Indonesia!

Our journey to Indonesia started off a bit rocky as we almost weren’t aloud to board our flight from Singapore to Denpasar, Bali. To fly into Indonesia, you need proof of onward travel leaving the country. Our flight from the Philippines to Italy late you in May had already been booked, so we did not foresee any problems; however, the man checking us in for our flight didn’t seem to think the fact we would be flying to Italy from the Philippines proved we would be leaving Indonesia. Fortunately his manager understood our future travel plans and soon after we were on our way!

We originally thought we would see a lot more of Indonesia than we did. Countries with so many little islands are tough to travel around unless you have a lot of time to take the ferries or money to fly everywhere. We chose to spend the bulk of our time in Bali and Lombok.

The first thing we learnt in Indonesia was that the people like their coffee strong! It was not uncommon to have the bottom third of your coffee cup filled with coffee granules. We discovered it was best to let it settle after adding milk and sugar and stirring as otherwise you’d be drinking a thick tar like paste. If we stuck to drinking the top half of our cup we were fine!

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This was mild compared to most of the coffee we had!

We really loved Bali and felt almost like it was a country of its own as it had a distinct Balinese culture. The scenery was beautiful and the people were very friendly. Our first few days were spent on the beach in the Seminyak and Canggu area.

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Sunset from Canggu

The town of Ubud was a highlight. It was made really famous by the Julia Roberts movie Eat, Pray, Love, so was fairly touristy, but we rented a scooter and managed to escape some of the crowds. The rice terraces in the area were beautiful. We biked to a few different terrace areas and hiked passed some as well. While in Ubud we also checked out a chocolate factory and the Tegenungan waterfall.

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Tegalalang Rice Terrace.
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Tegalalang Rice Terraces.
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The finished product tasted much better than this stuff!
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Tegenungan Waterfall.

On our last day in Ubud we did a sunrise hike up Mt. Batur. Our tour van picked us up at 2:30am and drove us to the base of the mountain where we met up with the other 200 people we’d be climbing the mountain with! The hike up the mountain was painfully slow as the path was narrow and it was hard to pass the slower groups. Luckily, once we reached the top, there was lots of space and it felt a bit more like you had the mountain to yourself. The incredible view made the early morning and slow hike worth it.

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View from Mt. Batur at sunrise.
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Hiking around the edge of the volcano. The small people in the background are at the location we watched sunrise from.

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Mt. Batur is an active volcano so there were lots of areas where we could see and feel the steam.

From Ubud we spent one night in a little village called Amed before catching a ferry to the Gili islands. We only booked a place in Amed because we couldn’t take the bus and catch a ferry in the same day, but we ended up loving our stay there and wishing we could have had more time. Our little hut was done up very nicely and we had our own private infinity pool overlooking the ocean!

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Our awesome pool in Amed.

We ended up being disappointed with the Gili islands. Our experience was mostly tainted because of the rainy weather we experienced, but we found the islands (Gili T especially) to be dirty and full of drugs. We couldn’t walk anywhere without being offered mushrooms or meth, and many of the restaurants even advertised the drugs on their menus. The cool thing about the Gili islands is that they are all so small you can easily walk around them in a couple hours. We attempted this a couple times and rented a tandem bicycle to drive around one day, but always ended up getting rained on. The best part of our Gili island experience was a snorkel trip we did between Gili T and Gili Air where we got to see lot of colorful fish and coral, some turtles, and a shipwreck. Gili Air had a better atmosphere for us than Gili T, but again the rain kept us from exploring too much. Any rain on the Gili islands also meant no wifi and likely no power. We spent lots of time reading and playing cards!

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It’s not uncommon to see streets like this in Asia, but we found it to be really bad on Gili T island.
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Our tandem bike.
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Ocean swing!
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No rain for a bit!

We took a small local boat to the main island of Lombok (the Gili islands are a part of Lombok) along with chickens, propane tanks, water jugs and locals.

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Lots of transportation experiences to be had in Asia!

While on Lombok we continued to get rained on. We stayed in a place called Senggigi and on one of the nicer days were able to rent a bike and tour around the island a bit.

