We don’t vacation. Vacationing is flushing toilets, cold drinks, American food, and hot showers. We travel. It’s loud hostels, occasional warm showers, food poisonings, challenges, and once in a lifetime experiences.
The first trip we took was to Central America, including Central Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, and Belize. This is where we really got to know each other. Where I had to tell this guy I had barely been dating, that the toilet wouldn’t flush…and I was suffering from perhaps some bad food. This is also where I had to kick some nice travelers out of an empty seat on our bus (van) because Shaq was sick and they did not want to sit near him. This was also where we learned we could handle a lot together.
The next year we went to New Zealand. We rented a camper van for 5 weeks. It wasn’t a big camper van. It was a minivan with a bed. It’s a good thing we are small people. And since I might not be the worlds best driver it was decided it would be best if Shaq drove the WHOLE time. And it rained on us nearly every day. 5 weeks in a minivan. Just think about that.
Our 3rd trip was to Southeast Asia. We went to Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam. Shaq had been several times before, but it was my first trip. This was where we ate some of the best food EVER and we realized that we travel because we love to eat. This is where we had some very easy living. We did a whole 10 days in Koh Tao. It an awesome beachside bungalow. But we did all that beach time because this was my first time getting sick. And I mean sick sick. I will be eternally grateful for the many times Shaq emptied the trash can in the bathroom. YUCK!
This is also where we got engaged after a very trying day. Needless to say, Southeast Asia holds a very special place in both our hearts.
Last year we did what could be called a vacation, well almost. We got married on the Big Island. I think everyone who has been married, or been part of a wedding, especially a mostly DIY one, you know it is not a vacation. It’s work, and it’s stressful, and it couldn’t be better. We didn’t travel outside the county and once the wedding was over we were on the Gravy Train. In the good way. Life couldn’t have been easier.
Back to Asia
We are packing for our next trip, back to Asia. This time we are going into to China, and then who knows where.
We didn’t fall off the face of the Earth. We’ve just been in Myanmar, which doesn’t have the best internet. And we didn’t have a lot of down time, so blogging wasn’t a high priority.
Now, however, we’re basically in the first world. We are back in Thailand, in a city called Pattaya. It’s ocean side, about 2 hours outside Bangkok so it’s packed with tourists. We also decided it was time for a little luxury, so I cashed in most of my Holiday Inn points, and booked us an 3 nights in a lovely ocean view room.
But enough about that. This is about Myanmar!
We initially spent 3 days in Yangon. I know I have already mentioned this, but now I can add photos. Yangon is a very busy, bustling city. It’s full of life and Colonial architecture. One of our highlights of Yangon was the train ride around the city. We got a chance to see the landscape, local people, and insane amount of garbage they have.
From Yangon we took an overnight bus to Inle Lake (pronounced In-lay). It’s a little weird because the town is actually not on the lake, but about 6 miles north. Lodging on the lake side is rare, isolated, and very expensive. The lake is about 10 miles long with canals going all from village to village. It’s also very beautiful. We spent a FULL day having a lake tour, where we saw everything from lotus silk making to knife making. On our other two days we did some wine drinking and bike riding.
Bagan is the place people travel to Myanmar for. It’s also probably the most visually well known of any of the places in Myanmar. Bagan has about 10,000 pagodas. It’s just an insane amount. And that is what you do there, go look at pagodas. In Bagan it’s illegal for foreigners to rent motorcycles, so they rent e-bikes, that looks just like mopeds, but run on battery only. We rented 2 e-bikes and cruised around. On our second day there we got up early to see the sunrise and hot air balloons. We counted 20 balloons that go up every morning. A ride for 1 person costs $394, so if you want to make some money, move to Bagan, and open a hot air balloon company for $380/person. You’ll be rich!
When we were planning our time in Bagan I was having the hardest time finding a place to stay. The internet kept telling me places were available when they weren’t and confirmations wouldn’t go through, so we ended up arriving with no place to stay. We ended up getting a room in a pretty nice place, but about twice what we wanted to be paying. One perk that came with it though, was the restaurant associated with the hotel had a free tour. They have only been doing this tour for about 10 days. It took us across the river into this very old, closed off pagodas, that still have original artwork. Not very many people get to see what we saw, so that was a neat experience.
