Wednesday, February 25, 2009

VIDEOS! At last

Enjoy the videos - finally edited down nearly a year later. Pretty funny to watch how uncomfortable we are in front of the video camera in the beginning, but much more used to it by the end.

If you'd like to watch them in full screen, click the video for HD quality!

Barcelona and Sitges:

1. Spain from Phil L on Vimeo.

Marakech & Fes:

2. Morocco

Our quick visit to Egypt included the Pyramids and an awesome bike ride through Luxor:

3. Egypt

India: Pushkar, Jaipur, and Agra.

4. India

A hike along the Great Wall is one of my favorite video clips of the trip:

5. China

Thailand's clips are pretty mellow. Getting sick didn't help. This goes into Malaysia as well.

6. Thailand > Malaysia

First two weeks in the camper van driving from Sydney to Cairns.

7. Australia

New Zealand rules. Started in Auckland going north and then clockwise down to Wellington. Ever gone Zorbing? you can get an inside look with this vid!

8. New Zealand

Thursday, May 29, 2008

It's a wrap.

Hello, Brooklyn...

While Kate is getting ready for some job interviews today, I figured it would be a great time to write up one last post.

It's official, we have met some of New York's finest; and we're not talking about the police. During the last whirlwind of a week while looking at at least 30 rentals to call home, we have met some greaseballs, slimeballs, flakes, dirtbags, and sleazeballs, all who think they can manage properties. There are 2, however, which have made their own categories: "Hi, I'm a Chihuahua on crack from Staten Island", and "Hi, I'm high on Pain Meds from knee replacement surgery." Obviously, the latter made the most of an impression on us:
The Chihuahua was about 5 feet tall, thin as a stick, and spoke about 400 miles per hour. She also admitted that she smoked too much pot over the weekend and that was why she couldn't find the rest of her listings. Instead of viewing in person, we drove around for an hour so that we could "learn about our neighborhood." And if there is a three bedroom for $1600 per month, then it's probably too good to be true.
Ms. Pain Meds said, "I have been doing this for twenty-two years, and I'm going to find you the best place to live. We'll be signing a lease in a week." Well, I don't know what she's been doing for that long, but it probably wasn't listening to what her clients are asking. Instead of looking in the correct neighborhoods and price ranges, she kept confusing herself by trying to hit the search button. It could have very well been her first time using a computer. That, or they replaced more than her knee. It was a ridiculous week.

That being said, we found a place to live...two doors down from my sister. In all of Brooklyn, we end up two doors down!!! It couldn't have even been planned that way if we tried!

We still have managed to fit in some fun already in New York. Memorial Day Weekend was spectacular weather, so we spent a lot of time outside. Meeting up on the rooftop on Memorial Day with some friends, which has a spectacular view of the skyline, for some fried chicken and growlers (of beer) from Whole Foods was a great way to end the weekend. That Whole Foods has one of the best beer stores around.

As for the last weeks of our trip before heading to New York, we had an amazing time in Seattle and relaxed in Anchorage while getting to know our nephew. If you haven't been to Seattle, get there! What a wonderful city. It's full of life, and we are convinced it doesn't rain there as much as they say.

Our good friend Nelson (hence the corn in the cup picture from Malay), and camp counselor for the weekend, planned a lot of activity into our one full day. Fortunately, the Mariners were in town, so the baseball game was the highlight. If it's our country's pastime, why not get a game in? Mike and Joy, some more friends from Colorado, joined us for the day. It was great to be around familiar faces again!

While the game was awesome - comeback win for the M's - there is a mini-rollercoaster at the bottom of the space needle which is quite mind numbing. It's loud, fast, and packs a punch, and left all three of us a little woozy when it was all over. Kate and I rode it years ago after a meal of sushi and some beers, so we had to go back!

