"The world is a book, & those who do not travel read only one page" St. Augustine

"The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page" St. Augustine

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


(Saturday) I woke up and had a great breafkast at the hotel. Soon after check-out, I was on my way to the airport. I boarded my flight to Bali where it had been raining all day. I think this rain is following me :(. I paid for my visa and quickly found my bags before heading off into a cab. I asked the cab driver to take me to Kuta which is along the coast and near Seminyak. Kuta was full of toursists and nightlife. It wasn't exactly what I wanted to take away from Bali, but with only five days it would do.
I went to the "hotel" that Anna was staying at, and she was waiting for me by the pool. I was so excited to see her!  I didn't think I would see her so soon because she's from England, but I'm glad our paths were able to cross. I went to put my bag in our room which had a nice stench of stale urine. It was quite the contrast to my beautiful villa in Langkawi.
We went to Apache to eat. I tried Grado which is a local specialty. It's mostly comprised of mixed vegetables and a peanut sauce. We also enjoyed some Bintang which tastes exactly like Heineken. There are few preservatives in Bintang so a hangover is hard to come across! We ate and drank while a local reggae band played. We met some locals and joined their table to enjoyed some drinks together. Then we decided to head over to Bounty which is more of a club. We danced our hearts out to songs I would probably turn off had I heard them playing in the States. I met a guy named Pedro from Portugal and we salsa danced all night. I absolutely loved every minute of it. Kuta felt a bit like spring break in Mexico to me. Around 3am we decided it was time to retire.

(Sunday) It was pouring rain when we woke up this morning. I ordered a banana jaffle for breakfast which is like a banana panini for lack of better words. When we were leaving the receptionist, I stepped on the stair and my flip flop slipped which sent me slamming down against the stairs. My back hit the corner, and I quickly got up throbbing in pain. I did a few stretches while I waited for breakfast.
We decided to walk around and do a little shopping. We also found a new hotel to go to one street over that was the same price but a ton better. We made our way to a local spot for lunch and had some of the best springrolls I've ever had (I've eaten a great deal of springrolls the past few months). The roads were flooded but we waded our way back to our hotel and packed our bags. It was two hours past check-out time, and they wanted to charge us a lot for those two hours. It was a bit ridiculous considering the fact that Anna had stayed with them for a week. We didn't feel like paying so we decided to stay another night and move first thing in the morning.
We went to this store Uluwate which sells Balinese Lace. Anna was kind enough to wait for me as I tried on one dress after the other. I did buy one little black dress. They were all so beautiful; it was hard to choose one.
In the evening we decided to go to Seminyak. There's supposed to be great nightlife there, but the town was sleepy. We walked for a bit before settling at a restaurant/bar. Anna wanted to watch the motoraces, and I enjoyed the live music. We both sipped on some cocktails before heading towards the beach. Our brilliant idea was to walk back to Kuta along the water. However, five minutes into our journey it began pouring rain. We found shelter at a little beach bar and had some Sangria. We asked how long it would take us to walk back, and they laughed at us. When the rain had slowed to a drizzle, we walked. It did take us about an hour to get back to Kuta, but we had nothing better to do. We were in Bali; who cares about time? It's all we had that evening.

(Monday) We were going to go on a tour of Ubud today, but our driver never came. I guess that's what we get for setting up a tour while at a bar. I don't think it's the most reliable source. We decided to do some more shopping and walking around despite the bad weather. While walking, we stumbled across this great Italian restaurant and sampled some pizza. We were both hungry and decided to give it a try. Of course, we ordered garlic bread (we are both obsessed with garlic) and then the four cheese pizza; it was covered in melted, gooey, irresistible cheese. The both of us were in Heaven.
The sun came out in the late afternoon so we put on our bikinis and hit the beach. I don't like the beach in Kuta at all. It is crowded and full of trash. All the beaches on the west coast are covered in trash this time of year. The tide brings it in and then takes it out in a few months. It's sad. I had such a romantic idea of Bali, and so far it has not been true. We made some friends with the locals and drank a few Bintangs while catching a tan. Anna got her feet buffed which was an open invitation for every vendor to come hassle us. We met some funny ones like Sue. She asked if I had a boyfriend which I don't. She was confused why a pretty girl like me (her words) was single so she was determined to find me a boyfriend. She would say things like, "My sister needs a good man." I laughed and blushed simultaneously. I was not looking for a boyfriend especially not one in Bali!
We ate dinner at a cool restaurant where we wasted time playing pool. I am absolutely terrible at pool. This guy asked us to play him, and I warned him he was making a mistake. We shared a few laughs before heading back to Apache. There was another live band playing, and we sat down to enjoy their sounds. Before long, some Australian named Steve was talking to me. He was nice and easy to talk to; his friends joined us soon after. One of his friends asked me if I liked Steve. Sorry, but this made me upset. Why can't a girl and guy just talk and enjoy a few drinks at a bar? Since when does talking to someone automatically mean you fancy them? No. I was not interested. I thought he was nice, and I liked talking to him. There was no attraction and even if there were it would mean nothing. I find it annoying that there's some kind of pressure when going out. I was just trying to enjoy my evening.
I tried to dance a bit, but my back was in so much pain still. We went to Bounty again, but I was not in the mood for club music. I wasn't being a party pooper, I just would rather listen to reggae all night. When we were leaving, Anna saw a guy she fancied and this is how that conversation went: "Damn!" "No Damn. You have beer goggles on!" Love my nights with Anna :)

(Tuesday) Today we hired a private driver to take us to Ubud. We stopped at a silversmith. Anna loves silver as much as I love dresses. Our driver then took us to the Monkey Forest. There were monkeys everywhere (go figure). As soon as we parked our car, we were surrounded. I was a bit paranoid at first. Ever since we went to the Gibbon Sanctuary in Thailand I have been afraid of monkeys! They were too close for comfort. Some of them were fighting over food and territory while others laid there lazily. There were a few temples in the forest that we walked around. We had to be dressed in sarongs and then belts before granted access to the temples. I asked if there was a significance in the green and yellow colors, but there wasn't. The temples were ornate and beautifully carved. There was moss that added depth and color to the stones that monkeys had sat on. A couple monkeys found comfort in Anna's lap. One even climbed on her head and started playing with her hair. At the same time, a little monkey came and lifted her flip flop as if looking for some treasure beneath it.
We continued our trip through the hills and trees. We enjoyed a beautiful lunch on a terrace overlooking the rice paddies. They looked fake and painted with perfection. We went to several other temples and walked to a beautiful waterfall. We drove up to view the active volcano. I really wish I could ahve hiked there to watch the sunset, but I didn't have any athletic shoes plus my back was still in a lot of pain. We enjoyed more of Ubud before heading back to Kuta and calling it a night.

(Wednesday) We woke up and made our way to the beach. The weather did not hold off for very long. It began raining within 20 minutes so we scrambled under an umbrella with our friends. They played guitar and the 7 or 8 of us talked waiting for the storm to pass. Anna and I decided to walk back to our hotel until we had our surf lessons. I knew I shouldn't surf with my back, but I was stubborn. I didn't come all the way to Bali not to surf. I think it's pretty cool to say I learned how to surf in Bali, and I had all intentions of making that happen.
We went to the beach around 2:30 to have our lesson. We were both pretty good, but I kept trying to position my feet like I do on my snowboard. It took a bit of adjusting. We moved into the water and gave the waves a try. The both of us were up by the second wave. It was exciting and liberating. I wanted to stay on my board as long as possible because the water was disgusting. It was literally like swimming in a dumpster with a splash of water. A wave would come and bring plastic up your swim trunks and wrap garbage around your legs. Further down the beach was a bit clearer so we spent a few hours surfing there. It was such a great way to spend the afternoon. After  a while, my back was throbbing in pain, and I started to get lazy. I could no longer try to surf so we called it quits.
After a shower, we made our way back to the beach. We joined our friends and drank some Bintang as we watched the sunset. It was cloudy but nice. We went to eat and then stopped by the surf shop. There were a bunch of locals and an Australian, Ricky, hanging out. We joined them in conversation and a passing of vodka and sprite. Later, we went out to Apache again and smoked some sheesha and did a little dancing. They sang Happy Birthday to me, but some other girl got my free drink. Oh well! Ricky challenged me to a dance off which was a mistake. He had no idea I could dance. We had a lot of fun before heading back in the rain.

