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​Jag bor i Australien. I ett hus jag delar med en tjej som blivit en vän. Och hennes hund. Som blivit min bästis. Har jag tur har jag snart tre jobb. Det har gått 3,5 vecka sedan jag anlände, och om två månader åker jag hem till Sverige över julen. Livet här i Melbourne är underbart, jag visste inte att livet kunde vara såhär. Jag har fina vänner, roliga dagar, jobbar mycket och försöker snåla allt jag kan. Det är förunderligt, detta liv jag lever. Jag känner förluster så otroligt hårt, så jag måste nog lära mig känna alla vinster lika tydligt. 

För här vinner jag.

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För en vecka sedan var jag påväg. Nu är jag här.

Sedan sist jag skrev har jag flyttat till Melbourne. Rent känslomässigt har jag inte hängt med, storheten av detta är liksom för mycket för mig att processa nu. Jag kan ju inte ens processa faktumet att jag är färdig med min resa. Eller att jag inte längre har utväxt på håret. Eller att jag inte är ett svettigt monster varenda dag. Nä, nu börjar jag svamla igen.

Men sedan sist jag har bott gratis i en vecka. Hon jag träffade en timme i april har blivit en vän till mig. Imorgon flyttar jag till mitt mer permanenta hem. Ser väldigt mycket fram emot det. Jag har fått ett jobb. Kanske ett till. Vänner, socialt liv. Planer. En dejt?

Och jag har varit sjuk, varit lite nere, är fortfarande sjuk. Behöver bli frisk, börja röra på mig, få igång en vardag och hitta lunket.

Åh.

En vardag.

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When I traveled India last year, I did so with the naive idea that I would find myself and volunteer with elephants. I say naive without judgment, because I was naive. I am naive. And I didn't find myself. But I found an elephant.

Without consent, my friend and I were taken to a man who claimed to rescue elephants, claimed being the operative word here. He used them for money, wanting us to ride his elephants. We refused to do so, being perfectly content in her mere presence. This was far from popular, and we left fairly quickly. I remember looking back through the car window and I saw that there were already new tourists in our place, climbing on top of "our" elephant. We didn't do anything "wrong", but it sure felt wrong. While sitting in the car, leaving the elephant behind, I felt dirty. The kind of dirty you only ever feel when you have gone against all that you know in your heart to be right.

What do you call bad news that isn’t bad? Or that isn’t news either? Information coming your way that makes your inside freeze, that opens a place inside you filled with old pain? A fleeting moment that passed almost instantly, but left you out of breath? I had one of those. I got bad news that wasn’t bad, and wasn’t news. When done right, old pain can be a good wake up call. Once again, I woke up. Reminded that if I want to be happy, I must make myself happy. That was when I booked my week at the Elephant Nature Park. One week of volunteering, an early birthday present to myself.

Elephant Nature Park is a sanctuary and rescue center in Northern Thailand. The founder is a small woman with a big heart, and the courage of a thousand tigers. She has dedicated her life to rescue elephants from the terrors caused by humanity. Through abuse, death threats and a constant wall of resistance, she has saved more than 200 elephants in 20 years. She saw suffering, and could not – would not, close her eyes. Her name is Lek, and she is an absolute hero to me. At this very moment, 74 elephants can call the Elephant Nature Park it’s home. 74 elephants with different disabilities and mental issues caused by humans. They have been saved, and in the park they can live out the rest of their life in peace.

Elephant Nature Park is surrounded by some controversy. Some people swear by her dedication towards the animals, whilst others insist that she’s a hard knock business woman in it for the money. I see no contradiction between the two arguments. Lek is a tough business woman, yes. She must be that in order to save the elephants she declare to be her family. I suspect that the big contradiction and controversy, that is the root to all the other controversy, is the fact that Lek is a woman. And not just any plain lady, but a woman born from the hill tribes north of Chiang Mai. Now she speaks in front of the United Nations, is written about all over the world and is the living proof that your background does not have to define who you are. Others peoples expectations is not the guidelines of your life. Lek fights for her family, regardless of the cost. Because she knows that there is nothing more important than being true to what you believe is right.

