Sunday, October 30, 2011
Now, we have been back in the USA as long as we were in Asia - Chelsea and I talk about it every day, remembering things we did. In the amount of time we were gone we did so many things, we were gone about 150 days! It is fun to talk about all the really memorable events that we did while we were out there, but everyday we chat about little, less impressive things that sometimes escape the memory, but were the exact things that made our trip so excellent. Remember when we sat with that vietnamese couple and had green tea and those little weird raw dumpling things? He was studying to be a doctor at the Hanoi University, and she sold shoe at a Vietnamese shop.
I really can appreciate the way that we travelled when we were there, it was as if we would get to a new country, and we would live with the people there. We made a million friends that we dearly miss - and they are from all around the world. (The exception to this is the first half of our second month in Thailand, when we were in the islands we lived like crazy, party going tourists)
More than anything I miss the food, then secondly I miss the adventure. After backpacking around so much, if we were to stay in Asia longer than we did, we would have needed to shack up in a town for a month or so, just to take a break from traveling. When we were in the last two weeks of our trip, we were ready to go.
Anyways, Chelsea is working at the downtown Seattle Nordstrom and I am focusing on music - gonna get my music blog going again here soon. Finishing a solo album, and practicing the piano is my priority. Next summer we will get married, then we will be off to the next adventure, to add more to the world traveler resume.
How will we decide where to go next? We have friends to go see in Australia, Europe, Asia, Africa and South America!
I would encourage all of our readers to follow our good friend Hana's blog, click here to see it, or get it in the link section. Also, our other friend Stephanie. Here is her blog. They are both living in Cambodia teaching English and helping out, so read their blogs!
I also want to say that we are thinking about all of our friends in Bangkok all the time, worrying about their situation with the horrible flooding. One of our friends said that the families we became close with all fled town, except for the fathers of the households, who stayed back and are living on the top floor of all of their homes, to protect their valuables from thieves. We are keeping them in our hearts.
Tuesday, May 3, 2011
After being gone from the Kingdom for nearly three months, we flew from Kuala Lumpur to Phuket. For the last week, we have been exploring the islands of the Andaman Sea. We have spent time on Phuket (Patong), Koh Phi Phi, Koh Lanta, Railay and I think our next stop is Krabi.
All the pic’s came from our friend Nick.
Southern Thailand is much different than what we were seeing around central and northern Thailand. It is more Muslim down here, similar to Malaysia, so there are not many temples, but the occasional Mosque which still wakes everyone up super early in the morning. All the islands we have been on have kind of party/skeezy. It seems less like Thailand here and more like any other tropical island resort towns in the world.
Our friend Toby from Hamburg told me “Mack, there are not many wild places left in the world”. We were talking about how a lot of the time people go looking for adventure in their travel, only to find some sort of domesticated ‘pet’ version of adventure. For instance you might hike up to a cave with all of your caving gear, only to find a cement pathway and big floodlights filling the whole thing. Oh, and don’t forget to pay your 40THB cover charge! Anyways, these islands kind of remind me of that – although I would have to change his quote a little. Maybe something like this:
“Mack, there are not many wild places left in the world, only girls gone wild places left.”
I am really glad we got to spend a lot of time in and around true Thai culture at the beginning of our trip because right now the only Thai people I even meet are the ones offering me buckets of alcohol. Mostly this is to blame on the locations we have been at lately, but also might be due to the fact that since arriving in Phuket we have been traveling with a large group – our friends from back home met us here. I think that as six or seven people walking around you are less approachable by local people. We find it slightly odd also to travel with a group, as we are not used to waiting for anybody this whole time thus far – the communal decision making is slightly difficult. ALTHOUGH, we are still having lots of fun – it is just more like a vacation now instead of like the backpacking and traveling we were doing for the last few months. Our friends leave us today and head to Chiang Mai while Chelsea and I figure out how to get over to Koh Tao to get our PADI scuba certification. I am especially excited for this since we chartered a snorkeling trip from Phi Phi Island and went and saw all sorts of great things! My favorite parts were finding groups of clown fish in sea anemones and swimming through a gigantic school of fish that extended as far as you could see! I was scared they were going to touch me and I did not want to feel masses of fish all over me, but obviously fish know how to swim in a school and not a single fish ever touched me, but they were all within centimeters.
