Guest Blog – Stacy & Jeff do Southeast Asia (1 of 40)

ubud school children

ubud school children

ubud, indonesia
“we made it to ubud! we took the car around the area to see the botanical gardens and a few temples. the most impressive temple was the gorung kawi which was down in this river and the temple was carved into the stone cliffs. i will let the pictures tell the rest. we’ve done lots of exploring, ate some really great meals and of course drank a lot of bintang (local beer). today i think we will hang by the pool, eat some fruit and walk around in my banana sling. ok, if anyone would like to come visit we leave for malaysia on sunday then train it up to thailand. some nice beach time.”

Guest Blog – Stacy & Jeff do Southeast Asia (6 of 40)

local thai market - meow!

local thai market - meow!

conglomerate of stories…
“favorite food in phuket:  in our last few days in phuket, we found this little locals place hidden back off the road and tried their papaya salad for lunch, it was delicious.  we were so turned on by the spot we tried it for dinner that night.  the setting was something of an outdoor living room, the only other diners being what seemed family members and close friends.  the food was great and cheap! our first dinner there we sat and watched some thai tv drama while i sipped on so-co and coke…. it was great.  we ended up eating all of our meals there over the next two days and all were fantastic!  it was run by pretty much the sweetest lady with the best smile.  her daughter was a mini-me, looking to be 10 or so and seemed to be in training for a future running the restaurant.  dad looked like samuel l jackson if he were thai – by far the biggest/thickest guy we’d seen yet.  on our last night the woman was so sad to learn we were leaving for bangkok and, before we knew it, she ran off and then returned minutes later with this little plush blue bear.  she handed it to us and said it was for good luck on our travels and to make sure we come back when we return later in the trip.  it was great!  hugs and all and a firm handshake from the husband….great departure.

fresh orchids for sale

fresh orchids for sale

chinatown, bangkok:  it was like the stockroom of a dollar store or a walmart with all the hair things and fashion jewelry you could ask for.  swarming with ladies and girls.  crazy.  it then unfolded into the food market, which as the photos show, are not for the faint of heart.  it had anything and everything - most we didnt’ know what it was.  You can only imagine the smells that went with it…

teddy ska, brick bar, koh san road:  in search for the bathroom (cause I always have to go at the wrong time) we came accross a back-ally bar with live music coming out!  we decided to enter this dark brick-walled bar and check it out.  we walk in to a crazy rad bar filled with local 20-somethings rocking out to this really amazing ska band.  we were the only ‘farongs’ in there by far. it was great.  we met this drunk kid who proceeded to buy us beers and show usa good time.  sooooooo much whiskey there it was unbelievable.  for 1000 baht (a little short of 30 bucks) you buy a bottle and go to town.  nobody was drinking beer but us, so we too went to whiskey eventually.  but it was just so cool to see all these kids loving life and rocking out.  great tunes too, kinda like a mix between save ferris and no doubt…. we learned they’re a pretty famous thai band so we really lucked out in finding it…so cool can’t tell ya enough!!!!

monks waiting for the boat taxi

monks waiting for the boat taxi

with that we were on a music search and got a list of some top reggae and ska bands.  we bought our first cds today, “kaijai brothers”, famous for their song tuk tuk brokedown… the only bummer is now we can’t listen to them unless we find a usb cord for the ipod.  but we also, learned of “job 2 do” which is known for their song ‘do do do do…’ we had never heard it until today, but everybody refers to it everywhere…. and then “t-bone” which is  more ska…. we tried to get our friends from last night at the bar to write down their favorite bands for us, but too much whiskey and too loud….

stacy’s hair:  we were bored in phuket and i was frustrated with my hair being constantly wet and in knots… so jeff cut it.  he did a pretty damn good job too, but thanks to some remaining layers from my last cut, it wasn’t too hard.  i haven’t had my hair this short since highschool!  and it feels oh so fresh and so clean….

now we’re off to chang mai on an overnight bus……

cheers, peace and love!”

Remodeling to Get the Most Out of Your Vacation Rental

bluegull_7Your vacation rental should be the place for you or your tenants to relax and enjoy coastal luxury. However, it can be somewhat difficult to enjoy the pleasures of a stunning property when the interior of your house is outdated, poorly equipped or unattractive. If you retreat to your own vacation property, you want to be able to enjoy the beauty and uniqueness of the area and of your home without having to worry about dilapidated cabinets or old fashioned decor. The same is true of your renters. Whether you are looking to sell your vacation rental, lease it to a new owner or simply enjoy its merits on your own, it is vital that you remodel your property so that it can fulfill its true potential.

Many property owners are reluctant to pour too much of their hard-earned money into their vacation rentals. Oftentimes they fear that they will not be knowledgeable enough to properly renovate their home without construction management experience, or they may worry they will not see a return on such an investment, especially if the property is only occupied for a portion of the year. However, vacation home remodeling does not have to be costly, nor must it be time consuming. So long as you focus your efforts on the right areas of your property, you can get the most out of your vacation rental with just a few home improvement projects.

3167624572_ec17751b98

First of all, you must attend to the property’s master suite. A home’s master suite is its center of relaxation, and most people are looking for an escape from the trials of their everyday lives when they travel to their vacation rentals. Consider these possible improvements:

  • You should ensure that your master suite is as lush and luxurious as your budget will allow. If possible, make room for both a sleeping area and a sitting area in the master bedroom.

  • Accentuate any special features such as large windows or a balcony with adornments that will draw the eye. For instance, floor length curtains can be used to emphasize exquisite French doors framing a beachfront view.

  • Make sure that the master bath is in excellent condition. Update all plumbing features, add high-end counter tops and flooring, and install a separate tub and shower if you have the room.

It is also important to make a vacation property’s kitchen appealing and functional. Although some choose to refrain from cooking when taking a break from their regular lives, many travelers prefer renting over a hotel in order to save money by cooking for themselves.

  • Outfit your vacation rental’s kitchen with updated appliances (and make sure they work!).

  • Replace battered or unappealing countertops and floors with new, durable surfaces.

  • Consider a fresh coat of paint to tie the kitchen together and create a pleasant cooking space.

3167603732_0f05a4ec61Above all else, it is vital that your vacation property exudes convenience and comfort. Keep these general pointers in mind during and after any renovation projects:

  • Maintain a stock of clean sheets, bathroom supplies and other necessities for the master suite.

  • Be sure to furnish the kitchen with paper towels, dish soap, utensils and a full stock of non-perishable cooking supplies and some food.

  • Don’t over-clutter. Keep all the house’s spaces open, airy and beachy.

  • Provide a list of resources for your renters including who to call in case of plumbing or electrical issues (new appliances can’t always be trusted right off the bat).

  • Most importantly, make sure everything is CLEAN! Any renovation or remodeling work will produce dust and debris, and lots of it. Clean up the whole house thoroughly after making any improvements.

Improvements to your vacation rental are a wise investment so long as they provide your renters with the relaxing ambiance they need after months of hard work. By remodeling your vacation rental to heighten its functionality and atmosphere, you will be adding both value and pleasure to your property.

Sandcastles – not just child’s play anymore!

15751425_41bbde8e6aIf you’re going to live the beach-house lifestyle, there’s one skill you can’t do without, and that’s the ability to build a respectable sandcastle.  True beach lovers know that there’s nothing more relaxing than feeling the sun on your back, the wind through your hair, and wet sand on your hands as you construct a fairy-tale castle fit for a pint-sized king.

But if it’s been a few years since you dabbled in the sand-related arts, you may need some pointers from the experts.  And strangely enough, there are experts.  A whole community has grown up around the art of sandcastles, with contests, Web sites, and even newsletters.

So before you jet off to your beach-house vacation, get prepared with the following overview of sandcastle building.  It’s all a matter of patience, the right tools, and lots and lots of, you guessed it, sand.

36889676_aa197c203dThe first step to a successful sandcastle is a good water source.  You can either dig a hole down to the water table (so that it fills with water) or get yourself a big bucket of seawater.  You won’t get anywhere with sand that is too dry.

Then it’s all a matter of carving.  Yes, carving.  It turns out that sandcastle experts generally carve sandcastles from large mounds of sand, rather than attempting to build from the bottom up and forming flimsy (read doomed) walls and towers.  They get themselves a nice pile of wet sand and carve it down into a castle shape.

To be a successful sandcastle-carver, you need tools.  Whether you use Popsicle sticks, shells, shovels, spatulas or just your hands, you need a variety of tools to do a variety of different jobs, from carving out a tower to drawing in a window with a little sand princess looking out.

Start at the top of your pile and work downwards, that way the sand won’t roll down and destroy your work.  Carve out a few towers, and pick out a suitable roof for your structure.  Put in a few turrets and maybe a window or two.  As you get to the bottom, add some landscaping, or maybe a moat.

The key is to go slow, and carve off just a little at time.  If you get impatient, and scrape off a big chunk, you’ll have to start over again.  Relax, get into the mood, and watch your dream castle slowly appear.  But don’t get too attached.  High tide will be here soon.

Sandcastle built by Sudarsan Pattnaik, part of the Amsterdam India festival Sandcastle Resource Guide

There’s a whole big sandcastle world out there, with contests, Web pages, even computer games. Check out our selection of links to the online world of sand sculpture:

Contests

  • Comprehensive guide to sandcastle contests, from www.sandcastlecentral.com, your online resource for all things sand sculpture.

Sand Sculptors

  • Home page of Sandscapes – a team of leading, sand sculptors, Brad Goll, Dan Belcher, Fred Dobbs, Kevin Crawford, and Greg & Brandi Glenn.  Lots of information about their technique, links, photos, and more.
  • Kirk Rademaker – sandsculptor / interactive environmental art and more.

5 luxurious ways to get to your next Vacation Destination

If you’re like me, when you go on vacation, getting there is a big part of the fun. Whether you go by plane, train, or automobile, traveling can sometimes become stressful completely ruining the whole vacation experience. If you have the extra cash, there are ways to travel that are both luxurious and stress free. Here are 5 that could end up being more of a “vacation” than the destination itself:

Suite, Royal Canadian Pacific from Luxury Train Club

Suite, Royal Canadian Pacific from Luxury Train Club

Luxury Train
While the NYC MTA system isn’t exactly the lap of luxury, there are some terrific train rides that will simply blow you away. It’s still one of the more popular ways to travel around Europe, and the Japanese bullet trains are more than just luxurious, they’re downright fun.

Luxury train tours combine luxury style travel (including 5 star accommodations) with the breathtaking views of the countryside. Sure it’s a slow way to get where you’re going (unless you opt for a bullet train) but if you’re looking to relax and enjoy the trip as well as the destination, this could be the perfect option.

Perfect for: Europe, the US West Coast/Rockies, and Japan.

Galapagos Odyssey luxury yacht cruising in the Galapagos Islands, wildlife cruises and nature tours in one of the most unique wilderness sanctuaries on the planet.

Galapagos Odyssey luxury yacht cruising in the Galapagos Islands, wildlife cruises and nature tours in one of the most unique wilderness sanctuaries on the planet.

Yachts & Cruise Ships
Cruises are still one of the most popular kinds of vacations today. With no real “destination” in mind, the focus is on the open sea and the over-the-top luxuries on the ship. Bouncing from Tropical Island to Tropical Island, it’s the perfect vacation for those looking to pamper themselves in luxury and get out and “see the world”.

Another variation of this, which requires a bit of a deeper pocket, is Yachting. Whether you own one or you intend to rent a boat, this is the ultimate in luxury travel. Essentially private cruise ships, Yachts are the choice method of sea travel for the uber-rich. If you have the means…it’s highly recommended.

Perfect for: The Caribbean, South Pacific, and Mediterranean

Ideal Luxury Private Jet for large groups and long trips - Challenger 600 is available for private jet charter or business jet charters.

Ideal Luxury Private Jet for large groups and long trips - Challenger 600 is available for private jet charter or business jet charters.

Private Jet Charters
Chartering your own jet sounds really expensive, and it can be, but you’d be surprised how reasonable it is compared to some first class ticket prices. And considering how frustrating it is to travel by air these days, more and more people are choosing private jet charters for their travels.

This option really makes the most sense if you have a group of travelers and/or your destination is a bit on the “remote” side. You probably won’t be saving money by chartering your own plane, but the convenience and luxury is not to be underestimated.

Perfect for: Private Islands, Alaska, and anywhere major airlines don’t go.

Luxury RV living quarters

Luxury RV living quarters

RVs
If your next vacation includes passing through national parks or any other wondrous places of interest, don’t just fly over them, stop and smell the roses! If you’re an adventure freak like I am, traveling by way or RV just might be the perfect way to go. Getting to your destination is part of the vacation, so make the most of it.

