A Travellerspoint blog

Our Shortest Blog

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We just wanted to update you on our travels. We did make it safely to Italy and have been enjoying ourselves the past 11 days. We have been sight seeing, relaxing and of course eating a lot of yummy food....maybe too much...is that possible?!? We will be meeting up with our friends Damian and Melissa tomorrow at a Villa that has been rented out in the Chianti region of Tuscany and will spend a week in the region with them and celebrate their wedding on Thursday Sept 4th. Kinda funny that Breezy's best friend is getting married the day after we did:)

But sadly....internet is rather expensive here in Italy so this is just a quick blog posting. We will be back in the states on Sept 11th and so after then we will post a few good blogs with photos for our Italy time. We hope you are all doing well and can't wait to see as many of you as possible once we return!

Toni and Breezy

Posted by Breezy13 08:02 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Hittin the Beaches of Southern Thailand

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This blog should be rather short and sweet, since we have spent the past couple weeks relaxing on the east coast of Southern Thailand. We had been eagerly awaiting our beach time since we were in the heat of India, so as you can imagine we felt it was long over-due. We had originally planned on seeing both the west coast beaches of Thailand....famous for beautiful limestone cliffs shooting out of the water....currently in monsoon season, and hitting the islands on the east coast. We decided we deserved some wonderful weather so needless to say we started with the islands on the east coast. The weather was so amazing that we never made it to the west coast....we have to save something for next time.

We were very happy to get to meet up with our Irish friends Rob and Lorraine once again. This time around there were six of us since their friends Steve and Gemma were on holidays from Ireland as well. We started on the island of Ko Samui which is the largest of the three islands. We weren't sure if it was really what we were looking for because it is one of the more developed and commercialized islands. But we found a great beach on the northwest part of the island away from the 7-11's and McDonalds. We relaxed on the beach here for a couple of days but the group was itchin to see what else was out there. So on our third day we headed to the next largest island Ko Phangan.

At Ko Phangan Breezy and I were both in search of a bungalow with its own hammock on the porch. It didn't take too long for our dreams to come true. Our first few nights we stayed in what we all called "butt beach" (the proper Thai name was Hat Thong Nai Pan Yai) but the beach and it's sister beach made the shape of a cute bum on the map. So for us foriegners it was much easier to remember. While here we did our fair share of relaxing in the hammock, reading, swimming, playing frisbee and just hanging out. One evening we did motivate to rent kayaks and kayak across the bay to the other half of the bum. We were suprised when we made it to the other beach right in time for happy hour, so we figured we would stay for a beer.

The following day we chartered a long tail boat to take us out for the day. In Mexico you can do the full day booze-cruise with activities and beer. They didn't have that to offer so we made our own trip. Our first stop was a cove known for its live coral. None of us were expecting the coral to be so close and as it turned out a few in the group cut up their feet. Yes, coral really is as sharp as they say it is. But it was neat to bob around and see the ecosystem below. I was having a great time until I bobbed right by a hot pink jelly fish the size of a large grapefruit. After that I was done snorkeling:) The boat then took us to Hadd Khuat or Bottle Beach, which is known for its seclusion. The only way to get to this beach is by boat or a 4km walk. Aside from the 4 bungalow resorts, there isn't much else on Bottle Beach. But it was just what we were looking for. So I scouted out the options that we could mover to the next day in between playing on the beach. After a few hours here we were off to our final destination. Ko Phangan is suppose to have some beautiful waterfalls....but I guess since we were there at the end of the dry season they just weren't too spectacular. Needless to say, we were far from impressed with the waterfall we walked up to. But we still had a great day.

After 3 nights at butt beach, the whole group decided to head to the remote Bottle Beach, which Breezy and I ended up staying at for the last week of our time. Call us lazy, but we figured that we have seen enough in the past 6 months and it was nice not to have to figure out where we were going for a whole week. Our last week consisted of eating, sitting in the sun or in the hammock and reading, eating some more, playing frisbee and volleyball, eating, snorkeling in the bay and hiking to the scenic overlook...ah yes, and eating a little more.

For those of you who are familiar with SE Asia you already know that Ko Phangan is home to the famous Full Moon Party. As much as Breezy wanted to go, unfortunately we had to head back to BKK the same night as the party. But hanging out with the Irish was almost like having a full moon party every night:) We had our very own 1/2 moon party:) The time eventually came for us to say goodbye to Rob, Lorraine, Steve and Gema. We are hoping that we have convinced Rob and Lorraine to come and visit us in Colorado on their way back to Ireland. It was sad to have to part ways. Then a few days later it was our turn to say goodbye to Bottle Beach and head back via long tail boat, truck taxi, catamaran and bus (about 18 hours) to Bangkok.

We are down to our last few hours in SE Asia before taking off for our 8th and final country.....ITALY! So the next time you hear from us we will be writing about Italy. Hope you are all doing well and we will look forward to seeing many of you next month.

Breezy and Toni

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lazy hammock reading...hmmmmm
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Waterproof lightbulb container....
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hungry cat trying to steal my beer
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All of us saying goodbye
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From the view point
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da beach
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The boat we left on

Posted by Breezy13 00:25 Archived in Thailand Comments (2)

Cambodia

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Wow, its hard to believe that we have "been there and done that" with Cambodia. We only spent about a week in the country checking out only the major attractions. We knew that the beaches of Southern Thailand would follow, so we decided to keep Cambodia short and sweet to allow more time for the beaches:) But we definitely saw a bunch.

We started out in the capital city of Phnom Penh as mentioned in our last blog, our first day there was election day and many of the sights were closed. So we were left with just one day to see the sights in the city. Phnom Penh is marked with reminders of the countries horrific past with the Khmer Rouge of the 1970's. For those of you that are not familiar with Cambodian history (I sure wasn't before our visit) let me give you a quick recap so you better understand some of our photos and what we saw.

In the 1960s Cambodia was also sucked in to the Vietnam War. The US began secret bombings on suspected communist base camps. This continued for years until around 1970 when US and S Vietnamese troops invaded the country to get rid of the Vietnamese communist forces, which didn't work. The fighting only ended on April 17th 1975, when Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge took over the capital city of Phnom Penh. When they first arrived they were embraced by the locals. But shortly after, Pol Pot forced the people to evacuate the city and move to the country. He had this "1984" (just like the book) vision for the country. For the next 4 years, hundreds of thousands of Cambodians (including the vast majority of the educated) were relocated in to the country and were force to work the rice fields. The money was abolished along with books, history and anything that reflected education. People who spoke foreign languages or seemed educated were thought of as "parasites" and so were killed. Many who survived the city evacuation and who's intelligence were not considered a threat to the regime eventually died in the countryside due to mistreatment, malnutrition and disease. They figure about 2 million people (about a quarter of the country's population) died as a direct result of the Khmer Rouge between 1975 and 1979. The most disheartening part of it is that to this day they have yet to bring anyone to justice for the murders of millions. Finally in 1978 Vietnam invaded and overthrew the Khmer Rouge. The country has come a long way since then. But it was crazy to look at anyone 30 years or older and wonder how they were directly effected by the Khmer Rouge. Such a crazy sad past that I really never knew about before travelling to Cambodia.

So anyhow, while in Phnom Penh we knew that we had to see some of the sites reflecting this brutal part of Cambodia's past. Our first stop were the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek. Here they have built a stupa as a memorial to the 17,000 people who were executed by the Khmer Rouge. There were about 129 mass graves at the site and inside the stupa there were thousands of skulls found during the excavations in the 1980's. The stupa was a beautiful memorial but as we walked around the grounds it was unsettling to see clothes in the ground and realize that they belonged to the victims.

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Clothes still in the ground, with human bones.

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Thousands of skulls were in here.

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mass grave, the sign says something about headless bodies....

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Not sure what this says, just looked cool

After the Killing Fields we then went to the Tuol Sleng Museum. The museum was originally a school but in 1975 Pol Pot's forces turned it into Security Prison 21, which was the largest detention/torcher center in the country. In one building the rooms are remenisant to how they were while they were being used. Very basic with a metal bed in the middle of the room, some beds still had chains on the bed or a variety of torture devices. There were also graphic photos on the walls showing the different prisoners lying deceased on their beds. Definitely not a place to take someone who is prone to nightmares. Other buildings had walls lined with mug shots of the different victims. It was crazy to know that the crimes of many of the victims here might have only been their profession (doctor, lawyers, scientist) or being the family member of the educated. They also had a collection of the different torture devices used on the victims. It definitely gives you a glimpse of the darkers side of the country's history.

