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Koh Phi Phi - An Island Paradise in Thailand by Jessica Lee

Of all of the lives I've led so far, currently, this is the strangest one.

Three weeks ago, I landed in Bangkok to backpack around South East Asia and to see first-hand what it's like to be here. After travelling around the island of Koh Chang, then Tonsai, and Ao Nang; I took a ferry to where I am now: the island of Koh Phi Phi. Originally, I was led here based on the good things I've heard about this island; it being on many of the "most beautiful island" lists of travel publications around the world and also being mentioned in glowing terms in casual conversations with other travellers. Yet initially, the charm of this island escaped me as I had seen so many stunning beaches in the last couple of days that one more picturesque beach didn't quite knock me over the way I see it affects some of the tourists who freshly disembark from the daily ferry boat to this island. But that was all about to change. Something else would grab me.

Three nights ago, I went out to the bars with a bunch of other travellers and I ended up chatting with the expat owner of one the bars on the island and he offered me a job at the bar, which I happily accepted because: why not? I've always wanted to be a bartender.

Now, my days consist of waking up to a beach view, going for tea and breakfast, doing some reading, writing and photography, taking lunch and dinner; then getting ready for work.

The work is not overwhelmingly good or bad, just vastly different. I went from doing public relations for the government to bar relations with my customers.

The secret of a good bartender, as I have learned, not only involves creating tasty and presentable drinks, but also involves making it look effortless while creating said drinks and chatting with the bar patrons. To get to "exceptional level", one must make creating drinks look fun and entertaining; and also innovate new drinks at the bar.

It's a good and fun life here on Koh Phi Phi. My biggest problem here so far was when my favourite breakfast place ran out of ripe bananas so I couldn't eat the Thai Nutella Banana pancake I usually ordered. I spend the day tanning at the beach while reading or going scuba diving. And because the island is fairly small, I've started bumping into friends and acquaintances when I make my way around town. It's nice to be able to say hi to familiar faces, even if I barely know them. I've also started "visiting" friends. This is a new habit for me because when I was in Toronto, I lived so far from everyone I know, that a visit can take up to half an hour to drive. And most times, friends are out. Here, everyone more or less has a predictable schedule and I can drop by in a ten minute walk for a quick chat or a long sunset watching session.

It's very easy to get swept up into the lifestyle and never leave. Most of the bar staff I work with, initially started off as travellers like me. Now, some of them have been living on this island for two years, tanning away their days. In a way, Koh Phi Phi is a small town paradise. Almost everything you need for a happy existence can be found here. There is a good community, plenty of sunshine, a good work/life balance, cheap living, and love, if you look for it. The challenge is giving yourself the push to drop out of this easy comfort and eventually adventure off the island. Because there is so much more out there in the world.

Camping and climbing in Val David, Quebec by Jessica Lee


I have a feeling this summer's going to rock. On the Canada day weekend, the six of us, packed into a van and drove up to Val David, Quebec, an hour's drive away from Montreal. We kicked off the start of my new life in Montreal with an epic camping and climbing trip.


The camping wasn't too extreme, but it allowed us to fiddle with our tents and fire strikers.



We eventually used a lighter to get the fire started (but you're not supposed to know about that!).

After a night of roasting wieners and marshmallows, we woke up the next day and proceeded to climb.



We headed for a hike afterwards. Here is a photo of the boys looking lost.


And here is the breath-taking view of the top of Val David. We must have sat there for hours.



Afterwards, we grabbed some iced snacks. You will never guess what the dessert below is made out of. Okay, I will tell you, below we have tofu ice cream infused with blueberries and raspberries.


It tasted alright.

We did it all again the next day, then drove off to Montreal for some breakfast. In between all that, we found time to gaze up at the stars until early morning, swim in a gorgeous blue lake and watch dogs shake off water from their fur from a beach.


I would do it all again in a second.




A Parisian Cafe, Montmartre and Sacre Coeur by Jessica Lee


Today, I'm bringing you to the Jewish Quarter of Paris, le Marais.

One of the things I love most about Paris is the sophistication of the food and the cafes. I spent the day with fellow traveller Carmen from Australia, sipping hot chocolates and tasting a cheesecake souffle at a cafe that didn't allow computers. It had an old-time charm feel, sort of like that movie A Midnight in Paris. There were several blatant signs around the cafe that said "p'as d'ordinateur portable", and of course there wasn't any wifi.




Sometimes, I feel like I could stay in Paris forever because of the cute little shops and well-taken-care-of buildings, but with that comes a certain feeling of coldness in not quite fitting in with the locals because of a) the language barrier and b) the Parisian snob stereotype is sometimes true.


Despite that, I think anyone can appreciate the many years of history and the culture developed in this old city.









We wandered around the area for a bit, then hopped on our bikes and went north to Montmartre and the Sacre Coeur. They filmed Angels and Demons and also Amelie in this area, so it was strange feeling to be in places where I thought I had been before but hadn't really.

















A walk through Hyde Park and NSW State Library by Jessica Lee


I had my last day of class yesterday so it's officially exam season. Which means an excuse for an hour walk to the NSW state library to get some hardcore studying on! Above photo is me at the library.

This library is intense! It reminds me of the library in the Disney movie Beauty and the Beast. It's got the wood paneling, sunroof, marble floors, fancy marble detailing on the roofs, etc, etc.


This is the Mitchell Room. You're not allowed to bring your camera inside, so I had to take this photo from outside.

It reminds me of the Harvard library. I haven't actually been in the Harvard library but I've seen it from various movies.

Security here is pretty strict. You're not allowed to bring bags in, only laptops and books. You have to rent a locker to put your stuff in.

This is what it looks like from the outside. It's quite impressive.


This is the entrance:


Back home (Toronto), our most impressive library would probably be the Robarts Library, which is shaped like a phoenix, but only the outside looks nice. Inside, the air is stuffy, the lighting is not the best and I feel like I'm in a prison.

They have high ceilings here so I feel fine.


Check out the bookcases! I guess the books are a pretty big deal too. Leather-bound and all.


Here is a photo of Sydney University's nicest library (in my opinion) as a comparison. Take into note Sydney University's libraries are pretty nice (compared to the gross gross gross library at University of Toronto Scarborough). This is the visual arts library. Not many students at the university know about this library.

Libraries like these make me feel like a prestigious academic. I feel "smarter" and somewhat pretentious being in the visual arts library, like I'm doing real work instead of just checking Facebook.


My favourite library at Sydney University would have to be the Law Library because it's clean-looking and has lots of outlet plugs. I do not have a photo of this library though because it's huge and really silent. If I took a photo, everyone would hear the shutter click and look over at me. My favourite library used to be the SciTech Library because of the booths with the cushions but then I got into the security guard's bad books. It's a long story.

To the NSW state library, instead of taking the bus, we decided to go on foot. It was a long walk, but it was also justified because we were going to the library to "study".

Here is Hyde Park, which we passed through to get to the library.


I love how this place is completely surrounded in trees. It's in the downtown core, just across the street from some office buildings. On our walk through, we saw some business men having lunch. If I worked near here, I would definitely have lunch here as well.


Here is another fancy building, as if Sydney doesn't have enough fancy buildings already.


Walk further along and you'll find a gorgeous water fountain.


Before coming to Sydney I never thought there would be so many nice buildings. Apparently they take their architecture seriously here.

Guess what this nice building is? (scroll down for answer)


It's a hospital!


If I were sick, staying in this building would cheer me up.

I'd never think of Sydney as an "architectural city"- those would be European cities, but now my mind is changing.

Readers: What is your favourite building for its architecture? It can be in any city in the world.