Islands, Thailand, The End.

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After Koh Phangan and the Full Moon Party, we hopped back on the mainland and switched from the Eastern Gulf to the Andaman Coast. Everyone talks about how beautiful Koh Phi Phi (pronounced Pee Pee) is and that was where we wanted to go on the Andaman side. In order to get to Phi Phi we had to drive to Krabi and catch another ferry from there, but as things always seem to go in Thailand we arrived at the port well past the time of the last ferry. As we jumped out of the van at the port, there were tonnes of Thai hustlers yelling at us “you need a place to stay? My friend, my friend good price for you!” Tired from the long day of travel, we decided to look at these brochures and choose a place to sleep for the night, with plans to resume going to Phi Phi in the morning.

Oddly enough the place that we chose to stay was called the N.S. Mountain Resort and had a full on cowboy bar in the middle of nowhere. It was no surprise however, that the only other people staying there were Canadian (2 German girls too, but they don’t count). Animal heads mounted on the wall, staff with cowboy hats, yep that would draw Canadians in wouldn’t it. We arrived at a dude ranch in the dead of night, with a man we just met, in the middle of nowhere. Visions of a slasher movie were galloping through our minds, but we were more than thrilled when the escort to our room revealed a spacious, clean, comfortable, poolside room. In fact considering that this place was a bargain price of 500 Baht ($16 Canadian) a night, we couldn’t be happier and settled in for some much-needed sleep.

Kayaking

The next morning we woke up with the best intentions of heading to Koh Phi Phi, but the hotels hustler wasn’t letting us go that easily. The before you knew it he had us convinced that Koh Phi Phi was just too expensive to go to and he could arrange diving, kayaking, and ocean tours here, with the bargain price for our room attached. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that we kind of got “lost” here for a few days. In fact, every single day we tried to leave we were reassured once again that this was a terrible idea and wound up right in our room again. After having a Aarissca team meeting we decided that if we were going to stay in the twilight zone then we might as well make it worth while and planned to do a few things.
On day 2, we woke up early and met our tour guide at the front desk to go kayaking.  For the tour we went around a few of the limestone islands, into a couple of bays, through a mangrove forest and peaked into a cave or two. Some of these areas were tight and tricky because they aren’t always accessible as the tide plays security guard. Since the tide was still high we were, barely, granted access in and we’ll let you decide on who was the kayak master to get Aarissca out of this conundrum. Maybe say who you think it was in the comments section, and we’ll reveal the hero in the next blog post. We can give you a hint though, ONE of us continued to spin us in circles, and whine how sore their arms were. The other was the master of kayaking and made sure to proclaim “look how good I am at this! I’m the best!”

After we managed to kayak back to where we started the tour, there was some refreshments and once they were done we headed back to our hotel. Our plan was now to try to head over to Phi Phi with the rest of the afternoon left in the day, but again this plan didn’t come to fruition. Later in the afternoon we decided to take a day trip and hopped on a boat from the pier by our hotel a nearby island named Railay. The cool thing about Railay is it’s connected to the mainland, but it’s not.  There are sharp limestone cliffs that separates the two and make it impossible to get to here by land, so now it’s only accessible by boat. A short 20 minute long-tail boat ride (our first on the trip) later we set foot on Railay Beach, ahoy matey! Starving for both food and a sunset view we walked from the East beach where we were dropped off to the Western facing beach.

Sunset At Railay Beach

Being a small ‘island’ we didn’t have much choice once we got on the West beach and just did ennie, meanie, minnie, moe with a little bit of which one is busy. Shortly after we finished eating a fork in the road came up. Do we catch a boat back now and beat the late night hike in price or take in this sun set fully? Feeling naive and like high rollers, catching the rest of the sunset with some deep-fried ice cream was our choice (Aaron is now hooked). Once we were tired out, we walked back to the Eastern beach to hail a boat but the story didn’t go that way. We walked up and down the Eastern beach to find anything that floated that was heading back to our pier, but there was nothing. Eventually a resort worker informed us there were no boats here and nothing was probably coming to the island. He did mention a resort boat for the workers was coming, but was not sure at what time, and that we could catch a boat on the West beach to Ao Nang still… probably. With that being our only option, off we trekked back to where we caught the sunset in hopes of finding a boat to Ao Nang and then a cab back to our resort.

Once we got to the other beach we saw a taxi boat docked in the water, so we promptly started looking for its captain. Eventually we found him in a bar, half cut and eager to charge us out the ears for our misfortune. The drunk sailor wanted us to wait for more passengers and more beer, so he said just wait on the beach for a bit. We waited on the beach alright, if wait means running back to the one on the opposite side. Hoping for the last time, we made the walk to Eastern Beach to try and find a fluke boat or the resort one. When we got to the beachone half of Aarissca went to buy water, while the other half kept watch. Not a 100% sure, at the time, but there was something in the distance that resembled a boat that we needed to check out. Off we sped walked to the other end of the beach with our fingers crossed. Quickly we started asking everybody around the tractor (the tide is so low they carry people by tractor to/from boats at night) “where is this boat going?” Everything was peachy it was going to where we needed, except it was a staff only boat. After some discussion among the security guards and a few of the staff they said we could get on. Phew! That was a big relief! Once we got to the pier we gave the boat driver a big thanks (and our luck the ride was free!) and walked back to our dude ranch resort to crash.

Boat on The Water By Phi Phi Don

The following day, we made our way to another pier in Krabi to catch a ferry to Koh Phi Phi (pronounced Pee Pee). We were going in blind with no place to stay, until we broke down at the ferry terminal and booked four nights online at the PP Natural Resort. The ferry ride was about 2 hours long and 350 Baht a person. The ferry arrived at Tonsai Bay on Phi Phi Don (Koh Phi Phi is actually 6 different islands) and right off the boat they charge you 20 Baht to keep the island clean. Which you will notice is probably true, the island is better looking then Miss USA. We knew our resort was located on the most northern tip of Phi Phi Don and was only accessible by long-tail boat. So when one driver said 1,500 Baht to get to our resort we choked. Seeming like a lot we looked around to see if anybody else was going where we were. Eventually we pulled out our change from the keep Phi Phi clean fee and said 960 Baht is all we have. He reluctantly accepted and got his boat ready.