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After spending a day in Phnom Penh witnessing the horrors of the Khmer Rouge we were ready to head to Siem Reap to take in a more positive aspect of Cambodia's history......Angkor Wat.

(Breezy writing now)
Angkor Wat is AWESOME!!!! Hundreds of square miles of ruins, large stone heads and lots of jungle mixed in. The huge religous temples were built between the 9th and 13th centuries and later abondonded and reclaimed by the jungle. Around 1860 some french dude stumbled into them on accident and later wrote a paper that caught the attention of the western world, which felt this would be a great way to exploit a poor country.....I made that last part up. We hired a tuk tuk driver named Po(we kept saying "call the po po ho, call the po po ho" and giggled but I don't think Po got it) to show us the sites. The place is ginormous and the heat made it torture to bike around. So after three days of this fat and lazy site seeing we got the hell out of cambodia via another pleasure bus ride, weeeeeeeeeeeeeeee. This one was a bit better than the one we took into the country, but the roads suck. It must have rained a couple of inches the night before and the dirt road/highway turned into red slop. I was lucky enough to have my window open when a motorcycle rode by and splashed a large amount of this red slop right into my face and shirt, ha ha laugh it up chuckles. At the border we were greeted by a much nicer so called VIP bus that took us to Bangkok. We just happened to get there the same time our Irish friends were getting back from their travels. Reunited we headed south to the beaches, YEA!!! At this moment we are wasting valuble lazy beach time so we bid you farewell for now. Hope everyone is doing well!!

T&B

Here are a bunch of Angkor Wat(WhaT?) pictures.

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I'm silly

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Hangin with Po

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Snake bite wiskey, looks like crap to me....

And here's a new map, whoa!

Posted by Breezy13 22:39 Archived in Cambodia Comments (0)

Southern Laos

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I must say that this past week we have slowed our drinking back down to normal. I blame the Irish couple that we had been hanging out with:) But in all seriousness we spent this past week doing less drinking and more sightseeing. We started last week before leaving the city of Vientiane. We spent an afternoon seeing the sights of the laidback capital of Laos. One of the sights was Patuxai which resembles the Arch de Triumph in France. The arch was actually built in the 60's with U.S. funded cement that the U.S. government had given the Lao government to build a new airport. But apparently the Lao government felt that they needed an arch landmark more than an airport:)

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Another sight that we saw that day was Pha That Luang, which in Lao is more than just your average wat/temple. It is actually the country's most important national monument. In fact they have a photo of the wat on the back of all of their currency. We were rather impressed with the golden wat ourselves. As with most of Lao it was so nice not to have to deal with crowds. There were only a couple other tourist there with us and a few smiling monks. It was nice to get to enjoy the peacefulness of the wat.

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After seeing the major sites that the city had to offer we boarded a night sleeper bus to southern Laos about 12 hours away. This was our first experience with a sleeper bus and I must say I enjoyed it. I however, can fall asleep most anywhere and growing up taking family road trips and sleeping in the back of a van while we were travelling was like old times for me. Breezy on the other hand didn't sleep as sound as I did. But we both agreed that it was a nice way to travel. Especially waking up the next morning to the most incredible sunrise with the green landscape in the foreground. What a great way to start the day. We ended up staying a day in Pakse which would be considered a city in Lao terms. But it seemed like a strange city......there were actually more monks on the streets than vehicles.....only in Lao.

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The next day we headed further south to Si Phan Don or the 4000 Islands. This is the point in the Mekong's 4300 km journey where it is at it's widest. In the rainy season the river can fill out to a 14km breadth. As we learned there are only 3 islands in the 4000 Islands that tourist can stay. We opted for one of the two islands that still does not have electricity, Don Det Island. We caught a small wooden boat from the mainland and rode about 15 minutes to Don Det. By chance, our boat driver, Mr Phao, rented his own bungalows right on the river. One look at his garden, the simple but clean bungalows with 2 hammocks on the pourch overlooking the Mekong and we knew we found our little piece of Lao heaven.

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The best part was that we only paid abut $2.50USD a night for the bungalow. Grantid, we had to use the shared squat toilets (my gosh they were clean though) and there was no power on the island (except for the generators that they used to cook and keep lights going for a couple hours each night). But for those of you that know how much we love to camp, this was just what we were needing.

We basically spent 4 days on Don Det enjoying some of the first truely blue sky days that we have had in months. We rented bikes a couple of the days to better access the island and it's sister island Don Khon. Just to give you an idea of size, it would take us about 40 minutes to ride our bikes around the island. We also rode over to the Tai Somphamit Waterfalls on Don Khon. I wouldn't really say they were waterfalls as much as just massive rapids. We also had Mr Phao take us out on a sunset boat tour which was great. We got to see some of the other islands which ranged in size from trees sticking out of the water (since we were there in rainy season it is more like 1000 islands) to islands with local villages on them. In fact one island that he took us to had its own montestary. We walked around and were followed by the kids who weren't used to seeing westerners and were even given a blessing by the elder monk, very cool. We were able to catch a few beautiful sunsets. With the river as massive as it was there were times we forgot we were on a river beach not an ocean beach. The rest of our time was spent relaxing (yes, yet another vacation from the vacation for the Breses) in the hammocks. We definately found paradise in Lao.

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Having a snack and a drink during sunset with a thunderstorm to the side
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Sunset Cruise with Mr. Phaos awesome tour boat.....it was his everything boat...
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Doing my best to conserve.....oxygen... I guess....
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View out our bungalow window.

The day sadly came that we had to say goodbye to Mr Phao and his family and head further south into the country of Cambodia. The boarder crossing that I had been dreading due to the corrupt boarder guards that I had heard so much about.....went rather smooth. We were with a group of 15 other travellers and rode in nice minivans to the boarder. We made it out of Lao and into Cambodia and only had to pay about $6 extra to pay for overtime processing since it was Saturday and all. We then boarded different minivans.....not as nice but still not bad......and rode for about an hour to the first big town. Here we had lunch and ended up waiting 3 hours for a few more passengers. We then boarded Cambodia's version of a VIP bus. Which was more like an old school bus which they had taken a few seats out of to store the luggage and then for some reason they filled most of the bus with planks of wood.....about two feet high in the aisle and filling up the leg room for most of the seats. Needless to say we were all packed in for the remaining 9 hours of the journey. We eventually rolled in to Phnom Penh at about 12am (about 3 hours late and making it a 16 hour journey). But it just felt good to be off of that bus and to know that the day was behind us.

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The "FUN" bus!!

So here we are in Cambodia. We were informed that today is the election day here....yep, on a Sunday. So many things are closed....we took this as a good time to update the blog with our whereabouts. Hope you are all doing well!!

Breezy and Toni

Posted by Breezy13 03:11 Archived in Laos Comments (2)

Waterfalls, tubing, and more of the Me Kong......Laos rules!

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Well, its been a while since our last blog and I'd like to say we've done all kinds of magical things, but we've been acting like college kids. The Waterfalls in Laung Prabang were just beautiful, several long sections of places to swim and jump off the various chasms of spilling water. At the upper area, the falls must have been at least 50ft high. You could see a whole lot from the top, including a few monks taking the day off and having some fun playing in the water....I always wondered what was under those robes, and now I know.......more robes....

For dinner that night we headed to a Korean style BBQ. The setup is pretty cool, you have your typical coals under what looks like a sailers hat made of metal. An inverted bowl with vents in the middle and trough on the outside to hold broth and veggies. You start out smothering the top with a couple of pieces of fatty bacon(ummmmm, bacon, mmmmmm), then with the vents all greased up you can start roasting pieces of chicken, beef, and pork. After the veggies are done you just place the broth, along with some spices and meat in the bowl and chow down....freakin good.

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Trish & Peter, Christina & Joe, Me & Toni, Rob & Loraine all having a good time at the Korean BBQ!!