Koh Lanta was my favorite tropical island we visited – it was quiet and filled with some villages. We climbed to a waterfall there (which was quite small I must say) and rode our piglets (I have been calling our scooters piglets, in reference to how people call a real motorcycle a HOG) out to the tip of the island and checked out the lighthouse and the view. I saw the most beautiful sunset there, it was truly stunning. We also hung out with three more fantastic people we met there, Kelvin and Stephanie who are kiwi’s (New Zealand) and Stefano from Italy.
This last week has been hard to update the website and add pictures to facebook because we have been on these tropical islands and many places do not have WIFI. Our camera has been dead so we have no really recent pictures, I will try to steal some from AJ and/or Nick and Tony because the views out here really are awesome!
Oh and to top it all off, I really wanted to take a rock climbing course here in Railay, one of the climbing capitals of the world, but today I think I ruined all of that when I dropped an oak bedframe on my toe. It ripped off the nail, and I think it broke the end of my toe and has been bleeding for quite some time. I am happy it did not totally smash it or cut it off, but that combined with my sprained/maybe broken left pinky toe is going to make it really hard to get into climbing shoes. Maybe Chelsea will do it, but I would be really sad and jealous…
Oh, and after four months of being here a girl finally called me tan for the first time in my life! Woohoo
Sunday, April 24, 2011
We decided that we would go and rent a ski boat with our friend David and Dennis the other day. Chelsea and I had never been wakeboarding before so we were really excited about it.
First, David jumped on the board and made everything look so easy. Eventually it was my turn and damn, what a reality check I had! I had a really hard time getting up, but eventually I made it. We were in the middle of the lake and a giant thunderstorm was approaching. Lightning was everywhere, and finally when I was sure we were all going to be electrocuted I got up on the wakeboard. Then we had to all bail and run for cover because of the electrical storm.
A few hours later it cleared up and Chelsea was up. Check out the video below.
(our internet is too slow here, the video will be up as soon as possible)
We have been in KL as they call it for about a week now, we fly out in a few more days. It is really cool here, and we have made some great friends that we will keep forever. David the tycoon chef, Antony the talent agent from Dubai and Singapore, Leah from Australia (your crazy girl) and many others. We have all made plans to work with each other in the future, so these are real relationships we are making in the dorm! It is quite fun.
Other than hang out with our new crew and eat our way around the city with our friend and master chef from Singapore David we have been watching movies, bowling, sight seeing, looking at the Petronas Towers for hours on end, partying, not sleeping, trying to catch ghost planes and all sorts of crazy stuff. In two days we fly to Phuket Thailand to meet our friend A.J.
Best Chinese and Indian food in the world, all for $3…
Tuesday, April 19, 2011
Singapore and KL have been the most expensive cities we have been in this whole trip, so me and Chelsea have taken to staying in dormitories and hostels. The benefit? We get to meet totally cool people who are all really nice, and hang out with them! Right now we are staying with David (professional Chef, has a restaurant in Manhattan and his family owns a bakery chain in China, and much more), Antony (Business man who has lived and traveled all over the world. Has been staying in this dorm for two weeks, looking for a room or apartment), Bubba (Cool dude from Mali, he currently lives in Morocco) Yuki and Hiro from Japan on a year long stint around the world, Emma from Australia and Erica from Ottawa (We met them a few towns back…) Our Kurdish friend (I cannot remember his name right now…) and some other people! It is really fun and we really like all the people we have been hanging out with.
