Starting Over

It’s been three years since my last blog post.

There’s been ups and downs, new experiences, new challenges, new defeats and new accomplishments.

There’s been laughter, there’s been tears and there’s been anger.

Simply put, life happened.

Lately I felt like starting writing a blog again and today is the day. I updated the design to reflect on the fact that time obviously have passed. I got older, my husband got older and more importantly, my girls got older.

We still live here in Japan, I’ve worked in several companies since, seen the seasons pass by, seen even more aspects of life in Japan and I hope to share some of these experiences, both new and old through this blog.

I’ve deleted some older posts, in hopes of getting this whole thing a bit more streamlined. I bring you life experiences as a foreigner in a different country, as a mother, as a wife and I also hope to talk about various topics related to Japan, Japanese society and Japanese culture.

Who am I now?

I’m 29 years old, I’ve been married to a Japanese for more than 8 years, we have twin girls aged 4 and we live in a suburb to Osaka city. I’m currently unemployed, after quitting my previous job where I and my colleagueI’m 29 years old, I’ve been married to a Japanese for more than 8 years, we have twin girls aged 4 and we live in a suburb to Osaka city. I’m currently unemployed, after quitting my previous job where I and my colleagues experienced power harassment which gave me severe stress. I hope to go back to working from October.

The reason for the cut pictures is not because of me trying to hide any identities, since I have also previously shared pictures, I just found it more aesthetically pleasing. A full family picture will be posted on my about page.

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Goku Day -Reminiscing about my childhood hero

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Today it’s May 9th – 5/9, which is pronounced Go/kuu in Japanese, which then became the official Goku day here in Japan.

My blog has been inactive for some time and I’ve debated about what to actually do with it, but I’ve decided to give it one more try. I hope to make at least one entry a week and I’m happy for continued traffic to this blog despite its’ dormant status.

So who is everyone’s childhood hero? Mine is without a doubt Son Goku of the famous series Dragon Ball. It’s strange because I’ve never really been interested in anime or manga, not before and not now. I’m living proof that it’s possible to live in Japan without having any knowledge about this worldwide popular phenomenon.

There’s only one exception… Dragon Ball. To be more precise: Dragon Ball Z.

It was the first manga I ever saw in my home country Denmark back in the 90’s and start of the 2000’s. The whole idea of manga was so foreign to me I even read the two first volumes of the serious backwards. My stepbrother was reading the books and it quickly sparked an interest within me big enough to go and get all the volumes released so far, though I must admit I wasn’t hooked before The main character, Goku, became an adult in the arch called Dragon Ball Z.

I loved the serious and read the books several times. All the girls around me couldn’t care less about the guys with big muscles fighting each other, so I got accepted into the the group of boys, which is a big thing when you’re 10 years old. We would talk about DBZ, practice Kamehamehas and anticipate the next book.

We watched the anime on a German channel without being able to understand what was said, but we were still mesmerized and filled with excitement thinking about the next episode. Son Goku and Son Goten were my favorite characters. In my naive childhood years, Goku was the perfect Hero – the perfect guy. I didn’t see any flaws in his actions, when he came swooping in saving the day, even sacrificing his life to save others. In contrast, I saw Vegeta as an annoying jerk and I couldn’t understand his popularity.

During the years I’ve rewatched Dragon Ball z several times, especially the Cell and Buu saga – the Buu saga being my favorite. A few years ago I stumbled upon “Dragon Ball Abridged” by team four star on youtube and it’s one of the most hilarious things I’ve ever seen. Binge watching their amazing episodes again and again, got me through the darkest days of my pregnancy and once again reminded me about how much I still love Dragon ball Z more than 15 years down the road. Dragon Ball Abridged even made me realize who my true favorite character of the show is, Vegeta. I loved every minute of him on the screen and made me rethink my opinion about him in the original show as well. He’s without a doubt the character showing the most growth throughout the series, going from being a villain to a hero. I’m proud to say that I’m a Vegeta fan now, I carry my awesome Vegeta bag with pride and I’m still searching for the perfect Vegeta strap for my phone.

That being said, Goku is the Hero of my Childhood. He was kind, heroic, positive and strong, for a 10 year old girl without a proper father figure, he was my ideal man. I desperately wanted a father like him.

Of course, the adult me now realize how rose colored my glasses were back then and I now see Goku as the naive, irresponsible and often selfish character for what he is, but he’s still a Hero. A naive and irresponsible hero, just waiting for his next challenge. He’s great at seeing the good in people, making enemies his allies and protecting the earth – therefore a true hero in my book. Do I want to be married to him? Hell no. In that regard, I think Bulma is onto something.

Happy 30th Anniversary to Dragon Ball! Happy Goku day! I’ll be waiting for the next episode of Dragon Ball Super.