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Kuta beach on Lombok.
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View from a restaurant we ate at in Senggigi.

The forecast around Lombok was not looking like it would improve, so we decided to take a ferry back to Bali, and when we arrived, the sun was shining.

Our final days in Bali were spent riding around to different lookout points and beaches in the Ulu Watu area, taking in a sunset Balinese dance, avoiding monkeys, and learning to surf on Kuta beach.

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Padang beach in the Ulu Watu area.
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Zac and about 25 Asian tourists have this great picture of Landra!
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Nice spot for a wedding.
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Sunset Balinese performance!
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Had to get a picture with the board on the beach in case there wasn’t a good one standing up in the water!
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Standing!

imageAs with each country, there were lots of spots we missed or wished we could have seen, but it was nice to see so much of Bali and to not be on the move quite so much.

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Ready for the Philippines!
Indonesia!

Thoughts, Observations and Reflections – Part 2

We reached the end point to our time in Asia and Zac and I have added to our list of thoughts, discoveries, realizations, observations and reflections. As with the last list, the points aren’t in any particular order of importance or significance. This is just a small glimpse at some of the recurring thoughts we have had during this incredible time of our life in SE Asia.

1. The kindness of strangers is unlike any other form of kindness. Since we arrived in Asia we’ve recongized many ways we have experienced unexpected kindness. For example, when we were balancing a steaming hot plate of food in our hands in a crowded Hawker food area and an older local gentlemen and his wife waved us over to share their table. Or when we were eating supper with a group of eight German travellers and they all spoke English so we could be part of the conversation. Or when a security guard lead us out to a busy taxi loading zone and found us a taxi that would take us to our destination for a fair price. As a society, I think we generally expect our friends and family to be kind, but when people we have never seen before extend kindness, with absolutely no expectation of receiving anything in return, there is no amount of gratitude that can repay that.

2. It is extremely difficult to pick a favourite country. They’re all so different and all so great for completely different reasons. So just a heads up, we don’t have an answer for those of you wondering what our favourite country is.

3. There are not enough adjectives to describe all the shades of green that exist in this world. I don’t know how the paint chip people come up with names for colours of paint but kudos to them for having such creative minds and/or access to a huge thesaurus!

4. As much as we love sharing our day to day adventures with our family and friends, only fellow travellers can fully understand and relate to our travel stories and experiences. People back at home can’t quite relate to our thrills and annoyances like other travellers can. I think this is part of the reason we experience an almost immediate heartfelt bond or friendship with people we only spend a few hours with.

5. Bus drivers, mini van drivers and taxi drivers that we previously would have categorized as crazy now seem normal. Somehow we’ve grown accustomed to passing traffic on blind corners, narrowly avoiding head on collisions on single lane roads and continuous acceleration and break slamming. We don’t even bat an eye when 20 passengers are squished into a 15 passenger van or when we’re sold a standard fare ticket on a greyhound style bus only to find out that our seat is a spot standing in the isle. It’s just how transportation works in the SE Asia and since none of the locals find it odd then it only seems natural that we don’t either.

6. Sidewalks do not have the same meaning in SE Asia as they do in other parts of the world. I think a more appropriate word would be sideparking. Cars, motorbikes, stall vendors, delivery vans, dogs, and men gathered in groups all seem to take priority over pedestrians on what should be the sidewalk. We generally don’t even bother looking to see if there is a sidewalk anymore and walk on the street.

7. We ate unrefrigerated eggs every day for the last four and a half months and did not get sick from them even once. And unrefrigerated meat. And we didn’t get sick from that either. Makes me think of all the space we could have in our own fridge and freezer if we just left our meat and eggs out on the counter.

8. Writing in our travel journals is one of those things that Zac and I find annoying, but at the same time not writing them isn’t an option. We are so grateful when we receive travel notes from others, so based on that alone we know the value of keeping a record of places we’ve stayed and what we’ve done and things we’ve seen. Beyond that, the recorded memories are priceless for Zac and I. Even now when we look back at our entries from a month or two ago we have so much fun reliving the experiences and I can’t imagine how great it will be to read through our entries a year from now and even fifteen years from now with our children. So, for the sake of sharing travel notes with others, and for future moments when we want to relive our travel memories, we write in our damn journals.