After Bagan we headed to Mandalay to catch our flight to Bangkok. We were planning to only spend 1 day there, but since Bagan was so booked up, we ended up doing 2 days. We had been getting mixed reviews from travels about Mandalay, some people thought it was okay, and some thought it was pretty horrible. On our first day, we slept in, which was needed after 2 0430 wake ups. Then we just walked around the city to the old palace. Yesterday we took a taxi tour for the day. We really didn’t know what we were getting into, but we ended up having a 9 hour day of seeing pagodas & Buddhas. We also watched the sunset on the worlds longest all teak bridge. It’s was beautiful, but the bridge was wobbily and full of people. I thought our chances of making to 2017 weren’t great on the bridge!
This will probably be the last post for a while since we are coming home in a few days, and it seems unlikely we will have anything too exciting to report on…well unless you want to hear about all the inappropriate old-man-young-Thai-girl relationships and women with eating disorders that seem to flock to places like Pattaya.
Countries visited: 4
Modes of transportation used, all of them: ferry boat, long boat, train, plane, car, bus, pedal bikes, ebikes, horse and carriage
I am sorry for you readers, to say, that Santa brought me the gift of wine…or at least the ability to find it anywhere. ANYWHERE! We just got back from the only winery in Myanmar, and believer it or not, it wasn’t even that bad. In fact, it was so not bad we each drank several glasses. So that has been our day – take this posting for what it’s worth.
It’s been a while since I last posted due to the fact that we have been in Myanmar where we are really struggling to get decent internet. I am afraid to say, this post won’t even have pictures because they are too hard to load.
We flew from Cambodia to Yangon. Upon arrival we had a bit of an adventure finding our room. I booked a place using Airbnb, which we found out is illigual for tourists in Myanmar. To make a very long story short, we thought we were sleeping on the streets, luckily our host finally showed up, we weren’t arrested, and we had a lovely stay. Honestly, I couldn’t imagaine a better stay.
Yangon is a very busy city with narrow streets, crazy taxi drivers, and a ton of people. We took a 3 hour train ride around the city that was fascinating, saw the local sites, and ate some street food. I can’t pin-point what it was, but while we were talking among the city I kept having this overwhelming feeling that something was about to break me. I could never say what it was, maybe it was the lack of public bathrooms, or lack of wifi, or just amount of people always around, but I just always felt overwhelmed. Also, I had been having some stomach issues, but on our 3rd day I was having some major issues. We had gotten up early to see this HUGE pagoda while the locals were there and I am certain I saw more of the bathroom than the sites.We ended up leaving the pogota early because I was so miserable. I for sure broke and cried about it. Thankfully my doctor prescribed some Cipro It’s a medicine for Travel’s Diarrhea. I took the prescribed amount of those, a nap, and I was good to go. It was pretty amazing, because I was on the verge of having a nasty sickness (also, is it just me, or is it curious no other travel blogs talk about their stomach issues? Everyone gets them, but nobody acknowledges them).
That night we got on a night bus and headed to Inle Lake. It’s a huge lake, used only for fishing and tourism. We spent 10 hours yesterday seeing that sites, that included a sword maker, a silk shop, a paper maker, and all sorts of other things
Today we rode our bikes to the only winery in Myanmar. It was our Christmas treat. Tomorrow we will head to Bagan. Everyone we have talked to says it’s lovely, so we are only hoping to agree.
That is an actual sentence that came out of my husband’s mouth. I am sure you don’t even need to read this blog to see where it’s going, but in the event you do want to read it, enjoy!
I’m going to tell you a story about American survivors…Ok, maybe I should say designed-in-America-made-in-China survivors. I’m talking about our Iphones, Ipad, headphones, passport, cash, and pretty much anything else of value you can think of we might have with us. And we nearly lost it all.
What happened? I’m sure you’re asking? Well let me tell you…
The other day we decided to leave the Island of Koh Rong and go to the Island of Koh Rong Samloem. Our tickets said the boat was supposed to leave the pier at noon, but when we showed up at 11:45 we were told we were too early. I thought it was a good idea to head of to this little brewery/bar and have a quick beer while we were waiting. We each got a beer, split one more, and then bought another beer for the boat ride. When we went to get on the boat there was something telling me not to drink the extra beer. I think it’s because the water wasn’t too calm and I don’t have the strongest stomach when it comes to boats and water. My husband, however, does not have that problem. At all.
