5.31.2009

Hello Hyderabad!

So we got to Hyderabad super early on Saturday morning, and spent all day exploring the city with my friend Pauline (details to come soon!)

Today, Pauline is showing us around again.  This post is being brought to you by Qualcomm Hyderabad, by the way! :)  We hope to catch a Bollywood flick today too.  Can't wait!

We will give you a full update soon, promise!

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5.29.2009

Goodbye Thailand...

hello Hyderabad! We are about to board and head off for India. We will write more later!

Wish us luck!

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5.28.2009

The Angkor Sunrise

The Angkor Sunrise

This is what you get for getting up at 4:30am in the morning.

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Photographs Which Were Once Taken

Time for a little bit of catch up.



Time for some fruit from the fruit market (jealous?).



Arriving in Siem Reap (the name means Siam defeated, can you believe that?).



Got up to see Angkor Wat at 4:30am. Longest. Day. Ever. It was absolutely worthwhile however.



Getting ready to leave. By this time were had our fill of hearing "Hey mister, cold drink?", "Hey, lady want a scarf?" and the legendary "You want Tuk Tuk, see temples very cheap!".



Last full day in Bangkok. We visited the Stamp Museum. It was stamp-tastic! Other than the stamp museum we got our fill of Khao Soi and wrapped up some things here in Bangkok.

In 24 hours. India.

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Last we left off...

we were going to relax after our long day exploring Siem Reap. We headed back to our room and watched some Amazing Race Asia and took a nap, then after a heavy downpour we ventured out to get dinner at a restaurant recommended by Lonely Planet (can't beat a restaurant Mick Jagger has visited!) Dinner was delicious too, we loved it! After that we ventured around the Old Market area and then went to the night markets (there are 3 within a stone's throw from each other)

Yesterday we slept in, had peanut butter sandwiches for breakfast then walked to Center Market and picked up a copied travel guide for India and then walked to Lucky Mall before heading to the hotel and taking the tuk tuk to the airport.

We got back to Bangkok, got dinner at Big C, did a little shopping and then headed home to go to bed.

Today we are going to take it easy and prepare for India and try to eat as much Thai food as we can! We will try to post the pics as soon as we can.

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5.26.2009

Amazing!

I think that one word sums up our last two days here in Siem Reap, Cambodia. We arrived around 10 or so and were met by tuk tuk driver, Lee, at the gate. He drove us to our hotel and we checked in, slathered on the DEET and sunscreen before heading out to explore some temples. As the connection here is really slow, I will just they are awesome! Can't really put into words what it is like to see and visit these places. It's like being in the middle of Indiana Jones, so mind blowing.
We hit the ground running and hit all of the following:
  • Banteay Samre
  • Banteay Srey
  • Neak Pean
  • Preah Khan
  • Pre Rup
  • Phnom Bakheng (to see the sunset)
We then got back to the hotel and got ready to get some dinner. As we are kind of concerned about food/water quality here that didn't leave us to many options (lunch we didn't really had any options and had to eat at a roadside stand but we stayed away from any meat or their water) so we got dinner at the newly opened KFC. Not the same as back home, but I can't complain beats getting sick from some other khmer fried chicken.

This morning we got up at 4:40 so we could make out 5 am pick up with our tuk tuk. We scheduled a sunrise visit to Angkor Wat, and we were not disappointed! The temple was spectacular and we spent over 2 hours exploring it. Afterwards we filled in the gaps with the other temples we wanted to see with little breaks for cookies and milk for breakfast and peanut butter sandwiches for lunch (gotta stay safe! thank goodness we have a mini-mart so we can stay safe food-wise. I think I impressed Charlton with my sandwich making skills in the back of the tuk tuk) Lee helped pick some other great temples to visit so by the end of the day we had seen all of the following:
  • Angkor Wat
  • Baphuon
  • Phimeanakas
  • Terrace of the Elephants
  • Ta Keo
  • Bayon
  • Banteay Kdei
  • Ta Prohm
Now we are both exhausted and tired (and it's only 2 pm!) so we are going to head upstairs get cleaned up and take a nap. Maybe if we are feeling adventurous we will head out again...but not much farther than the night market or Lucky Mall.

Pictures are to come, so stay tuned!

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5.24.2009

Retail Therapy

After staying out late last night, we got a bit of a late start today. However, I did have the best wake up call ever...my parents and my brother! Yay! After I got off the phone, I headed to my favorite fruit stand, got us some mangoes and we got dressed for a full day of shopping.

First, we headed to Big C and got our passport photos taken for our Cambodian visas. Then out to lunch with Suksri and Charlton's aunt Kuntalee at the BEST Pad Thai restaurant. So good! We are already trying to plan a return visit *wink wink*

Then Charlton and I headed to Chatuchak Weekend Market again. We had high hopes of getting a customized piece of art but ended up missing the artist. Finding his stall though was totally like an episode of Amazing Race though, was kind of exciting. After that we wandered around the market for awhile, then made our way across the street to visit the fruit market (Or Tor Kor), where we each got a coconut to drink/eat (Nathan - They were only like 33 cents a piece! Crazy huh!?)

We didn't find what we wanted from Chatuchak, so we made our way to MBK and did some MAJOR shopping! We got dinner at the food court and then made our way back to the condo loaded with goodies. Then we headed to the pool to cool off from our long day.

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5.23.2009

Relaxing Saturday

While we were in the Bangkok Airways Lounge in Chiang Mai, I saw the advertisement to the left. It was for an exhibit being held at Thailand Creative & Design Center Gallery about the street food culture here. I knew we had to go!

