Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Repurposing the Blog

Prose Version
As you can see in the header, Em and I are changing our use for this blog. If you are looking at it today, as I type this, you'll see a new but incomplete list containing a selection of Emily's 30 Before 30 plans. You'll see my 40 Before 40 list is entirely absent. That will all change ... eventually!

Poem Version
This is Just to Say

I haven't finished
the list
that was in
the sidebar

and which
you were probably
to browse through

Forgive me
it was just too much
so stressful
and so hard


Right, that's how it is
Meant to finish or change it
But didn't get there


Monday, January 7, 2013

And then there was BANGKOK!

Many apologies for the long hiatus in posting - we do realize that although the trip is over we've only posted about...2 of our 10 or so stops... But now we're fairly settled back in and ready to complete the journey on the blog (and I get to do so with nice, fast America internets!).

So, Thailand! Well, Bangkok, really.

We spent just a weekend in this wonderful city and it was enough for me to fall in love with it. I'm pretty sure I will be back and living here at some point in the future. I'll try to describe some of the reasons I so loved it (in no particular order):

1. The Food

We all know Thai food is great. Spicy and great. And I had a concept before I went of how this food could be found just by walking down the street for very cheap prices. But, I was still surprised by just how cheap and just how available and just how delicious and just how safe to eat almost* all this Thai street food was. There were little markets everywhere with beautiful veggies and fruits (half of which I couldn't identify) and little stands and restaurants everywhere that smelled delicious and had wonderful Thai food like it was no big deal.

We didn't really know what we were doing when ordering this food, neither of us being able to speak or read Thai. And, yes, we did have an experience or two of misinterpretation: like when we sat down in a small restaurant and they handed us a slip of paper that looked vaguely like a long version of this:

               __ 1. อาหารที่ดี        30 baht                                    __ 3.      คุณควรลองนี้                   20 baht 
               __ 2. สิ่งอร่อย          40 baht                                     __ 4.     สิ่งที่คุณไม่ควรสั่ง               5 baht

Which prompted us to look at each other and say: "...okay. What's your favorite number??" The meal turned out...good. A little bizarre, but yummy and filling. And we're pretty sure they crossed out one of our orders because it made absolutely no sense, like ordering 2 banana splits with 3 packets of mayonnaise.

Another of our attempts at ordering things without knowing the language included the more sure-fire approach of pointing at things that looked good. We wound up getting something vaguely like local eggplant that one could find in Burkina! *Unfortunately, everything was already wrapped up in plastic bags so we couldn't smell how "different" one of the things we ordered was, and DW's attempt to power through and eat all of this mystery food did not end very well..

In any case, these were by far the iffy-est of our food experiences, and even they turned out 90% delicious. Each meal was a wonderful adventure and everything was so so cheap!

Plus, there was stuff like this around!
The only identifiable things on this table (by us, at least) are those small squid and the delicious spicy sauces it can be dipped in (back right). The only delicious things on this table were probably everything.

2. Easy/fun transportation

This part of our experience might have been due in part to the primo location of our guest house, which was right near both a station of the super easy and navigable subway system and a stop on the cheap and fun water taxi line. The water taxi went right into the heart of where a lot of the main tourist destinations live and the subway went right to Lumpini Park (described below) and a lot of shopping areas. It was really well set up and allowed us to dodge using tuk-tuk drivers, who are purportedly deft at ripping off Bangkok tourists.

Awesome bridge, right?

3. The temples

I couldn't get over how down seemingly every little street there were these brightly colored, intricately designed, and downright gorgeous temples. I kept comparing them in my mind to the religious building's I've seen in other parts of the world (Notre Dame, Mosques in Burkina, etc.) and I have to admit that the colors and details and vastness made them win every time in my book.  Here are just a few we saw in passing:

A family just playing badminton in front of this temple!

This small shrine is in front of a car dealership!

And then there were the gorgeous details inside of the complexes we explored:

Gold and blue tiles EVERYWHERE!

DW in awe of the HUGE, gold, reclining Buddha

Mother of Pearl inlay on the soles of the reclining Buddha's feet
Love all these temple guards

There must have been over a hundred Buddha statues at this temple alone

[And respect for the sacred spaces was demanded.]
To me, it just felt like there was an endless supply of beauty in this city. The temples had a lot to do with that. As did:

4. Lumpini Park

This park was described to us as similar to Central Park, but safer [the whole city was actually very very safe, even late at night, according to all of our sources]. It was set up in a very exercise-friendly park with beautiful surroundings. There was a small track that skirted the park on which many powerwalkers and joggers were intently doing their thing as well as a few group classes of Tai Chi and such with loudspeakers pumping music and the intense voices of the instructors. Surrounding all these areas were beautiful lakes and bridges and trees and grass - along with big old monitor lizards (supposedly..we never saw any). It seemed like the perfect city getaway with so many opportunities to "recharge". It made me fantasize about leaving work and going straight to a sunset class of some variety of martial art, being the only foreigner in the back of the class, kickboxing monitor lizards, and trying to cluelessly copy my classmates motions while laughing at myself.

So, have I convinced you yet? Let's all move to BANGKOK!! 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

No piranhas!

