Good Morning Vietnam!

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I arrived to David’s house at around 10 am on Tuesday March 5th. We did some laundry then went and ate some yummy Mexican food. After showing me a couple of the major sites in the city, we headed back to David’s house. That night I went with David to watch his dart team play at Red Bar. It was quite interesting to see how intense darts really can be. David’s team ended up winning, which makes their current record 3-0. Finally once all of the darts has been thrown, we headed to a “Viet Thai” food restaurant. I settled for a Singaporean glass noodle dish, knowing that the Thai just wouldn’t be the same.

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On Wednesday we headed to the airport bright and early at 4:30 am to go to Da Nang then transfer to Hue. We decided to be rough travelers and take a $2.50 bus from Da Nang to Hue and boy was that a mistake. We sat in the back of the bus where they proceeded to stuff as many people as possible. Imagine David and I with our bags and then like 3 Vietnamese people hanging over us because they are sitting on the floor right in front of our seats. It was rough. Finally after 4 plus hours on that fantastic bus, we made it to Hue and transferred to our hotel- Jade Hotel. It was FABULOUS. Amazing hospitality. The rooms were really clean and comfortable. Breakfast was incredible and it all cost only $15 per night. I highly highly highly recommend this hotel. After taking a nap for a couple of hours, we wandered out of the hotel to get some dinner at Golden Rice. It was a good restaurant, nothing to write home about. After dinner was over, we walked to the night market along the Perfume River. The night market had the typical booths with all different kinds of “nick-nacks”. After living in Thailand for two years, I wasn’t too impressed, but it was fun to walk around the city and people watch.

 

Thursday morning after a delicious breakfast, we headed out to see the sites. First stop was at Big C to get some things we had left behind in HCM. After Big C, we went to Khai Dinh’s tomb. This was by far the most amazing tomb I have seen thus far. The main area where the tomb is located is made up of ceramic mosaic. It is beautiful. Next we went to Tu Duc’s tomb, which is located on many acres around a pretty lake. After seeing the tombs, we stopped and got some lunch then headed back to the hotel for a power nap. The afternoon was filled with a visit to the Imperial City (the Citadel), which is surprisingly in horrible conditions as they are trying to restore it. You can tell how beautiful it once was, which is depressing because currently it needs a lot of TLC. Then Mu Pagoda is a lovely Buddhist temple with monks living on the property. It is along the river as well, so the views are fabulous. That night we went to a “hole in the wall” type of restaurant to try some of the local dishes. The evening was spent with many pool games and catching up.

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Friday we transferred to Hoi An by taking a private car (after the bus incident, I don’t think David and I were to eager to try again). Plus with a private car, we were able to stop along the way at: Hai Van Pass, China beach, Marble Mountain and…. The views and sites were beautiful, but I think I can say that we were both extremely excited to get to Hoi An. It is one of the most charming cities I have ever been to. I feel like my pictures cannot even do it justice. That night we ate at a yummy Mexican fusion restaurant right in the middle of the Old Town overlooking a live street performance. Seriously, just walking around this town can make you get lost in the moment. There isn’t much to see, but it is still so fascinating and charming.

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Saturday we slept in and then wandered around the town for a couple of hours before heading back to the hotel for yet another rest. That evening I tried some street noodles (YUM) and bought a couple of purses (beautiful). We ended up staying up late watching horrible (literally silly) movies on Star Movie channel and playing UNO (I dominated if you were curious, although David did win a couple of times…).

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The 10th was spent traveling to Hanoi and preparing for our overnight train ride to Lao Cai, which then we transferred to Sapa. Basically, it was a lazy Sunday once we arrived in Hanoi where we posted up at a coffee shop, checked emails, charged our devices and ate some food.

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Monday was the same as Sunday, a recovery time period for all of the travel we have done. We arrived in Sapa after an overnight train and checked into the guesthouse. Sapa reminds me of a tourist-ier version of Sagada in the Philippines. There are beautiful rice terraces and tons of cafes. Unfortunately, the town is completely crowded by tourists coming to “trek” to the local villages for home stays. Luckily, David did not want to do a home stay because I am really wary as to how authentic they truly are. After living in a real village in Thailand for two years, touristy treks, and what not, are not too appealing. I spent the morning talking with all different kinds of people in coffee shops trying to steal Internet and power as our guesthouse had no electricity. I had some amazing crepes and hot chocolate, walked around the local market and ate some pho, did laundry and watched some TV.

 

Monday through Wednesday we spent the time in Sapa. The town was amazing. I even rented a motorcycle one day with a couple of friends to drive to the local villages and see the terraces. Besides that fun excursion, I ate a ton of great food and enjoyed being up in the mountains with the beautiful weather that comes with it. Wednesday night, David and I took another night train back to Hanoi. This time we decided to take the local train instead of the tourist train, which wasn’t too much of a difference with interiors, but a huge difference cost wise. We arrived in Hanoi realllllll early in the morning and headed straight to the Hanoi Hostel where they were kind enough to give us a bed until our room was ready. Boy did I need sleep- me and trains do not mix (along with airplanes).