So after sleeping in a bit, chatting with my brother on the phone, we got cleaned up and got lunch down the street from one of the vendors down the street. We then walked for a bit, hit up an internet cafe to use their printer, then headed to the Sukhumvit area to go see the exhibit. The gallery was housed in one of the large shopping complexes so after doing some window shopping we headed to the top floor, where there also happened to be a movie theater! Score! We bought ourselves tickets for Angels & Demons and then headed into the exhibit until the movie showing.

The exhibit was great, well thought out and very informative. And the movie was great too, they really did a good job translating the book to the screen. Nice to have that little since of home being far away. We did some shopping at the gallery's store (awesome awesome stuff!) Then it was off to the Suan Lum Night Bazaar since we got rained out last time and there was so much we didn't get to see.

The night bazaar was awesome, much more relaxed and clean than any of the other markets here. And while the vendors do try to sell, you don't feel like you are getting hollered out walking through the aisles. We got some great deals too, love it!

Then it was time for us to head home (as it was already like 10:30!) We grabbed dinner from our favorite Khao Kha Moo stall then made our way back to the condo. It was a great day!

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Ayutthya & Lop Buri

As most of you know I had a few goals for my Thailand trip:
1. Eat awesome food & as much fruit as I could get my hands on
2. Try durian
3. Visit a floating market
4. Shop at some of the bazaars and markets
5. Ride an elephant
6. See some temples
7. Visit the monkey temple

We had done everything on my list except going to the monkey temple, so while we were in Chiang Mai Suksri arranged a day trip to Ayutthya and Lop Buri so I could check it off my list. Suksri's friend, PT, came with us and even orchestrated a free ride for Charlton and I.

We rode the train up to Ayutthya first, the capital of Thailand before Bangkok. It was absolutely gorgeous there. We saw quite a few temples there and enjoyed the feel of the city a lot more than Chiang Mai (although Charlton was irked at all the admission fees). We grabbed some lunch at a place near the train station and then headed onto Lop Buri.

When we got to Lop Buri, we got bike rickshaws to drive us around the city so we could see the city. We headed to the museum, where PT and Suksri negiotiated our free admission after we threw a stink about having to pay to go in. The museum was very nice and we learned a lot about the area. After that we headed to the monkey temple. We were blocks away and we began to see monkeys on the street and up on the power lines. When we got to the temple it was CHAOS! There were monkeys everywhere! When Charlton went a few years ago it was free, and now they wanted to charge for us to go in, so we decided to view the monkeys from the lawn outside the temple. And that was enough for us! The monkeys got in a huge fight over some food and one jumped on another tourist. Can we say RABIES?! We all thought we made a wise choice not to go in. As soon as we got to the rickshaw it started to rain (can we say perfect timing?!) We then hopped back on the train to make our way back to Bangkok.

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5.22.2009

Three Days in Chiang Mai

Day 1 - March of the Temples

Arrive in Chiang Mai after early morning flight from Bangkok. Get situated as soon a possible at our guest house, White House. Confirm that our guest house costs only $10.50 per night. Later discover the level of cleanliness that $10.50 gets you.

After, meander around the city strolling to temple to temple. There are so many temples so close together that it's difficult to keep track of them all. By the time 2 or 3pm we were both pretty tired from the hot Thailand sun. We both went back to our room to take a nice nap.

We then headed off to the night bazaar to look at an endless amount of handicrafts, counterfeit goods, and other junk. Going through the night bazaar is like going through a gauntlet. There are countless "hey hey mister, check this out", "you need this" etc...

After dealing with all that we made our way back to our room to get ready for...




Day 2 - Being a Tourist in a Tourist Trap

We both woke up this morning knowing we had an enjoyable task ahead of us. We had booked a prepackaged day tour with the following itinerary:

- Visit butterfly & orchid farm

Nice seeing all the orchids. We didn't see a single butterfly however. It must not be the season.

- Go trekking through the jungle and see hill tribes including the long neck and big ear hill tribes.

Interesting seeing the long neck tribe members. Although, every tribe we visited seemed a little bit of a show. In fact, one of the tribes we visited, one of their members was putting on their "outfit" right when we pulled up.

- Take a slow ride down the river.

Just like Huck Finn.

- Go whitewater rafting.

Kristen and I were both a bit nervous for this as we have never done it before and in fact, didn't even realize it was on the docket until we got there and was told we were going rafting. It was very fun however, and pretty exciting.

- Visit a waterfall.

Been there done that. Still had fun. It was great way to cool off after a hot day.

- Ride an elephant.

This was at the top of Kristen's to do list and I don't think it disappointed. We ended up riding on a mother elephant. Meanwhile, her baby was walking next to us the whole way. It ended up being interesting watching the baby. He was fairly young, and quite clumsy, so there were a few times that the mother had to run over to pick the baby up and get him moving again. It's a bit touristy but the elephants aren't treated too differently than horses at a race track. So in a way that's just the way it is and another box to check off the list.

To finish the day we got dinner with one of our future MBA classmates who is volunteering out in Chiang Mai. It was good to see a familiar face halfway across the world. So all in all a pretty fun day.


Day 3 - To the Top of the Mountain and a Return to (Somewhat) Normalcy


This post is getting long and just like day three in Chiang Mai it has to be wrapped up. The day was spent negotiating for a ride up to see the Doi Suthep Temple. We ended up sharing a truck with two Argentinians and a Columbia who were all very nice. Doi Suthep was beautiful and a great way to cap off the Chiang Mai trip.

After, we came back down and got some more Khao Soi (tasty noodles) and did some shopping. We then walked back to our hotel and made our way back to Bangkok.

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World Trip Continues...

Since April 22nd I have been on a trip around the world and will be until July 27th.

Please check out the site here:

world.thelejo.com

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Last We Left Off...

