We got scammed in Thailand

Embarrassing but true… and we knew about the tourist bus scam already, but fell for it again. :( 

DO NOT BOOK WITH SAMUIPEDIA Koh Samui to Khao Lak. 

Here’s the review I posted on Tripadvisor that the travel agency Samuipedia keeps taking down. What really pisses me off is that the company is in total denial (claiming we didn’t buy the ticket with them) and refuses to take any responsibility in their role in cooperating with scammy (illegal?) bus companies and sleazy Thai people (they give Thai people a bad name, as 99% of Thais we met were fantastic). So now I practice my freedom of speech and write negative things about them on my blog, as they sure as heck can’t take this review down! 

We were lucky that we didn’t have any cash for them to find in our bags (they didn’t bother with our valuables, including a small laptop computer that Per’s dad left in his luggage despite that we told them not to leave valuables…). But the sleazeballs looked through everything in our (LOCKED!) bags, including toiletry bags and every small nook imaginable. One girl on our bus had money stolen that was hidden inside her SHOE! Even though I knew there was a risk of our bags being looked through, it feels like a horrible violation to know someone has looked through your things. 

In any case, our trip to Thailand was a success overall, and this small thing doesn’t ruin Thailand for me. 

 

Tripadvisor review of Samuipedia  

DO NOT BOOK!! Koh Samui to Khao Lak bus/ferry thefts

We booked hotel transfer+ferry+ bus with Samuipedia (also called Samui Island Trips and Tours) from Koh Samui to Surat Thani to Khao Lak. DO NOT BOOK this tourist bus trip (which runs from Koh Samui to Surat Thani then Khao Sok / Phuket / Krabi / etc, Google search “Tourist bus scam Thailand”). This transfer is also sold through other travel agencies on Koh Samui, as we saw other tourists on our bus had their belongings searched and money stolen. 

All of us of us had our (LOCKED) bags searched through sometime between our hotel pick up in Koh Samui, the ferry ride, and bus to Surat Thani. The bus dropped us off at different “transfer points” (“travel agencies”) on the side of the road in Surat Thani in small groups, rushing us away from the bus before we could realize that our bags were searched through and things stolen. We then had another transport to the actual bus station 5 mins away, and to our surprise met the other travelers from our original bus who were dropped off 2 mins prior to us who also had their bags searched/things stolen. That way the bus driver and personnel get away and we are unable to confront them as a large group and call the police. 

We have been in correspondence with Samuipedia. They refuse to acknowledge that they have any responsibility and claim we did not buy the ticket from them. Perhaps their day tours are fine (I cannot say), but until they stop selling this ticket I cannot recommend their company. SCAM ALERT!

 

 

Time for another yearly update!

Summing up the last 12 months… as mentioned in my previous “yearly” update, I got an internship in Linköping. Which turned into a job offer with a 6 months probation period, which turned into permanent employment… which is no longer permanent, as my workplace decided to shut down the design department.

At first I was pretty happy and relieved about it, since I had been pretty idle at work for the last few months, and felt frustrated that I was not moving forward in my career. But after a month of being unemployed, it’s been hard to keep my spirits up and continue to focus on making new projects for my portfolio that are targeted more towards the direction my career that I want to take – interaction design and digital design. I think a lot of my self esteem comes from being employed. Plus, I don’t have many friends here, so at least I had some kind of social contact in the office. 

Still, I do have some small successes from the past year that I need to keep in mind and be grateful for. I got 7 weeks paid notice, and technically speaking, they could have let me go back at the end of May rather than letting me continue as a permanent employee, so then I’ve been paid for several months more, which in turn improves my unemployment payout. I got a chance to work on some small projects for a customer which I was really proud of (and he was more than glad to be a reference, and possibly could even be a future continuing customer of mine).  My Swedish has improved a lot, to the point where I can watch television, read (general knowledge) books, partake in conversations with a small group of people, and understand most of what is going on during a business meeting. 

I got a job interview in Linköping in the field that I want to work in – which gives me some hope that I might be able to get an interaction design job even if it is offered to someone else – and even completed the interview in (bad) Swedish. But in Swedish nonetheless! I couldn’t have done that 1 year ago!   