Sunday, April 10, 2011


(Wednesday) I woke up to more rain. I thought Langkawi would be a couple of relaxing days on the beach by myself, but the weather had other plans for me. No worries, everything happens for a reason. I just made myself a couple cups of coffee and cuddled under my down comforter a little longer. When my hunger took over, I decided to walk to the fruit shop. I hadn't realized it didn't open until 11:30 so I grabbed some yogurt and hit the internet cafe until the rain passed.
In the afternoon the rain cleared a bit. I was really happy about this because I really wanted to go to the cable car. I walked back to my villa and had the front desk call to make sure it was open. They said it was. I grabbed a cab that drove me through the curvy jungle while monkeys rested on the side of the roads. About a half an hour later I was at the Geopark which was nearly empty. The air was still damp as the clouds lingered above the mountain tops. I walked up to the cable car only to find out that it was delayed with no promise of opening. I was a bit disappointed but decided to stick around just in case it opened. I walked around the park despite the fact most of it was closed. There was a tiger that was rescued so I went and watched her eat.
I decided to stop in every shop that was open. They were all selling the same dresses, souvenirs, etc. I settled down at a cafe for lunch and had some spring rolls. As soon as my order came, I saw the cable cars starting to move. I rushed through my lunch and headed towards the gate. The lift was still closed, but I felt hopeful. A small crowd had gathered in anticipation.
After another 20 minutes or so the ride opened. We all shuffled in line and walked up to the platform. I was in a car with four other people and a little girl. It moved faster than I had anticipated and at a steep incline. I dazed outside the window trying to take in as much as I could. I felt a sense of serenity. In the near distance was a waterfall and then another on the opposite side. I could see the sea spotted with boats. The mountains looked marvelous covered in a blanket of green. Then everything disappeared. We were lost in a cloud. All visibility left us; it was crazy. After a minute the mountains presented themselves again, and we exited on the first viewing deck.
The air was brisk. There were still clouds lingering so it was hard to see much of the landscape. A few quick glances were all we got. I could see the suspension bridge, but they told us it was closed when we were at the base. I hopped back into the cable car and headed further onto the mountaintops. When I got out, the curtain of clouds had opened up revealing a brilliant blue sky against the ocean. I asked if the suspension bridge was open, and they told me it was. Hearing them say that gave me instant gratification. I rushed down the tattered stairs and made my way to the bridge. I was the first one to walk across it all day. It curved between two mountains and hung from one pole. I walked across it holding on to my dress due to the blowing winds. After a few steps I started clinging to the railing because some of the wood planks were shaky and not stable. I got to the middle and started clicking away. I couldn't help it. I stood there alone in silence taking in as many deep breaths as I could before the crowd followed onto the bridge. It was a little piece of Heaven.
I continued walking to the other decks and lookouts. At one point I saw an eagle gliding through the sky before it disappeared into the trees. The view was breathtaking. I watched the waves crash against the harbor. I could see the lighthouse and parts of small towns that were along the coast. I watched the clouds move like steam up the mountains. It was perfection. I walked back to the cable car to begin my descent with a sense of equanimity.
I was so relaxed after this taste of mother nature that I decided to shower and take a nap. When I woke up, I got ready and decided to go the fruit store and buy some bananas for dinner. I had also seen an advertisement for Eagle Rock; tonight happened to be ladies night. I thought I should go out and be social. With my bag of bananas, I started walking towards Eagle Rock (which was a lot further than I had anticipated). I came across Sunba which was a retro bar with live music every night. If there's one thing I love it's live music so I made my way inside only to realize there were only four people in there and no band. I asked about the music, but it wouldn't start for another hour. I grabbed a corner seat at the bar and ordered a cocktail. I thought sitting at a bar alone with a band playing was less embarrassing then just drinking alone.
Soon after I got there, a guy came in by himself and sat between me and the other girls at the bar. We didn't talk for quite some time. Eventually, the bartender made some joke which we both laughed at and finally sparked a conversation. I was wondering when he was going to say something. I mean, two people by themselves at a bar must ignite some type of conversation. Of course I wasn't going to be the one to start it. Be it my pride or perhaps that bit of shyness that I have, but I would have waited all night for Rod to start the conversation.
We ended up talking for quite sometime before a couple others came into the bar and joined our conversation. I laughed when they asked how long we had been together, and we replied, "About 45 minutes?" Sally was from Australia and J was from Amsterdam. They were both traveling solo and met on a flight. They decided to continue traveling with one another for the time being. I loved them! Sally and I talked for hours about our lives, travels and futures. We had so much in common. It was so easy to continue the conversation. We drank and enjoyed the band that was playing for the nearly full bar now. The music was good, but we were in the mood to dance so we decided to check out Eagle Rock.
The bar had a spunky band playing that dancing was irresistible. We drank and danced all night. There was a group of Asians at a table near us who we befriended within no time. They loved us, and we loved them. Every time I ordered a drink this one guy would take it and give me a different drink. I still don't understand it, but then again who understands half the crap that happens in a club. There were shots passed and bottles of whiskey poured. These strangers quickly became friends.

The four of us left in the early hours of the morning and decided to go swimming in the ocean. I think that's my new hobby. I really enjoy night swimming. We all jumped in and had a blast. The rain may have fallen in Langkawi today, but it was an incredible day.

(Thursday) I was overly excited this morning when I woke up to the sun shining. The only place I wanted to be was on the beach. Rod and I headed to the beach closer to where  I was staying. It was nice and not too crowded. The water was the perfect temperature. We grabbed a couple of beers and enjoyed the rest of the morning before grabbing some lunch and a small restaurant. Then we decided to go to the beach by his hotel which was extremely beautiful. It was so nice to enjoy the afternoon with someone. Experiences like this should be enjoyed in good company.  There we were, in crystal clear water on a tropical island. Life is good. I floated in the water staring at the blue sky and counting my blessings. After a couple of hours, I went back to shower and get ready for our little date night.
We shared a few more hours together over dinner and wine. I think I had a smile on my face the entire time. The restaurant was decorated in a Balinese style; it was spectacular. The dinner and wine were delicious, and the company was even better. I was flattered. I let myself become completely consumed by it.
After dinner, we went back to Sunba where it all began. The bar played Shania Twain and Bob Marley in the same set list. Nothing like a little variety. There was a woman dancing with young Asian man, and she reminded me so much of my mother. It made me a bit homesick and excited. The woman was grooving to the reggae band without a care in the world. That's the liberating thing about dancing; there's no time to worry about things because our minds and bodies are consumed by the rhythms. This scene reminded me of Nashville when we were dancing our hearts out at The Stage while listening to Jason Link and his band. It was lovely, and I cannot wait for CMA Fest 2011!!!

(Friday) I contemplated staying in Langkawi another night. I was scheduled to leave in the late evening. I would spend the evening in KL again before catching a flight to Bali tomorrow afternoon. There were flights in the morning that I could take. Rod asked me to stay, and a part of me really wanted to. I sat on the internet for a good hour with AirAsia.com in one window and Agoda.com in the other. Why am I so indecisive? It's times like these I wish I wasn't so bad at choosing. In the end, I logged off and went to check out of my villa. I left my bag with the front desk and went to the beach. I needed time to think. I asked a few friends whom all told me to live a little. I am living a little. I have been traveling for a few months so I think that qualifies. I know what they meant though. You only live once, and why not enjoy good company when it's there? I really wanted to see Sally and J again.
I tried not to think about it as I laid on the beach. In the distance I saw dark clouds. They were moving fast so I thought they would blow over. Before I knew it, raindrops were falling. I tried to wait it out, but they fell more frequently until I was caught in a downpour. Oops! I grabbed my things and rushed to the nearest restaurant seeking shelter and lunch. I ordered lobster in a Malay sauce. It was terrible. They breaded the lobster pieces and deep fried them. Why?! Why would you take perfectly good shellfish and deep fry it? I ate it in resentment. My most expensive meal thus far was the worst meal. I was not happy. I was tired and longing for a shower. I wish I had a hotel to go back to and take a nap or shower; I found refuge in the internet cafe instead. In my anxious state I booked a hotel room and decided to stick to my original plan. I would regret that decision later.
I met up with Rod later in the afternoon and we made our way to the center Kuah. We went to the mall which was hardly a mall. The shops were sparse with little to offer. We decided to walk hoping we'd find something else to entertain us. We ended up along the shore and took a seat on the rocks. The waves broke against the rocks as we sat and watched the sun settling into the evening. There were so many boats out on the water. I sat taking it all in. I wanted to absorb as much of Langkawi as I could in these last moments.
We went back to our side of the island. Before heading to the airport, we found a nice cafe on the beach and had a cup of coffee as the sun finished setting. It was beautiful, and I could have stayed there all night.  A live band had begun to play and the beach was dotted with people of all ages. It was lively yet not overcrowded. After our coffee, we went our separate ways. I went to the airport and boarded my flight. It was only an hour before we touched down in KL. I shared a taxi with a young couple to our hotel and checked in to my room. I was alone in a big cold hotel room. I suddenly wished I hadn't been so stubborn. I knew I wanted to stay, but my head told me to go. It was against my better judgement to stay or so I thought. I showered and cuddled under the flimsy blanket and fell asleep to the sound of BBC News. 

