Monday, May 23, 2011

Thai cooking crash course... then Lao time

The cooking class was pretty fun, although I'm not sure if i'll be able to cook the pad thai or prawn in coconut milk or sticky rice with mango properly without my teachers.  I was surprised at how well all my cooking turned out since I know nothing about cooking.  It was pretty grueling because we cooked 5 courses in 5 hours and had to eat each meal!  Needless to say, dinner was pretty light that night.  That night we went to a Muay Thai fight (ring side seats!) which was a lot more exciting than I thought.  They started out with kids, which was a little weird to watch at first, but they were pretty professional.  The most exciting fight were the women, whoe were best matched for each other and there was even a knock out!  At the fight we sat next to an Englishman who lived in Chang Mai and trained in Muay Thai and he helped us better understand events. 
The next morning we left Chang Mai for a 6 hour bus trip to Chiang Kong and later that afternoon we crossed the Mekong River and we were in Houay Xai Laos.  The town is simple and quiet, not like any other town we've been to yet... maybe it's because there's really nothing much to do here for tourists except for the Gibbon Experience.  Today we spent the day exploring on a scooter and had a delicious lunch looking at Thailand from the other side of the river.  It was a pretty glorious day because we had nothing planned at all, just a day to relax which we haven't gotten much of.  Our first day in Laos seemed like the perfect place to do this since Laos time is significantly more relaxed than any other place I've been to.  It's so refreshing...   
Tomorrow we leave for the Gibbon Experience!  All we know is that we'll be gone for for a few days, there will be waterfalls, trekking (but mostly flying) through the jungle and sleeping in a treehouse 100ft up in the air.  We're not really sure what to expect, but what's the fun in always knowing.  See ya in a few days!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Day ?

Khao Suk National Park was unbelievable. Being the rookies we are, we were not sure how to initially attack this monstrous playground. We arrived in the late evening and just pointed at a block of bungalows, or maybe tree houses would be a more apt description, which happened to be in our price range, ate some dinner and went to bed. At dinner we met a nice kid named Tyler from Washington State and decided to meet up the next morning to hike around the park ourselves. Great day filled with wrong turns, waterfalls, sweat and leeches. Ohhhh the leeches.
Funny story: apparently, if you want to avoid the leeches, you should walk at the front of the line. We were unaware, and we were all baffled that Hope had such a problem with the leeches. When hiking in the rain forest, the person in front wakes the leeches up, the people in the middle give them a scent to follow, and the person in the rear gets attacked. Such was the case. Neither Tyler nor I could understand why every time we stopped to do a leech check, Hope had twice as many as we did. Anyway, Hope didn't loose too much blood, and we all made it home safe after a grueling 7hr hike.
The next day was unforgettable. We had scheduled a tour of the giant lake that was the center of the national park, Chowlin Lake, as well as a tour of the Namtaloo cave. The lake was amazing. Endless with thousands of islands and limestone walls that raised 200ft.
After a 2 hour boat ride to the far end of the lake, we stopped to eat lunch and get ready for the hike to the cave. Will, Robin, Ryan and Jen; Fulford cave has nothing on Namtaloo. A deep cavern over a mile long with a stream at times lazily flowing and at times rushing through. the stream starts out innocent enough, about knee deep with slight pressure, then it just gets silly. Waist deep, then neck deep rushing so fast you need a rope to pull you up stream. Then some casual rock climbing over some actual rapids within the cave, until you stumble upon a pond with a waterfall at the far end, let me remind you, within the cave! Amazing! About an hour or so is spent exploring the cave with a guide until we are sent out. Then back to the boat and back home in time for dinner.
During our cave tour we met a nice German couple whom we ate dinner with and agreed to go tubing with the next day. A lazy and fun morning of tubing in the river, a rope swing, river monkeys, and even a python who swam right under my tube. Then we said goodbye to Khao Suk and headed to Phuket airport. Hope and I made the decision to fly to northern Thailand instead to taking the train to give ourselves a couple extra days. Worked beautifuly. Would have been a three day trip to the north, instead just a couple of cheap tickets and a couple hours flight.
We arrived in Chiang Mai 2 nights ago at midnight. found a cheap hotel and went to bed. Woke up and immediately regretted our choice of hotel. The dirtiest one yet. so we packed up and headed out. The innkeeper stopped us as we were walking out and pleaded with us to let her show us her nicer rooms, for only 100baht more, which is about 3 dollars, and we complied. The difference was astonishing. Air conditioning, TV, and a balcony. $3 to go from the worst room of our trip, to the nicest. so we stayed. and we've been there since. Yesterday we went to the Tiger Kingdom. Hey Curt, imagine a kingdome of cats, really big ones. No joke, tiger cubs in my lap. Giant mommy tiger rolling over so Hope could scratch her belly. Today we went on an all day trek in the mountains. We hiked for about 4 hours, with the hike broken up with one section of elephant riding(yup, on an elephant. Hope rode it bareback most of the way),
one waterfall to swim in, and one section of bamboo rafting down the river.  Tomorrow is our first cooking class. An all day event that starts at 9am with a trip to the local market to pick up ingredients, then to the class for cooking and eating. A 7 hour and 5 course event. Can't wait.