Last time we wrote down anything of significance was the day before we left for Chiang Mai. It's now Saturday and time to do a recap of events.

On Monday we met with my cousin Komm, to go see the Grand Palace, the Emerald Buddha Temple and Wat Po. However, before we left we went to get lunch. Our lunch was at a "Khao Mon Gai" restaurant. Khao Mon Gai or Boiled Greasy Chicken. The food was delicious but that was to be expected since the restaurant had been around for many years and was featured in an article in one of Bangkok's newspapers, "The Nation". So basically what the chicken boiled down to was that the meal was very delicious.

Next, Komm was nice enough to drive us to the Grand Palace. When we go there, we were greeted with a series of three surprises:

- You have to be dressed very conservatively. Shorts not allowed, nor bare shoulders. This meant that I had to rent purple pants and Kristen had to borrow a big silk sarong. However, it was about 95 degrees outside. So more clothes, less fun.

- Admission is 350 baht for foreigners. This is amazingly expensive. Much more than the daily earnings of a Thai person. Every time I come back to Thailand, every temple charges more admission fees at a higher rate. It's actually a bit frustrating being nickel and dimed at every little temple you set your foot in.

- The Grand Palace and Emerald Buddha Temple are beautiful as always. In addition the high admission fee seems to keep the Temple in a better condition than it had been.

Afterward, we went to Wat Po, which has the reclining Buddha as well as a traditional Thai massage. My Mom, Kristen and I all got massages. It was a one hour massage for $10 per person. A great deal for a fantastic massage. In a way it made up for the 50 baht admission fee to the temple.

We then went home relaxed after a long day with much site seeing. It was a touristy day but a fun day.

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5.21.2009

Back in BKK. Off to Ayutthaya and Lop Buri

The trip to Chiang Mai was fun. We now had to get up super early for a trip up north to Ayutthaya and Lop Buri.

We'll post more later tonight!

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5.18.2009

Off to Chiang Mai!

We are all checked in and waiting at our gate...Chiang Mai here we come!

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Bon Voyage...to Chiang Mai

Today we went to the Emerald Buddha Temple and got massages at Wat Po.

Tomorrow we head off Chiang Mai, Thailand for about three days.

We'll write more then!

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5.17.2009

It's Been a Khlong Time

Today was going to be a relaxing today after yesterday's thrilling adventure to the River Kwai. We decided to take a relaxing day to Thaling Chan which is district in the western area of Bangkok. The area is know for it's floating market and endless amount of canals, or khlongs.

While visiting Thalin Chan we were going to take a three hour tour...

"So sit right back and you'll hear a tale... a tale a Bangkok canal trip... that started from a tropic port... aboard a banana boat..."

And so on...

I've taken the tour before and it has been enjoyable. Of the three hours you spend two of it cruising the khlongs and the other hour doing various activities. This includes visiting a Buddhist temple, feeding hungry, hungry carp, and visiting another market. We also had a delicious lunch of chicken satay, a Thai spring roll and a bowl of Tom Yum (spicy!) soup.

Overall, the khlong tour was a good time and a fantastic way to see how Bangkok used to live.

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5.16.2009

Thomas the Thai Tank Engine

Yesterday we took a weekend excursion train from Bangkok to Namtok. The train left Bangkok at 6:50 am and we got home at about 7 at night. We stopped at a few stops along the way that were significant to the Death Railway, including the bridge over the river Kwai and the cemetery to honor the fallen servicemen. The end of the line was near the border of Burma (very jungle-like) where we explored waterfalls and caves.

By the end of the day we were all filty, hot and tired. We voted that we needed to find the quickest way home and since none of the taxis wanted to take us the short distance to the condo we got ourselves a tuk tuk. My first one! Then it was a race to see who could get changed quicker into their bathing suit so we could cool off at the pool.

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5.15.2009

Gosh it's early!

It's 5:30 and we are both up, and dressed...what insanity is this?! Suksri bought train tickets for us to head to see the bridge over the River Kwai, and we found out yesterday that the tickets were for 6:50 AM! So we are all ready to go, and about to head downstairs to flag us a taxi to head to the station.

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Arm update

Figured it was time to give you guys an update on how I am getting along with my arm. My range of motion is probably 100%, but the strength is a little lacking. I would be at a huge disadvantage if I was on my own, as I have difficulty lifting my backpack and getting it on. But Charlton has been a saint and helps me get my pack on and off when we are on the trains. I have started using my arm in the pool a little and that seems to help a lot. We'll see, hopefully I will be back to normal by the time we get home so I can pack for Bloomington.

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Taking it easy

So the plan was to get up early and head to the Monkey Temple in Lop Buri (the one that was in Amazing Race a few seasons back) We woke up to a huge storm, and we continued to get ready hoping it would blow over. It didn't. To add insult to injury, I woke up with a tummy ache. We decided to stay here and maybe venture out if the weather let up and if I got to feeling better. My stomach is still a little touch-and-go, but the weather is still pretty icky.

We decided to stay here, got lunch at the restaurant downstairs and some snacks at the FamilyMart and are just here in the condo taking it easy. Probably for the best, we definitely need to recharge our batteries and I got to make sure I take care of myself.

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Japan pictures recap

Sorry this is so long overdue. Hard to post when we don't have a steady connection and when we are on the go so much. Now that we are a little more settled, here is the rest of our trip in Japan in picture form. Enjoy!





















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Down the Hall

Down the Hall

A monk deciding which way to go at the Marble Temple in Bangkok, Thailand.

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5.14.2009

I love gooooold!