We are headed to Europe with mixed emotions. We’re excited to see another continent and two more countries, but sad to leave behind an area of the world we have grown comfortable exploring. The past four and a half months lead us to visit 8 counties, make some lifelong friends, strengthen our marriage and gain a whole knew perspective on life. The next month and a half in Italy and Croatia will undoubtably have many more thoughts, observations and reflections, so we will be sure to share them with you!

 

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Our very first ‘selfie’ of the trip when we arrived in Bangkok on January 10th
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Cambodia
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Vietnam
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Laos
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Thailand
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Malaysia
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Singapore
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Indonesia
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Philippines

 

Thoughts, Observations and Reflections – Part 2

Monkeys in Malaysia

Our first stop in Malaysia was a place called Georgetown on Penang island. We enjoyed walking all over the city, taking in a museum, lots of street art, the botanical gardens, Penang’s national park, and hawker stalls (street food).

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Street art in Georgetown.
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Street art by Zac.

We didn’t mention it in the last blog, but we have had several monkey encounters. Most have been friendly, but two times we have had experiences that have made us less fond of the little primates.
The first was on a short eco walk in Thailand. We saw a monkey crawl onto a boat and started taking a few pictures when all of a sudden it jumped out of the boat and started coming at us. We calmly turned and started walking away, planning to just ignore it, but it came close, so I turned around and stomped at it. The monkey stopped in its tracks for a moment, but then came towards us again. I yelled and stomped towards it and it jumped into a tree and climbed away. Landra was running down the path screaming like a girl. Fairly minor encounter.

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The first (smaller) monkey we saw.

The second assault happened in Penang. We were on a 5.4km all uphill hike to a train station that had a good lookout of the city. At the 4.5km mark we came across two larger monkeys (we’d passed several earlier without a problem). I was ahead of Landra and as I got close the monkeys started growling and showing their teeth. I stomped towards them assuming like our last encounter they would run into the bush. Nope. I yelled and stomped again, but they kept coming. Now I ran and screamed like a girl downhill towards my wife. When I got to her she stomped and yelled at them and they both stopped. Now it was the two of us facing the two of them. We had less than 1km to get to our destination and they were in the middle of our trail hissing at us. We both yelled and stomped at them again to get by, but this made them more mad and now 4 other monkeys had come down from the trees and were walking on the road towards us. Throughout our hike we had come across maybe 10 vehicles in 2 hours, but luckily we could here a motorcycle approaching. As it drove by, we sprinted beside it yelling like crazy people and hoping the monkeys would be scared of the sound of us and the motor and leave. The two larger monkeys ran after us and the rest scampered away. Luckily we got on the uphill side of them and they stopped chasing us after about 20m. The view at the top of the hill was great though and the 188 flights climbed and 6 monkeys dodged were worth it.

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View from the top of Penang Hill station.

That night we googled what to do when faced with an unfriendly monkey.

1. Don’t look it in the eye – we gave them death glares hoping to intimidate them.

2. Don’t yell or show your teeth (they take that as a challenge) and other monkeys may approach to attack as a group- we yelled as loud as we could with no attempt to hide our teeth. Other monkeys approached.

3. Be still, even if they jump on you (most likely they’ll lose interest and leave you alone) – we ran.

We didn’t see any monkeys in the Cameron Highlands area! From the little town of Tanah Rata we walked to the Bharat tea plantation and the next day did a great tour that included a trip to the Boh tea plantation, a lookout point, trek through a mossy forest, strawberry farm and a few other tour fillers not worth mentioning. The Cameron Highlands area looks just like it does if you google it, which is exactly what we were hoping for. We had a great group of people with us on our tour and had supper together that night at a great Indian restaurant. Malaysia has a high Indian population and we’ve discovered that we love Indian food.

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Bharat Tea plantation.
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The workers use sheers in areas where the incline is too steep for them to use the slightly more efficient tool they normally use to cut the tea leaves.
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Cameron Highlands!
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View from the highest point on Penang island.
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Our ride for our tour through the Cameron Highlands.