Saturday, May 14, 2011


Day 3 Krabi was an amazing and very a tiring day.  We took a long tail boat (named after the long rudder in order to reach shallow waters) to Railay Bay - what a beautiful scene.  Limestone outcrops were scattered all over the bay, some small and some massive with caves from top to bottom.  We found a beach with not too many people with white sand and warm water on top with cool water below.  Only downside was while we were enjoying the incredible scene that enveloped us, a jellyfish tried to wrap it's tenticles around Rory's leg... serenity diminished and panic ensued.  Luckily enough the locals knew of a plant that they crushed up to numb the pain.  We watched a storm start small out in the distance and slowly make its way towards us, an awesome sight - clear, blue skies over greenblue waters with a dark and mysterious gray slowly engulping tiny boats into its rainy shroud.  It reaches us and cools us all down, soon it passes and we are off to explore the bay.  We rent a sea kayak and paddle into some dark and kind of scary caves, waves crashing inside sounding like a monsterous voice calling to us.  Limestone stelactites loom above like hands trying to reach down to grab us.  All of it looking like a science fiction movie. 

Temple from the top

Temple from the bottom
We meet a nice German couple on the ride back to Krabi who are on a 6 month vacation (oh how I wish!)  and Richard, an older english gentleman on a year long vacation.  We share a taxi with Richard to the tiger temple, a temple sitting on top of a mountain that requires you to climb over 1,300 steps!  Of course Richard reaches the top way ahead of us.  On the way up we see a monk (all the monks do the climb daily) gingerly skipping down the dangerously steep steps.  The reward at the top was well worth the soreness we'll be having tomorrow, besides the enourmous gold Buddah perched up on a pedestal,  a 360 degeree, panoramic view of what Richard imagined "to be what the surface of the moon looks like, without the trees of course."  Absolutely stunning!  The Andaman Sea in one direction with ourcoppings scattered until they disappeared into the haze and trees, lots and lots of trees in all other directions.  "Isn't it amazing how the trees grow even on the steepest faces, they just find the smallest cravices to latch on to."  Richard says while looking at the massive peices of limestones jutting out of the ground around us.  He leaves us to attack the decent and we stay to take in the view one last time.  The way up was strenous for the legs, but the way down was terrifying for the heart.  Sometimes you would look down and see steps in the form of a ladder, thank goodness for the railing!  Drenched in sweat with shaky legs, all 3 of us jump into the taxi and head back to town. 
We look into our transporstation for our next stop, Khao Sok National Park, and head into the night market for our last dinner in Krabi.  I discover that there's a Thai version of a favorite Filipino dessert, Halo Halo which literally means "mix mix".  I didn't have it this time, but instead indulged in Thai pancakes, basically a Thai version of crepes,  I had nutella on mine mmmm....
Now tired, sticky and full of food we are back at the "mansion" (most of the hotels here are named something something mansion) ready for a good nights sleep.

*We are not allowed to plug in our camera on this computer so pics will be added soon*       

Friday, May 13, 2011

"Eat Pray Love" to "The Beach"

Ubud, what a town.  So many artsy shops and, although we didn't get to see any because we were only there for one night. rice terraces.  The whole time I was there all I could think about was the book "Eat, Pray, Love."  Our room overlooked a race field and in the cool night we got lulled to sleep by frogs and crickets.  Why did we only plan to spend one night there?!  Now we're in Krabi and all I can think about is "The Beach."  Our room is an updated (no so scary) version of the same room Leo stayed in (we actually though about staying in the guesthouse that was in the movie).  The town is relaxed and once again the people very friendly.  Thais seems like a fun people.... I think we may like here.