Friday, April 8, 2011


(Monday) After another breakfast of toast and coffee, I went on a self guided walking tour of KL. When I first arrived on the monorail, I had seen a large building with a gorgeous blue dome. I decided to walk there and thought it was the Islamic Museum. I was greeted by two men and then asked to put on a robe and scarf. The site was quite humorous as I drowned in the pink robe and my babushka. The man awkwardly asked me about my menstrual cycle before heading into the mosque. The grand building was simplistic inside and was mostly decorated with the hundreds of names for Allah. There was also some nice woodwork, but I was distracted by the man who was trying to convert me to his faith. I stood and listened for nearly an hour about the Islamic faith. It sounded a lot like Christianity to me, but I'm still no expert on the subject. He gave me pamphlets and a DVD about how to live life through Allah. It was interesting, and although not what I was anticipating, I learned a great deal.
I felt a bit uncomfortable when I took off my robe to leave because I had just learned about women covering up so as not to be seductive. I just had a sundress on that was not revealing in Western terms, but he preached the idea of women being conservative and not wearing makeup and covering their bodies. He also told me how big of a sin it is to drink. If one drinks, there's a 40 fast that must be held to seek forgiveness. I enjoy my cocktails and my sundresses; those two alone would keep me from ever converting (not that that was even a consideration).
I continued my walk and came across Chinatown. There were markets everywhere each selling anything and everything. Every designer knockoff was available there. There was nothing exceptionally different about this market, but I did have some delicious vegetable dumplings with roasted garlic on top. I enjoyed those slowly as I walked along. My attention was grabbed by a massive tin garbage can. It was filled with walnuts that were being turned and roasted. My dad normally roasts these in an oven versus a garbage can so that was interesting! The aroma was overwhelming and good.
I walked past the old buildings that offer a European influence. There was a mix of these buildings piled one on top of the other, beautiful mosques and modern high rises. They offer a blend of old and new. I walked to the Central Market. For those who cannot read maps, there's a giant balloon that says, "Central Market" lingering overhead. The market was filled with more artwork and souvenirs.
My feet guided me around the Masjid Jame which is a large mosque. It lies on two rivers and is the oldest mosque in the city. Its size is impressive as well as the architecture. I decided to enjoy the view from a nearby park. There were benches under a floral gazebo. In the center was a water fountain; several people gathered to take a break from the heat. Although it was only 93, the heat index was 104. I sat for some time enjoying my book and the rest of my dumplings.
An hour later, I walked back to the guesthouse. This man started talking and walking with me. The conversation was the usual exchanging of background information that seems to be the base of conversations while traveling. To my surprise, he started to ask personal questions that I had no desire to answer. I hardly talk about such sensitive subjects with my friends let alone stranger. Thanks but no thanks! As we said on our group trip, “Too much, too soon!”
 I saw the Menara Tower which is the 2nd largest free standing tower in the world. I had wanted to go to the top and enjoy some lunch or dinner, but the food reviews were not pleasant. My interest faded, and I went to take a long nap. It was raining when I woke up so I went to the internet cafĂ© and bought my flight to Qatar. This excited me very much.
I treated myself to a nice Italian dinner with Pellegrino and a glass of Malbec to enjoy. There’s something comforting about a glass of wine and a glass of Pellegrino. I sat by myself just people watching. The server brought me a magazine, but I felt a bit offended. It’s nice to have nothing to do. In normalcy, I would be reading a book or sending texts to distract me. However, I am working on enjoying the act of doing nothing. Why do we always need something to occupy our time? Is it so terribly awkward to be somewhere alone with nothing to pass the time? A few months ago my answer would have been yes. In college, I wouldn’t eat all day if I had to sit in the cafeteria alone. It was a huge fear of mine. I would have rather gone without eating then face a room full of strangers. I refused the magazine and quietly enjoyed each sip of my wine and each strand of spaghetti. The time went by slowly but memorably.
(Tuesday) This morning I had breakfast at the guesthouse with two of my roommates. There was an older gentleman who was very enthusiastic and personable. We talked for quite awhile before Raj joined us. We got on about traveling and that spark I had came back. For a moment, I thought it had become a dim light, but in talking this morning the spark was back. Uh oh. Is that trouble for me? Will I be planning another crazy vacation? I thought I was done with long-term trips for the recent future. Who knows now! I found out Raj was going to be in Bali the same time I was so we exchanged information. I headed to the island Langkawi while he headed to Hong Kong.
Getting to the airport was fairly easy. The public transportation in KL was easy and efficient. I took the monorail to the bus station. I met this lovely elderly couple, and we exchanged stories of our travels. They were so cute! I couldn’t help but smile at this couple in their later years still enjoying life and exploring the world together. They gave me lots of helpful hints and blessings of safe travels. Then I got on the bus and made my way to the airport.

I landed in Langkawi in the early evening. Unfortunate for me, it had started raining. I was supposed to be staying at one of the top 101 hotels in the world when Anastasia and I were going to be traveling here. However, I expedited my time in Malaysia and arrived solo a few weeks early. There were no rooms available to change the reservation so I booked a villa just 50 meters from the beach. The villa was so beautiful and modern. It looked like it came straight from an IKEA catalogue. I was very happy with my decision.
The rain lingered throughout the night. I grabbed some dinner and tried to find a bar. The two that were recommended were closed. There were plenty of shops and restaurants but nothing entertaining. I decided to go back and take a nice hot shower and use every towel in my room because I haven’t been able to use towels often. I’ve been using a sarong as a towel while traveling, and they are no substitute. I laid in bed writing and watching TV. I was so tired and eventually fell asleep only to be woken up by the sound of rain crashing against the tin roof. The rain became deafening. I dozed in and out of sleep thankful to at least have a comfortable bed and pillow to hide under.  