We aren’t huge fans of being in the cities, but we really enjoyed the architecture in Kuala Lumpur – especially the twin Petronas towers. They are the largest twin towers in the world and were amazing to see during the day and at night. The KL tower, which is the 7th tallest in the world wasn’t that impressive to look at, but we took in the great views it had to offer during the day and again at night.

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The twin Petronas towers! The bridge in the middle is there so that if you have to go from one building to the other and are on one of the top floors, you don’t need to go all the way to the ground floor and then back up again.
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Every night there is a water show in front of the towers. The show is nothing too spectacular, but the towers in the night sky are worth taking a look at.
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KL tower was much nicer to look at at night.

Safety standards are much different in SE Asia and we really noticed it on the viewing deck of the tower. Part of the chest high glass was under construction and below was the safety precaution at 420m high.

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High level of safety precautions at the top of the KL tower.

Another highlight of Kuala Lumpar was the food. We found several delicious Indian restaurants and found our favourite street food of the trip so far (with the exception of the second picture below).

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One of our favorite food experiences of the trip. The street food in Kuala Lumpar was some of the best we’ve had.

We spent one night in Melaka and did an afternoon tour of the city centre. The highlight for one of us was a Frozen themed trishaw ride. Our drivers English was not the best, but he insisted we learn a street safety song. If I knew how to post a video on here I’d let him and Landra educate you by song on crossing the street safely.

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Our Trishaw. Unfortunately this one did not come with a ghetto blaster to blare the “let it go” theme song.

From Melaka we headed to Singapore and really enjoyed our time there. It was a bit more expensive, but extremely clean and had much more order to it. The Gardens by the Bay were beautiful and there is an awesome light show choreographed to music each night. We spent a full day walking through the gardens and the marina area.

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Th famous Merlion at Singapore’s waterfront.
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The double helix bridge and the Marina Bay Sands hotel in Singapore.
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Gardens by the Bay in Singapore.
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Choreographed light show at Gardens by the Bay in Singapore.

Our second day was spent in the botanical gardens, riding the subway, and checking out the malls. We found a Lululemon, but unfortunately prices were double what they are at home, so I couldn’t let Landra buy anything.

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Botanical Gardens in Singapore.
Monkeys in Malaysia

Terrific Time in Thailand

 

It’s been far too long since we wrote a blog post, mostly due to poor wifi connections in all the places we’ve been the last few weeks. Thanks to Quick Chicken (a wannabe fast food restaurant in a little town in Lombok, Indonesia) we’re finally able to give an update! It has been over a month since we were in Thailand and it was fun to reflect back on our time in the country and look through our pictures again! Our thirty day arrival stamp gave us just enough time to get from the north to the south and sample all that Thailand has to offer. From feeding elephants and taking a cooking class, to a motorbike trip and tenting in the jungle, to beaches and snorkelling, Thailand had lots for us to enjoy. It’s tough to know which stories and pictures to share so here is a combination of both from our time in Thailand.

The most popular things for tourists to do in Chiang Mai are visit an elephant sanctuary and take a cooking class so of course we did both! Our time at the Thai Elephant Care Centre was incredible. The elephants at the Care Centre are either too old to work anymore or they have a physical impairment that makes them unsuitable for working and they have been donated to the Centre to look after until they pass away. We were given a mahout uniform and we did just about everything the mahouts do…fed the elephants bananas, chopped up their feed and mixed their feed buckets, made medicine balls and washed an elephant in the river!

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We’re elephant mahouts!
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Elephants LOVE bananas

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Mulching up grass to mix with vitamins for the elephant
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Making medicine balls out of tamarind (similar to prunes) and a mixture of Chinese herbal medicines
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Mud bath time!
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Such an incredible experience to wash an elephant in the river!

Thai cuisine is very tasty with a lot of curry and spice and in our cooking class we made four traditional Thai dishes. Tom Yam Soup, spring rolls, Pad Thai and a curry dish. We were given a cookbook with all the recipes and Zac would love to make a four course Thai meal for anyone who wants one!