Please follow me on instagram if you like cute baby pictures or random pictures from my life in Japan. I upload pictures almost daily. My account name is: milaya2109

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The planned pregnancy that I didn’t expect.

How my pregnancy was far from how I imagined it would be, how I was given 50% chance of success and why I’m glad it’s over.

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Let the worries begin.

When my university graduation came closer, my husband and I thought it was a good time to start trying to have a baby. I would graduate around June 2014, I thought it would be good to be pregnant around that time, I just wanted to avoid suddenly going into labour during my finals, so I wanted to make sure that the baby’s due date was not during those early summer months.

I also had to consider the fact that my husband and I were still long distance, him working in Japan and me studying in Denmark, meaning hitting the right fertile timing would be a bit harder than for the average couple.

We started trying in December 2013, when my period came as usual a few weeks later I was devastated, even though I knew that it was normal not getting pregnant after the first try. Due to the distance, our next try was February 2014 and this time I tried to not listen to any symptoms or putting my expectations to high.

I started feeling extremely dizzy, when laying down, my bed seemed to spin around, I was seeing black spots and I started feeling sick and nauseated and when I tested a few days after my expected period, the test was positive. I was over the moon.

The next weeks were spent with feeling sick and tired. I was exhausted. I could sleep 16 hours a day and still feel sleep deprived. I spend too much time online reading stories of miscarriages, so I was a nervous wreck, expecting to see blood every time I went to the bathroom. When I was around 8 weeks along and did see blood on the toilet paper, I decided to pay for an early scan to calm my nerves.

I kept telling my mother that my pregnancy wasn’t “normal”, even though it was my first time. Something felt off. So when the staff at the scan clinic got ready to scan me I was expecting the worst, but nothing had prepared me for what I would hear next.

“Here’s the first one, let’s see if I can find the second”.

The second?! What was she on about?!.

I was baffled. The scan revealed, not one, but two babies. I was in total shock. I never considered the possibility of twins.

One baby was already measuring smaller than the other, which worried me to no end. More worries. I was especially worried about the fact that they were identical twins, meaning they shared a placenta and a quick search online gave me several horror stories about TTTS (Twin to twin transfusion), which means that the twins have an unequal share of blood, one twin, the donor, gets too little blood and the other twin, recipient, gets too much, which can cause, brain damage, heart defects and death. 10-30% of identical twins fall victim of TTTS, which is also means that you get scanned every 2 weeks from 12 weeks gestation.

When I was scanned around 12 weeks, there were still two babies in there wriggling around. There was still a size difference between the two and the small twin had a cyst on its’ cord, which worried the hospital staff. They convinced me to get a sample from the placenta to check for any chromosomal issues.

It took a week before the hospital finally contacted me with the results. Two babies with normal chromosomes and even better, they were girls.

Fifty percent chance of success.

My biggest dream of having girl(s), would be coming true. I was relieved and happy. I had never seen myself as the mother of boys. My mind was running on glitter, big dresses and Disney princesses.

I started having regular scans every two weeks. My little girl, twin B, kept measuring small, but no signs of TTTS and her flow was normal. When I was 16 weeks along, a doctor wanted to discuss my options. My husband was in Japan and I was alone in the room. The doctor told me that she feared something was wrong with my smaller twin and combining the risks of TTTS, she would only give me 50% of having a successful pregnancy.

I was stunned.

The doctor continued to tell me to consider getting an abortion before it was too late and she didn’t see me carrying my girls past week 32. I told her that neither my husband nor I would consider getting an abortion, especially now where everything looked fine.

On the way home I cried.

Two days later I felt my girls move for the first time.

I graduated from university and moved in with my mother, waiting to move to Japan after my pregnancy. Due to the move, I changed hospitals and I was looking forward to a second opinion.

The new hospital was more positive and they were happy with the sizes of my girls. As long as the small twin followed her own curve there should be no reason to panic.

The two weeks between my scan I was a nervous wreck. Constantly worried about the girls’ movement and of any signs of TTTS, some nights I would start crying due to being exhausted from my constant worries, but all scans told me the girls were doing well.

My husband and I decided on two names for the girls. The big girl would be Yurina (友利奈), her first character being “friend”, I imagined a strong and kind girl, who would have a lot of friends. The little girl would be Miharu (美晴), written as beautiful, clear sky, she was small, but, beautiful.

When I was 29 weeks along, my little girl fell off her own chart and wasn’t growing properly. She went down to minus 34% below average, my bigger girl was around 12% below average, so the hospital decided to give me steroid injections to mature the lungs of my girls, if I were to have an emergency c-section.

The final stretch.

The extra scans showed that the flow of the small twin was normal, so they wanted her to stay in as long as possible. During my next scans she started to grow faster and faster and like a miracle she started to catch up to her sister and suddenly there was only an estimated 100 gram difference on them.

