South East Asia: New adventures! by Jessica Lee

Biking around Koh Chang, Thailand

Biking around Koh Chang, Thailand

They say with every closed door, a new one opens. And to be honest, I couldn't wait for this aforementioned door to shut fast enough. I've been wanting to do this South East Asia trip since 2012 and each time, something was in the way. But now it's finally happening. I've been in Thailand for the last couple of days and can't wait to see more of the world and take some photos too.

I've been updating Instagram the most often, and you can follow along on my adventures from there.

Yogyakarta, Indonesia (and a cockfight) in photos and words by Jessica Lee

I wrote this last summer but never got around to publishing it. I'm currently gearing up for another adventure, so stay tuned!
I’m currently in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. As I wandered the streets today, I worried that I may become infatuated with the town.

It’s a very cultural city. There are stalls of vendors peddling clothes with amazing patterns. I am inspired by the different fabrics and am scared I might end up buying way too much to carry around. Or worse, overspending my budget.

Yogyakarta’s main draw is it’s batik, which are colourful silk paintings done with wax. I was impressed at first, but then the pushy batik sales people kept expecting me to buy the art so it just turned me off to the whole idea of going to different galleries and looking at the batik.

Instead, I spent my time looking at the stalls and picking up little souvenirs. A pair of pants here can be bargained down to $2.50! I picked up three colourful print skirts and a pair of parachute pants. Maybe when I get back to North America, I can start a trend… or not.

I also went to the Kraton, which is the Sultan’s palace. I wasn’t amazed by it, so I’m not going to go to any more kratons in Indonesia. In my opinion, the palaces in China and Japan are much more exquisite. Visit those if you can.

What was really exciting for me however was the cockfight I witnessed when I went to the bird market! The birds really went at each other, pecking and scraping with their feet. At times, wings flapped. There was a small crowd gathered around watching. It's actually illegal, but it still happens anyway.

It is done for entertainment purposes and there was bloodshed.

It’s quite interesting what different cultures do for entertainment. What is allowed and what is not allowed. Put a cockfight in North America and I bet you animal activists would be all over it in a second. However, you should know that roosters sometimes fight on their own, naturally.

The rest of the bird market was quite lovely, though I felt a bit sad for the caged birds. I wanted to take home a bird, but obviously I would go through a lot of trouble getting the bird through customs and taking it with me to the other places I am going. I think I will just get a cat when I get home.

Byron Bay: more evidence Australia has way too many beautiful shorelines by Jessica Lee

I've concluded that Byron Bay is for lovers. With a sandy beach, a horizon that stretches for miles and a romantic lighthouse; how can you not fall in love with this town?

It was a little rainy the day we drove in, but I was able to imagine it in sunnier weather.

I spent the morning trying to surf, then the afternoon was spent walking around town looking at the different shops.

The place is a little "tourist-geared", but I didn't mind.

I love learning about a place based on what they sell in their shops. For example, the shoes below would rarely be sold in Toronto, where I'm from. Though we have the same brands, there are no shoes like these in shoe stores in Toronto.

That's because the shoes below are lightweight, with foam soles and geared for walking on sand, they would disintegrate so quickly on the pavement/ seasonal snow/ ice we have. They are nice beach shoes though. I would definitely have bought myself a pair had there been a pair my size.

I also noticed when I was in Sydney that there are a lot more singlets (in bright colours) for guys sold in stores. Singlets just aren't very fashionable in Toronto I guess, neither are bright colours. Personally if I had to choose between the fashion in Australia or Canada, I would choose Australia. I will explain why in a later post, but for now...

We hiked up to see the light house as it was getting dark. My housemate Tara lives near Byron Bay, so she knew all of the neat places and told us to come here.

It was absolutely breath-taking. If I ever had to fill a film clip with pretty places, Byron Bay would be a top destination for sure.

What made the place more magical was the fact that we were the only ones at the lighthouse at one point. It was like the lighthouse was here just for us so we could look into the horizon and dream...

Petting kangaroos at Pebbly Beach, New South Wales by Jessica Lee

We almost drove by Pebbly Beach on our way to Melbourne but that would have been a shame.

Where else would I meet a real live wild kangaroos who aren't afraid of humans?

Honestly if you visit Australia, and don't even pet a kangaroo, you have failed.

I was trying to see if kangaroos actually live up to the stereotype that they like to box, but it just looked at me strangely when I held my fists up.