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We could almost pass as chefs
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It’s hard work grinding your own curry paste!
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Chopping up ingredients for Tom Yum soup
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Red Curry and Massaman Curry
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Pad Thai and Fried Basil with Chicken

We also visited Tiger Kingdom and to spend time with some tigers!

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Tiger selfie!
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Tiger Kingdom

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If you take route 1095 north out of Chiang Mai and travel 136kms around 762 curves you will arrive in Pai. We (or should I say Zac) navigated the trip on a motorbike! Our first, and potentially our only, motorbike trip to Pai was great! It started out with us getting chased by a ferocious,snapping stray dog and ended with us talking our way out of a police ticket for not having an international drivers license. Or should I say Zac talked us out of the ticket. I probably would have ended up paying double the fine amount.

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No bike license required (even if the police tell you differently)
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Zac’s driving was so smooth I could take a bike helmet reflection selfie
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Such a nice drive through the forest…felt a bit like The Vancouver area
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Pai Canyon
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Proof that the leaves were way bigger than our heads!
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Pai Canyon
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Fresh ginger tea in an authentic bamboo “mug”

We took the bike back on the 762 curves to Chiang Mai and hopped on a train to head to southern Thailand and start island hopping. We spent time in Koh Tao and Koh Samui and thoroughly enjoyed our long awaited beach time!

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Navigating the Chiang Mai train station
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Train food…not the best tasting, especially for breakfast but at least it was something
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Most incredible view ever of Koh Nang Yuan near Koh Tao
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Beautiful Koh Tao
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Koh Samui

On our journey from the east side of southern Thailand to the west side we stopped in Khao Sok National Park and stayed in a tent right in the jungle!

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I spy with my little eye…wild bananas!
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The hottest tenting experience of our lives!
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Beautiful artificial Cheown Lan Lake
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Trap door to a tarantulas house!
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The “boat” we took for a ten minute boat ride to reach a cave

From the jungles of Khao Sok we went right to the west coast and continued island hopping around Phuket, Koh Lanta and Railay. Phuket had the most incredible beach sunset either of us has ever seen. In Koh Lanta we encountered a very unique and friendly bungalow owner. Hutyee and his wife picked us up from the ferry pier and the next thing we knew were sitting in their pick up truck with a Coke and a hunk of watermelon and a German traveller who didn’t even want to stay at Hutyee’s bungalows. It caught me so off guard I wasn’t really sure what to do or say! Hutyee’s bungalows came complete with access to a water cooler and rice cooker that was popular with the chickens, materials for all “smoking needs” and visits from two adorable little local girls. We couldn’t verbally communicate with the girls but it was easy to draw with them and “play cards” and they were so darn cute!

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Incredible sunset on Patong Beach in Phuket
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They do parasailing a little differently in Phuket…
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Who knew our bungalow came with complimentary Coke and watermelon
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The water cooler was a popular hangout spot for the local chicks
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Drawing with the cutest little two year old
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Playing cards with an adorable little four year old

Railay beach is popular for its rock climbing so we did a little rock climbing of our own up to a viewpoint. The scramble up and down was a lot of fun and a little hairy at times when you couldn’t find a ledge to place your foot. That and the ropes anchored to the rocks smelled like an old hockey bag and were so slippery from hundreds of wannabe rock climbers that you couldn’t get a good hold!

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We did a budget travellers version of rock climbing in Railay
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Rock climbing in Railay
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Rock climbing in Railay
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Rock climbing in Railay
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Our “rock climbing” resulted in a great view of Railay East
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Not the typical landscape for a tractor

Thailand gave us a lot of good memories and enough Pad Thai to last us a lifetime and it is easy to see why so many people go there to visit! After three months of traveling we have experienced so many incredible things and have added to our list of observations and reflections so we will share them in a blog post soon!

Terrific Time in Thailand

Loved Laos Landscapes

We loved the mountainous landscape that seems to sweep across all of northern Laos. Endless scenes of hundreds of shades of green and countless opportunities to breath in fresh mountain air…how could you not like it?!? There were several big highlights to our time in Laos and definitely some photographs that we want to print and hang up in our house (when we have one).