I got past 32 weeks and saw it as my own personal victory.

When I was 35 weeks along, the hospital detected protein in my urine, my blood pressure was high and a blood test showed that I was developing preeclampsia. I was then hospitalized.

My kidneys were no longer functioning correctly and my blood plates were decreasing, so the remaining days of my pregnancy we spent in the hospital, getting blood tests several times a day. The good thing was that I got to hear the heart beats of my girls every day, but they started to move less and less. I knew that they were getting big and had a lack of space, but it still worried me. I kept telling the hospital staff that I was worried about their movement and I had nightmares of stillbirth. The pregnancy had taken its’ toll on me, both physically and mentally.

I was getting huge, even walking became painful and I couldn’t sleep at night, but the 8 months of worries was the worst part. My sanity was wearing thin and I wanted it to be over. The hospital wanted to deliver them at 38 weeks, but I wanted them out sooner. A midwife listened to my worries and consulted a doctor for me, he agreed that they would deliver them at 37 weeks. I got the news when I was 36 weeks and 4 days along, so only 3 more days. I couldn’t sleep that same night. Something kept me up. The next day my preeclampsia got worse and they told me that I would deliver that same day. 7 hours later my girls were delivered by c-section, (they were in breech), and they came out screaming and healthy.

When my first girl, Yurina, came out the sound of her crying brought tears to my eyes. It was like I had run a marathon for 8 months and I finally reached goal. I was relieved. Then Miharu was born, emotions I had never felt before was fighting within me and I was just crying.

Today my girls are 5 months old, they are healthy and perfect. They bring me joy and sleepless nights. They’re something I didn’t expect, but they brought me everything I needed.

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When life takes a new turn

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I have been gone from this blog and other social sites for a very long time, first due to me finishing up my bachelor thesis and then my husband and I decided to try and have a baby and I quickly became pregnant a few months before graduating university. An early scan showed that I wasn’t just expecting one child, but two. Identical twins. Later tests showed that my dream of baby girls would come true.

Then followed the stressful months caused by the label of “high risk pregnancy”. A pregnancy that caused me great worry everyday. I carried my girls against all odds to 36 weeks and 5 days and they were delivered by c-section on October 28th – healthy baby girls who needed no additional time in the hospital.

Thoughts on moving to Japan [Part 1] – Money, work and childcare.

I had no idea which picture I should use for this post, because when searching “Japan” on image searches, so many different kind of pictures shows up. The beautiful ones of nature or historic places, the pictures of busy city lights and skyscrapers or the goofy ones of everything weird in Japan. Japan is so many thing and I’m still not sure, after all this time, what Japan actually is to me. Most of all I would like to see it as a beautiful country, with stunning sceneries and friendly people and there’s no doubt that this is a part of Japan, but there’s also so many other things – some positive, others… not so much.

After all these years traveling between Denmark and Japan and been in a Japanese marriage, I do feel like I’ve seen a lot of sides of Japan, some I would have liked to leave out, but it’s still a country, still a place with more than 100 million people, so you are to come across both positives and negatives. Just like everything else in life.

This blog will probably both be filled with the fun moments, but also the struggles I will face when I begin my life in Japan. I’ve known for 4 years that I would move to Japan in the year of 2014 and on the way there’s been many doubts if this was the right choice. I love my own country, with our high taxes, high quality in life, free schools, doctors and hospitals and a government which is ready to catch you if you fall down. It’s a lot to leave behind. Going to Japan I’ll enter a life with more uncertainty, lower taxes, but medical and education bills, almost no economical security net if get lost somewhere along the way and not to mention lower salary and close to non-existent childcare service. A country with lower equality of the sexes and where women often have to choose between family or career – because trying to juggle both will mostly just leave you stressed out. Even though women do have to chance to work on the same terms as men, they will also have to face the extreme over time schedules, the possibility of being transferred far away and close to no holidays.

The husband is often also taxed a lot higher if his wife earns a full time salary, and that tax money often equals a good amount of the wife’s salary, which just makes it seem like she’s working for free. Why even bother? The childcare service for children under 3-4 years of age is also extremely limited, have long waiting list and will take a big bite of your possible salary.

I will probably stay at home the first few years with our future children. Not because I in any way believe it’s a woman’s place, but because I feel it’s the best course to take in Japan. I could find a full time job, get pregnant, take leave, pay big bucks for a nursery, then I want a second child and it’ll probably be even more complicated to take a leave again and once again pay a lot of money for someone to look after my child. It’s not impossible – far from, but I don’t really have any career dreams. I think I would like to be a teacher or something, but if I have to chance I feel like I want to take things slowly and therefore have one or two kids before searching for work. I think I want to do some work from home – I have some business plans I want to elaborate in a later post.

