Monthly Archives: May 2010

Thailand’s Lady Boys

It’s the witching hour in Thailand.  It’s around 10 p.m., right when the night life starts pumping, the Beer Chang flows freely and the country’s signature sticky, sexy heat bears down on merry revelers, preparing for the night ahead.  Neon signs buzz and blink and the waitress brings another round of drinks.  From down the soi, a lithe young woman walks towards the bar.

Someone comments, “Wow!  Look at her!”

It’s true.  Look at her is right.  Her skin is the perfect tone of brown, her arms are toned and lean.  She has long, silky black hair that cascades down her back and she’s wearing an impossibly tight pink mini-dress that not many people in the world could pull off.  Her cleavage bursts from her dress top and the strappy white stilettos fit her feet like gloves.  The woman looks at men seated at the bars with a cloyingly sweet, flirtatious gaze.

She walks closer.  That skin!  That hair!  She looks like a model.  She comes closer still.  Wait a minute… What’s that on her throat?  Is that…. Really?… An adam’s apple?

It's a man... It's a woman? It's a lady boy!

It turns out that in fact, this beautiful, gorgeous, model-of-a-woman is in fact not a woman an at.  She’s a man.  She is a Thai lady boy.

Lady boys in Thailand, also known as Kathoey, cannot be defined with one definition.  Some lady boys have had sex changes to become women, some have simply had breast implants to impersonate women, and some simply dress like women (but continue to have all the requisite male body parts attached).  It’s not uncommon to see a group of lady boys out on the town in places like Phuket, Pattaya and Bangkok.  The tall-tale continuously floats around: the foreigner who had a steamy night out with a gorgeous Thai woman, took her back to his room only to find out that, in fact, she’s one of the infamous Kathoeys.

Whether this is true or not, lady boys are an integral part of the Thailand experience.  Lady boys can be seen in bars, flirting with men, dancing in cabaret shows and performing in various events.  Many foreigners are fascinating by this group of people: not exactly men and not exactly women.  The Kathoey subculture is especially fascinating because of their acceptance by other members of Thai society.  Despite the conservative country, lady boys are very open about their sexuality and have no problem flaunting their fake breasts or their smooth nether regions.  The Buddhist religion is often credited as the reason for the acceptance of sub-groups like lady boys in Thailand.

Many people have seen drag queens in their own home country, but Thailand’s lady boys are a special breed because of their seamless beauty and charm.  The smaller stature and fit bodies of Thai males makes those that choose to become lady boys seem even more convincing: a good majority of Kathoey’s are very beautiful and convincing women.

To experience Kathoey culture for yourself, some good places to meet them are Phuket, Pattaya and Bangkok.  For a real show, buy a ticket to a lady boy cabaret: a show where kathoeys sing and dance in amazing costumes.  For a more up close and personal understanding of lady boys, have a night out on the town and see if you can spot the beautiful women who is actually a man.  Strike up a conversation and fall under their flirtatious charms!

At a Kathoey Cabaret Show in Koh Tao, Thailand.

At a Cabaret Show.

Lady Boy in Chiang Mai. (Photo: www.flickr.com/photos/martinamor/476495698/)

FAQ: Solo Travel in Asia

Traveling solo can be daunting: no one to turn to and no one to rely on but yourself.  Especially for women, even the thought of traveling alone in a foreign country can be nerve-racking.  Questions might float in and out of a woman’s brain before a solo abroad trip: Will I be a target traveling alone?  Will I get kidnapped?  Should I carry a knife?  All these questions are valid concerns, but it should be noted that traveling alone in Asia can be very safe as long as you do it right.  The following are some frequently asked questions I get asked about solo travel in Asia:

You traveled alone? Weren’t you scared?

At first, yes, I was scared.  Maybe the feeling should be classified as nervous excitement more than scared.  I went on my first solo travel when I was 20 years old and backpacked around Asia for 10 months.  One of the first places I landed was in Kathmandu.  My heart was pounding as I stepped off the plane and the heat hit my in the face.  I grabbed my bag and walked outside to find a pack of touts trying to drive me to the tourist area of Thamel.  I didn’t know what to do, but I swallowed my nervousness and hired a taxi driver.  My nervousness about being in Kathmandu quickly dissipated and I quickly grew to love the city.

Should I carry a knife?