This post seems to be going backwards, chronologically, and visiting Alaska feels like a long time ago. Kate and I were finally able to meet our nephew, Owen. He's a good looking kid, and I am sure he'll be able to haul in those King Salmon and Halibut in no time at all. We were also eager to test out our cooking skills while there, so we offered to help out the new parents by cooking them dinner almost every night. Cooking is way more gratifying after going out to eat every night for months on end.

And now, for the reflection part.
We are full of mixed emotions about the trip abroad coming to an end: living out of our bags, missing our friends and family and other normal "comforts"; but of course now that we are back to the "normal" life, we are wishing we have nothing but a small bag. Like many things, it's a catch-22. The one thing that we do realize is that we have been so very fortunate to be able to leave the country for so long. We hope that everyone reading this will be able to find the opportunity to experience the world in person, rather than view our "credible" news channels. There are tremendous cultures abroad who are happy no matter what the living situation. We have met so many people who were excited to share their thoughts and life experiences, good and bad, and who are anxiously awaiting the results of our election (aren't we all?)

Cheers for now, we hope that everyone enjoyed being a part of our travels.
And.....Whatever you do take care of your shoes.

Friday, May 9, 2008

The home stretch

It's 9:15 pm, and it's light out!

We have arrived in Anchorage after a 30 hour travel day. And it truly was A day. May 8th lasted more than 24 hours with the date line being crossed. Starting from the island of Nanuya in Fiji, we had a 5 hour boat ride to the mainland in a minimonsoon - it put the swells from the Barrier Reef to shame - thank goodness for motion sickness pills. From the boat to the LAX arrival, it took 15 hours, followed by another 10 hours of flights and waiting on standby to get to Anchorage.

Fiji is as beautiful and exotic as all of our preconceived notions made it out to be. Water with every shade of blue, deserted beaches, small islands; we can truly call it paradise. It's only a 3-6 hour flight to get there from New Zealand or Australia, so it's almost like going to Mexico for them...LUCKY! We decided to bump up to the "Captains Lounge" on the boat to the Yasawa Island chain, and Kate decided to make sure we got our money's worth of complimentary beverages. Arriving 5 hours later at Nanuya Island Resort, she was cheersing the group of couples we got to shore with...and just think, they all thought she was being friendly. The weather wasn't completely cooperative with us the entire stay, but we were fortunate to have a clear first night. The stars were so bright and plentiful, it almost looked fake.

The following day, we started to a hang out with some of the people staying with us and rehashing Kate's exit from the boat. It always made for a good laugh. The "resort" was only 12 bures, so it was kind of like summer camp for adults. A few of us went on a snorkel outing for a couple of hours and when we returned I realized "this is the first activity I have done apart from Kate in over 3 months." The resort was super relaxing with daily highlights being: watching the new people arrive on the boat and waiting for the dinner menu which was updated daily. The food was beyond incredible!

Shortly into our stay, a couple arrived to the resort who were going to be getting married a few days later. After hanging out with them for a day, we got invited to the wedding and reception! The wedding was a nifty little ceremony with about 10 other people, a local minister, local church choir, and local music. It was great to get some of the local vibe that night and we sat and drank kava with the band and spoke about their way of life. It was a lot of fun!

Another activity was a cave exploration trip that requires you to swim underwater to get into the cave. We loaded the boat up with the 6 people we had become friends with and headed out. Thinking it would just be our boat would have made too much sense, and when we got there, it turned out to be about 30 people! At first the inner cave was a dark quiet place, but then all the backpackers came in and it became a dark, loud cave with everyone kicking each other while treading water. Not a comfortable feeling...claustrophobia definitely comes to mind. However, swimming underwater from the dark cave out into the light was a neat sensation.

