Photo Friday, International Women’s Day Edition: Buying Tampons In Japan

As I’m  presently very removed from the feminist activist space, I failed to post something this week for International National Women’s Day. So here’s a Photo Friday, MENSTRUATION EDITION to make up for it. #MenstruatingandProud

Last December when my sister and I were in Japan, we ran out of tampons and pads. When we went to the store, we struggled to find the ‘feminine product section.’ Once we got to the checkout, the woman quickly stuffed our tampons in a special paper bag, and even sealed it. Was she afraid it would accidentally open, spill out and then someone might find out that we menstruate?!

Like the rest of the world, Japan still holds period taboos. Taboos that need to be WIPED OUT. Ever wonder why women aren’t sushi chefs?

So as my sister as my model (don’t kill me!) here’s a series of photos about buying tampons in Japan.

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Some more for you for this glorious day:

Want to learn about what I did for International Women’s Day in past years? Last year I was in Melbourne and the year before I was running in Ibiza.

Want to hear more about MENSTRUATION?! Check out the time I bled all over my Thai massage, LOL.

Are you in Melbourne and want to do something feminist? Here’s where.

 

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Character Tuesday: Moalboal’s Goofiest 12-Year-Old Street Vendor

The air was sticky. It wasn’t even the rainy season, but the humidity felt like the inside of a Japanese onsen. The sun shone over the dark water, tinted by the millions of sardine schools underneath its surface. There were a group of three toddlers screaming and pointing to a kite in the sky, as one of the boys- the ring leader- repeated the same word over and over again, nodding and widening his eyes at the others as he did.

My sister and walked through the dirt-floored alley way of tourist restaurants and kiosks that opened up to a view of the ocean. There was a concrete wall against the water’s edge where children were playing. Beyond the walkway we saw women giving massages to European men at the top of a hill.

“Souvenirs!” we heard a girl scream behind us. We turned around and saw a petite, girl with a bob haircut. She was wearing a bright shirt and skirt and holding a basket close to her shoulder like it was a serving tray. We said “hello” and said “no thank you.”

Then, my sister uncharacteristically changed her mind. “Ah, well,” she sighed with a shrug, “Why not? I’ll see what you have.”

I was mostly distracted by the children playing nearby, thinking about how cute they were, screaming at each other in a language I couldn’t understand. I glanced over at the trinkets my sister was touching. There were plastic turtles, beaded bracelets and other things that looked cheap and frivolous. These were the type of products that you would feel guilty for not buying, but later would realize such a purchase does nothing to advance you attempt at a minimalist lifestyle with less junk. (Plus, there are thousands of reasons why not to buy from a minor!)

“Yeah, well, I don’t really like anything here,” my sister told her honestly. The child vendor resisted a bit, trying to convince us, then shrugged and walked in front of us.

Walking a few feet further, she had a trail of followers- younger girls, probably apprentices- and she giggled. She turned back at us with the other hand on her shaking hip, bobbed her head around and sang, “I’m sexy and I know it!” then promptly turned away again, laughing with the sound of a 50-year-old wrinkled smoker. .

My sister and I exchanged smiles and laughed, walking behind her with the sound of the waves against the wall.

This post is part of weekly series titled Character Tuesday, where every Tuesday I bring you a story about (a) unique individual(s) I’ve encountered. Like I always say, life can be good or bad, but as long as it’s entertaining, that’s all you need. This series is meant to celebrate our quirks and idiosyncrasies.


Featured photo: These kids in Oslob ran up to us and started screaming, “HELLO HOW ARE YOU!” Then a woman on the street had to intervene to translate more.

Photo Friday: Toilet Signs Of Japan, Sydney & Bangkok

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That Japanese toilet may look standard, but it’s far from it. It heats your bum up when you’re cold and plays music to drown out the sound of your shit dropping. Genius!

This past winter, I traveled for two months in Japan, Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines and a short stopover in Bangkok.

Japan and Bangkok had creative signs, while the places I visited in Australia, New Zealand and the Philippines were less entertaining.

Japan


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Selfies 4 Eva

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I sense a lot of pink in these Japanese toilets. Tough on the gender roles, maybe?

*Bonus from Japan*

How to use a toilet:

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Sydney


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The Customs House in Sydney

Bangkok


 

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Love toilet signs as much as I do? Don’t miss pictures of toilet signs taken in the Australian outback, Southeast Asia and the Camino de Santiago.


Featured photo: Toilets in the Oslo, Norway airport. Can you feel the sleekness? 

What I Did In…Queenstown, New Zealand & Around

 Queenstown, New Zealand & Around


Resources

Doll Poupee’s New Zealand Guides have stunning photographs and videos, and itineraries.

Official Queenstown, New Zeland site’s walks and hikes.