I’ve been asked multiple times whether or not I carry any sort of protective device like a knife.  I do carry a pocket knife in my backpack, but this is never for self-protective measures.  I don’t recommend carrying anything like mace or a knife.  Traveling alone is safe, just as safe as walking around your own home town (most likely).  Would you carry a knife with you when you walk around a new place in your country?  Probably not.  Also, in an emergency situation, ask yourself if you are really going to whip out a knife and defend yourself.  The best protective measure is not any sort of weapon, it’s being self aware and assertive.

Did anything bad ever happen to you?

Of course there are the random “incidents” that happen to everyone after they’ve traveled extensively.  If you do get mugged (or worse) try to remember that this incident is most likely not representative of the whole country.  The person who did that to you is an isolated being and should not make you think: “I hate (insert country name here) because everyone is a thief!”

This is very important to remember and I learned it on one of my first days traveling in Malaysia.  I (stupidly) shared a taxi with a random man I didn’t know.  The man and the taxi driver, who were in on the scam together, took me to an isolated ATM in Johor Bahru, forced me to take out $120 or else they would leave me in a slum and then deposited me back at the bus station.  After this whole incident, I was so angry at these men and at myself for being so stupid.  I left Malaysia, almost in tears, and went back to Singapore thinking: “I hate this country! How could they do this to me?”  After some consideration, I came to the conclusion that these people should absolutely NOT be representative of Malaysia as a whole, and the whole thing was my own fault for acting so impulsively.

Everyone seems to have a horror story in regards to their solo travels?

Of course they do!  Those are their battle wounds, their travel scars, the really juicy stories to be told over beers and street food.  People like

"Oh s***...."

to talk about their horror stories because, let’s face it, they’re interesting and harrowing tales of life on the road.  Although all seasoned travelers have a horror story to tell, try to remember that those stories are a TINY portion of their travels.  If someone got food poisoning for two days in their year-long trip to India, don’t think: “Ew! I’m never going to India!”  Those two days were a small percentage of their time traveling, during which the majority of the time they weren’t sick.  Take travel horror stories with a grain of salt, internalize their lesson and go to the place anyway with no fear.

Doesn’t it get lonely with so much alone time?

Yes.  Depending on how long your travels are, it can get very lonely, especially in more removed and isolated locations.  Enter: the book.  Traveling solo is a great opportunity to get to know yourself better and explore your own interests.  Read! Write! Draw! You have all the time in the world to do these activities at a leisurely pace when you’re traveling solo, so enjoy it!  Books are definitely the solo traveler’s best friend.  It might be best to stock up on a few at a time, depending if you’ll be traveling outside cities and urban areas.

But when you’re traveling solo, you don’t need to have your nose buried in a book all the time.  Being a solo traveler means you’re opening

Random strangers will soon morph into friends for the solo traveler.

yourself to meeting loads of new people.  A solo traveler is much less intimidating to approach than a group or a couple.  Being unattached equates to meeting more random people, both locals and travelers alike.  Eventually, these strangers will turn into friends whom you may even end up traveling with a bit.  So, yes, it can get lonely, but there are various ways to make connections while traveling solo.

Do you have any advice about traveling solo?  Add you comments below!

How Not To Win A Trip With Nick Kristof

Every year New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof announces his latest “Win-A-Trip” contest.  The contest is open to students around the United States who want to travel with Kristof as he reports on location in Africa.  Kristof, an incredibly influential voice where poverty is concerned, offers to take the student he chooses around Africa, investigating topics like AIDS, war and malnourishment.

When I first read about the contest, I thought: “I HAVE to apply for this.”  I immediately began crafting my essay for the contest.  The guidelines ask for a story that is no more than 700 words about why you would be the ultimate travel companion for Kristof on this reporting mission.  Past winners have included journalism students, medical students and high school teachers.  I spent a long time crafting and editing my essay and, unfortunately, didn’t win.  I thought my essay was pretty good, so here it is in original form, just as it was submitted to Nicholas Kristof.  I hope future applicants will read this essay and think of a new strategy to help win that elusive trip with Nick! Good luck to you all!

My Essay for Nick Kristof:

Sweat the Small Stuff

by Leah Olson

An old tooth changed my life.

In 2007, I visited Cambodia to learn more about the Khmer Rouge genocide. Some reports said 1.5 million people were killed, others said 3 million. Either way, it was impossible for me to conceptualize these enormous numbers.

“One million,” I thought. “Just how many is that?”