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David ended up spending the afternoon hanging out around the hostel and I went out to walk around the town. I found my way to the Women’s Museum, which had an amazing exhibit about the history of women throughout the Vietnamese culture. It was really interesting to see the differences and similarities between Thai women’s culture and Vietnamese. After the Women’s Museum, I headed to the Hao Lo Prison, the prison where many American pilots and soldiers were held during the war. It was really neat to see parts of the prison and read more about the time period. I even saw photos of John McCain back in the day when he was imprisoned. For dinner, I was able to find this food that I absolutely love from Vietnam (we had it in Thailand as well, but it wasn’t the same). It is a large dumpling filled with pork and quail eggs- YUM. Plus it only cost 50 cents.

 

The next morning we headed to Halong Bay for a junk boat cruise for the night. Although the weather wasn’t sunny, it was beautiful to see Halong Bay. The Bay is filled with these old wooden junk boats and tons of tourists. The first day we went to a cave and did some kayaking (mainly watched some people kayak because the water was so cold). That evening we had a fun time jumping off the boat into the water (FREEZING) and singing karaoke with some friends we made on the trip! Of course, David dominated karaoke, while I tried my hardest to avoid it at all costs. Saturday was filled with more cruising on the Bay and then a lunch in the town of Halong, finally ending back to the hotel that night. I decided to stay in and get some sleep because I knew there were a ton of monuments and places I wanted to visit Sunday.

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And visit them I did. The day was filled with a visit to Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum (AMAZINGLY COOL), the Temple of Literature, the oldest College in Vietnam, the Art Museum and a temple in the middle of the lake. After a long and crazy day in Hanoi seeing all of the sites, David and I headed back to Saigon.

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Monday, we slept in and eventually headed out into the city to find some propaganda posters for my new apartment (by the way, they are fabulous) and jewelry. David really enjoyed shopping with me, I think… That evening we headed over to one of David’s best friends houses to check out his girlfriend’s jewelry line. It was incredible and of course I snagged a couple (a lot) of pieces. The evening was filled with some great conversation with David’s friends in Saigon and then an early nights sleep, as I would be leaving the next day.

 

As I am sure you could guess, Tuesday I spent the day sleeping, packing and stressing about how I was going to fit everything into my luggage. Vietnam was AMAZING. A trip of a lifetime and I am so lucky to have had David there to join me on my travels and show me around Saigon. I hope someday to go back and visit again because I know there is so much I didn’t get to see, but I guess it is good to leave things that way, making it more probable that you will return. Stay tuned for a blog on Paris and then finally one on my last month as a Peace Corps volunteer! See you soon Houston!

XO,

E

ACROSS THAILAND 4 55

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Today, I will be posting about an amazing project a friend of mine is doing after his Peace Corps service. He will be running across Thailand for 55 days. Crazy, I know, but that is how incredible he is and how much he believes in this cause. Here are some of the background details behind the run and some questions that Luke so graciously answered for the blog.

 

Many of you already know that I (Ellie) just finished serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in Thailand. Some of you might even read this thing and know that things were not always fun here in the “Land of Smiles”. Peace Corps volunteers go through a lot of things emotionally, physically and mentally, but these ups and downs have made us volunteers a family. We all depend on each other in some way and we all try to support each other as much as possible.

 

One of my friends here has experienced many hardships in the last 2 years. His name is Luke Fries. Luke is an incredible friend, a very caring person and a wonderful volunteer. You should see him with Thai people; they simply gravitate towards him. This past summer he helped me with an English camp and since then I was constantly asked in my village, “When is Luke coming back?”.

 

Last January, one of Luke’s best friends, Donnie Ray Crawford, tragically died. Donnie Ray was a sprint car racer from Oklahoma. In 2008, Donnie Ray became a true hero when he saved the life of then 12-year-old Harli White by pulling her out of a burning racecar. This act of heroism was featured on the Oprah Winfrey Network and the video can be viewed HERE. FYI I took this information from the amazing website Donnie Ray’s family has created for the scholarship foundation Luke will be donating his proceeds towards: http://www.donnieraycrawford.com.

 

From the stories I have heard, Luke and Donnie were like brothers. I cannot even begin to imagine what Luke went through when Donnie Ray died, but instead of crumble, Luke remained strong and continued his Peace Corps service.

 

In memory of Donnie, Luke plans on running across Thailand for 55 days starting in April (Donnie Ray’s racing number was 55). Luke has set up a website with details of the run here: http://acrossthailand455.wordpress.com.

 

I thought it would be fun to ask Luke some questions so you all could get to know him better. Warning, these questions are very serious. Enjoy!

 

Do you speak Taiwanese yet?

I can’t believe I can order a Cheeseburger in Taiwanese after just two years living in Taiwany.