Fiji was the perfect ending to our time abroad and left us ready to get back to the States. We are thrilled to be in Alaska and to meet our new nephew, Owen. Our plan for the next couple of days is to reintroduce ourselves into American culture, get in some great hikes, and to eat as much mexican food as we can handle. First steps today were a trip to Costco, activation of our cell phones and a huge burrito!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Adventures from the Van: Early bird catches the worm

Since the short hike from Taupo didn't quench our thirst for activity, we decided on more of a full day hike along the Tama Lake trail. A drive further south to the Volcanic Zone, led us to the Whakapapa village. While the typed name is quite entertaining, the correctly pronounced name of "Fakapapa" is even better!

It is fully autumn here, and the walk through the alpine tundra in the shadows of Mount Ngauruhoe and Mount Ruapehu was surreal; the fall colors, blue sky, and looming volcanoes were all so vivid. Knowing that Ruapehu erupted as recently as September 2007 and the trails were just recently reopened, and Ngauruhoe for its cameo as Mt Doom and Mordor, Kate and I had plenty to keep our minds wandering about as well.

Starting the hike at sunrise allowed the two of us to have the trail essentially to ourselves. It's currently the ANZAC holiday here, similar to our Veteran's Day, so we knew that there would be a lot of traffic before long. The lower Tama Lake was our first destination, which protruded as a brilliant turquoise blue while being surround by volcanic sand and rock. A quick 30 minutes later, up a steep ridge, the upper Tama Lake was where we rested for lunch of cheese and salami sandwiches, apples, and a few Oreo's! Of the two lakes, the lower would be our favorite. On the way back down, we started to pass the human train of hikers walking with huge bags for the long weekend. It surprised us at what a late start they were having!

The sun hasn't shown itself too much while in New Zealand, but we still can't help ourselves from visiting coastal beach towns, especially when they are next to vineyards. We are in Napier now, which is home to the famous Hawke's Bay wineries. We have been a BIG fan of the NZ syrah's so if you're looking for something to drink, see what you can find in your local stores.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Adventures from the Van: Mt Tauhara

Quick update here, more for the pictures, and to keep the total time at the internet cafes minimal.

In Taupo right now, which is home to the biggest body of water in New Zealand: Lake Taupo. The town is on the north end of the lake, and is right on the edge of the Taupo Volcanic Zone. Maui rolled us into town yesterday and into a superb holiday park. Incase we didn't mention this before, "camping" in Oz and NZ are in holiday parks; this is basically a glorified RV park. So, it can be safe to say we have been living next to trailer homes for the last 3 weeks! Fortunately, the holiday park here is next to mineral hot springs, so they do have their advantages as well.

Kate and I wanted to go for a hike after indulging the night before at a New Zealand restaurant. The lamb here is quite delectable, and I am not one to order lamb when dining out. This is quite a treat after too many dinners of 2-minute noodles! Mount Tauhara is right in town and makes for a perfect day trip.

It is only about 2000 feet of vertical, but it goes straight up! The growth in the forest was the most unique and stunning either of us have witnessed. All the trees were covered in moss and other various greenery.

We are about to head into the thick of the Volcanic ranges, which is home to another LOTR mountain: Mordor. We really shouldn't have watched the LOTR trilogy while here, it's the only entertainment we've watched in a month and it's seared into my brain.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Adventures from the Van: Finding Frodo

It's week three of living in the van, and the hunt for Frodo has been in full throttle while in New Zealand. We are only sticking to the North Island during our two weeks, but that's good for hobbit hunting since the Shire is located somewhere around here.

To quote one of our book of maps "Long before the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy redefined New Zealand's scenic wonders, a 1936 National Geographic article exclaimed: 'here in an area approximately the size of Colorado are grouped the snow-mantled peaks of Switzerland, geysers of Yellowstone, volcanic cones of Java and Japan, and the lakes of Italy: the mineral springs of Czechoslovakia, the fjords of Norway, sea coasts of Maine and California, and waterfalls higher than Yosemite."

We have to completely agree. It has been an experience just to DRIVE around this country. Around every corner we are stopping to take photos and just marvel in the amazing scenery. The hills, spotted with sheep, are the deepest and brighest greens; it's hard to believe it's real.