My husband and I do think about our future economy a lot. It is kind of embarrassing to say as a soon-to-be university graduate, that I have no career goals. I have a lot of goals and dreams when it comes to children and family life, but none for any future jobs. Does that make me sound old-fashioned? For me, I think I find these dreams acceptable, because they are my own, not any social norms or society told to. I guess somewhere, women of the modern world started to feel bad about wanting to focus more on family, house and childrearing, rather than career, because women for decades have fought for the right to leave their houses and seen equal to men. I did take an education – I went 4 years to university and got almost only A and Bs. I speak several languages, I have strong opinions and I know what I want to in life – and… it’s not a stressful job.

Look at me talking about women’s rights and such, this what not what I was going for in this post, I guess as a women we’re brought up to not only believe that we can do everything – but also believing that we should.

I think the only reason why I know that I will find a job in a near future is not because of financial reasons, well maybe a little, but also because being home everyday would bore me to death. I’m not a native English speaker, which puts a few bumps on the path to become an English teacher in Japan, but I guess it’s not impossible. At least I speak Japanese, unlike many other foreign English teachers.

So I think I will end this post now, since there’s a lot of other things I have been thinking about, but I’ll safe that for a later post. Who want to read too long blog posts anyway?

I will move to Japan around the middle of September this year. It still seems far away, but considering how fast the past 4 years have flown by, 7-8 months is nothing and there is a lot to prepare.

The thing with the “L’s” – Japanese pronunciation.

So I guess that all people who has some knowledge about Japan or the Japanese language knows that Japanese people are pretty much unable to pronounce the letter “L” – since it’s not apart of the Japanese language. This sound will in most cases be replaced with a “R” – which sometimes results in interesting words such as “Rabu” (Love) Rasuto (Last) and Onrain (Online).
Overall, do a big amount of Japanese people have a hard time with distinguishing sounds. Especially the differences between the pronunciation of letters such as “N” and “M” – my husband cannot hear the difference between “bum” and “bun” even though I tried to explain that you do need to differentiate these two words and there’s a difference. Also like one of the popular areas in Japan, which is written as Nanba in Japanese hiragana (written system), but when the Japanese write in Latin letters (like on the train station) it turns into Namba.
I also feel like cursing a lot when I try to practice either Danish or English with my husband, since I can pronounce a certain word several times, him getting it all wrong, but don’t get it himself.

Me: “No it’s pronounced as “Kvittering” (receipt in Danish)”
Him: “Kiiwwitereing”
Me: “Noooo. KVIIIITTEEERIIIING”
Him: “Keweitaring”
Me: “Does what I’m saying and what you’re saying sound the same to you?”
Him: “Pretty much”
*Face palm*

(We always speak Japanese together, so this is a translated dialogue.)

I know there’s a lot of Japanese people out there who fully master good pronunciation of foreign languages, but unfortunately do the Japanese language provide a disadvantage to its’ people, due to the lack of sounds, and especially due to the fact the only consonant by itself in the Japanese language is “N”, besides that the Japanese language is build up by sounds made from one consonant and one vowel (and a few lone vowels like A, I, U, E, O).
Which makes the remaining sounds look like these examples: ka, ki, ku, ke, ko, na, ni, nu, ne, no, ma, mi, mu, me, mo, sa, shi, su, se, so and etc.
Which just results in a lot of Japanese people finding other foreign pronunciation difficult – and gives us a lot of Japanese versions of English. “Za rasuto taimu ai sa yu was furaidei” (The last time I saw you was Friday).

Of course what is more interesting is the big amount of English words used in Japan, but with a different meaning than the original. Like the Japanese calls a dress “One piece”, when “duressu” (dress) is used it means a big, ball-like gown. Where did “One piece” come from anyway? I mean… I want my shirts in one piece as well.
Or like in Japanese where the sentence, “Rent a car” has become a one-word-noun called Rentakaa, which means you’ll hear Japanese say (in Japanese), “I will rent a rent a car”.
I also think a bigger problem with language learning in Japan, is that the Japanese Katakana alphabet (Used for foreign words) is often used for showing pronunciation of the foreign language, but this writing system is also made up from the previous ka, ki, ku, ke, ko and etc, meaning that they can only create an “kinda” pronunciation – instead of showing a proper pronunciation from the beginning.
Like when looking at the book my husband uses to learn Danish, the sentence is first written in Japanese, then Danish with the latin letters and then the katakana version.
For and example:

It’s nice to meet you.
Det glæder mig at møde dig.
De gureeza ma o meeze dai. (Japanese Katakana)

Not the same. Not the same.
Overall this point of this entry, was to announce that today, my Japanese husband finally, after almost 2 years of marriage, has realized that my name is pronounced as Isabella and not Isabela.