I know what you might be thinking: RVs don’t qualify as luxury travel, but if that’s your take, I’d have to completely disagree. With the exception of some private Yachts, none of the other methods I’ve listed will include king sized beds, showers, a kitchen, and private living room. Not to mention, this actually might be the least expensive option (especially if you’re renting). Seriously, don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. The US national parks are not to be missed, so if you’re going from NY to LA, there’s just too much to see to fly.

Perfect for: Cross country trips (especially the US)

"Manned Cloud" - a luxury airship/hotel, able to accommodate 60 passengers, proposed by French designer Jean-Marie Massaud.  It is being currently being developed and could accommodate travelers on a 3 day cruise around the world.

"Manned Cloud" - a luxury airship/hotel, able to accommodate 60 passengers, proposed by French designer Jean-Marie Massaud. It is being currently being developed and could accommodate travelers on a 3 day cruise around the world.

Airships/Blimps
Don’t worry: the Hindenburg tragedy is one part of history I think we can safely say will not repeat itself. The technology has certainly improved, and as a result airship travel is starting to make a come back.

While definitely not the fastest way to get where you’re going, airship travel is a sightseers dream. While most have seats, you probably won’t be sitting back all that much as peaking out the window is the point, here. This method of travel, while luxurious isn’t generally used to get you from point A to point B as much as it is to circle around as a sightseeing tour, but where available, it’s not to be missed.

Perfect for: Germany, California, and wherever available.

Top 5 Popular Water Sports for Adrenaline Junkies

Anyone who loves the water knows there are many fantastic water sports, ranging from the peaceful escape of fishing to the rush of water skiing, but true adrenalin junkies have taken these sports to the extreme.  Here are five of the most popular water sports, and their extreme counterpart:

Fishing:
Fishing is easily one of the most popular of all water sports, a great way to relax with a great sense of accomplishment when you reel in the “big catch.” It is also one of the least expensive water sports, as anyone can fish for the cost of a fishing license, a fishing rod and a few other essentials such as bait. You can fish from the banks of a river, from a pier, or from a boat.

Those looking for a rush and the thrill of the fight, however,  should look into deep sea fishing.  In order to battle with the seas largest beasts, you must head hours away from shore where you’ll find sharks and giant marlin.  Just watch the video:

Water Skiing/Wake Boarding:
There is no adrenaline rush like putting on some water skis and holding on tight to the ropes streaming from the back of a motor boat – hitting the waves at speeds surfers could only dream of. You can enjoy the fresh air as it hits you head-on and blows past your ears. Water skiing is not to be missed if you love water sports at their most exciting.

In the past 10 years or so, tow sports has been invaded by another extreme: wake boarding.  The snowboard equivalent of water skiing, you’re strapped into a single board (feet sideways) as you glide over the water.  Huge aerials and insane tricks are this extreme sports mantra.

Boating:
Boating is a huge category of water sports and includes many of the most popular water sports. Some people enjoy kayaking, canoeing, or white water rafting, while others enjoy sailing or fishing from a boat. Some prefer the adrenaline rush and noise of a motorboat or personal watercraft, while others prefer to enjoy the fresh air floating along on a sailboat or a luxurious yacht.

Adrenalin junkies can find a variety of ways to get their kicks on boats.  White water rafting, and speed boat racing are probably the most obvious.  But if you’ve never seen what true sailors endure, you’ll see there’s something much more thrilling out there.  This is Yacht Racing:

Swimming and Diving:
Swimming is some of the best exercise available, from swimming at a local pool to swimming in the ocean or in a lake. Some people, however, prefer to see what is under the waves, and engage in such activities as snorkeling and scuba diving. While precautions must be taken with these (as with any water sport), there is no better way to see the sea in all its glory.

Cliff divers are a strange bunch.  If you’ve ever met someone who enjoys this extreme sport (the real 100+ foot cliffs…not the wimpy 30 foot ones) you’ll probably notice there’s something a bit off about them…probably because they enjoy doing things like this:

Surfing:
Surfing is another great water sport for adrenaline lovers, letting you ride the waves and sometimes fall into them. Some also engage in windsurfing, using a sail to ride across the surface of the water at incredible speeds.

Surfing is great and all, but most people who jump out to catch waves don’t have what it takes to be a big wave surfer. The following video is one of the best…ever:

Guest post provided by Pediro.com, a sporting goods directory and resource for all sports enthusiasts.

Top 8 Most Creative Destination Weddings

A growing number of couples are opting out of traditional church weddings in favor of something a bit more extreme. Destination weddings are truly events that will never be forgotten. They allow couples to say “I do” under the most creative situations they can dream up.

Photo:  Melanie Bowlen

Photo: Melanie Bowlen

Take a look at these 8 memorable destination wedding ideas.

  1. Scuba beach wedding—Why not get married with the dolphins and other marine wildlife? A beach wedding lets couples tie the knot about 30 feet from the water. These weddings are popular in Hawaii, California, Florida and other beautiful beach destinations. Of course, if you want to get married underwater, both you and your spouse must be certified divers. Talk about taking the plunge!
  2. Skydiving wedding—If the idea of jumping out of an airplane, exchanging your vows in mid air, and opening your parachute for a (hopefully) smooth landing sounds fun to you, then maybe you should consider a skydiving wedding. This wedding definitely isn’t for the faint of heart, but it’s certainly creative and memorable. Daring couples only need apply.
  3. Medieval wedding—Are you and your spouse fans of the Middle Ages? Medieval weddings allow you to embrace your inner renaissance man as you dress in unique period attire and enjoy a medieval feast at your reception. A word of advice: Leave the swords at home.midevil
  4. Hawaiian luau wedding—Do you love the mystical beauty of the Hawaiian culture? Have you always dreamed of having scantily clad men and women dance at your wedding? If so, Hawaiian luaus are an exciting and memorable way to get hitched…. especially because they often take place on the beach at night. If you value your facial hair though, you might want to stay away from the fire breathers.
  5. Photo:  Melanie Bowlen

    Photo: Melanie Bowlen

  6. Roller coaster wedding—Warning: Do not eat before your roller coaster wedding. Even the best destination wedding photographer can’t take a beautiful picture if the wedding party is losing their lunch during the ceremony. Saying “I do” while blazing around a roller coaster, turning upside down, and plunging from hundreds of feet in the air is truly an extreme destination wedding. Beware of whiplash.
  7. Waterfall wedding—One of the most romantic destination weddings a couple can have is at the base of a beautiful waterfall. There’s just something about waterfalls that is magical, right? And they make for gorgeous wedding photos too. The good news is you can even stay on dry ground and just use the waterfall as a backdrop. This is perfect for the couple looking for a unique yet timid destination wedding.waterfall
  8. Volcano wedding—Nothing says “I love you” like hot molten lava and smoke, but many couples have enjoyed volcano weddings. These weddings often take place in the South Pacific, and they usually feature wedding guests dressed in traditional island wear (grass skirts, feathers, etc.). Just make sure the volcano you choose isn’t too active.volcano
  9. Hot air balloon wedding—A wedding in a hot air balloon allows you to peacefully glide over the landscape with the one you love. It’s an extreme wedding destination to be sure, but hot air balloon weddings are much calmer and less dangerous than many of the other ideas in this list.

Have you been to a creative destination wedding? Share your experience in the replies!

Authors Bio: Melanie Bowlen is a creative destination wedding photographer with over 8 years of experience in the wedding and travel industries. She has a true passion for capturing people’s emotions in an artistic way.

Guest Blog – Stacy & Jeff do SE Asia (32 of 40)

impossibles afternoon swell

impossibles afternoon swell

surfs up ballin
“after a few more days of small waves in bingin’ we headed north up to cangoo (changoo) where franny and alana live.  many beach breaks up and down the coast, small but fun, and not too many guys. there’s three rivers up and down the beach, so makes for a good break.

we grouped up with fernando & alana (peruvian and aussie), their friends: jose & marilou (both peruvian, importing from here), and jasmine & jason (surfin buds from australia), and headed up to balian for the weekend.  girls in one car, boys in another, and an hour and a half later we were in the quaint little beach of balian. another rivermouth, some nice fun waves.  an interesting group of expats residing up there, definitely a great place to chill at.

impossibles sunset

impossibles sunset

saturday the gals indulged and lounged all day long, stuffing their faces and tanning.  while the boys, we did what we do best, surf, eat, surf, drink, surf and so on. there was supposed to be a full moon mask party rager, but didn’t really seem to happen.  we went out the night before with franny and alana, so we were good to chill.

after a good small clean surf in the morning sunday, we headed back to franny’s place in cangoo.  now we sit and decide where to surf next! such a rough life… we see desert point in the near future and probably sumbawa from there.

here’s a few good pics for the start of the season…

peace and love”

bingin tube

bingin tube

small bingin

small bingin

stacy floatin - view from room

stacy floatin - view from room

stacy bobbing

stacy bobbing

bingin coastline

bingin coastline

our room - top left corner

our room - top left corner

wyan and jeff

wyan and jeff

girl laughing

girl laughing

balian coast - black sand

balian coast - black sand

surfs up

surfs up

Designing a Vacation Budget Using the Currency Exchange

How should I exchange money so I get the best return on my exchange?

Every soon-to-be vacationer has a million thoughts running through their mind, especially if the holiday is in another country. Hotel reservations must be made, good restaurant must be found and local attractions must be researched. A vacation out of the country takes information, patience and money. Saving money is always a priority especially in this volatile global market. Knowing when and where to exchange currency for your trip can be the difference between a good vacation and an incredible one.

Let’s assume you have rented a beautiful beach house in Cozumel and upon your flights arrival at the airport you plan to exchange your heard earned cash. However, this may not give you the return you expected, especially if there has been a shift in the Dollar / Peso currency pair. Just a 1200 point change in the Dollar’s value can cost an extra $120 for every $1000 you exchange. That could be the difference between eating meals in a nice restaurant and eating a fast food diet at a local fried food establishment. You can avoid currency surprises by exchanging money as you plan your trip. If you exchange small amounts at different times while planning you can design a vacation budget using actual exchange costs and values, which makes your budget much more realistic. Averaging your exchanges is especially important on an extended trip when more money is needed to cover expenses.

Where is the best place to average my exchanges?

It’s easy to assume that banks will give you the best rate of exchange. They are convenient and are in the money business, but banks add a fee to every currency exchange and they may only post one or two rates a day which means you may not get a real time rate. Credit cards like to exchange your money. They use their own rate which includes their profit plus they add a surcharge to every travel purchase, so you never know how much you’re spending until you get the statement. That means you’re letting the credit card company design your budget which always costs you more than you planned. Airport currency traders may add a fee to the exchange rate, which means you have less money to spend on the trip.

If you use a reliable currency trader you can average your exchange using the real time rate without surcharges, hidden fee and bogus rates. A professional can help you average your exchanges at the right time because they analyze the currency market on an hourly basis.

Other travel thoughts

Some countries have a limit on the amount of cash you carry through customs. If you exceed the limit and a custom official finds it in a customs search, it may be confiscated. Wallets and purses are easy targets, so just carry enough cash in them for incidental purchases. A money belt or a hidden pocket that’s secure and out of sight work best when traveling and hotel safes and other security measures should be used when you arrive.

Many factors affect the value of a currency and the forex market. Some of these include the; producer price index (PPI), gross domestic product (GDP) and the consumer price index (CPI). To learn more about how these factors affect your travel plans, make sure to visit ForexTraders.com.

