Music: "Going Back to Cali" -LL Cool J, "Sweet Home Alabama" -Lynyrd Skynyrd, "Home on the Range"
After 4 1/2 months of enjoying being a world citizen, Jen and Jim have returned to their homeland. Arriving at LAX after our 17 hour journey home (Bangkok to Taipai to LA) was wild. Dressed in our island clothes we shivered in the cool weather and rain (rain?) as we drove back to San Diego. Of course, we stopped along the way for Mexican food. Ah, it's good to be home.
We ended our trip by spending a few days in Bangkok and enjoying the colorful, pungent and frantic city that never slows down. We continued to eat incredible Thai food and got better and better at bargaining while shopping. We also learned what a difference it made once we learned how to say a few things (greetings, thank you) in Thai. People really appreciated this and often asked if Jen spoke Thai. And as long as our conversations never required more than a greeting or 'thank you', we were fluent.
We think it would be challenging to sum up all of the valuable experiences and lessons we've learned on this trip. (Although, Jim learned the value of speaking in the third person. Jim feels that it would be best for Jim to continue to speak about Jim in this manner) To put it briefly, it was truly a magical time in our lives. And, perhaps most importantly, we came back together! We made a great traveling team and felt extremely fortunate to have this time together. We also can't thank our friends and family enough for being so supportive. You all are amazing.
THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!
Soon, we'll put up new pictures and send a link so you can view them if you'd like. Thanks for reading through our ramblings...
Love, J i m & J e n
FEB. 8 Life has been very good to us! We've been enjoying the Thai islands and beaches for the past two weeks. What a treat! While we're looking forward to seeing our family and friends soon, it will be tough to tear ourselves away from days of snorkeling, reading in the sun and reflecting on our trip. We are a fortunate pair.
Highlights -- Recommended music: "Relax" by Frankie Goes to Hollywood and "Sun is Shining" by Bob Marley.
--Thailand, while a wonderful country, is not geographically ideal for our travel plans (not to worry, we've already submitted a letterto their govt to move Bangkok to a more convenient location). As a result, after Chiang Mai we were VERY north of the islands we wanted to visit. Here was our 17 hour/6 modes of transportation journey from Chiang Mai to he Krabi beach, Hat Ton Soi.
1. Tuk-Tuk (small moped-like cab) to Bus Station, 2. Bus trip to Bangkok (9 hours), 3. taxi to Bangkok airport, 4. flight to Phuket (1.5 hours), 5. taxi to bus stop, 6. local bus to Krabi (3 hours), 7. taxi to Krabi dock, 8. Long-tail boat to West Hat Rai Leh, 9. Walk along beach and through coral to Hat Ton Soi. AND IT WAS DEFINITELY WORTH IT!
--Ton Soi was a very chill and beautiful stop. All around are massive limestone cliffs that lend themselves well to the throngs of rock climbers that come here. We went on a 1/2 day climb and loved it! Jen did incredibly well and showed Jim (once again) that while she may be cute, she's still a bad-ass. We climbed with a great couple and really enjoyed the physical and mental challenge of the day.
--We have had some AMAZING snorkeling experiences on this trip and have had many in the past two weeks. The coral and fish in Thailand is much different from what we enjoyed in Australia (or Cook Islands) and we were mesmerized. We took a few snorkeling day-trips and enjoyed many different areas around where we stayed. Simply magnificent. Like living in the Rubio's aquarium (FYI: Rubio's is a fish taco restaurant... hmmm, fish tacos...).
--There's nothing like planning your schedule around splitting a Chang (a tasty Thai beer) at sunset. As you can imagine, our daybooks are jam-packed.
--After Jim's reference to Jen as a "body buffet" for the mosquitos, the local insects struck with a vengence. After one night, Jim was covered in about 50 bites. Lesson learned: Don't mess with Jen -- she has "an understanding" with the insect world.
--We spent quite a while in Ko Lanta, a long island along the west coast of southern Thailand. With it's nice loooong (and wide) beach, it was perfect for walking, jogging and frisbee. Frisbee and the beach...it doesn't get much better.
--Eating out for every meal is exciting but a bit challenging (aside from trying to eat healthy once in a while). The menus here are HUGE! At the last place we stayed there was a table of contents! It listed up to 28 pages -- and there was more after that page! Now there are not *that* many items, they are simply listed in many categories. (For example, Fried Rice with Chicken makes it under "rice", "chicken", "fast food", "items that start with 'F'" and perhaps a few more.) It can be a bit exhausting. Oh woe is me...
--We've been reading a ton. We were in a state of panic as we tried to not finish our books until we found new material. Thankfully, a used-book store came through for us. Even with a TV in one of the places we stayed (watching the MTV Asian music awards was an education unto itself), one can only watch so many Thai soap operas.