Him: “Today I realized something.”
Me: “What?”
Him: “You’re name is actually pronounced with a long L.”
Me: “Of course! Why do you think the double “L” is there for!?”
Him: “I see, I just thought it was Isabela”
*More face palming*

Peripera – The Best Nail Polish Korea has to offer.

So this is quite the girlish post, so guys should just skip ahead.

I normally don’t write reviews concerning make-up, even though it’s a huge part of my life. I’m one of those girls who uses a lot of money on clothes, shoes, make-up and also a whole lot of money on nail polish. All the girlish stuff bundled up into one, right?

So I’m the girl who doesn’t leave the house without make-up, nor do I go out without my nails showing the newest nail art. So through other nail polish lovers my attention was brought the a new popular brand from South Korea called Peripera. This brand sells not just nail polish, but also make-up such as, BB-cream, blushers, lipstick and lipgloss.

I searched for pictures of the Peripera nail polish and fell in love right away. Some of the colors the ones seen many times before, but some of the others, especially their glitters and metallic colors caught my attention.

This is just some of the many colors Peripera has to offer:

I bought the Metallic green, Prism Navy, Sparkle Aqua and Sparkle blue (Last two not on the above picture)

One bottle is around 8.50 USD, so it’s not the cheapest nor the most expensive nail polish the world have to offer, but the amount in the bottles (15ml) is pretty much the perfect amount and it also has an interesting design. What is interesting about Peripera’s nail polishes, is the very big brush, which means that people with small nails, will be able to actually cover their whole nail in one swipe. Peripera nail polish is also very pigmented, which means that where most regular nail polishes needs two coats in order to give the best result, you only need one coat with Peripera. I was amazed to see how this easily applied, thin coat, with the very convenient big brush, could give such a deep and full color, without having to apply another coat. This nail polish must be the most pigmented nail polish I’ve ever used.

Overall this nail polish leaves a full, smooth and beautiful color, without you even trying. There’s no streaking either. From other reviews, this also seems to be a very lasting nail polish, and should be able to provide you with a beautiful nail for several days without chipping. Since I’ve only applied the polish today, I can’t tell whether this is true.

The sparkle polish creates a beautiful finish for your nail (I only added the glitter on the bottom nail), making it look professional and classy, even though you just spent a few minutes. I added a top coat to smooth the whole thing out. The two sparkle polishes I bought, is some of the most beautiful sparkly polishes I’ve laid my eyes on and overall I’m very excited about these. A fun an interesting thing about these peripera nail polishes is that perfume has been added, with leaves your newly painted nail smelling of sweet candy, meaning no more harsh polish smells, that can leave your stomach turning.

As you can probably hear, I’m very positive about this product and I might go as far as to declaring these polishes some the best I’ve ever tried and there’s not doubt that I’ll purchase more in a near future.

When it comes to purchasing this product, I recommend this following Korean ebayer, topinkgirl, who sell Peripera for a very reasonable price, gives free shipping world wide, adds a tracker to your parcel if you buy for more than 40 USD and overall is very reliable, makes very secure parcels and ships them to you very fast. I received my 4 polishes and a blusher within less than a week. (shipping from Korea to Denmark).

Like mentioned, I also decided to buy one blusher in vanilla pink (since I have a very fair skin tone), since I was in the need of a new one and overall felt like trying out one of peripera’s other products. What I especially liked about the blusher is the very cute design, which is very girly with its’ pink color and laces.

As seen on the above picture, the blusher also comes with a brush. Normally these kinds of brushes does not receive good reviews and few people choses to use them, but this Peripera brush is surprisingly soft and shows good quality, which means that this brush does not need to be replaced and can be used right away. Overall this also seems like a very good product and I am surely happy with my purchase. All I can do now is to recommend the Peripera brands to other make-up and/or nail polish users, since it’s an affordable brand in very good quality and is surely among some of the great things South Korea has to offer.

Trip summary: Vietnam – the land of scooters and persistence

After our stay in Cambodia we got on a bus that would take us from the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh over the border, into Vietnam and to the city of Ho Chi Minh – also known as Saigon. Because of my husband being Japanese and me being Danish, it meant we were one of the lucky nationalities to be allowed into Vietnam without any visas.

As we crossed the border into Vietnam, the surroundings also started to change. The letters became readable – without holding any meaning to me as a non-Vietnamese speaker. The jungle and the wilderness became far less dominant, while concrete buildings and city landscapes slowly took over. The roads became wider, smooth asphalt replaced the dusty dirt roads and the roads that once were empty was not full with life and were now occupied by a huge amount of scooters and the streets were filled with vendors and people showing more pride and persistence than we had seen in Cambodia – we had arrived to Vietnam, the last stop of our journey in South East Asia.