Thursday, April 7, 2011


(Friday) We ended up getting a bus in the evening to Malacca, Malaysia. The bus driver was very sketchy, but everything turned out fine. We had to get off the bus twice to get stamped out of Singapore and stamped into Malaysia. Our bus got into Malacca around midnight and the taxis were mostly gone. This guy kept trying to get us to stay at his hostel, but we already had one booked. He still offered to give us a ride so we accepted. The car was a bit sketchy, and then Anastasia considered staying at his hostel. I did not care to switch hostels at midnight in some town in Malaysia. We checked in to our hostel and went to sleep.
(Saturday) This morning I woke up and had breakfast which consisted of toast and coffee. That was the breakfast that was included with the hostel. I am so tired of toast. I hardly eat it at home, but it has become a regular breakfast meal. I walked around the UNESCO town of Malacca. It was an extremely hot day yet the humidity was low. I stopped in a folk art gallery and enjoyed the paintings of local artists. They were incredible. Some of them were so detailed. There were fruits painted so well I wanted to reach out and take a bite. There were portraits that showed so much depth and emotion. It was also nice to enjoy the air conditioning for a while.
After the art gallery, I went and saw an old church and some other buildings. There were tuk tuks that were spectacular lining the street. Each one was so ornate and beautifully gaudy. They were decorated with different flowers, sparkles and pictures while blaring hip hop music. I went and saw a few museums. I also stopped by the mall and tried a dozen different types of Indian sweets. My stomach was more than satisfied when I left.
In the evening I went to the Portuguese Square with two girls from the hostel Julia and  Sioban. We took a bus there anticipating some good food and advertised traditional dancing. The square was pretty empty and many restaurants were closing down. When we asked about the dancing, we were informed that they stopped several years ago. Interesting to find that out after the fact. We tried to go to a recommended restaurant but that too was closing at only 7pm. The staff did show us the "Holy Crab." It's a certain type of crab that has the shape of a cross on its back and is caught around this time of year. They recommended us to the neighboring restaurant, and our food was delicious. I had two different types of green vegetables one cooked in chili and the other in garlic. I also had some roasted eggplant. I was so full and so happy!
There had been some complications with my travel buddy recently. In fact, I had hardly spoken to her today. For various reasons, I decided to change my travel itinerary.Although we had some good times together, I was not trustworthy. Trust is the foundation of any relationship be it a friend, coworker or lover. It is a simple term with such complexity. I had my reservations about our travels before the trip began and throughout the group trip we hit a few speed bumps. We both agreed to move past those and enjoy the next two months, but I found it better to move forward independently. I prefer not to speak about the subject anymore because it exhausted me. I don't want to sit here and say negative things. I will say that I made the right decision.
My dad has also been pushing the idea of me traveling to Qatar and Cyprus. This all sprang up when disaster struck Japan which was my original layover. I was planning on going to Qatar and Cyprus in August or September so the idea was very appealing now. I decided that it would be better to spend my birthday and Easter in the company of my family. Therefore, I completely changed my itinerary. I would spend some more time in Malaysia and then go to Bali. From there I would go back to Bangkok for the third time in order to pick up my baggage that I stored there. From Bangkok I would go to New Dehli, India for a layover before finally arriving in Qatar. I would spend a few days with my Uncle there and continue onward to Cyprus. I was so excited about this new plan. In fact, I was more excited about this plan than my original plan. I immediately started booking flights and rescheduling and canceling existing reservations.
(Sunday) I woke up and had breakfast. The previous night I picked up a memory card at the Internet cafe because I thought it was mine. I travel with two and had pulled a bunch of things from my bag and thought it fell out. In the morning, I looked at it and realized it was not mine so I placed it in my camera to see if I recognized someone in the photos. To my surprise, it was Anastasia's. When I gave her back the memory card she did not even say, "Thank you." Someone could have easily erased the hundreds of pictures from Southeast Asia and walked away with a new 4GB memory card. I would have been very thankful to have that returned. This is just an example of why I decided to travel alone.
The girls and I decided to go on a riverboat tour through Malacca. It was a fail considering the fact that it was all in Malay. About thirty people crammed into this small boat. The sites were still nice to enjoy like the rustic buildings that were all painted with scenarios of Malay people. There was also a Ferris wheel and great bridges. We saw a giant lizard in the water that looked like a crocodile. It was so long and a bit scary. After the boat ride, I took a taxi to the main bus station and made my way to Kuala Lumpur.
Four methods of public transportation later,  I was finally in KL. I checked into my guesthouse and stayed in a dorm. Some of the staff was really nice but others were not very helpful. The location was perfect. It was centrally located and near major shopping, nightlife, restaurants and the Twin Towers.
I walked to the central shopping area. There were designer shops and dozens of hotels. I was lucky enough to see an acoustic dance troupe performance. They were dressed in traditional clothing and played the drums with such enthusiasm I had a silly grin on my face. They danced and played vibrant music to help raise funds for Japan.
After the performance, I walked to the Twin Towers. They were lit up and glowing in the setting sun. It was quite the site. I marveled at the modern architecture for quite some time. Then I headed to an Indian restaurant nearby for dinner. My options were limited to some more vegetables and white rice. I treated myself to some gelato for dessert. It occupied my time as I walked back to the guesthouse. I was so exhausted from traveling all day, but it was a great day!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011


(Tuesday) When we got to the airport, we waited in a long line quite sometime. Finally, we reached the check-in counter just to be informed that we could not check into our flight yet. That gave us a good laugh. We went upstairs to the cafeteria split a beer and ordered some lunch. I would like to point out that I went to the airport wearing three different shades of green: dark green linen pants, bright green cotton shirt and neon green watch! Has my fashion sense diminished? Other things I've done in Southeast Asia that I would never do include wearing flip flops with socks and my hair in pigtails. I enjoyed every minute of these. The airport was so small in Krabi so we passed the time by using the Internet. I Skyped with Stephanie, and it was so nice to talk to her even if I was a bit out of it. I also talked to my friend from elementary school, Brian (this is your shout out). We caught up on our lives briefly. He is now living in LA which gives me one more reason to go visit this summer! He offered that I could make him dinner. How nice :) I'll take any opportunity to test out my knew cooking skills! I have longed to cook this entire trip.
We were finally able to check-in; as we were waiting for our flight, it began pouring rain. After a few minutes, the rain had faded and we were able to board. We flew from Krabi to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. A full circle was completed by the time we got stamped in, grabbed our luggage, check-in, got stamped out and then boarded. I am pretty sure we got onto the same plane. From KL we flew to Singapore.
I immediately fell in love with the city. Perhaps it was the Westernization, but it was beautiful. There were proper highways and English street signs. Driving up at night, I could see the Ferris wheel along the water and a gorgeous skyline. There were parks and shopping centers and a mix of old and new. I was in complete awe.
For the next few nights we'd be staying at the River City Inn. It was a new hostel that was very nice. They gave us a tour (it was only one floor) and pointed out the sink to brush our teeth. We were both hungry and tired after our day of traveling. I had been craving some spring rolls and Anastasia thought she remembered a place with good ones so we went there. Unfortunately, the food was terrible; at least it was cheap!
(Wednesday) Today we walked around China Town. It was filled with street vendors selling clothes, food, flowers, decorations, etc. It was a lively part of town. The architecture was old and rustic. It was so colorful and incredible. The buildings had a European flair to them as they were stacked one on top of the other. We ate at the outdoor cafeteria in the middle of China Town. In the center were picnic tables with a couple dozen windows selling food on the outskirts.
We knew that we were going to go to Altitude in the evening, and we were not allowed to wear flip flops. Therefore, we went to the mall to look for some wedges. I had no idea they were so difficult to find! Finally, we found some wedges, and I happened to buy a dress. We spent the rest of the evening getting ready. We did our hair and makeup. It felt so good to get ready, put on a beautiful dress and finish it off with wedges. I think I forgot how to wear heels. My foot slipped a couple of times.

We tried to catch a cab, but it was nearly impossible. The walk was only 10 minutes so we started to go to Altitude. When we got there, the rooftop was closed for a private party that would be ending soon. We opted for the sports bar just a couple floors below. There we ordered some wine and mushroom wedges. The harbor was in perfect view from our seats, and from the window we enjoyed the setting sun.

After our glass of wine, we made our way to the top. Altitude is the highest point in Singapore. We were able to catch the last of the sunset and enjoyed the skyline being lit up. We ordered some hummus, green curry dip and roasted eggplant and pumpkin dip. They were all incredible. When I went to order a glass of wine, this man approached me and asked if I was German. Never in my life have I been asked that. He invited us to drink with them. They ordered a couple bottles of wine, and we were able to enjoy the rest of the evening with our new friends. When we left it was only 10pm, but we were tired and lazy from the wine so we did not go out after!

(Thursday) I finally got to Skype with Vanessa today! I miss her so much. When I was done, I met back up with Anastasia, and we headed to the East Coast. It was a short cab ride. We rented some roller blades and cruised along the coast. I haven't worn roller bladed in ages, and I was shaky to start. I finally got my groove back. The sun was beautiful against the water as the smell of the ocean mixed with the gardens. It was a lovely afternoon. We ran into some guys from the navy who happened to like my dress. I would like to think it was because of the anchors that were on it. We skated along and saw a wake board park and watched some of the guys do tricks. I also hadn't eaten so we enjoyed some lunch and cool drinks while resting.
We stopped in Little India before returning to our hostel. The shops sold absolutely everything and anything. There was a market with beautiful clothes where I tried on different dress options for Imran's wedding! The clothing is so colorful and decorative. 

For dinner we went to an Irish Pub and then headed to Clarke Que which houses restaurants, bars and shops along the river. We stopped at The Elephant where a live band was playing. They were absolutely incredible. The band was a mix of different races, and the female vocalist was raw and raunchy. She could have easily done a Janis Joplin cover, but she did not want to fill my request. It was a great and mellow evening.
(Friday) We were planning on leaving for Malacca in the evening. I could not find a bus that had any availability still. I spent an hour trying to call various companies. Eventually, they opened more buses, and I was able to secure us two seats. Before then, I decided to walk around. I wanted to see some of the amazing architecture. It is so beautiful in Singapore. I love the old buildings mixed with the new. The contrast is so great. Singapore's architecture is so modern and advanced; I have never seen such creativity before.
I walked throughout the city center and saw some sculptures. There was one with red figures spiraling to create a pyramid. It represented the continuously evolving society of Singapore. Then I walked across the bridge to the War Memorial Park. I continued to Raffles Hotel. Orville had been talking about this hotel because he visited when he was in service. The hotel has been around since the late 1800s and is remarkably beautiful. I decided to have lunch in the garden. I ordered some dumplings and had to try the famous Singapore Sling.
I continued my journey to see some churches and then headed towards the Ferris wheel. I saw the outdoor venue and walked along the water. When I got to to the Marina Bay Sands hotel, I was in awe. There was a beautiful flower sculpture on the water. Then there was a huge mall with every designer imaginable. There was also an ice skating rink and a beautiful casino. I wanted to play some Blackjack, but the lowest table was S$25. My skills are not up to par for that yet! I continued onto the hotel and watched in amazement. It looks like there's a spaceship atop of the towers. On the roof is a pool, bar and garden. It's modern architecture at its finest!
I'm slightly obsessed with Singapore. The people are so friendly, and it is beautiful. There are some odd laws with big fines for things like chewing gum, peeing in a lift, not flushing the toilet and smoking on the street. Some broken laws can also lead to the death penalty by means of hanging. Although these laws seem a bit strict, the atmosphere is very relaxed. The city is extremely clean; trash cans are found everywhere with funny sings that read Feed Me, I'm Hungry or Lets Bin It! These are great steps that more cities should implement. The city is continuously growing and advancing. It has a small town feel and still manages to keep a traditional vibe. There is a great business district but not like one I've seen before. No one was rushing around checking their clocks or waiting for the Walk/Don't Walk sign. Instead, they were enjoying casual conversations and life. Pedestrians are good pedestrians and drivers are good drivers. They all stopped behind the lines and no one cut anyone off. There's probably a law against that too! The grad program I was looking at is half in New York and half in Singapore. I am that much more excited to apply :)

