I was watching the Late Show with David Letterman last night and became inspired. I know David Letterman seems like a strange thing to draw inspiration from, but it's true. His guest appearance was Drew Barrymore and the two chatted about her recent travels. Miss Barrymore said...

"I think it's important to get outside of our culture and go experience other cultures around the world because it is so humbling and it's so educational. Other than school really, travel is the way to learn about the world." And with that David responded, "it's the best investment one can make in oneself".

I adore both those statements and they remained in my thoughts for the rest of the night. Today, I woke up with an urge to write about my travels. So without further ado, I present the story of my two days in Burma.

In 2008, I traveled Southeast Asia for three months and spontaneously devoted two of those days to Burma. Burma was never part of the original plan, but neither was staying in Thailand for five weeks. When my 30 days of legal visitation were coming close to expiry, I jetted to the nearest border to renew my Visa.

My Swedish friend, Oskar, and I boarded the two hour bus ride to Burma without hesitation. When we arrived at the crossing we had our passports ready to be stamped and the fee: a CRISP $20 American bill. I emphasize "crisp" because we were instructed any bills that looked old with folds or tears in them would not be accepted. Those bills were fraudulent in the eyes of border patrol agents. Luckily I had crisp bills on hand that day.

Once we took care of business and received our stamps, Oskar and I had the rest of the day to shop for knock-off designer bags. I'm sure he wasn't as thrilled as I was skipping through the wonderland of Vuitton, Gucci, Chanel, D & G and Ferragamo. Everything was bargained for and paid with in American dollars.

After the market we walked back into Mae Sai and bumped into a nice English couple who had spent the day in Burma with a Burmese tour guide. We walked a little ways with the couple and their guide who was informing them of the history behind the small town we were in. The couple was so impressed with their guide that they couldn't stop raving about their experience in Burma that day. The guide showed them the local culture, temples, history and they even tasted the local cuisine. My handbags were no comparison to those stories, so I jotted down the guides number and told him to expect a call from me the next day.

Oskar and I headed to the bus station to board our ride back to Chiang Rai that night only to discover we were too late. The buses stopped running earlier than we thought. We were stranded two hours away from our guesthouse and couldn't possibly afford the cab fare back. So with my 6-foot-7-inch travel buddy, I felt secure enough that hitch hiking was our only solution. This was my first time hitch hiking and I had no idea what to expect. I had visions of us traveling back to the guesthouse on the back of a farmers truck sitting on bales of hay and nudged between farm animals. I was hoping someone would stop soon because the night was slowly creeping up on us.

Someone eventually stopped and to our surprise he was driving a brand new sports car. We hopped in and explained our situation to the smiling Thai couple who spoke perfect English. They were headed to the same city we were, they had heated leather seats and they cranked Britney Spears and Backstreet Boys CD's for us during the trip. Oskar and I couldn't believe our luck that night and we laughed about the story for the next couple of days.

The next morning I called the tour guide and arranged a time to meet him at the border again. I had to stop at the bank this time to trade in a mangy $20 bill for one of those crisp ones. I received another stamp on my passport and once I got past the market of designer bags, I discovered a country very much in ruins - no garbage system, no paved roads and restrictions on where tourists could and could not go. I could not go 8 km from the border, as armed soldiers guarded opium fields beyond that point. Those were the same opium fields that enabled drug lords wealth and power in order to rule Burma alongside the government. And that was the same government who ordered it's soldiers to shoot monks in the streets just a year earlier when they were simply protesting peace within their own country. I learned all this and more that day.

A typical toilet in Southeast Asia. Place feet on side, squat, do business, then use water in bucket to flush.

For lunch we stopped at a meditation center. We indulged in traditional Burmese cuisine by sitting on bamboo mats facing a low table with a variety food served in an array of bowls. The bowls were filled with steamed rice, soft vegetables, soups, salads, wheat and rice noodles, meats and poultry and lots of fresh fruit. I ate only with my right hand to be respectful. One hand (the right) should always be reserved for eating and shaking hands, while another (left hand) should only be used to clean oneself after using the restroom.