We ended up waiting at least 30 extra minutes, if not 45, for our boat driver to show up. Shaq drank his extra beer, my extra beer, and then bought a couple more. The ride was alright, but it was pretty choppy and we were on a pretty small, slow boat.
Finally we reached the island of Koh Rong Samloem. And it was a shit hole to put it simply. There was a pier, no beach, a bunch of garbage, and some super run down looking guesthouses. One guy got off, but no one else on our boat did. But for whatever reason, we followed him. Oh yeah, and I should mention we didn’t have any kind of plan at all; no room booked, no real idea which beach we were going to, no idea how to get there. So we got off. And in about 30 seconds it was decided we would not be staying at this spot. We got lunch. Shaq drank more beer. We found out there isn’t a “water taxi” to take us to the other side were the nice places are, but we did find a man who would take us to Sunset Beach in a longboat.
We didn’t know what or where Sunset Beach was. At that point, I geographically had no clue where we were, other than the fact I knew we weren’t where we wanted to be. So we paid our $25 to take us the 45 minutes it took to get to Sunset Beach. I think I thought Sunset Beach was the name of the 7km long-white-sand beach I wanted to be at. So we got in the boat and off we go. The water was white capping and awfully rough. Once again, I was thankful I am the Parker with the strong water stomach (which isn’t saying much). This boat ride was getting fairly gnarly. I was focused on keeping my lunch in, Shaq was still drinking beer, and the kid assisting the captain was snoozing.
Finally we arrive at Sunset beach. The kid, barely awake, tells us we are going to have to jump off the boat and he will hand us our bags because there is no pier. Our boat is all over the place. It looks like we are going to be jumping into 8 feet of water. Shaq jumps first and is like oh, ok, it’s not so bad. It’s only about waist deep, but when the waves come it’s about chest deep. I jump next and am like ok, we did this. But I am being pushed all over the place. Shaq gave me our two smaller backpacks, the ones with all our valueables, and he carries our big backpacks. I am walking and just trying to not get pushed over by the waves or trip on my dress. Since I wasn’t planning on this day turning out to be what it was, I was wearing a long summer dress. That does not do well in this situations, FYI. It was tangling and tripping me up. Luckily a sunbather saw my struggle and ran out to help me and grab a bag. Somehow ALL our stuff made it to shore dry and still working. But was close.
We ended up staying in a little beachside bungalow, doing a lot of swimming, and relaxing. It was a nice, internetless couple of days.
Needless to say, when we got ready to leave we planned for the worst. We put anything of value in ziplocks, wore our swimsuits, and remained sober. It was nice until we got on the speed ferry to come back to the mainland and started experiencing even worse water! But that is another story for another time.
The moral of the story I think, and people who were at our wedding know this, don’t get on a boat with us. We do NOT have good luck. Also, without these more challenging days travel really wouldn’t even be worth talking about.
We are taking a little vacation from our travels. We are in Cambodia checking out a couple of their islands. This morning we are at Koh Rong, later today we go to Koh Rong Samleom. The two islands are about 10 miles apart, maybe? I don’t really know, but they are close to each other.
The island we currently are on is the “party” island, although we haven’t seen much partying. That might be because we are pretty mellow this trip, got a bungalow as far away from the bars and hostels are possible, and go to bed at 21:00. It’s like this island is trying to be Koh Phi Phi in Thailand, but totally isn’t hitting the mark.
We were talking yesterday about whether or not we liked this island and how it compared to others we’ve been on, and I have to say it’s just not quite there. Cambodia is just dirty country. There is litter all over. The island is better than the main land, but it’s not great. Part of the reason it’s cleaner is because they burn all their trash. Everyday we’ve been around burning plastic, so in 7-20 years when I am diagnosed with some weird cancer I think I can bring it back to this week. The other thing that’s bumming me out a little about this island, is the prices. In theory Cambodia is cheaper than Thailand, but here it’s not. It’s the same prices, or even higher, but not nearly as nice at Thailand.