This morning Charlton and I ventured out on our own. We skipped the pool as it was raining and headed out around 10ish. We caught the bus down the street from the condo and headed to the Golden Mount. It was absolutely beautiful, we had such a great view of the city.

Afterward we visited the rest of the buildings in the complex, including the monk's quarters and other halls. One of the temples was having a special event, where the monk's and followers were walking around carrying flowers and gifts. Also there were some temple workers that were serving lunch. We got some papaya salad and some noodles. The papaya salad was the best we have had (so good!)

Then with full bellies we walked to the marble temple. While the inside was very nice, we were disappointed a little in the outside as it was covered up. They had some beautiful buddhas outside the temple though. There were a lot of "tour guides" though offering us to take us around, one of the downsides of not having Suksri with us.

Then Charlton and I headed to a random temple out by river, as we thought it was one that Suksri had recommended (wrong temple though) It wasn't much to look at but we were the only westerners there so it was kind of fun. There were lots of dogs and cats there too for us to watch.

After a failed attempt at trying to get a water taxi home we walked back to the bus stop and got back to the area near the condo where we grabbed dinner of Moo Dang and then got custard for dessert. Then it was time for a dip in the pool in the rain before we came home and visited with Charlton's cousin, Komm.

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Mansions, Tigers and Bears! Oh My!

After getting some lunch here near the condo we headed to the Vimanmek Mansion, the largest teak house. King Rama V had it built in the early 1900s. It was built in the traditional style without nails and just wood pegs. While it was very pretty, none of us were happy with the wardrobe restrictions...long pants?! Covered shoulders?! ugh! All three of us were extremely disappointed in the English tour. Suksri even tried to see if she could join a Thai tour in the middle of ours to get some more information, and was firmly told no. We all left in a grumpy moods and with no pictures (since they locked up our camera).

Then it was off to the zoo! We walked down to the Dusit Zoo and spent the rest of the day walking around and seeing all the animals. There were loads of monkeys and we got to see lots of the animals up close in personal. I even had the chance to feed one of the elephants when one of the other tourists dropped some of the food they were feeding them.

We got back pretty late after taking the bus home and we were all about dead. We got in our suits and headed to the pool to cool off and relax. Then it was time to find dinner from one of the vendors down the street. We all got bowls of Cow Cow Moo then it was time to come back here and veg.

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5.12.2009

One Night in Bangkok

After all our fun at Chulalongkorn and the Snake Farm, Charlton and I went back to Siam Paragon and did more window shopping at Siam Center and Discovery Center. Then we met with his cousin Pong and his girlfriend for dinner at MK Trendi for sukiyaki. The food was delicious and we had a great time (thanks Pong for dinner!) Then Charlton and I went out to hit the streets of Bangkok for some of the nightlife.

First, we headed to Pat Pong, the famous district known for its Ping Pong shows and go-go dancing. Can we say "EWWWW!" I was hustling through there as quickly as possible. Was really dirty and sleazy there. Also got stepped on so we decided to leave and didn't spend much time looking at the night bazaar stalls in between the clubs.

We then walked past Lumphini Park to Suan-Lim Night Bazaar. Charlton had never been so it was nice to see something new together. The Bazaar was really large and mostly covered, and there was stall after stall of goods. It was much cleaner there than any of the other markets and bazaars we had gone to. I would have liked to spend more time there but it started to pour so we decided it was best to head home and come back another night. We can always make time for shopping *wink wink*

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Chulaholics

While we were waiting for the afternoon snake show, Suksri took us to see her university Chulalongkorn. The school was very pretty and we had fun walking around. But what was even more fun?? Winding up in the middle of freshman welcome day! We were in the thick of booth after booth of all the majors, selling shirts and notebooks. Was a total blast! And now all three of us can sport our Chula gear. Although Suksri got the best one, a Freshy shirt!

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Snake, Snake, It's a Snake!

Yesterday we headed to the Red Cross' Snake Farm.  It has tons of venomous snakes that it uses to create anti-venom.  It also has a bunch of non-venomous snakes for educational purposes.  Outdoors it has huge encloures for cobras and pythons.  Then inside it has two stories of everything snake related.  Very very interesting.



We were able to see the milking presentation in the morning which was held in their indoor auditorium. Then we went and got some lunch nearby at a street stall (yummy chicken and rice!) and then got ice cream before heading back for the snake show. The show was about an hour presentation on various venomous and non-venous snakes and we got to see a lot of cobras in action. Then Charlton and I were brought up at the end of the show, to be blessed in a Thai wedding custom of having a snake draped between us for a "long wedded life".

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This just in, Durian still smells.

Well Kristen and I had durian again. I've never been a huge fan of it. It tastes alright, however the smell that waifs up through your nose is absolutely horrendous. The first time Kristen had durian, it wasn't fully ripe and she didn't think it was that bad. However, that would change at the food court at Mah Boon Krong center.

My mom ordered a dessert that consisted of durian, coconut milk, and ice and offered it up for us to try. It was both Kristen and my second time sampling this pungent fruit. She didn't enjoy it as much. This durian was particularly ripe and just like a pair of underwear that has been pooped in and sat around for a few weeks, it didn't smell good exactly.



There is a reason that there are sharp spikes on the outside of the fruit. It means keep out. DO. NOT. EAT. EVER.

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5.11.2009

Shopping & Jim Thompson House

So yesterday, Charlton and I got early and headed to the pool for a morning swim. We headed back to the condo and got cleaned up and headed out early to get started hitting some of the sights.

We started first at Siam Paragon, a huge luxury mall. They have a Maserati dealership inside! I ended up getting all sorts of pampered by the girls in the skin care section of one of the stores. Who needs to go to the spa when you can get mini treatments at the counters?!