Guest Blog – Stacy & Jeff do SE Asia (31 of 40)

even ronald knows the local customs

even ronald knows the local customs

more on KL and on to bali
“KL, what a crazy unique city. at least to our eyes. the people, so many different people. we stayed in china town, in an indian owned place, ran by one of the manliest lady boys we’ve seen (indian) and these two other guys that had more going on than amy winehouse. piercings, rainbow nail polish chipping, gold teardrops on their foreheads, you name it, quite colorful human beings. but all very nice and entertaining.

we went to one of their many malls and witnessed the largest indoor themepark in SE asia amongst this 10 story gigantic mall. we ate a craving lunch of mcdonalds. it’s funny how good a big mac tastes over here when you don’t even think about it at home. we were surrounded by young chinese girls all dressed up to one side, young indian boys in skater clothes on the other, a group of indian ladies with their colorful head dresses, and then two families where the women are completely in black, only revealing those mysterious eyes through a small slit, while the guys are dressed as any other everyday man. and we see she doesn’t take her veil off even to eat, she must slide her grease dripping french fries under her cloak. like we said, a vast variety of people here in KL.

indoor themepark - too expensive for us

indoor themepark - too expensive for us

we finally found our peanut sauce though. at home we like to order that scrumtous thai dish called panag: spinach and chicken smothered in peanut sauce, yummy! we have yet to find anything close anywhere! not one peanut sauce in thailand. here, completely different story. everything comes with peanut sauce. the best is with a pack of satay (less than two bucks for 12 sticks of chicken and beef) served with a mouth watering spicey crunchy peanut sauce. worth it all.

after two nights in our strange indian palace (dirty tiles greated by fake flowers, fake grass hanging from the ceiling, plastic chinese lanterns, way too many fish tanks to not be an aquarium, and pop music like it’s rick dee’s weekly top 40), we were off to bali.

dinner and beers - rooftop in KL

dinner and beers - rooftop in KL

heaven. yes it’s a bit more crowded then in january, but great weather and the smell of waves. we went straight to ayu guna where we left the boards at and guess what, they were still there, locked in the bag, never touched! love the karma here. we stayed a few nights in the same bungalow as last time, swam at padang, then moved to juni’s warung (recommended by fernando) at bingins. it’s great. our room has a large window opening up to the waves below, and we’re literally steps from the water. now jeff can walk out to the waves at any time, impossibles, bingin, dreamland, and even paddle up to padang… while i’ve got a beach, snorkeling, and a great place to just chill.

flying over java or sumatra?

flying over java or sumatra?

we just booked mentawi’s wavepark for the end of the month, so for now, chill here in bali, then head over to lakey’s point sumbawa, then back to bali and off to mentawi’s which will put us in june when we’re done. then work our way back to bali through mainland sumatra and maybe java. surf’s up the whole way….bagus (pronounced bagoose = good!)

sidenote – thanks to everyone who’s been checking us out. it’s such a great surprise to see everyone’s comments on the board. can’t wait (well we can cause we’re here!) to catch up with everyone once we get back!

peace love and surf!”

indo fire mouth

indo fire mouth

lookin out over impossibles from the cliff

lookin out over impossibles from the cliff

lookin out at bingin from cliff

lookin out at bingin from cliff

jeff and fernando

jeff and fernando

impossibles, view from above our warung/hotel

impossibles, view from above our warung/hotel

padang padang sunset

padang padang sunset

padang padang fisherman - my favorite!

padang padang fisherman - my favorite!

treckin down the road

treckin down the road

real backpacking now!

real backpacking now!

jeff comin in from bingin

jeff comin in from bingin

window view daytime

window view daytime

sunset panorama

sunset panorama

bingin sunset

bingin sunset

surf

surf

moon

moon

sky

sky

Guest Blog – Stacy & Jeff do SE Asia (30 of 40)

nie han beach

nie han beach

bagus bagus bagus
“three for three. not the biggest surf, but it’s bali surf. jeff couldn’t be more happy. the first day, met up with fernando and alana (jeff’s peruvian and auss friends, used to be slocals) and hit up bingin and impossibles. chest high and fun, it’s just good to be surfing with fernando, and just surfin’ at all. inconsistent now, but word on the wave, swells on its way. man was it a fiasco to get here though…

finishing up our days in phuket, we realized we would need a 60 day visa for indo, otherwise after 30 days we’d have to fly out and fly back in to get a new stamp. not a real problem, but we’ve got boards now and who knows where we’ll be on may 31st. so we figure lets do it, spend the few nights in KL or bangkok and go to the embassy and just deal with it. we pick KL (kuala lumpur, malaysian capitol) for something different. we call ahead, they say we could probably get it done in one day (whereas bangkok’s office said at least 3 days, another reason we went with KL). so, we book the ticket for thursday morning figuring between thursday and friday we can get it, then fly out saturday on the 2nd, giving us exactly 60 days between arrival and our fly out date of june 30th. good to go. bagus.

one of the many books weve read

one of the many books we've read

tidak bagus, not good. in reading the newspaper we realize it’s labour day on may 1st, friday. we’ve been seeing ad’s and signs for this day, but it just hasn’t been registering cause everytime i see it i think, no, it can’t be labour day (spelled the english way) because labor day is in september, duh. but, lo and behold, not everyone in this world is on america’s holiday schedule, and they have a few holidays of their own. one big one being labour day, experienced everywhere through the eastern part of the world, and even europe. what’s this mean for us? it means like most american holidays, big sales and all gov’t offices are closed. so we reassess. our ticket puts us landing in KL at 10:30am. if we want our visa processed in 1 day, we have to have it in by noon. it takes an hour to get from the airport to the embassy of indonesia (according to google’s trusty mapquest directions). so, that leaves a half hour margin to get off the plane, go through customs, get our luggage and get a taxi. jeff’s freaking out. this could mean if we don’t get it, that’s at least 3 extra days of NO surf and being stuck in another city, no matter how cool it could be.

tannings a serious business

tanning's a serious business

we have all our forms filled out and photo copied with extra passport photos and american dollars, we’re ready. we venture off to the airport with cynthia (my mom has already left two days earlier) and with good thoughts, we’re off to KL. we relax and even sleep on the flight, knowing once we land, it’s on, like donkey kong.

the breaks squeak, we sway from side to side like all airplanes do when they come to that screeching halt, and then we’re off. We grab our bags and speed walk our way as courtessly as we can, through the construction and crowds (keep in mind this is our 3rd time in this airport that is under construction so we know it almost like the back of our palms). we stretch our strides as far as we can til we reach the customs booth. i go first, hand the nice lady my passport, and then, she drops it. these are precious seconds here people, every last one counts. she shuffles in her spin chair, not wanting to get off it it seems. i see jeff’s already through now waiting on the other side for me. she finally reaches it, makes some small talk (side note: everybody at the KL airport are by far the nicest people we’ve come across throughout the trip. every time we’re here, we’re reminded of this), and then i’m through. we continue our giant strides, grab our bags, and make way for the taxi. believe it or not, we’re sitting in the taxi at 10:46am. wow.

jeff - last night in pukhet

jeff - last night in phuket

we make it to the office and walk in with all our luggage, after jeff had to put some pants on cause his shorts were too scandalous for them, at 11:45am. we take a number, we sit, then we go up, show the papers and make our request. he glances, shuffles, glances, then says we’re missing a photo copy of our passports stamped entry into malaysia. who knows whey they need this, but they do. he informs us there’s no budging around the 12 o’clock time whatsoever. i sprint around the corner to this little tiny weeny photocopy shop and get the business done, sprint back, and grab another number (seriously frustrating!). our number says 11:58am. so we think we’re golden. we get called up at 12:05pm. show the same guy our stuff, he shuffles, ho-hums, shuffles, gives us tons of grief on how hard it is for him to get a visa into the states, even with diplomatic whatever. e apologize for his grief, smile, but not too much, keep it short and polite. finally, after what seemed forever, he says he’ll process our visas for us, but not to expect this kind of service in the future. man, what a mess! after paying double the amount cause all we had was USD (not the local currency of ringetts), we got our 60 day visa meaning we were only stuck in KL for one full day…

more on it tomorrow!”

stacy - phuket - last night

stacy - phuket - last night

Guest Blog – Stacy & jeff do SE Asia (29 of 40)

east bay phi phi

east bay phi phi

on to phi phi don…
“a comfy air conditioned ferry ride later, we’ve arrived at what some say is the most beautiful island in the world: phi phi don. you probably will recognize it from pictures, the twin bays, and it’s sister island phi phi leh, is the famous beach of the movie the beach. beautiful it is, but crowded as well. everyone always wants a piece of paradise. more lounging, swimming, snorkling, and then we experienced our first monsoon rain. it’s the beginning of the season. a quick bucket of a downpour, and then steamy afternoons. a beautiful island, you can see in the pics, unbelievable water colors and cliffs. after one night and two days, we headed onward to phuket.

jeff escaping the monsoon

jeff escaping the monsoon

here it’s a vacation away from our vacation. lovely house, scooters for all, and for jeff and i, we’re so familar with the area, it’s like the comfort of coming home. some more monsoons, swimming, shopping, and always eating and drinking, we’re closing in on indonesia. jeff is so ready, he’s more than ready. so here we come! first a stop over in malaysia for a few days to take care of our indo visa (in order to stay 60 days, you have to prearrange it) and then we arrive in bali and let the surfin begin.

p.s. we can’t believe we only have two more months to go!!! time went so slowly in the beginning, now it’s flying by…. if anyone has any ideas on how to stay on longer, pass them on! we’re not ready to come home just yet, holiday lifestyle is too good to us :)

xxoo”

trail up to the phi phi don view

trail up to the phi phi don view

phi phi don island

phi phi don island

jeff & stacy

jeff & stacy

phi phi

phi phi

monkey!

monkey!

its real!

it's real!

eyebrows & eyelashes

eyebrows & eyelashes

mom cruisin down the highway!

mom cruisin down the highway!

beer sunset

beer sunset

Guest Blog – Stacy & Jeff do SE Asia (28 of 40)

thai crew team

thai crew team

traveling om
“after we reached our “om” in cambodia with ancient towers and local laughs, we ventured on back into thailand.  our second time entering thailand, and this time like the first, the country seems to be at unrest.  from our taxi ride over the border and into bangkok, much more was visible this time around. swat teams on every corner with the plastic shields and army officers manning their perches, all with rifles.  still, in our little touristy neighborhood of koh san road, life goes on as normal.  little did we know, the morning we arrived one of the main current party leaders (a yellow shirt) was attempted assignation on (by red shirts) in his motor parade by assult rifles.  scary stuff, but lucky for us, the swat and army teams on corners was the only witness we had.  but, i’m guessing it’s gonna take some major time and consideration before thailand is at peace with itself.

approaching raley

approaching raley

after our short stay in the city, we flew south to krabi, land of emerald seas and rock climbers dream limestone cliffs.  first night was spent in krabi town (the province is also named krabi) which is nothing more than a boat launch to the islands around.  but we did catch a great weekend market including karaoke, marching band, and delicous food carts. from krabi we headed out to the penninsula of raley.  this is the paradise at krabi. split into east and west sides surrounded by towering limestone painted with rockclimbers everywhere.  mom and cindy stayed on the fancy west beach while jeff and i bargined for a great bungalow in the center in a breezy grassy valley in the midst of limestones, only 5 minute walk to west or east beach. there’s no cars, only boats, monkeys, birds, great beaches.

raley cove

raley cove

on arrival we realized we were just in time for the ‘awards ceremony’ for the annual rock climbing cup and fire dancing contest. so by night the west beach turned into a stage and fire show with live music.  after some impressive fire dancing, jazz and then calypso music, we were suprised to see our token thai reggae band, job 2 do, headline the show.  jeff and i first heard of them in phuket and then spotted them throughout thailand but we were always a day or 2 behind their shows. so it was fate we’d see them eventually. it was a great show.  dancing, drinks, and we got it all recorded…jah rastafari.

bungalow

bungalow

after exploring more hidden beaches for a day (by the way, the water temp, way too hot, by far the warmest water any of us have ever swam in), we left onward on a speed boat tour of surrounding islands: hong island, paradise, and two others whose names escape me.  we loaded on our speedboat with 16 others and were on our way. cindy, mom and i sat in the front of the boat while jeff got left in the back.  the driver said it may be a bit bumpy so beware. man oh man were we in for a ride.  there were four others up there with us and we went flying in the air, thank god for the railings we were able to grab ahold of. 20 minutes later we arrived at hong island.

gang on the beach

gang on the beach

here, we kayaked around the island into a beautiful lagoon, emerald with white sands.  once we reached the lagoon, already tired from our paddeling, we decide to go for a swim. jeff asks the guide if there’s a certian area, and he points to the sandy part.  unfortunately, mama wasn’t near us to hear these directions, so she leaped off her kayak onto a blanket of coral – sharp glass-like coral.  too quickly, her toes and feet got sliced (as seen in the graphic picture). luckily she didn’t loose any limbs, but she sliced her big toe and middle toe pretty bad, as well as the bottom of the other foot.  strong as she is, we continued our kayak trip and then back at the beach had the ‘life guard’ do a quick tape job that lasted a short two minutes. we pressed on. we snorkled until it was time to go onto the next island for lunch and more snorkling.  by the end of the day, we’d snorkled, swam, sighted a giant monitor lizard which roam these islands, lunched, and bumped our way back to mainland.  next day on to phi phi don…

xoxo”

happy couple

happy couple

fire show

fire show

fire dancin

fire dancin

jah

jah

job 2 do concert

job 2 do concert

paradise beach, raley

paradise beach, raley

beach view

beach view

beach panorama

beach panorama

beach shells and crab holes

beach shells and crab holes

fertility cave

fertility cave

cave close up

cave close up

caterpillar

caterpillar

beach sign

beach sign

raley west sunset

raley west sunset

jeff bravin the seas

jeff bravin the seas

hong lagoon

hong lagoon

Guest Blog – Stacy & Jeff do SE Asia (27 of 40)

group dinner

group dinner

crazy cambodia….
“and we love it.  we’ve started reading quite a collection of books of personal accounts of where we’ve been travelling through so we’ve enjoyed seeing it firsthand a lot more.  and cambodia fits in that category, though all the readings have to do with war, killing, sex, drugs, and guns.  so not the most plesant of subjects, but it’s amazing to see the country and meet the people who live here. cambodia by far has been our favorite people – well right up there with the balinese.