A 30-40 minutes long tail ride from the main pier and we were at our new place of residence. The boat dropped us off on the opposite side of the beach as our resort and we had to walk a good 500 meters to the resort. Once we got the PP Natural they greeted us with a juice, cold towel and the bags off our shoulders. This resort isn’t the nicest on the beach (Zeavola or Holiday Inn are), but it is still nice and has a lot of amenities and is less expensive. Once we got all checked in, we got into a golf cart and went to our bungalow. The place was nice, big, and private. The decor was a little dated, but wasn’t a big negative at all. That evening we went out for supper and had great pasta dinners on the beach in candle light.

Taking a Lunch Break From Diving

For our first full day, we slept in past the free breakfast buffet, did a bit of snorkeling off the coast, swam in the pool and oh yeah booked a diving trip for the next day(which Aaron did not want to do at all but Jessica made him.) We opted to try diving in the resorts pool the following morning in order to get the nerves out safely. Learning the hand signals, how to clear your mask, operating your BCD (Buoyancy Control Device), clearing your mouthpiece, etc in the pool also. The best part of this was the totally rad underwater hight five the instructor gave you when you did it right! We even got to witness some wildlife in the pool on our first dive as their was a dead giant crab sitting at the bottom. After that, we loaded up a long tail boat with all the gear and headed to the Northern tip of Phi Phi Leh to do a couple dives. On both dives we saw lots of fish, coral, artificial reefs, giant clams and eels. The seas were really rough that day (our boat just about flipped heading back). The hardest part was getting into the water because you had to hold onto the edge of the boat and jump in, with a weight belt on and hold on for dear life that you didn’t sink untill your gear was tossed into the water and was put on you to cause you to float. But we had a great time, so great, we booked to dive again the next day when we got back.

Scuba Diving on The Second Day

On day 2 of diving, we had a speed boat this time and about 10 people. However only 3 customers and 4 instructors were actually diving. We were going with the same gentleman as yesterday, Peang, and the rest were going with a German girl. I think people at this dive shop just look for excuses to go diving. We dove the same island as the day before, Phi Phi Ley, but did the southern part of the island in hopes of seeing turtles and sharks. Both dives this day were great, we hung around sea turtles for a good 20 minutes as the just swam around us and then hunted for sharks. We did manage to swim with some black tip reef sharks but when one came close to us Jess would swim over and grab the instructor to hide. Not exactly the bravest fish in the ocean. After our two days of diving we were probably better off doing our PADI or SDI (getting certified so you can dive up to 15 meters by yourself), but we only had two and a half days. Where it takes at least 3 to 4 days to complete the classroom time and dives for either PADI or SDI. Just a couple of notes on scuba diving in Thailand, Koh Phi Phi has a price freeze all dive shops comply with for getting certified, 13,900 Baht. Koh Tao on the Eastern Gulf Coast is where the most divers are certified world-wide. The diving there isn’t the best they say, but you can get a steal of a deal to get your PADI/SDI there. If we had a rewind button and more time we would have gotten certified in Koh Tao or Phangan, then head to Phi Phi and Similan Islands to dive a bunch of times for cheap.

One of Our Sea Turtle Friends

Later that evening we headed to the main pier on Phi Phi Don to meet up with Ian & Sheree, who we met in Koh Phangan, for dinner and drinks. Our first stop was for a drink at the bar formally known as Poo’s Bar, but now goes by Pu’s Bar. Pu was a really interesting guy and gave us a bunch of laughs all the way from the neck of the bottle to the bottom. Next, was finding a restaurant called the Orange House. Which we were all shocked Ian found, it was really tucked away far back. The lady who owns and cooks the food here is known as a crazy lady with a bunch of cats, but the food is to die for. The only gripe against the place is they don’t serve beer, so Ian and Aaron took care of that by borrowing the lady at the restaurants bike. Doubling up (and cradling each others male body’s oh so gently) on that tiny bike didn’t work what so ever, and Aaron just ended up biking to the store and back while Ian waited in the street. Convincing the store owner that Aaron can manage to carry ten bottles of the big Chang Beer on a bike took a bit, but 500 Baht ($16 Canadian!) later he was off to meet Ian and then back to the restaurant. Successful mission! Minus the gash on Aaron’s leg from the crash.

Once we were all full, we wandered around the town off the beach browsing here and there. Eventually we landed back at the beach at a place called Stones where we watched fire dancers. These guys were so much better than the ones on Phangan at the Full Moon Party. We thought the whole party scene here was more of our kind of party over the Full Moon actually. It’s an expensive little island, but we enjoyed it the most out of all the ones we went to. As the night went on we remembered the boat we hired was still probably waiting. We told them to wait for us till 10:30pm, but we’re having too much fun and kept on partying. When the night finally ended for us, we crashed on Ian & Sheree’s spare bed in their bamboo hut. Then the next day we all headed back to our resort so we could check out and take in some of the good snorkel right off our beach.

Hermit Crabs Hanging Out On The Beach

Then we all headed on the ferry from our resort that stopped at the main pier, so Ian and Sheree could get back to their place, while we carried on to Phuket. We arrived in Phuket late in the afternoon with no plan for the evening, just a plane ticket to Bangkok the next day. Sitting in the dock terminal finger dancing thru books to find a place to stay, we decided to head to Patong and finally just wing it. We whistled for a cab and when it came near he saw right through us and knew we didn’t have a place to stay. So he drove us to his uncle’s tourism shop where we booked a room for a really good price at the AO Mansion.

