Friday, February 29, 2008


1. kittens napping on a menu in railay beach
2. beautiful cliffs
3. the penis shrine (yes, really!)
4. a view from the longtail boat
5. monkey on the beach in railay
6. carson at hat railay west (look at those beautiful cliffs!)
7. an italian man was doing an *amazing* sand sculpture on the beach
8. melissa at diamond cave
9. railay beach, krabi province, thailand

passports didn't come today....we are praying the waves and storm subside and they will be delivered to us tomorrow, our last chance before the plane we need to take leaves. pray for us!!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

travel tips

travel tip # 157: do not, under any circumstances, hide your passports under the bungalow mattress on a remote island for safekeeping, and then forget about this hiding place until you are 3/4 of the way back to the mainland, on the most choppy sea you've ever ridden, rocking dangerously through the splashing rolling waves, when you recall disbelievingly that the passports are, indeed, still under the mattress. this was our shock of the day. i kept saying no, no no, are we sure, they aren't in the they are not. luckily, we've contacted a person in the company we booked through which is connected with our guesthouse on ko lipe, and hopefully (fingers crossed!) our passports are going to be picked up in the morning, brought onto the ferry, transported across the sea, transferred to a bus, and drivin to krabi to our waiting grateful hands. i truly hope so! we are flying out in less than three full days, and we need those precious little documents to be able to leave!

ko lipe was (is) so beautiful. it's like the kind of tropical paradise you might always dream of, or see in postcards. apparently we were there during the peak time of the year when the water is it's most stunning. white sand beaches underline the clear blue water in a way that you just keep saying, wow, i can't believe i am here, and every picture taken makes you think, did i really just take *that* picture?! we rented a sea kayak and paddled around a bit on tuesday, out to a little island, where we snorkeled and got stung by lots of baby jellyfish that were invisible to the eye. we hung our mask and snorkle heads over our little kayak too and looked down at the world of coral beneath, and big sharp pointy creepy black sea urchins, and little nemo fish swimming around their purple-based sea anenome home, and angel fish, and parrot fish, and little fishes with nice colors, and one sting ray that made us swim fast away, and slug-like sea cucumbers on the bottom of the sea floor. i love snorkeling, and it can also be a little scary sometimes, that huge under water world, my body just floating up there above it all but in it too.

as we were kayaking around, i said, "let's just check that one last beach for rata and chino" (as we had been looking for them constantly for the past 48 hours!) as we paddled up to the shore, we thought we saw a figure that looked like chino...could it be?! carson said "......chino?" in this adorable curious way, and slowly he turned, and yes! it was him, and rata, after all, on this little secluded beach at one end of the island that we had yet to set foot upon. it was soooooo wonderful to see them, they are some of the most beautiful, warm, welcoming, generous, genuine people i have met, it's so easy to love them so much, instantly. we spent a lot of the last couple of days with them, and some of their old friends and new friends, all from spain (last night we had dinner with 7 people from spain, how fun! inspiration to start studying our spanish book).

ko lipe was only a 4 day experience, but how special. they are just about to begin building a road on the island (it's got to be small, there are not many places to go on that island!) i think this is sad. there was a huge barge that pulled up on tuesday, with cranes and a bulldozer-type big yellow machine, and concrete makings. we definitely got to see the island at a turning point. the local chao ley people there are so friendly, there is a 700 person village on the island. carson participated in a 12 person beach volleyball game with travelers and locals alike, and had some awesome saves, if i do say so myself (his height is a coveted advantage, he's good at those spikes over the net!)

today was exhausting though, with the (quite scary) ferry ride, and then our unfortunate realization about the left-behind passports. we are in krabi now, it was raining here all day (last night we saw lightening in the distance on ko lipe, and the wind was strong). uncharacteristic weather. but krabi has two great night markets, tonight we let ourselves be inspired again by our friend jeromi's food adventures and tried some new things at the market. rice and coconut fried cakes, waffles made with corn, carrots, and coconut...a nice big fat piece of fresh cut durian for only a little more than a dollar...rice noodles with peanut sauce,...some tasty freshly-made-with-a-fluorish phad thai, vegetables in curry sauce, and my beloved mango with sticky rice and coconut. our favorite thing we ate on ko lipe were the local chao ley banana fritters dipped in yogurt sauce...yum! we had those twice.