We finished lunch with hot tea and then explored the grounds of the center. I watched as monks and the people who lived at the center meditated throughout the day. The intensity and dedication to the practice was so interesting to observe. Many even meditated in mosquito nets to ensure that nothing could break their concentration, not even a fly.

The daily count of people who attended the center (written in Burmese print).

We walked through an ordinary village on an ordinary day. Chili peppers were drying in the sun, children went to school and everyone but me shielded themselves from the scorching sun. When a local spotted me without an umbrella, she quickly came over to put whitening lotion on my face. In Asia, men and women clothe themselves from head-to-toe and use umbrellas on the hottest days to protect themselves against the sun. Tanned skin is considered lower class as peasants who work in the fields all day have more colour. They never did understand why I wanted to lay on the beach and suntan all day. Regardless of my explanations on western beauty, the woman insisted on putting whitening cream on my face and I finally allowed it. We then stopped into a nice little tearoom conveniently located in someone's backyard.

This is one of my all-time favourite photographs. I took this picture while walking in the village. The little boys were playing a game of marbles during their lunch break outside the temple.

Although every weekend in Southeast Asia seemed like an excuse for celebration, I was told I was lucky to visit Burma during such an important festival. Everyone came to the temples, brought food and beautiful flowers for Buddha and then prayed and sang for hours. The sight of red and gold decorations and the sound of ringing bells was magical. In a country so torn and corrupted it seemed that festivals and celebrations were the only way to bring hope for a brighter future. It was apparent the Burmese people were suffering and a heavy reliance on religion and spirituality seemed like a distraction and potentially a method to the madness.

Last stop on the tour was a series of temples. While all the men were away at work, the women stayed behind to cook and make their offerings to Buddha throughout the day. I didn't spot any other tourists that day and I had a feeling they didn't get many visitors either. Everywhere I went the locals would stare and children would run up to me to touch my arms. I wasn't sure what was going on, but my guide explained that most of the children had never seen a Caucasian person or fair skin before. They were told that touching me would bring them good luck. Once I knew that I felt more comfortable with all the children approaching me. I would hold out my arms and was happy knowing they left with a glimmer of hope that good luck was around the corner.

The elderly ladies pictured below were so lovely and welcoming that they took me into the temple and taught me the ceremonial customs of paying respect to Buddha. Although I don't practice the ritual, I still remember all the steps. It was also the first time they saw a picture of themselves. The digital camera was the talk of the village and after snapping a shot of the ladies, they laughed and joked when they saw themselves in the frame.

So Miss Barrymore is absolutely right. My experience traveling was very humbling and I learned more from my guide and my two days in Burma than I ever could have from a text book. I encourage everyone to travel and to make that investment in oneself.


Paperbag Princess

Get a hold of yourself, or your new "it" bag. Whoever said helping the environment couldn't be fashionable is sadly mistaken. Now any guy or gal can look trendy by carrying a canvas bag as they are no longer restricted to grocery store shopping. An increasing amount of Hollywood celebs have been seen toting these bags around town. Whether their plain, printed or covered with environmental slogans, anyone can look chic for cheap. People are making a statement, and this time it's not all about fashion. Go green and look good doing it.

I'm all about this trend right now as I'm loving every minute of having a bigger bag. I do miss lugging my Louis around, but even he needs a break sometimes. I've been carrying around a beige canvas bag with the word "green" printed on it in 20 different languages. I love it so much because it's hip and big enough to hold all my essentials!

Professional dress code doesn't stop Sarah Palin from using her canvas.

Anne Hathaway wore her canvas bag two days straight at Coachella this year.

Even guys look stylish sporting the canvas.


Belle de Jour

Once upon a time there was a woman who lived in London. She was a beautiful woman who graduated University and starting to work as a high class call girl to pay the bills. When the money seemed too good to pass up for a "normal" job, she continued the line of work by living a secret life under the pseudonym Belle de Jour. This is a true story.