We got all checked and settled in then headed out to change over some more money (Phi Phi wasn’t easy on the pockets) and have dinner. After walking up the main drag a time and a half we decided on eating at a Korean BBQ restaurant. The food was good and really filled us up! After supper we went back to the hotel to catch some Z’s and eventually a flight; Or so we thought. The next morning we got out the door around 9am and proceeded to hound a cab to the airport down. After a lot of walking and bartering we finally got a cab for a not bad price.

Enroute to the airport we hit some bad traffic and it was now after 10am. So a little scared about our 11 am flight time we dug in the bag for our tickets and saw our departure was actually 10:20am…opps. Eventually we arrived at the airport at 10:30ish and proceeded to do the walk of shame to the ticketing office. We tried the sob story that our cab broke down on the way here, but we got no sympathy and had to pay a change fee. 2:30pm was the new time and needed no double checking. After killing a lot of time in the airport, meeting a couple Canadians and a couple hours of flight delays we finally broke the sky. The plan was to be in Bangkok for 2 full days, but now we had 1 and a bit. For the nights in Thailand we booked our stay at the Banyan Tree Hotel and boy was it nice. Bangkok has some of the top rated hotels in the world and they are cheap by North American standards. Whether it’s the roof top bar of Lebua, the unique experience of the Chakrabongse Villas, wicked infinity pool of the Hilton Millennium, the good nightlife at the Conrad or the world-class spa of the Grand Hyatt Erawan, Bangkok has something for your tastes.

Our package included a 90 minutes spa package, 2 free set meals at the restaurants in the hotel and access to the Banyan Tree Club. As you can imagine we were tired from packing our lives around every two days, a few shady places to sleep, and the life of a vagabond in general. It may sound fun but somewhere in between the bartering, living on a non replenished cash diet, adjusting, and then re adjusting, we were quite run down. This two night hotel heaven splurge was just what we needed. We were given refreshing towels, champagne glasses full of a mystery juice, and our heavy bags of burden were removed from our shoulders and we were escorted to a private check in lounge for the elite on the 19th floor. This place had everything! Smoked fish on crackers, chocolate mousse, jars full of all kinds of treats including chocolate chip cookies and m&m’s and FREE BOOZE!! In fact everything in this place was free for us big ballers, too bad our clothes made us look like we were invited here by a help the needy committee. In fact, by the way we were slurping down glasses of red vino and salmon carpaccio we defiantly looked shady… to say the least. Jess continued to repeat “have I died? Are we in heaven?” and Aaron was eating too much to even talk. The lady who escorted us up here was arranging everything for us as we enjoyed ourselves and then came over to hand us our complimentary tickets and to escort us to our room.

Located on the thirtieth floor, was our heaven. This room sported a bathroom larger than Aaron’s bedroom at home, no joke. It was contemporary in decor and the best part was a gigantic soaker tub with incense, bath oils, epsom salts, and a candle. I mean honestly, we had been showering over the toilet the entire trip. We actually had a bath tub. Incredible. The next two days, were fairly uneventful to tell our readers. We ate delicious food, snuggled, enjoyed a complimentary massage each, Jess had a pedi, and just really enjoyed spending some tlc together.

We only ventured out once to the largest farmers market in the world, the Chatuchak weekend market. This market was divided into sections, clothes, electronics, art, and pets. Yes that’s right, pets. This was the most disarming part of the market. Everytime we have seen a pet dog in Asia they have seemed a little, lets say, not right in the head, and at this market we found out why. The dogs here are smaller than any dogs we have seen in the world, obviously inbred from people wanting smaller and smaller versions and shady laws regarding animal rights in general. We both felt terribly sad to see a little pug with eyes on the side of his head instead of the front, and cages and cages full of pups crying for someone to take them home. We were not aloud to pet the dogs, or take pictures and after trying to pet one puppy a lady pointed to a posted sign that comically stated “no fingering the dogs.” We decided it was time to find our way out of this nightmare, which was a little easier said than done. Jess wandered to see them all, almost drawn to witness their plight but repelled at the same time. There was more than dogs here, turtles, fish, lizards, kittens, and flying squirrels to name just a few. Finally we wandered out of this maze and ended up on a street full of clothes. If you ever go to Thailand we recommend that you season yourselves with other markets before this one because even being avid market goers we were lost, overwhelmed, and cross-eyed by the time we found the exit of this place. In fact their was so much stuff here that we really didn’t purchase much at all. All the decisions and varying prices just made us want to run back to the hotel and crawl into a big ol’glass of wine.

So that’s exactly what we did, drank a glass a wine and looked out the window at the glittering night lights of the country we had come to love. Thailand had its hardships, and we can’t say that things always went the way we wanted them too. In fact some things in Thailand were downright confusing and frustrating, but as we were leaving our room with our packs on our back for the last time, we both had teary eyes. Neither of us wanted to leave this beautiful country, there were so many more things to do, more adventures to discover, more hardships and set backs to face, things we wouldn’t change for the world. Thailand opened our eyes to a different way of life, to accept being three hours late to everything, to plunge headfirst into a deep blue ocean, strapped with eight pound weights on our wastes, sink, and trust that whats below would be spectacular. It taught us how to let go and be free, to just enjoy whatever was thrown at us and to realise that in the end we had each other, and as long as we stuck together and looked after each other it would turn out somehow in the end. So in reflection and hesitation we caught our last cab to the airport, and had to giggle when the guy refused to take us the cheaper route and made us pay the toll fee for the “express highway.” At the airport we hit our final snag, the border police. Now don’t get carried away thinking we were drug mules or harbouring weapons. No we were just illegal aliens, having come to Thailand on foot from Cambodia we had only a 15 day visa instead of a 30 by air travel. So we were pulled out of line, had to pay a fee, and sign a ticket stating our 5 day over stay.  Then with an empty wallet and shiny new stamp, we were set free to board the plane to India and leave our new home behind.

