Tenerife: Masca, Los Gigantes, La Laguna

When it comes to describing the pristine landscapes of foreign hotspots one can’t help but use the same words as a vacation pamphlet: sun, nature, peaceful, vast, monumental and exotic. These words brimmed over the valley walls surrounding the village of Masca and my lips ached to whisper them. I swallowed and looked harder.

Precarious. Stubborn. A stronghold. I saw a landlocked ship among the geo-waves. Hidden among the giant crests, a green ark rested for eternity, carrying a small clutch of humanity and gardens. At its prow, an imposing figure proclaimed the direction to the sea. Is this the ribbed turtle that carries the world upon its back?

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Dinosaur Provincial Park: Brooks, Alberta

Skidding on the loose soil I wobbled, flapping my arms to regain balance. Just a meter ahead of me my sister carried on upwards ignoring my bleating while jolting infrequently through her own noodle dance. After a few seconds I successfully fought off gravity’s affection and managed to acquire the proper vertical position once more. The last few steps to the top were simple, but I still had to chase my breath. Overhead the blue dome sky stretched on to forever. The clouds seemed to reach out from infinity. As the eternal hills and silent river posed for my eyes the trees continued their seasonal wardrobe change without pause.

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Namtaloo Cave at Cheow Larn Lake

The cave yawned. Scraggly teeth adorned the ceiling. Impatient from waiting for the slower half of the group to catch up a boy from the group sprinted ahead to survey the subterranean hall. Glancing back every now and then to catch a nod of approval from his parents he navigated his way across the creek cutting the cave in half. In the shaded darkness of the cave his pink shirt stood out like a neon sign. He had clever parents.

A rocky perch provided a welcome platform for my camera. With the shutter speed set to ultraslow and my mind focused on anticipating a calm moment I waited to pounce. There it was.

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Cheow Larn Lake, Surat Thani Province

From the mouth of the park to the belly of the beast we travelled. We streamed through the ticket booth (40 baht entry after flashing my student ID) and zipped across the lake, flying towards a horizon broken up by rounded mountains. They lined the edge of Cheow Larn Lake, gnarled like the broken teeth of some Thai elder resting deep in a distant rural region. The boat extended before me as sleek and narrow as a lizard tongue snapping at the air. The air was moist and hazy. The region seemed to be exhaling. The sun hid behind a sheet of clouds—the roof of the mouth was clamped shut. Still, it was a far cry from the absolute darkness of the belly I would stumble through two hours into the tour.   Continue reading “Cheow Larn Lake, Surat Thani Province”

Khao Sok in Surat Thani, Thailand

The stone was warm. Not hot, just pleasantly warm. My left leg was propped over my right, topping the bent knee like the trees and brush blanketing the valley walls. Before my rocky podium, which stood taller than my height with fingers stretched, a green world rose. A great wall of trees hid the horizon.

Behind me a couple splashed and laughed as they dipped their toes in the river sidling past. Unfamiliar birds belted out their cries from the stillness of the trees. Elephants sauntered through this forest. Somehow. It looked impenetrable to me. My confusion tugged at my sleeve for attention so I played with it. Continue reading “Khao Sok in Surat Thani, Thailand”

Death Railway: Kanchanaburi

To recap, a group of 14 and I left Bangkok on a bus aiming for Kanchanaburi on a Saturday at 7 a.m. When we arrived two hours later we immediately boarded a bus headed for Erawan National Park and its famous seven falls. After hours of fun there we found ourselves without transport back to town—with no seats left the last bus was obviously full. We were forced to squeeze onto that bus and stand in the aisle all the way back.

Learning our lesson and following the advice of fellow students met at the falls we aimed for a set of guest houses called Sugar Cane and Jelly Frog as soon as we disembarked from the bus in Kanchanaburi. Our party swept into a two-bench taxi called a songthaew and we haggled for a ten baht per person price.

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Kanchanaburi and Erawan Park

You’re an exchange student with no to very-little money or even student debt that you don’t want to deepen. Yet, you’re in another country and you don’t want to waste the opportunity. Continue reading “Kanchanaburi and Erawan Park”