When I toured the Killing Fields outside of Phnom Penh, I walked past the memorial full of skulls and discarded clothing and past the mass graves. Near the edge of the fields I spotted a human molar, yellow and half buried in the dirt.

I picked it up and held it in my palm. This tooth, a tragic reminder of one of the darkest periods in history, came from a single mouth. The statistics instantly became a gruesome reality. I couldn’t comprehend one million until I could comprehend one. Witnessing the details, firsthand or vicariously through storytelling, is perhaps the best way for humans to understand each other.

Details make inconceivable issues tangible. They engage our emotions, help us relate and feel empathy. Without the details, it’s easy to be indifferent.

I began writing seriously three years ago when I moved to Nepal to work in a hospital and first observed people living in poverty. When the sun disappeared behind Kathmandu’s jagged skyline, I found myself wandering the alleys, watching women line the streets and rickshaw drivers settle into their vehicles for a night’s sleep.

As the weeks passed, I noticed dark piles of tangled limbs and torsos in corners of the city: sleeping humans, many of them young boys. I soon learned a startling truth: they were addicted to huffing glue.

Every time I passed a child holding a brown paper bag to his mouth, I wanted to write about my anger but I knew that spouting statistics about drug addiction and poverty would do nothing to convey the grim scene. Instead I focused on the details of the boys’ lives: discarded tubes of Dendrite glue, crumpled paper bags and torn T-shirts. I found that my attention to detail provoked a profound emotional response from many readers of my blog.

I am studying journalism and Japanese at the University of Oregon. I’ve been studying Japanese for over fifteen years. I chose journalism because I thrive on crafting stories and I know that stories, not statistics, are what inspire outrage, hope and change. A story about the millions who have died from malaria is not as powerful as a story about how the disease has affected one person.

I have traveled extensively in South and Southeast Asia, writing along the way. I’ve worked at a hospital in Kathmandu, witnessing many of the country’s public health issues, like tuberculosis and hepatitis A. I’ve traveled in the Nepali countryside and seen villages that have suspiciously few young women, many of whom have been trafficked to India. I’ve worked on a small Thai farm with Burmese refugees. I’ve seen many of the problems in developing countries, but I’ve also talked to people who are working on the solutions.

I am an insatiably curious writer, blogger, reporter, photographer and videographer. I have more than three years experience with writing, blogging and photography. As an electronic media student, I’ve shot and edited videos on a deadline. I have worked as a writer and associate editor and am currently the multimedia director at the University of Oregon’s student-run multicultural magazine, Ethos.

Journalism is changing, and so are the means by which to captivate an audience. This reporting trip with Mr. Kristof is an opportunity to encourage readers, especially members of my generation, to be interested and involved in the developing world. In conjunction with compelling stories, breathtaking photographs and well-executed videos, we should be continuously using new media throughout the trip to connect with a new audience.

For me it was a long-forgotten tooth that made genocide tangible. Not everyone has the chance to travel to developing countries, yet, in the age of globalization, every world citizen needs to understand both its human triumphs and tragedies. I am confident that a better tomorrow is possible, but first, people need to see the details, one tooth at a time.

Independent Travel vs. Study Abroad

Going abroad as a young adult is an integral part in becoming a more well-rounded, open-minded global citizen.  The first time leaving home for an extended period of time can be uncomfortable and nerve-racking at first, but with time, the first abroad experience will be something remembered forever.  Seasoned travelers can all recollect with great detail that first trip: stepping off the plane, getting lost, trying new foods and meeting other world wanderers.

Every young adult that has the means absolutely should go abroad.  Whether the funds come from parents, relatives or saved money, every penny spent on a trip is well worth it.  But, when the proposed trip looms as the very first time away from home, deciding how, where and with whom to travel can be difficult.

For university students there are two main choices for the first-time-abroad experience: study-abroad and independent travel.  Each option has its pros and cons, but in the end, a trip is a trip, and both choices offer the opportunity to begin explorations of the world.  The costs, benefits and draw-backs of study abroad and independent travel should be weighed carefully before making a decision.

So, what exactly is study abroad?  Study abroad is an opportunity to travel, live and study in another country through one’s university or college.  Students get to spend a term or more at another university, most likely studying the local language and taking other general courses.  The great thing about study abroad is that participants gain academic credit for their time living in a foreign country.  The trip kills multiple birds with one stone: knock out some academic credits, live in a foreign locale, travel around the region and mingle with other people of a similar age.