We are now safely in India and have no Internet, but keep with us, the next leg of our adventure will thrill and excite you, remember to leave your guess on who the kayak master was in the comments section below,

Thanks for reading!

-Aarissca

Full Moons Not Bums, The Party

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On our way back from Cambodia, we were planning on heading to the coast for some beach time next. However by the time we arrived in Bangkok it was around supper time and we decided to spend the night in Bangkok and hit the road the following morning. A couple of folks from the Netherlands, we got well acquainted to on the sardine bus back from Cambodia, were spending their final days of their trip in Bangkok.  Having no place to sleep for the night we hitched along with them to their hotel. After checking in and cleaning up we all headed out to find something to eat and drink. We walked around for a little bit and wound up settling on something normal in all our books, pizza! Pizza pies, garlic bread, chicken wings, salad and Pepsi. It was definitely a nice taste of home, Johan couldn’t stop smiling and eating all of the chicken wings. We were all stuffed by the time we were done mowing down.

Content food wise it was time to find something to do! There was rumblings of a market in the area and off we went to sniff it out. After a few broken english conversation with the locals we soon found out it was already over and the night market a district or two over was closed because it was pouring with rain. Scratch that idea and to the bar for some drinks it is! Jess spotted this super tall building in the skyline and said ‘that place must have a roof top bar, lets head there!’ A block or two of easy navigating the Bangkok streets and we were at the base of the behemoth building, Baiyoke Sky Hotel. We all ventured into the lobby and found out there was indeed a roof top bar on 83rd floor.

Up we went, settled in and ordered up some drinks!  We wound up sipping cocktails, chatting, and swaying to the über chic music the DJ was playing, one drink turned into more, and eventually we wound up staying there way past close. We think it was now sometime after 2am when we finally headed back to the hotel, the Samaran Hotel that is.  The girls  had to use the facilities after the long elevator down, and searched for one in the closed market stalls below. The original plan was to walk back to the hotel but after being grossed out by bathrooms in the market we scratched that one.  Now our game plan was to try and find a cab. Taxi’s in Bangkok are super reasonable if you use the meter, which they are supposed to by law, but a few refuse to anyways and throw out a ridiculous set fare. We have learned that if they tell you ‘no meter, 100Baht then you must be really close to where you need to go and you may as well walk (thus they are trying to rip you off). Our night and luck was going too well up to this point, there was no way we were going to meet a reasonable cab driver.  100 Baht, 50 Baht, 49.9 Baht, but nobody was willing to do the meter for a 2 block cab ride and the girls had to pee! Finally after asking all of Bangkok to take us home, this tiny Thai driver said yes to the meter and we were off to the Samaran Hotel.

Now, the only trick to the meter is I’m pretty sure they pretend they don’t know where your hotel is and do a pit stop to this group of cab drivers to discuss where it is while the meter is running. Seen it before and saw it again with this guy. We even pointed to where it was on the map, but still no dice. There is something about Thailand that makes navigation rather difficult, and earlier in the drinks lounge we were all discussing it. The thing is, us foreigners can pick up a map or a book of Thai and try our best to say the name to the driver. For example we may tell them “we need to go to Samaran hotel” and they will stare at us and say “huuuh?!”.  We can repeat Samaran at least ten times and finally the guy will say “ooooh you mean SAAAAMMMAAARRRAAAAAAN Hotel?!” and the word will be a high-pitched squeaky version of the word you have been repeating for the past 15 mins with no recognition. This is not a con by the Thai people but a difference in how they pronounce words. You can have a Thai language book, and try your best to pronounce what you’re looking for to the Thai people.  However I can guarantee you, when they finally realise what you’re saying they will squeal back some Spongebob Square Pants voiced version that will make your head spin. So it was hilariously coincidental that this guy was probably the most enjoyable cab driver we’ve gotten on our trip. When we tried to tell him the Samaran hotel, this exact thing happened and he squealed a high-pitched SAAAMMMAAARRRAAAAAN at us, we all burst into laughter. He caught on that this was making us laugh and we kept asking him “sir can you tell us where you are taking us please?” and he would frequently squeal Samaran, which got us all giggling the entire way home. He also dropped some gems like ‘where you want to go? Shopping?’ and ‘why you goto sleep? Bangkok never sleep’ among others. (others being trying to convince us to go to a lady boy show, or a ping-pong show, and by ping-pong we don’t mean the sport with paddles) eek! We all got back to the Samaran Hotel and headed up to the room and said goodnight with visions of an 8:30 breakfast and an early start.

At Breakfast With Johan and Anita

No real suspense here, that didn’t happen and we didn’t get packed up and checked out till 11:30-12:00.  Behind the ball a bit we went hunting for a Western breakfast with our 2 Dutch friends.  After not too bad of a search we found one in a hotel right next to the train station, which was perfect.  A few guesses of what the piano-man was playing, folding the napkins into something different, and pictures later we all headed to the station to catch our train to the bus station and say goodbye.

A bunch of stops later we got off and started to make our way to the bus terminal. It was staring right at us, but 6 lanes of Bangkok traffic was between us. Did we mention that cross-walks are non-existent here? We made it to divider and then were stuck trying to cross the last 3 lanes for a bit. Until a couple young guys popped off a bus and said ‘you goto Rayong?’ We gave them a yes and they promptly ran out into traffic to stop it so we could jump on the bus. It seemed like perfect timing and our good luck was continuing! The bus was empty which was the cherry on top!