The downside of the dorm style is that we have nowhere to retreat to. When we get up and get out at about eight in the morning, by two in the afternoon when it is well above a hundred degrees Fahrenheit we really want to go hang out in our own air conditioned, private, room and take a nap, watch tv, read a book, or do whatever we want. This is just not that possible in a dorm – I mean, it kind of is but its not the same to sit in basically public room and try to get rejuvenated as it is to have some privacy.
Thus being so, and due to the fact that Singapore and Kuala Lumpur are some crazy big, space age cities, Chelsea and I are exhausted. Tomorrow we re-meet up with our friend Joel (a link to his blog is on the right of this page) and explore some caves. Then I think we are going to try to secure another Thai VISA so we can travel overland into the country and stay for a month. If that works out, we will take the jungle train through the worlds oldest rainforest (130 million years old – it was unaffected by the multiple ice age’s that plagued most of the earth) for a few days and wind up in Thailand to meet our friend AJ and start our SCUBA certification.
ssooooo tiirrreeeddd….. sllleeeeeeeefppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppp
Saturday, April 16, 2011
We had such a great time at the beach. It was the perfect break from phrases like "tuk tuk?" "ladieee" "Buy Bracelet?" "Marijuana? Coke? opium?" "buy my book help my business" and so many more! People yell at us all day every day, and though we are used to it a break was nice.
Upon returning to the mainland I was reminded of some things about Cambodia that I do not understand. prostitution, child prostitution, children begging, LITTERING. I really do not think littering is even the word, people throw everything on the ground, in streams, in the ocean... What is the next step for Cambodia I wonder? What would it be like if Pol Pot hadn't killed 3 million of the smartest people in the country?
I left Cambodia confused, and also curious about other countries and how they tackle these big problems.I met a Canadian girl who works in Cambodia, she said that Cambodia's govt. is corrupt... isn't everyones?
I really appreciate my own country so much more after being on this trip.
Friday, April 8, 2011
After weeks of travel, we finally arrive at a beautiful beach and the sun is out!
After we were in Phnom Phenn for two nights we took a two hour bus to Sihanoukville on the southern coast in the gulf of Thailand. The bus ride was actually five hours long, and we started to get gloomy because although it was supposed to be nice, it started to look stormy the closer we got to the coast. Thailand has actually been flooding the last week, and everyone is confused because this is supposed to be the dry season.
We arrived in Sihanoukville and it was dry, but heavy overcast. You could see out in the gulf that a large storm was approaching. The good thing was, at least in this bad weather it was still 85 degrees F out.
I made a promise to myself that I would try to keep my spirits up, at least it was hot and rainy. So I booked us a boat out to a island off the coast of Cambodia – Koh Rhong. The morning we boarded the boat the weather was terrible, and we were actually setting sail into a low level tropical storm, but the captain of the boat did not seem to think it was a problem. Three hours of an extremely unpleasent boat ride later we arrived. It was like heaven.
The island is huge, and about 2,000 villagers live in five separate villages around the island. There are no roads, there is only generated electricity. SOMEHOW there is a continual break in the storm right above our bungalow. It is seriously ridiculous, black clouds all around us and the bay that we face is totally sunny! There is a small village at the end of our beach, ten bungalows, and then three kilometers of untouched, white sand beach.
The water is clear and it is like bath water, and this is only one of 86 beaches on the island or something like that! So now we chill, we might go snorkeling later and in a few hours we are gonna go trek inland through the island to the other side and see what it is like. There are some reefs around the island, but not in the bay out front of our bungalow. It is $15.00 to rent our little cabin (more of a shack with two mattresses and two chairs on a porch, oh and a hammock. No real sink or running water, but a private ‘bathroom’) and the restaurant has mid range Cambodian prices on food and stuff (this is where the business really makes money, not to many options here!). I might go into the village later and pick up some fruit though.