The NZ Tourism Vineyard directory. There are some beautiful vineyards a few minutes outside of Queenstown. Even if you don’t drink, they’re great for hiking.

Accommodation

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View from the Airbnb.

Airbnb
A beautiful apartment with big glass windows and a balcony overlooking the town and the Wakatipu Lake. Find out what other apartments are available for rent in Queenstown here.

EAT, EAT, EAT

Beespoke Kitchen (9 Isle street, Queenstown)
Awarded the best café in New Zealand. Healthy, chic and innovative modern Australian/New Zealand fusions. Excellent hot drinks. We thought it a bit overrated, however. Try the pumpkin soup.

Fergburger (42 Shotover St, Queenstown)
Lines out the door for these hamburgers. Order takeaway or get there extremely early to avoid the crowds. Extremely overrated.

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So famous it’s bad. Literally, it wasn’t a good burger.

Patagonia Chocolates (50 Beach St, Queenstown)
Insanely expensive, but insanely delicious-looking desserts created by two Argentines. Find your alfajors and Argentine backpackers here (to my delight).

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Too bad I didn’t want to spend $5 on a cookie!

Cookie Time (18 Camp Street, Queenstown)
You can’t walk past here with the urge to be ten years old and eat the bowl of cookie dough before it gets put into the oven. But those are just the smells. The finished product was, most depressingly, not as inspiring. My homemade Tollhouse cookies are much more delicious.

What I did

Milford Sound
Took a day trip with Real Journeys from Queenstown. With its impressive waterfalls and piercing colors, this is a must-see. The only downside was being in a tour bus for five hours and our anal guide wouldn’t stop to go to the bathroom.

Around Queenstown

Arrowtown
Ate at The Chop Shop Food Merchants (Arrow Ln, Arrowtown), another healthy modern fusion restaurant. Saw the Lake Country Museum, but only the free ANZAC exhibit. Drank local craft beers and met locals at Fork and Tap (51 Buckingham St, Arrowtown).

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Yummy meal at The Chop Shop in Arrowtown.

Dunedin
That’s pronounced Du-need-in, not Dun-a-din, for all the confused out there. We made a brief stop in Dunedin to see architecture. Spent time in the extensive and impressive Botanic Gardens. Ate at The Reef (333 George Street, Dunedin) a seafood restaurant. Walked up the Baldwin Street, the steepest street in the world and subsequently couldn’t stop looking at my step and stair count on my health app. Stayed at The Sahara Guest House (619 George Street, Dunedin), a refurbished Victorian house that might have been the filming location for multiple murder films. Great staff, though.

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Ate at 26 on Ross (26 Ross Place, Dunedin) for an insanely good chorizo and bacon melt. Beautifully presented and top quality brunch items.

 

& more…

My dad really loved these donuts (pictured below) and he wouldn’t stop talking about them during our road trip.

naptimewithyasmine-qt22Also ate at The Wobbly Goat Cafe (17 Holyhead St, Outram, Dunedin) on our drive to Dunedin, where we got a glimpse of small town New Zeland life. Alexandra had a fish and chips shop on the main street that my father was a great fan of (I didn’t try it) and we got the chance to see their local and organic foods and crafts markets.

 

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My sister admires the view in Milford Sound.

Featured photo: the official photo of the “What I did in…” series. Taken at Sunshine Juice in Tokyo, Japan.

“What I did in…,” is a new series where I aim to detail some of the most fun (or worst, if I want to warn you) activities, eateries and places to stay. I might also give helpful resources I used to prepare, if applicable. This isn’t meant to serve as a an all-encompassing travel guide, but merely an example of some of the possibilities for that destination. 

Photo Friday: Toilet Signs Of The Outback: Stuart Highway

Toilets in the outback were few and far between. After all, often buildings and people were few and far between. When they did come along, though, the toilets signs we saw had personality. With the exception of bathrooms around Uluru, the figures on the toilet signs were of white Australians, playing off of the ‘sheilas’ and ‘blokes’ theme. Maybe it was the image of the rough and tough outback explorer that sold well to the tourists, or maybe it was a deliberate political decision to ignore the original residents of those areas.

In northern Queensland, the toilet signs were typical.

Heading towards Alice Springs and Uluru, they began to gain more character.

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Going north towards Darwin, the toilet signs were more tourist-oriented.

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Interesting in other toilet signs? Check out toilet signs of Southeast Asia and the Camino de Santiago

Interested in other stories of the outback? Read about the best roadside pub barman, naughty signs in the outback, and how Erin escaped from the job from hell


Featured photo: toilet sign at Uluru, otherwise known as Ayers Rock.