Then I tried to play "paddy cake" with the kangaroo. (see photo below)

Skippy clearly wasn't having any of it by the look on his face.

I then wandered to the actual beach and was greeted by more of Skippy's crew lounging on the grass.

What a life right?

Pebbly Beach is a wild life preserve so it guarantees these kangaroos will not see their homes destroyed in the years to come.

As long as the grass still grows, the kangaroos will have a home and a source of food.

You can actually camp in Pebbly Beach, which is what we were going to do initially but when we arrived, we found that there was a camping fee of $10 per person and on top of that, $7 per vehicle. And why would we pay for camping in our own car when we could camp for free elsewhere, outside of the park?

Which is why we came back the next morning.

I had way too much fun with the kangaroos.

When it was time to go, as we still had a lot of road to travel that day, I was blessed with the icing on the cake when I watched a kangaroo hop across the park.

It was a magical moment.

Kangaroos travel a lot of distance through a couple of hops.

For a Canadian girl who had never seen an animal move in such a way in her home country, this was quite phenomenal. I cannot describe it in any other way except it was like the kangaroo had springs in its legs. Within a couple of seconds (but long enough for me to grab my camera), the 'roo was half way across the park. Being that it was quite heavy-looking, you wouldn't expect it to be able to travel so quickly, but it did. And that's what amazed me.

Kangaroos are definitely a top-ten "must see" in Australia and I would recommend stopping by Pebbly Beach if you're on the way to Melbourne from Sydney. Or at least find somewhere else where you can meet Australia's mascot.

Between a rock and Waterloo, Ontario by Jessica Lee

I spent my weekend in Waterloo, Ontario, which is known for:
a) A university town which houses Wilfrid Laurier University and University of Waterloo
b) the headquarters of phone company, Research in Motion
c) and for an abundant population of Canadian geese apparently.

I arrived by Greyhound just before midnight as the student night life was revving up. Young freshmen walked in swarms on the streets to house parties. It's strange thinking that I used to be one of them- the idea of going to a university house party would have excited me four years ago, but now as I'm on the verge of graduation, I realize I'm all past it.

Things that excite me now include:
1. Exploring the big, wild world
2. Trying new things
3. Graduating university and never having to pick up a textbook in my entire life again ever! (Unless I want to)

I stayed over at my friend, Kat's place. She lives in a party neighbourhood. When I woke up, and left the house at 10 am, there were already celebrations starting up again because it was homecoming weekend.

Waterloo isn't a bad town to live in.

The main street has lots of cute cafes and is pleasing-enough to the eye, but I know for sure I would want to kill myself if I were stuck here for four years of my life, finishing university. There is just nothing going on here!

It could be a nice place to settle down for a while, or a good place to "refocus" because there wouldn't be many distractions. If I were to write a book, I would choose a place like Waterloo to live in.

This was one of the cafes I walked by: I snapped a photo because the drinks "Vanilla Almond Steam" and "Cotton Candy Creme" intrigued me.

I never did get to try the drinks however as I had to make my way to Grand River Rocks climbing gym for The University Bouldering Series competition.

This is what it looked like as I got there:

It was an exhilarating atmosphere as I had never been in the presence of so many skilled climbers at once. At times, I felt like I was being judged for picking easier routes to climb.

How the bouldering competition worked was like this:

There were 50 routes you could climb and the six hardest climbs you picked and completed would be tallied-up to your final score.

This is a photo of a climber scaling climb #50 aka the most difficult climb in the competition. He had to leap for the hold and it wasn't even a good hold.

A crowd had gathered around to watch, and cheered when someone finally made the jump and stuck on to the hold.

It's moments like this that make me really like climbing.

I also like when I get to the top of a really hard climb.

Here is a photo of everyone crowding around the score results.

I placed 10th place out of 19 competitors in the girls beginners division, which is okay for my first competition, given that I had just gotten back into climbing several months ago. My goal was to not come in last place, which I achieved. My goal for the next competition happening in a month from now is to place in the top 5- which could have been totally achievable this round had I strategized for this competition. I had trained for a month prior, but on the day of, I missed breakfast because I was running late and I used up all my energy on the easy climbs. There were a few harder climbs which I was one step away from completing, but just couldn't push through at the end because I had lost my strength.

My goal is to eventually place in the intermediate category- sometime before I graduate- which is coming soon.