 

How did you come up with this idea to run across Thailand?

Living in a village, in a house all by myself leaves a lot of time for thinking about anything and everything. After my friend passed away I felt a little helpless as to what to do in an attempt to carry on with my Peace Corps service and have something positive come out of such a tragic event. The fact that Donnie’s parents decided to start a Scholarship Fund gave me a chance to do something to honor Donnie. I was in bed one night, thinking of course, and decided that this was a great point in my life to do something such as a run like this that is physically demanding and also takes up quite a bit of time. I called and asked my Mom and Dad what they thought of the idea and then got several ideas on how to go about things from my older brothers. They were very supportive, which helped me to go with the green light for the operation… Now here we are!

  

Are you excited, nervous and/or funny?

I am a combination of excited, nervous and funny. I am excited about moving on after my Peace Corps service and starting the run for what I believe is a great cause. I am nervous because fifty-five days is a long time to stay healthy and fit; it is tough to prepare for the run while also trying to carry out my Peace Corps responsibilities. I suppose it is comparable to making a presentation or giving an interview, you just want to start and once you start, your nerves start to ease. I am funny because I am always funny… Right guys?

 

Why is Ellie one of the most amazing people in your life?

This must have been a typo. Just revise and resend and I will be glad to answer.

 

Do you hope to do this again in the future or is this a once in a lifetime kind of adventure?

I believe this will be the only time I do something like this. Not only will it be physically and mentally taxing, but also it is very time consuming. I am very fortunate to have some time to kind of “do as I please” for a few months following Peace Corps. I am glad that I have the opportunity to use the time doing something like this.

 

Are you a Doraemon or Angry Bird kind of a man? Explain.

Doraemon. A wise teacher once told a friend of mine, “_________, you can do anything. You are our Doraemon”. I am not sure if I am anyone’s Doraemon, but I hope that one day I will be.

FYI… Doraemon and Angry Bird are the two HUGE cartoons of moment in Thailand. We are talking plastered on backpacks, clothes, books, dishes, towels; basically everything.

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What will be the first thing you do when you finish?

I haven’t thought about it. I already have a sweet “high-five” routine that I plan on doing after each run, but I am not sure about the final day. Suggestions???

 

Have you eaten rice today?

Is it Taiwany? Get Real.

 

I am not asking you all to personally make a donation (although that would be IDEAL) but if you could please pass this blog post along or share this link (http://acrossthailand455.wordpress.com) to family, friends, co-workers and/or any companies/businesses that you think could help, I know Luke would greatly appreciate it.

 

XO,

E

Merry Chrismas and Happy New Year!!

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Merry Chrismas… I mean Christmas!! Happy New Year!!

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I have a treat for you guys coming up, I am having some more friends write about their trip to Thailand, BUT I will write about Christmas and what went down here.

 

 

Basically, Christmas was a blast! We had a ceremony at both of my schools, which sadly I only participated in one. We had Santa come, lots of music/dancing and even presents!

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The days after Christmas was Sports Day at my close school and I was on the blue team! All of the students participated in TONS of sports for their color (pink, orange, blue and green). Unfortunately, I found out that pink was the winner overall. Womp womppppp. But it was a blast seeing all of the teachers and students come together! Here are some fun pics…

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After Sports Day, I headed off to spend NYE with some of my best friends and one of their families. It was BLAST. I am letting them write the blog report, but here are some sneak peeks of the photos.

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Only 6 more weeks!! AHHH miss you all!!

 

 

XO,

E

This Past Month… SORRY!

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Since India things have been crazy busy. I came back to Bangkok and went straight to my village, arriving at 11 p.m. The next day I slept and caught up on chores- laundry, blogging, cleaning the house, etc.

Thursday night friends came over for a big dinner, but unfortunately I was feeling under the weather and had to call it an early night. The next 3 days were spent in bed. My stomach and throat were not agreeing with me, I don’t want to blame India, but I think it might have poisoned me.

Sunday I managed to get out of the house for a couple of hours, but still wasn’t feeling 100 percent. It was fun to see all of my people in the village, though exhausting.

Monday brought a fun first day (well first day for me) of school at Nongbua. Surprisingly classes went by quickly and the students were agreeable, though they were bribed with Gangnam Style (check Facebook for the video).

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Tuesday was another day at school though it was a little slower than Monday, I think the “fire” within me was already dying because of the HEAT that is Thailand. Brutal. Tuesday night I headed to a nearby city to help prepare for a wedding on Wednesday. I painted all of the signs! It was Pii Doc Mai’s niece’s wedding to another farang (foreigner) from Norway. The two are actually already married and live in Norway, but they needed to make it official in Thailand. I painted signs and took pictures like it was my job… Wait for it, it was my job to take pictures at the wedding ceremony and party! Okay, I know I have written this before but Thais LOVE pictures and they love foreigners, especially pale ones. So these two love birds basically hit the jackpot by having a foreigner photographer (yes that is what I am now and I do charge a crazy large fee, basically you can’t afford me… Don’t get any ideas).