Monday, March 28, 2011

Ton Sai

(Friday) We all headed to the beach for a couple of group pictures. We did the famous Pacific Discovery jumping picture and a few others. We all tried to stack a pyramid and were pretty successful. We all hugged, laughed and cried one more time. It was a sad morning. I had to wave goodbye to seven of my friends as they boarded the longtail and headed back to Bangkok. The other half of us were extending our travels. We waited on the shore until the boat was out of site. The rest of us went back to the houses, made some lunch and packed our bags. We then got a boat to another beach just two minutes away called Ton Sai.
The beach was full of backpackers and rock climbers. The accommodations were cheaper which is why we switched beaches. We checked into a place that Hillary recommended. Although we went and saw the place yesterday, we were not comfortable. Isabel and I shared a room. There was a rotten display case with nothing on or in it. We moved it to the patio. The both of us knew that we could not sleep there comfortably. We decided to look at the place next door and upgrade. The first place was only 250 Baht while the other place was only 400 Baht. For reference, 300 Baht is $10. We thought the extra money was worth the move.
When the tide was low, we walked over to Railay so we could eat dinner at Mom's. We both knew what we wanted, and it happened to be the same thing. We decided to take a boat back to Ton Sai versus climbing over there in the dark.
(Saturday)We had agreed to meet at 9am at the end of the walkway to head over to Phra Nang. On our way, we were going to hike to the lookout and the lagoon. Isabel and I walked down at 9am and waited for Natalie and Anna. While we were waiting, Brent showed up and had to use an ATM which was on Railay so we told him we were heading in that direction shortly. Fifteen minutes passed and still no sign of the other girls. Isabel decided to go look for them, but shortly after she left, they came from the other side. It was after 9:30 before we started walking over. We climbed to Railay West. Brent decided he was going to join us but wanted to eat first.
We all sat down with him while he had breakfast. I went and found some coconut juice because I was feeling dehydrated. When it was time to pay, Brent had no small bills so he asked me to lend him some. All I had was a 100 so I gave that to him for his 60 Baht meal. He then put the change in his wallet without saying a word to me. (The next morning when I asked him for the 100 Baht he asked, "For what?" I told him with a bit of sternness, "For your breakfast yesterday?!") By the time we got to the lookout hike, it was nearly 11:15, and no one wanted to do it anymore. I hiked alone. It was steep and quite exhausting. I really enjoyed it though. I was proud of myself for doing it because of my last experience rock climbing in Chiang Mai. I saw the lagoon but decided not to climb all the way to it. It was more challenging, and I wanted to get back to the beach with my friends.
We all swam and played some beach ball. Anna and I were not so good at it. I think the highest we got was 19 and that was once! For lunch, we got Pad Thai from restaurant boats along the shore. Mine was okay. It would have been better if it wasn't overloaded with sprouts. I am not a huge fan of sprouts (NO BRUSSEL SPROUTS PLEASE! Inside joke w/ Erin and Vanessa as I tried to tell the guy at Jimmy John's I did not want brussel sprouts. They don't have brussel sprouts at Jimmy John's, but I was persistent). We met a Canadian living in Australia named Craig. Him and his friends were going to the full moon party later and invited us over for drinks first.
Some of us girls had dinner along the water at Ton Sai. I am not a fan of Ton Sai. It's a bunch of hippies and rock climbers neither of which I am. The whole beach constantly smelled like pot which I don't smoke either. Our waiter was really funny, and he spoke a bit of six or seven languages. He was also smoking a joint while taking our order. Interesting lifestyle. After dinner, we went over to Railay East and met up with Craig. There were nine or ten of us hanging out on the deck while some played the guitar and shared stories. Then we headed downstairs to The Last Bar (literally the last bar on the East side) and watched the fire show. These guys were incredible. Afterward, we danced our hearts out. It was such a fun evening. To top it off, we went swimming in the ocean. The tide was so low so the water was extremely shallow despite how far out we went.
(Sunday) Isabel had to wake me up this morning to go to breakfast. Anna and Natalie were leaving shortly after. We had breakfast along the beach, but my food never came. I didn't mind much considering I only ordered steamed rice. Then we walked them to the longtails and watched them leave. I don't like this. Why have I had to stand and wave goodbye to good friends? It's a shame. Isabel and I went back to nap since we didn't get in until the wee hours of the night (or morning). We decided to go eat and then try to get to the beach. We ate, and then it started pouring rain. The best way to spend the rest of the early evening was getting a massage. Hillary recommended this place that was only $10 for an hour body massage. Both of us decided on the coconut oil one and dozed off to the sound of the rain against the roof.
I felt much better after the massage. There was a bit of normalcy at that point. We met up with Anastasia and Luke for a drink and some Jenga. I hadn't played that game in ages. We were all exhausted so it was an early evening. Isabel and I had found a cockroach in our room earlier and knew we wouldn't sleep without checkout our room before bed. I moved every bit of furniture carefully. After about 20 minutes, the room was cleared. We tucked our mosquito nets tightly between the mattresses and went to sleep. I slept like a baby.
(Monday) The both of us were bored on Ton Sai. The beach was not that great in comparison. We were going to head back to Krabi today, but Anastasia could not get her money back for the last night so we decided to stay. I didn't mind because we wasted most of the morning. Wasted might be a bit harsh because we did do an hour and 45 minutes of yoga. It was really great, but it was nearly noon by the time it ended, and we had to check out by one. That would leave no time for anything else. The yoga was nice, but we thought it was free. The flyer had no price on it and no price was mentioned until the very end (naturally). We went to say thank you and she responded, "300 Baht." Right!
Isabel and I laid on the Ton Sai beach for a bit. It was mostly shells and rocks we laid on. The tide was too high to cross to the other side, and we were both feeling lazy. Then we decided to get another massage. It had began to rain again. After our hour, we went next door to eat. We both had green curry fried rice, mine without egg of course. Then we went back for another hour massage but just a back massage. After that, we met Anastasia for dinner. We all ordered the coconut curry. It was the perfect spiciness. It was the kind that makes your lips tingle with every bite. One bar was playing the second Bruno movie so we watched what was left of it. There were some humorous parts, but overall it's disgusting. Bed time!
(Tuesday) We woke up and ate breakfast. The last five of us headed back to Krabi. The longtail driver told us he couldn't go to the port we wanted because there were cops there. He told us this information after we paid. Another natural occurrence. When we got off the boat I had to say goodbye to one of my best friends. I didn't want to travel without her. I was so sad to leave Isabel, but it's comforting knowing I'll see her in June when I go to Nashville. Anastasia and I got into a cab and headed to the airport. Our next stop was Singapore!