1. Delicious street vendor food. We would have been totally fine with only eating sandwiches and pancakes/crepes for $1.50. Not only were they so good, but you could get almost any flavour combination of sandwiches and crepes imaginable. Including Nutella cheese… We also ate a street food “buffet” while in Luang Prabang, which was well worth it.

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Fruit shake vendor
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You can’t see it, but Nutella cheese was seriously an option!
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Banana and Nutella crepe….so so good!
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Street food buffet!
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We’re not entirely sure what foods we were eating but there was some deep fried bread and pumpkin and green papaya salad which was popular all over Laos
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Beautiful bags of tea for sale at the night market in Luang Prabang

2. Incredible scenery. Biking 32km on city pedal bikes with one standard gear was worth it for the gorgeous methanol blue Kuang Si Waterfall in Luang Prabang. Three hours in a tube floating down the Nam Song River in Vang Vieng gazing at the mountains around us was three hours well spent. And trekking 6km through the jungle to watch both the sunrise and sunset from the top of Tai Lue Mountain in Nam Ha Protected Area just outside of Luang Namtha is something we would both do again in a heartbeat.

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Rice fields we saw on our 32km bike ride to Kuang Si Falls near Luang Prabang
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Kuang Si Falls
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Kuang Si Falls
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Kuang Si Falls
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Kuang Si Falls
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Kuang Si Falls
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Road block on our 7km bike ride to Blue Lagoon outside of Vang Vieng
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Blue Lagoon, Vang Vieng
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Tubing down the river in Vang Vieng
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Tubing down the river in Vang Vieng
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Tubing down the river in Vang Vieng
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Local village woman in village we visited before our hike outside of Luang Namtha
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Local village boys in village we visited before our hike outside of Luang Namtha
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Start of our hike
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Lunch is served!
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We made it to the top!
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Local village women who carried supplies for our overnight trek up the mountain on their heads in flip flops!

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Sunrise on the top of Mountain
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Extremely old tree with a trunk comparable to a Redwood

3. Volunteering. We visited Big Brother Mouse in Luang Prabang and spent time with locals helping them practice speaking English. It was an incredible opportunity to learn all about Laotian life and at the same time, help the locals learn new English words (how to pronounce them, what they mean, how to spell them and how to use them in a sentence (words like slideshow, cement, raspberry, position and rhinoceros)). The Laotians are so eager to improve their English speaking skills and are so committed to learning. It really made us appreciate having English as our first language. There have been times in our trip that we feel embarrassed that we only speak one language but a Romanian traveler we met made a really good point about English. He said “there has to be one language that’s universal and it’s basically English so be glad that its your first language!” We now recognize that we are so fortunate to be fluent in English and we want to share our fortune with others whenever we can.

4. Meeting other travellers. We have had casual conversations with many different travellers since we started our trip and we have traded contact information with people from Toronto, Montreal, Holland, Ireland and the U.K. In Luang Namtha we went on an overnight trek with a couple from The U.K. and another couple from Germany and became fast friends. We quickly moved past trading basic travelling details (how long are you traveling, where all have you been, ant highlights to share, etc.) and taught each other different card games, talked about the differences in ways of living in each of our counties (relationships and student loans), discussed different words used to describe the same thing in each of our countries (jumper=hoodie, queue=line, trainers=running shoes, french fries=crisps, and various phrases that I’ll refrain from mentioning), encouraged each other to eat frog, enjoyed an early morning cup of coffee in a bamboo stalk cup, and best of all, shared a ton of laughs. When you’re away from your family and friends for so long it makes these kinds of connections so much more meaningful. Joe and Georgia, and Jan and Anya, we hope to show you around Canada one day!

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Frog anyone?
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Tastes like BBQ chicken…for real!

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Group selfie in the tuk tuk!

We only visited three towns in Laos, Luang Prabang, Vang Vieng and Luang Namtha, before moving on to Thailand. Like I said, we loved the scenery that Laos offered but we did move through it pretty quickly and we had a few reasons for doing so:

1. We flew from Hanoi, Vietnam into Luang Prabang, which is a town right in the middle of Laos. Not smart…not sure why we didn’t think to fly to one end of the country and work our way up or down but we didn’t. To avoid countless hours on buses backtracking just so we could see both the north and south of the country we chose to keep to the north. Mostly because we wanted to be close to the northern Thai border to go to Chiang Mia, Thailand and also because we heard from numerous travellers that the south of Laos didn’t have as much to offer.