I don’t mean to toot my own horn now, but I am very in touch with my intuition, and I believe that I can “read” my environments pretty darn well. When I arrived at the Elephant Nature Park, something within me relaxed. Because even though I’ve had several people recommend the park to me, I was nervous. I have extremely high standards concerning animals. Even the general standard in Sweden, where I come from, is lacking in my opinion. Therefor, backpacking through Asia has been somewhat hard for me. For five months straight, I’ve seen it all. Chickens hanging by their feet, cows being forced to eat garbage, far too skinny horses carrying weights beyond them, and more homeless and injured cats and dogs than I can count. It filled my heart with despair. When I arrived at the Elephant Nature Park and saw how all the elephant, dogs, cats, cows, horses and all the other animals were being treated - it filled my heart with hope.

To be a weekly volunteer at Elephant Nature Park is to work hard, eat amazing food, witness the consequences of human cruelty, find lifelong friendships, laugh until you cry, carry more bananas than you ever thought you would in your life, become humble, fall in love with the surrounding jungle, find yourself standing knee deep in elephant poo, witness the consequences of human cruelty, lose all hope for humanity – and then find it again. To be a weekly volunteer is to see things you never ever wanted to see, but you know deep in your heart that you must. Because you must learn. And you have to pay it forward. Because above all, to be a weekly volunteer at Elephant Nature Park is to find your voice. And the motivation to use it.

People that support the elephant rides doesn’t do it to be cruel. People that gives money to begging elephants in the streets of Bangkok do it because they want to help. With the heart in the right place, but with a lack of knowledge. Lek spoke to all of us weekly volunteers about this. Her vision, and our mission, is based upon education. Help her spread the word, use our voices and tell all of you what is happening to the elephants, and why it is happening. And of course, how we can change the future for all elephants. Therefore, I am writing this post.

I will link a short video and some articles at the end of this post. And I dare you to see it all, read it all. This could be one of the harshest truths you'll see today. Elephants are suffering because of humans. And therefore, it is our God damn responsibility to help them. If we have the right to take away their natural habitat, steal their children and abuse them to our submission – it is our obligation to save them. I can’t do everything, and neither can you. But both of us can do something. Both of us can use our voices and speak for those who can’t speak for themselves. We can be the change we want to see in the world.

I will return to Elephant Nature Park someday. The warmth and love that lives in that place can open even the coldest Swedish heart. There I found everything I’ve ever wanted. A community, friendship, a vegan buffet, a way to help animals in need and I found knowledge. I did not however, find myself. Because there is nothing to find. Since I left for my Indian expedition I’ve come to realize that it is not about finding yourself, it never was. It is about accepting yourself. Accept your flaws, your shortcomings, your strengths, your weaknesses. And love yourself, unconditionally. After this week, I might just be a few steps closer to do just that. After this week, I am a few steps closer to being truly happy. I look back through the car window and I no longer feel dirty. I am using my voice now.

The experiences and the people I met in the Elephant Nature Park will always be in my heart. Thank you Lek, you are a true inspiration.

With love,
Kajsa

I urge, dare and warn you about the content in this videos and these articles. They contain a frightening truth. But to chose to not see the truth, is te most frightening thing of them all. So I give you: a video explaining what the problem, and the solution is, an article from the Independent concerning the dark truths behind unethical tourism and an article (with images of the elephants from the park) with information about the park and the work Lek and her volunteers do.

Jan Peng, an elephant both beautiful and gentle. She is over 70 years old, and therefore need some extra help. On the picture above I am feeding her soft bananas, something she both enjoys and can easily chew.

All of the weekly volunteers. This bunch of crazy people will forever have a special place in my heart. They are the Changs I want to see in the world.

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Det som var det stora obeskrivliga äventyret går sakta med säkert mot sitt slut. I skrivande stund är det söndagsmorgon. Den tionde september. Om elva dagar lämnar jag Asien. Denna galna, hemska, vackra, mångsidiga kontinent som jag har ett så speciellt band till nu. Jag visste ju inte hur länge jag skulle vara borta, utan jag tog det som det kom. Därför är jag nästan förvånad, nästan chockad, över att det snart är över. När det var en månad kvar kändes det som en hela evighet - när vi har satta datum blir det så konkret. Jag ville liksom bara iväg. Men nu är det elva dagar kvar, och det känns som om jag bara blinkat. Hela min Asienresa känns så. Jag har bara blinkat. Och det är snart över. Wow. Oavsett, detta inlägg handlar inte om slutet. Det handlar om alla känslor som jag fått på senaste.