The next day we crossed the Me Kong and took a walk in a little village that hardly looked touched by tourism compared with Laung Prabang. It felt so nice to get out of town and walk around a bit without having to deal with touts and traffic. The Lao countryside is so green and clean....its definitely our kind of country. The one thing we've really remarked about during our stay in Laos, is the children, they all seem so happy and are alway smiling and playing simple games, or just running around. That night was a good night for more shopping, and you can't get away from those markets without some kind of deal. We ended up with a little wooden turtle that flips open to become(kind of a transformer if you ask me) a compass.....yea, I know...let down, but still neat looking.

We then made the uneventful transition to Vang Vieng, better known as the tubing capital of Laos. Vang Vieng happens to be very affordable so we ended up staying for 5 days with a nice little hotel room looking over the local river and some islands. The main intersection in the town hosts a few resturants that have tables you can lay down at and watch Friends, kind of nice when you've been away from home as long as we have but I had to wonder what other people thought of these places. One place had The Family Guy playing all day, and we had breakfast there a few times.

Rob & Loraine, an Irish couple we meet on our travels, met up with us to go tubing. What a blast, the stretch of the river that we floated was only 3 km long, but its riddled with bars serving cheap beer and really high swings. The employees of these places are gifted with a knack for catching patrons with a bamboo pole and rope. You have to remember this is the rainy season and the river is swelled and moving twice as fast as normal. So as you're screaming by on the river, in order to get business these guys have to hook you in and drag you back to their little bar. Needless to say, as the day goes on and the beer flows these little stops get much more difficult. On one such stop, the bar had a volleyball pit....turned into a mud pit after the rain. That didn't stop people from trying, lost track of the ball and pretty soon patrons were just sliding around and throwing mud like fools....super fun!!!

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Toni posing by the only blue water we've seen for months.

Heavy rain started in the next day so we were forced to lay low at the Family Guy resturant. We switched it up about midday to the Friends resturant, and then ended the day going out with our travelling friends Rob and Loraine. The rains kept going for another day and the river started to seriously flood. I'd say it went up about 6 feet in the couple days (we were happy to be staying on the 4th floor of the hotel). We heard from the hotel people that it hadn't flooded this bad in four years.....watching the debris in the river go by was sort of entertaining and sad at the same time....we saw a few bamboo houses in there. The rain wasn't letting up so we got the hell out of there and headed to Vientiane, the capital of Lao.

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When we arrived in Vientiane the rains drilled us again, but this time we hadn't even found a hotel yet. So I hunkered down with the bags, while Toni ran around and tried to find a hotel with an open room. We had no idea it would be so hard...I guess with the heavy rains and roads to the north being closed, many of the hotels were sold out (who would have thought this.....its suppose to be slow season here). Thank god we found one before the really heavy rain started. Our Irish friends, Rob and Loraine weren't as lucky, we found Rob, soaked, still looking for a place......which after about 30 minutes he eventually did. After a good rest we started the day with big plans, hitting the shooting range (the Irish couple had never shot a gun before, Toni either), and then some meditation with the monks. The shooting range was pretty fun, and we found out the Irish can shoot pretty damn well. On our high from letting our gats hum, we decided to have a midday beer, hey, the sun was almost out and we had nothing better to do. After a beer, the meditation got pushed to the side because Rob and Loraine were heading their own way for awhile and this was our last night to hang out....until Southern Thailand. So we had dinner and talked and had a good ol' time.

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The Irish/American retarded version of Charlies Angels

Tonight we are taking a sleeper bus somewhere (13 hours south of Vientiene), so until next time we hope everyone is taking care and enjoying our blog!!!

B&T

Posted by Breezy13 18:18 Archived in Laos Comments (1)

Finishing up Northern Thailand and Off to Laos

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After our great trek in Northern Thailand we made our way back to Chiang Mai for a few days of wat seeing and shopping. We met up with my aunt's friend Addy again. She was rather busy with work for a couple of the days but she arranged for us to meet up with some of who old students who are Buddhist Monks. Our first afternoon we were given a private tour by two monks around the largest wat in Northern Thailand (Wat Suan Dok). Before that afternoon we had been to many Buddhist wats/temples but always felt like outsiders, unsure of what we were doing and not wanting to do the wrong thing and offend the monks. But right away our tour guides made us feel at home and welcome in their temples. They filled our brains with information on the wats as well as the Buddhist religion. I have always respected Buddhism, but after our tour that day and speaking with the monks I find I have an even deeper respect for the peacefull pacifist religion.

That evening we thought would sample the opposite side of the spectrum of Thai culture and go see some Muay Thai or Thai Kick Boxing. We were hoping to see it at a larger venue in Bangkok, but when we learned that it was less than half the price in Chiang Mai, we decided that Chiang Mai would suffice. We were told the matches started at 8:30pm and figured since it was first come first serve on the seats that we should get there early. So we rolled up to the stadium (more like an open-air ring with plastic chairs set up on three sides and then wooden seats built around that) at about 7:30pm and found we were the first ones to arrive. So we wasted 1/2 hour at a nearby 7-11 (yes, Thailand is full of 7-11's almost one on every block in the cities). We then decided we should grab a seat. We had purchased the cheaper seats hoping to sit with the Thai people and really get a feel of their culture. But what we found was that 70% of the seats were taken up by westerners most likely hoping for the same thing. A little disappointing, but as the matches went on we did see more and more Thais and we were sitting behind the area that all the betting took place so we got to see that. The matches began with the 30kg class, which was basically two 10-12 year olds fighting and then went up from there ending in an awkward match between a Thai and a Canadian. Muay Thai is a gracefull style of fighting. The fighters mostly kick at their apoinent's upper body so there typically isn't much blood and gore. I'm not one to enjoy fighting but I really enjoyed the Muay Thai.

Sandwiching the Muay Thai with another monk experience, Addy arranged for another one of her monk students to meet us at a wat that overlooks the city of Chiang Mai (Wat Doi Suthep). Rain (or atleast that is the western name that he gave us to call him) showed us around his temple which is know to have Buddha relects burried there so it is considered even more sacred to Buddhists. At the same time as our temple escapade, new college freshman at the local colleges were making the 11km trek up the hill as a sort of freshman initiation. Must be a big university cause it looked like a couple thousand of them, all dressed up in their respective departmental T-shirts. Which made it real interesting when we had to find a way though all these kids to leave the area and get back down to Chiang Mai.

Breezy taking over the commentary: Later that day we found ourselves at the night market getting a little shopping in, crap everywhere. I don't think I've ever seen a market this big, must have been the equivelant of walking through a couple of malls. It came complete with a neat little food court, with venders cooking the food right in front of you.

The next day I got a $2 hair cut, and we toured the umbrella factory just outside Chiang Mai. As we were observing all the steps in making the umbrellas we had to wonder "do they make those little umbrellas you get in fancy drinks at the beach"....hmmmm. But we didn't see any of those, just much much larger versions, relatively cheap, but trying to pack something that delicate just seems dumb.

So, we were all Chiang Mai-ed out, and were ready to get on the bus for Laos. This was the nicest bus we've been on, tons of leg room and very nice chairs, T.V and they even served us snacks, always the way to go!! After the 6 hours bus ride, we made a pretty uneventful cross of the border, via a water taxi and papers to be fiilled out. We were now in Huay Xai, Laos, and ready to get on a two day boat ride to Laung Prabang. A couple we met up with in Pai, Joe and Christina, met us shortly after the crossing and we headed out on our slow boat ride the next morning. The slow boats are 50 yards long, and about 25 ft across, have two different kinds of seating. Nice plush car type seats, and then your horribly uncormfortable wooden benches that remind me a little of church pew. Toni and I got the shaft and had to sit on the wooden pew of butt torture both days. The first day wasn't too bad as we were near a lively group, had seat cushions and a few beers.

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That night we were suckered into staying at a pretty trashy hotel, the whole place kind of freaked us out. The proprieters seemed a little shifty and the place was horribly overpriced. Morning came and we ended up being some the the last people to board for our final day of arse torture. The sun was out and the country side wsa beautiful, I wish I was able to put more pictures up, but the internet in Lao is something to be desired. We'll try again at our next stop.