another special thing about ko lipe were the phosphorescence (spelling?) that floated in the water at night....illuminated glowing green/blue particles that ebb and flow with the tide. magical. carson loved them, it reminded him of growing up in olympia, and of home. hopefully the weather will clear up for us here so that we can enjoy some of the natural features here in krabi. our trusty lonely planet book (which we can almost sell back!) states that krabi is the most beautiful province of thailand, and railay beach is the most beautiful beach of thailand...we are in the right spot! krabi is known for it's towering sea cliffs and is a destination for rock climbers. we saw some as we came in today, though it was a bit cloudy, they are impressive. we also may rent a motorbike and cruise around.

the pictures above are all on ko lipe (obviously). the boat is like all the longtail boats that take you around the island, and to/from the ferries....and the other couple in the picture is rata and chino, of course :) we are excited to go to bali in a couple of days! our friend chloe wrote us a glowing email of her experience there thus far, it sounds idyllic! she's staying in a great guesthouse/retreat center type place that only costs $8.50 a night if you stay there for a month. we felt good about that right away and decided to stay there if we can. it has a beautiful wooden yoga room upstairs, a kitchen to share in cooking with the other residents, and is out of ubud (the town we'll be around) by just a few kilometers, out in the green green green nature. also, a big yoga/music/health festival is taking place while we are there, the bali spirit festival, and we are in contact with them to volunteer for 4 days or so! should be a great way to meet some inspiring people. perhaps that is all for now.... :)

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

ko lipe

hey everyone!
we are down in ko lipe in the southernmost group of islands in thailand on the Andaman sea. we left after a close call of NOT leaving bangkok after having such a good time there with jeromi. we were back and forth for almost 24 hours and we were standing on the train still trying to decide if we were going to go or not. we left with a quick, silent jerk of the train, waving goodbye to jeromi until he was out of sight. and then, the journey began. we left at 1 pm on a sleeper train, hung out for 6 hours until it got dark, and then they switched the seats into beds, and we both climbed into our respective bunks. we had some herbal sleeping pills that we took after reading harry potter obsessively for hours, and to our dissapointment they worked only mildly well. 10 hours of being vertical later we woke up and they turned the car back into seats and we watched the scenery pass for another 1 1/2 hours until we got to hat yai. that's right friends, add it up...a 17 hour train ride, 965 km, 600 miles. we basically went all the way to san francisco to see our friends rata and chino and ko lipe. we left hat yai in a minvan and 2 hours later got to pak bang, then took another ferry for 2 1/2 hours, 35 miles, into the open sea, passing beautiful islands along the way. after almost 25 hours of travelling straight, we reached the island. we haven't found our friends yet which is very sad to us, but we have been having an amazing time. the water is so clear, we went snorkeling with no masks. all the restaurants are right on the beach, and the ones that aren't are on jungle trails that connect the island. there are no cars here at has a very gilligans island sort of feel to it wandering through and getting lost, then asking people 'where does this trail lead?' today we are going to rent snorkel gear and a kayak and find a secluded beach to our own and enjoy the water and abundant wildlife that's in this marine park.
hope everyone is great, we'll write more soon.
oh, we head to bali on the 2nd of march and think we've already found a great place with our friend chloe. bye!

Saturday, February 23, 2008


1. hidden in dishes, these ones make us sweat!
2. the reclining buddha's face at wat pho
3. roses for sale at the bangkok flower market
4. outside the siam paragon tonight, sky train to the right
5. wat arun "temple of the dawn" and the night cruise boats
6. the amazing som tam booth we ate at today and the great woman who made it
7. the reclining buddha at wat pho (46 meters long!)
8. the bangkok adventurers on bus #15

Friday, February 22, 2008

exploring bangkok

gutted sea cucumbers floating in brine, little white sweet cakes dusted with pink powder, mung bean paddies, black soybean tofu, soups with stomachs and intestines floating within, large boxes of teas, small bags of tea for us to smell, jasmine green, oolong...wandering narrow alleys with food supplies on either side, people carrying bags and boxes, motorbikes squeezing through, long fingered blue prawns, fish being scraped of their scales with a rough brush, little crabs, big crabs with claws bound, dried fruits aplenty, a chinese herb shop smelling of roots and tonics, full of drawers of unknown herbs to heal, glasses of lotus root tea to sip on the spot, stores full of incense and gold and red and temple offerings, little garlands of hand woven flowers, gardenia, marigold, as offerings to buddha or spirits, little jangly carts selling coconut ice cream with corn inside, knock-off croc shoes for $3, hair ties and hair clips and bobby pins and barrettes, fresh cut pineapple/watermelon/papaya/asian pears to eat with a little wooden stick, small fish and large fish and squids floating in water and squids dried on a many new smells and sights in those narrow alley ways we found in the chinatown food market....