Rädsla, rastlöshet, uttråkad, trött, excentrisk, orolig, orkeslös, ensamhet, trängd, ångest.

Ni hör ju. Alla känslor på en och samma gång. Jag skrev om min skrivkramp för några dagar sedan. Den är på grund av allt intensivt, men har släppt nu. Jag känner mig lugn igen. Tog några svåra beslut, skrev några väl valda ord och började jobba hårt mot mina mål. Så även om jag är orolig, spänd och exalterad så har jag ett lugn igen. Livet är inte lätt. Men livet ska inte vara lätt, då lever vi inte till vår fulla potential. Det fick jag lära mig den hårda vägen.

Jag har knappt skrivit om Kambodja, om den stora besvikelsen och det urusla vädret. Jag har inte ens nämnt Thailand! Men jag ska. Lite random bilder får fylla mina orda tomrum:

Jag och min underbara vän Sabine har spenderat några dagar tillsammans i Chiang Mai. Här delade vi på en pizza och en karaff vin.

I Chiang Rai spenderade jag ett par timmar på ett katt-café. Ett överpriserat ställe med 20 katter. Minst sagt ett under för själen.

Hej, jag heter Kajsa och har inte några som helst problem med att svälta mig/spara pengar/vara oresonligt snål om jag måste.

Jag sov på Bangkok flygplats (DMK) en natt. Japp, jag sov. Som en stock. En stock som måste vända på sig en gång i timmen på grund av ingen känsel i höger/vänster sida av kroppen. Hur jag lyckas? Ingen aning.

Jag vände snålheten för 60 baht och en ritbok och en penna. Ångest kräver kreativitet.

Livet är inte alltid lätt. Men det är alltid värt det.

Imorgon ska jag till elefanterna.

Song of the Day: Bones - The Killers

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The female solo traveler is many things. She is independent, open minded and street smart. But she is also an easy target, threatened and forced to adapt quickly. But above all; the female solo traveler is questioned.

The structures that upholds our western and “developed” society teach girls to become a woman,and boys to become a person. We get advice on how to not be raped. We are being told that our bodies are not suitable. We are constantly reminded that we will never be as strong as men are. When traveling, we are recommended to tell strangers that we are married, because another man’s property will always be valued higher than you ever will. We carry our keys between our fingers as weapons on our way home. We asses our surroundings, looking for potential threats.We are encouraged to go out in the world, and we are told to fear it.

As a female solo traveler, I get questioned by fellow travelers, by locals, by society. If I had a dollar every time someone not only asked me whether I was traveling alone,but also told me that I was very brave for doing so – I would have enough money to travel in style. When people question me (or any other female solo traveler),they mean no harm. They are curious, and they are intrigued. But fear can be contagious,and the fear that grows in these questions can easily plant a seed in an unwary mind. Therefor we must meet fear with bravery, and uncertainty with confidence.

To travel alone in Asia is not a walk in the park. But for me, there was no other option. To travel alone, is to travel with and within yourself. If you didn't know who you were before you took that first shaking step out into the world, you sure as hell know at the end of the road. In these months, I have learned to recognise my strengths and my weaknesses. I have experienced the euphoria of the ups, and the despair of the downs. I have learned the true meaning of courage, and I learned it myself.

During my travels,I have met women that has changed the way I perceive the world. Women whose stories touched my heart. Women who are ruthless in their determination to write their own god damn story.