Travelled back to Canada twice to visit family and friends. Thought it might be awhile before I would travel back to Edmonton, but depending on how long I’m unemployed for, I might end up going back home next summer for a few weeks. 

I’m really unsure what I should be focusing on… studying Swedish… studying interaction design methods… learning new prototyping software // programming… Feels like there is so much to learn. Almost as though, why kill myself working and stressing when I should try to relax a bit and enjoy the time off, since I don’t know when I will be able to freely travel and partake in interests as now. Live in the moment. 

Despite that I know this intellectually, I can’t help but feel anxious… for all possible outcomes, whether I succeed or whether I fail. What if my portfolio is not good enough? What if I don’t find a job in Linköping? What if I’m offered a (less than perfect) job in Linköping? What if I’m offered a job in Stockholm and have to move? What if I don’t find a job and need to return to school? What if I don’t get into any schools? What if I’m ACTUALLY accepted and need to work my ass off in school and go through the same stresses as when I studied before?? In that case I shouldn’t be stressing so much now but maybe even taking it easy and enjoying my downtime.  

Working during the summer in Sweden (or the strange, workaholic foreigner)

I still can’t get used to the whole country basically shutting down for a month. I know that it’s basically impossible to get things done in July in Sweden, as everyone goes on vacation. When I worked in Canada, I had a relatively generous 3 weeks of vacation per year, which meant that I had to work close to 1.5 years without vacation in order to save up 4 weeks for a longer backpacking trip in South East Asia during the winter. I worked all summers, as a professional and a student.  

Now I get 5 weeks, though have already used up 2 weeks of it. I took 1 week off during Easter, and 1 week in June for sailing, will work all of July and take 2 weeks off in August to go to Canada. All of my coworkers either feel sorry for me, or think I’m strange. One asked, “When do you have summer vacation in Canada?” Uh, we don’t. It would be unthinkable for most companies to shut down for an entire month. Yet in Sweden it’s unthinkable that someone (me) is willing to work the entire month of July. 

I’m alone in the house this summer, as Per is away on a summer course in Taiwan. In a way, I’m a bit glad to be alone for a few weeks. I want to spend this month as a sabbatical, of sorts (as near as it can be, while still working 40 hours per week). I’ve started going to the gym again, after hurting my back, to try to rehabilitate myself with weight training, yoga, pilates, massages, physiotherapy. I got permission to set up a clay workshop at work, so I hope to do some form exercises from Rowena Reed’s Elements of Form on the weekends. One benefit of having little to no work to do this month (as clients are on vacation), is that I have a lot of hours to learn CAD modelling during the day. I’ve also been practicing my sketching in the evenings and weekends. 

It feels like there are endless ways that I would like to improve my skills as a designer (sketching, form, CAD, experimentation and exploration). Long lists of books I would like to read, both in English and Swedish. Endless amounts of work to do around the house and garden. My health has been put on the backburner for too long, and I also need to focus on treating my body better. I feel a bit dragged down by the routineness of everyday life, as though there aren’t enough hours in a day to accomplish everything I would like. The weeks and months are just flying by, without any way of stopping it. It just feels like something is missing for me, as though there’s something more I want, but I just don’t know what. 

I’m not satisfied with the level of my design skills at the moment. Of course I know I do fairly good work, and our clients and my workplace are extremely happy with my work. I know I’m my own worst critic… I just don’t want to become complacent, and I want to reach a level of greatness, or at least to make something real that is beautiful… I’ve been dreaming about doing some sort of intensive summer workshop, perhaps on my own, but preferably with like minded people. I just found out about this summer design workshop in a beautiful location in France http://www.boisbuchet.org/workshop-programs 

Perhaps next summer I will be able to join?? I also found some interesting summer design workshops in Sweden (found out about them though too late), and the ones that ran this summer weren’t as interesting, so I’ll have to keep my eye out for next summer. A crazy though ran through my head that I should organize my own workshop of exactly what it is that I would like to do… I’m just too scared that no one will want to sign up, and all the risks of trying to reach out and do something like that..I don’t have much of a network here in Linköping, and it feels a bit frustrating and isolating. 