walking busy exhaust-y polluted street in search of little was elusive to find, finally we took a right down a narrow alley and here it was, maybe looking much like india itself, small little streets with a few indian restaurants (we ate at a great one, vegetarian punjab sweets, shared a thali plate with dhal, shani paneer, 2 paranthas, raita, rice, and a punjab sweet...vegetable korma....two butter chapatis...and another dish, scooping up the various delicious sauces with our hands and our chapatis, the only white people in the restaurant, everyone else of Indian descent)....we found another narrow lane next to a 20 foot tall garbage dump, where the smell of indian incense wafted out and pictures of shiva, kali, vishnu, all the hindu gods floated off of packs of incense and cassette tapes and little pendants to wear around your neck. we went into a food shop to buy water and it smelled of indian spices, and there were dried chickpea snacks and big aluminum tubs of ghee (clarified butter) to cook with (i love ghee!) and mung beans and indian teas and spices...people wearing red bindhis on their foreheads, different music, different scents (including a fermenting stench from the enormous garbage dump on the other side of the fence, quite a contrast)....i was a little closer to india than i've ever been, and it made me want to go there again...

we walked back out to thailand onto a busy street, saw carts of flowers lining the sidewalks...turned the corner and entered the bangkok flower market, more flower stalls than you could ever imagine, roses bundled and wrapped in newspaper, tropical flowers like you'd see in hawaii, bags of marigolds, back alleys of the raw parts for making the garlands you see everywhere, little white jasmine scented buds, rose buds, marigolds, people buying these flowers by the bag full to make their own offerings to sell and to leave at altars and around golden buddha necks...we walked through the flower wearhouses being the only non-thais, looking at this aspect of their daily lives....the flower market turned into sweets market, with every kind of sweet imaginable to buy (luckily we are with jeromi who buys any new thing he sees to taste and try!)...coconut rice cakes, little rice puff cookies (my favorite), tapioca basil seed puddings, coconut chili kaffir lime leaf crunch, crispy taro chips, you name it....this ebbed into a food market, baskets of little red chilis (a bite of one will make you sweat and do you in!), ripe mangos, piles of little oranges, scallions wrapped in bundles, small cucumbers, baskets of purple garlic....oh the list goes on. the markets are amazing and one of the hearts of bangkok, of thailand.

yesterday we found another heart, wat pho. we went to see the reclining buddha, a 46 meter long/15 meter high golden buddha who is the largest of it's kind in thailand (in the world?)...a sacred place for thais to visit, especially yesterday, which happened to be buddha day, a day that happens once a year. we watched the thai people praying there, ring a loud gong three times, so we rang it too (i've never seen/heard such a large gong before, deep resonating vibration filling the room and spilling out of the doors and through my feet)...they added gold leaf to buddhas, and touched the gold to their foreheads (we found a piece of gold leaf floating in the breeze and adorned our foreheads too, like in the picture above)....we walked around the buddha and marveled at the intricate inlay on it's wide feet with sacred images embedded in mother of pearl....walked the wat grounds, which were so peaceful and quiet i literally forgot i was in the middle of bangkok. you cannot see any tall buildings or hear any traffic when you are in the middle of the grounds, amazing! we watched orange robed monks enter a large temple and heard their chants drift through the open windows, walked past golden buddha after golden buddha, holding space for the temple they surrounded....walked behind a group of older thai women all dressed in black in honor of the king's was so beautiful to be there, to watch them pray and to honor their spirituality and their culture, and to be able to walk inside these temples too and give reverence, smell the incense, hear the chanting, ring the gong.

being here in bangkok is such a rich experience. i guess i've found that with every big city we've visited, and i can't say enough how glad i am that we have gotten to stay here as long as we have. i would've missed so much if we would have left before we did. today is our last day here. we are picking up our indonesian visa, and i'm not sure what else (though i hope it includes some more sushi, yum!)

last night we watched jeromi eat a selection of fried bugs from one of the food carts on khao san road....ants cooked with lemongrass, fried grasshoppers, little silk worms, grubs, and possibly the largest cockroach i've ever seen! he drew a crowd for sure, and actually enjoyed the ants and the grasshoppers! carson and i ate banana rotis with sweetened condensed milk drizzled on top instead (much like a crepe, not as doughy)

i am learning how to say yes more and to reconsider why i say no to an experience that opens me and shows me something new. i wouldn't take anything back that we've done, and why not experience everything with a yes openness than a no resistance?