Laung Prabang is wonderful, the people are always smiling and everyone seems genuinely happy. The town seems very small for the second largest city in Laos (about 26,000) but that just makes it all that much more appealing. Joe and Christina invited us over yesterday for sitting by the pool and relaxing.....worked out nice, everyone was tired from traveling and we were happy for the down time. Did a little of the market here(they seem to be everywhere tourists are...weird) and then had a bite too eat.

We're headed to some beautiful waterfalls today so we'll be sure to get some pictures on for the next blog, hope everyone is doing well.

B&T

Posted by Breezy13 22:17 Archived in Thailand Comments (3)

Thailand Sweet Thailand

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I feel like so much has happened since our last blog posting. We made it safely to Thailand and right away it felt like we had come back to the comforts of the modern world. We quickly got out of Bangkok and made our way north to Chang Mai and got to experience Thai hospitality first-hand. My Aunt Dee has a long time Thai friend Addy that I started e-mailing when I knew when we would be in her home town of Chang Mai. I had always heard about Addy and thought it would be great to finally get to meet her. I had told her when we would be arriving and we were completely surprised when her and her sister were there waiting for us at the train station (how nice). But their hospitality didn't stop there. They helped us get bus tickets for the next day and then drove us to the bus station to show us where we would be going the next day. They then took us to their home since they insisted that we stay with them for the night and we dropped off our bags at the house. We hopped on motorcycles and they showed us part of the city and took us out to dinner for some yummy Thai noodles. As if that wasn't enough Addy offered to do our laundry and come back from work the next day to help us to the bus station. We graciously declined the last two offers of hospitality since she and her family had done so much for us already. We were only in Chang Mai for the night but will be returning tomorrow and look forward to spending a little more time with Addy. It is so hard coming from a culture that hardly makes time for friends and family let alone someone you have never met, to know how to return the generosity shown to you. But we will see what we can do.

We then headed west from Chang Mai towards the Burmese boarder to the small town of Pai. As soon as we got off of the bus in Pai and were not swarmed by touts we knew we were in a great place. In fact, nobody approached us. It was such a change of pace from what we had grown calloused to the past couple months. Pai was a nice peaceful, artsy/hippie town surrounded by jungle that rents motorcycles for the day for about $3. So we got a "hog" for the day. I decided I would rather ride than drive so we shared the bike. Breezy quickly realized two bodies on the smaller bike makes turning a little tricky. We didn't get in too many wrecks that day. We came out with only a couple minor scrapes and bruises and made the mental note that we need two "hogs" next time. We did get to see a couple pretty waterfalls and a wat (temple). We also met two Americans who ended up setting us up with an amazing jungle trek.

Most tourists that flock to Northern Thailand go on a trek around the hills/jungles to visit some of the existing hill tribes. Unfortunately most of these treks have become commercialized and touristy. We were hoping to find a trek that would get us away from tourists to really explore the jungles and see how the hill tribes still live. Thanks to our American friends that we met in Pai, Meredith and Collin we found just that. We met up with them again in Mai Hong Son a few hours away from Pai. They had a contact name of a tour guide recommended to them by a guy that works for Lonely Planet. As luck would have it, we ended up with a great group.....Collin and Meredith, Joe and Charlie both from the UK and Christina originally from Germany and then our wonderful guide Chan. The group met the night before our trek to discuss price and we were all shocked when Chan said his price was double what we were all expecting to pay. He explained his costs and we explained our budgets. We managed to negotiate to a rate that we were all happy with and we were ready to go jungle for 3 days and 2 nights.

It didn't take long for us to realize that Chan knew what he was doing in the jungle. Our first day we spent walking up a valley of the jungle along a river. We saw amazing large spiders, crazy bugs and beautiful but poisonous caterpillars. Which Breezy got to experience first hand when we found the caterpillar on his shirt. He was about to grab it but when we showed our guide he quickly grabbed a leave and told us it was poisonous. Yikes! Within a couple minutes we could see where the caterpillar had been when Breezy's neck started welting up. It looked like he had boils all over his neck. Yikes again. Again, our guide came to the rescue and rubbed some ointment on it and within the hour Breezy was back to normal with a great story to remember.

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Our first meal!

Our first night on the trek we got to stay in a village that hadn't seen westerners for at least 3 months which was cool. We westerners hung around watching the pigs, goats, water buffallo and the incredible scenery around us, while our dinner was being prepared on and open fire inside one of the bamboo homes. We also got to see the different steps that rice takes before it can be eaten. I never knew how much went into rice, I have a whole new respect for the food. We were then able to grab a cusion on the floor and take in the best meal we all had had in weeks. We quickly came to learn why Chan normally charges twice that of his competitors. The feast was amazing.
That night we all slept in one of the traditional homes which was made of mostly bamboo and was up on stilts. It rained most of the night which gave the whole experience a neat effect.

The next morning we were off again to tromp through the jungle. We all realized that we were really getting the true experience. We never saw another westerner. The trail was non-existant at times with Chan having to machete our way through the overgrowth. We had lunch in the jungle and watched as our chopsticks were carved out of bamboo in front of us. After lunch we got to see/hear gibbons in the jungle. What an amazing experience to feel like you are in the middle of nowhere and then to hear and see the monkeys. That evening we stayed in at a camp. Which consisted of a bamboo hut and a toilet. We had a campfire, another amazing meal and got to drink out of bamboo cups that Chan made for us.

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Our sleeping quarters.

Not only was our trek amazing but we couldn't have asked for a better group of people to be with. We had a bookie and a profession tree climber in the group, two professions that I didn't realize still existed today. We all got along great which made some of the tougher moments in the jungle easy to get through. I don't think I have laughed so much in a while. We are actually looking forward to meeting up with some of them again in Laos.

Our trek eventually came to an end. It was a little sad but I was ready to be done. Between falling in the mud, getting stung by some sort of jungle wildlife, getting my butt (not sure how) eaten alive by god knows what, and just the creepy crawling things everywhere I have never appreciated the fact that I do not live in the jungle.

I will wrap up this very long blog so Breezy can post some photos for you all. They were taken with my camera, so they are not nearly as good as the photos from NZ and Tassie. But something is better than nothing. Hope you all are well. For those of you in the states.....have a safe and festive Fourth of July!!

Toni and Jason

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The 7 smurfs(that was our group name!!) minus Toni. left to right -> wonder dog, Me, Joe, Charlie, Christina, Meridith, and Collin.

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Another meal being cooked.

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Posted by Breezy13 06:39 Archived in Thailand Comments (2)

Saying Goodbye to India

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We are down to our last 10 hours in India. It is almost bitter sweet.....we leave with both bitter and sweet memories of India:) As our last blog left off we were enjoying our "Diamond in the Rough" or "Hidden Gem" as I would rather refer to it....Manali. We stayed in Manali for a total of 9 nights, we figured we might as well stay where we were happiest. During our final days in Manali went for a great day hike. The owner of our guest house arranged for his father to lead us part way. This man had to be close to 70 years old, but he was hiking like a champ. He lead us around the hills above Manali and took us to a family home. Which was a basic traditional 2- story mud home where the family kept their few cows. He insisted that we stay for chai, so we sat on the porch taking in the amazing serenity and scenery while he made the pot of chai. Breezy realized after his third glass of chai that an empty glass always gets filled. So after we were hyped up on caffiene the father sent us on our way up the valley. It was one of the first clear days we had had in Manali, so we were able to see the Himalayas around us. The area had received a lot of rain so far this year so the hills were glowing green. I'm not sure if I have ever seen green mountains all the way up to the glaciers. We definately felt our homesickness for the mountains melt away.

