Don’t Go, My Valentine

Also known as: the day I thought my cat was dying.

Valentines Day started out like any other day. Dalyn and I picked up our volunteers in Kham Pia and brought them back to Buengkan. Dalyn went with them to a local wat and I headed back to the house to print out their certificates. I came home to the usual chaos of our three dogs running around, cat hissing at everything and the kitten trying her best to get into trouble.

I had only been home about 10 minutes when our kitten, Bunlai, started to act a bit strange. (Bunlai is our 5 month old rescue kitten) She would let out these loud, plaintive meows I have never heard before. I thought maybe she was hungry and went into the kitchen to get her food. She ate a little bit and then lay down on the floor.  I put the food away and turned to see her on her side, legs stretched out and back body completely seized up and shaking.

She looked terrified. I became terrified.

I dropped to the floor and watched her, helpless, and she had what I thought might be a seizure or a reaction to eating poison. I called Dalyn but, being in the temple, she wasn’t picking up. I called our vet to no avail. Bunlai seemed to recover and stood up, but her back legs looked unsteady, weak, unable to support her. She laid down again and went into another episode. Panicked and unable to get a hold of the vet, I turned to Dr Google (always a mistake) and soon came to the conclusion that my sweet kitten was dying. She was either dying or suffering from epilepsy, a blood clot, a muscle or back injury leading to potential paralysis, or diabetes that will require insulin shots daily for the rest of her life. Google had also come up with some helpful search suggestions, such as “how do I know if my cat is dying” and “how does a dying cat act”. THANKS A LOT, GOOGLE. 

At this point I am sitting in the floor in tears thinking this is the end. She has stopped shaking for now, and then phone rings. It’s the vet. I tell him whats going on and ask if he can come to the house and see her; he has just finished work but will be there in about half an hour, but if she is having a seizure she needs to be taken in immediately. Still thinking she is well on her way to a life of paralysis but maybe not death (do they make kitty wheelchairs?), I said half an hour would be ok. By the time Dalyn returned home Bunlai was running around and Dalyn, of course, thought I was a little bit crazy. Bunlai soon lay down and again her muscles tensed up, her whole back arching as she meowed and shook. We were both sure there must be something gravely wrong with her.

Atom, our vet, finally arrives. He looks her over, sits down next to her, stands her upright and prepares to take her temperature when it happens again. Atom looks at me, “Is this whats been happening?” “Yes!” I practically yell, “yes that!” What is wrong with her?” He looks like he’s trying not to laugh. “It’s normal,” he tells me, “she’s having her period!” He let her stand upright and her back was arched, butt in the air in the mating position. I nearly died. He looks at me, then Dalyn, and just starts laughing.

I cried and called my vet for an after hours emergency home visit because my kitten was in heat.

Happy Valentine’s Day, hope it was filled with more fun and less panic than mine!

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Cheap Eats in Bruges

I love Bruges, this idyllic town captivates me, but with hostels an average of €18 a night and meals ranging from €7-25 it’s not the cheapest city to spend your time in.

Imagine my delight when stumbling upon Brasserie Medard; an inconspicuous, hole in the wall, family run type of joint that’s full of locals and cheap eats! I arrived maybe 40 minutes before closing time and was greeted by a young man. Despite all tables having a reserved sign on them, he sat me down and handed me a menu. The atmosphere seemed fairly nonchalant and homey, with a group of older locals chatting together while occasionally yelling into the kitchen to chat with the chef as well; clearly they were regulars and everyone knew each other, which reinforced my belief that this place was a good decision.

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It’s a little bit difficult to order as the menu is only partially translated into English and the server couldn’t speak English, but I managed quite well anyway. 🙂 I ordered a glass of red wine and a small spaghetti from the snack menu. I don’t know if snack 20161017_193237translates the same from English to Dutch, but if that was their idea of a snack sized spaghetti portion then they have serving sizes big enough to rival America. The spaghetti rang in at only €4 and the glass of wine just €2.50. While tucking into my super sized meal one of the women from the table next to me asked me something in Dutch, and after seeing my blank face she repeated, “delicious?” I smiled and nodded enthusiastically, making her laugh. She even made a point to say goodbye to me before she left (she may have been a couple glasses of wine in by that point but she was still lovely).

I wandered home having made barely a dent in my wallet and stomach close to bursting, not even tempted by the sweet aroma of fresh waffles drifting through the air.

