Sunday, December 9, 2012

Angkor Wat

Here's some pictures of a few of the many amazing temples, some almost one thousand years old, in Siem Reap. Angkor wat is the one we saw at sunrise. Pretty amazing!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Chang Mai and Bangkok, Thailand

So I spend my last week in Thailand in the cities of Chang Mai and Bangkok.

Bangkok was actually a very fun city, and it was cleaner and less crazy than every movie would make you believe. I spent a lot of time on Khal San Road, which is the backpackers heart of Bangkok, maybe even of all of Southeast Asia. So of course crazy drinking was pursued. We also went to Jatajak Market which is a massive market with anything you could ever possibly want to buy for sale.

Chang Mai, in northern Thailand, was by far my favorite city in Thailand. It's a very relaxed place in a country that already seems to be in a constant "chill" mode. There we did a lot of cool stuff.

The first night we went to a Muai Thai fight, which is the Thai style of kick boxing.

The following day we did a tour that included bamboo rafts down the river, Ziplining on over 20 runs through the rain forest, rode elephants through the jungle and down a river, watched a very cute yet still sad elephant show, and had a nice buffet lunch. A full day of touring, it was great!

On my last day in Chang Mai we went to a Thai cooking class. The instructors were a lot of fun. We started by touring a local market for the ingredients. Then we went to kitchens on the farm, and made Tom Yam Gung, Pad Thai Gao, Thai Green Curry, and fresh spring rolls. It was a lot of fun learning and then cooking all the dishes. Obviously the best part was eating our food at the end!

On our last night in Bangkok, a weeklong Buddhist festival was underway. On the river a beautiful bridge was lot up with spotlights and hundreds of lanterns were constantly floating up into the sky. People were also putting floating lanterns in the river and big parade float like boats were lit up on the river.

Pics: old temples, cooking class, me eating pad Thai on Khal San, Long Live the King!, and the bridge with all the lanterns

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Kanchanaburi, Thailand

Two hours east of Bangkok is Kanchanaburi. There's now four if us traveling the red if the way together, so we've been enjoying the city and mainly relaxing. I even did my first oil body massage, which felt pretty good...but did leave me a little bit.... exposed? We also are staying at Sugar Cane guesthouse, right on the river, our rooms actually float on large pontoons, and for 5 bucks a night it's a bargain!

Here in Kanchanaburi runs the River Kwai, so went to the museum and the actual Bridge over the River Kwai. I never saw the movie but learned enough to know it was built under force the Japanese by Allied POWs in WWII. The Japanese even forced the prisoners onto the bridge whenever the Allies tried bombing it, and thousands and thousands of the prisoners died there. So it was an interesting and sad history lesson.

Another day we went to Erawan Falls, also known as the Seven Layer waterfalls. The water is a beautiful aqua color, and there's seven tiers of waterfalls that runs for about 2km. We want swimming in them, climbed them, and slid down rock slides. So many waterfalls and so fun. Being Thailand, hiking around the falls was ridiculously hot, so jumping an swimming was refreshing.

Less than one month until I'm back in the USA!

pics: Bridge over the River Kwai and a little of Erawan Falls

Friday, November 16, 2012

Ko Samui and Ko Phangan, Thailand

After an overnight bus/ferry ride, we made it to Ko Samui and went to Lamai Beach. It was a quiet beach but had a cheap room and good sun. Unfortunately, I mistakenly passed out in the sun after getting little sleep on journey over. But it took me six weeks tiger my first sunburn, so I think I've done great so far. One night we were eating and drinking with some new friends and the place we were at had a fire show on the beach, one guy swinging ropes around that were soaked in kerosene, pretty cool!

We also did a half day trip by boat that took us to Ko Taen. We snorkelin and saw tons of fish, at one pointed I was surrounded by hundreds of beautifully striped fish. Later, we were eating lunch and our guide said "come look at this iguana." Thinking its a tiny little thing the size of my hand, we get up and go look. Holy crap!!! This think was easily over five feet long head to tail. It was fat too! It's tongue must of stuck out another foot as it sniffed the air. It was so cool to see that thing slowly make its way up the hill.

Ko Phangan was easily my favorite of what I saw. This is where the famous full moon parties happen, but we spent one night on the other side of the island at Coral Bay Bungalows. Our bungalow was right on the water over a rocky shore. Around a toy peninsula was a beach with maybe 10 people at a time, tops. The snorkeling here was great. The next day, we hiked through the jungle to Bottle Beach. Never has a swim felt more satisfying then after sweating on that 2 hr hike from every single pore on my body. Nevertheless, the views there were amazing.

Oh and I need not mention it, but the Thai food this far has been nothing short of amazing!

Pics:Lamai Beach, sunsets in Thailand, crazy man swinging fire ropes, our bungalow, Bottle Beach and Coral By

Thursday, November 15, 2012


We left from Kuala Lumpur and headed up to Penang, an island and we stayed in the old historic city of Georgetown. Lots of colonial architecture here, and of course, Malay food. My favorite by far is Kuoy Cheow Teow (sp?). It has big flat noodles, chicken, veggies, and lots o spices. Mmm mmm mmm.