The first two days were spent in the city of Ho Chi Minh in South Vietnam, a city formerly named Saigon, which is also the name the locals still use, but was renamed after their beloved communist leader Ho Chi Minh. Of course the first thing you can’t help but notice in Vietnam is the almost scary amount of scooters, they’re everywhere, they’re fast, they’re noisy, they follow close to no rules and they show no mercy – like most traffic in South East Asia. We even received flyers on the hotel with advice on how to cross the street.

1. Get eye contact with the drivers. 2. Do not run. 3. Do not suddenly change direction.

I guess the final point should have been: show courage and prey that the driver wants to avoid a collision as much as you do.

I remember our bus guide saying: “have you ever seen an accident in Vietnam?” we shook our heads and started to wonder why. “It’s because if an accident happens, we make sure to disappear as soon as possible, before anyone gets involved. We don’t want the cops to take our precious bikes.”

We spent one day exploring the busy streets of Ho Chi Minh, which unfortunately didn’t have so much to offer when it came to sight seeing spots. Instead I focused on “people-watching” and it didn’t take long to notices the many differences between the Vietnamese and their Cambodian neighbors – besides their physical appearance. Even with their lighter skin and petite bodies, the Vietnamese showed an inner strength, pride and stubbornness showed in their eyes and there were a certain persistence in their actions. This was a people who got rid of the French and surely weren’t going to be ruled over again.On our second day we took a tour on the Mekong river and visited some of the small islands scattered in it.

That evening it was time for us to board the train that would take us to the next destination, 16 hours of traveling time away, Da Nang, a big city in the middle of Vietnam. We got on the train around 12 in the evening and tried to get a proper night sleep, together with two other Vietnamese people whom we shared a cabin with. But the train was very noisy, the toilet was very uninviting as expected, with it’s foul smell and unclean demeanor and we were often woken up by some of the train crew who opened the doors, shouted the next station and slammed the door shut again. Around 6 am we were then woken up by noisy music played through old, scratchy speakers – which was around that time I just gave up trying to get comfortable.

We arrived to Da Nang in the afternoon, and were greeted by a modern city, with flashing lights and tall buildings, which made the jungles of the Mekong river seem like a distant memory.

But even city had many areas I felt uncomfortable walking in during the evening time. Like both Thailand and Cambodia, Vietnam unfortunately also had certain characters of people who looked like they for up to no good and also here random people were ready to tell foreign all sorts of lies in hopes of gaining some money. Though, for with it’s worth, Vietnam seemed a bit cleaner than Thailand and Cambodia, were I had gotten used to seeing both huge rats and cockroaches roaming the streets among the garbage.

On our first full day in Da Nang, we went to the city of Hoi An, and old town, known for it’s traditional buildings, old streets and tailors who can make anything you like. I had expressed desires for a Vietnamese traditional dress for a few days, so me husband arranged for getting me a tailor made one in Hoi An, which I got to take home the same day. I also got two pairs of boots made in another shop – which was delivered to our hotel the next day.

Overall in Vietnam, it seemed like the people found the ability to speak English less important than they did in Thailand and Cambodia and we often had to go by pointing, signaling and good will.

“I would like this one” I said to a waiter in a restaurant, pointing to a dish on the menu. He looked at me for some time and then replied “no”. I looked at the menu again “I don’t want it?” “no”. “You don’t have it?” he sighed and said “no” – surprisingly. After taking our orders he went to another table, with another foreigner who expressed that he wanted the spring rolls and the answer was “no”.

On our final day in Da Nang, we went to a mountain called Ba Na hills, famous for it’s fast cable cars, scenic views and a big amusement park under construction.

That evening we once again boarded a night train to take us to the capital of Vietnam, Hanoi, up in the north. The next day we arrived in a jumble of narrow streets, overwhelming amount of people, never moving traffic, street vendors, markets, polluted air and noise. The first evening we wandered the streets of the French quarter, now filled with shops narrowly lined up along the old streets, some “shops” took up the side walk, boating their merchandise either laying on the street or hanging on the walls of a building. The streets felt like one big maze at times and we often lost our way and while we tried to find our way back we often had to ask each other “didn’t we already turn that corner a few minutes ago?”

On our first full day in Hanoi we went to the famous Ha Long bay, a three our bus drive from Hanoi, on uneven, bumpy roads, which made us on the back seat feel like were “very shaken, not stirred” and spent a day on a boat, admiring the cliffs and the ocean.

On our second day in Hanoi and our last day in Vietnam we explored the areas of Hanoi we hadn’t ventured out to, yet. Getting slowly tired of the scooters, their honking and especially all the cars and mentioned scooters being parked everywhere, especially at places which were originally meant to be a side walk and not a parking loot, which resulted in us having to walk on the scary streets.

Also in Vietnam I seemed extremely popular among the Vietnamese, who stopped to take pictures of or with me, making other tourist stop up as well, with wonder written in their faces while in low voices discussing wether I was some kind of celebrity.