One thing that I was set on trying in India was a yoga class. I figured that I can't come all the way to the land of yoga and not take a class. I was curious to see how different our western yoga is from Indian yoga. So I managed to coerce Breezy to come with me to an 1.5 hour yoga class. As it turned out it was a private class for us. The instructor started by asking us our experience. We said that I was out of practice since it had been October since I had last done yoga and Breezy had only tried it once before. Maybe we should have sounded more experienced, because the class we got was very simple. We started out with pranayama (breathing exercises) which I was expecting and we did some breathing exercises that I'm familliar with. But that when the familiarity ended. He then had us get up and walk, jog and run in place and do a version of jumping jacks to warm up. But right after the warm up he had us go into corpse pose. For those of you not familiar with yoga, corpse pose in the west, is normally at the end of the practice, used for total body relaxation. After a couple minutes of corpse pose he had us do some neck rolls, hand extensions, wrist circles, toe rolls, ankle circles, leg circles and Breezy's favorite.....the eye exercises. Which we can all do right now.....look up, straight, down, straight, up, straight, down.....you get the jist of it. Now do eye circles....clockwise 5 times, now anti-clockwise 5 times. I thought to myself during all of this that this would be a great yoga class for elderly in a nursing homes to stay active:) Then of course after all of this exursion we did corpse pose again. We did a few asanas (movement exercises) that I was familiar with, but he called them by different names than I have ever heard them referred to. He had us go into corpse pose a few more times, do a few balancing poses which Breezy and I seemed to be able to hold longer than our instructor and follow up with a discussion on digestion. Needless to say....we didn't come out of the class feeling like we had done anything active for our bodies. I'm happy I took the class, it made me realize that I do need to get back in to yoga when we get back to the states. But either our instructor wasn't very good or I prefer the West's version of yoga:)

The day finally came that we had to leave Manali. I felt as I did when I left my sister Barb in Tassie. It was sad to say goodbye to our host Guddu who had helped to make our Manali time so wonderful. He drove us to the bus station and made sure that we got on our bus alright. We boarded our luxury Volvo with A/C and reclining seats and lots of leg room. The bus ride to Delhi was suppose to be 16 hours but it only took 14 hours. Of which, 7 hours were on winding mountain roads. We realized that Indians are more prone to motion sickness than Breezy was as about 1/4 of the bus got sick. They even handed out barf bags. All and all it was the most pleasant bus ride of India and we arrived safely in New Delhi.

We decided to stay in the Tibetan Colony of Delhi. It seems to be on the out skirts of the city which is great because it is quiet and we can see a river out behind our hotel. But it is a 10-15 minute drive to most of the sites. Yesterday (Monday) we realized that many of Delhi's sights are closed on Mondays, so we were somewhat limited on what we could see. We went to Old Delhi, and got lost in the hustle and bustle of things for about 10 minutes. Then we saw it....at the same time we heard angels sing.....there in front of us were the Golden Arches. Now most of you know that I'm not a fan of McDonalds....but after not seeing one in 2 months the icon of home is welcoming. So stopped for fries and soda (no burgers since we are in India the land of the beloved cow) and got our berrings. We heading to Jama Masjid which is the largest mosque in India. The mosque's courtyard can hold about 25,000 people. After walking around in Old Delhi a bit more we decided the zoo might be a great way to spend the afternoon. We were right, we had a nice time at the zoo. Once the afternoon heat got to us, we decided we had seen enough for the day and headed back to the peacefull refuge of the Tibetan Colony.

The one thing left on my "to do" list for India, for this time atleast. Is to go to the Gandhi Smriti which is where Mahatma Gandhi was shot and killed by a Hindu zealot in 1948. For those of you that have not seen the movie Gandhi, you should rent it some rainy day. It is a great flick about a great man. So before we leave India we plan to pay tribute to the father of this crazy nation of India.

If you were to ask us if we are sad to leave India you would most likely get different answers. Breezy loved Manali but would be happy if that was the only part of India that I took him to. I on the other hand, have enjoyed India. I'm very happy I have gotten to see what we have seen. But this county is huge and one month is not nearly enough. Maybe some day I will be able to return (I will leave Breezy at home with the children:)) But after this trip I learn that the time of year that you visit India makes a huge difference. The heat can make or break you. We both agree that we are excited to head to SE Asia for the next couple months. We are heading right into monsoon season, so we will see how we go.

Hope you are all doing well.
Breezy and Toni

Posted by Breezy13 23:46 Archived in India Comments (0)

Manali, Diamond in the Rough.

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We last left you in Shimla, it was the coolest place we'd been too yet, in both temperature and personality. But we were itching to get further north to Manali. The ten hour bus ride took its toll but we didn't have the same kamakazi driver as the episode of getting to Shimla. We were lucky enough getting off the bus to meet someone from Old Manali, that had a room for a much cheaper price, and much more in the quiet country.

So after two days in New Manali we headed just a little further north to the quieter Old Manali. We've been relaxing for the last three days in what we could consider paradise. Beautiful mountians, afternoon rain, bright green spring growth everywhere, super blue sky (no pollution/dust haze)....after the dismal desert I was starting to get worried.

Not only is the town great but we found a wonderful guest house. The rooms are clean and quiet and the home is located on a hill surrounded by traditional wooden homes and an apple orchard. The family has been so welcoming and hospitable. The night before last they invited to their son's birthday party. Not sure what to expect we ate a late lunch and were told to arrive around 7, which we usually take to mean show up at 7. Deciding we should probably shower after sweating like pigs for the last couple of days, being back at least two hours before hand would be more than enough time. Arriving at a little after five, we discovered the party had actually started a few minutes ago or had been going for some time. But by the looks on their faces, we seemed to be late.... I was able to get ready in 3.5 minutes flat, whereas Toni is quick for a girl, but still a girl, so she distracted everyone while I showered for 2.75 minutes. In the remaining 45 seconds, I was able to get dressed and be out socializing with a glass of wiskey in hand.

After everyone(being the owner, family friends, and the rest of the hotel patrons) had had at least a beer, chai, or mixed drink in them, the cake came out and we sang happy birthday. I don't think the kid knows english and I'm not sure if the look he gave us was completely confused or if the long day of birday parties was just wearing him thin. We were served a traditional Indian dinner with the family and it was probably the best Indian food I've had yet. Followed by more sweets. When the plates were cleared the birthday boy got to bring out his new board game, its called Carem Board. Its like air hocky meets miniture pool, a few discs are shot around at each other trying to make them in different holes kind of like pool. It was fun but getting late and the birthday boy got in a kung fu fight with his older brother and everyone went home crying. But after all that sugar can you really blame him.

We've gone on a few hikes, one to a huge water fall, one behind Old Manali, and one between ld Manali and new. The falls must have been 300 feet tall, with some pretty steep paths up to get close. The hike behind Old Manali was kind of doomed from the start. We weren't really sure where we were heading but thought we had a fail safe plan. Up the road has to go somewhere, right? We ended up wandering after the trail disappeared, and really didn't get to anywhere amazing, but thats the point of being on vacation. After an hour or so we slowly made our way back to the best pizza place in India (yes, we have been there now 4 days in a row). We're still in the middle of our between old and new hikes so I'll have to fill the rest in later.

We only have 1 week left before we head to Bangkok on the 24th. So we should have one more India entry before we leave. Hope all is well with you!

Breezy and Toni

Posted by Breezy13 23:50 Archived in India Comments (3)

The Big "T"aj Mahal and Chandigarh

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Since our last posting we have found cooler weather and overall are happier travelers.

We found Agra (home of the Taj Mahal) to be pleasant and cooler. We decided to visit the Taj in the morning. Since the tickets were close to $20 per person to get in and it did not allow re-entry we thought that sunrise was the best bet. Because the Taj is one of the man-made wonders of the world our expectations were set pretty high. I must say....even though there was no water in the fountains and there was construction going on in front.....it was spectacular. It actually exceeded my expectations. I didn't realize how much rock in-lay work there was on the Taj and the perfect symetry, it is amazing that it was man made and over 350 years old. It was nice getting there in the early morning because we beat the rush of Indian tourists...it was just us and about 30 other tourists. By the time we were ready to leave, the Taj Mahal was surrounded by hundreds if not thousands of Indian tourists. Which I think added to the scene with the bright multi-colored saris of the women in front of the pure white Taj Mahal, it was picturesque to say the least.

We also visited the Agra Fort which is about 2km from the Taj Mahal. This is where Emperor Shah Jahan (the man who built the Taj Mahal as a memorial for his 2nd wife who died in labor) was imprisoned by his son. Apparently the son felt his father was spending to much money on temples (yada yada) and he imprisoned his father in the Agra Fort. I'm not sure it is was cruel or a favor that Shah Jahan could look out his prison window and see his treasured Taj Mahal?

