Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Ants In My Pants

Mountain top view inbetween potty breaks
We arrived in Luang Prabang against our will at dusk. By the time we made it to the city center it was completely dark. Anxiously walking up and down the guesthouse streets seeing the sign’s full on every door, we happened to fall upon the Mekong Moon- a great boutique hotel for  $20. The only bad part, they could only keep us for 2 days. After our wonderful 2 day stay, we headed out to our new guesthouse, what looked like another great spot for an even better price $15. After a night on the mattress (I don’t even know if you could actually call it that), the springs were indented on our backs.
Sadly, Danny caught the stomach bug. After a night in the bathroom for Dan, we decided to check into another guesthouse, one with a comfortable bed!  Between bathroom breaks, we made a run for our next abode-an even better deal, $10.
After one night, I was ready to leave, but for some reason we had committed to two nights. With a nice and early wake up from the roosters, dogs, babies, pots and pans clanging- all at 5 am might I add- we headed over to the Mekong  Moon.  It was my lucky day, they had the next week available!
Another Golden Wat
We get through night 2 at our $10 a night guesthouse- 5am wake up call’s still included.   Now that all belly’s were up to par, we took a morning stroll to a great bakery.  Well the stroll turned into a brisk walk into a slight jog as bellys that we thought were good turned out not to be.  Even though this place wasn’t so great, they did have an awesome shower. With a jog unexpectedly thrown into the morning, I decided to make  use of the only good thing this guesthouse had to offer. 
 I start to shower and see an ant on the wall. Not uncommon, no big deal.  As I go to turn the water temperature up, I reach my hand almost to the faucet to see hundreds of red ants filing out of the wall. Now im not talking one or two, Im taking HUNDREDS OF RED ANTS. And what do I decided to do- spray the crap out of them so THOUSANDS of red ants come out of the wall. As I start to panic, I call Danny for some help. After a few curse words, he’s like get the heck out of the shower and pack your bag- we’ve got to get out of here.  We packed our bags so fast it wasn’t even funny. Even as I write this I feel ants crawling all over me.
Beautiful scenery
As we settled back into the dream hotel, Mekong Moon, I took that shower that was much needed. After a day in a plush bed, in an ant-less room, one stomach bug was nursed back to health, but sadly another one started. That’s right- I caught a bug myself. I’m just glad my bed has springs and the bathroom I spend the night in is ant-less.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Bus Trips Through Laos

OK- let's get you all up to speed. Yes, I'm sure you've figured out I havent been blogging. The leisurely pace of Laos got to my head. If you've been following Danny's blog you know we are in Luang Prabang, Laos but for those of you who aren't here's a map!

View Laos in a larger map

Street side view from out place in Vientiane
We spent a few days exploring the capital of Vientiane and then headed north to Vang Vieng to take in the beautiful limestone setting and the famous tubing experience. After 2 days of techno beats, westerners without clothes, and a tubing experience down the Nam Khan River, we decided to head even farther north to Luang Prabang.

Hotel balcony view in Vang Vieng
If you look on the map it seems that there is equal distance between all 3 cities. WRONG. Journey #1 from Vientiane to Vang Vieng was advertised as a 3 hour journey. Wrong again. Our "3 hour" journey was actually a 4 hour journey. Not too bad, right? Wrong again. The roads weren't paved. Would you like me to repeat that? A 4 hour journey on unpaved roads with a bus driver who thought he was running from the cops. I am a go with the flow kind of person, but I thought I was either going to puke all over our friends on the bus or have to spend the rest of my life in jail because I killed our bus driver. It was an agonizing trip that left us off in the blistering heat of a unknown city to find a guesthouse.

unpaved roads through Laos

More views from the busride
Now onto our journey to Luang Prabang! We knew it was going to be a long hilly journey so we tried to prepare ourselves. We got the VIP big bus, had plastic bags (use your imagination), and had empty stomachs. We were successful!!!! However, we dont want to ever have to do it again. So $160 flight later- we will be heading to Hanoi, Vietnam February 1st, but not before we take in all the beauty Luang Prabang has to offer.

Beautiful sunsets in Luang Prabang, Laos

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

A Recap of Thailand

Mango-sticky rice treat
A quick decision to head into Laos has left me little time to describe all that made up my experince in Thailand. Easily put, food, food and more food. To dig a little deeper, we first arrived in Bangkok, the very modern capital, located in the center of the country dividing Northern Thailand from Southern Thailand.Our week in Bangkok consisted of moving from riches to rags or Siam Square to Khao San Road "adjusting" to the new norms of chopsicks, script instead of letters, and a crazy busy city. Jet lagged, we wandered about making the most of each day but making sure to stop and eat along the way. Ok- so maybe what I should really say is we ate our way through each day.