Puss and Scabs. Two puppies from the Island. Puss (left) is probably not going to make it, he is very weak and does not eat, has no fur, and is covered in puss and infectious wounds. We tried to make his last days a little more comfortable by giving him some rice, chicken and water. Scabs on the right is cute, but got attacked by a bigger dog on the island and severed one of his neck muscles so he walks with his head tilted. Me and Chelsea and some of the others on the island revived this dog – he is going to live now! He was walking around and acting like a real dog again when we left. Both sweet dogs, it is a shame that they do not neuter their animals and that puppies get born into terrible situations. At only a few months old these two have had a very hard life. Puss, if you are dead now RIP.
We also met many friendly Germ’s, Holl’s Aussies and a Fin on the island, as well as a friend from Vancouver!
Friday, April 1, 2011
Me and Chelsea went and saw the Cheung Ek killing fields and S21 – the main detention/torture facility for the Phnom Phenn region.
It was really upsetting, if you are unfamiliar with Cambodia’s bloody recent history you can read about the Khmer Rouge online. I also have heard a lot of people recommending a book entitled, “First They Killed My Father” by Loung Ung.
The killing fields themselves are located in what was once an old Chinese graveyard. It was a beautiful sunny day out and all sorts of birds were singing. Quite the contradiction to the 9,000 of 20,000 unearthed skulls, teeth, jawbones, femurs and other old body parts we were literally walking on at the killing fields. After every rain, dozens of bones and pieces of clothes from the victims wash up to the surface.
The twenty thousand that were murdered at the killing fields were all detained before hand at S21- an old high school turned prison. Here the prisoners were tortured until they confessed to crimes they did not do, then they were sent to the killing fields for liquidation. Dutch – the commander in charge of running S21 was in the headlines TODAY. For directly ordering the mass murder of twenty thousand people he has received……… wait for it…… wait for it….. 35 years in prison – 17 which have been knocked off because of time already served. Oh, not to mention that prison for him is basically house arrest. After the accused was sent to the killing fields they would take three hundred people at a time to the edge of a trench and kill them with knives, spades, shovels and clubs. They were not to waste ammunition. Babies and children were all murdered to prevent revenge, often killed by bashing their heads against a tree.
The most disturbing thing I saw was the magic tree – a tree which they would hang a big speaker from and blast music to cover up the sounds of the dying. Also the fact that they had to sprinkle chemicals on the bodies before they covered them up to finish off anyone who was being buried alive and destroy diseases made my stomach churn. The murderers were often between the age of fourteen and twenty.
Over the course of the Khmer Rouge reign (five years), they estimate that three million people were murdered. They killed all students, teachers, monks, people who wore glasses, politicians, musicians and anyone that could be considered an intellectual. This was because the KR wanted Kampuchea to be an agriculturalist society – they only wanted people they could boss around to live there. They even killed thousands of their own men, women and children as punishment, as well as all the foreigners and travellers that were in the country at the time of the take-over.
It really put a damper on the few days after for us. We almost were sick at the memorial. Something about the situation in Cambodia strikes me as more evil than what was happening in Nazi Germany because the Khmer Rouge were just killing EVERYONE… Think if this did not happen, there would be 9-12 MILLION more people living in Cambodia today! AND, those 9-12 million people would be the “intelligent” ones! How different would it be here? Would it still be one of the poorest countries in the world?
If you go to Cambodia you MUST go to the Killing Fields and S21. It is necessary for all people to see things like this to keep it from happening ever again, and to learn about it since it is left out of school curriculum’s and media in the United States.
On a happy note, we ate bugs today – lots of them, all sorts! They were great, and hands down if you can make a plate of beetles, ants, flies, termites and wasps taste good, you are the best damned cook on the planet.
Look at all those birds! I just liked that picture. On the right is me wearing official Cambodian relics. I tried to tell the girl that I should not touch priceless swords and gold crowns but she really wanted to make some tips by letting me wear the treasures for a photo – if anything ever goes missing from the Cambodian relic storehouses, that is probably the reason!