Sunday, March 27, 2011


(Thursday) After waking up and eating breakfast, I decided to walk to a different beach. I went to Phra Nang which was voted National Geographic's Top 100 Beaches. While walking there, the tide was pretty low. I passed a place to hike that lead to a lookout point as well as a lagoon. With my big beach bag, there was no way I could do it, but I would try again another day. The beach was beautiful but crowded. Of course, it is a huge tourist destination. Boats came and dropped off loads of people for a given period of time. There were rock climbers, monkeys and a sanctuary in the rocks. The water was warm and deep enough to swim in almost immediately. There were also caves that I walked to and found a little cove. I stayed there for quite sometime. I passed the time reading Vonnegut's Timequake. It was a great book! I absolutely love his writing style. I found it funny that in his book he wrote his dislike of semicolons because I absolutely love them! I think they're a great alternative to commas and periods while he thinks they are useless.
A few weeks back, I read South of the Border, West of the Sun. I do not remember the author's name because I could not stand the book. It was so terrible and juvenile. I thought a fifth grader had written it. I also found it to be tasteless when talking about personal subjects such as sex.
In the late afternoon, I went back to the beach house, took a shower and then a nap. I opened a bottle of wine and relaxed. The wine was a gift from Luke as part of my Secret Buddha gift. It felt so nice to enjoy the taste of red wine on my lips. It had been a long time.
Tonight was our last night together. Hillary ordered dinner from none other than Mom's. We set up our kitchen in a buffet style, and we all ate together. One last group dinner after eight weeks of traveling together. It's amazing how many strong friendships have formed. We ate, lived, breathed, climbed, scuba dived, biked, swam, laughed, cried, built, learned and listened together 24/7 for the past two months. We started off by "hitting the ground running" and ended up with lasting memories and lifetime friends. I feel so blessed to have been in the company of these people. Each person has brought different strengths to the group and has helped us evolve. There are many people who have inspired me. Leaving them will be hard. Who will I share inside jokes with now? Who will say, "Love you Kha" when I go to bed?
We have all been there for each other so much. There were physical and mental obstacles that we each faced throughout this adventure. I faced many throughout the two months, and I would never have made it without the support system of these people who were once strangers. There was always encouragement, companionship and empathy for what we were each experiencing. It was incredible.
After our dinner, we played a trivia game. Hillary drew questions at random; the questions were about random facts we had learned along the trip. They included personal questions and facts. I was really happy when the question pulled was, "Who would you want to make you a birthday cake?" The answer was me :) I loved that! I love making my cakes too.
It was then time for Secret Buddha. At the beginning of our trip, we all drew names. The name we drew would be the person we bought or made a gift for. I happened to pick Isabel! You think shopping for someone who happened to be your closest friend on the trip and one you have a lot in common with would be easy, but it wasn't. I bought her first gift when we were in Luang Prabang. We had been at the night market, and she really liked this journal so I purchased it. She had been contemplating doing a meditation retreat post trip. However, she changed her mind. I had bought the journal for that purpose, but as I wrote in my letter plans change. She got accepted to go to Israel in June, so I wrote that she can use it for that trip. The cover may say Laos on it, but it's important to remember where you've been and where you're going. I also bought a wooden picture frame with silver elephants. Elephants are the symbol of Southeast Asia. I printed a picture of us together in Cambodia and placed it inside.
Luke was my Secret Buddha. Apparently, I am hard to shop for. I thought it was really cute that he asked the only other guy on the trip for help. He did well! The bottle of red wine was perfect for me. Everyone knows how much I love my red wine. I also received a beautiful scarf and some lanterns to hang in my new apartment. I haven't signed a lease yet, but I am looking!
After exchanging gifts, we went around sharing something about this trip. Isabel said she was hesitant to come at first. I went after her because I was so eager. Our actions getting on to the plane were exact opposite. I couldn't wait to get on and get out. I was running as I often do. If there's one thing I learned throughout this trip it's that there is no reason to run. I have so much to be thankful for. It made me appreciate everything I have back home especially my family and friends. I don't know what I was exactly ready to leave; perhaps it was the normalcy and repetition of everyday life. That eagerness to constantly be moving has faded. My passion for traveling has not. Lets not get confused here. I plan on continuing my travels in a less drastic measure. In 2010, I went on vacation an average of once a month. I couldn't sit still. In the past 12 months, I have been to 10 countries not including the 3 I'm about to go to. It's a bit excessive looking back on it now.
After many tears were shed (by myself included), we went to the beach. We partnered up and had paper lanterns. Isabel was my partner. After making a wish, we lit the wick at the bottom of the lantern and held on tight. Walking into the water, we grasped the lantern as the heat continued to grow. We released the lanterns and watched them rise into the dark sky. We danced and giggled with excitement. Seven lanterns went into the sky with 14 wishes made upon them. It was a beautiful moment and one I will always remember.
After this most of us went skinny dipping! We were alone on the beach, and it was dark. We cracked up at the mere thought of this. Who cares? We had spent everyday together for two months so why not enjoy a liberating moment?
I rinsed off and headed to the other house. Five of us sat in bed underneath a mosquito net with a bottle of Thailand rum and some white wine. Hillary, Sam, Madeleine, Isabel and I talked about life, love and everything in between. It was the perfect ending to a perfect day.

Friday, March 25, 2011


(Tuesday) We woke up early and headed to the airport. We flew from Bangkok to Krabi which is in Southern Thailand. To get to our final destination we took a couple of buses and then a longtail boat to Railay West. The beach was absolutely beautiful. There were limestone mountains surrounding us. When we got off the boat some guys tried to put our bags into a card and wheel them, but we all took our bags out because normally people try to scam you this way. Hillary let us know that they worked for the resort we were staying with, and they led the path to our beach houses.
We were split into two groups and two beautiful houses. I was in the house with seven other people and Madeleine was my roommate. I told her to go upstairs and get us a room. She grabbed the honeymoon suite :) The houses were stunning. Ours had four bedrooms and three bathrooms. There were two rooms downstairs and one bathroom. After washing our feet, we walked upstairs where a large deck connected the kitchen, a bathroom and bedroom. The deck had a bench along the entire edge with plenty of space. The kitchen was amazing. I wished I could have cook every meal! The kitchen led to a sitting area that was open and had a bench and pillows on the floor. This opened to the patio where a table and chairs were placed with fresh flowers. From the living area was a separate walkway that led to our room. There was a large bed, private bathroom and a private balcony. There was so much space. These vacation homes were relatively inexpensive to for accommodating eight guests. It was the perfect place to end a trip!
All of us had to get fitted for scuba diving tomorrow which took about 20 minutes. We went swimming and laid on the beach to watch the sunset. The tide went out, and we walked to Railay East for some dinner. Upon recommendation, we went to Mom's near the end of the walk. The path was dark to get there, but the food was worth it! I had tofu green curry. In fact, I ordered this from Mom's four times throughout our stay. Everyone was satisfied. After dinner, we made our way back to our houses and sat around chatting. Eventually we pulled our mosquito net over our bed and went to sleep.
(Wednesday)We woke up nice and early to enjoy some breakfast before getting on a boat. I had some hot tea and dipped my Nature Valley Roasted Almond Bar in it. Then we walked over to the scuba shop and filed into a couple of boats. The longtails took us to a big boat that we would enjoy the rest of the day on. There were a couple other small groups on the boat, but we were the majority.
My partner for the day was Noam! Yay! Since we weren't certified, we had one guide per two people. Our guide walked us through a flip book with rules and regulations. Naturally I had a million questions to ask him. He was patient with me :) I was very nervous but excited. I kept thinking, "What if I don't breathe?"Which isn't a logical question because why would I stop breathing? He just kept emphasizing the importance to continuously breathe while underwater to prevent lung damage. Note to self:Don't stop breathing. Check.
We ate a light breakfast on the boat and stocked up on electrolytes and water. Then we tested our gear. We had about an hour and a half to get to Phi Phi Islands. The boat ride was amazing. The limestone cliffs were so beautiful and enticing. I couldn't stop taking pictures. When we got to Phi Phi, the water was crystal clear. I was very happy. We went downstairs and put on our wetsuits (I swear mine was a kids size which made me feel like I was choking).
He put on our weight belts for us and helped us strap into our jackets. We practiced breathing in the oxygen and proceeded to put on our flippers and goggles. When we were ready to go he asked us to stand up in order to lift our tanks from their holders. All I could say was, "I am standing! I am standing!"My short little self could not get the oxygen tank out so he had to climb up and help me. Anyway, we took a couple of steps and jumped into the water.
We were required to do skills tests before diving. Once in the water, our guide took us down individually. We had to acclimate our bodies by plugging our noses and breathing every meter or so. Then we had to practice what to do if our mouthpieces fell. Another skill learned was how to clear our masks of water without having to swim out. I'm so glad I learned this for future snorkeling adventures!
Our dive was amazing. We swam around the beautiful coral. There were schools of fish everywhere. We saw giant turtles too! On our second dive, the guide told me to look behind and there was one within touching distance. It was a great feeling. The giant coral was so precious, and I was extra cautious not to knock my fins into anything. The idea of that happening scared me so I tended to swim a bit higher. Sometimes the guide would have to pull my fin and bring me back because I kept floating to the top.
On the second dive I felt extremely nauseous. I think it was from eating and then diving shortly after. I still did the entire dive. Both of them were 50 minute dives,and we went about 12 meters deep. It was crazy being able to glide across the water and swim with the fish. I absolutely loved scuba diving.
We had a great lunch in between dives and then delicious fruit after the second. Those of us that were on the boat ate almost all the pineapple and got extremely giddy with it. We came up with things to tell the others as to why there was no pineapple left. Then we spent our spare time just soaking up the sun and jumping in the water.
We got back to the beach houses around 5pm. After a shower and change of clothes, we watched the sunset. This one was beautiful. I was kind of grumpy and almost missed it because I was so hungry! The sky was different hues of pink against the limestone and ocean. We went to Mom's again for dinner and ordered the same thing. Then it was time for bed. I was exhausted!!!