Sometimes I wondered that myself, considering all the VIP treatment I had received in South East Asia based on my looks. Treatment was soon to be over, since we that evening got on a plane back to Bangkok, spent 22 hours there and then got on our final flight to Osaka, Japan.

Trip Summary: Cambodia – A land known by their dark history, but remembered by their smiles.

After our six days in Thailand, my husband and I went to Aranyaprathet, the Thai city bordering Cambodia, got our Cambodian visas and crossed to border into Poipet, into Cambodia. After that a very long drive from the border to the famous city of Siam Reap which offers tourists the famous Angkar Wat, awaited us.

The first I got to see of Cambodia, besides the stuffy border buildings and the big casino on the border, was the barren land, flat fields that looked like they were stretching into what seemed never ending, only separated by small villages with little wooden huts placed on poles to avoid the floods of water during the rainy season. We saw skinny cows walking along the roads, either dragged a carriage or walking by itself. We saw whole families riding a single scooter and we saw small, laughing children chasing around chickens on dirt roads leading away from the single, main paved road our taxi was putting to use. We saw people sitting outside their homes engrossed in conversations, we saw people taking a rest in their hammock under the shades of the many palm trees and we saw people working in the fields under the relentless Cambodian sun.

I found myself amazed by the sights of a world I hadn’t laid my eyes on before. Cambodia became the travel destination I would never forget and a destination that would leave me longing for a return.

Last summer I picked up a book in the local super market called “De dræbte min far” (First they killed my father) by Loung Ung, without knowing anything about the history of Cambodia I decided to buy in and soon after I found myself sucked into the life and story of Loung Ung, who was just a child when Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge army took over Cambodia in 1975, drove the Cambodian people out the fields and started what they called “Year Zero”. A new era, where hard working farmers were the ideal and educated people were the enemy. During their four year reign the Khmer Rouge army killed an estimated 2 million people, over 20 percent of the Cambodian people lost their lives to the vision of Pol Pot and a few other leaders. Many died of torture, savage executions, over work or starvation.

Through the story of Loung Ung, I found myself drawn into a dark and inhumane era of Cambodian history, a history that ones again shows us the true evil some humans are able to commit, a history that shouldn’t be forgotten.

Just outside the capital, Phnom Penh, tourists are able to visit one of the most famous killings fields, called Choeung Ek, where the khmer rouge killed and buried more than 8,800 people in mass graves and in Phnom Penh city it is possible to visit a former high school, which was turned into a prison for the many enemies of khmer rouge, called Tuol Sleng. With such a dark history I never imagined to find so many smiles in Cambodia.

I did witness poverty, especially in the eyes of the small children begging me to buy either postcards, bottled water or bracelets, or in the eyes of an old man or woman lacking limbs asking us for money. I did witness hardships, from seeing people live on the ruthless streets, seeing people work under the burning sun without breaks and seeing people just trying to survive another day, but despite of that I also saw a strong willed people who had moved on, who had raised from the ashes and a people who do their best to enjoy even the smallest pleasures in life. A people who focus on the present while they flash bright smiles to world and to foreigners like me, who no matter how books I read about the genocide, will never be able to fully comprehend what they or their parents have gone through. A foreigner like me, who will probably never experience true, human hardship.

I fell in love with Cambodia, I fell in love with all the beautiful cultural and historic sights, like the famous and impressive ancient city of Angkar Wat which draws in tourists from around the world to the city of Siam Reap, or the beautiful and majestic royal palace in Phnom Penh – which is once again a thriving capital, with busy streets, big markets and boulevards lined with buildings showing off French architecture, reminiscing the French colonization. Phnom Penh, the city once called “the Pearl of Asia”, a city left empty by the khmer rouge, is a city in development and a city worth to visit. Whole Cambodia is worth a visit and I know I didn’t get to see enough during my measly four days in this amazing country, so now I am left with a urge, a need, to once again go back to the country so filled with rich culture and history, the country which offers magnificent sights of true country landscapes, where people still rely on nature, hard work and basic utilities during their everyday lives. The country of Cambodia can offer one an experience of a lifetime, help one create memories one won’t forgot and the Cambodian people can offer one smiles, kindness and show one that it is still right to believe in humanity, even when dark times should prove otherwise.

Cambodia have now a special place in my heart and I hope others who goes there are able to make a place as well.

Trip summary: Thailand – The relaxed land of smiles and urbanization

This update have been delayed more than what actually seems appropriate – if that even makes sense. I have now been in Japan around 3 and a half week – time does surely takes you by surprise at times. This also means that it’s been 3 and a half week since my husband and I left South East Asia and due to the fact that I focused on making youtube videos, I never got around to doing a blog entry during our traveling. So now I’ll make an entry for each of the three countries, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam – starting with the first.