We started by heading north of Auckland to the Bay of Islands and staying over at a beautiful beach town named Russell. While hiking around the rain forests near our site trying to locate the cute Kiwi bird and somehow stumbled on a bizarre and hilarious ceremony honoring the late Edmund Hillary. It was being lead by a crazy women from New Hampshire - even though the official ceremony was postponed due to an unfortunate canyoning accident from an Edmund Hillary adventure camp. Both of us are completely convinced that she had hit the bottle, hard, before the ceremony. The drive continued through the bay and stopped at the Maori Treaty signing house to take in some of the incredible native carvings (and a few new tattoo ideas for Kate...kidding, kinda). Further south we visited the "Lord of the Forest" the largest Kauri tree in New Zealand. It was pretty much the biggest tree that we had ever seen.

The roads in NZ are not like the usually US Interstates. It's like driving from Aspen to Leadville via Independence Pass to get anywhere, so the going is slow. It's really good that we are only sticking to the North Island on this visit.

We have made our way down to Rotorua via the Coromandel Peninsula. During our pass back through Auckland we realized that our Kiwi transporter, NAV, had some features we had to get rid of: A strange smell of mildew and vomit came out of the vents, so it was time for an upgrade. The VW TDI van is awesome. Her name is Maui and diesel turns her on.

We had a specific adventure in mind for Rotorua, and it is called Zorbing. Basically a Zorb is a large inflatable ball inside of a ball that you can roll around down hills.

They fill it with water (warm today) to make the ride like a slip'n'slide. We laughed ourselves silly today rolling down the hills in New Zealand in large plastic balls. Unfortunately the photos of the adventure are lost, but we do have some epic video footage from inside that we can hopefully post soon.

Rotorua is full of sulphur thermal hot spots, so the town occasionally has a wild odor. That hasn't kept us from our favorite pastime of soaking. Most of the holiday parks we are staying in have hot springs, and we spent a good few hours yesterday soaking away the driving in the lakeside pools at the Polynesian Mineral Pools here in town.

There is one week left in the camper van, and then we head to the island of Nanuya in Fiji for our "honeymoon".

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Adventures from the Van: Adrenaline Aussie style

Rush of water below
Raft guide holding you up so you don't leave his grip too soon


Over the drop with the rest of the water
Breath caught too late.
Inhaled more than just air
Getting pushed deeper into the lava tube
Ears screaming from pressure
Open eyes to search for light.
Green yellow bubbles above
Need air...Swim for it
Light getting bright white getting close now
Surface at last coughing for air
Kate laughing that my sunglasses were still on

Raging Thunder Extreme Rafting really was as extreme as the name. The day was spent getting nearly drowned, willingly of course, in a variety of ways. Getting dropped from 15ft up into a lava tube (not sure how deep) for around 10 seconds, was by far the most ridiculous experience.

A couple of days prior, we made our way up to Airlie Beach to take a trip out to the Great Barrier Reef. Not taking any snorkel tours in Thailand, we decided this would be a much better experience. We took a two hour boat ride with 6 foot swells out to a section called Bait Reef. By the time we arrived at the mooring, my head was starting to feel a little light. In the water we went, hoping that would calm the unsettled feeling I was developing. It definitely did! Huge Double-Headed Parrot fish with teeth the size of our fists were chomping away on the coral. The purples, blues, and yellows were outstanding on this portion of the reef. "That was one of the highlights of my life" is what Kate said immediately upon getting back into the boat. Heading back to mainland and the swells were even larger. All I am thinking is hold it...hold it. Common sense made me run to the back of the boat near the motors to find a spot that didn't move around as much. Just in time! Returned the bucket to its spot in its original condition. Phew!

The last of our adrenaline themed activities was canopy surfing in the Daintree rainforest - "where the rainforest meets the sea" is its theme. This was pretty cool since usually the tree tops are so far overhead.

The lush farmlands also let us find the ideal location to be reincarnated as a cow.