fish foot massage - creepy and weird!

fish foot massage - creepy and weird!

phnom penh was the city of contradiction, fancy in town, surrounded by ‘killing fields’ outside, and by far the most poverty or rather ‘gap’ we’ve seen.  coming over to siem reap, your surrounded by beautiful ancient temples and the nicest people. we stayed for 5 or 6 days, enjoying all of it.  we did 3 days (well I did, jeff’s toe hurt so he was out one day, and cynthia and my mom skipped out on the third day) of angkor wat. lots to see there.  the sad part is there is no recorded history about this ancient palace and city so everyone is guessing with different theories and what nots.  still an amazing site, right up there with machu pichu.

back to the people…beautiful. dark skin, big eyes and the biggest smiles around.  it’s no wonder angelina jolie adopted one. the kids are darling, its so hard to say no to all the ones in the park selling bracelets, flutes, you name it.  and our guesthouse was filled with hilarious guys working. passing jokes, telling stories, all of it so fun.

now we’re in bangkok heading south to krabi. late for the plane so gotta run!

xxoo”

fish nibble massage

fish nibble massage

a hilarious and tickling experience

a hilarious and tickling experience

the gang

the gang

stacys cambodian boyfriend, wan

stacy's cambodian boyfriend, wan

entering angkor wat

entering angkor wat

hindu buddhas

hindu buddhas

mine survivor band

mine survivor band

river carvings

river carvings

underwater buddhas

underwater buddhas

kids waterfall slide

kids waterfall slide

sky and bike

sky and bike

temple for sunset

temple for sunset

ladies

ladies

guardian

guardian

temple guardians looking out

temple guardians looking out

old

old

reflecting pool

reflecting pool

elephant terrace

elephant terrace

beautiful temple

beautiful temple

bathroom instructions

bathroom instructions

tree

tree

old tree

old tree

tree

tree

blue sky and tree

blue sky and tree

bracelet girl

bracelet girl

old bridge

old bridge

buddhist university

buddhist university

jeff and stacy

jeff and stacy

our buddy driver - love him

our buddy driver - love him

Guest Blog – Stacy & Jeff do SE Asia (26 of 40)

killing fields memorial

killing fields memorial

exploring cambodia…
“phnom penh roads are filled with cars. and not the little skinny asian cars that we’ve seen thus far, but big sudans, trucks, landrovers, 4-runners, escalades, and…wait for it…. brand new hummers cruising around (we’ve seen 3 so far). crazy. there’s a lot of money in this town, but with it seems to be more curruption and the worst poverty we’ve seen yet.

we went out to the killing fields with some friends, got depressed, came back and got some good lunch at happy phnom penh pizza with an early happy hour and got un-depressed. we skipped the genocide museum but probably will hit it up when my mom joins us later today.

incense offering at the memorial

incense offering at the memorial

everything’s in dollars here, even the ATM so it’s a bit of an odd feeling at first, and everything things more expensive even though its really not. we hit up some street bars by night and got attacked by a giant rat. luckily it only hit jeff and dans feet. jeff had a river of rat spit/juice left over on the top of his foot after it scurried away….yummy. we’ve made a small routine of having some delish pizza at lunch and then doing nothing in the afternoon, it’s been quite relaxing…even got some pool time in. all the fancy hotels let you pay a small fee or just buy something and you get to treat yourself for the day poolside.

looking forward to mom coming today! then we’re back to the touristy sites and onward to the beaches. it’s one of the biggest cambodian holidays this week, khmer new years, so it should be some fun excitement… involving lots of food, dancing, music, the throwing of water and talcum powder to top it off! we shall see…..

chillin for now

xo”

killing fields

killing fields

prayer flags on grave

prayer flags on grave

96 degrees in the shade - real hot

96 degrees in the shade - real hot

america likes happy pizza

america likes happy pizza

monks preparing for cambodian new year

monks preparing for cambodian new year

Guest Blog – Stacy & Jeff do SE Asis (25 of 40)

monk kid

monk kid

leaving the breast milk for bigger and better things…
“sorry to say, but we were both glad to get out of vietnam.  a beautiful country but the ‘sales tactics’ were starting to wear on us a bit.  we would definitely recommend anyone of you guys to go there, you just have to be ready for the constant haggling and barganing.  that aside, a great country.

it’s amazing how much war the country has been through; it seems their whole existence has been based around war, with the chinese, cham empire, french, americans, and the khmer.  i think they really live up to the saying, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.  and now, 30 years after the states left the country, consumerism is swallowing it up.  it’s no wonder that everyone’s eger to make a buck, or two or three off you.  for that reason though, people can come off real rash and hard.  but still, we would meet a jem every once in awhile that reminded us not all are just after your wallet.  and actually, in our last town we stopped in, chau doc, we weren’t ripped off the whole time and were given the locals price, no questions asked! such a relief after you’ve spent the last month wheeling and dealing.  not too many tourists stayed in this town, so you can see the ‘tourism dollar’ hadn’t made its impact yet.

commuter traffic

commuter traffic

after a grueling  boat ride and bus ride up to cambodia, we arrived in phnom penh, the city of contradiction. the boat ride was pretty, but loud and hot and air filled with deisel.  but we saw lots of little villages on the river side with kids and monks swimming and working the land.  after loading all 13 of us and our bags in our minivan, the 1hour ride began into the city.  in the first five minutes in the van, we bottomed out but kept on driving.  us in the back seat could tell right away something went bad with the tire.  sure enough, once we reached the center of the city, in the middle of a massive intersection, at a dead stop in traffic, the driver finally realized the rear tire was completely flat.  so we all loaded off the van, and onto the sidewalk, amidst zooming cars and motors, as well as roaring fire engines on their way somewhere.  fortunately there was a tire store right there so within 10 minutes we were back on our way.”

96 degrees in the shade - real hot

96 degrees in the shade - real hot

Guest Blog – Stacy & Jeff do SE Asia (23 of 40)

boatin through the delta

boatin through the delta

delta blues…
“woke up one morning, do do do sat right up in bed, do do do pour myself some whiskey, do do do i look over and kiss my baby still asleep in bed, and then i cried ive got the delta blues,  the delta blues baby  oooh ive got the delta blues.

we’re traveling to the mekong delta to a home stay on a fruit orchard. locals have been starting an ecotourism on the islands of the delta  where you arrive by boat to rustic bungalows on their property. the average costs are around 7 to 10 dollars a night and the dinners are usually a set menu.

a 400 lb catfish was caught here last year (biggest ever!)

a 400 lb catfish was caught here last year (biggest ever!)

in the delta the local specialty is the elephant ear fish. first they cook the fish on the grill which they fuel with the husk of the rice, giving the fish a flakey crust. then they stand the fish up in between some wooden dowels so you can see the fish (i couldn’t see an elephant ear). next they bring you an assortment of fresh greens and herbs with a plate of rice noodles and rice papers. you place the greens first, next some noodles and top it of with the flakey fish. roll it up and savor the fresh creation.

we chose a home stay on a fruit orchard which proved to be difficult to reach on our own. we tried to do this without a tour company so we could move on our own schedule. we first booked a 1 day tour of the mekong to reach one of the islands (this was recommended to us so we could see a few diffrent things and also advance further along)  we were planning to get off the tour half way through and catch a ferrry to another island. the remainder of the group would return to saigon.

taking a rest

taking a rest

on the tour we first visited a local coconut candy shop where they make a delicious coconut taffy. then we took the boat to a bee farm where the locals capture the queen bee to produce honey. another attraction was the pythons which you can hold and take your picture with. if you wish, you can stay here at their home stay – we thought it might not be such a good idea to sleep at a home stay with with snakes and bees.

so here is where we decided to travel by the seat of our pants.

picture stacy and i with our packs (that weigh around 60 pounds each). our boat guide tells us it’s around ten km to the boat ferry, so we catch a local horse and buggy taxi to the dock (turns out the 10 km was only about 1 km).  we reach the ferry only to find out it was the wrong one. our ride cost us 6 dollars – looks like the driver will be eating steak and lobster tonight.

mekong canals

mekong canals

so then we had to hire motorbikes to take us to the bus stop, which scared the shit out of stacy. with the heavy packs, we were on the scooter with some random guy, zooming along a large bridge that went up and down like a roller coaster – we held on for dear life. were dropped off on the side of the road and greeted by the local vender who offered us a chair and some shade. at this point no one spoke any english so we just smiled and let the trip unfold.

soon after, the shop vender yells out at a mini van passing by to negotiate our bus ticket. seconds later were stuffed into the minivan. one thing about bus travel is that, when we get on, they make the locals get out of their seats so we can have the seat. we feel a little weird, but since we’re paying more than everyone else its ok. the driver gives the local vender a little kick and away we go.

now the stares begin…everyone usually turns to you smiles and laughs and talks in vietemese. our minivan cargo consists of 12 people, 1 motorbike, lots of boxes, and us. eventually one of the girls started a conversation of broken english to get our story. come to find out she wants stacy to find another boyfriend and she wants me (understandable –  i’m pretty damn good looking).

river house

river house

i have to decline but she still continues to share her fruit and coffee with us. 5 hours later were dropped off at the bus station (the wrong one again). here we have to hire another motorbike to the car ferry. we get on the bikes and away we go to the wrong ferry. the guys are gone before we realize and now we need to get to the car ferry to reach our orchard island. lucky for all travellers, help is always one step away (for the right price).  we’re now the most frustrated we have ever been. we must hire a boat to take us directly to the family ranch or take another scooter ride to the right ferry.  once we calmed down, we bit the bullet and hired the boat ride directly to the orchard guest house.  this $7 a night room has just cost us a total of $35 to get there.

looking through out boat

looking through out boat

after spending two relaxing nights, a day of boating around the floating market and canals, we left on our way to the cambodian border.  another motorcycle ride on skinny little pathways and bridges and we made it to our bus – a local bus. once again the seats were cleared for us and we were on our way to chau doc.  we were told the ride should be about 4 hours long.  after the first hour or so we hit traffic.  we were at a dead stop on the road behind a line of working trucks, minivans, and other buses.  the roads beside the bus are filled with scooters and people.  the scooter guys are poaching people from the buses and vans, and at this point we don’t know whats going on.  ladies are walking up to the windows selling everything from cold water and towels to grilled corn, sticky rice, gum, you name it.  we sat in this traffic line, moving slowly – inch by inch – for at least an hour until we reached a ferry dock.  we realized what the scooters were doing now.  in the distance you could see major construction of a massive bridge.  until it gets completed, this ferry line would be a daily activity for most.

coconut candy makers

coconut candy makers

finally we had fresh air blowing in the bus again (local bus means no AC, just hot sticky and sweaty – smells real good).  an hour later we stop for lunch.  we take a seat and realize everyone’s looking at us again.  guess we’re in an area where not too many westerners pass through.  we sit down sipping our pepsi over ice and take in the silent stares.  i (jeff) begin rolling a ciggy and an old man with ho chi minh characteristics, who has been sweeping around us, takes notice.  he stops.  he stares. he smiles.  we come to realize, maybe he hasn’t seen a rolly since the last time he came across americans some 30 years ago.  jeff offers him one and he smiles and sits down in acceptance.  by now, he’s smoking in silence with a smile, others from the bus are circling around us in silence, and we just sit there and take it all in.  very much like when robin williams returns to neverland in hook and all the lost boys surround him in curiosity staring and touching.  finally the old man says two or three words softly and kindly (we have no idea what he said).  but they were probably the softest words we’ve heard in all of the vietnam language.  after this surreal moment, we load back on the bus and in a few more hours we arrive at our destination.

coconut candy...like caramel

coconut candy...like caramel

we hop on the back of a bike – with both our bags and both of us…major weight – and the guy rides us around from hotel to hotel until we find one that fits us.  now we’ve settled in, we have a great balcony to watch the kites fly in the sky, the mellow traffic below and enjoy the 24 pack of beer 333 that jeff bought and the many mangoes stacy bought.  we’re happy campers.

wo here we are, do do do do, ice cold beer in my hand, do do do do, killin them mosquitoes to survive, do do do do, hopin my next ride will be alright, do do do do , cause that’s how the mekong delta blues carries you through the night, do do do do…

xo”

honey bee man

honey bee man

mekong bees - can you find the queen?

mekong bees - can you find the queen?

wildman jeff

wildman jeff

water buffalo - keeping it cool

water buffalo - keeping it cool

starting to charge a bit now...

starting to charge a bit now...

$6 horse and carriage ride - what a rip off!