--From Ko Lanta we went to a small island called Ko Ngai (Hai). It was wonderful and got us away from the hustle and bustle of the bigger islands. Ha! Okay, it was as relaxed as everywhere else. However, since it was on an east facing beach, we got up each morning to enjoy the sun rise over the rocks in the distance. Despite Jim's suggestions, we left the drinking beer for the sunSETS.
--In front of our place in Ko Ngai was brillant snorkeling. Yesterday, we went out three times to enjoy it. What a treat to have an underwater universe in your front yard. Our underwater hand signal communication is now rock solid. Just in case the need arises...
Thanks again for scrolling through our ramblings...we hope to get to see you very soon!
JAN. 25 Hello from Thailand! We arrived a little over a week ago to the last country on our itinerary. Thailand has been quite a fun adventure so far and we continue to have a great time. (Of course, any trip is filled with some discomforts, sicknesses, hassles, etc. but all in all we feel extremely fortunate how things have turned out.) Tonite we'll take a night bus then an early flight to head to the south of Thailand and enjoy some of the beautiful islands here. Life is good.
The latest highlights... Music suggestion: "One Night in Bangkok (makes a hard man humble)" and any pirated techno CD you may own (there are many markets in Thailand and Malaysia selling copied CD's).
--Malaysia was quite a treat! We arrived in Kuala Lumpur and met up with our friends, David and Leah. It was great to see some familiar faces. We spent a couple of days in KL enjoying the big, cosmopolitan, Asian city that it is. Malaysia has an interesting mix of Malay, Indian and Chinese cultures. This makes it a fascinating place with incredible food. KL has some truly massive structures such as the Petronas Towers (largest office building in the world) and a whole lot going on all day and all night.
--The four of us headed up to Cameron Highlands, an area known for it's tea plantations and jungle hikes. It's also much cooler than KL and Jim was relieved, after 6 straight weeks of sweating, to put on a long sleeved shirt. We ate amazing Indian food, hiked in the hills and toured the tea plantations.
--On Jan. 11th, we celebrated Jen's birthday! We went on a great jungle hike during the day (highlighted by monkeys swinging over our heads) then went into town for a delicious Steamboat dinner (much like fondue) with us cooking up fish, veggies, etc. in two types of heated soup. Throw in a few Tiger Beers and we had a great night.
--Speaking of food, since Bali, we've been gorging on Mangosteens. We had never heard of this delicious fruit but have been eating our body weight in them since we tried them. Oh my, they are good. You peel a hard, dark maroon shell off of the tangerine sized fruit to reveal soft, pure white segments that are sweet and tart and oh-so delicate. To stop from drooling, we should also mention the Durian fruit. This fruit is banned by some hotels because the smell is so much like an open sewer. After weeks, we could finally distinguish the difference between a sewer and a Durian. Yes we tried it. Yes it's awful...I mean, and 'acquired taste'.
--Our next stop in Malaysia was the island Palau Pangkor. While the ocean water was hardly refreshing on the very hot days (probably about 82 degrees), we had fun riding bikes, swimming, reading and relaxing. Despite our previous experience, we even kayaked again. Somehow we didn't end up back in Indonesia.
--We said goodbye to David and Leah and flew to Bangkok, Thailand for our last month of travel. Wow -- quite a city. To best explain Bangkok one should swing their head back in forth while techno music blares out of a car driving in circles perilously close to you. Still, the energy of the place is wild and Thailand is delightfully inexpensive.
--After a one-night stop in Ayutthaya to enjoy some Buddhist Temple ruins from the 14th and 15th century (very cool) we ventured to the north to Chiang Mai. Chiang Mai is near where some of hill tribes continue to live that have been in the area for centuries and are from Laos, China, Burma and Thailand. It also has a massive night bazaar (manic!) and is the hub for trekking in Northern Thailand.
--Do you remember saying "Good night -- don't let the bed bugs bite"? Well, Jen didn't listen very well. Despite our notions that "bed bugs" were partners with other imaginary creatures such as the 'boogie-man', Jen graciously allowed these foul bugs to make neat rows of bites on her legs. Jen's 'body buffet' has been quite a host to the mosquitoes and more. Her devotion to helping insects survive is admirable.
--We went on a 3 day trek into the hills outside of Chiang Mai. Our group of 6 (with a guide from one of the tribes) spent time hiking through amazing wilderness and stayed with some of the 'primitive' tribes in the area. It was very interesting to see how some of the tribes have lived for many years. Our trip also involved an elephant ride. "Packy" (aka 'Packy the sure-footed Pachyderm') held us on his massive back for an off-roading elephant experience that was fun, but can now be checked off the list of things to do. We ended the trip with a bamboo rafting experience that was wonderful.
--We also want to wish HAPPY BIRTHDAY to two folks who we will miss out on their birthday celebrations. To Susie (Jim's Mom) and Deron, we send you big, BIG hugs. Sorry to all the folks we've missed special days for -- we're always sending some love!