If anyone was ever in question about which region to eat a steak from, the answer has been found. Australia. The cows here have acres and acres to roam free and eat as much grass as they want. Just think, you have to pay extra at Wild Oats and Whole foods for grass fed beef, but it appears to be the standard here. No kidding, the entire eastern coastline from Sydney to Cairns is nothing but farmland for cows or sugar cane.

Our road trip in Australia is about done now, and so is my internet card. We have driven around 1700 miles and are bummed to leaving this country after seeing only one coast. Another trip it will have to be!

Afterall, if you do everything the first time 'round, what reason would you have to go back?

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Adventures from the Van: Gettin' High down under

(No parents, not that kind of high)

Back to where we left off, Langkawi and Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia. Langkawi was a really chill island reminding us of Maui. After eating the same menu for the last 4 weeks in Thailand, we were ecstatic to see all sorts of food to quench our cravings. We rented a car to drive around and see some sights. This also doubled as practice for driving on the left side of the road. They have an amazing tram ride up to the top to get a spectacular 360 degree view of the island and neighboring country Thailand. After 2 days, we went to Kuala Lumpur to see the only attraction, the Petronas Towers. We really didn't do too much more since we enjoyed our plush hotel with the first true hot shower we had had in too many weeks. Plus, the complimentary happy hour was too good to pass up!

Let the Southern Hemisphere adventures begin!

Sydney is a beautiful coastal metropolis, reminding us of Seattle, Boston, NY, and SF. While in Sydney, we had 3 items on our to-do list: eat a salad, pick up our van, and scale the Harbor Bridge. We had heard about the bridge walk from a couple we had met in China, and it lived up to the expectations. We spent about 3 hours climbing the bridge at sunset and had amazing views of the Sydney Opera House and all of the water front development around the city. The best part was the cheesy pictures that they took for your purchase on various parts of the bridge. We definitely took some doozies!

The next day, we met our home for the next two weeks, VAN. VAN is a single, swinging, extra long white male who enjoys long rides near the beach. He is also our new best friend (can you all tell at this point that we have been LIVING in a van for the past week and are a little crazy?)

After exciting navigation through Sydney at rush hour, we headed to the Blue Mountains west of the city. It is famous for the blue haze that settles over the mountains from the eucalyptus trees. This was the spot for our first night in van where we also experienced the first true frost of the fall. We almost froze to death in VAN and threw on all the layers we owned by the end of the night. After that frozen first night, we decided that if we were going to freeze every night, we might as well be drinking good wine while doing it. So we headed off to the Hunter Valley, birthplace of Australian Shiraz. Our favorite factoid that we learned on our wine tours was from the Wyndham Estate winery. We found out that they employ backpackers to hand-pick their grapes for the premium wines. Needless to say, we were majorly disappointed that the harvest was over.

From the Hunter Valley, we headed towards the famous Gold Coast and epic surfing beaches. Along the way, Kate spied a sign for a Koala rehab/breeding center and almost had a heart attack, so we stopped, fed kangaroos, and encountered a very active koala. The highlight was feeding a mother kangaroo with a joey stuffed in her pouch.

During our drive, the clouds started to build and plagued our next two days on the Gold Coast. Torrential rain kept us off the beaches at Byron Bay and Surfers Paradise, but in Byron, an hour of evening sun let everyone enjoy a killer rainbow and some good waves. Waking up to more torrential rain, we headed north to escape the weather.

After a ridiculously long drive in VAN to Airlie Beach, our efforts have paid off; the sun is shining and we are preparing for a snorkel trip to the Great Barrier Reef tomorrow morning. More adventures from the van will come soon!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Same Same but Different

Our jaunt through the Land of Thais is now complete, after 4 weeks spent throughout the country. It was a different place than we originally expected; for instance, when you go to Mexico you feel like you're in Mexico. We never quite were able to put a finger on what the Thai vibe was to make us feel like we were in Thailand, other than the wonderful food, but we know that we enjoyed the Buddhist lifestyle...maybe that is just what the Thai vibe is.