$6 horse and carriage ride - what a rip off!

boatin it - its been a looong day

boatin it - it's been a looong day

typical mekong scene

typical mekong scene

cute little whiskers!

cute little whiskers!

wood

wood

watermelon

watermelon

stacy

stacy

jeff in front of our homestay

jeff in front of our homestay

mekong cathedral

mekong cathedral

canal scene

canal scene

boy peeling fruit

boy peeling fruit

floating market

floating market

house

house

schools out

school's out

arriving in chau doc

arriving in chau doc

jeff + beer = happy camper

jeff + beer = happy camper

moon rising

moon rising

dusk settling from our balcony view

dusk settling from our balcony view

Guest Blog – Stacy & Jeff do SE Asia (22 of 40)

chna beach surf

china beach surf

where to begin?????
“let’s see, we spent 8 days in china beach which is located half way between danang and hoi an. and we loved every second of it.  the only reason we left was cause we’ve now started a bit of a schedule to meet my mom.  but, open long beach, very similar to hosugar (sp?) of southern france according to jeff, just not quite the waves right now. though, we did get one day of surf there. that’s right, WE.  i kinda freaked and came in fairly quickly though cause it was getting too big for the likes of me.

jeff or mike, i think mike (new friend)

jeff or mike, i think mike (new friend)

our little hotel was quaint, on a dirt road that led to the beach where two little seafood restaurants were.  the first few nights the vacant pine forest separated our hotel and the beach filled up with hundreds of high schoolers (you can see it in some older pics) going crazy with karaoke, games, singing and dancing…the vietnamese girls know how to get down.  we were pulled into a few little dance circles not sure what to do, and both of us were pretty seductively ‘freaked’ by the locals… pretty funny. we have it all recorded (with sound)..classic.

from china beach we chose to stay one night in hoi an; a beautiful city with plenty of old architecture NOT destroyed by the wars past. we rented a motor and went a few days from china beach, but chose not to stay cause it was pricier than where we were anticipating and hot, with no beach at your doorstep.  we got some clothes made, had some traditional foods and then were on our way south to jungle beach, another beach paradise north of nhe trang by 60km.

stacy - surfs up!

stacy - surf's up!

our clothes and a pair of sandals turned out pretty good and we were on our way, back on the night bus onward south.  we heard about jungle beach through our china beach place owner, hoa (a very nice guy who loves his beer).  we got on our bus, got some cozy beds, and at 4:30am we were dropped off alone in the middle of nowhere at a gas station. we made it.

to our surprise, but not really cause we’re in vietnam, two guys came out of the bushes and offered us rides to jungle beach, which is a 30km ride from there.  after some negotiating we were on our way, once again on the back of a scooter with our way-too-large of bags (we weighed them and they are each teetering on 60lbs!!!).  we had an amazing cruise, starting in the dark with the stars, then watching the sunrise over these beautiful landscapes of rice paddies and what smelled like cow fields.  we hit the water, went through a small village, and voila, we were at the jungle beach.

china beach sunrise

china beach sunrise

an amazing place. it really was a backpackers resort.  a private-ish beach, white sands, warmer water than where we had just come from (not that it was cold by any means, even up there), beautiful landscapes of jungle and hills with boulders and monkeys, great little rustic bungalows, play areas with a ping pong table, and some great food. it was ‘all inclusive’ per se – 22 bucks each, which included all meals and housing.  alcohol was extra. overall a bit pricier than we were used to, but the experience was great and worth every bit of it.

it was really something out of ‘the beach’ but all positives… there were around 20 of us for the three days we were there.  you get up around 7 or 8ish, walk around the beach, come up for a delicious breakfast that you get to pick (great scrambled eggs, the best yet, pancakes, frenchtoast…) then you do what you do best and hang on the beach. we all have our own little shades made of bamboo and we laid out, read and surfed. thats right, surfed!

morning volleyball sessions, china beach

morning volleyball sessions, china beach

jeff finally had his moments. me too! it was great.  we showed up in the morning, everyone already down on the beach, but nobody was messing with the shitty, but workable surfboards.  jeff picked up the long board, hit some waves, showed me how, and then everyone was out wanting to learn – it was great and hilarious. jeff was pushing german guys bigger than him on the board into a wave.  everyone else was from europe so they had no experience but were dying to learn. it was so much fun!

at lunch we’re all summoned from the beach by the nice ladies and served a family style meal that is absolutely delish.  we go back to the beach, repeat, the ladies bring us amazing juicy fresh fruit in the afternoon, beach, then dinner at 6ish…amazing food again.  and then it’s back to the beach for party and bonfires with guitar and singing galore.  it just felt so good to be surrounded by people of like minds doing what we do best…chillin. we listened and sang and just had an awesome time with great people.  it was one of those moments where we were waiting for something bad to happen cause everything was so great. even the local guys were singing on the beach and sharing some local folk songs.

another china beach sunrise

another china beach sunrise

after a few days though, we had to depart.  sylvio, the canadian trippy owner booked us a night train to saigon and we were on our way. coincidentally, 10 others were leaving so the timing was right.  hopefully we’ll run into some again on the road…. the travel road always seems to be smaller than it really is.

we arrived in saigon, now ho chi minh city at 4:30am after a well rested train ride, bed and all, got a hotel and started our exploring.  we ended up getting a cyclo, a three wheel bike and drove around town.  our driver was hilarious and even famous; he got his photo taken riding his bike in some tourist mag. he wooed us with his charm and we were on our way.

little girl, wish we knew what she was saying

little girl, wish we knew what she was saying

first to the war remnants museum, the last of our war visits.  a moving, depressing, amazing museum, definitely from the VC prospective.  the favorite part of it was the section dedicated to all the correspondence/photographers that had lost their lives in the war. an amazing photo collection…the most moving part of the museum. american, french, english, japanese, korean, and vietnamese photographers. such telling stories.  there was also a section on agent orange (appaling pictures and even two or three you could call it, real babies kept in liquid so you can witness the atrocities the poison causes), the tiger cage jails that the south used, one containing an old french guillotine (old school be-header) that was used through the early 60′s, old weapons/bombs, and alas, a beautiful display of local children’s artwork on how they see a peaceful world.  great museum, but we’re done depressing ourselves.

hoi an river

hoi an river

we then moved on the cho’lon, the old china town. it’s not much of a china town now as many migrated/fled during and after the war.  now it’s all in construction with whole blocks being demolished to create new streets. we saw a cool pagoda, lady in the sky , that was built in 906AD.  then he took us for lunch, some delicious pho, our best yet. and he told us more of his past.

oh before that, the best part – he was telling us he has 4 kids (3 boys and 1 girl) where he lives and so forth. he recently found a baby at the rail station. crazy saigon.  no one knew where he came from so he took him home and has been raising him for the last 8 months.  he was telling us this story and then kept saying something but we couldn’t really understand. then it came to us:  he was asking us to take this baby home as our own!!!!!!!!!!! he said he’d accompany us to the police station, get all the paperwork figured out, and then we could take him back to the states with us. he then started pulling out pictures of this adorable little boy. we said thank you but no thank you.  but throughout the day he kept asking…. any takers???

hoi an lanterns...everywhere!

hoi an lanterns...everywhere!

so, we had lunch, he told of us his fight with the south from 68-71ish, he was shot twice but just barely, showing us scars above his eye and on his thumb. one of his two brothers disappeared in the war. the remaining of them served in prison for four years, at the end of the war, until they memorized the words of communism and were able to convince them of their dedication.  now he still isn’t allowed in northern vietnam for his past southern alliance.

it was a great day spent with our friend. now we’re ditchin this massive city and heading south to the mekong…land of fruit and mosquitoes!

i’m sure there’s a lot more to be said, but jeffs waiting patiently outside so its time to go…. plus these computers are so damn slow you have no idea how long this takes just to do this and upload a measly 15 photos….when we have so much more!

peace and love”

hoi an streets

hoi an streets

hoi an alley

hoi an alley

carving station

carving station

old french style building walls

old french style building walls

view from back of our hotel hoi an

view from back of our hotel hoi an

jungle mountains

jungle mountains

campfire singing

campfire singing

our jungle beach bungalow

our jungle beach bungalow

bungalow inside

bungalow inside

classic watch dog

classic watch dog

hoi an market

hoi an market

eggs

eggs

lettuce

lettuce

jungle beach - to the beach

jungle beach - to the beach

path from dining to bungalow

path from dining to bungalow

cyclo with our famous driver

cyclo with our famous driver

ho chi minh sity

ho chi minh sity

our could be son

our 'could be' son

wishes and prayers

wishes and prayers

incense prayer to last a month

incense prayer to last a month

pho lunch with our driver

pho lunch with our driver

our famous driver

our famous driver

Guest Blog – Stacy & Jeff do SE Asia (21 of 40)

sleeping bus

sleeping bus

DMZ tour
*** this entry is long and just deals with the DMZ tour and may drag on, so beware! and our history’s not so good, so bare with it***

arriving to central vietnam, we entered the main hub of the ‘american war’ – as its called here – naturally, since it marked the border between north and south, hue, the city we stayed at, has a much older and richer history, mostly being part of a citadel constructed in 1806 by the emperor ly, later destroyed by the french, then rebuilt, only to be destroyed by the american, and then once again bandaged up.

a very cool site: old brick walls with castle like towers every hundred feet, surrounded by a moat of course.  and the emperor himself gave this region the great food we get to eat today.  he was so picky and cocky, he wanted 50 different dishes prepared by 50 different chefs and served to him by 50 different servants….quite a guy! but, citadel aside, this is where the american war tours begin…..

gettin comfortable

gettin comfortable

the DMZ tour takes you on a bus (12 hours in all, 6am to 6pm!) and drives an hour north of hue to the de-militarized zone which lies 5km south of the ben hai river and 5 km north of the river, from ocean to the laos border (about 65 km).

a little buff up on the history, the ben hai river served as the border between north and south vietnam after the elections failed to happen in the early 60′s (failed because the southern catholic ruler refused to hold an election with US aid pretty much because it was feared the communist leader ho chi minh would win).  so, then during the ‘war’, the DMZ area was created to serve as a safe-hold for civilians who wanted to cross the border.  of course, as ‘peace keepings’ usually never really mean peace, this ended up being the scene of the largest battles throughout the US involvement.

hue citadel

hue citadel

so, this tour takes you from the ocean almost to the laos border and back, stopping to look at old bases, stations, trails, tunnels, etc… that were significant in the war. unfortunately it was more of a driving tour than anything else, and the tour guide’s english was barely understandable.  but still, here’s a run down of what we saw and experienced:

rock pile: a little more than a pile of rocks, this is a giant mountain, rather rocky, that served as the US helicopter pad as well as look out station. now, it looks like a beautiful green mountain in the midst of a valley, but during the war, it served as a vital tool for the US

us artillery

us artillery

hien luong bridge/ho chi minh trail: this was a little more vague for us because there was nothing in our LP book and we couldn’t understand the tour guide… but, the ho chi minh trail served as a path of the VC (charlie) and its supplies and weapons.  now its pretty much all highway (the one which we were driving on) but we were shown pictures of the steep dirty trails that it served as in the past.  the bridge itself we’re not too sure about, other than it was part of the trail and now a big fancy one was built in honor of it.

landscape: to us, the landscape was beautiful and green, but to the trained eye you would know that the land should be lush with jungles.  in reality, the hills were rolling with green grass and shrubs, still tropical.  but prior to the war, there were thick jungles with trees and canopies, which coincidentally served as good cover for ‘charlie’.  so, the US not only bombed the place but sprayed herbicides everywhere, killing every plant around. and still today, the trees and many other species/plants haven’t returned.

crash remnants, khe san

crash remnants, khe san

khe sanh base: this was the mother-load. others may know it as ‘khe sanh hell’, the largest battle in all of the US occupation in vietnam.  short story goes something like this (bare with it , some of you probablyly know more than we do) – US intelligence gets wind of charlie moving around in these distant mountains, south of the ben ai river border, only 20km east of the laos border.   traditionally, these mountains are filled with local tribes who don’t know or care not much of what’s going on in the rest of their country, they live the simple life.  with this new intelligence, president johnson and his top officers decide the US needs to establish a presence there.  so, we go there, pretty much demolish the villages (not in a killing way, but just take over, ruining the traditional livelihoods…), create an airstrip and make our presence.  in 1967, more movement was detected around the hills and the US predicted a major attack. after filling the place with marines, we were ready, or so we thought.  as nothing seemed to be happening, supposedly, soldiers started wondering what the heck they were all doing in the middle of nowhere.

helicopter

helicopter

there was no real land to be conquered and no visible threat to them.  but on january 21 1968, battle began as the US was then surrounded by charlie and local guerrillas.  after the largest sum of american deaths in one battle, the US fled khe sanh on april 7th (not to mention how many villagers and civilians died).  however and coincidently, on january 23rd (i think) the TET offensive went off, and the north vietnamese had attacked/taken over dozens of cities and towns (including saigon) in the south.  a major ‘loss’ to the US. it turns out, the charlie that was around the mountains was a diversion to get all the attention up there and let charlie slip by US intelligence to accomplish the TET offensive.  so, pretty much, the khe sanh battle was looked at as not necessary. soldiers then coined the phrase “in the middle of nowhere fighting for nothing.”  nothing good came from the troops being stationed up there and from what we’ve read and seen it seems like both the soldiers and the US people saw khe sanh as a major if not stupid mistake on the US government’s part. sorry we can’t explain it better, just google it.

old bunker

old bunker

but what WE saw: now, a memorial museum on the site as well as old helicopters, bunkers, tanks, and bombs.  the museum was breathtaking. filled with old photos and testimonies of locals and soldiers. and everything is actually pretty matter of fact.  i think there’s a pretty general consensus that the US made some bad calls, but they’re not throwing it in your face here at all.  it’s just amazing to see all this in person with your own eyes and look around you and see the stories come to life per se right in front of you.  outside the museum were two american helicopters -huge!!! as well as an artillery gun, a tank, bombs…… the photos will show you…oh and even the remnants of the airstrip where nothing grows, though the rest of the landscape is all beautiful coffee plants.  needless to say we left there with a whole new feeling.