This bus had a group of 5 Thai’s in their 20’s running the show. Hanging out the door calling out something in Thai and occasionally pulling over to pick up passengers who would bite at the call out. It was only supposed to take 2-3 hours to get to Rayong. However, it was about 6pm when we looked at each other and wondered when are we going to get there. When we got on this bus it was empty and the guy collecting the money from passengers only had our money. Fast forward a few hours and he now had a fat stack of cash with a packed bus, these guys had their hustle on. Eventually we found out the bus will arrive in Rayong at 8:30pm, a solid 3-3 1/2 hours later than it should have.

Our plan was to catch the ferry in Rayong to get to the island of Samet for the night. Not going to happen so much. The bus dropped us off in the middle of nowhere in Rayong and we had no clue what to do with no hotel in sight. So we started walking and passed an electronics store. Browsing in we looked to see if they had computers to look up somewhere to stay or something, but alas didn’t see any so we kept on walking. Eventually we came to an intersection, stopped and walked back to the electronics store where we had a chance encounter. The owner of the store was there and owns a hotel just down the road. The two of us, him and his daughter all jumped in his SUV and off we went to the hotel. It couldn’t have worked out better! His daughter spoke very good english and even helped us plan our time in the area while we ate. After we filled our stomachs and heads we said thanks again and retired for the night.  Highly recommend Madina Hotel in Rayong! (Just think ‘Funky Cold Medina’)

 

The next morning we got up and headed to Ban Phe, just 15 minutes from Rayong, to catch a boat to Samet.  Everything went fairly smooth, we rode there in a local truck/taxi called a sangthang and then got on a speedboat to take us to the island. We found a nice bungalow at a good price and had a relaxing few days on the island. We had hopes of going to a turtle conservation center but as this is low season in Thailand for tourism all of the boats that were heading to the island were un-booked. In Thailand, if you want to take a boat you buy your ticket and then wait for 6 other people to buy tickets before they leave. Sometimes the vessel of transport seems so packed you have no idea where they are planning on putting these magical extra people but you have to wait for them before you can go. Also don’t forget Thai time is never on time. So because there was no 6 other tourists to go to turtle island, the boat men wanted us to purchase an entire boat ourselves, and at just over 200 Canadian dollars, Jessica’s dreams of playing with baby turtles were left in the dust. Instead we took this time together to relax, swim in the ocean, eat some great surf and turf and of course lay on the beautiful white sand for two glorious days.

After our relax time we made our way back to Bangkok, and it went 1,000,000% smoother. From the bus station in Bangkok we headed to catch an overnight train to Surathani and then a boat to the island of Phangan for the full moon party! Now we are sure you faithful readers remember our urine soaked adventures of the last overnight train we took, but something had finally happened for us on our trip and everything we did seemed to work out just perfectly. This overnight train only had the two of us in our bunk, as opposed to 4 in the previous one, and although not the Ritz it did not smell badly and arrived on time. We were herded into a van after the train and onto the boat ferry pier to go to Koh Phagnan.

Our Beach in Koh Phangan

This ferry pier had the most tourists we have seen in all of Thailand and it seemed to us (or at least seemed very much to Jess) that these tourist were just looking for a reason to go crazy(giggdy, giggdy). This place was girls gone wild, Thailand style (GOO!) and it really didn’t do much to uphold the reputation of tourists on a whole. Thai people are generally modest, with the exception of some sex trade workers, and wear all of their clothing when swimming in the ocean. It is however acceptable for foreigners to wear bikinis on the beach and tank tops in the heat. This is not an eye sore or a problem. But on the main land pier were tourists, men and women, who were in full on bikinis and speedos sticking their junk out like hill-billies on trash day. Aaron didn’t seem to mind these ladies so much (wonder why?!). This theme seemed to continue for our time in Koh Phangan as we saw tourists doing many things when drunk and partying that made our heads shake with a chuckle. Including getting retarded tattoos, riding motor bikes like Evil Kenevil (Jess had a foot in mouth moment on this topic), dressing more naked than new-born babies, and playing with fire, literally.

The Nice Resort Next Door

We had wisely opted to stay on the beach further down from the partying and had a really great time here. Our accommodations were booked in advance due to fear of not finding a place due to the influx and was really nothing like the pictures.  The beds even had plastic covers on them because of all the puking tourists who must have ruined beds before. Trying to escape from our not so nice place, we wandered down the beach and saw a heavenly ocean side pool that belonged to the resort behind it. We soon discovered that with the purchase of lunch or a drink at the swim up bar, we could use the pool for free! It was here that we met our new friends from London, a couple named Sheree and Ian. We spent that night with them at their bungalow and were introduced to some friends they had traveling with them. Once again one drinks turned into many and before you knew it we were really, really, drunk.

Chillin' In The Pool

One of us was much more drunk than the other, and happened to prove the plastic bed useful as he got sick all over it, all night. Not naming names here but HE really sucked that night, because every time the sheets were changed and we were safely dozing off to sleep, he woke up and got sick all over again. The most hilarious part of this was when Jess was trying to help someone change their soiled clothes and he stated “I’m big boy, I can look after myself! Go to bed!” And then fell back asleep covered in grossness. Oh dear (don’t remember, probably didn’t happen). So need less to say we weren’t really moving too quickly the next day and slept it off on a bare mattress of plastic, with most of our clothes at the cleaners.

Freshly Face Painted At The Full Moon Party

The last eventful thing that happened at Koh Phangnan was of course the full moon party.  We went down to Haad Rin (The Beach where The Full Moon happens) the night before the party to eat some sushi and see what we were up against.  This area was a gong show to say the least and it wasn’t even the night of the party!  Fast forward to the next night, we went down to Haad Rin (pronounced Hat Rin) around 11pm.  Number one on the menu was getting painted up a bit.  Not entirely sure what we wanted and overwhelmed by choices a lot of time was spent moving from artist to artist.  Eventually Jessica suggested the Mike Tyson tattoo for Aaron and Jessica just told the artist do whatever then wound up with a butterfly.  Next up we bought a bucket, which contains a mickey of your favorite poison & mix, we went with the original rum, red bull, coke and headed to the beach.  What a sight it was!  There was lots of beach side bars pumping music, platforms with people dancing, water slides from the top of bars, massive skipping ropes on fire, and fire poi.  When we were watching one fire poi performance some guy ran into the circle and started running around.  From our point of view he was getting awfully close to the fire and trying to do cart wheels.  He never got hit, but from what we saw the night before these guys aren’t professionals and do sometimes lose control!  The following day on our way out of Koh Phangan we met a girl who had the rope braid burned into her thighs, looked really gnarly.