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The rest of the week was a drag. And so was the week after that. I was waiting in anticipation for the COS (close of service) Conference and Thanksgiving dinner at the Ambassador’s house.

The weekend of November 23rd was spent in Bangkok filled with multiple mistakes. For some reason, Bangkok brings out the worst in me. I think it is because I try to live out my old life, while in Bangkok, but within only 3 days. It is rough. It is always a blast, but ends up giving me LOADS of anxiety and no money. The first night was spent with friends at a yummy pizza restaurant than in a hotel room just sitting and chatting. I hadn’t seen these peeps in quite some time so that was super fun. The next morning, I treated myself to some Starbucks. Lord how I miss that place! Sadly in Bangkok they do not have pumpkin spice lattes- major disappointment. Saturday night I went to an amazing dinner at Hyde and Seek with some friends. Complete blast. I should have ended the night there, but of course I decided to meet up with more friends and ended up staying out way too late. Sunday, I recuperated and relaxed knowing that Monday was the beginning of the three-day conference.

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Monday morning was spent preparing for my language proficiency exam- I scored an advanced low! Thank you very much! That afternoon we had a panel at the USAID offices to discuss our futures. Bleh. The panel members were incredible, but the information was scary and left me completely confused and overwhelmed. Monday night was divine. We had a lovely yummy dinner at the Ambassador’s residence to celebrate Thanksgiving. Of course, the food was not in comparison to the yumminess that my father creates yearly, but it was still good. After filling our bellies with turkey, we headed to Cha-Am (a beach town near Bangkok).

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Tuesday and Wednesday were spent discussing the transition back to America, our re-adjustment allowances and expectations. I have A LOT of paperwork to fill out before I am allowed to leave this beautiful place. Next weekend will be dedicated to some of that. We all celebrated Loy Kratong in Cha-Am. We had a big dinner with lots of skits and fun surprises (our staff at Peace Corps even did a dance number for us). Some people even sent off paper lanterns. It was great to all be together one last time and catch up! Many of us are staying until March, but some, myself included, will be leaving in February and so this could be the last time we ever see one another. Sad.

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Thursday I stayed in Cha-Am with two friends to relax. I don’t think I left the hotel for over 24 hours. Proud?

Friday through Sunday I stayed in Bangkok. A Peace Corps friend joined me Friday night. We lounged around and watched TV shows. It was very nice relaxing. Saturday I got to hang out with two PCVs I had met in the Philippines. They served in Mozambique (the REAL Peace Corps experience). We had a blast catching up. They have been traveling for a LONG time so I got to hear about all of their adventures.

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I continued my Bangkok stay Sunday through Wednesday when I found out some amazing Thailand PCVs were in town. It is always fun hanging out with different groups of PCVs because we are all so different and strange… Usually, it is very difficult to leave each other, but by the time Wednesday rolled around and I had been in Bangkok for what seemed like EVER, I knew I had to get back to village and get back into a routine.

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Father’s Day, December 5th, I headed back to Hansai.

Since Father’s Day not much has been going on. I have just been trying to get back in shape for the beach (NYE with three of my best friends from home!) and enjoy my last few weeks at site. I go to school every day and this week I will start teaching English to the adults in my village on Wednesday and Thursday. I am a little nervous about this because I am doing it alone and I don’t know exactly what they want to learn. Wish me luck!

Hope you enjoy all my photos from the last month. I promise these next two months I will be better about posting!

XO,

E

Oh yeah, I chopped off all of my hair! Feels so great and it is much easier to handle in this crazy heat.

Maddy’s Trip to Thailand

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To even begin to look for the most adequate way to begin the story of my trip to Thailand is extremely difficult considering the amount of fun, adventure and memories my best friend Ellie and I were able to pack into a twelve day trip. I love traveling and have traveled to many places around the world and was eagerly anticipating my trip to Thailand, but honestly had no idea what to expect. Well, if there’s one thing I have learned in life, it is to expect the unexpected and while I knew a trip with Ellie would be fun, I never expected to fall in love with the country that is Thailand. I never expected to want to have the opportunity to travel back there before even arriving back in the US, but I knew that leaving Elsby (a nickname I will use constantly to reference Ellie throughout this blog) would be an extremely difficult task to face come the end of our adventure.

 

 

Upon arriving in Bangkok at 23:00 after about twenty-three hours of traveling, Elsby and I decided we needed nothing more than a bottle of celebratory wine to cap off our night before attempting to get a good night sleep. If you know Elsby or myself, you know that wine is usually found in excess when we are paired together (in the classiest of ways of course), and this trip was no different. When we pulled up to the Peninsula in Bangkok, there was no denying how amazingly beautiful and welcoming the hotel was, despite how tired and groggy we both were from our many hours of traveling. As you can see in our pictures, while we may have only stayed at the hotel for two nights, we tried to take full advantage of staying at the Peninsula as much as we could.