Oslob, Philippines: Whale Sharks, Tourism And A Changing Climate

The exact details on how and why Oslob, Philippines recently became a whale shark feeding epicenter differs depending on the source. Here’s what I was told:

In 2011, when a Norwegian marine biologist passed through the small town of Oslob, a roughly three and a half hour drive from Cebu City on the Filipino island of Cebu, he had the intention of studying the local species. But when he saw a local fisherman throwing rocks at whale sharks, who had recently began feeding in the area again, he complained to the local government and convinced the mayor to make it an official tourist attraction. And just like that, Oslob became an internationally known tourist destination.

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Taking a nap in between customers.

The center of Oslob consists of one main road called Natalio Bacalso Avenue, which houses a small market, a few restaurants, convenience stores and numerous guest houses. Ten kilometers from the main area of town is the whale shark area, Tan-awan, where tourists are dropped off to wait in line to be taken out on a small rowboat. From there, they can scuba, snorkel or watch from the boat while whale sharks get fed. Each person gets 30 minutes in the water.

While I was there, I estimated around 200 people were around trying to get a look as well, so the experience is far from intimate. Fishermen paddle around nearby dropping food in the water to attract the whale sharks to where the tourist boats sit.

Tourists travel great distances for just 30 minutes alongside the impressive sea creatures. Seeing them is on all of the great to-do’s of Cebu and gets mentions on all of the travel blogs.Tourism brings income, jobs and infrastructure, but it usually has a mixed reception for those directly affected.

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Many tourists opt to take a 3:00am bus from Cebu City or from the popular diving spot Moalboal. They leave and return the same day, therefore bypassing most of Oslob. Restaurants and the local government still benefit from their visit, which once used to cost tourists 50 pesos ($1 USD) for 30 minutes of snorkeling but now amounts to 1,500 a person ($28USD). Because the local government manages the project, only locals are employed.

Those who lived in Oslob before the big tourist boom mention that before, it was a very quiet town. I spoke with Pretty, a fruit vendor at the town market who told me the whale sharks bring lots of tourists who spend money. Now, the locals have more buildings and more business. (Later in the day, I returned to the market to pick up more fruit. I spotted the woman who at the whale sharks wharf sold me a few slices of pineapple and a bit of watermelon for an overpriced 100 pesos ($2 USD), something that would normally cost half that price, if not less. I tried to bargain with her, but she wouldn’t budge. I was starving, so I didn’t really care; and after all, what are two dollars to me? “Ah, I recognize her,” I told Pretty. “Oh yes, that’s my mom!” she said. And I realize now why else it’s beneficial to have tourists.)

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My sister and I decided to stay two days in Oslob, hopefully avoiding the potential for an excruciating, nauseating bus trip (prone to motion sickness). When we walked around town and children saw us, they, scream “Hello!” suggesting that they realize we’re a novelty, but our presence isn’t something new. Young boys got nervous speaking around us and several people stopped to ask where we’re from. Whereas surrounding the wharf there were crowds of tourists (reminding me of a smaller version of what I saw at the Vatican), around town my sister and I only saw a few. We asked Pretty what there is to do on a Friday night. Unenthusiastically, she explained that there is a bar, but it’s not that great. “Maybe singing,” she said. We had already heard the painful karaoke from our neighbor the night before.

In that sense, the tourism hasn’t caused the town to be overblown. A few tourists linger around Spanish colonial ruins, but not many. Most locals still live exactly as they used to. But the international community’s “discovery” of the whale sharks has inevitably changed it.

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John, the owner of the guest house where were staying, says that the whale shark tourist industry has altered his social relations with locals. He came here around 15 years ago when he retired after years of living in Canada. His aim was to fish, relax by the ocean, and host friends. He got to do so for a while. The water in front of the guest house used to be teeming with fisherman, he explained. While we were there, we only say two or three.

They would bring their fish in, drink a beer and talk. Now after they fish, he says they say hello but quickly run to their next job attending to tourists. “We’ve lost quality time, you could say,” he told me. John also explained other changes, like the how the road next to his house used to be like an old country road but now sounds like a freeway.

Even his guest house’s very existence is a direct result of tourism: The town didn’t have the capacity to hold the steep increase in tourists, so the mayor asked those with extra spaces to convert them into accommodation. John refused twice, but the third time he wasn’t really given a choice. “You don’t say no to the mayor,” he sighed.

But like all towns and people, they adapt. John realized he enjoyed meeting people from all of the world and eventually came to like being a guest house owner. Pretty seemed pleased with the changes, but she could have just been telling me what she wanted to hear. Obviously Pretty and John come from opposite sides of the spectrum and are aiming for different things, but whether or not others are positively or negatively affected by the newcomers is yet to be analyzed.

To me, Oslob was still a sleepy town. Besides the whale sharks, there’s simply not much to do. Of course there’s karaoke and the beach, but those aren’t unique to the place. And there are the recent travel warnings. My sister and I ran into a cheery Australian couple on the bus from Oslob to Moalboal. “Yeah, we were going to stay four days and we already paid for the accommodation, but we ditched after two nights,” they said, referring to the lack of activities.