We worked up quite an appetite walking around and then headed to another mall down the street, MBK, to get some lunch from the food court. Charlton tucked into a big bowl of Cow Cow Moo and I got myself some Pad Thai. Then we got bowls of shaved ice and coconut milk, and had another run in with some durian (eww! to be blogged about later) With renewed energy we hit the cell phone counters and all the stalls all over the mall.

After that we walked to the Jim Thompson House Museum. It was absolutely GORGEOUS! The gardens and buildings are stunning. Charlton and I had a great time on our tour and walking around the gardens after (and you can't argue with a $6 admission...for the 2 of us!)

Then it was off for a boat ride down one of the canals behind the museum. Crazy! I am lucky I grew up around boats otherwise I would have pitched in for sure! The boats drive like the jet boats up in Oregon...but they are on a canal hardly wide enough for two boats. It's like the jungle cruise on speed!

Then we headed back to condo, snacked on some mangos and some "thai tacos" and went out for another swim. Then it was time for dinner down the street (Tom Yum, yum!) Then back here to book the trip for Chang Mai and Siem Reap, Cambodia. Tickets are all booked and now we just have to get our hotels set up tonight.

Now we are getting ready to hit the Red Cross' Snake Farm. More to come when we get home!

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5.10.2009

One Challenge Conquered

Durian is a stinky, foul fruit.

Kristen ate some. Eew!

From 05.10.09 Bangkok 1


From Wikipedia:
Chef Andrew Zimmern compares the taste to "completely rotten, mushy onions."

Anthony Bourdain, while a lover of durian, relates his encounter with the fruit as thus: "Its taste can only be described as...indescribable, something you will either love or despise. ...Your breath will smell as if you'd been French-kissing your dead grandmother."

Travel and food writer Richard Sterling says:
“... its odor is best described as pig-shit, turpentine and onions, garnished with a gym sock. It can be smelled from yards away. Despite its great local popularity, the raw fruit is forbidden from some establishments such as hotels, subways and airports, including public transportation in Southeast Asia."

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Japan food recap

Okay, so this has been long overdue. It's all the food we ate in Japan!

We are firm believers in being able to get a sense of a place and its people by the food they eat. So we make sure to document our meals while we traveling. So sit back and enjoy...make sure you tie on a bib though!

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Chatuchak Weekend Market

With only so many weekends here in Thailand we figured today was the best day to head to the famous Chatuchak Weekend Market. So we snacked on the fruit we had bought last night on the street and headed out into the 90+ degree heat.

Suksri wisely advised that we take the bus there instead of walking the whole way. That in itself was an adventure (both there and back)

It's hard to summarize the experience in words. There are stalls upon stalls selling silks, necklaces, incense, bags, jeans and dogs and cats (the hardest part for me). It's overwhelming but not unbearable. I am still baffled by how cheap everything is. Lunch for all of us (skewers, papaya salad, larb & sticky rice) all for less that $3! It is total sensory overload here, but in a good way.

Charlton and Suksri are both recovering from the morning out (ie. napping) I may go get my suit on and get greased up for the pool. Can't be cooped up for long!

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5.09.2009

Sawadee Bangkok

Charlton's mom met us at the airport when we got in around 7 and helped us navigate to her condo via bus so we didn't get ripped off by the taxi drivers.  We then dropped off our backpacks and headed out to the street for some grub.  We got some rice porridge with fish and then moved onto some pineapple and green mango before capping off the night with taro ice cream.
We were graced with some rain and some thunder and lightning.  Welcome to Thailand!

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Hello from Singapore!

This is what our view is like here. We have about 2 hours to hang around the airport before we hop on our flight to Thailand...and I can finish the Reader on the flight (they shut me down with only 5 minutes left!)
Hopefully we can find something to entertain us as we only get an internet session for 15 minutes (wah!)

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5.08.2009

Out of Japan. On to the Heat.

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Here we come!

So get ready Thailand!

We are about to board our plane here in FUK International Airport...next you here from us we should be in Bangkok! Sayonara Japan!

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Best way to leave Japan...

is to spend our last night playing Taito's arcade game! We had been eying the game since we were in Osaka but could never justify the 200 yen per player cost. But when you get to whack salarymen for dozing on the job, navigate housewives down the street to the trash truck and practice your bowing...how could we leave Japan without playing?!

So we checked every arcade since Osaka and had never found it for any cheaper. So last night at a Sega town we saw the game and got our fingers ready! We had a blast! Such a great way to close the Japan leg of our trip!

And for the record, Charlton kicked my butt!

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Shop 'til we drop

So today we decided to tackle the Tenjin area of Fukuoka, what we hoped would be more livelier than the Momochi area we are staying in. Don't get me wrong, it's nice in Momochi, but it's quiet and there is nothing around but the TV studios across the street and the Lawson's next door. We needed some shopping (we saved it for here!) and some food!

So we headed out early (by Charlton standards) and went to Nishijin. There was supposed to be a market there and we hoped we could get some local produce. No such luck, 9 o'clock must be too late as all we saw was a flower stall. So we got us some donuts at Mister Donut before hopping on the subway to Tenjin.

Now, take South Coast Plaza add a Bloomie's and a Fashion Valley and you are no where near the size and magnitude of the shopping in Tenjin! It is insane! We went to a ton of department stores, didn't even hit all of them or the underground arcade...and we were gone all day. We probably didn't even get to 1/4th of them. I had read that they were pretty high level, but I think Charlton was surprised in what type of shopping the area had. We did make a special stop off at Kawabata shopping arcade that had a little more touristy stuff.

Other than shopping we made sure to hit the ACROS building, which is known for being a "green building" and has garden terraces all up the 12 stories of the building. It was really peaceful and pretty. Although our legs are still smarting after the hike up Misen.