The first morning, Elsby woke up and had to go to a few Doctor’s appointments for the Peace Corps, while my morning was filled with breakfast in my hotel room and a Thai massage. Afterwards, we met for lunch at the Peninsula’s restaurant overlooking the river. After lunch, we decided to explore Bangkok (despite the heat) and I was shocked at the shopping and how much I was able to buy for so little! I know for a fact a lot of the cheap rates I was able to get were due to Elsby’s incredible bargaining skills and I owe her dinner for saving me so much moola. At first, I would be told a price and then Ellie would chime in with her fluent Thai and as they stared wide eyed at her (obviously confused at why this cute white girl just went straight Thai on them), they would offer a lower price! We did a river tour through the city and then traveled by foot through a few different areas Ellie was familiar with until I couldn’t take anymore of the heat and we headed back to the hotel. At night, we met up with her friend Erica for dinner at the Peninsula and then ended the night on a rooftop bar that overlooked the city and had an amazing view of Bangkok. I was later told the bar was the rooftop bar from the Hangover 2. This was super ironic because, no, I didn’t forget where I left Ellie and go on an adventure to find her, but I did manage to lose or break pretty much anything I brought that was electronic on the trip (for example my phone, iPad, straightener, and ohhh… the list goes on but I’ll save some of my dignity by stopping there). Oh, and it’s ironic because I became best friends with a monkey now…but moving on…

The next morning we caught a flight to Surat Thani and then a ferry to Koh Phangan. After only 2 hours of sleep, waking up at 5 am for a flight then getting straight on a ferry wasn’t the most enjoyable day of travel, but we finally made it to Chantaramas hotel, which was our own little piece of paradise. When we arrived at about 14:00, we decided to take a nap, which turned into not waking up until 23:00! Starving, we went downstairs to find the restaurant closed, but to our delight the owner of the hotel, who became a friend of ours, opened it up for us and we had a wonderful dinner on the beach before retiring back to our rooms for the night.

 

 

 

The next day we woke up and hiked up to an old temple just outside of town, where we saw monks praying and were able to find a viewpoint that overlooked the island. This was such a magnificent view and despite the heat, I was thrilled that we made the hike. After our hike, we grabbed some margaritas to celebrate Cinco de Mayo, don’t ask me why we celebrated Mexico’s independence in Thailand, but any excuse to grab a marg with my best friend is something I’m going to take full advantage of.

 

One of the nights while in Koh Phangan, we went to the “Full Moon Party”. I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but lets just say, when you walk up to a beach filled with glowing paint everywhere (don’t you worry, Elsby and I partook in the paint activities), flame throwers, DJ’s and many more entertaining things, you’re bound to have a good time. Despite my phone being lost in the abyss that is “Full Moon Party”, we both made it back to our hotel in one piece and spent the entire next day lounging and eating food on our balcony.

 

Our next adventure took place on Koh Samui!!! Now, I can honestly say this island was one of the most BEAUTIFUL places I have ever been to and I couldn’t have been happier that Elsby chose this as one of our destinations. Our hotel, the Chaweng Regent Beach Resort, was AMAZING and we had our own little first floor room with an amazing shower, outdoor patio and jacuzzi.

Our first day, exhausted from traveling, we decided to relax on the beach and I must say, this is when I officially became the animal whisperer (I’m kind of a big deal to all the wildlife in Thailand). Elsby, if you refute this statement, we will be in a fight and I will send all the monkeys, dogs and elephants (who became my friends) after you. Anyways, I officially have to own a monkey now at some point in my life because I became best friends with a monkey named Seven and, if you have looked at our pictures, well needless to say, we make a great pair. Moving on though. Our first day was relaxing and filled with laying on the beach, hanging with monkeys, eating grilled corn prepared beach side, sipping numerous cocktails and then finishing off everything with dinner at the Red Snapper in our hotel, which I can say was the BEST SNAPPER EVER!!! Besides the amazing food, the Red Snapper’s band was awesome and we ended up becoming buds with them, but more to come on that later.

The next day we hired a driver for the day to drive us to literally all of the sight seeing areas on the island we could possibly pack into one day. You would have to look at our pictures to get the full effect of just how much we did in one day, but I’ll do my best to sum it up. Big Buddha was awesome and I couldn’t get enough pictures of him. The mummified monk was cool, but also a bit terrifying. I mean, a monk mummified in 1973 is still just chillin’ in a temple. It’s cool, but how can that be sanitary? The all Red Temple was one of the most unique pieces of architecture ever and beyond cool. I got to see a waterfall. The “grandfather and grandmother rocks” are rocks in the ocean shaped as, well, how do I say this politely, the male and female anatomy parts. And trust me, you wouldn’t think people would go to see these, but everyone was pretty pumped to take a picture pointing at the rocks. I had my first “spy”, which is a cheap champagne we decided to purchase at the 7-11 (our constant pit stop while abroad) and drink throughout our day of traveling. And oh yes, we cannot leave out that I had my first elephant encounter and loved every minute of it. We ended our day at a restaurant called “The Farmer” just in time for the sunset and got to enjoy an AMAZING dinner overlooking a rice field. Pretty sure we were the only people there not on a honeymoon, but the environment was beautiful and it was a solid end to a touristy day! Plus, let’s be real, the entire trip was pretty honeymoony of Elsby and I.