a last piece of sweet news:
today is carson and i's five year anniversary!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

all the good food in the world

the past three days have been so much fun!
we have had the pleasure of being a trio wandering these streets and markets and state of the art shopping centers....our friend jeromi from portland met us in bangkok on the morning of his birthday, and the three of us have been hanging out together ever since! we went up to the weekend market again on sunday and began to learn what an adventurous and happy food sampler jeromi is, and spent the entire day walking around in search of fun things to try. of these, the most interesting was a live baby shrimp thai salad that some people were making on a little side stall street of the market...a large basket of little gray shrimp hopping about, mixed up with chilis and sugar and soy sauce and some herbs. as carson took a bite, two of the little shrimp jumped off the spoon to avoid his jaws. these people were so sweet, sharing their bites of shrimp and some homemade rice wine with us as we gawked at the sight of the food. i didn't try any, but carson and jeromi said it was quite tasty! we also watched this man make thai iced tea by having a large silver pitcher/cup in each hand and doing a spinning dance, transferring the thai iced tea between each pitcher in mid-air. it was so beautiful to watch the orange/brown liquid floating through the air gracefully as he spun around. we took a video of it i'll try to post if possible.

the market also proved to be a refuge in a half hour of monsoon-like rain that occurred about an hour after we arrived. luckily in the stalls it was mostly dry, and after it stopped, everything was refreshed. we saw a band of thai bluegrass musicians, quite ironic but fun, and a traveling fiddle player who joined them on their jam. we saw teenage breakdancers on the street and a little girl singing songs while her dad played electric guitar to accompany her.

in the past four days, three of them have consisted of us spending several hours in the siam paragon shopping center that i mentioned earlier. on sunday after the market we went there again, and proceeded to discover that the gourmet market has the most samples of anywhere we've EVER seen. jeromi is a master food sampler as well, and i think he tried almost everything on sample. all kinds of shrimps, sweet and savory, caramel coconut, rice puff crackers, any dried fruit you could think of, soups, sausages and hot dogs, mangosteen juice, durian chips, mochi candies, dried bananas, sugary spicy dried baby crabs, dried pineapple....hours of splendor! i never thought hanging out in a food court and food store could be so much fun, but we continue to surprise ourselves! we spent a lot of time there today too, saw an Egypt IMAX movie at the theatre, looked at posh Lamborghinis and Lotuses and Ferraris at the car stores on the 3rd floor, bought a new Spanish language book for language studies (a budding new hobby born out of our travels), and ate some of the best sushi we've ever had with tuna from the Andaman!

yesterday as we were walking near our guesthouse, we ran into our dear friends rata and chino who we met in pai! how serendipitous! we spent a couple of hours with them yesterday, and they left for ko lipe in the afternoon. we think we are going to follow them down there and hang out for a few's a very small island in the south south south of thailand on the andaman sea.

today we took a water taxi down the river to the central pier, where we caught the sky train from to go to siam square. we got to see wats and temples and different sights from the river. tomorrow we are going to take the water taxi again to chinatown and the Indian district, and maybe go check out the 42-odd meter long reclining golden buddha, the largest reclining buddha in the world!

bangkok is proving to be a lot of fun this time around, and i am so glad for that. i was really dreading spending a few days here to wait for our Indonesian visa, but i am having so much fun doing so, especially with our good friend Jeromi to try every food sample in his wake and to share it with us too! :)

Monday, February 18, 2008

new pictures

1. and 2. floating down the Mekong through Laos
3. sleeping buddha at the top of the hill, Luang Prabang, Laos

Sunday, February 17, 2008


i forgot how much i like a big city sometimes, what different worlds it can encompass amidst the blue cloudy exhaust and hazy skies as far as the eye can see, the grunting revving motors of tuk-tuks, the lines of taxis and traffic day and night, crossing five lane streets by just starting to walk out across each lane you can, knowing you'll make it across just fine because everyone crosses the street this way.