Study abroad can be a great way for a college student to begin their world travels because the programs and locales are safe and itineraries are often fully planned.  These sorts of programs can act as a channel to begin further independent travels.  The major drawback to study abroad programs is the price.  At many major U.S. universities, fees for study abroad are exorbitant to the point that many students go in debt (sometimes even further) to travel abroad.  It is true that this money also goes towards paying for academic credits, but spending $20,000 for a term in Spain may not be the right fit for every young person who has the travel bug.

This brings us to the next option: independent travel.  Independent travel is exactly what it sounds like: traveling around by yourself on a trip that you planned by yourself.  Independent travelers don’t go abroad through a company or program… they just go.  The benefit of independent traveling is absolute freedom to go wherever you wish, whenever you wish.  Feel like going to Ho Chi Minh City today? Done.  Feel like going to Cambodia tomorrow? Sure!

Three months of independent travel can also cost drastically less than three months of study abroad (depending where you go and your travel standards).  Independent travelers are usually very budget oriented, staying at cheap hostels, eating street food and taking overnight buses.  If you were to dedicate one term’s worth of study abroad funds to independent travel, the money could be stretched much further, leading to a longer trip.

Although independent travel equates to freedom and is very cheap, it’s not for everyone.  The drawback of independent travel is that you must be very comfortable being alone, fending for yourself and doing your own planning.  When something goes wrong for an independent traveler, there is no study abroad coordinator to make it better.  No one plans your insurance plan or your plane tickets.  This can be an extra hurdle, but it also can make the trip more fun and more personalized.  Independent travel is, of course, different in every country.  For students and young adults not ready to jump head-first into independent travel in, say, India or Africa, somewhere like Australia or Western Europe might be a good choice.

Both study abroad programs and independent travel are good choices for young adults who are vying to experience what the world has to offer.  Although study abroad costs more, the fees also pay for academic credits.  Students who participate will enjoy first time travel with the comfort of knowing that there are people associated with the program there to help in emergencies (parents will probably appreciate this too).  Independent travel can be dirt cheap, but is probably not the best choice for young adults who aren’t too sure about planning a trip alone and being alone for extended periods of time.  Each choice as pros and cons, but both are great options in taking that first step to become a global citizen and a global mind.

Study Abroad:

Pros: Planned out through university, get to be with other students, free-time to travel around region, lots of opportunities to make friends, knock some academic credits out of the way.

Cons: Can be crazy expensive, some people study abroad with friends from home and don’t branch out, can be too planned for some people.

Independent Travel:

Pros: Can be dirt cheap, can spread money out for longer (meaning longer travel), complete freedom to do whatever, meet more people not associated with the university setting, builds independence and self-reliance.

Cons: Might not be right for those nervous about traveling abroad/alone for the first time, no one to fall back on in emergency situations, requires careful planning pre-trip.

Does Traveling Skew Your Perception of Possessions?

Do you need all this?

I went on my first extended travel trip in 2007.  I was 20 years old at the time, excited to leave Oregon and see the world.  I thought and thought and thought about where I wanted to go and finally decided on Nepal.  Nepal was a place I didn’t know much about and it seemed perfectly mysterious and foreign to me, which fit the bill for my destination.

It took me about a month to truly get ready for this first 10 month trip.  Especially since it was my first trip, I dedicated many hours to considering which gear would be best, what medications to bring and how many travelers checks I would carry.  And then came the major hurdle: my stuff.  Piles of it.  Mounds and boxes and bags of stuff.

“How did I accumulate all this?” I wondered, especially since most of it was totally useless and pointless.  Way too many clothes, shoes and bags.  So what did I do?  Gave it all away.

Before I left on my first trip I pared down my stuff by about 75%.  Boxes and boxes went to Goodwill and other charities.  It felt great to get rid of these possessions, most of them meaningless.  It was like a burden was lifted off my shoulders.  Packing a years worth of things into a small backpack is an enlightening process and leads to a deeper understanding about just how much stuff we really need.  In reality, we don’t need much.

Since I’ve been back from my first around Asia trip, my perceptions of possessions have changed drastically.  I rarely buy anything, whether it’s clothes, shoes or cooking utensils.  Traveling has taught me how much extraneous stuff I don’t need.  It feels good to not buy a lot of things, sort of like a disconnect from consumer culture.  Of course, whenever I think about my “Next Trip Fund,” that alleviates any desire to spend money as well.

