We got scammed in Thailand

Embarrassing but true… and we knew about the tourist bus scam already, but fell for it again. ūüė¶¬†

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 Link√∂ping. 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 Link√∂ping 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 Link√∂ping? What if I’m offered a (less than perfect) job in Link√∂ping? 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 Link√∂ping, and it feels a bit frustrating and isolating.¬†

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

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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.

 

Thoughts written while waiting in the Munich airport

Leaving grandma’s house on my way to my parents’ house, I suddenly imagined myself on the way to an exciting new life, only to be be struck and killed in a car accident on the way to the airport. “How tragic,” people would say. Why I imagined such a terrible scenerio – is that it just seems too good to be true. A few years ago I wouldn’t have believed someone if they said I would move to another country, study at one of the top industrial design universities there, and have a hunky, blonde Swedish boyfriend who cooks! I’m still nervous as to whether I have what it takes to succeed. And that there’ll be jobs for me, that I’ll be able to make a living. And for how long will I go without an income from this point on? People keep asking me those same questions that I dread trying to answer, because I don’t have an answer. But I’m not too worried. I’ll be tackling it day by day.

New guilty TV viewing pleasures

I am loving America’s Best Dance Crew 3! I do get into the TV watching game late, as I usually avoid wasting time watching TV – and have been watching episodes online. I’m in love with Quest crew, and even more so because I have to support my fellow Asians. But it’s a close call with Beat Freaks, a group of strong females (one of who was Gwen Stefani’s Harajuku girls – how fun is that?) who don’t skank it up just in the name of dance. Really wish I could dance!

Not only have I fallen for one guilty TV viewing pleasure, but two – while watching ABDC3 on muchmusic.com, they aired a commerical for RuPaul’s Drag Race – a reality show about a competition for the next Drag Queen. A cross between two of my favorite shows, Project Runway, and America’s Next Top Model, except twice as fun! How could you not love a show with challenges such as “Drag on a Dime” and lines such as, “The time has come… For you to lip-sync for your life!” So campy, but love it!

On top of that – I am extremely envious of how fabulous the drag queens are! Man… after watching that, I feel like I need to use the freedom I have to act, dress, and look extremely feminine, especially being able to get away with it much more easily in mainstream society than they do. It’s safe to say that I (probably – knock on wood) won’t be shot at while outside a (gay) bar dressed exaggeratedly as a woman. I often think gay people have a lot more fun than straight people do, because they’re free to completely be theirselves and not worry about what others think of them. (Of course, I hardly know the dificulties they also have to go through.) Still, I think I can take something away from this.