today we walked to breakfast through some smaller back streets, saw a woman selling durian for 40 baht a piece (a good deal, boy i'm a hawk for that durian, you can smell it a block away!) and had breakfast, then we took a cab to the sky train and took the sky train to the weekend market. (it's so fun to ride the sky train, by the way, soaring above all that traffic and getting a bird's eye view of the city). the weekend market happens in the north of bangkok every saturday and sunday and it is HUGE. we didn't even see half of it, and we wandered in little narrow paths for hours, looking at clothes of all kinds, sunglasses, bags, shoes new and used, drinking pepsi out of a glass bottle (suddenly i'm so attracted to pepsi or coca cola or sprite out of glass bottles, and i never drink pop, but it's so good!) and coconut out of a fresh coconut shell, and the best phad thai i've ever had at a little thai food stall. this market is unbelievable. soooo large. i didn't even buy anything! too much to choose from, suprised me! carson bought a nice hat and we just soaked in the culture and atmosphere of it all. after about 5 hours we took the sky train to siam square, which is the more busy upscale shopping district, like times square of NYC maybe, with large 6 story shopping centers that we wandered into and felt like we were back in the US. the ground floor of the one we chose had an enormous food court and a gourmet grocery store, kindof like whole foods, with foods from all over the world and one of the best, most fresh salad bars i've ever seen. we loaded up on butter leaf and red oak lettuce leaves, roasted pumpkin, olive oil and balsamic, brown rice, and little vegetarian rice paper rolls and sat by a large fish tank in the food court. later we splurged on imported home foods, with salt and pepper kettle chips from oregon (love those kettle chips!), dark chocolate from switzerland, chunky, real peanut butter, and delicious home-baked style walker's short bread cookies from scotland, a carson favorite! carson also bought a .80 oreo cookie blizzard from a dairy queen in the food court. i had a know, things like oreos and pepsi, it doesn't matter how many years it's been since you've had them, they taste exactly the same!

i felt so sedated and happy from these comfort foods...chocolate dipped in peanut butter....mmmm! we walked upstairs to the posh, beautiful, state of the art theater complex on the fifth floor and actually saw a movie! i don't know when i last saw a movie on the big screen...before the movie started, we all stood as the thai national anthem played and the screen showed images of the king throughout his life. i love seeing the king's picture everywhere. we watched "charlie wilson's war" with tom hanks and julia roberts and philip seymour hoffman, a good movie. it was just so refreshing for us to eat these foods and go to a movie, etc, after doing nothing of the sort here for over two months, and being in europe before that...

we found out that we can't change our airplane ticket like we'd hoped, so we'll still be coming back the same day that we posted earlier, in mid april. it's been a pleasant surprise to enjoy bangkok as much as we have this time around; last time, we were so jet lagged and culture shocked and overwhelmed that it felt so good to leave. i have so many thoughts and images in my head right now, i'm just going to do a little freewrite of what my eyes have seen the past few days....
fruit carts with artistically cut pineapples, put into bags to eat with a stick...walking by a thai bakery just as hundreds? of loaves come out of the oven fresh, steaming, buying a loaf of butter bread and eating the whole loaf in big bites as we walk down the street...thai kids getting out of school and flooding mcdonalds and the food carts, white shirts and blue skirts, all the same chin length black haired bob haircut, chatting with friends...yes that blue exhaust smoke filtering up into the sky, into my lungs, illuminated by headlights at night....the democracy monument aglow at night, four corners and a center, golden, pictures of the king in yellow, his sister honored on corners and intersections, a woman bending her hands in prayer as she passes to honor her memory....fruit shakes at midnight on the street, coconut pineapple guava mango blended fresh for us...temples interspersed, the sacred and the ordinary, golden towering, gray concrete, monks in saffron robes walking with shaved heads and sandals, putting my hands in prayer to say thank you to our cashier at the grocery store, kap khun kaaah we say to each other in prayer, normal here to put hands in front of the heart like this and look each other in the eyes and everywhere, clothes for sale, food carts on every street, noodle soups smelling of spices, som tam carts with shredded green papaya, tomato, and spices, dried shrimp and grilled squids on a stick, dried squid with it's pungent smell lingering down the block, fried grasshoppers and worms that i won't try, phad thai and noodle dishes cooked fresh, roasted peanuts blackened on the edge, chili sauce and peppers, mango and sticky rice, drinking fresh coconuts and scooping the flesh out with a little silver spoon, hip clothes and hipper haircuts at the market and siam square, talking with a thai man about a japanese pancake in a gourmet market and explaining just exactly where washington/oregon are in the US...reading harry potter together (him #5, me #6) in our little guesthouse room just big enough for a bed and a little floor space but so comfortable and cozy and dark in the day, blinds drawn onto a hallway, could be day or night, slight incense smell, little wooden elephant stools leading the way out onto the street, busy and walked by many, a transition point, a meeting point, new arrivals with touseled hair and bleary eyes, large backpacks, people leaving to somewhere else, leaving for home, leaving for the next place, taking it all in, whatever there is to take in, eyes open. so much. i want to write more but i have three minutes left on this computer. more, again soon!