It's really hard getting used to the new restaurants. On the outside they look like holes in the walls, where you have the strange urge to clean everything you see, but when the final product hits your taste buds, you're blown away.
Stuffing my face
Roadside stall for dinner

Candid- note lack of wardrobe
Having to cope with the lack of cleanliness of our eatery's, I ate my favorite, Pad Thai for the first week. After a few times watching Danny drool as he ate fried chicken, I decided to jump on the bandwagon and try it. Hooked within the first bite! As the days went on, so did my adventurous appetite. As we trekked up North to Chiang Mai, Danny brought me to all the best spots to eat. Once again, expanding my menu selections.

If you have never tried Thai food, I suggest you put away that frozen chicken you have on your counter and find your nearest Thai restaurant and get an order of Pad Thai. A little side note, Danny took me to a Thai restaurant for our first date, where I tried Thai food for the first time.

ok Dan- thats enough pictures of me stuffing my face
Coming back to Thailand, I knew the food was going to be amazing, but what was a surprise was my manners. I am lucky enough to have a mother who taught me manners (and made sure I used them). Thai's are extremely polite. There is hardly any haggling, you are always greeted with a smile, and god forbid anyone bump in to you- there will be a million sorrys and bowing. It couldnt be any more different then the western world. (maybe just NY?) Thai's even wait in a single file  line to get on the sky train. I asked Dan the first time I saw it and he laughed and said not like Boston or London is it? So manners have come in handy. As you can see from the pictureto the right, sometimes the deliciousness of the food gives me a slight lapse in my manner use, but the Thai's understand. They love their food too!

To conclude, we've seen Wats, we've explored what seems like every inch of all the cities we've been to, I've even enjoyed a massage (or 2), but my favorite has been the food. Let's just say it was a good decision to pack the sneakers!

Dont think Sir Robbins doesnt indulge either!!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Did You Have Loo Problems on the way to Laos?

River view from our guesthouse

Lampang ended up being exactly what I needed. On the outside, it looked like a small run down city, but once we started to explore, we discovered it's hidden beauty. With not much to do, walking around was leisurely, reading a book for the afternoon was OK, and even the occasional siesta (widely popular by locals) was acceptable.

We found this amazing
spot to eat (all 3 nights for dinner) OK- so we didn't go off in search for other places. We were pretty sure we found the best one with it being filled all three nights with the locals.
Resting Buddha in a restful city

Chillin at another Wat

As soon as we arrived in Lampang, we already had the "whats next" question on the brain. Were we going to see more of Thailand or should we pop over to Laos? With a successful ride to the bus station, we went to stall #8 to talk to these giggly girls about our options to Laos. I say giggly because they didn't really know English and every word unknown was replaced with a giggle. We finally decided to take the 10 hour overnight bus ride that would put us pretty close to Laos.

With my warm clothes, dramamine, and empty bladder, I was ready for the overnight bus challenge. With a late (930 pm) bus, that ended up being late arriving, I paced up and down the station with a sense of anxiety and adrenaline rush. The bus finally arrived and as the trip progressed, more clothes came on, a second dramamine was swallowed, and somehow the bladder filled up. I luckily slept 90% of the trip. I got to use a lovely toilet at our one stop. (I use that term very loosely) But all in all, my trip was successful, as I was the last one off the bus because I slept so well.

As we are let out in the rain at 6am, we hop on the first tuk-tuk. After our fellow riders get off at their stop, Danny looks at me and says, "Boy do I have a story for you!" (Check out his blog for all the interesting details provided!)

Shocked at his story and feeling very thankful that I slept the whole way, I realize we are driving in the pouring rain and are putting all of our trust in our driver to bring us to the right place. Feelings of anxiety and adrenaline all come rushing back to me.  Oddly enough, we were dropped off in this secluded alley that had a lone bus with our destination on the front windshield.  After a successful  hour ride to the boarder crossing, we decide to stop into town on the Thailand side to check it out.   After a quick bite to eat, we were ready for the second part of the trip to begin.

A picture from the Thai side of the Mekong Delta
When you cross most boarders,  it makes life easier if you have small USD, passport photos, and a pen. Somehow, we both managed to have all three. With a quick exchange for our visa on arrival, we were free to enter into Laos. We wearily bypassed all lines without being stopped and found some furlongs to share a tuk tuk to the center of Vientiane, Laos where we will be spending our next few days.