I am not complaining, just stating this is just wasn’t all I was hoping. With that in mind, we found a nice place to stay that is mostly quiet (minus the screaming monkeys, roosters, and crazy insects), the beach away from town is like talcum power, and the water is nice and warm. And we found some awesome internet to download this blog & watch the Dallas Cowboy’s football (America’s team). Shaq told me to add that in 😁. Unfortunately they lost. Maybe it would have been better to not watch this one!
We’ve really gotten the most out of our two days in Siem Reap. Yesterday we rented a moped, drove out to the floating village, and took a tour of it. Today we went to Angkor Wat. I feel confident to say both were completed without incident!
After getting a late start to the day (we didn’t have breakfast until almost 10:00), we wanted a scooter. Lucky for me my husband has ridden motorbikes around Thailand and Vietnam and is comfortable cruising around with all these crazy driving Cambodians. It’s pretty nice, I sit on the back and try to be still and he does all the work.
We rode maybe 10 miles to the boat launch for what they call the floating village. It’s named Chong Khneas. It was nice, we had a tour guide and no one else on our boat. The boat took us about 10 minutes down this brown, muddy, nasty river, to this village full of floating homes and stores. Our guide showed us where there was a floating basketball and soccer court, a gas station, school/orphanage, community market, and bought us beer at a 7/11. Our guide explained to us there were many kids in the orphanage because there had been a huge storm that came through the lake that is connect to the river. The storm caused a near tidal wave he told us and killed many fisherman, causing many children to be parentless.
Our boat driver took us into the lake, Tonle Sap, while we drank our beer. Our guide explained to us how it’s bad to give money to the kids because they should be in school, but their parents make them go beg, so it’s bad to give them money. He also explained it’s bad to give money to the teachers because they will often keep the money. Then he told us we can go to a community market and buy rice to give to the school/orphanage. He said one bag will feel 350 kids and rice is a staple food here. He then asked if we would like to stop and buy some rice to give to the school? We said sure, that seems like a good gesture. When we showed up to the “store” it was only 50 pound bags of rice that we sold for $50. Something seemed a little off to me, but what do I know (the answers is not near enough)? Thankfully, while I was writing this blog, and probably Facebooking, Shaq had done some research and found out this is a common scam. We told them we didn’t have enough money with us, and couldn’t help. Our guide didn’t talk much to us for the rest of the trip.
This morning we left our room at 04:30, got in a tuk tuk, and rode out to see the famous wats of Siem Reap. We watched the sunrise at Angkor Wat, explored that wat, and two others. The wats are so detailed and full of amazing carvings/stonework. It’s also a photographers dream. The angles, shadows, colors, and detail are so fun to attempt to capture.
We thought we would be out there ALL day, but when you start your day at 04:30 and our surrounded my about 1,000 Korean tourists a half day is plenty.We joked if a piece of the ruins fell, and took out a group of tourists half of Korea would be in mourning. The tourists were just out of hand.
And I might have been a little out of hand too. This morning I had two near incidents. First, after we got back in our tuk tuk to drive down to another wat, my hat blew off. I yelled “Oh no! Stop!”. Another man had picked up my hat, I ran and grabbed it, and that was the end of that story. Until I sat back down and my phone, aka my lifeline, fell out of my pocket, facedown, on the road full other tuk tuks, cars, and busses. I panicked, got the driver to stop, ran to my poor phone, picked it up, and guess what?!? Only my screen protector was chipped on the sides a little! Thank got for the $3 screen protector I got in China. After that I put everything away, sat quietly, and tried not to cause any more scenes!
We will be heading to Sihanourkville, which is a beach town in southern Cambodia. It seems to have pretty mixed reviews, so we will see how it goes. We are hoping to jump off from there to some island time.
Number of signs saying the restaurant doesn’t service rat, dog, cat, or snake seen: 1
Percentage of worry about what I have actually been eating: up about 60%
Cost of eyelash extensions: $24
Hours we will spend on the bus tomorrow: around 12
$20 for room
$10 moped rental
$36 bus tickets
$37 food and drinks for the last two days for both of us
$24 massages for both of us
Amount of times I’ve gone to the bathroom in the last hour and a half: 5 (I have no clue what I got into that is upsetting my stomach. Making it to week 3 without having this issue is pretty amazing)
So I wrote an update last night about our last couple days and it was SO boring I couldn’t bring myself to publish it. I guess I will try again tonight.