Saturday, March 19, 2011


(Friday) Since I lost my phone yesterday, I had no clock. We were supposed to be ready by 5:30 in the morning today in order to catch the sunrise at Angkor Wat. When I got back last night (at 9:20pm) Brent was already sleeping. I assumed he had set an alarm and relied on that to wake me up. I hardly slept though. I tossed and turned until my stomach could no longer bare the pain and ended up throwing up five times. I spent most of my evening on the bathroom floor. I'm not sure what caused it; sometimes my malaria pills can make me nauseous which is why I take them with a full meal. I desperately wanted to be at home. I hated being alone and sick in the bathroom trying not to wake my roommate up. Eventually, I crawled back into bed and rolled into a ball.
At 5:30 in the morning, I woke up to a pounding at our door. Not only had we overslept, but no alarm was ever set. He didn't even know what time we were supposed to be ready! We rushed out of the room so fast that I left with only one contact in. I have contacts that I can wear 24/7 so I did not know one of them had fallen out in my sleep. It was interesting being half blind.
The sunrise was gorgeous. We sat by the pond watching the color of the sky transform. The reflection was also beautiful. We continued to walk through the temple before getting in our tuk tuks and going to Ta Prohm. This was my favorite temple! Part of Tomb Raider was filmed here. The temple has been overtaken by the jungle. It's absolutely breathtaking!! There are trees growing through the building. Some of it has been naturally destroyed, but the destruction is unique. The roots twist and turn through different windows and cracks. The stones are covered in moss and are enchanting.
We went back to our hotel and enjoyed some breakfast. The group went to the Angkor Hospital for Children, but I decided to stay behind. I was completely drained. I can hardly handle hospitals when I am healthy let alone when I have been up all night puking. I took a long nap before Natalie and I went back to the dock. She left a bag of laundry there, and I thought I would ask about my cell phone.
When we got to the dock our boat was still there. The driver said he did not find anything. I offered him money and also said he could keep the phone if I could have my Sim card. He said he didn't have it. The laundry was also not found. What can we do? The both of us laughed about the situation as our tuk tuk driver told us that if you leave something it is sure to be stolen. Of course, we were the ones who left them so it's our fault anyways. I wasn't that upset. In fact, I was more worried that I had borrowed Sam's headphones which were still attached to my phone. My cellphone is normally glued to my hand, so the next two months will be a learning experience. So far it is nice not having a phone. I find myself relying on it for comfort more often than not. I do find it funny that I lost my Blackberry and my father purchased an iPhone. He was happy we could Skype whenever we wanted because he has an iPhone now. Must be nice ;)
Anyways, in the late afternoon we went to more temples. We went to see Bayon, Baphuon and the Terrace of the Leper King. Bayon temple is covered in faces of the king. The elaborate temple is quite the shrine. I think you have to be quite self-centered to have your face carved on every single wall of the temple. We tried to take some kissing pictures by lining up our faces with the carvings I also tried to make it look like I was picking his nose. Why not?
While walking towards Baphuon, Isabel asked a girl to take a picture for us. I stared quite awkwardly as she approached us. Then I asked her if her name was Jill and indeed it was. Here, in Cambodia, at this very temple. The girl Isabel asked to take our picture just so happens to be a girl I used to work with at Vesta Dipping Grill in Denver. Imagine that! I truly appreciate the phrase, "It's a small world." You think?
The group headed over to Takeo to enjoy the sunset. We all climbed up the sketchy stairs. After the first set there was another. We sat on the temple together, staggered amongst the stairs. The sun was still hot. The sun set about an hour after we were there. We descended back to our tuk tuks. For dinner a few of us went to a street BBQ. I personally had steamed white rice. It was probably the best dinner thus far (please note the sarcasm).
(Saturday) We woke up even earlier today to catch another sunrise. We went to Banteay Srei temple. The morning air was brisk yet refreshing. The temple was small but elaborate. It was the most decorative temple we have visited. The sunrise was nothing spectacular, but the temple was worth the visit.
On our way back we stopped at a landmine museum. The museum is ran by a former Khmer Rouge child soldier. After planting landmines as a soldier, he decided to help demine the land. He goes throughout Cambodia clearing areas so they are safe. Today, an average of one person per day is injured from a landmine. This statistic seems high, but it is significantly low than the six or seven that it used to be. The landmines cause serious problems postwar. The museum displays different types of landmines as well as pictures. There were statistics and international relations for landmines. There was also a school behind the building for children who had been injured by landmines. I think it's amazing that he was able to recognize the need to clear areas in Cambodia in order to ensure a safe future.
When we left the museum I went to lay by the pool. It was a nice saltwater pool. I had a great tofu and mango salad for lunch followed by pistachio ice cream. I cheated on my fasting today by having ice cream. Hillary has been talking about this pistachio ice cream for six weeks now, and I LOVE pistachio ice cream!  Later, we went for pizza. We had a spanakopita pizza and some skordalia. Who would think you'd find Greek food in Cambodia? They were both delicious.
(Sunday) This morning we woke up and took a couple of vans back to Bangkok. There was some trouble getting started in the morning because Hillary has $1000 stolen the previous night. She had been dealing with the police and hotel, but it's hard to get much accomplished. We were finally able to hit the road. The border was packed. We waited in the hot sun for quite sometime before getting stamped back into Thailand. A couple more vans picked us up. The 14 of us headed back to a place of familiarity, Bangkok.
It's funny coming back to a place where our journey began. I no longer feel like a hopeless traveler. My wide eyes have eased  bit, and I feel more knowledgeable. I wasn't afraid to cross the street and Khao Son Road wasn't so intimidating. Instead, I craved the street food and bright lights. The music was just as terrible as the first time, but things were different. Different yet good. Madeleine, Anna and I decided to go to a bar and enjoy our evening drinking a tower of beer. Isabel joined us for a drink. The three of us respectively decided to go to a club, but it was empty. That led us to The Roof. It was a rooftop bar with acoustic Thai singers. They were really good and played some of our favorites. We met a few other travelers and sang our hearts out. Then we headed to The Club to get our dance on. We danced all night and Blair even joined us! When it was 1:30am we decided to make our way back to the guesthouse. That was the latest I voluntarily stayed up the entire trip. What a great night!
(Monday) Today was a rough morning for a few of us. I walked around and did a bit of shopping. I also did some last minute things for my Secret Buddha present. I spent the rest of the afternoon laying in bed and napping. In the evening, most of the group went to the Red Light District to see the darker side of Southeast Asia. Although I was interested in seeing it, I decided to stay back with Mads and relax. I do think it's important to see this side of Thailand, but I will do it when I come back if I'm in the mood. I will not go to a show though. It was an option for those who wanted to see it. I think that would be taking the issue a bit too far. By paying to see a show I'd be supporting the business whether it was for educational purposes or not. Do you need to pay to see a crack addict smoking crack in order to get the full experience? That's the way I looked at the situation. The atmosphere and people are enough inside information. Tomorrow we're off to Southern Thailand!

Thursday, March 17, 2011


(Tuesday) We woke up early and took a bus from Phnom Penh to Battambang. The ride went pretty fast even though it took about five hours. After lunch, we went to the countryside. The group rode on the bamboo train. It was a wooden platform on some tracks. There was nothing to hold on to and no sides. The train reminded me of an old wooden roller coaster like The American Eagle at Six Flags Great America. Although not required, I recommend keeping your hands and feet inside at all times. We rode on the train through the rice fields. At one point, we came across passengers riding in the opposite direction. They had to get off their cart, remove their platform and wheels, and wait for us to pass. I felt bad, and they were probably annoyed they had to do so for a bunch of travelers. The train took us to a brick factory. We saw the entire process of people making bricks. It was extremely tedious. They work all day for only a few dollars. After the train ride, we went to Smoking Pot for dinner. I had a delicious curry before heading to bed.