Belle de Jour - The Intimate Adventures of a London Call Girl is the diary based on this woman's adventures and conflicts while trying to keep her personal and working lives separate. When I picked up the book as reading material for a long bus ride in Asia, I was immediately hooked on all the intimate entries. From her A list clientele of UK's top lawyers, politicians and celebrities to waxing schedules, preposterous amounts of money spent on lingerie and the security measures she takes for a risky job, the book becomes better after every page turned.

Brooke Magnanti is the real Belle de Jour who is a research scientist, blogger and writer residing in London. She supported herself while completing her doctoral studies by becoming a London call girl. She then published this book revealing actual events during her time as a high class prostitute, which was later made into the Showtime series, Secret Diary of a Call Girl. So if you're getting sick of all those Sex & the City reruns, fear no more because something even sexier is out there. If you thought Sex & the City was racy, then you're in for a real treat.

I downloaded the first and second season and watched every episode twice. The first season oozed excitement with clients dishing out new demands and even more money, while the second season divulged the risks and upsets involved with the job. Keeping secrets, dangerous clients, affected friendships and the difficulties in getting a real boyfriend. How would you explain being a prostitute to a potential boyfriend? The second season also had real difficulties during filming as Belle (who is played by Billie Piper) was actually pregnant. A body double was obviously needed and all camera angles were altered to hide her baby bump.

My BFF had the third season delivered to her house and I can't wait to have a girls night in and catch up on all the juicy episodes. Move over Carrie Bradshaw-Preston, I think my DVD player may have found a replacement.


Texts From Last Night

The idea of getting together with friends for a coffee and conversation seems almost extinct. With technological advances and the ever-so-popular social media, we've resorted to catching up with friends through Twitter updates, posting vacation pictures on facebook and day-to-day chatting through texts and BBMs. A real conversation is hard to find these days.

Two friends created a website based on this idea as they prefer to chat through texts instead of real conversations. Texts From Last Night is quite possibly one of the funniest things I've come across. Basically anyone can post their texts or the texts they received the night prior onto this website. No identity is needed, but the text must include an area code. Readers can view best, worst and the most random rated texts on the site. Try typing in your area code and read the scandals, gossip and the crazy things belligerent drunk people can get themselves into.

From the looks of it, I live in a pretty interesting and sometimes creepy neighbourhood as I've included some texts that showed up from my area code. I had to leave out the ultra explicit and sexual posts for obvious reasons. Trying to keep the blog classy for all you readers!

"due to concerns over safety, the theme of the 'naked fondue party' has now been changed to the 'naked fondue party with optional apron' please b.y.o.apron. extra prizes for most creative apron."

"Just ducktaped my beer to my bike. See you in ten."

"she's got a whisker from her dead cat taped to the wall. I'm pretty sure that about sums it up..."

"I just creeped all your pictures on Facebook -- it was like I watched you grow up right before my eyes."



Revamp your iPod with some recommended play lists I created.

My top 20 favourite songs I listen to when winding down at the end of the day, at the beach or traveling around.


1. Crossfire - Brandon Flowers
2. Jack Nimble - Lady Of The Sunshine
3. Letters from the Sky - Civil Twilight
4. Walnut Tree - Keane
5. Grapevine Fires - Death Cab For Cutie
6. I've Got Friends - Manchester Orchestra
7. Sometime Around Midnight - Airborn Toxic Event
8. Endlessly - Muse
9. Sleeping Sickness - City and Colour
10. Relator - Scarlett Johansson & Pete Yorn
11. Ready to Start - Arcade Fire
12. Big Jet Plane - Angus and Julia Stone
13. Skinny Love - Bon Iver
14. Nantes - Beirut
15. The High Road - Broken Bells
16. Hard Sun - Eddie Vedder
17. Neon Tiger - The Killers
18. Cities of Night - Blaqk Audio
19. What You Want - John Butler Trio
20. Bruises - Chairlift

I listen to this mix when I'm preparing for a night out with the girls, driving or anytime I need a little energy boost.