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Quick facts:

Located just off Grote Markt on Sint-Amandsstraat (maybe 30 meters down the road from the square).

Snack menu certainly delivers…”small” saucy, cheesy, spaghetti is €4 and is more than enough

Do not expect much English

NOTE: After looking up reviews of Brasserie Medard, I was startled by the reviews on trip advisor and feel like I must include a bit of a warning. I may have just been lucky as I was seated served without a problem, but apparently this might not be a very tourist friendly place. Many people complain that the owner is a very rude man who has a strong dislike of anyone who isn’t Belgian and they were often denied service and essentially pushed out the door. I did not see the owner while I was there, just a woman in the kitchen and I assume her son or other family member serving. I had a pleasant experience, but I suppose if you do find yourself in Bruges and craving some spaghetti, proceed at your own risk… and good luck!

 

Belgium’s Best Hot Chocolate

Belgium, undeniably, absolutely nails it when it comes to all things chocolate. When I was in Brussels I sampled some mouth watering waffles but Bruges introduced me to a whole new delight: Belgian hot chocolate. 

I don’t mean to say I’ve never had hot chocolate, I’ve had more than my fair share (as a child I literally required a mug of hot chocolate in the mornings before I could talk, function or be in any way remotely pleasant. This was obviously pre coffee years). However, I had never had hot chocolate made with Belgian chocolate. So once I settled into my hostel I set out to find that hot mug of heaven.

Out of an the tea rooms in Bruges, I walked into De Proeverie.

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De Proeverie sits just across the cobblestoned street from it’s sister chocolate shop, Sukerbuyc, inconspicuously nestled up next to the canal on Katelijnestraat. De Proeverie sells a tasty selection of cakes, pastries, scones, ice cream, tea, coffee, and (most importantly) hot chocolate.

Not only do they use Belgian chocolate from across the street, all ingredients are arranged on a tray and you allowed to concoct your own perfect cup of cocoa! It’s a delectable DIY treat.

20161017_155110At €4.50 this is arguably a bit of a ‘treat yourself’ if you are budget traveling, but it is definitely worth it. You will be given a tray with a cup of steamed milk, sugar cubes, a chocolate20161017_155142 stick to melt into the milk, whipped cream, and 4 extra pieces of chocolate. So not only do you get hot chocolate but you can also sample a bit of dark, milk, and white 20161017_155300chocolate as well as a chocolate truffle. You know, in case you wanted to pop across the street later after having a taste of what they offer. 😉

 

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One Night in Brussels

I decided to make my great escape from the UK and wander over to Belgium. (Also deciding to write about Belgium while it’s still fresh.) After an exhausting overnight bus/ferry trip from London I finally made it to Brussels! A quick search on hostel world revealed, surprisingly, a hotel as one of the cheapest accommodations.

There were very clear directions on how to get to the hotel via public transport from the central bus station, and the underground was very eat to navigate dispite the language barriers. I finally made it to Meininger Hotel late morning. Unfortunately check in is quite late at 3 pm, but the time if no surprise they clearly stated such online. While I couldn’t check in early I was able drop off my bags and was then free to wander the city.

A word about Meininger Hotel: it is absolutely amazing. The dorm rooms run at €15 per night and can sleep up to 6 people. The beds are comfortable, come with linen and blanket (and bath towel), and each bed has a personal reading lamp and an outlet. The toilet and shower are separate, which is convenient, and both are located in the room. The shower gets nice and hot and there is excellent water pressure! You even have a hair dryer. It is like having a nice hotel room at a quarter of the cost! I would definitely recommend this hotel/hostel to anyone going through Brussels.

Brussels itself was a little bit underwhelming for me. It is a nice enough city with plenty to see but it lacked personality and felt a bit like “just another city”. However, it is worth spending at least a day wandering around and checking out. I got a kick out of the mannekin pis (little pissing boy), which is a famous landmark for both tourists and locals alike. There is also a pissing dog and a 20161016_111035pissing girl somewhere in town, but I didn’t find them (a bit of a scavenger hunt for you when you choose to visit!).

On the road just near mannekin pis you can find shop after shop of chocolate and waffles. Thank you Belgium for being you and providing such wonderful treats. 🙂 After fully engorging myself on a chocolatey waffle I wandered over to Grand Place.

 

During the day Grand Place is, well, grand. It’s very pretty and you can admire the architecture and whatnot but if you do nothing else in Brussels….go to Grand Place at night!