2. None of the towns themselves had much to offer that interested us. Once we toured around the countrysides capturing endless photographs of the gorgeous sights and toured the markets and any temples the towns had there wasn’t much to do. Plus Laos has weird curfew rules so many places are closed by 11:30pm if not earlier.

3. Timing. By the time we’ve finished traveling through SE Asia we hope to have visited seven different countries. Plain and simple, keeping our visit to Laos short ensures that we are able to do that.

Despite our short visit to Laos we definitely recommend that people going to SE Asia take time to visit Laos. As you can see from our pictures, you won’t be disappointed!

Loved Laos Landscapes

Thoughts, Observations and Reflections – Part 1

After three and a half weeks of travelling through Cambodia and Vietnam, Zac and I have quite a few thoughts, discoveries, realizations, observations and reflections. The following list isn’t in any particular order of importance or significance but includes things we think are worth sharing. I’m sure that those who have travelled through SE Asia will be able to relate to many of our findings and may even have a small chuckle or smile at the memory of similar experiences. For those that haven’t travelled through SE Asia I don’t know if there is any amount of descriptive and detailed writing that would help you visualize what we’ve experienced, but nonetheless we want to share them with you.

1. There are many odd things we’ve encountered that aren’t necessarily negative, just make us shrug our shoulders, look at each other and carry on. Like there is a sink in/outside all bathrooms but rarely any soap and never a hand towel, paper towel or dryer for washing and drying your hands. Or we have to take off our shoes on the sleeper buses and in the majority of hostels, hotels, guest houses and some businesses in Vietnam. Or our hostel room has a fridge in it but our room only has power to it if our room key is inserted in a special slot so the fridge doesn’t stay cold very often.

2. The horn is the most commonly used object ever. Drivers honk to signal they are coming up behind you, directly behind you, in front of you, turning, to tell you to move, to greet one another, to ask if you want a ride, to signal they are going around a curve and to simply announce their existence. As a friend of ours said, a common question when purchasing a motorized vehicle here is probably “what’s the life expectancy of the horn?”

3. One of the most difficult things to do is say no to a child trying to sell you something. We want so badly to purchase the postcards, wooden flutes, dresses or plastic trinkets they thrust up at us but it’s often not wise to buy items from them because it encourages their parents to keep them out of school. It’s difficult to understand why there aren’t rules and regulations about children “working” but it is important to recognize there is never any shortage of love among families. I’ve thought about many assistance programs that could be put in place but all my ideas come from my perspective of western ideals and I’m sure it would be much better if something were developed with local sensibilities in mind.

4. All the food is delicious. We try to eat where we see locals eating and we use chopsticks for the majority of our meals and we’re starting to get pretty good with them. Noodles/rice dishes are what we eat most often, but we also like bahn mi (a submarine style sandwich), banana pancakes (which are usually a crepe with bananas and chocolate sauce), noodle soup, fried spinach with garlic and fresh fruit. The fresh fruit is incredible. Mango, papaya, dragon fruit, pineapple and passion fruit taste like completely different foods here compared to in Canada and we love it all. Dairy and whole grains basically do not exist here but we have yet to see and overweight local so the food can’t be all that bad.

5. Wifi is almost everywhere, which I have mixed feelings about. It’s so great to have quick access to the Internet to find accommodations in the next town and stay connected with family and friends. It’s also too easy to get sidetracked by Facebook, Instagram and Netflix. I was really hoping to get away from that while we’re traveling, but so far it hasn’t happened. It’s just too easy to be connected so I am really making a conscious effort to limit my wifi time (aka time spent on social media and watching tv series).