The girl that on two different occasions lost two of her family members under tragic circumstances, but refused to let that break her apart. Who now lives out her dream, one country at the time. The lady that has a life-threatening disease with no cure, but does not allow her bruised body to dampen her passion for life. Who is forces to live day by day with the medicine that gives her time, living those hours to the fullest. The woman who were betrayed by the man she loved,but allowed her heart to heal. Who is now travelling the world, falling more and more in love with herself. The girl who struggles with anxiety, but left everything for a chance to see the world. Who walks with her head high, following her heart no matter what it will cost her. The woman who outlived her childbearing years childless, but decided to not let the grief take her. Who now dedicates her life to helping animals in need, filling her heart with love.The girl that got raped by her boyfriend when she was 16 years old, but somehow found the courage in her travels to trust people again. Whose goal in life is to one day run her own restaurant where she’ll educate young people from the slums of Cambodia, giving hope and creating courage where there were none before. All the women who left their partners at home, not willing to let love stand in the way for personal growth.

These women have touched me, and will be an inspiration to me all my life. All of them taught methat a future means nothing, unless you use it.

The female solo traveler is many things. She is unconventional, brave, humble, ruthless and alive. But above all things; the female solo traveler is whoever and whatever she wants to be. She is me.

She could be you.

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Idag är en dålig dag.

Igår var en bra dag.

Innan dess var dagen bra och dålig.

Ja, ni hör ju. Jag lyckas inte skriva någonting, lyckas inte göra det jag ska göra. Jag vill göra massvis och får idéer när jag inte kan utföra dem (exempelvis i en buss eller mitt i natten etc) för att sedan drabbas av en orkeslöshet när jag kan utföra dem. Jag är trött på ett helt nytt sätt. Ett sömnlöst/något gnager i mig sätt. Jag personligen härleder alla dessa symptom till samma punkt: Australien. Jag flyttar till Australien om tre veckor. Jag längtar, jag vill inte att det ska ta slut, jag vill gå och lägga mig, jag vill får världens bästa jobb, jag vill få utlopp för mina känslor genom kreativitet, jag känner mig ensam, jag söker mig till ensamheten. Det är väldigt mycket upp och ner alltså. Hur jag än gör blir jag inte nöjd.

Det är läskigt med förändringar, och det tar mycket energi av mig. Men jag är redo. Oj vad jag är redo. Ska bara ta mig ur min lilla berg och dalbana. Försöker göra produktiva saker, men liksom ett steg i taget. Försöker vara snäll mot mig och försöker finna någon slags harmoni och uppskattning i nuet.

Fett svårt dagar som dessa.

Och förresten, jag är i Thailand.

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Att kunna lita på en fis. Enough said.

Bleka håret. Herregud. Är orimligt och svinigt trött på min utväxt. Vill bara känna mig fin i håret igen. Enkelt sagt.

Toaletter. Ni vill knappt veta vilka toalettäventyr jag varit på. Det kanske räcker att skriva att jag endast äter med höger hand?

Köpa råvaror i en mataffär. Jag har inte haft möjlighet att laga mat på väldigt länge. Jag kan inte fritt välja vad jag vill äta, eller hur det ska smaka. Vara i ett kök och hacka grönsaker, samtidigt som jag dricker kaffe/vin/vad som helst och tittar på tv/film/lyssnar på bok. Kontemplativt och stärkande.

Havregrynsgröt. Tråkig, osötad, nyttighetsfylld och karaktärsbyggande gröt. Med budgetbär och linfrön.

Vakna tidigt på morgonen och koka kaffe. När luften är klar, tyst och kall. Jag sveper en filt om mig, eller tar på mig en stor och varm tröja. Köket fylls av det omisskännliga ljudet av kaffekokaren, och snart fylls utrymmet med doften av nybryggt kaffe.

Köra bil. Svensk sommarkväll, det är fortfarande ljust och vägarna är tomma och torra. Musik och mjuka svängar på vägar du känner utan och innan. Sällan tänker jag så bra som när jag kör bil.

Att cykla ifrån gymmet. Jag är kall/varm och lättad. Kanske har jag bråttom och ska iväg till jobbet/träffa någon/har saker att göra/är hungrig/behöver stressa till mataffären. Men jag är nöjd. Jag känner mig utmattad i kroppen men klar i hjärnan.

Öppna en dörr som jag har öppnat förut. Att veta vilken nyckel som passar i nyckelhålet, och veta hur nyckeln ska sitta när jag behöver knycka till dörren för att den ska öppna sig.

Att veta vart jag ska sova. Att veta hur sängen känns. Kunna gå från sängen till toaletten i mörker utan att slå mig. Kunna avgöra vad klockan är baserat på ljuset i rummet. Inte känna doften, för att den är min.