Currently we are in Siem Reap. We took a bus from Bangkok to Siem Reap today. It was an 8 hour bus ride, and of course I was in my standard traveling seat: the one as close to the bathroom as possible. The one that doesn’t recline even a little. I seriously don’t know what I have done karmically wrong but anytime I travel for work or don’t have a chance to pick my seat I end up in the worst seat possible. But we made it and even the border crossing was pretty good.
It’s my first time in Cambodia. Jarrod has been here once before but it was years ago. I know people consider Thailand third world, but there is a huge difference between Thailand and Cambodia. Something that stands out to me is is the amount of garbage here. There is just litter everywhere. Even with that, it’s a very beautiful country. Another thing that has me really freaked out is the amount of snake on a stick I have seen for sale. If they are for sale all over the night market you know there are about 455768 times more just slithering around.
Oh, and another thing…Tonight we had a really good dinner of noodles, pork, morning glory, broccoli and .50 beer. And when I went to use the bathroom there was no toilet seat and no door. But you know, when you gotta go, you’ve gotta go…so I was walking in there giving myself a pep-talk, when a waiter told me to just move the unhinged door over the door way while I went…So that was a new experience for me. Also, there was no seat on the toilet. It’s a good thing I work out & can hover squat.
In other news, we are both still trying to get over this cold. It’s been both a blessing and curse. Obviously being sick away from home is just the worst. But, our noses are so stuffed up it’s really blocked out the stank of Bangkok and Siem Reap, so I guess things could be worse for us.
Tomorrow we are going to book our trip to southern Cambodia, drop off laundry, and hopefully get a littler healthier before we have a sunrise trip to Angkor Wat. I am also hoping that tomorrow I can get my other airline problem solved. Our flight back to the U.S. is supposed to arrive at 1005 at LAX. Then we were supposed to leave LAX to BOI at 1200, but United keeps changing the flight to earlier and earlier, and now we are supposed to leave LAX at 1119. I feel fairly confident we can’t get off the plane, go through customs, change terminals, get checked in, and make our flight in a little over an hour. We will see how this all works out! Of course, I can’t find an email for United either and dont’ have an option to call them since I don’t have phone service. Thank god for Twitter.
Amount of .50 beer drank: 5 total
Tries needed to get money out of the ATM: 5
Cambodia visa: $80
Bus from Bangkok to Siem Reap: $56
Tuk Tuk to hotel: $3, but we paid him $5
Cold medicine: $14
Other expenses: $5
Note: Since we are now really in “travel mode” I am going to be changing this section a little bit to break out what we spent on our lodging, food, site-seeing, etc…We certainly live what we feel is fairly high end when when we are in the third world, but we could go WAY cheaper if we wanted. I saw dorms in hostels for $3 a night.
I think I speak for almost everyone, or at least almost every chick, when I say packing is just one of the worst and most difficult things to do, or at least do well. OK…it’s not totally the worst because it means the trip is coming up and we will be leaving soon! But like I said, it’s so hard to well.
When we travel we always try to only take only carry-on luggage. For this trip to China and then into Southeast Asia, that means packing for snow and 30 degree temps when we arrive in Beijing and then packing for sweaty Bangkok at the end of our trip, all in one backpacking back pack. No one wants to be rolling a suitcase, or two, through resting water (or worse), uphills, or cobblestone streets. It’s just not going to work!
And like I said, I think it’s so much harder when you’re a woman. My husband can pack in 30 minutes, whereas it takes me about 3 days. I guess there are a few major differences. First off, he seems to always look fine in what he wears, where I one days will think I look like a hot tamale and the next day realize I was probably drunk when I thought that. Secondly, there are a lot more dress regulations for women than for men when traveling, for example many Wats require women to have their shoulders and knees covered, which eliminates most dresses. And lastly, Shaq will go multiple days wearing the same clothes, including underwear, where I refuse it, if it can be avoided.
I do think I did a pretty good job packing for this trip, thanks to my super cool packing list I made this summer (I think this will cement how super cool I am). It certainly has room for improvement, but it was really helpful to think about what I actually need instead of what I might need. I know different people have different ways of organizing, but this is what is working for me.