We've been thinking about our friends and family a lot and want to say 'thanks' again to everyone who has been so supportive. We also hope the world can become a more relaxed, tolerant and peaceful place so experiencing how others live, it only gets easier.
Thanks for scrolling.
JAN. 6 Happy Belated New Year! We hope everyone had a safe, fun and reflective start to 2003. We are safe and sound (and wet) in Bali and are enjoying the colorful atmosphere, vibrant people, affordable costs and the caucophony of sound that seems to be everywhere.
This update should be read while listening to "It's Raining Men" and any Balinese tapes you have laying around your place.
--We arrived in Bali on 12/30 and decided to stay in Ubud, located somewhat in the middle of the island. It's an amazing area with much of the artists and cultural events of Bali. Although most people think of sun and beaches when they think of Bali, our experience has been more about jungles, rain and culture. It's a beautiful place. Our room is next to a thunderous (it's been raining quite a bit) waterfall and surrounded by lush jungle. Including the delightful breakfast, it's costing us under $14 per night. Life's good.
--Our new year's eve was a blast! We went to see 'Ramalayan' one of the Balinese dances based on Hindu legends and followed it up with a wonderful meal...and a few local drinks, Brem (rice wine) and Arak (the local 'firewater'). We sat on pillows at a low table while overlooking a massive lily pond. The dance was enchanting, with graceful, colorful performers and disorienting music and the dinner was delicious. We also took some time to take stock of our lives and what we're thankful for. It was a great way to end the year and begin a new one.
--Walking around Bali has been an experience. The sounds, smells and sites are a bit overwhelming but majestic. There is an incredible amount of ceremony in everyday life (as evidenced by the rice and flower offerings on palm leaves that are EVERYwhere) and temples and colorful clothes (and people) line the streets. Oh, and lots of honking horns. Fortunately, the horns are more of the "yoo-hoo" variety than the "LOOKOUT!" variety.
--We spent time walking in the Monkey Forest Sanctuary in Ubud and we were blown away. This lush jungle area is filled with...well, monkeys and incredible stone statues. It's from the 14th century and everything is covered in bright green moss or foliage. Quite a site to see.
--Massages here are quite cheap (1 1/2 hour for under $10) so we've both endulged. They were...um...an experience. We had the 'Mandi Lulur' massage which involves a full body massage with an exfoliating sandalwood and ground nuts rub, followed by a yogurt and honey moisturizing rub (hungry yet?). This ends with a relaxing bath in a warm, scented water with flower petals floating in it and a cup of ginger tea. While parts of it were divine, Jim had some choice words about the vigorous rubbing/exfoliating/ripping of dried sandalwood from his leg hair. Had a man ever had one of these before? Oh my. He felt it was payback for any woman who had been waxed before. This combined with a truly abstract soundtrack of Western songs covered by other artists (e.g. Phil Collin's "Against All Odds" sang by ?) only added to the "unique" treat. Still, quite an experience for the price!
--We've taken two tours of other parts of Bali visiting some of the many, MANY picturesque rice fields and intricate temples. At one point, while visiting the wonderful Holy Water Temple (it has a natural spring that fills baths) some teenage girls from Borneo eagerly ran up to Jen (dressed in an orange Balinese shirt and sarong) with bright eyes and asked if they could take a picture with her. After a few photos with them and some others from Borneo (and Jim), their guide explained that they don't see many tourists in Borneo and were excited to see us. While it may not seem powerful as the story is written, it was an amazing experience that left us floating. As travelers, and as Americans, we don't always feel welcome. The experience made the world seem a little brighter, more friendly and smaller.
--By chance, we had the opportunity to join a Balinese cremation ceremony. The cremation ceremony is VERY important in Bali and families may take years to save up for it. Bodies are temporarily buried while the family makes preparations and saves up the necessary money and time to create. It was AMAZING. About 350 people in a village about 40 minutes from Ubud (and 5 other tourists) participated in the event. A group of around 60 men carried a huge white bull (Brahmana) along with a colorful multi-tiered tower made of bamboo, paper, string, tinsel, silk and more holding two musicians and two priests as well. They shook and turned the bull too confuse the spirit from being able to return to Earth. Then, we all walked to the cemetary where the body (which was placed in the decorated Bull), the incredible tower and some offerings were set ablaze. Artwork created to be burnt in ceremony. We found the Balinese 'Burning Man'! We both wore sarongs and sashes for the event which our guide brought us to his house to dress us. We felt incredibly priviledged to be a part of the day.
Soon we leave for Malaysia before heading to Thailand. In Malaysia we're meeting up with some friends (David and Leah -- Leah used to work at CollegeClub) who have been traveling around the world for almost a year. It should be great to see them (and swap stories) and give Jen a chance to break free from Jim's underappreciated singing of "Against All Odds".
Sending lots of new year love to you all! Thanks for being a part of our trip and our lives.