Att någonting är mitt. En burk med mina havregryn, som jag fyller Ett glas eller en kopp som jag sätter min tandborste i. Disk som är min att diska. En tvättkorg. Ett sammanhang. En nyckel. Bortglömd mat långt in i ett kylskåp. En plats min kalender säger åt mig att gå till. En plats i en soffa. En tillhörighet. En nyöppnad flaska diskmedel. Kontinuitet. En låda där allt som inte har någon plats samlas.

Jag har min ryggsäck. Mitt liv rymmer 45 liter. Där min ryggsäck är, där bor jag. Det är en frihet som kostar. Mer än pengar. Du måste offra vissa saker för att få andra. Jag har inte haft ett eget hem på 19 månader. Men jag har min ryggsäck, jag har min frihet. Och även om jag inte har någon plats nu, sitter jag inte i en plats där allt som inte har någon plats samlas. Jag lämnade den platsen för 19 månader sedan.


Song of the Day: Rivers - The Tallest Man On Earth




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Laos.

En plats jag inte alls hade några förväntningar på, som har imponerat mig ändlöst, och som jag inte har brytt mig ett skvatt om att undersöka. Damn, I just needed a break. Min inresa till Laos (som jag beskrev detaljerat i ett tidigare inlägg) tog väldigt mycket energi av mig. Så när jag kom till Luang Prabang jag unnade mig några dagar av lugn och air con, vilket blev en vecka, vilket blev mer än en vecka. Förvisso har jag åkt till blå (bruna) laguner, vackra vattenfall och flera städer - men jag har gjort det mesta väldigt halvhjärtat. Jag är helt enkelt trött. Under några veckor har jag varit förkyld, vilket också tar energi. Sen funderar jag otroligt mycket på saker. Det är en del av att resa, eftersom du spenderar mycket tid med dig själv börjar dina tankar kretsa kring saker de kanske inte kretsat kring annars. Jag jobbar inte, jag behöver varken städa eller handla, jag spenderar mycket tid utan internet - jag har mycket tid att fundera.

Min deadline närmar sig med stormsteg. Hur blev det augusti? Jag måste ta ett beslut, och min magkänsla är inte enkel att tyda. Mina rädslor är uppenbara, det logiska är klart som korvspad. Men magen? Hjärtat? Det kommer jag att klura ut. Och i Kambodja kommer beslutet att tas. Jag litar på mig själv, tveklöst och utan förbehållning. Men jag måste låta mig själv ta tiden.

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Denna blogg har en existensiell kris. Engelska är enklare på ett sätt, svenska lättare på ett annat sätt. Vad tycker ni? Äh, jag kör på. If any of you internationell readers still want to read, just let me know. It's just as easy for me to write in English, so maybe I should just do that? I don't know. Tell me what to do with myself. Thanks.

Så. jag är I Laos. Ett land som jag i ärlighetens namn knappt visste fanns för ett par år sedan. Därför hade jag väldigt få förväntningar, de jag hade var ganska låga då jag äntrade landet relativt dramatiskt och var svintrött på Asien. Men wow. Kan det vara favoriten hittills? Människorna är mycket, mycket trevligare än i Vietnam. Här finns mer vegetarisk mat. De tutar inte/kör inte på dig om de inte måste?! Du kan pruta utan att någon ger dig fingret och här är otroligt vackert. Jag menar, blir ni inte sugna?

Idag har jag badat i ett vattenfall. Nu regnar det. Ikväll ska vi till night market. Jag vill desperat ha kaffe. Men det är slut på mitt hostel och det regnar ute. Livet är svårt som backpacker. Så fort det slutar regna ska jag ge mig iväg och göra en lite kul grej till min misofoni-blogg. Om jag kan. Vi får se.

Song of the Day: Interlude: Moving On - Paramore

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Well hello there.

This blog is usually written in Swedish, mainly because of habit/I’m from Sweden? But since I’ve had quite the adventure, and out of all the people who would like to hear the full story there is a clear majority of non-swedes, English it is. And oh, this will be a long post. I really want to remember it all, so I’m trying to be as thorough as possible.