Sometimes I feel like traveling has skewed my perceptions on possessions.  Especially in America, we’re surrounded by stores, malls, retail outlets and more.  There are ads, billboards, TV messages and beyond, everyone asking you to buy something.  So, it seems strange and disconnected to not buy much.  I look around my house and it is almost empty (it’s a big space, but nonetheless…).

Traveling has changed my perceptions on buying and possessions.  One of the most important lessons traveling has taught me is to be happy with fewer things.

[VIDEO] Carpal-Tunnel Surgery in Nepal

Carpal-Tunnel Surgery Nepal from Leah Olson on Vimeo.

Carpal tunnel syndrome affects the hand and upper limb and is often caused by repetitive motions, many times related to a certain line of work.  For example, a carpenter that hammers the same way day-in and day-out may be likely do get carpal tunnel syndrome.

Surgery can help alleviate some of the pain associated with this syndrome.  The video above was taken at a Kathmandu city hospital.  The subject of the surgery is only 17-years-old.  She lives in rural Nepal and came to the hospital with her family to get this surgery.  Although very young, she has been working in the rice fields for the majority of her life, picking and harvesting rice, which is how she developed carpal tunnel syndrome.

WWOOFING: Asia and Beyond

What is WWOOFing

WWOOF stands for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms.  It is a network that connects local farmers with peopleinterested workers, horticulturists, botanists and travelers.  WWOOF started in 1971 in the United Kingdom and has since expanded to almost every continent around the globe.  For a small membership fee, people can log-on to the WWOOF website, pick a country of interest and connect with organic farmers around the world.  In exchange for work, WWOOFers get a free place to stay, food and an amazing opportunity to understand a country and it’s people in a deeper way.  WWOOF volunteers gain an intimate knowledge of a country through work and interaction, an experience many tourists and backpackers never get.

How Does WWOOF Work?

Interested WWOOFers must first sign-up for membership on the WWOOF website.  For a small fee, members gain access to all farmers postings around the world.  Farmer postings list things like contact information, what sort of farm they have, minimum or maximum stay for volunteers, restrictions (such as alcohol or tobacco) and what sort of volunteers they are interested in hosting.  Some postings are very specific.  For example, the farmer may only be interested in hosting woodworker vegetarians who can stay for a minimum of 6 months.  Others are very broad.  For example, the only restriction may be to stay for at least a week.

Once you find a farm that is in the country of your choice, you send a personal email to the farmer, specifying dates, interests, previous experience with farming, etc…

What To Expect?

WWOOFing around the world allows you the opportunity to experience a country like you never could as a tourist or a backpacker.  You’ll get to know your hosts, meet other people working on farm, and gain a deep understanding about how subsistence farming and local food systems work.  WWOOFing enriches knowledge about agriculture and how people around the world eat.

Expect a lot of hard work.  Each farm’s expectations differ: some expect you to work 6 days a week, 7 hours a day, other farms expect 4 days a week, 4 hours a day.  Make sure you sign up for a farm that suits your interests and physical capabilities best. Farming is not easy: expect to sweat (a lot), to work harder than you’ve ever worked and to be worn out a lot of the time.  In return for your hard work, you can expect to feel an incredible satisfaction and happiness with your work.  You’ll learn about local agriculture: plants, growing techniques and farm systems.

The sort of work you’ll be doing completely depends on what farm you visit.  Some farmers request that volunteers help tutor their children in different languages, others request that volunteers help with planting and harvesting in the fields.

From your WWOOFing experience, you’ll no doubt gain a new understanding and appreciation for farming and agricultural work.  You’ll meet amazing people (both your hosts and other workers) and you’ll be able to explore places, often very remote, that are completely off the tourist trail.


Where Can I Go?

You can literally travel all around the world volunteering on WWOOF farms.  There are farms in North and Central America, South America, Europe and the Middle East, Africa, and the Asia-Pacific.

Because this website focuses on Asia travel and adventure, here are places you can WWOOF within Asia:


Countdown: Two Months

As the final weeks of school tick past, I have only one thing on my mind: Asia.  Asian food. People. Travel. Culture. Adventures.  It’s hard to focus with such anticipation and excitement looming in my near-future.

I’m finishing up my final term of school at the University of Oregon.  I’ll graduate with a degree in journalism (focusing on electronic media and magazine) and a minor in Japanese.  After walking across that stage and getting my diploma, it will be on to the next step: Asia.