After a few days in Agra, we were still eager to hit the hills to we decided to keep going. We headed to Chandigarh which is know as the "green city" of India, because of all the gardens. For an Indian city, Chandigarh was nice. In the few days we were there we worked on getting our fill on western food, news, TV and gardens. The city has a rose garden the size if not larger than Washington Park in Denver (for those of you from CO). Granted the roses looked like they were needing a little TLC, but it was great to get away from traffic, trash, and urine for a while. As we were in the gardens we spotted a pretty water fountain and decided to walk closer to check it out. Already there was a large (30-50) group of people also looking at the water fountain. But as soon as they spotted us white westerners every person in the group turned around and watched us walk up to the fountain. Breezy was ready to turn around and walk away......but I was determined not to let a few gawkers deter us. We soon learned they were all students and teachers and were asked if we would take a group photo with them. So once again the old school 35mm camera (one step above disposable) came out, we were swarmed by Indians and felt famous or maybe it was awkward for the moment:)

In our research we found that the 2nd most popular tourist destination in India was located in Chandigarh. The Nek Chand Fantasy Rock Garden was a 50 acre park with waterfalls, miniature buildings and sculptures made out of recycled junk. It was quite impressive and felt like we had stepped through the Alice in Wonderland rabbit hole. Especially when we entered the center of the park with carnival rides, giant swings, camel rides and trippy mosaics made from recycled porcelin. It was a nice break from the maddness of India. Even though there must have been thousands of Indians there with us. Some of them observing Breezy taking photos and assuming he must be a professional so asking if he would take their photo with his camera. All and all it was an entertaining afternoon.

After a few days in Chandigarh we were still anxious to get into the mountains. We thought we would give the bus another try. After waiting a couple hours at the station for the bus we wanted, the bus finally arrived. Since they did not offer reservations, I and 20 others got in a piss-poor excuss for a line. I got pushed to the back of the line while others cut in front of me and got their tickets. But the time I got to the front of the line the lady in front of me got the last seat on the bus. As they say with India, expect the unexpected. So we sat and waited a few more hours, finally got on a bus. After a windy ride which would give the strongest mind motion sickness.....we arrive at Shimla.

We have spent the past couple days enjoying the cooler weather here in Shimla. We plan to head further into the Indian Himalayas in a couple days. So hopefully we will be able to stay our full time in India without having to leave the insanity early to protect our own sanity:)

We will keep you all posted. By the way, I finally had time to update a map of where we have been in India. You should see it below.

Love,
Toni and Jason

Posted by Breezy13 05:28 Archived in India Comments (2)

Exploring Some Temples in Madhya Pradesh

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So to say that this past week has been easy for us would be a lie. I'm sure there were days when Breezy wished that his wife hadn't drug him to (as he referred to it a few times this week) this hell-hole AKA India. A few things contributed to the unpleasant week. Breezy ended up with a head cold and we all know there is nothing worse than a cold in the summer. He also got our first case of traveller's diarrhoea. The weather also played a huge role in our overall discomfort......daytime temps were between 100-115. Yikes, much hotter than us mountain folk are used to. Then to put the icing on the cake, we were busy dealing with the locals trying to get us to buy this or that, take us here or there or just give them money. Not really what you would call a relaxing honeymoon. But I realize things could be worse.....we could be working:)

Don't get me wrong, the week wasn't a complete waste. We did get to see some cool palaces and temples in the Madhya Pradesh state of India which is located close to the middle of the country. We were informed by locals that they had not had rain in parts of the state for 3 years and this was obvious by the desolate landscape. It took some serious creativity to image ancient empires thriving in the same places that we were visiting. We left Varanasi for another pleasant train trip 16 hours west and after a short drive we found ourselves in the small town of Orchha. Orchha only has about 8500 people which is tiny by Indian standards. The town was a capital in the 16th century and still has many temples, palaces and ruins to remind you of the days when kings would holiday here from Agra. We spent a few days exploring the different ruins and well preserved structures. We found that we could handle the heat until about 10am and then again after 4pm. In between we would sleep and read in the shelter of our room.

One thing that we have come to appreciate and didn't realize we take for granted in the US is continuous power. We have power 99.9% of the time at home. In India (as well as Nepal) daily power outages are a common thing. In fact, I can't remember the last day in the past 3 weeks that the power hasn't gone out. Which is normally no big deal unless it is over a 100 degrees and you have no A/C, swamp cooler or fan to keep you cool. Again, this could have caused additional stress on us this past week. It sure makes us realize how easy we have it in the USA.

Anyhow after a few days in Orchha we decided it was time to hit the road and head to Khajuraho, home of the famous Erotic Temples and a top 3 destination on my wish list over the past 5 years. To get there we decided to take the bus and spend 200 rupees (about $5 for both of us) instead of a private car which would have been 1500-2000 rupees (about $40-50). We are on a budget and the bus ride was only suppose to take 3.5-4 hours. So it seemed like a no brainer. We left the bus station with a full bus, with tiny seats suitable for smaller framed Indians.....not so much for us Westerners. But not too bad....and after all it was cheap. As we continued to stop every few miles to pick up more people to be crammed into the increasingly crowded aisle we realized this could be a slow trip. As the miles dragged on, the day got hotter (must have been close to 110) and the bus was as full as I could imagine it could get (3 deep across standing in the aisle), with a couple guys practically standing in my already tight seat area with me. So just when we thought it couldn't get anymore crowded, the bus stopped and more people where packed on. We eventually arrived in Khajuraho 5.5 hours later. We have decided what doesn't kill us makes us stronger:) Needless to say, we opted to take the private car (with A/C) for the drive back.....its the little things in life that bring us the greatest joy!

Khajuraho is famous for its intricately carved erotic temples, built by the Chandra empire as early as 950 AD. The temples were everything I had imagined them to be. The outside of most of the temples were decorated with carved deities, large breasted women, men and animals. The figures carved were in posses reflecting the daily life of the Chandela people. By the looks of some (but not all) of the sculptures they were not a prude society. It is hard to completely describe the temples, but Breezy took a bunch of photos so once we return we will get some photos added so you can all see.

After just a couple days in the heat of Khajuraho we decided that we needed to speed up our trip to get to the salvation of the cool mountains in northern India. So we are currently in Agra, home of the Taj Mahal. We will keep you posted on our time here. For now, we are just content that the weather is a little cooler (in the 90's)!!

Hope you all are well!
Breezy and Toni

Posted by Breezy13 03:03 Archived in India Comments (4)

Entering the great abyss of India!!

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Ok, a lot has happened since last entry, where to start? We finally left the paradise of Pokhara for Lumbini, with a very long and crazy bus ride. The long part was getting to Bhairawa(border town about 22km from Lumbini), it took about 8 hours on a very hot bus. We then disembarked from that bus with 9 other tourists who wandered around until we found the right bus, and were quickly ushered onto the roof. After the other stagnant bus, the fresh air felt pretty good. Again Rosa Parks comes to mind, this time all the white people were on the top of the bus.

We planned our trip so well, that we coincided with Buddha's birthday extravaganza in Lumbini....which was short on rooms. Every year the full moon of April/May brings a huge celebration to this small town, along with limited hotel rooms. That brings us to our next debacle. The room we finally did find, was to say the least, a huge pile of crap. Hot as hell, no power for the fan, toilet broken, shower broken, and triplely insulated from fresh air made the stay ....how you say...memorable. After getting no sleep, we quickly made our way to a better place a little ways out of town, it probably saved the trip and our marriage....har har.

Putting that behind us we came to see what Lumbini is famous for....we visited the exact place where Buddha was born. The following day we explored the many monasteries that countries from around the world have built to honor the town of Buddha's birth. The monasteries were quite spread out and we probably hiked close to 7 miles getting a majority of them in. Met some nice Indian people that must have thought we were celebrities and wanted us in a family photo....very strange but it has happened to us a few times....they must just like their white people. One funny thing I have to throw out there... we decided to never again take a (man powered) rickshaw. These poor bastards must weigh about 90 pounds wet, and they try to haul us and a 1 ton rickshaw around....it goes so slow its painful, we actually had to get out and help the poor guy get across a road. I've never felt more fat a lazy in my life.