1. We No Speak Americano - Yolanda Be Cool & DCUP
2. Hot - Inna
3. Stereo Love - Edward Maya
4. Get Far ft. H Boogie - The Radio (DJ Ross and Alessandro Viale Remix)
5. One Life Stand - Longo & Wainwright ft. Craig Smart
6. That's My Name - Akcent
7. Ghosts N Stuff - Deadmau5
8. Infinity - Josh Guru Project
9. As The Rush Comes - Motorcycle
10. Naturally - Selena Gomez


Golfing Gators

I spent last weekend at the 2010 RBC Canadian Open rooting for a close friend of mine, Camilo Villegas. I'm sure many of you have heard of him or Spiderman as he's often referred to because of his trademark golf ball scoping technique. CV and I became friends several years ago when I attended University of Florida on a gymnastics scholarship and he obviously on a golf scholarship. With similar classes, training schedules and common areas for eating and studying, it's no surprise that everyone within the athletic community at UF became great friends. After graduation I still maintained many of my friendships with some amazing Florida Gators. Despite different lifestyles, long distances and infrequent messages, there are some friendships that will last a lifetime.

This was the third year that I've been able to cheer CV on at the Canadian Open, which is normally held at Glen Abbey Golf Club in Oakville. This year however, the tournament was moved to the St. George’s Golf and Country Club just outside Toronto. Here are some pics of Nikki and I exploring the tournament.

CV got through the round on Saturday before the rain hit hard. I met up with him and Maria in Yorkville later that night for some sushi. We had a blast over dinner just catching up, telling stories, laughing and strolling the streets for ice cream. During the night, Hombre AraƱa (Spiderman in Spanish) was spotted by some canuck fans and asked for pictures and autographs. It was so nice to see him take the time for all those who approached him.

It's evident that he's adored by so many Canadians. He had the largest following of the tournament with people clapping once he reached the greens and then going wild every time he positioned himself into that trademark pose. One eager fan was even waving a huge Colombian flag at the last hole. It's refreshing to know that fame and fortune haven't gotten to his head though. Despite being named as one of the sexiest players on tour and known for his fashion forward golf attire by designer J. Lindeberg (see video below), the spicy Colombian still remains grounded.

Some pics of CV playing in the Canadian Open this year

Amazing following

Me, CV and Maria in Yorkville

While watching the tournament, I did take in some interesting observations. It amazed me at how horribly some of those pro golfers treat their caddy's. I understand it's their job to carry the bag and all, but is it really necessary to throw the bag and clubs down like a diva and then storm off to the next hole with the caddy puttering behind? Again, I don't know much about golf, but that seems so rude to me. Isn't a caddy supposed to give insightful advice and moral support in addition to carrying the bag?

I really liked how CV walked with his caddy, Brett Waldman. BW is such a sweetheart and also made sure to attach the Canadian flag I gave him onto CV's bag for good luck. Maybe being nice and actually having another eye out for your game could be attributed to CV's success on the course. Those rude golfers should take some pointers. I love this pic below of the boys. They look like they are having a blast walking TOGETHER and I really love the Gator club warmer (more commonly referred to as a head cover).

Sunday was a perfect day to watch golf. The sun was out, the Corona's were cold and I surprisingly ran into another fellow Gator, Matt Every. Not knowing he was playing the tournament, I thought I recognized him from a distance. When the official confirmed it was him, he looked over at me, shook his head and laughed before making his putt. He made sure to come over and give me a big hug before making his way to the next hole. He played a great tournament, being in 6th place at one point. We were able to catch up after his last hole. I congratulated him on his PGA Tour entry and his recent wedding. As a consistent and confident player, I know he will go a long way on tour.

I'm so proud of Camilo and Matt, but they aren't the only Gators that golf enthusiasts should be looking out for. Pay close attention to upcoming talents such as Mudd Man (AKA Jessie Mudd), Willy Bear (AKA Will Strickler) and Manny Fresh (AKA Manuel Villegas). These guys have what it takes to get to the top and I can't wait to cheer them on at upcoming Canadian Opens. They are genuinely great men, terrific golfers and pretty easy on the eyes!

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