Background story: I applied for an electronic visa before arriving to Vietnam. It was cheap, it was easy. And above all, it was fast. This is important because I don’t plan my travels, I just do. Of course, this is all very charming and a part of my “free spirit-ness” – but gosh darn it how it makes me fuck up a lot. My visa ended on the 30th of July. My initial plan was to leave Vietnam on the 30th of July. This is the story of how I fucked up, peed on my foot, got tricked and fooled, and how I sneaked away in the night without paying. Among other things. Enjoy.

I woke up quite sick Friday morning. Coughing and a runny nose. It was the 28th of July and I planned to leave the beautiful town of Sapa that night. It was, as always, a sleeper bus that would take me to Dien Bien Phu. Which is the closest city to Tay Trang – the border point that was supposed to be the best one. The border point that immigration service recommended to me. My plan was to chill one day in Dien Bien Phu, and then cross the border on my last day. But I changed my mind the last second, so I ran down to the bus place and bought a ticket between Dien Bien Phu and Luang Prabang (Laos). And thank the lord for this!

So, I left Friday evening and was supposed to reach Luang Prabang Saturday night at 6pm. The sleeper bus was a nightmare. It wasn’t a tourist bus, it was a local bus. The difference is strangely the price (local costs a fortune), no toilet, not cleaned (ever), and it’s full of people/boxes/stuff. Like stuffed, way beyond its capacity. So, a billion Vietnamese men snoring/spitting/listening to music/etc all the way. And a lady that threw up all night. Not sure where it all ended up. Don’t want to know. When we stopped for food and bathroom break I went for the only ladies room there was. It wasn’t a room. It was half o room, and not even a hole in the ground. Not even a door. But I had to pee. So down I squatted. And all came on my foot somehow. With nowhere to clean myself, I went out into the kitchen and dipped my feet in the dishes. I was there with a few other tourists, we were in equal amount of chock. The filth, the looks from the men, the throwing up. Yeah, it was an epic night.

We woke up in Dien Bien Phu around 6am, and the next bus were to leave at 7.30am. We walked around to find coffee, which we did. Sort of. And then we all went to the place where the bus was supposed to leave from. Which meant that we almost missed said bus, because it was waiting for us five minutes from where it was supposed to leave from. Of course. There were not enough seats in the bus for all of us, which meant the locals sat on top of our bags. Very popular. Not. The bus stopped approximately one billion times in the hour it took us to go to the border. And they filled the bus with all from vodka bottles (a box went down my head, and I still have a bump to prove it), chickens, bags of rice, etc. Twelve hours in that bus seemed like an amazing way to spend a 35 degrees’ Celsius day.

Well, that didn’t happen. I was stopped and got stuck at the border. They refused to let me leave the country. My only option was to find another border point. A border point that would accept my electronic visa, a border point that was at least 12 hours away from where I was. So, the border point that the Vietnamese immigration people recommended for me to go to, did not accept me. Thanks for nothing, you fucking fuckers. My anger aside, not all border points accept electronic visas, something I could have known, if I’d only done my research properly. But I asked the people working when I entered Vietnam and I took their word for it. You should never be that sloppy, and I will never be that sloppy again. In total, we were three people that were stopped, so at least I wasn’t alone. After losing my shit, I regained my posture and started working on plan B. This was after I tried everything, talked to the border people for what felt like forever and tried to bribe them with all the dollar I had on me. First and foremost, I started working on a refund on my bus ticket, unfortunately I only got two thirds back, but at least it’s better than nothing. While waiting for a bus back to Dien Bien Phu, my mind was racing. I had 36 hours to leave the country, so I had to work fast. 36 hours seems like a long time, but in Vietnam it’s not. Everything takes forever. My first option was to go to the bus station and see if I could go to the other border point (Nam Can), if that seemed to risky or wasn’t possible, I would go to Hanoi and get the first plane out of there. On our way back to Dien Bien Phu our bus hit a dog, a dog that probably didn’t die right away. But screamed with pain and terror.