We finally felt like we'd seen enough Nepal, so off to the border. Seemed easy enough, go though all the little customs offices on both sides, exchange our Nepal money, and off to Varanasi.....right. As soon as we got close to the border the vultures dropped, seeing their hapless victims confused and looking for the appropriate signs...oh yea, thats when they get you. We tried ignoring them, but that just fuels the fire inside...where are you going, can I help, where are you going, I know a guy who....over and over and over until you finally submit and then....BLAM. You find yourself getting screwed on your exchange rate and stuck in the back of a little tiny jeep with your wife and two other people, and no leg room. You look in the front seats and see 4 people in the middle seat and 4 people in the front. Yes, the driver was practically on someone's lap driving. Thank god, one of those other people in the back with us was a friendly Isreali guy who gave us many good tips for enjoying India. He was also drooled on by a sleeping fool who worked for the vultures....pissed off the Isreali guy, but it was funny. The jeep delivered us to Gorakhpur well informed and ready to take on another crappy hotel. The train station was a madhouse and we knew that booking a ticket there was futile.......heard many a story(Thanks again Mike and Cheryl). So we found internet access and booked it online, wonderful tool, can't say it enough. The crappy hotel served its purpose and we hopped on our train at 5am without a hitch.

The train ride to Varanasi was heaven, air conditioned and we were lucky enough to have our own private bunk room compete with curtain to keep out the prying eyes of the notoriously staring Indians. For some reason, they can't get enough of us and its like were in a freaking zoo all day long, ha ha, look at the silly monkey.

We arrived in the train station, called our hotel, and those wonderful people sent us an auto-rickshaw, yea. The ride was a trip, narrowly missing dozens of pedestrians, bicyclists, and other vehicles, we arrived at an intersection and parked. I got out, looked for our hotel but saw nothing but crazed motorists and more staring natives. Then I hear the auto-rickshaw pilot grunt something and point to an alleyway. We load up our packs and begin following this unintelligible madman though a labyrinth of alley ways crowed with dogs, goats, bulls(yes huge freakin cows), cow crap, and yes more staring natives. After about 15 minutes and many grunts from the pilot for us to hurry up, we finally arrive at the Scindhia Guest House, right on the river Ganges(Ganga in India). The room was great, because Toni in all her resourcefulness did much research on the subject, the stories we had heard were all to gruesome...... After many long hours of traveling with no food we found ourselves at a little hole-in-the-wall(almost literally) sucking down some kind of paneer (hot cheese chunks) dish with other curries spices and vegetables. Indian food is wonderful, and most places serve it well.

With dinner through we headed back to our room and watched a wonderful Hindu show on the Ganges, with fire, boats and everything in between. One fact I'd like to share about the Ganges, people here use it to bath, swim and cremate their dead. Its also their sewer and laundry mat, in a 100ml sample can be found 1.5 million fecal bacteria....so you tell me, how wonderful can it really be.

All in all, we've had a wonderful time here, good foods, and good people, but we must make our getaway tomorrow to the erotic temples. This will involve another very long train ride (16 hours), but again, we're doing it in style.

Tomorrow also marks the half way point for our vacation. It is hard to believe it is half way over, but it feels like years since we left our friends and family in the states. We would be lying if we said that we weren't getting excited to return. But this could have something to do with our plans for when we return. We would like our loyal blog readers to be some of the first to know our plans.........We had planned to moved up to Montana once we returned. But we have decided to postpone that move and move to Estes Park, CO. We would like to try and get Breezy's photography career a shot and decided that we couldn't pass up the free rent we have in Estes. Between being gone for so long, friends having babies, getting pregnant and getting married, we thought Colorado would be a good place to call home for a year or so. So with that said we'll be signing off for another week, cheers to all our blog readers!!! Thanks again for all the comments, we look forward to reading them!!!

T&B

Posted by Breezy13 23:21 Archived in India Comments (2)

A little R&R in Pokhara

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Well, after our trek we caught a case of the lazies. But not before our interesting bus ride from Kathmandu to Pokhara. We started out with being about 45 minutes early for the bus which we thought was a little much, but to our horrified suprise the bus took off about 20 minutes early due to being full. Certain we would have missed it for sure if we hadn't taken a persistant taxi drivers crappy offer as we left the hotel. After all the white people were promtly shuttled to the rear of the bus (Rosa Parks comes to mind) and having to pay the guy that insisted he loaded our bags (even though we loaded it), we were off! Even though we stopped at highly over priced rest stops, had to worry about our driver drag racing other trucks before a head on with a water buffalo, and had to deal with an Indian family that didn't care that there were 20 other people on the bus with them, the trip wasn't half bad. Like I said, it was interesting and we were sucking up the culture like a drunk at the bar. We had reserved a hotel back in Kathmandu to ensure we were picked up at the bus station by a hotel patron, and not one of the many other nasty motel pushing freaks. The hotel was great compared to some of the places we were acustomed to in Kathmandu, but was a bit far from the main drag and lakeside areas.

Taking some advice from our old travel companions, Mike and Cheryl, we stayed at the Hotel Temple Villa. Wonderful place, for a bit cheaper, and a great family to boot. Like the title suggests we played lazy for the next five days, taking in the local food, and exploring the contryside. One day we rented a very old row boat and made a trip to an island temple, then off to the World Peace Pagoda, both were entertaining and picture worthy. Another day we rented bicycles and headed to Devi Falls, and Gupteshwor Mahadev Cave....Devi Falls actually goes into the before mentioned cave, very cool from the inside. Before the falls were lots of slot type cayons carved into the walls of the valley. Later that evening we were inspired to take a bike tour around the large lake next to town to see some crazy water buffalo and a little bit of the country side.

Our last excursion around Pokhara was a day hike into the coutryside. What started out as a two day one night trip, got shortened up pretty quick once we realized there weren't many places to stay. We did run into one nice family that was very hospitable. The day was hot and humid and we were doing a bit of up hill walking....well, Toni likes to keep her money belt down the from of her pants, this also acts as a sort of sweat funnel down the front of her pants. So you can imagine what the ladies thought of the wet spot below the zipper when she asked for the toliet? I thought the two old ladies were going to lose it and they were all smiles for the rest of our visit. Wasn't sure if it was out of sympathy or what, but we were offered some wonderful little honey balls of something, quite good but still a mystery to me. One thing for certain, this was the kind of Nepal we were looking for, beautiful countryside and genuine people. And we didn't see a single westerner all day. We did it like locals on the way back to town and took a ride on the bus roof, cooled us off and ended our day well.

So, the last day or two has been planning the next leg of our journey. Tomorrow we get on a bus for Lumbini, the birthplace of Lord Buddha. That crazy guy that started one of the largest followings on Earth. Plan on spending a few days there seeing all the temples and archeology, then plunging into India. We'll be updating once we get to a place to settle down for a day or two.

Later!

Posted by Breezy13 05:01 Archived in Nepal Comments (5)

We Have Finished Our Nepal Trek

sunny
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We have made is safely back to Kathmandu after our 13 day trek in the Everest Region of Nepal. A few thoughts come to mind: wow what an amazing place, very happy we were able to handle the altitude and we have never been so happy to shower (13 days without a shower is a long time ya know....thank goodness for WetOnes).

Since our last blog update.....we arrived in Kathmandu and were jumpin at the bit to get out of the city and to the mountains where we are most comfortable. I was very excited to get to Kathmandu, all the pictures that I had seen made it out to seem like a quaint large town in Nepal. I was expecting peaceful stupas with the famous "Eyes of Buddha" looking over all. I was not expecting the hustle and bustle of a larger city, the tall buildings, the dust/pollution and most of all the crazy street traffic. Which includes the typical cars, trucks, buses, as well as motorbikes, rickshaws, bicycles, dogs and cows and pedestrians (rarely is there a sidewalk). All of this on a street the size of an American alley. Needless to say, the first couple days here were somewhat overwhelming walking from point A to point B coming from quiet Tassie. But we are finally getting comfortable with the set up and just trust that we won't get hit. So far so good:)

We did a little bit of sight seeing before leaving for our trek, but we decided to leave most of it until we returned. So the day before our trek we got everything set up. We went through a trekking company affiliated with our hotel. We had an idea of where we wanted to go, our friends Mike and Cheryl had just done the same trek in November. But there are literally 100s of different trekking companies here in Kathmandu. So we were happy to find a good company at our hotel. We ended up with a 13 day trek that included our flights from Kathmandu to Lukla (I will touch upon this experience shortly) our trekking permit, a guide (Santha who could speak English well and was like our mountain host) a porter (Pernard who did not speak English but he carried our pack) 3 meals a day, lodging in the basic guest houses, and all the other administrative stuff that goes along with the trek (food/lodging for guide and porter, taxi to airport, making sure they would contact Breezy's mom incase of an emergency and get us out safely and deal with our insurance stuff). We felt that it was a great overall package and we only had to worry about drinks and an occasional can of Pringles. Once we had our trek set up we went shopping for some last minute items we needed: gloves, fleece jacket and pants. We were also able to meet our guide Santha (sounds like Santa Claus) to make sure we would get along. We were then set to leave the hotel early the next morning to catch our flight to Lukla.