Also stopped at the post office to send some things home to my mom, sis (both for mother's day) and for my brother for watching our pets (thanks Nathan!) Got lunch in one of the many food courts in one of the department stores (soba and tempura for Charlton, udon for me)

After having shopped ourselves out we had to make sure we hit the Fukuoka mainstay for dinner...ramen. Fukuoka (or Hakata) is known for their ramen, especially the Yatai mobile food stalls. We took the subway from Gion to Akasaka and walked to Nagahama Street, where there were 2 blocks of carts set up. We walked down once to see who had the most customers before settling down at a counter for some Hakata ramen. It was really tasty and a good send-off for the city.

Then we dragged ourselves back to Momichi, to finish off the night with green tea ice cream sandwiches while we watched slingboxed Saved By the Bell. Oyasumi nasai Fukuoka!

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5.07.2009

What I dislike about Japan...

are Japanese style toilets!

While the Japanese can add all sorts of features to "western style" toilets (heat, bidet, etc) The fact of the matter is a hole in the ground is still the most popular option. ick!

This is the worst when you are on a train and you don't want to leave looking like you have had an accident (hello, I have a bum arm and can't brace myself well)

While I will miss Japan when we leave I sure won't be missing these!

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Where in the World are We?!

Quick list of what we did today:

Spend the day in sunny 70 degree weather
Eat at McDonald's while using a coupon
Tour a baseball stadium
Walk past a Hard Rock Cafe
Stop at a Big Dogs store
Walk along the boardwalk
Stop by at German festival and contemplate getting currywurst
Take pictures like this:



Maybe after hearing this description you are as confused as we were. This isn't Japan. This isn't Fukuoka. This is San Diego.

No wait it is Fukuoka. We're here right before catching our flight on Saturday to Bangkok. However, due to the items listed above, it sure doesn't feel like we're in Fukuoka. I'm not too sure what Fukuoka should feel like, but I don't think it should seem as similar to San Diego as it does.

From what I have experienced it is very nice here. The weather today was enjoyable. The city is clean and it has a beach. We spent much of the day walking around and doing some shopping (looking no buying). The highlight of our day was taking a tour of Fukuoka's home field, the Yahoo! dome. It was fairly standard baseball stadium tour except for once we were let on the field, we were able to put on jerseys, gloves and hats to look like a real player. It was a fun experience.

Tomorrow, we will venture to the Tenjin district to get a feel of what Fukuoka is really like as well as escape back to the clutches of Japan for our final day here.
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5.06.2009

Excruciating. Painful. But Worth It.

Getting up this morning both Kristen and I had a good plan of what we were going to do.

- Take a street car to JR Hiroshima Station
- Take a train to Miyajima-Guchi
- Take a JR ferry to Miyajima
- See the Itsukushima Torii
- See deer
- Climb Mt. Misen

Everything on the list seemed pretty easy. However, it was the last item that proved the most difficult. We knew going in that the peak of the the mountain was about 1,700 feet above sea level. In my mind at least seemed fairly do-able. I figured go up the mountain, come back down and get lunch. That proved to be the case, however it was the two and a half hours spent hiking up and down which ended up zapping all our energy for the day.

We started on our way up at 11am. By 11:15 I was huffing and puffing my way up the mountain. It was stair after start etc...The whole way up consisted pretty much of sore legs, lots of sun, and sweat. What is inspiring is all along the path there are sporadic Buddha images placed there. So while you are utterly miserable you can feel that you are on a spiritual journey at the same time.

At about 12:15 we reached our reward. The peak.


From 05.06.09 Miyajima

At the top it was absolutely amazing. You could see down the coast of Japan plus many numerous islands. In addition there was a good feeling knowing that we made it up on our own power and strength.

In all it was a rough climb, but in the end we were both glad we did it.

Also, a picture from the Miyajima Torii:

A Different Perspective

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5.05.2009

On a three hour tour...

or more here on Miyajima isle! Today we have a little day trip planned from Hiroshima to Miyajima on the JR Ferry. Should be really pretty, the torii there is one of the most sought after sights here in Japan.

Charlton just got all cleaned up so we are going to go pick up breakfast and lunch at the grocery store around the corner and then ride the cable car to the station before catching the ferry for hiking, sight seeing and picnicing.

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Not on the Japan Rail Pass

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More Pictures!

April 26 - Hakone (hah-cone-ay)



April 27 - On the Way to Takayama



April 28 - Takayama

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As expected

The tourist sites of today were pretty depressing. I am still kind of a mixed bag of emotions from what we saw today. I really miss my grandpa.

We left Peace Memorial Park, still in the middle of their Boy's Day celebrations, to check in at our hostel. We stepped inside just as the skies opened up. So I don't really get the distraction I need. Just curled up on the futon, pretty depressed. Here's hoping for some sun.

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5.04.2009

Adventures in Breakfasting

Just got back from our first continental breakfast in Japan, and needless to say it was interesting. We are practically the only Westerners in Kurashiki, so when we walked into the lobby it was like all the old timey saloon scenes when the music just stops. Then everyone started to go about their business but keeping one eye on us the whole time. We spent a good couple minutes looking for clean plates, almost grabbing from the dirty pile when we first got there. Finally finding them in a drawer we went about getting some food, which consisted of hard boiled eggs (soft yolks), assorted breads, and bananas. When we went to get some coffee both of us were yelled at by the hotel's Cooking Mama, who stole our cups away because they were not perfectly lined up under the spout and poured our coffee. Later I went to get what I thought was tea and ended up getting chicken broth (club 33 style, except mine was doctored with sugar, ick!) Then I had a Japanese woman spill her coffee on my breakfast on my lap. Fun times!