So Thailand, also often referred to as “The country of smiles” – which such a tagline I couldn’t help but finding myself a bit disappointed in the end.

We stayed in Thailand for around 6 days during our 3 week trip. Those days were mostly spent in Bangkok and the surrounding area. We also spent a night in popular vacation spot, Pattaya in order to visit one of my husband’s friends – a place I normally wouldn’t even consider setting my foot in.

Bangkok is a very big city with huge skyscrapers, big and expensive department stores and crowded streets. I often found myself wondering “What is Thailand?”. To me it most of all just seemed like a hotter, more dirty, Thai-speaking version of Tokyo or probably any big city. I’m not sure what I expected to see, I knew there wouldn’t be elephants running around the streets or small tree huts under the shades of palm trees – but what I did find in Bangkok was an overwhelming amount of brand shops advertising for the latest Gucci, Louis Vuitton or Burberry as well as several 7-elevens and McDonald’s pilling up along the streets.

The roads were dominated by colorful taxis, some desperate to get your attention, others couldn’t care less and if you wanted to cross the street there was no use in waiting for the signal to turn green – unless you feel like spending the rest of your holiday waiting while cars pass you by with no intention of stopping. After spending 3 weeks in South East Asia my husband and I knew that the only way to get anywhere was to seize the opportunity, seek courage and just go for it. Don’t get cocky though, the roads of Bangkok or non- relenting and merciless. We already on our first day in Bangkok we witness a bike accident on the road and the cracked skull that followed was what horror images are made of – as we heard sounds of ambulances coming to his rescue in the distance we all knew for sure that this guy was not going to make it.

So is there nothing cultural left to experience in Bangkok? Of course there is. Bangkok has an impressive array of temples and the big royal palace. All very interesting and will surely catch the eye of those seeing them for the first time.

And I do put emphasis on the “first time” part, because I did surely spend of lot of time my first few days admiring these temples and buildings, watching them stretching for the sky and glimmer in the sun and I used every opportunity I had to take pictures of these very “South East Asian” – buildings, those after those few days had past, I might as well only have seen less than half of what Bangkok had to offer in terms of temples, but I felt like I had seen them all. I longed for the non-urban Thailand experience and my husband found us a tour which took us out of the city, out to the famous floating market and out to the elephants. We got in small boats and got to experience the market first hand, seeing small boats filled with everything from fruit, noodles, souvenir, fake brands and bags pass us by.

After that we got a ride on an elephant – since this is something I felt I really needed to try out in Thailand. The real Thai experience. On that day I felt my mood and travel-spirit rise, I felt something cultural, both at the market and on the back of the elephant and I also loved seeing the small huts along the riverfront or dirt roads.

Like mentioned earlier we also went to Pattaya, in order for my husband to catch up with a friend – a popular beach area located around 2 hours away from Bangkok by taxi. To be fully blunt and honest, Pattaya was just as I feared. A place crawling with tourists, bars and sleazy looking places. For me I would normally never go such places, since for me vacations are not about beaches, sun and parties – especially not at a place were it seems like there’s more foreigners than there’s local people. At that one day I felt like my cultural level hit rock bottom and I wanted to return to Bangkok as soon as possible.
I guess the best thing I have to say about Pattaya was the fact that the beach did have a nice view and if one do like partying, hot weather and hanging out at the beach, then Pattaya is the place I’m sure.

When it came to the Thai people, famous for the smiles and friendliness, some lived up to my expectations others didn’t. We did meet a lot of nice and helpful people who were also generous when it came to giving out the famous smiles and like in all other countries we also met some less-nice people. The Thai people seemed to have an overall relaxed attitude towards many things in life – apparently sometimes customer service as well. Maybe I have just spent too much time in Japan where the service is always a top priority, but at times I was disappointed with some of the service we got in Thailand. I often experienced feeling ignored in certain shops and convenience stores, because the staff seemed more busy with chatting than helping me buy something. Once there was even a girl at the cashier who stopped serving me, in order to take a phone call from what seemed like a friend, who she cheerfully kept talking with while she then tried to finish the purchase with one hand and no words left for me.

Of course we received a lot of good service as well, no doubt about that. I just sometimes felt that a lot of Thai people had gotten tired of smiling and had no famous smiles left for us.
Of course those people who either tried to sell us something or cheat us had plenty of smiles and charming words. Overall we did end up getting tired of the people who told us lies in hope of that it could be their gain. One example was when we wanted to see the royal palace and a guy in a uniform told us we couldn’t enter because they were closing earlier today, but we should go see the giant buddha instead, we chose to ignore him and went to the palace anyway, which we had no problems entering, so it was all a scam.

Scams, lack of smiles and hot weather aside, we did have a nice time during our stay in Thailand, we did get to see cultural things and have a lot of experiences we’ll treasure for a long time.