Friday, February 15, 2008

hey everyone,

sit back relax, let me set the tone for you. the lights are bright, it's 10:38, bangkok time. i am sitting in a brightly lit internet zone right by my guesthouse. i got my flops on, my favorite brown bamboo pants a la sameunderneath--portland local designed. a phoenix is emblazoned on my shirt, and i've got a newsboy cap on. billie holiday is playing in my headphones, remixed and remastered to some fun funky beats. i play this cd every chance i get because i'm obsessed with it. i have a ring on my pinky on my left hand that feels rather tight right now, because in bangkok it's hot and sticky and my fingers like to retain that water. i've got my beloved man bag draped on my lap, me: tenderly caressing it. with head bobbing i write to you this evening wishing you all well and hoping everyone had a lovely valentines day.

we did! we made the smart decision to leave koh chang island on the 14th, and so to spend hours and hours (12 to be exact) traveling from there to bangkok. but when all seemed dark and dreary, we hopped into a cab and met the nicest driver who played us boy band music (beautiful boy he spoketh) on a pop up tv screen in his car. the music he understood not, but his son had given it to him and so he listens to it often. he dropped us off by the guesthouse we love, and after checking in we found some tasty food. this was lovely because on koh chang we spent all of our time at treehouse 2, a secluded place to stay with only that restaurant for all the meals, for five days straight. the food was mediocre, and so after that long haul a change was most welcome. treehouse 2 was amazing....we met up again with our good friends mike and rachael who have now returned to NY after their trip just ending. we spent 3 glorious days with them just relaxing and talking and laughing and swimming for hours each day..going to bed at 10 and waking up at 8. the water was bathwater warm, the beaches beautiful and the company great. it was a highlight for me to spend more time with them. melissa and i then spent a couple more days lazying in the hammocks and reading and appreciating how lucky we are to be where we are.

BAM! bangkok arrived with a rush and now we are trying to figure out what we are doing. we have avoided bangkok like a bee's nest this whole trip, fearing the smog and noise and busy-ness. but we've been enjoying the food, and having the opportunity to wander the streets and be overwhelmed by choice. today after lunch we set off in any which direction and wandered the streets taking in the sights and smells of all the million things trinkets style that are for sale here, and clothes (we bought detatchable sleeves, cheers to flora) and ran into a food stall that we heard about in Pai from our friend kat, of fresh baked butter bread with a sugary coating piping hot still out of the oven. we wandered down the street biting chunks off the loaf laughing as though we were drunk. i saw loads of kids that had just got out of school, and loved to watch them walk in groups with eachother, giggling talking fast stopping at the food stalls to find their favorite snacks, or buying little knick knacks, or a panel of wood that just has newspapers laying on top for people to stop and read (or look at pictures of in my thai illiterate case)...i got a sense of something of their world in this afternoon. what a treat.

and now we are making our way more south in a few days, possibly for just a bit down to the islands, and then on to bali for the last leg of our journey before coming back to the states. we are road weary at the moment, especially from missing all of our family and friends. sometimes crazy things start coming into my mind also like, oh..i just wish i could feel the winter back home and see the rain, and be all cozy. i myself and homesick for some kettle chips and emerald valley salsa, where i can stand by the kitchen counter and shove chips and salsa into my mouth at a rapid pace barely breathin in my fervor. delightful! in the meantime though, i'll just have some more phad thai. yeeeeeehaw!

much love,

to my brother and my mother and my sister and dad, i love you so much!

Saturday, February 9, 2008

going, going, going...arriving

arriving to the ocean....
it was a long trip!
we stayed in nong khai for most of the day, wandered around the pathway by the river and found a long local market full of things, clothes, soaps, trinkets, toy stores, herbs, dried fruits and nuts, fresh orange juice...
we booked our bus at a guesthouse, and waited and waited and at 740 pm we left with the owners in a back of a pick up truck with our backpacks and their two dogs barking and running around amongst us....dropped us off at a meetinb point where we boarded one of the crazy, colorful, decked out, double decker buses that drive from north to south in thailand, dropping you off at khao san road in bangkok. decorated in images and colors outside, we climbed up to the top level and found seats in the very back, which, unfortunately, did not recline (the bus is touted for the seats ability to be nearly like a bed)....they put on the most horrible action movie we've ever seen, dubbed in english with thai subtitles, with the worst voice over that i think is possible, with the speakers right over our heads! it was a nightmare. they played another movie after, but luckily the sound was not working. our driver was quite fast, passing big trucks and other buses, and we arrived in bangkok at 4:30 am. at this point we were greeted by a host of tuk tuk and taxi drivers. we bargained with one for about 10 minutes but he would not go down in price, we ended up paying 250 baht for a ride to the eastside bus station, which seemed like way too much, and cruised with him through the streets of dark bangkok at 5am, an hour, which luckily, is not yet plagued by traffic. we got to the bus station and were in time for the 6am bus (i know, when has anyone been on time for a 6am bus?!) to trat, and we sat on that thing for 5 hours and semi-watched a thai-dubbed computer pirated version of pirates of the caribbean three, tried to sleep, and then read more of harry potter 5 (these books start to get really great around book 5!) we arrived near trat and hopped on a 10-person full pickup truck taxi for another 20 km to the ferry dock, took a 25 minute ferry ride across the water, landed on koh chang and took another pick up taxi ride for another half hour around the west side of the island curvy roads and little tourist settlements to arrive.....ahhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!