At The Full Moon With The Brits & Americans

There aren’t a lot of real toilets at the party, maybe enough to cover 4,000-5,000 people but not the 20,000-30,000 they estimate, so you have people just going in the ocean.  Some go out a ways (but not too far, that’s the champagne room) and others just do it right off the beach, squatters included.  You could get yourself into some serious trouble here, good & bad, with 150-300Baht buckets ( about 4-8 CAD).  Don’t worry we had learned our lesson and took it slow on the drinking.  Eventually we ran into our British and American friends we made at the resort randomly at a fire performance and hung out with them for the rest of the night.  Some good-hearted fun later all decided it was a good time to head back and skip the sun rise.  When we left the beach looked like war zone with all the passed out people in the sand.  You take the busiest night club in your city, dump all those bodies on the beach and that’s how many passed out people there were.

Hint Hint On Who Got The Hangover

We had a pretty big group heading back to the same beach and we all filled up a truck easily.  Handed the driver a 100Baht per person and nothing…the driver made us wait for more people when we had no more seats!  Eventually two more people came and sat on the tailgate but now were arguing because he was charging them 200Baht each.  This was an extremely painful process and after lots of banging on the truck by the passengers we were off.  Once we got back straight to bed we went and didn’t wake up until around 11am when a large group of partiers came back.  Singing, chanting, yelling we really don’t know how they lasted that long.  Without even blinking they sat down at the lounge at the resort and continued drinking!  This is where having a hut close to the beach and restaurant sucked and not being able to sleep any more we got up to eat some breakfast.  While we were waiting for our food, buddy at the rowdy table said walking by ‘it’s the full moon party, come over and join us’.  We replied maybe after we finish our eggs we’ll hop over to the crowded party table.  The rest of the day after The Full Moon was quiet lots of hangovers soon kicked in, even half of Aarissca!  The tables turned on this instance.

Little Girl On Our Way Back From Phangan

The next day, we had a boat to catch at 7am in order to get to Krabi and explore Thailand’s Andaman coast.  Another failed earlier morning rise, we finally arrived at the pier for the 1pm boat and got on the boat with no extra charge even although our tickets were non-transferable!  We arrived into Krabi later in the evening and are now preparing for some more beach time.  Next time we’ll write you the events in that chapter and the conclusion of our Thailand adventure!  Thanks for reading, till next time!

-Aarissca

Brace Yourself, My Dear: It’s a Holiday Camboadia

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Well, we are sorry to our devoted readers that it has been a long time since our last post, things have been busy over here and internet connection has been poor. We are happy to inform you that the next leg of our trip was indeed to Siem Reap, Cambodia. If you guessed we went to visit the temples of Angkor Wat, you were correct! To get to back to Bangkok from Chiang Mai was an ordeal and to actually get to Cambodia was going to be no different. We had a pretty comfortable first leg of our trip to the Thai-Cambodia border. Aside from these weird American’s behind us and stopping every hour to fill up (Natural gas doesn’t make a good fuel for vans). Once we got close to border we stopped to switch vans and get some logistics in order. Soon after that 30 minute pit stop we made our way to the Thai Immigration line, which was pretty big and long. The line did move quick if you had your stuff in order, however we witnessed a girl who was denied exit because she over stayed her visa. Something Thailand views as a big offense, and charge 500 baht a day. Her’s was going to cost her a cool 6,000 baht so about $200 Canadian to get over the Thai border and into Cambodia.

Cambodian Gas Station

Once we got past the Thai side of the process it was time to start filling out the Cambodian visa paperwork and get in line. Now Thailand is by no means a very well off country, but Cambodia is a step way back and it shows right as you cross the border. Little kids wandering around some with clothes some without, trucks loaded well beyond what they should (seriously 15 feet high from the ground), people pulling carts and mostly dirt roads. Getting the Cambodia Visa was pretty quick and painless aside from the border guards asking for $3 USD extra. This corruption is well-known at the Cambodian border and you can beat it by applying for the Visa online before hand, which was an option we were not organised enough to take.

$45 USD later and we both had shiny new additions to our passports, Cambodia Visas. Next we had to meet up with our taxi ride from the border to Siem Reap, which we thought would be quick and painless. We didn’t opt for the bus because we were told a taxi would be faster and you would not have to wait for it to fill up with people like the bus would. However, we had to wait for 45 minutes and watch 2 buses fill up & leave while they ‘waited’ for a guy to clear the border who was apparently supposed to be in our taxi too. So much for being quicker(more expensive), private taxi.

We finally did get in a cab and onward to Siem Reap about 3 hours away from where we were. It was a pretty uninteresting ride aside from hearing how much others paid for their visas (some as high as double more) and seeing the Cambodian ‘gas stations’. They have a these wooden stands with about 20-30 reused 1L bottles of pop and liquor filled with gas. Cambodia is pretty green and flat otherwise. Our taxi driver was quiet and we don’t think he spoke much english, but he did inform us once we got closer to Siem Reap it was flooded…about 70cm in the center of town. We just can’t win!