 

 

The next day we woke up and did a tour of Ang Thong National Marine Park via speed boat and got to enjoy a day of snorkeling, lunch on our own private beach, kayaking (which we chose to relax on the beach instead because we can be pretty lazy sometimes) and then hiking up to one of the most beautiful view points I have ever seen at the island Koh Mae Koh. At Koh Mae Koh, we overlooked “The Green Lagoon”, which was one of my favorite viewpoints we went to over the course of the trip. While it was a beautiful view, the hike up was miserable and hot and we seemed to have attracted a Greek man who decided to become our personal photographer. Personal photographer. Sounds great, eh? Well, when you are in scolding hot heat and ready to get back in the water, standing in the sun and having a man you don’t know tell you where to stand in the sun for twenty minutes while constantly taking pictures got a bit obnoxious to say the least and now I know how celebrities feel when the paparazzi won’t let them escape the camera. After the water tour, we ended back up on Koh Samui on an elephant tour, where as you can all guess, I was the animal whisperer yet again, while Ellie sat filled with jealousy at my miraculous animal relationships I was able to build. Just kidding. But seriously, the elephants and monkeys in Thailand loved me and I’m sure it had nothing to do with me feeding them money and bananas on the reg.

That night we ate at our beloved Red Snapper again and ended up going out with the band and their “groupies”. What started out as an amazingly fun night at the bars, ended up a bit scary when the band members broke out into a bar fight with some random foreigners and managed to smash a bottle over one guys head. At that point Elsby and I clearly decided it was time to go somewhere else. Somewhere else as in me telling Elsby I needed to go to 7-11 for something really important (cough, cough Pringles, chocolate and late night grub). Don’t worry people, I may not be able to find Whataburger in Thailand, but that doesn’t stop me from my late night eating habits I know you all love.

Our last day in Koh Samui we decided to do a bit of last minute shopping and I found some AMAZING jewelry to bring home to Houston. That night, we had a relaxing dinner at Ark Bar on the beach and I was able to let a flying lantern free just like in the movie “Tangled!” Let me just be clear with everyone that I am obsessed with Disney movies, and may or may not have seen “Tangled” at least two times in theaters. I had wanted to send off a floating lantern the entire trip, so being able to do so on the final night was a perfect way to end the trip. Oh, and of course, I held another monkey and he ate the money out of my hands, as we became best friends.

The next day we said goodbye to Koh Samui with heavy hearts, but did fly out of the most peaceful, pleasant airport I have EVER experienced. We joked as we walked through an outdoor passageway surrounded by ponds that we were going to be greeted by free food and beverages while waiting for our flight. And we were. It was such a wonderful way to leave Koh Samui and I wouldn’t recommend flying out of anywhere else if you ever choose to visit Thailand.

The last night of the trip doesn’t involve anything exciting, more so just Elsby and I in the airport hotel room eating copious amounts of food (standard) and looking back over our trip. While Thailand may have taken my phone, my Ipad and broken my straightener (none of these were my fault, obviously) it will forever be one of the most memorable experiences in my life and I can only hope that I am blessed enough to visit Thailand again.

 

 

Love,

Maddy

INDIA (I’d Never Do It Again or would I…?)

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DAY 1:

  • We had our flight in the morning from BKK to Kolkata.
  • We tried getting train tickets in the airport in Kolkata (half successes) until the booth closed because of some holiday…
  • After landing in Delhi, we took a bus from the airport to the New Delhi Railway Station, which was near where we were staying in Delhi.
  • We then walked to the Namaskar Hotel, which is an okay hotel with super cheap rates.
  • After getting settled in our room, we headed to the streets to look around and find some food.

DAY 2:

  • In the morning, we tried to figure out how to get more train tickets only to be scammed to a tour guide office because “they don’t sell tourists tickets at the railway station”.
  • We ended up buying a 5 day package tour for a little too much, but it was okay in the long run because traveling throughout India is tough and time consuming, so having a driver made things easier.
  • After figuring out the logistics of the tour, we started a Delhi day tour.
  • First up was the Lakshmi Narayan Temple. We didn’t go in because there was some type of prayer session going on inside, all of the men and women were dressed in their traditional attire.
  • Then the India Gate, I got to try some yummy steamed cucumber with spicy salts from the street.
  • Driving to the Qutub Minar, we saw Parliaments, North Street and South Street.
  • We ended up not going inside the Qutub Minar because the ticket was a little pricey and there were other landmarks we wanted to see where we knew there would be a fee. Pick and choose right?
  • We had lunch at a nearby street restaurant, where we got completely screwed over by being foreigners. Our bill ended up being 4 times the price of our normal meals with the same amount of food… Oh India.
  • After lunch and me almost having a meltdown because I was scared this was going to be the trend of the trip, we headed to the Lotus Temple. This temple ended up beautiful, but seemed like a cult. Just saying.
  • The ISKCON temple was next, which was definitely a cult. It was pretty, but I think it would be prettier at night when all of the lights are lit up.
  • From there we headed to the Humayun Tomb, which we didn’t go inside because of construction. We did however see a snake charmer, who of course asked us for money because we took a picture of him.
  • We drove by the Jama Masjid and our driver told us that it was a very unsafe area with lots of pick-pocketers so we just looked down the street lined with markets leading up to the beautiful temple. Looking back now, I don’t know if it really was unsafe or if he just wanted to get the tour over and head home… Tricky Indians.
  • After this we headed over to the Red Fort, we were a little tired, but we managed to get some great photos that look like we were photo-shopped in. FYI, we weren’t… 
  • After seeing all of these incredible sites and experiencing some upsetting events, we headed back to the hotel and walked around the streets. We talked with some locals, smelled some spices, ate some great food and hit the hay because we had an early morning trip to Jaipur.

DAY 3:

  • 7 a.m. marked the beginning of our trip to Jaipur.
  • Along the way, we stopped for some Masala Chai tea and had some breakfast. It was neat to eat with our driver because we felt like we were trying real authentic food from a complete “hole-in-the-wall”.
  • Again, we stopped for lunch and had some car trouble (precursor of events to come).
  • We arrived in Jaipur around 3:30 p.m. and headed to the Sunder Palace Hotel, which was probably the nicest hotel we stayed at for a whopping $15 a night.
  • At 6 p.m. the driver picked us up and I got to go shopping at Anohki! Major score for me, major fail for the credit card…
  • We then got some street food and headed back to the hotel to watch some movies (YES we had TV!) and get some sleep.

DAY 4:

  • Su (our driver’s nickname) picked us up at 9:30 a.m. for our Jaipur day tour.
  • We first say the Birla Temple, which is absolutely stunning and fully made us marble.
  • Then we headed to the outskirts to see all of the beautiful forts and palaces, which Jaipur is famous for. First up was the Amber Fort. It is HUGE. And beautiful. But HUGE.
  • Next was the Nahargarh Fort/Palace. This ended up being a little disappointing because of the shape it is in. It is still beautiful, but a little beaten down.
  • At the Jaigarh Fort we had an amazing time taking tons of jumping photos… We are SO Asian.
  • From there we had lunch near the Jal Mahal (Water Palace). We had some dal fried (pea soup), palak paneer (spinach gravy with cottage cheese), roti (basically their version of tortillas, but better) and a coke. Super yummy and CHEAP! Hallelujah!
  • The Jal Mahal was beautiful, but sort of depressing because we weren’t able to see inside since it is located in the middle of a lake.
  • We parked at City Palace, but didn’t go inside because of the price and reviews we had read that it wasn’t worth it.
  • We wandered around the Jantar Mantar (the observatory), which was definitely Kyle’s favorite because the science/math fool that he is! It was a very interesting place though considering it showed you how people used to tell time wayyyyy back when.
  • After the observatory, we walked through the Trapolia Bazar on our way to the Hawa Mahal. It was a rough walk mainly because of the HONKING (lord someone needs to ban horns in India) and the pollution. I had a headache by the time we arrived at the Hawa Mahal.
  • That night, we ate dinner at the Peacock Restaurant at the nearby Pearl Palace Hotel (where we had wanted to stay, but were told they were booked up).

DAY 5:

  • At 10 a.m. we were picked up and we headed to Agra.
  • First we went to the Monkey Temple before hitting the road. Monkeys EVERYWHERE.
  • Along the way, we had lunch at a outdoor restaurant (I don’t really think it classifies as a restaurant, but whatever). It was the usual dal, roti and coke.
  • Before reaching Agra, we stopped at Fatehpur Sikri, which was HUGE and filled with begging children. It was nice to get out and stretch our legs and see the all of the remarkable building, but the begging children got old and towards the end our patience was dwindling with them.
  • We stayed at the Maya Hotel in Agra and ate dinner at the hotel. Then slept, we had an early morning ahead of us!