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I promise you it will be worth it. Standing in Grand Place at night feels just like you are standing in a fairy tale. I now know where 20161016_190708Disney got the inspiration for the castle. I was amazed at the transformation from day to night of this place, it was stunning! Don’t miss this.

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How to Fail at Budget Travel

When I went to SE Asia, I had absolutely no plan. I thought I was going to Cambodia to teach English and about 3 months later found myself living in Thailand instead. I did zero planning for that trip and felt absolutely stress free-my bank account was doing just fine and I was thoroughly enjoying myself (re: indulging in the finer things in life such as as much beer and food I could possibly digest daily).

Now Europe…. Europe require a level of actual planning I was most certainly not prepared for. There are just so many places to go to and so many options. I tried to plan but felt slightly overwhelmed and figured I would book the ticket and just kind of wing it, per usual. However, everyone else seemed to see trouble on the horizons with my all to cavalier attitude. Even my mom asked if I was sure I actually wanted to do this trip. Throwing caution to the wind I brashly booked a flight and didn’t plan a damn thing until the week before boarding my flight to London (this consisted almost exclusively of emailing everyone I know in Europe and telling them to prepare their couches). I only did this because I started reading blog posts titled “How I only spent $700 in three weeks in Europe!” and mild panic settled in because I’m gone for 3 months.

You guys, you NEED TO BUDGET for Europe!! I hate saying that, I feel like it going against my travel code, but you seriously do. And, even more importantly, you NEED TO LEAVE THE UK!! Or at least have a game plan. Because believe me I say it is not a cheap place to be in.

Most of my friends that are in this part of the world reside in the UK and it was without a doubt totally worth it for me to spend over a month there…but this is a post of how to fail at budget travel, and so I will say I had a damn good time blowing my budget 🙂

If you want to fail at budget traveling: 

1. Stay in the UK

2. Travel around by bus in the Scottish Highlands

3. Have a night/multiple nights out in London

4. Spend any significant amount of time London

5. Go to Snowdonia national park in Wales without an exit strategy/plan

6. Change your mind on where to go next and backtrack a bit

7. Take a train anywhere in the UK

8. Do any touristy thing such as castles or museums

9. Eat out more than you eat in (unlike Thailand, eating out is not the cheaper option!)

10. Forget to pre book a hostel and be surprised by a big event that leaves all budget accommodation fully booked

Don’t worry, more to come on how I (mostly) enjoyed breaking the bank!

Europe Adventure Time

Hello all! I’m sorry for the silence, I’ve spent the past few months bouncing around America visiting family and letting them know I’m still alive and kicking after these past 5 years away.

And then I left again!

I’m missing SE Asia but ready to take on Europe! So hopefully I’ll do better at posting my adventures 🙂

(more to come)

Thai Basil Chicken: WIN

Since coming back to America my adventuring has been put on hold and I have been focusing on reconnecting with family and friends I haven’t seen for the past 4 years of being abroad.

One big thing I have been doing is missing my Thai diet. Not only have I reinstated breads and dairy into my diet, my portion sizes have been on the rise. Welcome back to the fast food nation! Actually, pizza aside I haven’t been eating all that much fast food, but when Louis C.K.’s joke “the meal is not over when I’m full. The meal is over when I hate myself” becomes a reality, I mean……

Anyway, since I miss the lighter feeling of Thai food on the stomach and  I made pizza a staple meal last week in California, I have decided to change things up a bit. I’ve taken to the kitchen to attempt playing Thai chef! The great thing about Thai food is that a recipe is literally just a suggestion of what to put in it and you can bend it however you want. On the other hand, ingredients are difficult if not impossible to find.

I found this recipe for Thai basil chicken (pad grapow gai ผัดกระเพราไก่) and decided to try it out. There are three ingredients you will probably have a problem finding; Thai chilies, holy basil, and dark soy sauce.

I still haven’t found dark soy sauce or Thai holy basil, but I did get lucky with the chilies! I found green chilies at Winco and a couple of days ago I found frozen red chilies in an Asian market! If you live in the Boise area you can find them at Orient Market on  Emerald St. For the Thai holy basil I just use regular Thai basil and you can find that in most supermarkets. I’m sure you can make dark soy sauce at home but I just leave it out. It’s still good!

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The picture doesn’t really do it justice, but making this Thai dish was a definite success!!