Flooded Siem Reap

When we got closer into town, we eventually switched from our taxi to a truck to take us further into town and finally to our hotel. We all piled out of the taxi and piled in to the truck. Not even 5 minutes into our drive in the truck the driver informed us they can’t take us to our hotel because the water is too high there, but they could take us to this hotel that is a friend of theirs. We had been told that this was a scam in Cambodia where the drivers get commission to take tourists to certain hotels so we declined his offer, he was very insistent though. In fact he refused to take us to our place and told us to get out in the middle of the water. So we walked with caution in water as high as our shins on a street we had never seen dry. That is until we realized the hotel wasn’t just down the road it was still a ways. Low and behold we got into a tuk-tuk to take us the last little bit of our journey. The road was a little flooded on the way to the guesthouse, but the place itself was dry as can be, thank god!

Jess with a cocoon.

After we got all checked into the hotel, they gave us the best news all day we got a free upgrade in rooms cause they overbooked the one we wanted! Not too much went on our first ‘full’ day in Cambodia since it took us 9 hours to get here. The next day was pretty slow-moving too but we did get a guide for Angkor booked and headed to a butterfly sanctuary. We got the butterfly place a little late and the person at the ticket place informed us that the butterflies weren’t that active at this time in the afternoon. We could have saved it for another day and went to the landmine museum just up the road, but our tuk-tuk driver wanted more money to go another couple of kilometers.

Even if the butterflies weren’t that active it was nice to have this young guy give us a tour of the complex. He showed us the butterfly area and pointed out which ever ones were flying around, all the caterpillars in cocoon and also a bunch of different caterpillars too. The guy was very knowledgable and friendly. He seemed to really enjoy his job and told us that he loved working there, and loved the butterflies. This genuine experience was very nice to have, as it seemed many people in Cambodia were just looking for ways to part us with our money. On our way back we pulled over to catch the sunset on the moat of Angkor Wat which was extremely pretty.

Day 3 was the beginning of the 3 day tour of Angkor we booked with our guide Kim. On day one of Angkor we toured around Angkor Thom, which was the city and in english means great city and boy was it ever great. In Angkor’s time of use it was believed to have a staggering population of 1 million.

Close Up of The Gods on Angkor Thom Bridge.

To put this into perspective, at the same point in time London had a lonely population of 50,000. The houses where the people actually lived are no longer standing, they believed humans should live in wooden houses and gods in stone. The wooden houses did not stand the test of time, but the temples themselves held up. What is left of Angkor Thom is a bridge crossing a massive moat with decorative humans fighting a naga (cobra in english) on one side and the gods fighting a naga on the other. The 4 gates to city are also left standing one each on North, East, South and West. These gates were used on different occasions victory, defeat, etc.

Also left standing in Angkor Thom is a temple called Prasat Bayon with 49 peaks that have four-sided faces on each of them, signifying the 49 states in the Angkor empire. Most are still standing and about 200 faces remain. To build these temples they had to bring in stone from a mountain some 70 kilometer away by elephant. The size and complexity of this temple is outstanding, it’s just unfortunate they built it with lava rock and then sandstone on top. Father time and mother nature have taken their toll on the temples that weren’t consumed by the jungle after it was abandoned. If they didn’t, Thai Soldiers or the Khmer Rouge certainly did. In fact the soldiers stole many of the decorative heads off of the statues by cutting them off and these are repaired now by a modern-day restoration, a true shame. Also in Angkor Thom, we saw the terrace of the elephants which is where the king lived. The kings place of residence no longer stands fully stands, but a beautiful stone carved promenade stands along with some stone gates and towers. This is also where the king watched performances and his victorious army march into the city.

The temperature during the morning in Cambodia is RIDICULOUS and the afternoon is no different. Most people head back to town in the afternoon to have lunch and then come back for the later afternoon and catch a sunset. After we finished Angkor Thom it was a bit after twelve and we decided to delay lunch and scratch Angkor Wat off the list seeing as it would be dead right now. Angkor is the jewel of all temples and is the biggest religious building in the world, not bad for being built-in the late 12th century by King Suryavarman II.

Angkor Wat in the background

As you look Angkor Wat dead on you will see the peaks of the temple in the background, then a large gate and lastly a long bridge crossing an even bigger moat then Angkor Thom. Angkor Wat has the same mortals on one side fighting a naga and gods on the other on its long bridge. This is a type of artwork is something you’ll find all over Cambodia. Once you cross the bridge you’ll come face to face with the large gate. The significance of this gate is it has 5 different entrances one for the king, one for royalty, one for monks, one for elephants and one for common folk. Everyone enters different gates when they come to worship, but once they are in they all enter the same way to the temple. Walking through the gate will give a grand look at Angkor Wat and what that massive gate was hiding behind it. Aside from the temple and its surrounding structure all there is on the inside grounds are two libraries, one for the monks and one for the people.

Walking around Angkor Wat we noticed it was in a lot better shape and just a lot grander. You can climb the stairs still to the top of the temple and thank goodness we came when we did because our guide Kim told us during the peak times the line is huge. The original stairs are no longer in use because they are steep and small so they have built ones over top, but they still really aren’t stairs, they are more like a ladder. Once we got to the top there was just us and the bats hiding up in the dark hallows of the temples peaks. The view was pretty great! Another little tidbit of information; no building in the outlining town of Siem Reap is allowed to be as tall or taller than Angkor Wat. It’s still pretty tall, but it puts some limitations on those big hotels that keep sprouting up.

Waiting For The Sunset

Once we climbed back down the stairs to ground level, we snapped a few more pictures and then headed back to town for lunch, a break and a swim. Kim picked us back up at 4:30 and we made our way to catch a sunset at a temple we haven’t seen yet. When we got there Kim informed us he can’t make it up the hill and temple because of the wound he told us about earlier in the day. He got shot in the knee by a AK-47 back when Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge controlled Cambodia, we’ll go into more detail on that later. Up the hill we climbed to catch this sunset. On our way up we were expecting this hardcore climb if Kim couldn’t make it, but as the temple was in our sights we wondered why couldn’t he do this. We soon found out to climb the temple on top of the hill was the hard part. Just like the stairs at Angkor Wat we met earlier except not as many and no new stairs were erected on top.