Back in Dien Bien Phu I rushed to the bus station. And to my great surprise, there was a night bus going to Nam Can! Imagine that! 14 hours on a sleeper bus, and I would wake up right by the border. When I crossed into Laos there would be several options of transportation that I could choose from. To good to be true?! Said and done, I put my last Vietnamese Dong into the bus ticket. The hours until the bus left I spent drinking shitty coffee and trying to clean myself up a little bit. I spent the afternoon with the others that got stuck at the border. And a Dutch guy that spend his afternoon laughing at me and proving me mistaken regarding everything I said and did that afternoon. Yeah, a lovely afternoon. And then I left Dien Bien Phu (alone, the others went to Hanoi) on a surprisingly nice bus. Slept like a baby and all was well.

I woke up in the wrong side of the country. No, no joke. The bastards tricked me and I was at least 10 hours from the border when I woke up at 6am. 18 hours left of my visa, and the stress was no joke. The confusion and the anger was hard to handle. In Vietnam, there is few things that is respected less than a tantrum, so if you want help – you smile and take a chill pill. I had no chill pills around me, and I was close to tears. A very, very nice man that spoke somewhat good English helped me to translate to the bus driver and try to make sense in what happened. They all agreed with me – I’ve been tricked. I tried to make them take some responsibility, which didn’t happen. But the nice Vietnamese man gave me 500.000 dong, so I had enough money to get to the border. That made me cry, just little bit, because he was so kind and helped me in a situation when I’ve been tricked a lot. I’ll never forget that man.

At the bus station, I ran around like a confused headless chicken in search for a way forward. Nobody spoke English and I was getting desperate. A young Vietnamese guy heard my despair and could (thank the lord) speak English. I explained my situation to him, and he understood the importance of me leaving the country and he explained my situation to the man working at the bus station. My only option was a “five hour” bus to Murong Xen, and then take a motor bike to Nam Can. Since I had no option, that’s what I did. At this point I hadn’t had anything to eat in 12 hours. And I had no time to buy anything, and I didn’t want to use my money on food. The “five hour” bus took almost eight hours. My fever was going haywire, I felt dizzy and I just wanted to die. The bus was a minivan, no air condition and little to no space because of the billions of boxes, people, scooters (!), chickens and snoring Vietnamese men. I had some water, but that’s it. When we finally arrived in Murong Xen the bus people helped me, because they could clearly see that I was somewhat sick and in a vulnerable state. Generously they paid a motorcycle guy that took me and my backpack the 22 km to the border point.

At the border point, everything went well. With seven hour to spare I managed to leave Vietnam. I was disgusting, smelly and so fucking happy. I took forever, but the serious looking men let me through and it was with victory I walked the 400 meter between Vietnam and Laos. And the Visa on arrival went well also. They didn’t even overcharge me! How lucky can a girl be? Not that lucky, as it turns out. You remember all the transportation options that would await me on the Laos side of the border? That was a lie. There is absolutely nothing there. Nothing. I walked for a bit, then I sat down in despair. The sun was going down and I was short on good ideas. The border people told me a bus would show up eventually, and when it did I threw myself at it. It was a big red sleeper bus going to Luang Prabang! I was welcome aboard, for the not so humble price of 250.000 kip. Since I didn’t have enough to pay the man straight away, he accepted that I would pay when we get there. Now it’s Sunday night and I left Sapa Friday afternoon. I was to take the third night bus in a row, no showers, no proper food, sick as a dog and without a choice in the matter. The bus was filled with locals, locals that stared at me like I was a circus attraction. The bus driver wanted me to stay in the back, with boxes and smelly men. That I would not accept, and I made him give me a proper sleeper seat. He had to move people around, but I just didn’t care. My ticket cost about ten times more than theirs, and I was giving zero fucks at that moment. I took a few pills for the fever and then I fell dead asleep.