what a relief. if was so much constant travel and movement for hours and hours, overnight, with no sleep really. we stayed at treehouse 1 last night, a great setting at the end of a dirt path in lonely beach, with a huge restaurant/hang out area built on wood and bamboo platforms extending out over the ocean with views of the islands and the water. our friends mike and rachael found us in the afternoon (yay! so good to see them again!) and we hung out for a while and made little clay sculptures with some modeling clay they brought. carson and i watched the sunset and ate fresh grilled barracuda (really good!) corn on the cob....we slept in a bamboo hut with a loft and a hammock outside that proved to be very loud, as lonely beach is quite the party zone. luckily i had earplugs and carson can turn his head and sleep on his good ear, so we slept well and feel much better today! we are heading to long beach, where mike and rachael are, and will be without internet for a few days there, so just wanted to say hello and let you all know we made it safely to the ocean, finally! :)


Thursday, February 7, 2008

a little visit from the FP*

*FP = food poisoning

the past week has been the most challenging of our trip. of course, by the title of this blog, you might be able to guess why. that particular element began a few nights ago when we arrived in vang vieng after a long and shaky local bus ride that lasted for 9 hours. (i don't think this local bus would be able to even operate in the US; and i think we actually had a nicer one compared to others we saw on the road. no shock absorbency at all, going on sometimes bumpy roads, speeding and rattling our way as fast as the driver could go through small villages on mountain tops with bamboo huts for homes; people sitting on little stools in the aisles because there were no seats left; leaking exhaust up through the engine into the bus; stopping with a screech in villages after hooooonnnnkkking and honking to see if any locals want a ride, and picking them up with bags full of things, humongous bags of rice, a tire wheel, etc; an accident on the way where a large yellow truck was trying to pull a car up from a cliff and stopped all traffic in either direction for an hour, men with guns guarding the car (i was on the verge of tears, luckily carson kept me steady); going on such hairpin-curve roads with no guardrail feeling like the bus would tip over because we were leaning so far; coming down in the dark with rain and fog....amidst all of that, it was cool to ride with the locals and the few other tourists on our trip, and sophie too who we traveled with as well. i was glad i wasn't in the minibus that left the next day...a friend who was on it said the whole drive was in the fog, they passed several accidents, and nearly went off the cliff three times, amidst passengers crying and screaming! wow!

after my post about the great food in laos, everything else we ate was so dissapointing....we proceeded to have the worst indian food i've ever tasted in luang prabang, a bad mayonnaise/processed cheese/lettuce sandwich for our bus ride, and then the sauteed vegetables and sticky rice that, we think, made us sick. oh the horrors of food poisoning. we were both food poisoning virgins until now, and i hope i never have to experience it again. i spent most of our four days in vang vieng lying in a bed that was close to a toilet. luckily carson felt better by our last day there (which was FINALLY sunny and warm!) and went tubing down the river for a few hours with a new friend. i stayed in bed and read harry potter #5.

vang vieng is an interesting place. it is completely set up for tourists. the main attraction is to raft down the river on an inner tube and stop off at various bars set up along the river that also have trapezes, rope swings, zip lines, etc that you an hurtle yourself into the water upon. people drink and have happy shakes at the bars and continue floating down. the other attraction there are many "same same" restaurants, some even with the same menus, with american/israeli/italian/british/thai/lao/a conglomeration of all different kinds of food, none of which are cooked very well, set up in an atmosphere where you sit up on a little platform on cushions and pillows cross legged an watch either friends, family guy, or the simpsons for hours on end. (don't go to the family guy restaurant, that's where the FP happened!) our last night there we went and watched like 3 1/2 hours of friends, which equals like 10 or more episodes, back to back to back. laos closes down early, like those restaurants, most start shutting down around 11. there are more bars down by the river in little bamboo huts that stay open a little longer, and through our window at 11-12-1-2-3 AM, i could hear so many people outside screaming and yelling because they were so drunk. i didn't really like vang vieng very much; or more, i just wasn't really in the space to have the optimal experience of it. the scenery is beautiful though; from the top floor of the third guesthouse we had there, we could see all the beautiful limestone cliffs that line the valley there...the river stretching down. there are lots of caves there to explore and much river fun to be had.