It's so strange to me how it all comes together. A bus ride, a rainy tuk tuk ride, another bus ride, another tuk tuk ride, followed by another tuk tuk ride and we happened to get to the place we wanted to be. All with little to no conversation and for most of us, no problems to write home about!

Be sure to check out the link to Dan's blog at the bottom of this website!!   GO GIANTS!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Is This a Joke?

This toilet is a JOKE!!!!

Scenario #1:Our last night in our hotel was upon us and after a relaxing morning, Danny and I had to make a decision on what our next move was going to be. Would we continue to stay in Chiang Mai or would we move on? We decided to take the easy road- stay another night and figure it out tomorrow. Except, our hotel was full. We had to leave.-- Is this a joke?

Scenario #2: With our hotel being full, our decision was decided for us so we made a further decision to move on to Lampang, a city known for its famous elephant center. With a guesthouse easily booked by a phone call, we needed a mode of transportation to get us there. Why not a train? We asked around and heard we should book right away because trains could be full. We took a Sorng taa ou (Song tau), converted pickup truck with benches in its bed (Don't worry mom- it's safe, well almost), to the train station for 50 baht each or $1.60.  When we arrived at the station, the woman behind the counter kindly said, "Please buy your ticket on the day you depart, thank you!" After a slight beg and puppy dog eyes from the furongs, she repeated herself "Please buy tomorrow, 50 baht" -- Is this a joke.

The more reliable than safe means of transportation
Scenario #3 After a sorng taa ou trip costing double what our train ticket cost I decided to take the journey into relaxation. I told a  disgruntled Danny that I was going to get a massage. After all, I'd been secretly checking out each one we passed to determine the best place to give my business to. After a quick shower- yes i know what you're thinking, how kind of you to wash the filth off of you- i headed down the street. Greeted kindly at the door, I asked for a 1 hour thai massage. Boy was I in for a treat. Have any of you every had the pleasure? It was a full hour of pain and agony and the worst part was  I was paying for it! As she poked and prodded and poked some more I was sure I was going to leave with bruises all over my body. Finally, the hour was up. I handed her a hefty tip- she did go somewhat easy on me once I started to scream a little- and thought to myself-- Is this a joke?

My small, but very full pack
Scenario #4  6 am greeted us nice and early. I had done a semi pack the night before, but for some reason it still took me a while to get out the door. After a good hour of packing and showering, I felt someones eyes on me giving me the hurry it up look. As I noted before, my packs a little tight. Ok more like I cant fit one more thing in it or it's going to bust at the seams. As the final stuffings were upon me, Dan kept reminding me of other things that needed to be packed.  It was my turn for the look- I even added a little bite- "You're not helping" to be exact.  Minutes later- I was ready to go. We caught our train with no problems (phew) and waited on  platform #3. It was a beautiful day in Chiang Mai as we boarded the train. To my surprise the train was dingy and cold- very cold. The AC was blasting, as I sat looking out the window at the beautiful sunshine warming everyone outside, I thought to myself-- is this a joke??

Scenario #5 After 3 hours of freezing, we reached our destination, Lampang, Thailand. With a short and cheap sorng taa ou ride to our guesthouse- I thought to myself- Is this a joke?!?
Our beautiful riverside guesthouse

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

A Glimpse into Doi Suthep

 As most of you know, this is my second trip and Danny's third trip over to South East Asia. Back in 2009, I set off for the "real world' in corporate America as an accountant, while Danny went to study Buddhism in India and Nepal. Upon his return, I wasn't enjoying the path I was on and after our one week reunion vacation in the Dominican, which cost the same as his six month trip, Danny knew that he was ready to go back. After an easy decision to trade the calculator for a backpack, I was ready to back with him.

With Dan already having plans to study in Thailand at Doi Suthep, I set up home in Hoi An, Vietnam. Before he left me in Hoi An, there was a little camera accident, and he headed off camera less. Well it's a good thing we decided to come back for round 2 (3 for Danny). Chiang Mai is surrounded by beautiful mountains and on top of those mountains is Doi Suthep. Yesterday, I had the pleasure  of going there with Dan and taking a glimpse of what his life was like for that month. It was absolutely breath taking. Oh, you're probably thinking im taking about the Wat. There is a gigantic staircase that we had to climb to get there first!

But in all sincerity, it was beautiful. It was an amazing spot that I am thankful I got to see with Danny.

