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

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Mount Bromo

We made it onto Java after a long bus ride to Surabaya. From there we journey to Cemoro Lawanga... A tiny town on the edge of a huge volcanic crater. We arrived on Halloween night, and I walked to the edge of the crater. The fog covered the bottom with a couple of mountains towering out of the fog in dramatic fashion. With a full moon it gave everything a very eerie and lunar like landscape.

We woke up the next day at 330am to catch a Jeep we hired to take us and watch sunrise over the crater. A friend we made said it best, the scene wasn't necessarily beautiful but it was definitely a unique and almost out of this world view!

From the sunrise peak we went into the crater. Inside the crater is the active Mount Bromo volcano, which is considered sacred by many Indonesians (not for religious reasons). It just spews out sulphur right now, but we could still walk right to the edge and look down! Unfortunately, this day the wind was blowing the dust and ash everywhere. It was hard to see and we got covered with dust. A few times the dust settled down and the sulphur cleared enough to see the huge hole that is the volcano. Once we got back to our home stay we were covered in dirt. Three days later I'm still finding dust on me..

We came up past sunrise to Cemoro Lewanga, but came down in the daylight. The valley we went through was amazing. Huge mountains on each side that were still perfectly groomed into farms by the locals. Some of these fields had to be over 45 degrees steep! I'm afraid pictures will never do that drive justice.

We're in Yogyakarta now, an amazing city with lots of history. Getting here was the worse part if the trip so far, we made the mistake of getting private transport from Mount Bromo and were this lied to and extorted multiple times. Lesson learned.

pics: Lisa and I, also the smoking Mount Bromo within the crater, and a pic of the drive back from Cemoro Lawanga

Monday, October 29, 2012

Lombak and Gili Islands

Right now Lisa and I are back at the hotel we started at in Bali 11 day ago :/. But hey, HBO is a powerful draw...

Haha but really, the place (Ari Putri) is cheap and nice (ignoring of course the cockroach we found the last time in our room here). So we are here to recharge and get ready to tackle the monstrous island of Java... Home to the Indonesia's biggest cities, volcanoes, and amazing temples and maybe even an ancient Hindu city in ruins.

The last five days we were on the largest of the three tiny Gili Islands, Gili Trawangra (sp?). We were told this would be less touristy and a little more quiet... With some partying as well.

So we took the slow boat and got hassled nonstop about our decision to not spend 40 extra bucks on the fast boat to Lombak. All in all, it was about 4 hours total of driving, and another 7 hours total on boats, one boat being infested with cockroaches and other interesting critters. If only I had a picture of Lisa's foot with her cockroach friend resting so lovingly on her. But I was glad we stuck to it and got to Lombak the local way, and not some speedy cruise boat.

Once we landed on Lombak, we drove to another port to take a very tiny and rocky boat to the Gili islands, which are very small. There's no motorized traffic, only horse drawn carriages and bicycles. We could walk around the whole island in two hours. The ocean is full of coral around these, which made for some excellent snorkeling. It was still very touristy but cheaper and in the end, much more relaxing than Bali. Oh and it was hot. So damn hot. And I've got my fill of Bob Marley for the next couple of months.

But ya, Gili Islands. Good cheap fun. The locals are cool there, too. One night your getting served by a cool guy, the next day day your back at the same restaurant and he's telling you how much of a different person you are after drinking, and thank god for for the kindness of the locals, cuz without them, nobody here is remembering the night before!

pics: Sunset on Gili T. and the beach in the day

Sunday, October 28, 2012


Got to our hotel in Bali last Thursday, the 18th. It was nice to have a full bathroom with hot water, HBO, and a pool with a swim up bar... good life! We bounced around to different hotels as we saw fit. The first two hotels were in a an area full of old people in vacation. Not quite what I've been looking for.

We hired a driver for a day and were able to tour around the island, seeing Mount Bromo, some Balinese temples, and Ubud and the monkey forest.

We moved over to Kuta Beach which was beautiful. However, I have found Bali overall to be way too touristy. You get hassled all the time to by things, constantly saying no thanks on the beach. And there is tourists everywhere.. But, the weather is sunny, food and beer is still cheap, so I can't complain too much!