we left vang vieng yesterday and took a bus to ventiane, the capital city of laos. as soon as we got there, we didn't really like it too much, and there were no available rooms at any of the 10 guesthouses we checked, so we just decided to come over the thai-lao friendship bridge and spend the night in nong khai, thailand instead. it's good to be back in thailand! i am still recovering and can't really eat too much still...i think carson is a little bit ahead of me in the healing process.

i wish we could have had a more enjoyable experience of laos....really our first three days there were the best, our long tail boat ride down the mekong, and the waterfall fun day with our friends. after that it rained and rained cold cloudy rain for days, and we just were not doing too well. oh well...i think it's a part of any trip to be expected! it was just hard.

we are going to hang out here for a few more hours, and then i think take an over night bus back to bangkok, emerge out on kho san road for an hour, and then hop on a bus over to trat, where our good friends mike and rachael are! from there we are going to take a ferry over to ko chang island and will probably wonder, why didn't we come here sooner?! i am so excited to be on an island and swim in the ocean! i've been wanting to go down there since we arrived in thailand nearly two months ago. after ko chang we are going south to the andaman sea areas, maybe ko lipe, or ko lanta, krabi, etc. and then off to bali. we are actually hoping to change our ticket back home to a little bit earlier, but we haven't heard back from our travel agent yet. being in laos in the rain and having the FP made us both feel quite ready to come home, wishing we hadn't bought our tickets for so far away! i think we will feel different when we get to the islands, i'm sure, but we are excited to be home too and continue the adventure spirit there as well :)

much love!

Friday, February 1, 2008

local markets, waterfalls, wats, and wine

1. view of luang prabang
2. photo of the night market courtesy of

today we had a fun adventure with our slow boat crew +1, sophie from france, alvin & andrew from USA via Japan, and ilan from israel who we met last night at the vegetarian buffet for .50 a plate place. so far the food we've had in luang prabang has been outstanding, the vegetarian food, some of the best granola i've ever had from a bakery today (and good bagels, and good yogurt, and good tuna melt sandwiches, and a good cappuccino (falang food, for sure))...sticky rice, herb grilled fish & sauteed vegetables at the waterfall food stand, and french wine and bread and cheese and watercress at the wine bar tonight, a highlight, drinking wine for the first time in 2 months under red paper lanterns, sitting on the porch of the restaurant in large red beanbag chairs with candles burning all around.

i just love spending time with these perfect random groups of people we meet on our travels, sharing jokes and food and exhilarating experiences like hiking through a jungle to the top of a waterfall, through trails of ants and tall trunked trees and wild poinsettias and leaves bigger than my body and smells of maui jungles, watching the gentle stream up top and knowing how far the water is about to fall, swimming in the blue opal colored blue water pools halfway down, climbing over stones and backwards walking behind the falling water to the little cave behind it, feeling the pressure of the water as it falls into our outstretched hands, refreshed and renewed by the ions in the air, arms open, smiling. it was phenomenal, the most perfect waterfall i've ever swam in. now it's raining buckets outside and the sound is so refreshing but i can't help but worry about flooding or global warming setting in (it's supposed to be the dry season here, no rain at all for months, and it's been raining straight for nearly 24 hours and is supposed to the next 3 days).

today we walked up old stairs through gnarled trees to the wat on the top of the hill with a 360 degree view of the city, and down to two supposed original buddha footprints, golden buddhas for every day of the week, empty bamboo cages that once held songbirds now released on a wing and a prayer, bundles of flowers and incense and a baby candle to offer the buddha held together by banana leaves , a moth as big as my two palms outstretched resting on a rock, a wide deep drum beat from an enclosed room, the lingering smell and sticks of incense, little golden buddhas sitting under rock crevices, orange robed monks walking up and down the stairs, the city alight, wats in the distance golden and tall, the green and the mountains, walking down into the market streets, such quality handmade wares and the sweetest older women selling them.

this morning we awoke early to go to the local morning market, herbs and lettuce and limes and tomatoes and tamarind and oranges and buffalo hooves and whole fish and grilled intentines and mystery sauces and buckets of rice to cook and sugar cane and honeycomb and cucumber and galangal and coconut and pieces of meat and hopping frogs and fried pastries and handfulls of red chilis and life there displayed on banana leaves on the sidewalk, spread out by those hands, grown by those hands, sewed by those hands of this land, rich and beautiful and strong and weathered and smiling kap jai lai lai.