Even though I didn’t see much destructive evidence of tourism beyond the area around the whale sharks, for those that saw the before and after, like John and Pretty, it must require some getting used to.

More demand brings hostels, drunken backpackers, bars and prostitutes. It’s not Phuket and it’s not Boracay, but as I watched the stream of yellow buses full of tourists disembark at the wharf, a fear washed over me that this could eventually become what no one wants it to. At least for a while though, it’s too boring to become any of those things.

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The oldest street in Oslob.

Thinking about swimming with the whale sharks? This article wasn’t about the environmental controversy, but if you’re going to Oslob you should do your research. Here are a few articles to help you make you decision:

5 reasons not to swim with whale sharks in Oslob

Whale Sharks in the Philippines- is it wrong to swim with them?

Should you swim with whale sharks in the Philippines?


Featured photo: A man rides his bike in front of the cuartel, still standing from the 1600s.

Character Tuesday: Barrow Creek Pub Barman

 

I walked up to Barrow Creek Pub stuffing Tim Tams in my mouth. I saw a balding, middle-aged man in a casual T-shirt in front of me. I licked the melting chocolate off the finger of my right hand and held out the sleeve of biscuits in the other. “Do you want a Tim Tam?” I asked him. “No, thank you,” he said as he went inside the door.

On my way in, I said hello to two people in denim outfits sitting at the table outside, drinking cans of beer. There were dim neon lights bringing a subtle glow to the woman’s face, framed by a short box-cut hairdo. I noticed she was stocky and serious, her greeting was warm.  As I followed him in to find my friends, I saw him grab a can a beer. No Tim Tams necessary here. 

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Inside Barrow Creek Roadhouse

It was by accident that my travel mates and I made our way there. We needed gas and considering the isolation and uncertainty of the outback, considered it a safe bet to top up before the 88km it would take to reach Ti Tree. We joked that this was the time we were going to be brutally murdered in the outback, stopping at dusk in a town that was only as a big as its telegraph station. But as soon as I walked through the door of the roadhouse and scanned my eyes around the room, I realized that we were not going to get murdered here but instead be one of the thousands and thousands of tourists who are lucky to meet Michael. The man who refused my Tim Tams. (I guess if you’re Australian they’re not such a novelty…)

While I was out stuffing my face, he had already started to impress the German boys I was traveling with. Name dropping important German figures and spitting off soccer statistics and beating their knowledge of German history, my mates stood smiling, almost incredulous. He pointed to German paraphernalia and took out souvenirs that – after over 40 years of tourists gifting things the pub – had amassed into shelves and drawers of excess. He walked us over to the back of the pub, where above the doorway he hung a license plate from West Berlin.

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He finished talking to the Germans and asked where I was from. “How well do you know your presidents?” he followed up. I mentally covered my face in my hands because I knew this was going to be another time when I was shown up on my own country’s history by someone who’s never even visited. He spoke passionately and quickly about conspiracy theories involving JFK and Lincoln, the Freemasons and who’s really going to be on the face of the U.S. bank notes.

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It only took me five minutes of sauntering around the pub to judge him as the man who appears to hold endless knowledge. The man who is friends with everyone but sits alone behind you at trivia and answers questions like, “What was the second name of the platypus’s third cousin in the children’s book written in Boise, Idaho in 1957 but later remade into a one-hit wonder in 1988 and referenced in the most recent Tarentino movie?”

He stood behind the counter, taking coins and notes from different countries, quizzing me on what I knew about all 50 states. He was the only moving figure around a seeming trash dump of still memories – snakes in jars above the mantle, two panties from Nigerian women hanging off the wall, worn-down passport photos of tourists who probably look nothing like they once did when they passed through these doors.

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He works behind the same counter, day after day, year after year. He’s seen thousands of tourists. Yet still, he was full of energy, excitement and pride. He struck me as the person who doesn’t talk all the time, but when prompted, can give a spontaneous 20 minute monologue. Working behind that counter, his life is surrounded by cowboys, skippies (kangaroos) and cattle stations. He may stay in the physical confines of Barrow Creek, but he has the awareness of the entire world reverberating all around him.

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Read more about the Barrow Creek Pub and its history here.

Featured photo: The Barrow Creek Roadhouse view from the bathroom. Two locals listen to music and drink beer at the end of the day. 

This post is part of weekly series titled Character Tuesday, where every Tuesday I bring you a story about (a) unique individual(s) I’ve encountered. Like I always say, life can be good or bad, but as long as it’s entertaining, that’s all you need. This series is meant to celebrate our quirks and idiosyncrasies.