When I woke up one hour later the bus stood still, and all the men had removed the engine and tried putting it back together. Yup, the fucking bus broke down. Hungry as a fucking horse I waited patiently the two hours it took for the 30-something men to fix the bus. Since nobody spoke English, nobody told me shit. My coughing reached ridiculous levels and everybody in that bus hated me. We finally continued and reached Phonsavan around 22pm that night. I could finally, finally eat! When you take busses in South East Asia the bus always makes food stops at predetermined food places. They are usually prepared and you just sit down and eat as fast as you can, pay and return to the bus as fast as you can. The first thing that happened when I sat down by the table, was that the waitress dropped a bowl of steaming hot rice on top of my head. Amazing. But after the mess was cleaned up and my burned skin didn’t hurt as much, she gave us new rice to eat. Since I hadn’t eaten much the last 24 hours I had an impressive amount of rice and tofu. I finished my food in minutes, then ran around town finding supplies and an ATM. The fear that the bus will leave without you is real! But then nothing happened. It turns out that the bus wouldn’t continue that night. They found a guy that spoke some English, and he had to deal with me. Apparently, I was suppose to sleep in a room in someone’s house and I were not allowed to take my bag from the bus. I refused this and went to collect my stuff anyways. At this moment in time I noticed that some of my stuff was missing from the bus. I made the poor English talking dude collect the bus driver and walk around and ask everybody about my stuff (chargers, mainly). They told me that I would have it tomorrow morning, but I refused and forced the fucker to help me. They just wanted me to go to the room. Warning bells sounded in all my body and I were done. I’ve had it, and I gave up. Being treated like garbage, being tricked, being tired, being sick, being sick of it all. So I calmed down and asked them nicely for my stuff. And they opened the bus and gave me my bag, but quite hesitantly. Now, they got antsy and a little bit aggressive towards me.

The bus driver wanted me to pay for the bus ticket straight away, but I lied and told him I couldn’t do that, told him that the ATM didn’t work. That was a total lie, but I had no intention of proceeding my travels with him and that bus. I told him that I would pay him in when the bus made a stop in another town. He got angry at me, but if I don’t have the money, I can’t pay, right? He walked away to talk to someone and that was when I sneaked away. It was around 22.30pm and I made a run for it. Found a café that an English speaking lady owned, explained my situation and asked for help. She immediately did just that, walked me to a hotel at the same time as she damned the fuckers that obviously had bad intentions towards me. At the hotel a very kind man gave me a single room for a really good price and helped me arrange for a bus ticket in the morning. With their kind words, and the knowledge that I was safe, I burst in to tears. The room cost me 80.000 kip, and the bus ticket 120.000 kip. Compare this to the 250.000 kip the asshole wanted from me and y’all can clearly see how he tried to trick me. I went up to the room, had the loveliest shower of my life (it took a while to get rid of all that rice in my hair) and fell dead asleep. The first night in a single room since mid-April.

The morning after I felt like a new and improved person! I packed up, went down to the café and had breakfast (and a proper cup of coffee!). The red bus was still there when I dared to walk outside. I felt a little paranoid, so I did my very best to hide from it. I’m not kidding, it was like a stupid movie or something. When I saw the bus driving towards me I ran behind a sign, hiding from it as it was passing. You see I hadn’t payed and the people were shady and I trusted them as far as I could throw them.

The final bus to Luang Prabang was an air-conditioned minivan that would take six hours. I got collected by a guy that took me to the bus station, were the bus waited for me. There I met a wonderful older Australian couple that I talked to during the two first hours. We talked about environmental threats, the Vietnam war and how I finally would arrive in Luang Prabang after so many days and hours of bad luck!

Then the bus broke down. I fucking shit you not. The god damned bus broke down. They looked at me with horror in their faces and I started to laugh until I had tears coming down my cheeks. So we had to wait in the beaming sunshine for two hours, while we waited for the new bus to pick us up. While waiting I burned my face and got stung by a bee. My finger swelled up like balloon. Because why not? Despite that the bus broke down and the day delayed itself with endless amount of hours (or three, give or take). I arrived in Luang Prabang, to my hostel, Monday night at 6.30pm. 48 hours late, and tired beyond words.

Again, excuse the lengthy blog post. But I want to remember this down to the most insignificant detail. And that for several reasons. 1, It’s a funny story! 2, I had sporadic contact with friends and family that wanted to know what was going on. 3, I want to remember what a badass I am. That I got thrown into a really shitty situation, but handled it. I am beyond proud of myself, and that is something I want to remember forever. I can handle absolutely everything!

Little old me in one of the billion busses.

Song of the Day: Hard Times - Paramore (for obvious reasons)

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