To pick up where we left off, we hung out with our English friend, Simon, who joined us on our minivan trip into Pai. He was able to bring lots of good conversation, my favorite being his response to finding out that USA is country code 001. "You're 001?! We're 044...aren't we the motherland?" So, now I wonder, do all Brits have the same concern as being 33 codes behind? The highlight of our time in Pai was going to Joi's elephant camp and riding an elephant into the river. Kate was petrified, so the ride down to the river was entertaining to say the least. The 3 of us turned our heads at the giant piece of dung that floated to the surface when the elephant got in, and enjoyed every minute of being drowned while clinging to her back.

It could have been the river water, or it just could have been the first time we relaxed in nearly two months, but immediately upon returning Kate got sick, really sick. Sick as in, antibiotics...stat. The timing was good because the next day, I too got sick, but not nearly to the extent as Kate. However, I had a really strange experience:
While my sickness peaked one night, I woke up with near charlie horses in my legs since I was sooooo dehydrated, and my tongue was stuck to my molars. I took what might have been a full sip of water while still half unconscious. Drifting back off to sleep, I had these dreams and sensations of firefighting ships (like what would be used on a body of water) shooting the mineral water into every part of my body. I could literally feel the H2O being replenished in my legs, fingers, thighs, everywhere! It's when I knew I was over the hump and on the good road back. However, it was by far one of the most bizarre sensations.

At this juncture, we realized we lost about 5 days of travel time just to get our energy and motivation back to even attempt leaving Pai and going...well, who knows! We had to can the portion of our trip to Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. It would have been too much for us at that point, and at least now we have a reason to come back to this part of the world.

Como esta beaches!!

First stop, Railay. The Lonely Planet guidebook describes this as their favorite beach in all of Thailand. It did not explain that this is a favorite destination for day trippers. While, yes, the beach was the most beautiful we saw with the karsts on each side, and yes, there are no cars, it was over crowded. Uncomfortably crowded. We stayed for a couple of days to see what the fuss was about. Fortunately we found a nice spot one of the days and treated ourselves to some BBQ seafood which made the trek worth it! At night the beach at Railay was magical and deserted. It was our favorite time to be out and about.

Onto Ko Lanta. We found what we have been searching for. Peace and quiet, and our German friends Sven and Anna who we had parted with weeks before in Pai. We lucked out and spent about a week on Lanta on a beach with only two places to stay and three bars. A crowded day on that beach was about 30 people at a time. It was hard to leave, but we wanted to see what else Thailand could offer.

We ventured onto Ko Muk, which was a recommendation from some Brits we had met on Railay. The sand and water on this island were exceptional, but with a lack of places for everyone to stay, it was a bit like the Amazing Race when we stepped of the longtail boat. We ended up at a rickety bungalow in the middle of the jungle the first night and were treated to the electricity turning off the fan in the middle of the night - it got hot quick, a lizard mating call above our heads, and an island dog fight near the door. Needless to say after a sleepless night, Kate booked it out of there wide eyed in the morning and secured other accommodations for the following night. We stayed for a two nights and were able to explore the island. We stumbled upon a tsunami rebuilding project that we unfortunately were unable to get photos of. It was interesting to see the mini-village that had been rebuilt from relief funds. Another long boat trip down the coast led us to Ko Lipe, the smallest island that we visited.