US military tank

US military tank

vinh moc tunnels: now, north of the ben hai river border and on the coast, the local villagers took flee underground…for 6 years! 60 families took cover from all the bombing above and lived in a three tier tunnel maze reaching up to 23 m below the surface.  and in this time, 17 babies were born, all which survived the war.  there are also tunnels like this around ho chi minh city,much more complex but supposedly slightly smaller and more tourists :)  so we got to venture down these, still ducking quite a bit.  it was amazing to see the handy work amongst all this red clay. they used bamboo to support the tunnels and built wells, bathrooms, bomb shelters, a larger meeting room, and lots of stairs.  if we thought about it too hard, you could get very claustrophobic down there as you’re walking with a tour of 20 people in these tiny tunnels.  at least today they’ve wired them with electricity so that was at least comforting. overall the tour was eye-opening but our bumms were sore from sitting so much!

used and unused bombs

used and unused bombs

some additions…

khe sanh: this (worded by the vietnamese) was the biggest ruse of the war – the vietnamese gave every appearance of threatening khe sang, surrounding the place with thousands of troops and shelling the base relentlessly. no serious attempt to seize the marice base ever occurred.  the vietnamese purpose was to distract westmoreland’s attention fom their preparations for the real dein bein phu of the american war, the surprise nationwide offensive at tet, the lunar new year holiday, of january 1968, which broke the will of the johnson administration and the american public to continue to prosecute the conflict.  the ruse succeeded.

a guerrilla monument

a guerrilla monument

a heartbreaking story overhead from a US vet: stationed in the beginning of the war, late 50′s i believe, they arrived to a village in central vietnam and was greeted by the local chief.  he asked why they were here and who they were.  he sensed trouble and told the soldiers that they walked and acted just like the vietnamese men that had just visited previously (charlie).  when told they had came up from saigon, the chief said they had no idea what saigon was (just to prove how remote this part of the country was).  they proceeded to tour around this village and others. they were ordered to recruit villagers. most did, but some didn’t. one in particular was a 16 year old boy.  he began running away and one of his fellow soldiers was ordered to shoot. he did and killed him on the spot. the mother ran over and held him crying profusely.  the general or colonal, whomever was in charge, was saying ‘why won’t she shut up damn it, gooks have no feelings, why is she crying like that’. a soldier replied, ‘we just shot and killed her son sir’. but the head honcho proceeded to swear and curse her tears…..

flowers growing among old bomb shells

flowers growing among old bomb shells

old photo - soldier hugging his fallen friend

old photo - soldier hugging his fallen friend

DMZ crossing

DMZ crossing

tunnel

tunnel

tunnel construction - it took 20 months of digging day and night to build them

tunnel construction - it took 20 months of digging day and night to build them

in the tunnel

in the tunnel

old village photo

old village photo

rock pile today

rock pile today

old photo of ho chi minh trail

old photo of ho chi minh trail

new bridge

new bridge


Guest Blog – Stacy & Jeff do SE Asia (20 of 40)

arriving to the caves

arriving to the caves

descent of the dragon
“the junk/boat was fairly big – it had 10 rooms on the first floor, dinning room for 20 + on the second, and a deck up top.  we started with lunch which was decent.  all-inclusive usually means the food’s gonna suck, and in this case, it pretty much all did. the meals on the boat were okay: sticky rice, fried something (either french fries, fish, calamari, peanuts, peas, you name it) nem (fried spring rolls), grilled fish (unfillet’d of course), steamed cabage of some sort, and sauteed noodles with either a meat or fish…. like i said, decent, but bland for sure.  and as drinks weren’t included, not even water, we suffered cause we refused to pay the 4x markup price…although we did splurg once on a beer.

keeping with food, the food on the island at the hotel we stayed at was horrible.  it was as if you were at the worst hospital ever, and it was ‘chinese food day’, slopped up by the lunch room lady played by chris farley… horrible i tell you! and it made me sick and even jeff a bit too.

Food aside…. the bay was great.  Our boat first took us to a giant cave on an island.  The boat pulls up to the cement dock stairway and then the music instantly starts.  It`s like we`re at disneyland! The load speaker is spitting out some form of traditional music followed by a vietnamese voice, and then an english voice.  Now we`re on the ride… She explains to keep the island clean by depositing all rubbage in the Penguin and Dolphin trash cans and stay on the path… Cross between Jurassic Park or Disneyland for sure.  We hiked up a short stairway to enter this massive cave.  It was totally unbelievable.  For the biggest cave we will probably ever see in our lives.  All in all it`s the size of a small mall after you`ve walked it all and it`s tall, a huge room of many forms and shapes. But, continuing with the disney theme, they`ve wired it with electricity and colored lights reflect off different walls or bottoms to represent water i guess or something… kinda crazy.  Still the natural beauty prevailed.  Van Whee took us through with his lazer light and pointed out all the shapes of people and creatures you could see, like when you`re looking at clouds.  But, he forgot to distribute enough drugs for the rest of us so we could be on his same plane….  After 25 minutes, we started to exit the cave, only to find the beautiful bay has now been encompassed by a massive wind and rain storm.  We cancelled the second cave we were to hike to and made our way down the slippery cement stairway to our Junk.
Now, we`re soaking wet and stuck on the boat realizing there went our afternoon of kayaking around the bay.  The boat starts its departure and we`re on our way to find cover in a cove around the bay.  As we`re moving along, I of course bring up whats the liklihood of a boat like this tipping over.  After Jeff and this guy from Boston discuss the decisions made its too big to tip, it would rather have to sink from hitting a rock or something.  Moments later, we hear a crash outside and one of the deck hands rushes inside and yells something loud and crazy that then results with all 20 of us franticlly moving to one side of the boat to balance it out.  The sound had come from two of the beautiful giant flower pots they had outside that were obviously not secured down as they slide around breaking and going overboard.  It seems that we had got caught at just the imperfect time in this wind tunnel between these two islands as we were trying to get around them.  It took about 10 minutes of shifting side to side and opening the windows so the rainy wind could blow through the ship rather than at it, until we were safely motored to cover.  Kinda crazy and exciting, at least since we survived it!
Since our afternoon was shot, we ended up taking a long nap in our actually very comfortable and cozy room.  Then dinner while we watched lightning and thunder surround us.
In the morning we awoke at 630 and hit up the kayaks now that it had cleared and the sun was beginning to shine.  We row`d around for 30 minutes or so then retreated to our room and warmed up before breakfast.  Then after our horrible cold breakfast, we motored over to Cat Ba island where we would spend the next night.
Now we seriously were on Jurassic Park.  We got in our little bus and drove through amazing limestone peaks where we were awaiting T Rex to jump out at any moment.  Unfortunately I guess we were a few million years too late.  Our first stop was the national park.  We hiked a short but gruesome hike to the top of a peak where we climbed a scary old rigidy army look out tower and gazed accross the mountain peaks.  And looking down at the old army base (VC army).  Very cool, but super scary,for me at least, Jeff I guess isn`t fazed much by heights, but half the people couldn`t even make it to the top.  I did, but I could feel my legs almost about to give out if I thought about it too hard, or looked down through the rusty old crate top.  After the trek we went to our mediocore hotel, had horrible lunch, then hit the beach up (cause now its sunny).  Went for a dip, sunbathed, then I got sick and couldn`t really leave the room, or toilet for that matter.  Not much going on the island but a lot of building.  There were whole areas cleared out with the giant billboards showing pictures of the future projects that looked like condominium developements and more resort  hotels… the new Phuket of vietnam, too bad.
On the third day we boat`d back about two hours to mainland, sunbathing on the top deck, not too shabby.
Bia Hoi, our only saving grace.  Translates to Beer Fresh.  Only 18 cents a mug if you can believe that! Tastes kinda like dirty fermented water at first, but after one or two you get used to it.  Its made by locals, unfermented and dranken on the street corners or little cafes.  That`s been part of our daily routine, meeting lots of expats from around the world that are here teaching english or own tourism copanies or restaurants.
Food, we`ve tride fried corn kernals rubbed in a butter custard thing (ultimate popcorn), squid jerky dipped in a sweet and hot sauce, kebabs, either in a pita or baguetts (decent), and more pho (still our first experience has been the best).
Now we`re loaded up on oranges and we`re getting on a 13 hour busride south to Hue in the middle of the DMZ (demilitarized zone) which at once was an imperial capitol and has an old citidel in it…. we`ll see.  Then Jeff just might have his luck as there may be surf at the infamous China Beach which is just south of Hue….
Overall, Hanoi is still in our tops.  We found out it is a city of around 8million now, with 6.5 million scooters! We`ll be uploading photos to prove it at the next stop.  Great people though, with some hasslers everywhere, but we`re used to it now….
Peace and love for now!
xostacy and jeff

food aside…. the bay was great.  our boat first took us to a giant cave on an island.  the boat pulls up to the cement dock stairway and then the music instantly starts.  it’s like we’re at disneyland!  the loud speaker is spitting out some form of traditional music followed by a vietnamese voice, and then an english voice.  now we’re on the ride… she explains to keep the island clean by depositing all rubbage in the penguin and dolphin trash cans and stay on the path… cross between jurassic park or disneyland for sure.

Van Whee and Captain, chugging beers, you just cant see it in the pic

van whee and captain, chugging beers, you just cant see it in the pic

we hiked up a short stairway to enter this massive cave.  it was totally unbelievable.  by far the biggest cave we will probably ever see in our lives.  all in all it’s the size of a small mall – a tall, huge room of many forms and shapes. but, continuing with the disney theme, they’ve wired it with electricity and colored lights reflect off different walls or bottoms to represent water i guess…or something… kinda crazy.  still, the natural beauty prevailed.  van whee took us through with his laser light and pointed out all the shapes of people and creatures you could see, like when you’re looking at clouds…but he forgot to distribute enough drugs for the rest of us so we could be in his same frame of mind….  after 25 minutes, we started to exit the cave, only to find the beautiful bay has now been encompassed by a massive wind and rain storm.  we cancelled the second cave we were to hike to and made our way down the slippery cement stairway to our junk.

rushing from one side of the boat to the other

rushing from one side of the boat to the other

now, we’re soaking wet and stuck on the boat realizing “there went our afternoon of kayaking around the bay.”  the boat starts its departure and we’re on our way to find cover in a cove around the bay.  as we’re moving along, I of course bring up “whats the likelihood of a boat like this tipping over?”  after jeff and this guy from boston discuss and come to the decision that it’s too big to tip, (rather it would have to sink from hitting a rock or something).  moments later, we hear a crash outside and one of the deck hands rushes inside and yells something loud and crazy that then results with all 20 of us frantically moving to one side of the boat to balance it out.  the sound had come from two of the beautiful giant flower pots they had outside that were obviously not secured down as they slide around breaking and flying overboard.  it seems that we had got caught at just the imperfect time in this wind tunnel between these two islands as we were trying to get around them.

our nice room below deck

our nice room below deck

it took about 10 minutes of shifting side to side and opening the windows so the rainy wind could blow through the ship rather than at it, until we had safely motored to cover.  kinda crazy and exciting – at least since we survived it!

since our afternoon was shot, we ended up taking a long nap in our actually very comfortable and cozy room.  then dinner while we watched the lightning and thunder that surround us.