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Morning in Kurashiki

Hooray for a reprieve from hostel living, last night we stayed at the Toyoko Inn here in Kurashiki. So nice not to here slamming doors and people screaming at each other all throughout the night. The fact that we have a relaxed schedule today is good as well, no 8:17 trains to catch! We will be leaving on a local JR line, and should get to Hiroshima in an hour and half. As long as we are out of here by 10 we are golden.

Today in Hiroshima should be interesting. I thought it was definitely something I needed to see in person, but I am apprehensive on how I am going to feel about seeing everything. All of my grandpas were at Pearl Harbor so I have a little more of the connection to it than I think Charlton does. May be rough, so we will see. The guidebooks say the memorial will ruin your day so plan accordingly (great!) If thats the case we may turn in early and watch some slingbox.

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Himeji Castle

Keeping Guard

Himeji Castle, Himeji, Japan.
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04.24.09 Tokyo

Ok, I've been bad. I've taken thousands of photos and have only shared four of them. Bad Charlton.

I am going to try to remedy that by selecting ten photos per day and getting them up (I'll do my best but no promises!)

Here are some from our first day in Tokyo:



Day Two:

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Ōsaka Out

This morning we managed to leave Osaka. Barely.

I had set an alarm to make sure we left our hostel by 7:30am to make our 8:17am train. It's hard to leave at 7:30 when you wake up at 7:20am. Through a lot of hustling, we managed to make our train with about ten minutes to spare! Whew.

The reason we have had to adhere to such a strict schedule is right now we are in the heart of Golden Week here in Japan.

We were headed to Himeji Castle in Himeji which was about a half hour away from Osaka. We got there around 9am and rented our (free) bikes and headed up to the castle. Once we got to the main part there was about a twenty minute wait to get in. Once in it was pretty much an hour and a half line to go from top to bottom. Overall though, it was very impressive and breathtaking. If I were trying to overtake this castle, I think I would get about ten steps in before I was killed. It was that fortified.

After we left we discovered the reason that we had to get there early. There was a line of about 1,000 people waiting to get in. As we were leaving I could only shake my head knowing how many hours those people would have to wait. If I were them I would have stayed home.

Next we biked around Himeji trying to find lunch. We got about a half mile down a side street until we discovered a great noodle shop. I had a milk and pork broth with egg noodles, an egg and some pork, and Kristen got a pork over rice dish. In addition there was a seaweed salad which was very tasty. Kristen actually consumed about a Mission Beach worth of seaweed. With full bellies we then headed back to the station to get to Kurashiki.

Kurashiki was relaxing and enjoyable after a busy past few days. It's a smaller river town with historic buildings and shops lining the river. We strolled around and went to a few temples before heading back to our hotel with our convenience store bought dinner.

Tomorrow we are off to Hiroshima. Will write more then!

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Things I've Learned from T-Shirts in Japan

1. Is love ready for life love?
2. Fantastic cars ready now
3. Hurry up big TOKYO
4. Eight Lives of Nine Cats in the City
5. Fresh Sausages Daily

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5.03.2009

Osaka Mornings, Days and Nights

Osaka Nights
Morning:
Wake up at 6am if you're Kristen to hear other hostel occupants slamming doors and bounding up and down steps. Wake up at 7:30 if you're Charlton because he was smart enough to bring earplugs. Next get ready and get breakfast at Mister Donut.After one glazed donut, six donut holes and one curry, yes curry donut, hop on the JR Osaka loop to go to the Cup of Noodles museum. Enjoy listening about the history of instant noodles including a cafe at the end where you can eat your very own bowl. It's just like it's 1am in college and the only thing in your dorm room is your Psychology 101 book.

Day:
Head to Japanese Mint. Make sure you take the extra long way to get there so that way you're really tired once you arrive. Take a look at new coins, old coins, unique coins and common coins. Wonder why you can't read any Japanese as all the signs are in Japanese. Contemplate purchasing Japanese Collector's Book for 47 commemorative prefecture coins. Next, go to gianormus electronics store and get overwhemed by the people, quantity of electronics, number of toys etc. Go to hostel to rest.

Night:
Head out to Dontonbori to see the nightlife and giant mechanical crab. Walk through huge throngs of people and take many interesting pictures. Succumb to my American desires for McDonald's for dinner. Enjoy the taste of McDonald's french fries but still keep somewhat Japanese by ordering a McCheese Katsu burger. Go back to hostel to prepare for a long day tomorrow at Himeji Castle and Kurashiki.

Last, rest then sleep.

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5.02.2009

Tōdai-ji Buddhas

Tōdai-ji Buddhas

At the Todai-ji temple in Nara, Japan.
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Evening in Osaka

So after lounging around at the hostel we decided it was time to venture out. We saw that Hep 5 was only a stop away so we decided we would check it out. It's a 9 floor building (plus 2 more basement levels) of shops, video games, food and to top it off a ferris wheel. Sounded like a good activity for the night, and to give you an idea we left around 5 and just got back at 10ish...there is that much stuff!

Osaka station was chaotic, and not organized chaos, just chaos. There were so many people and the station is under construction so everyone is going in all different directions. We finally found an exit and took the roundabout way to Hep 5. We started on the first floor and were bombarded with store after store of trendy bordering on ridiculous clothes...and that went on for at least 6 floors. Then there was a break and there was a food level of mid-tier restaurants and then up a little further was the ferris wheel, then an art gallery, and then 2 levels of Sega games (the last of the two were all gambling ones) After getting a feel for it, and being totally overwhelmed we headed to the bottom basement floor and ate dinner in the HUGE food court called Snack Park. Charlton got a Soba dish and I got noodles and sushi. Then it was off to get sale pastries at Don Q before hitting the ferris wheel.