Upon arriving to Ko Lipe, we thought that it was going to be another overcrowded, overpopulated island, but we were slowly enchanted and decided to stay six nights. The island does not have any roads, only sandy paths that meander through the jungle from beach to beach. The paths made for some exciting post-bar, late night walking back to our bungalow. We stayed on one of the highest points on the island and had almost nightly thunder storms that raged lightning directly above our roof. The beach that we were based at had a great sandbar that you could swim out to at low tide and sit in the middle of the channel between islands and watch the sun set. There was a bar located right on the beach that we frequented for mid-afternoon shade and soothing drinks. During one afternoon, Kate discovered a fellow Alaskan and his girlfriend who were living on the island and they made for some fun companions during our stay. Our favorite night out on the island wasn't the cloudy full moon party, but the dinner at Bundaya Resort served by Lady Boys. "80's fashion is bad enough, but 80's fashion on Thai men pretending to be women who serve us food, is a whole other story." -Kate Made for some interesting guessing during our walks through the village the next morning, "Is that our waitress, that MAN over there?"

We have finally made it down to a cheap internet connection on the Malaysian island of Langkawi. The plan is to spend a couple of days exploring the beaches here before heading to Kuala Lumpur for our flight out to Sydney. Because of the extra time we spent in Thailand, we decided to head to Australia a week early. We have rented a sleeper van to head north from Sydney to Cairns. We are sure that some epic stories will come from us living in a van...stay tuned! Lots of love to all the friends and family who have written us telling us they miss the blog posts. Enjoy!

Thursday, March 6, 2008

talkin' Thai


No, this isn't an UnderArmor advertisement, but the lovely sound effect heard over and over and over from small confined spaces on public transit by those who love to cut their nails in what must be their only free time during the day. Long fingernails freak me out, and we have seen some freakishly long specimens, but cutting nails in public spaces might be my #1 pet peeve. I swear I saw one fly by me on the train from Bangkok to Ayatthuya.
Please just let our trip go by without getting hit!

We have made it to Thailand, and neither Kate or I can actually talk Thai. This city has been known to many to be the Sin City of the East, but it can also be a wholesome city if you look hard enough.

Kao San Road is the infamous backpacker street where you can be altered to look just like the characters in the Beach because you want to "fit" in. Want some dreads? How 'bout some wide legged pants, or tank tops of local beers? If you want it, you don't have to click your heels more than 3 times, that's for sure. We thought it would be a lot different, and after some perusing the many stalls of DVDs, flips, and knockoff brand name clothes, we took off hoping to not have to return!

We will admit, our trip so far has been a whirlwind around many intense places, so a nicer hotel with a pool is where we retreated to for some much needed R&R. The Thai's have definitely figured out a nice public transit system, consisting of a skytrain and subway, so moving around town was a breeze. You do NOT want to drive here if you can avoid it. Makes the Delhi traffic look like nothing. A large population of students seem to ride these systems, so hopefully they can focus on being doctors or lawyers, right? I think they all still want to be pop stars and nothing else; this being confirmed by the multiple "American Idol" type tryouts seen by all the major malls. I just don't think a bunch of amateurs singing on TV, in any language, will help the situation of any country ;) Fortunately, we did get out to see some great sites!

After waiting a few days to get our Visas for Vietnam, we headed north to a small city, Ayutthaya. It was once a capital city of the province it's located in, but it didn't have that ring to it. It does, however, have a lot of really nice temples! "Temple, Temple, Very nice temples" (as said so often by our driver in India). We chose to rent bikes to see the sites. Wat Mahathat, has the famous Buddha head wrapped in tree roots was an awesome site. After only one night, we were outta there!

A bumpy 14 hour train ride north to Chiang Mai followed by a 3 hour van ride over the mountains has brought us to Pai (pronounced bye). Who would have guessed the 9 hour bus trip we didn't take would have been faster?!?! We have driven on our fair share of mountain passes, but nothing has been even close to pitch or swerviness of the road to Pai. At the beginning of the ride, all 10 passengers were talking and laughing and when we all spilled out in Pai, everyone was a bit green and sick from the ride. It was a killer!

We plan to be in Pai for a couple of days checking out the infamous hot springs and the towns waterfalls before heading on. We might head through Laos and over to Vietnam, but the beaches of southern Thailand seem to be calling our names. I guess only time can tell....