The flight to Lukla deserves its own paragraph. We boarded a small 17 passenger propeller cesna. The flight was rather short about 30 minutes, but after about 15 minutes we could see amazing views of some of the largest mountains in the world out the window. Before we knew it, it was time to land. What a strange feeling to look out both sides of the plane and see mountains and then to look out the front of the plane and see a village on a hill right in front of you. The Lukla airport runway leaves little room for pilot error. I would say it is only 300 meters long and on one side you have the village of Lukla, on the other side is a cliff. I guess some of the highest trained pilots in Nepal are those that fly into Lukla. The runway was also at a pretty steep incline to help with take-off and landings.

That morning after we arrived and had breakfast we started hiking right away. Our trekking schedule for the 13 days was much of the same. We would get up at about 6am, have breakfast at 6:30, leave the guest house around 7am and walk for 3-6 hours, have lunch, nap/relax, have dinner, play some cards and talk, then hit the hay around 8pm. Our rooms were all pretty typical, small simple, and with two beds consisting of a thin piece of foam and cover. Most mornings we were lucky to wake up at 4am or 5am to a breathtaking view of the mountains. Early mornings were generally clear with clouds moving in about ten or so. We even got caught in a couple of snow storms that we napped through:)

About the third of fourth day we arrived in Thyangboche, a town about the size of three city blocks...if that, with a giant monastery, it happened to be a special time of the month and were lucky enough to witness some kind of holy happenings, very interesting. Lots of strange drums and horns being played after some long chants and mantras. The views from this little place were also amazing, Ama Dablam Peak was just to the east of us, a very tall spire that is most impressive as well as Mt Everest in the difference. After this stop we started heading north toward Gokyo, with a night pit-stop in Machherma. Once in Goyko we were at 15, 750 ft in altitude, and needed to acclimate for a couple of days before the Renjo Pass crossing of close to 18,000 ft. The day after we arrived included a day hike, starting at 4am, to Gokyo peak which is a bit higher than Renjo Pass but with incredible views of Everest and all of the surrounding mountains, nothing I've ever seen before even compares!!!!!!

Well, the next day came and we prepared to hit Renjo Pass, ate our so called Nepalese wheaties and hit the trail. We are proud to say it took us under three hours to reach the pass, compared with the four to five it usually takes with other weenier people. Infact, our guide said he had never made it so quickly (maybe the goo and coca tea had something to do with it). The stumble down the other side was much harder than going up, having to contend with snow and a steep decline was slightly challenging. In all it took us about 6 hours to reach Lengdeng, where we gladly collapsed for a nap. About a day after this we were starting to get run down and were sorely needing a shower and clean clothes. There really isn't anywhere to clean your clothes along the way and my (Breezy is now typing) socks were starting to turn into a primitive plastic....yuk.

So to skip ahead till the last night, we finally went out and had a few drinks in Lukla to celebrate a wonderful trek. In the celebration we ended up meeting a few other travelers, one from the US, and an Aussie. Never thought I'd be so happy to get back to Kathmandu....but mostly to shower. And its hard to write about the crap that fell off our bodies in the shower.....yum.

So anyhoo, we've just spent the last couple of days shopping for deals in the Thamel market....lots of fake North Face stuff that looks really fake, but cheap!!! We have started to do some sight seeing. We leave for the somewhat peaceful town of Pokhara tomorrow. As we mentioned before we will not be including photos until we get back to the states. But we have decided to include our friends Mike and Cheryl's blog link because they have some amazing photos of the same trek we just got done with. Not sure where they're at but someone with a faster connections speed can figure it out.... http://blogs.bootsnall.com/mike_and_cheryl

Here is a somewhat detailed map as well (so many of the place that we trekked to are not on the map) so this will give you an idea of where we are.

Hope you are all well.

Posted by Breezy13 05:03 Archived in Nepal Comments (1)

5 Nights in Bangkok

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I had been to Bangkok Thailand about 5 years ago and swore I would never return again unless it was only to go through the city. But when we purchased our plane tickets we were able to get cheaper air going through BKK and then come to find out our friends Tracy and Rob were planning on being there around the same time. Needless to say, we ended up spending 5 nights and 4 days in a city I had previously swore off. I must say, I rather enjoyed BKK this time around and I think our lodging had something to do with it, I'm sure the company helped as well.

Thanks to a suggestion of a friend (thank you Courtney) we found wonderful a place to stay in the hot, dirty, noisy and busy city of BKK. The Shanti Lodge was not only a wonderful oasis to return to after a day of touring but they also had amazing food. For those of you that know me and how much I love food and never miss a meal.....infact after each meal I start to look forward to the next. Well thanks to the food at the Shanti, Breezy started to get more excited about each coming up meal than I was. One of the great pleasures of traveling.....to experience different foods. Anyhow, for anyone looking for a place to stay on your next BKK visit, we strongly suggest the Shanti Lodge!

But onto our adventures in BKK. Breezy and I arrive two days before Rob and Tracy and wanted to wait and hit the hot tourist spots with them. So our first day we set aside as a day to get lost and explore the city. We managed to find a tuk tuk driver to help us with this. For those of you that do not know, a tuk tuk is a 3-wheeled vehicle with open sides that are notorious for scamming tourists into a "cheap tour" of the city. They end up taking you to a couple temples and then take you to some over priced tailors and jewelry emporiums, which in return give the drivers fuel vouchers. It is an amazingly entertwined system that we found ourselves in the middle of. Since I had been to BKK before and the whole tuk tuk scam was one of the reasons why I had no desire to return the city. But we had time to spare and the open air felt great in the 90+ heat. So we saw some of the not as well-known sites in BKK as well as two tailor shops and two jewelry emporiums. Atleast we got this BKK experience out of the way.

The next day we decided to get our of the city and took a tour of Ayuthaya. This was the Siam royal captal from 1350-1767. It was a day full of stupas, roosters, buddhas, temples and elephants. I actually got to feed some elephants, which was one of the coolest experiences so far. Its a little overwhelming with 4-6 giant worm-like things coming at you (the trunks). Very cool!

Rob and Tracy arrived that night, so we had to celebrate Bangkok style. Staying up until about 4:30am. Rob, Tracy and I actually took a 4am tuk-tuk ride. Since the jewelr4y emporiums were close at this hour we were able to just get a nice open-air tour. Then the next day we spent shopping in the markets. Tracy and I found that Rob and Breezy were more into the shopping than we were. But we all came away winners in the game of BKK shopping.

Our last full day in BKK we decided to explore the city via boat. We stopped at the famous Grand Palace to visit the Emerald Buddha and take many photos of the intricate decore of the many buildings. Photos just do not do justice to the Grand Palace, but we all tried. We then took the boat to the 2nd biggest tourist hot spot, the Reclining Buddha (Wat Pho) which is a 46 meter long golden buddha lying down. We finished off the day with another amazing meal at the Shanti.

The next day we said goodbye to our friends and hello to Kathmandu Nepal. We have been here for two days now and are enjoying the friendly locals and cooler weather. We set up our trek today and will leave tomorrow morning for Lukla to begin our 13 day trek in the Everest region. There won't be much for internet access on most of the trek so you won't be hearing from us for a couple weeks. But don't you worry....I'm sure we will have plenty to write about when we return:)

Jason and Toni

Posted by Breezy13 06:24 Archived in Thailand Comments (4)

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