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 (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