I’m heading back over to Asia at the end of July, my third extended trip to the region in three years.  This time, I’m moving there for a job: I’ve taken a position as a writer and editor at an English-language magazine in Nepal, based in Kathmandu.  While trying to finish up my classes and figure out what’s in store for me in Kathmandu, I’m building my website and scrambling to make travel plans.

An extended trip to Asia, or anywhere, always takes a lot of planning.  There’s insurance, gear, health concerns (shots and meds), visa and travel information, political concerns (Nepal) and money.  Each aspect takes careful planning and consideration before departure and the thought or organization can be overwhelming at times.  That’s why I decided to start this website.  I wanted to create one site that presented a collection of information about travel, working, and adventuring in Asia.

How To: Remove Leeches On Trek

Situation: It’s wet.  A jacket invading, perpetual dampness, soggy kind of wet.  And you’re on trek.  The lush green hills rise around you.  Birds screech in the trees, busting with green leaves and bright flowers.  Maybe it’s raining or maybe the downpour just ended.  You stop for a drink of water, perching on a rock.  After a few swigs, you look down at your ankle and notice a tiny black, raised blob.

“What the?…” you think to yourself.

Upon further investigation, you realize what it is…  A leech.  A slimy, creepy, blood-sucking leech.  You quickly peel off your socks and find a few, maybe a dozen more leeches that have somehow invaded your shoes and your socks.  A few have even found refuge in your toes.  Ugh.

This situation has become a  reality for scores of trekkers in Asia.  Whether you’re hiking in the Himalayas, in Northern Laos, or in the steamy Malaysian jungle, leeches will be there, especially if the environment is wet.  The little black blobs are the bane of many trekker’s existence.  Although their bite is not painful, the would looks rather ghastly because of the stream of blood that flows from the spot.  There are some simple preventative methods to take before your trek to avoid leeches and, there are a few methods to keep in mind when removing a leech on trek.

What Are Leeches?

Leeches vary in size, depending on the environment.  They can be found on land, in fresh water and in salt water.  Many leeches found on treks in Asia are around 0.5-3 inches and very thin.  They move like a slinky going down stairs: flipping one side over the other in a continual motion.  Although the little suckers are an annoyance to hikers and trekkers, leeches were (and still are in some places) used in medicine for bloodletting.

Leeches sense heat and motion in their environment.  Whether it’s a dog, cow or human that moves through the woods, leeches will likely sense the heat and quickly slinky over to the fresh blood source.  When trekking in a wet environment, leeches sometimes fall from trees, but most often attach to their subject from the ground.  This means that the leech will attach to the shoe, move up to the sock area and burrow down from there.

Leech Bites

Once a leech bites and begins engorging itself in blood, it’s very difficult to remove them properly.  When a leech bites, the subject will likely feel nothing: not pinch, no pain and no aches.  After a bite, the leech will feed off blood until it is totally full, and then it simply drops off.

The tell-tale sign of a leech bite is a large bloody spot on the socks or shoes.  Blood will continue to flow from the bite often for hours after the animal drops off because of the anticoagulant they secrete from their mouth parts.  The anticoagulant allows for the free flow of blood from your body to theirs.  This is why, even after you remove the leech or they drop off, the blood continues to seep out.

Prevention

There are several measures you can take to prevent leeches from biting you in the first place.  These measures take some a bit more time and planning than simply peeling the suckers off after they’ve bitten.

Choice 1: Anti-Leech Socks

Casual hikers probably won’t need these, but the more hardcore mountain trekkers might want to consider these anti-leech socks.  This particular brand of socks cover the foot to the upper knee and are worn underneath the boot and over the normal sock.  It’s very difficult for the leeches to penetrate these socks because they are long.  This particular sock brand will set you back $40, but they are very durable and will come in handy for long, deep-jungle treks, or treks during monsoon season.

Choice 2: Soak Socks in Salt Water

This option is good for a while, but if you will be trekking through streams or other very wet areas, you probably won’t stay leech free for long.  Soaking your socks in salt water and then drying them is a better option when you are trekking in dry weather.

Choice 3: Insecticide

Too much Deet is not a great idea, but applying some strong insecticide around the ankles, on the socks and even on top of the shoes is a good way to ward off leeches.  Make sure to reapply the insecticide every few hours.

More Resources for Anti-Leech Measures: http://www.mysabah.com/wordpress/?p=177