in the morning we awoke at 6:30 and hit up the kayaks now that it had cleared and the sun was beginning to shine.  we rowed around for 30 minutes or so then retreated to our room and warmed up before breakfast.  then after our horrible cold breakfast, we motored over to cat ba island where we would spend the next night.

view of the island from our kayak

view of the island from our kayak

now we seriously were on jurassic park.  we got in our little bus and drove through amazing limestone peaks where we were awaiting t rex to jump out at any moment.  unfortunately i guess we were a few million years too late.  our first stop was the national park.  we hiked a short but gruesome hike to the top of a peak where we climbed a scary old rickety army look-out tower and gazed across the mountain peaks and could look down at the old army base (vc army).  very cool, but super scary, for me at least.  jeff isn’t fazed much by heights, but half the people couldn’t even make it to the top.  i did, but i could feel my legs almost about to give out if i thought about it too hard, or looked down through the rusty old crate top.

fishing village

fishing village

after the trek we went to our mediocre hotel, had a horrible lunch, then hit up the beach (cause now it’s sunny).  we went for a dip, sunbathed, then i got sick and couldn’t really leave the room, or toilet for that matter.  not much going on on the island but a lot of building.  there were whole areas cleared out with the giant billboards showing pictures of the future projects that looked like condominium developments and more resort  hotels… the new phuket of vietnam – too bad.

on the third day we boated back about two hours to mainland, sunbathing on the top deck, not too shabby.

floating villages

floating villages

bia hoi – our only saving grace – translates to beer fresh.  only 18 cents a mug if you can believe that!  tastes kinda like dirty fermented water at first, but after one or two you get used to it.  it’s made by locals, unfermented and drank on the street corners or in little cafes.  that’s been part of our daily routine, in addition to meeting lots of expats from around the world that are here teaching english or who own tourism companies or restaurants.

food, we’ve tried fried corn kernels rubbed in a butter custard thing (ultimate popcorn), squid jerky dipped in a sweet and hot sauce, kebabs, either in a pita or baguettes (decent), and more pho (still our first experience has been the best).

kayaking couple

kayaking couple

now we’re loaded up on oranges and we’re getting on a 13 hour bus ride south to hue in the middle of the DMZ (de-militarized zone) which once was an imperial capitol and has an old citadel in it…. we’ll see.  then jeff just might have his luck as there may be surf at the infamous china beach which is just south of hue….

overall, hanoi is still in our tops.  we found out it is a city of around 8 million now, with 6.5 million scooters! we’ll be uploading photos to prove it at the next stop.  great people though, with some hasslers everywhere, but we’re used to it now….

peace and love!

xo, stacy and jeff”

rusty stairs

rusty stairs

at top of peak

at top of peak

mountain views

mountain views

top of lookout tower

top of lookout tower

lookin down

lookin down

sign on top

sign on top

seriously tall

seriously tall

and seriously old and rusty...missing last step!

and seriously old and rusty...missing last step!

from below looking up

from below looking up

army barracks

army barracks

old army barracks

old army barracks

cat ba harbor

cat ba harbor

jeff takin a dip

jeff takin a dip

sunset

sunset

3rd day on the boat and sunny!

3rd day on the boat and sunny!

always sportin the flag

always sportin the flag

view off junk deck

view off junk deck

front of boat

front of boat

this does no justice to show how many there really are

this does no justice to show how many there really are

beer hoi

beer hoi

motor transport for anything and everything

motor transport for anything and everything

lunch

lunch

Guest Blog – Jeff & Stacy do SE Asia (19 of 40)

now departing the bay of halong city

now departing the bay of halong city

startin the boat tour…
“it’s amazing, our seventh day here in hanoi and we’re still walking down little streets and alleys we hadn’t done before… something always new!

we departed from the old quarter on friday the 13th to halong bay, which in vietnamese means, ‘descent of the dragon’ because if you were to fly over the bay, all the islands would look like a dragon…but from the boat it’s hard to tell.

view of the bay

view of the bay

the book actually recommends taking a tour to do halong bay because it’s just too complicated and expensive to do it on your own.  so after a day devoted to finding the REAL tourist companies that are listed in the book, we had a better idea on what we wanted.

we settled on a $53 each tour, three days two nights, one night on the boat, the other on the only inhabited island, cat ba.  we were tempted to go for a higher priced tour guaranteeing more kayaking and boating, less island, but after all was said and done, we figured it’s all the same bay, so lets save a buck.  all tours are ‘all inclusive’ minus drinks.

jeff on deck

jeff on deck

we left at 8:30am in a short bus with 18 other tourists and our tour guide van whee.  as our trip began, our lovable crazy tour guide began his orientation to us in his best english that was very hilarious and slightly frustrating.  we did learn some history of hanoi, traffic laws, history of halong and that he called the bathroom the ‘happy room’ cause you always come out happier… usually true.

after 3 hours we arrived at the harbor of halong city.  not much to see thus far.  plus it’s slightly misty/foggy so our sight could only go so far.  but the city itself is highrises, big bridges, not much to see.

we were loaded on our junk (that’s what they call a boat) and off we went!

more about the boar trip later…..”

nice weather, eh?

nice weather, eh?

stacy on deck

stacy on deck

Guest Blog – Stacy & Jeff do SE Asia (18 of 40)

ho chi minh statue

ho chi minh statue

uncle ho…
today we saw uncle ho.  really we saw him in his own flesh…. embalmed of course.  at the ho chi minh mausoleum, you stand in this thick long line for about thirty minutes and you swiftly move along the outside until you reach the ‘lotus building‘ what looks like a square with pillars, and you silently enter in and weave around to where he rests…. a big, ornamental, glass coffin, resting with his hand layed upon his chest, ‘peacefully sleeping’.  you walk steady around and past him as well as the 6 manikin-like guards beside him, and then out you go.  through this there’s no pictures, bags, anything – you check all that in.  it’s a free sight, as many pilgrimages here often are.  pretty crazy, don’t know how often we’ll see something like that in our lives.  uncle ho wanted to be cremated, but after his death, his followers thought only fit to follow suit of lenin and stalin and embalm him…. crazy stuff.

breakdancers

breakdancers

after this we had our first real pho experience.  this one was pho bo (beef noodle soup, at least we hope, as we did see more fido being offered just up the street, in a real restaurant in the open )…. the grandma, lookin pretty damn old, sat us down and with no words exchanged. we saw her grab a wad of raw minced beef, throw it in a woven basket spoon, hold it in the boiling water, then dump it atop rice noodles with fresh chives, pepper , salt, and poured over a broth, and then placed these plentiful bowls in front.  that was good enough for us, we thought…. then she grabbed a plate of chicken, a plate of spring rolls and meatball things, a bowl of fresh greens (mint, coriander, lettuce), a jar of garlic, and a spicy soy sauce concoction, and began serving away…. she took much of each and dipped it in one sauce and then threw it all on top of our bowls…it was actually outrageous.  so much food and flavors and really good – as long as you didn’t look too close as what was in the meatballs or the spring rolls…..i’m sure it was all okay to eat  ; )  chased down with two room temp canned heineken, and quite a meal.  we seriously felt like we were hansel and gretal at the candy house, she would NOT stop giving us chow… after we got across we couldn’t eat anymore pho, she had her sweet smiley granddaughter clear our plates… then the bananas came out and the hot tea… we just couldn’t get enough i guess.  by this time jeff and i are cracking up at how she just won’t let down… but we know, there’s gonna be a price to it all.  and of course, she then asks for $200,000 dong (15 bucks about….) and we’re like hell no.  we figured it probably should have been around 80,000 dong, so we left her 100,000 and walked away with her shouting at us.  we passed by her again later and waved and it was all smiles

evening excercise

evening excercise

after pho time, we went to the temple of literature, the 1st school in vietnam, built in 1075 i believe.  very cool old buildings and beautiful property.

vietnam doesn’t seem to have much if any copyright laws.  the book says it’s in the works but, for now, anything goes.  so what this means is if you have one successful restaurant, hotel, tour company, store of any kind, there will be at least 10 copy cats anywhere, even if it means all 10 are lined up right next door.  it’s hilariously frustrating when you’re looking for the right one, or just trying not to go in circles when, around every corner, you see the same names…. if we’re looking for something out of the book then we just make sure the addresses really match up.  and speaking of books, we bought two:  lonely planet vietnam and mr. nice (aussie book), and both are photocopies! the covers are photocopied on hard back so you would never know… its crazy out here!

the pho shebang

the 'pho' shebang

tomorrow we head to halong bay for 3 days on a junk (boat) and to stay on an island…. should be cool!  the weather is warm to cool with a slight mist, so it’s almost perfect.  the first day we didn’t have any mist and it was perfect, but still, the mist is just that, there’s no wind, so calm seas should lie ahead….

xxxoo jeff and stacy

pho grandma and prodigy

pho grandma and prodigy

temple of literature enterance

temple of literature enterance

hello!

hello!

literature grounds

literature grounds

doctorines plaques

'doctorines' plaques

music video being filmed

music video being filmed

old

old

incense dragon

incense dragon

cool view

cool view

freaky giant turtle

freaky giant turtle

Guest Blog – Stacy & Jeff do SE Asia (17 of 40)

view of old quarter over hanoi

view of old quarter over hanoi

it’s day three in hanoi and we’re still diggin it.  a city of 3 million, its got an amazing amount of character and charm, of course with the daily tourist scams, but we’d be surprised if there weren’t any.

view of lake from cafe

view of lake from cafe

on our first day we walked around ‘old quarter‘ where we’re staying to get our barrings.  first things first – coffee.  the book raves about the coffee here so we gave it a try.  the first cafe we saw was more of a club, but with a fabulous view so we said what the heck.  on the 6th floor balcony we were overlooking the lake on one side and the old quarter on the other.  and the coffee had like 6 shots of espresso, thick espresso, topped off with warm sweet milk, if you like…rip the enamel right off those pearly whites.  this ‘cafe’ was something we could never afford to go to in the states as looked like the swankiest club in vegas…but for us, a mere $5.00 for two coffees and a pineapple/carrot shake…. sure not really on our backpackers budget, but what a view…

strong coffees and shake... notice the carved carrot...

strong coffees and shake... notice the carved carrot...

the old quarter definitely has a french feel to the architecture, but the streets are everything you’d expect of a bustling asian city.  motor bikes, bicycles, and cars, zooming every which way.  horns going off everywhere!  but to tell you the truth, even a blind man could cross the road here, you just gotta keep moving (never stop!) and the traffic weaves around you like a river around a rock.

each street specializes in one thing, be it aluminum materials, silk cloth, musical instruments, chinese lanterns, flowers, plush toys, plastic toys, you name it.  it’s like one giant store and each street serves as an aisle.

the lake we’re at has been here for thousands of years, hanoi itself is something like 545 days until its 1000 year anniversary (there’s banners and billboards countin’ down).

legend has it the dynastic leader at the time, ly, was sent a sword from the gods and defeated the chinese with it, and then a giant turtle

mmm...coffee

mmm...coffee

from this lake came up and grabbed it from his hands, taking it below and returning to the gods

where it came from…. still today there really are giant turtles in the lake, but you only see them maybe once every two years, so consider yourself damn lucky if you do! we did, but embalmed on a temple island on the lake, looks more like a giant seal or something stuffed in a shell….

water puppetry is an ancient form of entertainment, originally started at the rice paddies… the puppets are made from fig trees with dye from foods.  they use a stick to move the puppets from afar, and back in the day, these experienced puppeteers would get water borne diseases. yuck.  puppeteers have at least a minimum of 3 years experience.  now, its done in theatres, clean water, and they wear waders.  we saw it, pretty cool.  check out the pics.

roof tops

roof tops

eel or snake?  in food market, of course!

eel or snake? in food market, of course!

want some bananas?

want some bananas?

what a load

what a load

flowers!

flowers!

flower bike

flower bike

old quarter street corner

old quarter street corner

ancient bridge

ancient bridge

fruit bikes

fruit bikes

house

house

jeff in street

jeff in street

oranges

oranges

jeff lookin like a natural

jeff lookin like a natural

old wall

old wall

old quarter on the lake by night

old quarter on the lake by night

turtle temple island

turtle temple island

pagoda, the symbol of hanoi

pagoda, the symbol of hanoi

tower

tower

cool old trunk

cool old trunk

bridge

bridge

water puppet parade

water puppet parade

the puppet masters

the puppet masters

Guest Blog – Stacy & Jeff do SE Asia (16 of 40)

got baguette?

got baguette?

vietnam
“well we made it.  and with that said we’ve already encountered/checked off things we knew would occur… we signed up for our 24hour bus ride at $19.00 each.  nothing to write home about, but at least it wasn’t the worst.  they drove us 7 hours to the border and then we stayed there until it opened up at 6am.  once it got light out we could see we had already crossed a major weather barrier:  it was foggy and misty and cool… a nice change, but we were still in shorts and t-shirts and flops.. not really prepared.  after we got pulled around the border crossing they (like normal), were demanding more money, and then we were left in the rain to walk through ‘no mans land’ (the inbetween laos and vietnam).  but we made it back on the bus, passport in hand, soaking wet and cold (see pics).

