. People still have to get up and go to work everyday just like the rest of the world. Although, when living in the Caribbean; every weekend feels like a vacation, which isn’t so bad.
What’s the craziest myth you have heard about where you live ?