My “Yearly” Update – 16 months of (near) continuous weekly commuting is over!

Yikes, I am really bad at updating (anyone still reading this thing?). And now I see that all my photos aren’t linking properly either, which I will have to go back to fix :/ I’ve lost a lot interest in updating this blog, I guess mostly because I’m unsure whether anyone is tuning into my updates anymore. When I had my year long trip, at least I knew people were checking in to make sure I was still alive.

My daily life doesn’t feel super interesting to write about. I think it goes with my theory that no matter the circumstances you are in, when you are in it, it feels absolutely normal (even unremarkable, or mundane). But really, looking back on what I’ve done during the last year, I should be more amazed or proud of what I’ve done.

I did my thesis with a high profile Swedish company working alongside designers, getting the opportunity to live in Stockholm for several weeks.

Lunchtime run at work

Was in Paris in the springtime! (ooh la la!)

Got an internship as a product designer at a company that I thought I could only dream of, while also getting to live for free in beautiful Gothenburg during the best time of year.

View from the office in Gothenburg

Finally someone came and visited me in Sweden! It was great to spend time with my sister, showing her what my life is like here. We were able to make more use of the sailboat this year as well.

And we hit up Berlin (the first time for both of us).

Went back to Canada for a short visit, missing loved ones even more. Got my Swedish residence permit approved for another 2 years.

Visited London for the first time, getting to hang with some of my Canadian friends, as well as meet design friends I studied with in Umeå. Have so much nostalgia for the time spent with my old classmates, and am amazed and proud of what they have achieved for themselves in the last 2 years.

In London. Chopped my hair for the first time in 16 years.

Visited my old classmates in Jönköping twice this fall, and also feel happy they are also making progress in their careers.

And after living out of a travelling backpack for 16 months (not to mention the last 4 years), bouncing back and forth between Linköping, Jönköping, Stockholm, Göteborg, spending between 5-12 hours every week on the damn bus, finally living under the same roof as Per. Improved my motion sickness threshhold, as all those hours on the bus I have trained my ability to read on a laptop.

Started an internship at THE company I have been hoping for here in Linköping, and finding the work completely to be what I want to do! (and really hoping I will be hired on longer… fingers crossed) Gave my first presentation completely in Swedish at work (!) Tried curling for the first time with my coworkers, and found it a lot more fun that I expected.

Won 2 contests this year. One for a really nice TV (mainly on luck and Per’s perseverance). The other for 350 euro worth of outdoor merchandise based on a t-shirt I designed for Haglöfs :)

Really…  An amazing year when I think about what I had been doing 5 years ago. Though I also feel I have been sacrificing a lot of my health and can no longer keep putting it on the backburner. Over this next year, I will focus on my health, becoming fluent in Swedish, and continuing to improve (and enjoy using) my design skills. Overall, life is good.

the most beautiful (& expensive) boots I’ve ever owned

Image

I’m a bit of a shoe snob – I have an expensive taste for quality, though I often want to wait to snag end of season deals. In Canada I’ve found that February has been a good month for picking up end of season deals. But in Sweden the selection tends to be very limited – there’s only a few shoe brands/chains, and they are rather overpriced. I can’t get over the shock of having to pay $70+ for a pair of made-in-China, pleather (or not fully leather) shoes. During the 2 years I’ve been in Sweden, I’ve bought one pair of pleather boots, and one not-fully-leather pair, and both have given me blisters. So then I decided – no more poor quality boots again!

Since I’m in Stockholm for the week, I planned to take advantage of the best shopping selection in Sweden (which isn’t that great, I’m afraid). When I saw them in the store, I loved how they looked. When I put them on, and I knew I had to buy them, if not in every colour… But even after 2 years here, I still have trouble converting currency in my head and pulled out my iphone calculator. 1800 SEK = ~$275! Yikes… too late, I fell in love with them and had to have them.

 

Another bag blog

Found another great bag blog! With all the other great blogs I’ve discovered, why haven’t I discovered bag blogs earlier?

Also found this innovative cycling backpack by Ergon Bike with 2 part independent suspension:

Ergon Bike Backpack

Sexy product shot!

Oh the wonderful world of internet!