The ferris wheel was absolutely awesome at night! It was a really long and relaxing ride too, and you can see all of Osaka lit up. Once the ride was over it was off to Joypolis (the arcade) where we played one game and watched a lot of people play games we had never even heard of (the typist of the dead anyone?!)

Then it was time for us to head back here to the hostel with a quick stop at the grocery store for some drinks. We need to plan how we want to spend our lazy Sunday...more crazy malls? Osaka castle?! Cup of Noodles museum?!

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Sayonara Nara

So we finished up our stay in Nara, we both loved the city a lot and were sad to leave. Especially the B&B was awesome and we met some really good people. If we were to do it again we would most likely use Nara as our base and head to Kyoto as a day trip (even if we went for 2 days) Oh well, you live and you learn. With our full bellies we headed through Nara Park and to Kasuga Grand Shrine. We skipped the admission fee and just walked around it peeking in. It was a little too crowded for our liking anyway. Then we made our way back through the park, spending time walking passed all the food carts selling all sorts of carnival like food. The highlight was watching everyone feed the deer the deer cookies they had purchased. The girls and kids would squeal, was a riot.

Then we made our way back to the main shopping district grabbed a mochi and poked in a few places and then settling for lunch at a grocery store right in the thick of it. Got some seaweed salad, a huge prepared plate with everything from sausage, katsu, duck? and pickles. Such a great value.

We then headed to the B&B to pick up our bags and head to the station. 40 minutes later we are here in Osaka, lounging in our room. We are planning on maximizing our weekend here by taking it easy much like we did today. We leave here Monday morning first thing and head for Hiroshima. So we will trying to enjoy the rest while we can.

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Clean!

Just got into Osaka and checked into the hostel and did laundry and then took a shower, I lovelovelove being clean and having clean clothes!


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Endless Toris

Endless Toris

One of the more famous Japanese scenes. This shot was taken at the temple Fushimi-Inari which is basically a temple dedicated to business. Each one of the toris is sponsored by a company looking for good fortune. Hence there are thousands of them.

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5.01.2009

Packing our bags

Just finished up a relaxing breakfast at our B&B here in Nara. The owner provided us with some lovely fruit and some assorted cakes.  yum!  We have a few more things to throw in our bags before we head out to see the rest of Nara (and maybe do some shopping, yay!) and then its off to Osaka.

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Kristen in Nara

Nara Part 1

By the time we took the JR to Nara it was about 3:30 or so. Even though we had directions to our B&B we decided it was in our best interest to stop by the Tourist Info desk at the station to see what maps they had as we were not that satisfied with what we had already. The people there were incredibly friendly and gave Charlton a great map of the city and even marked our B&B on the map for us.

By this time it had started to get pretty warm and we had to haul our packs through town, not much fun. Thankfully our B&B was relatively close so it wasn’t too bad, although we were both sweaty (ugh!) The owner of our B&B was super nice and gave us cold green tea as soon as we got in the door. The Nakata B&B is absolutely gorgeous! I love that we are staying here, total upgrade from our place in Takayama. I made sure to double up our futon tonight as I learned I suffer from princess and the pea syndrome. After getting settled in and the owner giving us some tips on navigating the city we headed out at a much leisurely pace than we have been touring with. We strolled through town saw the 5 storied pagoda, then walked though Nara park and saw all the beautiful TAME deer, then went to the deer preservation house. It was too late to see many of the temples, and I thought the one that stayed open the longest would be closed by the time we got there so we decided we would just go for a nice walk through the rest of the park. But lucky for us, Nara is easily navigated on foot and we ended up in front of the Tadai-ji about 30 minutes before it closed. We decided to go for it and we were glad we did. The temple is awe inspiring and absolutely stunning. Going right before closed allowed for us to tour without the crowds as well. Think the pictures will be really pretty, hopefully Charlton will post them soon.

We then headed back to town and poked in and out of the shops. Then we grabbed some dinner from CoCo curry (yum!) before heading back to the pagoda that had now been illuminated as it was dark, was really pretty.

Then it was back to the B&B for us, where we chatted over green tea and cookies with the owner and some of the other travelers staying here. Got some ideas of where to hit tomorrow, and we are really looking forward to seeing the rest of what Nara has to offer before traveling to Osaka in the afternoon

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Kristen's Kyoto

Sayonara Kyoto

So we packed up our bags this morning, and hurried out of our hostel as we had to drop our bags off at the station before taking the subway to the Imperial Palace for our tour at 10. Charlton only had the name of the gate we were starting the tour and of course none of our maps had the gate names. So we had to wing it and get to the closest station and then rely on a map once we got there. I am really glad in the rush this morning I had grabbed a Nutrigrain bar otherwise I would have been famished on the hour long tour. While we did get to see a lot, didn’t feel like we see as much as we did in Tokyo, but maybe that’s just me. We did, however, have an English speaking tour guide a great improvement from the audio-guide in Tokyo.

After the tour it was back to Kyoto station for lunch in the attached Isetan mall. We found a ramen shop that had a vending machine and settled in. Lunch was really good, and definitely what we needed after all that hustling this morning.

Once we finished, we hopped on the local JR line to Inari to see the Fushimi Inari. It is a gorgeous shrine area that has 4 km of toriis one after another. Each torii is sponsored by a different corporation. They were really beautiful and it was a peaceful walk and not to crowded. We probably did 3 km of the walk though because the last bit was uphill and we wanted to save our legs for the walking we would be doing in Nara later. So back on the JR to Kyoto station where caught another train back to Nara for the rest of our day…
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