Pics: a monkey cracking a coconut and sunset on Kuta Beach

Wednesday, October 24, 2012


Last week I spent two nights in Singapore. Lisa and I met up with a couple from Thailand who we know from mutual friends in Korea. It was fun being in Singapore again, I have so many memories from Semester at Sea there. It's also a clean and beautiful urban oasis with great planning, public transport, and architecture everywhere.

I stayed at A Beary Good Hostel, which was in the middle of Chinatown.We also did a good job I sampling the local foods, like fried carrot cake (nothing like the desert), laksa, and Indian food in Little India. There were amazing bars and clubs everywhere...but not for our budget! Lisa and I have in and a pitcher with just over two pints worth of beer cost us about $25. Hot damn!

Currently I'm in Bali, Indonesia, which I'll post about soon ..

Pics: some cool buildings, Clark's Quay entertainment dist., and an awesome open air public bathroom.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Banaue and Batad's rice terraces

On Friday night we left Palawan and headed back to Manila. From Manila we took a 14 hour overnight bus to the small town of Banaue. We could already see the rice terraces that made this area of the Philippines famous.

We immediately grabbed lunch, put away our big bags in lockers, and started the two hour hike to the tiny village of Batad. We stayed the night here at the Batad Pension (highly recommend it). The rooms were spartan but had a homey feel. Anyways, Saturday was very foggy and hard to see the terraces. Luckily on Sunday we the sky was clear and we had magnificent views of the terraces. Pictures will never do the sight justice, but hiking through them and then going on to see Tiappa Falls was incredible. It was also fun to see the small villages lifestyle. The farmers grow just enough rice to feed their families here, but undoubtedly tourism now helps the city a lot.

As Sunday came to a close we boarded the overnight bus again and today arrived back in Manila. Tomorrow morning I'll say goodbye to the Philippines and hello to Singapore!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

El Nido bay

The weather this week finally became sunny for our last few days in El Nido. Island hopping and kayaking around the bay while lounging on random beaches all over has left me feeling more relaxed than I may have ever felt. Had a much better chance here to meet more locals who definitely live up to the island lifestyle vibe. One guy took us out on his work's boat, and I finally went snorkeling for the first time in a beautiful lagoon surrounded by cliff faces. Completely unreal.... We changed lodging to Rico's Cottages, and I was able to capture a beautiful sunset last night from our balcony. Friday will be another transit day, and on Saturday morning I'll wake up in Banaue.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

El Nido

Well there's no pretending now. We are definitely in the Philippines at wet season. It's still gorgeous, but definitely getting a little cabin fever here.

Boracay's rain stopped just long enough on Friday to let me enjoy cliff diving off of Ariel's Point. Took a booze cruise out to the bungalow area with the cliffs. By far the coolest set up I had ever seen. Multiple layers with sun chairs and gorgeous palm tree covered cliffs. Got to jump off a 15 meter cliff, which still has me bruised up today. So worth it though.

Saturday was a day we spent in transit from Boracay. Two flights, and the bumpiest, most painful 7 hour bus ride of my life from Puerto Princessa to El Nido on Palawan Island. We got in at 1am and finally today are set up and we are staying at the Alternative. The door to our room is about 5 feet from where the water touches our hotel (bungalow?). BEAUTIFUL! Much less touristy here and it's gonna be so chill the next few days. Hopefully the rain clears but regardless, we are going to do some island hopping these next few days.

Oh and what do you do on a beautiful island like Boracay when it rains all day? You drink. Cheap, wonderful beer all day long. I'll be doing a little detoxing here in El Nido haha.

Life is good people!

Picture: The Alternative's bar/ restaurant, just above our room.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012


So made it through Manila, which I had low expectations of, so there wasn't any kind of disappoint on my part. We checked into our hostel and just walked for most of the afternoon. Manila definitely is the poorest place I've been since India. Being in Korea I forgot about being hassled from people. The kids asking for change is always heart breaking, but it wasn't nearly as bad as it was in India.

We got into Boracay yesterday, which is beautiful. Unfortunately, it started raining about an hour after we got here and hasn't stopped yet. The food I've had is basic yet good. Mainly beef marinated with soy and fried veggies and fried rice. Delicious!

We've met up with our friend Kieran, who brings that special Irish charm to everything. So despite the rain we are just relaxing and enjoying the fact that we are all jobless wanderers!