(Wednesday) Today was a great day. We started off with another motor tour. It was extremely interactive and fun. Our guide was absolutely hilarious. Our first stop included an old teak house. It was full of antiques and rustic charm. The old woman who lives there was so beautiful and welcoming. Our guide showed us old tools and important heirloom items. He also told us about a special happy soup that is common in Cambodia. It is made with marijuana and was actually on the menu at Smoking Pot last night, go figure. He said it is legal to grow plants for your family, but it is illegal to buy or sell the drug. It's an interesting concept. All ages smoke marijuana and enjoy happy chicken soup.
It was a cool day in the dusty town of Battambang. The roads were wet from evening rains and the sky was cloudy. We continued our motor tour to a rice paper factory. Just before we got there, Madeleine's motorbike had hit the ground. She was not badly injured and these accidents are quite common because people do not pay attention! The rice paper was also hard work that most people do as a second job. The work is repetitive and strenuous on the body.
On our way to the next stop, we detoured to a street vendor. Here we tried fried rats and Chinese frogs. The frogs were very small so we ate everything including the bones. The rat tasted like chicken. It was moist and pretty delicious. No; they were not like the street rats in Chicago (Rich).
We continued onward and saw rice noodles being made. Another hard job. The noodles are made fresh and only able to be sold within 24 hours. We were able to try some and watch the process. The mixture is placed into a jar and then strained into hot water. Then they scoop it all out and wash it through cold water. It was pretty interesting.
This led us to the snake farm. We were not able to try any snake because it's not the season. I was mildly disappointed since my pallet had been tested several times today already. At the farm, we were able to hold several types of snakes. After this we headed back to our hotel.
For dinner we all went to a chef's house. He is a friend of motor tour guide. He welcomed us into his home and set a table for all of us to eat. Him and his wife cooked us so much food. There was curry, amok, rice, vegetables, beef stir fries, etc. There was so much food that the table cloth was barely visible. We ate and then ate some more. He was so great and made us feel like part of the family. Before we had fresh fruit for dessert, some of us tried some rice wine. The first we tried was Cobra wine. This is made with the blood of the snake. It had quite the sting to it, but it was smooth. The next wine we tried was Tarantula wine. This is made with the poison. There were still tarantulas in the wine. We took some out to pass around, and since Isabel gets really queasy around spiders, she had to step outside. This wine burned more than the first. What an adventurous day for eating and drinking!
(Thursday)This morning we woke up and headed to the river. We took a boat from Battambang to Siem Reap. It took us just under eight hours to get there. I thought I would read a lot, but I had my headphones in the entire time. I couldn't help but look around and try to soak in everything I was seeing. It wasn't necessarily a pretty site. The houses were mostly shacks with old, soiled clothing for walls. Leading up the houses were plastic bags, waste, and other trash. There was so much trash I think every couple of houses could have filled a dumpster. I am curious about the waste disposal system here. I'm saddened by the idea of this trash washing into the river during rainy season. There are plenty of people bathing and washing clothes in the river. There are boys fishing and kids playing. We passed several floating villages including one with a floating MetaPhone store. Imagine that. A floating mobile store. I think I have seen it all!
The boat was fairly small, and we only had benches to sit on. The boat driver was hassling Hillary to use his tuk tuk drivers when we got to the port. She kept trying to tell him that we had our own transportation through the hotel. He ended up taking us to the wrong port on purpose and dropping us off about 30 minutes away from our destination. We waited in the sun for our transportation to arrive. There was hardly enough room for 14 people, 14 backpacks and 14 day packs. We crammed into one van and one tuk tuk. About 15 minutes into the ride another tuk tuk showed up. I noticed my cell phone was missing when we were close to Siem Reap. I only took my headphones out the last ten minutes of the boat ride so I could talk to Anna. She thought something was wrong because I had been so quiet all day. I was just zoned into my music and trying to pass the time. I left my cell phone on the boat on the first seat. We called the boat driver, but he said he did not find anything.
After we checked into our hotel, we all headed to Angkor Wat to watch the sunset. It was gorgeous. Angkor Wat is the largest religious temple in the world. The stone structures are across a moat that was handmade. I raced to get a good picture of the sunset. I was mesmerized by the artistic detail in the buildings. There were beautiful stone carvings, sculptures, columns, etc. The temple was crowded but the spacious layout was not overwhelming.
We headed back to the hotel after an hour or so. We went to Khmer Kitchen for dinner. I had a delicious coconut curry and white rice. Since lent has begun, I am on a vegan diet. That means no meat, no dairy and no fish. I can eat shellfish, but I've decided to go completely vegan. It's a bit hard in a country with such amazing food, but there are plenty of options to choose from still!

I have so many pictures, but they will have to wait to be posted because the internet connection is not that great on the island!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


(Sunday) Today was a great day! We woke up early and made our way to the orphanage. When we got there we were greeted by a couple dozen smiling faces. They were standing in lines and began singing. They did a little song and dance mostly saying, "Hello!" Then they broke into "If You're Happy and You Know It" which is usually the song we sing. Someone got a bright idea that we should sing back to them and suggested BINGO. It was a failed attempt that did not add up to much compared to the children. The orphanage was under construction, but we did get a little tour. Afterward, we teamed up with the kids and hopped in the tuk tuks.
The water park was nicer than I had anticipated. There were several slides, a wave pool and a floating river. The girls wore clothes while at the water park so we had to wear shorts and a shirt. Many of them were wearing jeans and sweaters! I could not imagine that was comfortable. The water in the floating river was green and the floor was extremely rough. Thankfully we didn't spend a lot of time in it.
There were four mini slides next to one another. We raced up the top and then down to the bottom. Sometimes we would hold hands and slide down together! Then there were two twirling slides. There was a guard at the top, but he was sleeping. Kids pushed and shoved to get to the front of the line. To be honest, there wasn't a line. There was no waiting and no order. Kids went whenever they wanted. We joined in and decided to be reckless as well. Sometimes we would get five or six of us linked together and go down the slide. Othertimes we would get stuck and someone would come crashing in from behind. Either way we were full of smiles, and we would race back up to the top to do it again. There was also a wide yellow slide. About eight of us would hold hands and slide down it. This also led to a few pileups. It was obnoxious and beautiful.
We ate lunch before returning to the water. I ordered a chicken sandwich but got tuna instead. Isabel was nice enough to trade half of her sandwich with me :) The wave pool was not on, but we sat in it anyways. After a while, they turned it on. The waves were fun. I started watching after a little boy who wasn't even in our group. He kept me on my toes though! The water park was such a blast. I haven't giggled that much in a long time. We were all giddy little kids for the afternoon. It was hard to leave and say goodbye. The rest of the evening was pretty mellow.
(Monday) Today was a free day. Although everyone in the group wanted to go to the Killing Fields, Isabel and I decided to go alone. They were going at 8am, and we wanted to sleep in. I woke up at 7am, but it was nice not to set an alarm. When we were ready we went to have breakfast by the river. I had Greek yogurt with honey and toasted cashews. I also had a coffee shake which was just as delicious. There was a man who hassled us for quite some time. At first, I was nice and answered his questions, but then he started telling me he wanted to marry me and that he loved me. He must have been on some very good drugs. He sat down next to us and continued to make pointless remarks. It was a bit annoying.
We decided to head to the Killing Fields around 11. The sun was hotter, but we were on our own schedule. Our tuk tuk driver was very nice, and he drove us to the site and waited. We wanted some coconut juice before we walked around. It was the biggest coconut I have ever had! It took us 10-15 minutes to finish drinking the juice! My belly swelled with the juice; it was a lot!
We had a guide take us around, and two other people joined us. I was completely taken back. First we saw the monument that housed skulls, bones and clothes found within the fields. There were so many. Seventeen shelves held the remains of Khmer people. For a moment, I lost my breath. We walked around and saw the mass graves. There were holes everywhere. Some sections held hundreds of bodies. There were babies and naked women found. Children were killed by being beaten against a tree. We saw the tree, and a sense of nausea overcame me. My mind could only think of one question, "How?" The graves seemed to go on forever.
There was a movie and a small museum. The museum had weapons, clothes and pictures of Khmer people and the Khmer Rouge soldiers. One important peson, Duck was displayed. His name was mentioned often at  Tuol Sleng for being responsible for genocide, crimes against humanity, etc. At this museum, his note of apology was acknowledged. He admitted his crimes; however, there are still trials going on against the remaining Khmer Rouge leaders. Although many have passed away, including the leader Pol Pot, they were never sentenced. The movie did no justice for the nightmare that people were living in.
Isabel and I decided to go back to the Russian Market after the museum. We bought a few gifts and then went back to the city. We went to the Palace Museum and saw artifacts. The gardens were beautiful. There were some monks by the water, and they waved us over. We sat and talked with them for a while. However, they seemed to be hitting on us more than conversing. After some time we walked away and enjoyed the rest of the museum. It was so nice to see the stone carvings and sculptures. It's amazing how much detail is placed in each artifact. In the evening, we ate dinner at a street cafe. Then we met up with some of the group for cocktails on the roof. The cocktails were very good. We only had two before retiring for the evening. It was a long day even if it was a free day.