arch of vien tien

arch of vien tien

our first stop was the classic bus owned road side restaurant where everyone gets off, chows down quickly, goes pee and even brushes their teeth (we’ve done this one many times by now).  but here we tried our first pho and co.  the first is the famous noodle soup, the second is a rice dish… both pretty good, but I know we’ll find better. on the bus there was about 6 of us ‘farungs‘ and the rest locals of vietnam.  not too much interaction occurred until the bus started to thin out in vietnam and seating arrangements were rearranged.  we finally started our interaction.  one guy knew very little english, but enough to get a convo going.  he asked us where we were from, but he couldn’t understand us.  we proceeded with age questions, travel, etc… then he asked again where we were  from so pulled out our trusty map and pointed to the states.  that’s when it came, the big long “ooooohhhhh…..” then silence for a few minutes.

laos arch

laos arch

we weren’t sure how to take it and have been wondering what it was gonna be like since neither of us experienced the war and were not that affected by it…. he then broke the silence with a smile saying how many many vietnamese were killed in the war. we nodded in agreement, curiously wondering what they were thinking.  he continued on and we figured him and jeff are the same age so they went off that for a bit, then he explained how his older brother was sent to the states in 1975 at the age of 9, and has been there ever since.  he’s now a doctor in california (area code 714 – he showed us, but we’re not sure where that is…) and he sends home $1000-3000 every christmas since, the way things worked out, he is more successful now whereas the local brother we were talking to barely scrapes up the change. his buddy then explained his father was killed in 1974 in the war, but he was only 1 year old, so he never knew him.  the whole conversation was a very interesting experience and we know we’ve got lots more to come.  but there was smiles and even laughter so we felt in good company.  i do have to say that it’s heart wrenching looking into the eyes of the elders here knowing they DID live and breath through the war and that we have no idea what that was like….

box wine...makes a bus ride smooth

box wine...makes a bus ride smooth

then, we saw it…just what we were hoping to not see – what we were thinking could just be rumors…. fido on a stick…well almost (he was on his way).  a lady on the side of the road was prepping her dead ‘fido’ (i just can’t bring myself to say it..) for the next stages in the kitchen…we continued on down the road and noticed quite a lot of dogs chained up on the side of buildings…keep in mind we’re in 3rd world countries here where dogs normally roam free and wild…so this was a dead give away…… now we have a lot more to explore, as this was all on our little bus ride.  hanoi is huge, 3 million i think.  we’re in the old quarter at a clean decent hotel – for 10 bucks, free internet, and dinner in our room….not too shabby! we got in at dark, so tomorrow we explore around… now we’ve got our box of wine from the bus to finish while chowing down on spring rolls….. peace and love always…”

walking in the rain

walking in the rain

jeff like pineapple

jeff like pineapple

yum

yum

Guest Blog – Stacy & Jeff do SE Asia (15 of 40)

bike ride

bike ride

mountain bikes…
“we decided in the morning to rent some mountain bikes and go for a ride to to numerous caves and blue lagoons that lie within the limestone mountains.

we spent the day swimming in the blue lagoon and lounging in the shade. we then completed the ride it was around 30km and took us  into different villages and across many rivers.  i must say the next day we were sore and i think that was our first bit of exercise in months.

everyone comes to this town for one thing:  tubing.  you rent a tube take a tuk tuk up the river where you are dropped off at the first bar. spring break here we come!  ’i remember back in 1989…’ oh sorry that’s another story.

blue lagoon

blue lagoon

lots of loud music ,drinking and a giant rope swing - its a great place to get lubed up and watch the daring tourists swinging out of a tree to drop 30 ft into the river. lots of good laughs watching everyone. one thing they do is write on themselves with a permanent marker [see the blog pictures for more] everyone is just having fun in the sun.

by the way we didn’t rent a tube we just swam the whole way. the tube rental is about $10 us dollars with a $5 deposit and we thought the money was better spent on alcohol. next you swim to the other bar where they greet you with shots of whiskey and a chance to ride their rope swing. so by now im feeling pretty good so i try it out. we spent the next hour jumping off the platform and riding the cable swing into the water.

next across the river to another bar and rope swing.  now both stacy and i  are ready for the rope swings. we had lots of fun and good laughs as we swung across the river into the water. i don’t have to tell you that we had a good buzz by now. so off to the next and here we have a giant concrete slide that launches you into the air and down into the river.  this is a blast but very dangerous. i think i cracked a rib or something – the next few days will tell. stacy launched herself into the river and came up with a huge smile…always good to see.

cool tree

cool tree

everyone at this point is feeling great and the party still going strong. we stuck it out till the sun was going down and grabbed a tuk tuk back to town. its funny to watch as the people come back you see some really drunk people. some don’t even know where they are or how they got here!

we ended the evening after a nap with a cool couple we met up in luang prabang.  she was from ecuador and her husband from switzerland where they now lived.  had a great time comparing countries, travel experiences, and the everyday life.  hopefully we’ll see them again down the road.

we may leave tomorrow down to vien tiane and then work our way to vietnam, we’ll see.  first another swim in the river with the local kids before the sun goes down.  if we don’t get out of town now we’ll coaxed into doing the tubing again with one of our new friends, celebrating his 30th b-day tomorrow. it’d probably be in our best interest (and safety) to get out while we can.

thanks for keeping up with us, we love reading your comments and emails!

peace and love and tubing!”

jeff & spanish friends

jeff & spanish friends

giant limestone rock

giant limestone rock

lots of cows!

lots of cows!

kids splashing

kids splashing

swimming

swimming

river crossing with our bikes

river crossing with our bikes

locals crossing

locals crossing

zipline
jeff jumpin

jeff jumpin

jeff smiling

jeff smiling

sunset

sunset

Guest Blog – Stacy & Jeff do SE Asia (14 of 40)

crossing the river in protest of the toll bridge

crossing the river in protest of the toll bridge

party on the river…
“blazing through the towering limestone mountains of laos to the river town of vang vieng we arrive in our mini bus.

so we’ve been taking lots of minibuses and each time you think your going to be riding in the brand new one sitting at the bus station, but when the time comes they always bring the old van around from the back. well, our luck has changed and we finally had the pleasure our of riding in a new minivan with a great ac and plenty of power.  since the car was so new our driver was a litttle timid and liked to brake when diving up hill.  oh well, the ac worked great.

our bungalows, jeff and his beer

our bungalows, jeff and his beer

the landscape is beautiful here in laos.  we loved thailand but here it’s all blue skies and greenery with the classic limestone giants towering in the air.

we found a nice bungalow across the river down towards the end of town.  when we arrived at the bridge to cross, they wanted 4000kp to cross, so we decided just to walk across the water instead.  having to wade across the river each time you want to go home makes for a great adventure – plus you can go for a swim and cool off!

our first night we joined our travel friends for a great meal on the streets.  we tried the fried morning glory and fired noodles with chicken and chased it down with a large beer lao. then we went to the bucket bar for a bucket of wiskey.  in asia it seems to be your best value but the hangover is very bad.  even worse was the dj who was playing at the club.  so we sat and watch 3 boys that look like girls dance and grind on the pole – not a pretty sight.  it seemd to work because every 10 minutes or so you would see a guy walk up and go for a hug, then jump back 5 feet and run away while his buddies would laugh.

more about our mountain bike excursion next time…”

sunrise

sunrise

Guest Blog – Jeff & Stacy do SE Asia (13 of 40)

monks playing football

monks playing football

back on the tuk tuk …
“to the public bus stop.

well we made it to our furthest northern town of chaing sien. this little town sits on the mekong river near the famous golden triangle.

we found a great little guest house that sits just outside the old city walls. thinking that we could walk there we turned down the tuk tuk driver (fare was a doller) and made our way down the street strolling along the mekong river. temperature was in the 90′s, our packs weigh a good amount, yet we were determined to walk, because as a backpacker that’s what you do to save a dollar.

after we settled in we walked back to town for a meal at the local street vender. i had chinese chicken rice which was prepared over a bed of japanese mesquite fire, then was flashed in a dry red curry powder and sprinkled with fresh corriander. stacy had the red pork on baby greens. her dish was prepared from 2 month aged pork that had been smoked with candy apples, figs and a hint of honey. amazing!

luang prabang tuk tuk

luang prabang tuk tuk

the next day we rented a motorbike and head to the golden triangle where you can see burma, laos, and thailand all meet on the mekong. they burn all the under brush in this part of the world so its hard to see much of anything in the distance, but we were able to appreciate the beauty.

after that, we set out to see the wats (or temples) that sit on the hillsides of chaing sien. very impressive with buhhda and all his monks chillin in their orange robes.  we then tried to catch the sunset at a nearby lake that captures  the beauty of the lotus flowers and the orchestra of the numerous wild birds. we ended our day with a great meal on the river. street venders throw down bamboo mats and tables and serve you a great meal with beers and local wiskey.

the next day we were on our way to laos on a 2 day slow boat down the mekong river. the border on the laos side was a little unorganized. after we filled out the forms we stood in a line (or what looks like a line) to wait and wait to give our passport and 35 american dollars to the officials.
grand palace now museum

grand palace now museum

after that, the boat company gets all the travelers together for a speech on the laos boat trip. first they tell us that on the first day we will be on the boat for 12 hours and that our lives are at risk.

we spend the night at a river town and again the boat guy tells us that we might have our luggage stolen off the boat by villagers, that there is also no electricity, very few rooms available and, to top it all off, we could DIE.

at that point i had to leave to get a beer because everywhere we went there is a scam and we have heard it many times. this whole speech is being given so they can talk people into taking the bus for an additional 300 baht.

overall, the boat trip was a great time with travelers from all over the world. they had a bar with food, the seats were wood benches that suck after about 30 min, but lucky for us the first day was only 7 hours long.

peace

peace

we arrived to a great little village with friendly locals and plenty of places to stay. a bit more expensive but nice. we ate at a great indian/laos resturant to fuel up for our second day.

second day was great with lots of time to take in the beauty of the river and chat with the other travelers – this trip took about 10hrs. now we are in luang prabang checkin it out. seems to be more french influence here with fresh baguettes and wine stores along the narrow streets.

we’re leaving in a day to vang vieng to see more and keep the adventure exciting and new….”

Guest Blog – Stacy & Jeff do SE Asia (11 of 40)

elephant ride

burning butts and tongues…
“my butt is killing me and jeffs inner thighs are a burning…. we finally rode the chang.  his name was niompio, and was a male at the age of 30 years old.  we chose to go barback rather than the chair.  we were able to go for an 1 and a half, any long erwould have killed us both! but, we did it, we rode an elephant. 

we started through the dry forest, our helper dude ‘chicken’ on the head, stacy at the riens and jeff in the back holding on.  it was like riding the biggest horse ever – bareback… and then throw in the scaley ruff skin with three inch long hairs pointing into you.  and man was he slow!  and hungry. 

lets wok with tee

"lets wok with tee"

there was a few times when we both thought he was gonna roll us over so he could get to some food.  but after 45 minutes of riding on his back, we made it down to the river where he ‘bathed’ us with his trunk, and then doused us by rolling us over.  very intimidating the first few times feeling this giant elephant rolling over and sending you over too, only for him to maybe land on you.  but he didn’t. 

after riding him like a bronco and getting dumped on, we were completely drenched and cracking up.  great experience, but man were we sore the next two days….

‘let’s wok with tee!’  that was our cooking class.  we shopped around and went with this one.  when we arrived the first night just checking things out, we were immediately invited in to watch the current class going on and given whiskey and then served dinner…all for free. 

tee’s 34, from eastern thailand but went and holiday’d in pai 12 years ago and hasn’t left since, so he’s making his living through these classes. 

we started at 10am (no whiskey this early) and went over all the veggies and herbs most commonly used.  he realy just made you feel like you were at your own house, good tunes, casual and slow.  we picked out some curry pastes to make and then worked away. jeff made red curry paste which he turned into panang curry and i made masuman curry and dish. 

thai basil

thai basil

after 3 hours we had quite a feast.  then we took a break til 5:30 and returned to tee’s for stirfry.  we chilled a little more, drank some whiskey, got to know eachother a little more, learned all about sauces, and stir fried away… jeff made burnt red curry dish, i made holy basil with minced pork.  jeff then made our fav, green papaya salad, and i made tom yum soup… all along tee made dishes too that we picked out for him.  a great time, totally at our pace and retainable.  plus we’ve got a great cook book to go home with…..

we’ll have the dinner party when we get back and our in the mood for thai food again….”