Day 11

A cave we saw from the road
Quick sequence of events:
Left Gili on fast boat back to Bali. Caught free shuttle to Ubud up in the mountians of Bali. Stayed one night. Beautiful town. Taxi to airport in the morning to Phuket thailand. Landed. shuttle bus to south Phuket to Kata beach on a suggestion. Overpriced and dirty. We didnt like Phuket. Left the next day via ferry across bay to Krabi Town on the mainland. love it. Cheap hotel( about $6 a night) and cheap food. day one was spent traveling. On day two we rented a couple scooters and discovered the town by ourselves. Beaches and waterfalls. This is day three in Krabi, we'll see.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Day 6

Thank you JJ. Gili was a great idea. Full of young people all traveling the world. After 4 nights here I am sad to be leaving tomorrow. Today was my favorite. We wanted to spend a day discovering Lombok, which is the main island that the Gili Islands shoot off from. The guy who cleans our room overheard this, and called his friends in Lombok and told them to meet us at the harbor. after a 10 minute boat ride for a dollar, we arrived in Lombok to be greeted by our 2 travel guides for the day. They took us to their homes, a beautiful waterfall in the mountians, and the monkey forest. An all day jaunt that would have been impossible by ourselves, which was our original idea.

The day before was spent bouncing form the different islands, Gili Trawangan, to Gili Meno, to Gili Air, snorkeling in between. The day before that was spent scuba diving with sea turtles. And every night, per usual, was spent eating and meeting new people. My favorite so far was Rubin. A Very High Energy Spaniard(Valencia) who loved women, partying, and scuba diving, in that order.

Saturday, May 7, 2011


Wow! What a wonderful piece of the world. No motorized vehicles, just carts driven by mini horses, and cats... tiny little cats everywhere. We are now on a the Gili Islands - Gili Trawangan - the largest of the 3 and dubbed the "party" island. despite the fact that when we got here a torrential downpour started, it was still booming with life... back packers coming and going and most not minding the rain which cooled things off a bit. Just a couple hours by fast boat and we're in a whole different world from the tiny, cliff-side community of Bingin. The beach, white sand, the water a clear turquoise blue and the vibe, still slow, but definitely down to party. If we're not hearing bob marley, we're hearing house or the latest rhiana or an Indonesian version of comfortably numb. This place might be hard to leave...

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

what time is it?

I have no idea and it feels wonderful. To the Balinese it seems that there is no such thing as time, and it's contagious. The people are nice and the food is so good. This is only day 3 and I've already forgotten about the fast paced life I just left behind. Bingin Beach is where are now and just down the beach is a place called Dreamland where a large resort sits and awaits bus loads of tourists... only if they knew about the little piece of paradise sitting quietly that's just a short walk down the beach. Tomorrow we head to the Gili Islands, no motorized vehicles are allowed on any of the islands and we hope to get a beach front bungalow for just half the price of our room now. Not sure when we'll have internet again...

Day 3

After 3 days in Bali I look like a lobster and feel like fried chicken. I'm sore all over from attempting to surf, and can barely sleep because of the time difference. Our room is on the beach, and at high tide the waves crash against our balcony. Which is amazing most of the time, except for the fact that high tide is from midnight to 5am.
All that said, this is Paradise. Dramatic 40 meter cliff walls meet the ocean, and at high tide it is hard t0 believe a town is hidden there somewhere. A town lightly populated with nice locals, surf bums, and some of the most delicious, cheap, and fresh seafood I have ever had.
Dinner every night has been a beach side table with snapper, shrimp, and squid cooked over an open flame with a side of rice, veggies, and the spiciest condiments i can find.
The days are spent trying to catch a wave, or just wading in the ocean watching the waves go by in the warm turquoise water of the Java Sea.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Hong Kong

The dreaded 14 hr flight from San Fran to Hong Kong surprisingly went well, thanks to our friends xanax and ambien.
Besides the different languanges saying the same message over the PA and the few people walking around with masks on their faces, this aiport looks just like any other airport in America. Looking out the window makes me wonder what these cloud covered mountains are that sourround us.
With bellies full ramen and udon we sit and wait for the last leg of our trip to commence to finally bring us to paradise.
Rory is jittery with excitement while mine comes on slowly, maybe because it has yet to hit me or maybe because my ambien friend has yet to wear off... either way we are now on the other side of the world with nothing, but our backbacks, a guide book (which I hope to lose along the way), our western sense of curiousity - here's to living a dream.