DAY 6:

  • TAJ MAHAL!!! That is all that needs to be said. This alone made our trip around the “Golden Triangle” of India worthwhile. Otherwise, I think I would have been severely disappointed. It is BEAUTIFUL. AMAZING. And incredible even at 6:40 a.m. in the morning after having waited in line since 6 a.m. Yes, it is that good. We ended up walking around the Taj (yes, we are on a nickname basis after the 2 hours we spent together) and took endless photos.
  • After the Taj, we started our Agra tour, which ended up being a bust because we were a little worn out and tired of paying ridiculous amounts of fees to see basically the exact same thing, but in different cities. We did get to see/drive by/take pictures of the Red Fort and Akbar’s Tomb.
  • THEN our car broke down. Twice. Fun. Stuff. And our driver wondered why he got a small tip. So after a couple of hours of dealing with that, we drove back to Delhi with no AC. Picture two beautiful people (Kyle and myself) suffering from Sinus Infection while driving a 2+ hour drive to Delhi from Agra with no AC, but the windows rolled down with dust and smells leaking into the car. It was hell. Pure hell. I wish I had gotten a photo.
  • After we arrived in Delhi and dealt with Su yelling at us and throwing stuff for not giving him a good tip, we got some food and hid in our hotel. Partly because we were exhausted and partly because I was scared Su would find us (if I am being honest with myself. Sorry parents…)

DAY 7:

  • This day was our free day in Delhi, so obviously we slept in. Then we had some lunch. Read some books. Did some street shopping. Ate some dinner, then slept some more. The end.
  • Plus we were a little over Delhi. And the scams.

DAY 8:

  • At 6 a.m., we headed to the airport for our flight to Kolkata.
  • We arrived in Kolkata around 12 p.m. and headed to Crazy Wanderers Homestay, which ended up being our savior of the trip. Literally completely changed my negative thoughts of India to the more positive possibilities outside of Delhi, Jaipur and Agra.
  • After getting settled in at the house, Rupak (the owner and mastermind behind Crazy Wanderer), Jina, Kyle and I ate some yummy chow mein cooked by one of Rupak’s friends at a nearby street café.
  • We then went shopping at the mini Walmart of India- Big Bazar.
  • For dinner we had some yummy momos (dumplings) and watched a Bollywood movie with the other people staying at Crazy Wanderers.
  • It was incredible how in one day my mindset and mood completely changed. I am truly grateful to Rupak and Crazy Wanderers.

DAY 9:

  • All of the visitors at Crazy Wanderers got up and head a yummy home-cooked breakfast and waited the arrival of 10 Europeans (we were a little scared truthfully because it felt like they were taking over). In the long run, we immediately bonded and it was a blast to have them all there!
  • We took the bus and then the tram to the oldest book market in India on College Street. Along the way we stopped for some tea.                                                        
  • On the streets we got the opportunity to try some freshly juiced sugar cane. YUM!
  • Then we headed inside to the oldest coffee house in Kolkata for some amazing cold coffee and lunch. The coffee house was opened in 1918.
  • After our tummies were completely full, we visited a Buddhist temple where the Dalai Lama has visited several times.
  • When we returned back to Crazy Wanderers, I got the opportunity to get mehndi (henna) done by one of Rupak’s helpers at the house. It was beautiful!
  • Dinner was delicious kati rolls (chicken rolls) made by one of Rupak’s friends. We all stayed up talking and telling stories.

DAY 10:

  • This day was nothing special. We woke up, showered and headed to the airport. I was extremely sad to be leaving India, specifically Crazy Wanderers, after visiting Kolkata and meeting Rupak and the other travelers.

 

 

India was an experience I will never forget. I have great memories of my travels throughout the country, but also some negative ones. I think if I were to visit again, I would go down South and see more of the countryside to experience the real culture. The “Golden Triangle” is extremely touristy and filled with lots of scams. There, I did not have a great experience with the locals and the culture, but Kolkata was a great surprise and changed my mind tremendously.

 

 

XO,

E

After Bali… The Summary

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I am going to give a little rundown of what has been happening in my life since Bali. Basically, not too much because it is fall break here for the schools so I have not been teaching.

 

 

After returning home from Bali, I went to dinner with an old friend and her mommy who were visiting Thailand! We ate a yummy foreign meal in Bangkok. It was truly a treat to see them.

Along with the delicious dinner, I turned in my passport for my India visa, which was quite the process, but thankfully it is done! I picked it up last week! Then I celebrated a good friends birthday in Bangkok with a nice hotel, the Riva Surya, and a yummy, yummy meal at Seven Spoons.

There was a fun end of the semester party for all of the teachers at Hansai School. We ate tons of food, sang karaoke (I watched) and danced (I took pictures). It was a good time!

Last week, I went into Bangkok to go back to the Thyroid doctor and found out that I no longer need to be on my medication! Whoopie! For those of you who do not know, they diagnosed me with hypothyroid disorder last year. I am not longer on my medication, but they will continue to monitor me each month making sure nothing serious happens with my blood levels.

 

 

While in Bangkok, I was treated to a magnificent afternoon at a spa, a yummy meal at Oishi and some fun vintage shopping with a great friend!

In my spare time, I have been watching tons of movies/TV, sleeping, eating, tutoring and doing the occasional craft project with some of my students. Here is the most recent one:

 

The next blog will be after my India trip so everyone get excited!! I know I am! Taj Mahal here I come!

 

 

XOXO,

E