That's the Way That the World Goes Round

Chiang Mai is a bustling city with lots to do and see surrounded by a relaxing atmosphere where cafes filled with farongs** line every inch of the streets. With a relaxing day already checked off the list, we decided to make an action packed day for ourselves. Adventure number 1: The Chiang Mai Zoo.

I reached back into the memory bank to determine if I had ever been to a zoo. The only thing I could come up with was the Catskill game farm, which is nothing close to a zoo. I must have missed my elementary field trip to the Bronx Zoo. Oh well! It made going to this zoo even more exciting. Once I got passed the sadness of these beautiful creatures being caged in, it was amazing to see them up close and personal. Each animal had such different characteristics and habitats. The more I got to thinking about it, I realized,  how is that different from any of us? The world is made up of all different types of people and I wouldn't want it any other way. It's how this beautiful world works. Here's a couple pictures to name a few!

The love birds...
the gossipers at the watering hole

worrying mother bird's


the builders

the loners

the wise elders

the divas (he totally knew he was getting his picture taken)

nothing better to do's 

the friends

the aggressors 

the traveler's sending love back home!
** Farongs: the Thai word for westerner. Can be used both in a derogatory or simply in an explanatory fashion. 

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Gossip Girl.... or Boy

I let my tour guide, Danny,  bring me to the best morning hot spots. The temperature was amazing. It was in the 70's with minimal sun. We stopped at the local hot spot for breakfast before heading to a morning market. I thought Dan just wanted to show me the market. After walking up and down each row he said this is where I get coffee. I was stunned. He sat at a stall in the market! Wow, what a local. The woman asks if we wanted to take away or sit. Of course we want the full experience. As we tell her we want to sit, we're greeted with a disgusted look. As the time passes, I finally look at Danny and have the following conversation

Me: so you enjoyed coming here last time
Dan: yeah it was nice, the woman was always a little bitchy but...
(after a few seconds)
Dan: I think this is where all the woman come to gossip. So I would just come and sit and be in the middle

I just about died. For all of you that know Dan, you know this is the total opposite of his personality. I couldn't believe that he went somewhere, where they were blatantly rude to him, when there are so many other nice people and places around, just to be in the center of Thai old woman gossip, that he cant understand!!

Here's a video of the market area. I cant wait to go back tomorrow to see what the new gossip is!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Bye Bye Bangkok

Just what you'd expect in Chinatown

After a late start to our day, we headed back to the old neighborhood to pick up our Visas and get "the best fried chicken" in Bangkok, so says the bible.  It didn't  disappoint, it was phenomenal. After an easier morning than anticipated, we had some time to check out Chinatown. WHAT AN EXPERIENCE! The sights and the smells were all compacted into the smallest streets. After an hour, my freak out mode kicked in and I was ready to leave. Dan on the other hand could have stayed a lot longer, but the nice boyfriend he is grabbed us a tuk-tuk and we headed back to the homestead.
Best Fried Chicken.....Someone is excited

After a long tuk-tuk ride home, we decided to catch a flight in the morning to Chaing Mai. Oh the joys of budget airlines and the internet. A few bucks later and we have successfully made it to Chaing Mai.After our journey to Chaing Mai, which consisted of the wrong sky train stop, the wrong train to the airport (got a quick switch just in time), and a delayed flight, , neither of us were phased. It was a regular day in traveling that wasnt worth batting an eye to.
Bye Bye Bangkok


Happy man with his bread!
It feels so good to be out of the crazy streets of Bangkok. We  both had enough of the hustle and bustle. But today brought the real joy. We have arrived and posted up in Danny's old spot. Last year, Dan was here for over a month. He is so excited to be back and to revisit all of his favorite spots. One being his favorite bread stop. (He needed a pre dinner snack!!) It was refreshing to see him so excited to be here.  It makes me excited to see what these streets have to bring.

Be sure to check back on my last post and on the photos link above. Chiang Mai has some fast internet which means lots of pictures!!!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Wat Wat Wat

After yesterdays change of pace, we decided to make the best of the rest of Bangkok. We only had two items on the agenda, Vietnam visas and Wats, lots of them!  After a successful, but expensive trip to the Vietnam Embassy, we headed out for our Wat adventure.

What is a Wat? A Wat is  a monastery temple that can be found all over South East Asia. To go into the Wats you need to have long sleeve shirts and pants on. So that was the attire for the day. It was so freaking hot!! Hot enough to pop into a starbucks to grab something cold and use their wifi!

Hot Hot Hot!!
Starbies aircon break!