6. Going out of my comfort zone is difficult. It’s not as easy as I thought it would be to push myself past what is comfortable and familiar. I’m not scared to try new, weird and random experiences or foods, but it’s hard to do that with everything every day. It’s too mentally draining for me to take risks with every single decision. I have to decide what things in a day I can take a risk with and which things I need to stay inside my comfort zone on. I’m hoping I can work up to the point where it’s exciting and adventurous to go outside of my comfort zone with everything I do in a day, but after only three weeks of travel I’m just not there.

7. Learning another language is hard. Not only is it challenging on the brain, but English is every where. Catering to tourists is one of the main forms of income for the majority of the countries in SE Asia so all the locals know how to speak English on some level. Its great when you want to know if you’re on the right bus to your next location, not so great when you want to learn how to properly say basic phrases. I wish that learning a second language in school was mandatory when I was growing up as I truly feel embarrassed at my dependence on others to speak my language when I’m in their country.

In the long, long list of thing we experience every day, those are just a few of the things that stand out for us. As we continue on our adventure we know the list will grow so we will be sure to share some more of our thoughts further along in our travels!

Thoughts, Observations and Reflections – Part 1

Snapshots of Cambodia

Neither Zac or I know the first thing about photography or how to use a camera to the best of its ability. One day I would like to have a better understand of photo composition and the rule of thirds and aperture settings but at the present moment progressional photography is not a skill I possess. I’d say I’m an amateur at best. That doesn’t matter though. This trip isn’t about capturing the worlds most impressive photos. It’s about experiences, pushing personal boundaries, reaching outside our comfort zones, strengthening our marriage and achieving goals. That being said, we are taking pictures in every city we visit. We want a permanent record of the things we see and do and if we’re lucky we will have a few photos that we can print to hang on our wall one day. Some of our pictures are better than others, some will only have meaning to Zac and I, some might bring back memories for people who have been to the places we have been and some might inspire others to start planning a trip of their own. We are excited to be able to share the pictures with our family and friends and provide a small glimpse of the expansive, diverse and incredible earth we live on.

 

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Our first selfie in Bangkok
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Hot pink tuk tuk interior. He was easy to find in the crowds!
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Neak Pean – Temples of Angkor Day 1
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Mother Nature reclaiming her territory – Temples of Angkor Day 1
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Temples of Angkor Day 1
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Banteay Kdei – Temples of Angkor Day 1
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Temples of Angkor Day 2 – complete with elephant pants and runners!
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Temples of Angkor Day 2 – a tree branch swing
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Temples of Angkor Day 2
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Fresh lemongrass and mint tea on Otres Beach in Sihanoukville, Cambodia
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Incredible sunset at Otres Beach in Sihanoukville, Cambodia
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Poor Zac was sick while we were on Koh Rong Island, Cambodia
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Koh Rong Island, Cambodia
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Koh Rong Island, Cambodia
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Koh Puos (Snake Island) Bridge, Sihanoukville, Cambodia
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View from our hostel in Sihanoukville, Cambodia
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Sihanoukville, Cambodia
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Caves near Kampot, Cambodia
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Countryside outside of Kampot, Cambodia
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Secret Lake near Kampot, Cambodia
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Peppercorn Plantation near Kampot, Cambodia
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Peppercorn Plantation near Kampot, Cambodia
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Peppercorn Plantation near Kampot, Cambodia
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Peppercorn Plantation near Kampot, Cambodia
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Countryside outside of Kampot, Cambodia
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Countryside outside of Kampot, Cambodia
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Crab Market, Kep, Cambodia
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Kep Beach, Kep, Cambodia
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Salt Fields outside of Kampot, Cambodia 
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Salt Fields outside of Kampot, Cambodia 
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Bokor National Park, Kampot, Cambodia
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Bokor National Park, Kampot, Cambodia
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Waterless waterfall, Bokor National Park, Kampot, Cambodia
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Sunset riverboat cruise on Kampot River, Kampot, Cambodia
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Sunset riverboat cruise on Kampot River, Kampot, Cambodia
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Sunset riverboat cruise on Kampot River, Kampot, Cambodia
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Sunset riverboat cruise on Kampot River, Kampot, Cambodia
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Sunset riverboat cruise on Kampot River, Kampot, Cambodia
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Sunset riverboat cruise on Kampot River, Kampot, Cambodia
Snapshots of Cambodia