The highlight for me on Penang was going to the National Park. We just did a short hike along the ocean and a little in the jungle around it. On one beach, we hear a loud roar and look up to see a black fighter jet flying extremely low just out over the water a little. Even did a little flip of the wings as it went by the bay we were walking along. Also, we saw lizards a little under three feet long, and damn fast! It was freaky to see one run at the water, at first it looked like it was walking on the water but then it showed it could swim as well.

Pics: some buildings in Georgetown (if you haven't guessed yet, I didn't find Penang that happening)

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Kuala Lumpur.... I love this city!!

I'll quickly add that we stayed at Six Degrees Hostel in Jakarta, a fantastic place. However, Jakarta was nothing special in itself... sad to leave Indonesia since the best part (Jogja) was at the end!

However, I'm sitting at Reggae Mansion Hostel now, waiting for my train to Butterworth to go to Penang, Malaysia. The hostel I beyond nice, but Kuala Lumpur just may be my new favorite city. It's modern, but not too modern, it's preserved many of its older colonial style buildings, and ha gorgeous skyscrapers popping up as well. The mass transit is easy and convenient to use. The city is clean, but no to a ridiculous level like has a great sense of charm and character to it. Oh, and it's full of Malaysian food, which is damn good stuff!

We've did a tour of the city today and met some great people on it, and had a lot if fun checking out lots of the city. The Chinatown and Little India of KL are bustling places with a lot of charm and displays of their respective cultures abundant everywhere.

I hadn't realized it before coming here but 60% of Malays are we checked out the National Mosque today as well, which was pretty. The highlight was talkin to a very friendly guide at the mosque who invited me to his mosque for a personal tour! Sadly I has no time to make it happen.

We made it to the National War Monument and also the 5 year old National Palace, home of the King of Malaysia. There's actually 9 kings, and they rotate who is king. The king serves for 5 years, so only a lucky few get to be king twice in there lives.

We went to Batu Cave as well. After going past a giant golden statue of some Hindu god, you go up many steps into a giant cavern in the mountain. Inside is new Hindu temples, so while the cavern is really developed it was still really cool and over run with monkeys!

At the end of the day we also went up to the top of the Petronas Towers for some incredible views and to walk across the sky bridge.

After feeling a little tired if the traveling just before leaving Indonesia, KL and Malaysia have definitely rejuvenated me. I guess I cannot pinpoint what it is, but I just really love Kuala Lumpur. I also forgot to mention how diverse it is! I'd highly recommend it as a destination for anyone, it's extremely tourist friendly.

Pics:steps up to Batu cave, looking out of Batu cave, the Petronas Towers, Sultan's building off of Merdaka Square, slice of the city skyline, in Little India, and looking up and out of Batu cave

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Jogja (Yogyakarta)

I'm currently sitting on the rooftop porch of our humble little home stay in Yogyakarta, the Lotus Losmen. The entire city is alive with the evening calls to prayer coming from the many, many mosques all over the city. As the call fades from the one closest to me, I can hear the many other voices singing in mismatched harmony, some close and some far away. It's beautiful... One of my favorite things about finding mark in an Islamic country. Think Sunday morning church bells, but much more regularly and with some sort of deeper meaning to them.

Anyways, Yogyakarta (or Jogja) is by far my favorite part of Indonesia so far. The city is full of students, and the backpacker alley is just off of the main road. After a difficult journey here, I've found everyone in this city to be overwhelmingly helpful and friendly. Many times today students have come up to us to practice there English and to "interview" us. I'm hoping I have many email pen pals to look forward to now. Other people have gone out of their way to tell us about random places to visit or to just make us aware of areas to avoid tourist scams... Though admittedly, the one scam we walked into was still the nicest scam I've been a part of!

The highlight of Jogja was by far the massive ruins of the temples Borobudur and Prambanan. Both were built in the 8th century. With Borobudur being a Buddhist temple and Prambanan being a Hindu temple, they represent a rare instance in humanity when two different religions peacefully coexisted right next to each other. And did I mention how massive they are? Both were covered with reliefs.

Borobudur by far was the most impressive, with ten levels, each covered level with reliefs, and showin the life of Buddha and his path to enlightenment. The top is covered with many stuppas. The restoration has left it in pretty good shape, though many of the Buddha statues are headless or missing entirely. Sadly, I took few photos in my iPod to share the name and you will see how cool it is.

Prambanan had hundreds of Hindu temples arranged around about 8 massive I temples dedicated to the main gods of Hinduism, like Shiva and Krishna. It was impressive how large these were. Equally impressive is that these temples were "discovered" as complete ruins and painstakingly reconstructed over many years. Many of the smaller surrounding temples have been left as ruins. I'm now beyond pumped up for seeing Angkor Wat in Cambodia...

Today we checked out the Sultan's palace here in Yogyakarta. Every other province in Indonesia has a democratically elected governor. Yogyakarta has a Sultan, and the family has rule since the mid 18th century. Since its a democracy now, Indonesia's central government pressed to change this, but the people of Yogyakarta overwhelmingly voted to keep the Sultan in power, the family is hugely popular. So many of the people here told us about the Sultan's palace and how we should go. Guess what? Wasn't anything special. We deified y should hired a guide, that would of helped. We did get to hear a galvinese orchestra and watch a traditional Javinese dance. Both go slowww. My guess is its so damn hot here no one ever thought of doing anything too fast.

Pics: Prabanan, students playing drums on the main steet, the stuppas on top of Borobudur, and the worlds cutest kindie class stretching in front of Mendut temple