As our loyal readers (we have those, right? Right? Guys?) may remember from the comments section of our very first post to this blog, my friend Casey recommended foot leeches. Ew.

Well, as we were preparing to leave Kandy for Galle in Sri Lanka (see Emily's most recent post), we realized that the name of the place she'd found us on AirBnB was the Leynbaan Villa and Fish Spa. We wondered, could this "Fish Spa" be the very same bizarre tradition my friend had encouraged us to partake in? Upon arrival, our suspicions (fears?) were confirmed:

That was that. OBVIOUSLY we were going to do this crazy thing if it was happening in the very lobby of our own guest house. We even got a discount!

But what IS a fish spa? Are they leeches? No, not exactly [citation needed]:
(Shoutout to Josh on this one)

I was actually pretty excited about this. Emily was ... not, but did it anyway, making the same face for the whole thirty minutes:

Then it was my turn. And you know what? I really, really liked it.

It's a weird feeling, to be sure. Hundreds of tiny sucker fish constantly moving around your feet and hands - and more, if you find the right establishment, but Emily was very firm on that point: extremities only.

So if you're ever in Sri Lanka, check it out! I wanted to do it in Bangkok, too (where it was even more inexpensive), but the "No piranhas" sign was a dealbreaker for Emily. I tried to convince her that the sign was a good thing, but she felt very strongly that the very fact that it needed to be explicitly mentioned meant that somewhere a piranha HAD made it into the water. So I can't give a firsthand recommendation for fish spas there ... yet.

Oh, by the way, Em's Flickr feed has more pictures! So if you want to see everything we've been able to upload, don't forget to check out her photostream. If you're particularly interested in Bangkok, she even set up a separate photoset.

The second half of our Sri Lanka stay

We are definitely behind on blogging. We're about to hit up our last country in southeast asia (the Philippines - our flight's tonight!) and we're still finishing up telling stories about our first stop.. I blame the slow internet connections (which make photos hard to upload) as well as the fascinating places we haven't been able to tear ourselves away from (Bangkok, Battambang, and Angkor Wat's temples...).

[update - we're actually already in Seattle: I wrote this post awhile ago but wanted to put photos in it before posting...phew!]

So here's some catch-up (Did someone say ketchup?? Bad joke. But really. I want some fries.):

After all the cool things we packed into Kandy [see Elephants Galore and We didn't JUST ride elephants], we took the train back thru the mountains early enough in the morning that the fog was still settling down into the valleys.

Our next stop was Galle, a fort town on the coast, but to get there by train we had to pass back through Colombo, which took quite a long time. The Colombo to Galle leg, however, passed right along the coast and at times we were maybe 10 feet from the ocean practically feeling the spray from the surf. So, overall, the views along the way made the early alarm and long travel worth it. 

When we got into Galle, we made our way into the fort and settled into our nice little guest house which was situated down one of the few small, picturesque (and very touristy) streets.

View from inside an adorable little cafe with pumpkin ginger soup!

We spent the first day doing what tourists do best - buying lots and lots of souvenirs. There was some really lovely stuff and it was just nice to get out and see the architecture around town since the fort was first built by Portugese colonizers around the 1600s, then extensively expanded by the Dutch about a century and a half later, then finally taken by the British at some point. Sorry for the fuzzy dates/history - we clearly learned a LOT in the tiny museum there....

For the architecture nerds:

Dutch style mosque?

The end of the first evening found us on the fort walls looking down into the ocean and marveling at the construction of the fort walls (at least 40ft tall all around the place). It was beautiful.

since that last one was pretty but gave no perspective on the height of these walls:

Lighthouse at the end of our street!

We then stopped for a drink as a ferocious looking storm rolled in (very Burkina) and we learned that Sri Lankan wine leaves much to be desired. As does its Irish beer. Go figure.

The next day I was really jonesin' for the ocean after that train ride, so we headed over to the bus station just outside the fort walls and took a quick, cheap bus to Unawatuna (tuk-tuk being unnecessarily pricey and us wanting to pretend to be locals or Peace Corps volunteers). 

On our way out to the water, we stopped at a fruit stand and picked over jackfruit, soursop and durian before finally settling on a half kilo of lychees to take with us to the beach as a snack. The beach was lovely with clear blue water and very gentle waves. Life in and around Galle was really hard, guys. 

[Next up: the Fish Spa experience...]

Thursday, November 8, 2012

We're abou to leave the Philippines!

Sorry for being offline, but we spent the whole time underwater, no internet there. More updates when we arrive in Hawaii tomorrow rwhich thanks to the international date line will still be today for us!).

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Even more photos!

Hello readers! Emily has decided that she is way too much of a baller to settle for a free Flickr account like I did, so we now have 200 more photos up, and hopefully will be able to put up even more tomorrow! Isn't living in the future great? http://www.flickr.com/photos/89442595@N07/. Enjoy!

[Edit after publishing]Be advised that Flickr uploaded these photos in reverse order. The last in the set are actually from Emily's Peace Corps Close of Service ceremony.

Monday, October 29, 2012


Well, we still aren't having great luck with getting pictures uploaded. Google Photos just gives an uploading screen with no progress, no matter how long I let it sit. I was able to upload about 80 pictures from our elephant day to Flickr though. You can see them here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/89394307@N04/

We'll keep trying!