The Steep 'Steps'

It was interesting to see a group of people using both their feet and hands to climb these stairs. Glad to say we both made it up with no cuts, bruises, broke bones or dirty underwear. We sat around for a bit waiting for the sunset, but it just wasn’t happening today the clouds were too thick. So down all 300 of us went and of course those ridiculous stairs also. When we got to the base of the hill we met back up with Kim to share our sunset disappointment. We all hoped into the truck and headed back to town where Kim dropped us off at one of the Children’s Hospitals called the Jayavarman VII.

This evening we were going to watch a Swiss Doctor play his cello, who also ran the hospital and 4 others in Cambodia. Dr. Beat Richner played his set giving the audience information on the hospital and Cambodian children in general in between songs and at the end of his performance. Dr. Richner came to Cambodia in the 70’s to work in the children’s hospital, but soon Pol Pot came to power and destroyed it. After Pol Pot was removed from power in the early 90’s the Cambodian King asked Dr. Richner to please rebuild the hospital, so he did. There are now 3 of these hospitals in the capital Phnom Phen, 1 in Siem Reap and another set to be opened in Phnom Phen.

All these hospitals are 100% free for the children (they even pay for your mode of transport to hospital) and over 90% of their budget is from private sources. The Cambodian government gives the hospital about 3% of its yearly budget and the Swiss around 7%. Pretty amazing. The hospitals on average sees 2,800 children a day, has decreased mortality rate in children from 65% to less than 1%, has one of the lowest cost per patient of any hospital, pays every employee a high wage to stop corruption (In the form of bribes, stealing, etc), is mainly Cambodian staffed (I think they have 1 other expatriate) and I’m sure we are missing other amazing information. They also recently opened a maternity ward and started taking in the mothers because they can eliminate the transfer to babies of HIV infected mothers. Studies there have found a happy and healthy mother greatly increases the child’s odds. At the end of the concert the Doctor asks for you to either donate money or blood as they are both greatly appreciated.  Dr.Richner did pose a question to us that really made us think though. He told us that from start to finish it only costs 240 dollars to save a child’s life, and with all of the poverty in the war-torn country; is the life of a child a private matter. Having to beg for the money in private donations to save these children, why are governments not becoming more involved. You can find out more information on this hospital at their website here: http://www.beat-richner.ch/

The Temple With No Historical Significance

The following day was our second day with Kim and we did some more temple sightseeing. We went and saw a temple fairly far away from Angkor Thom and Wat. The temple has no big historical significance, but was extremely beautiful and in good condition. After that we went to a school where they teach Cambodians the art forms used by their ancestors. They create Buddha’s out of sandstone, jade, soapstone, wood and maybe a few others. There is also tile work and painting done and taught here. There really is no artistic freedom here, but it is interesting to see.

For the second half of our day, Kim brought us to the temple where they shot the scenes from Tomb Raider. This temple has had major jungle growth where 300 year old trees have grown in, on, and around the temple. Some just have their roots spidering across them, where others have a massive tree that just grew out of them. Really makes you wonder how they found some of these temples because the growth of the forest here is incredible. We can only imagine what 300 years of growth would do. Kim’s expertise on what temples are busy when really paid off this time too. Us three and one other person were the only ones there. It felt very secluded and peaceful. That evening we didn’t try to catch a sunset because it was super cloudy. However, that evening we got some interesting news. Aaron’s friend Joseph, whose travelling South East Asia with his girlfriend Devon were going to be in Siem Reap the next day.

At Beng Mealea

On our last day with Kim, a temple called Beng Mealea was on our itinerary. This temple is famous for being in rubble, a beautiful disaster if you will. The day was a rainy one so it just added to the atmosphere of being a treasure hunter, collecting the massive ruby and running out of the temple as it collapses. They have plans to try to reconstruct the temple by sorting out the stones that are piled rubble and putting them back up again. We actually got to see before and after pictures of one of these reconstructions and it was very well done. We ended our last day with Kim by visiting a village that was built on the water. There was even a barge that was turned into a school and after asking Kim, we got to go aboard and visit the children. Jess tried to get them going by teaching them a Canadian song but they were very shy and just stared at Jess like she was crazy, Aaron helped by staring at her like she was crazy also. Mission Cambodia Floating School=FAIL! So it was back to the hotel in Siem Reap and time to say goodbye to our friend Kim who just happened that he would like to visit Canada sometime. Aaron and Jessica future employment, tour agency!

Out For Drinks With Joseph

It was time to wrap up our trip to Cambodia, and we spent our final night there with two friends from Canada.  Joseph, who Aaron worked with at Kiewit and his girlfriend Devon were only a few blocks away from us and we met them at a Mexican restaurant for some much-needed frozen drinks on a very hot evening. We’re sure you can imagine that one drink turned into two, and our rowdy party grew from four to around ten. We met a man from San Francisco with an amazing mustache, and even a Canadian from Nova Scotia!  We decided to have an evening of dancing together and when the crowd went to bed Aarissca ventured together to a nightclub called the temple. We danced and sipped cocktails all evening, it was really a great night together and the perfect way to end our time in Cambodia.

The Impressive Moustache.

The next day we moped in bed and tried to kill our hangover with fried eggs and a lot of rest, packing late in the evening when it felt safe to move. We caught the same service back to Bangkok as we had already paid for it and it was much of the same as on our way there. This time it took a mind-blowing 13 hours, which was only made less painful because of the nice couple we met from the Netherlands who made the journey with us.

That is all the time we have for this blog, next up we hit the islands and the beaches. Life is GOOD!

Thanks for reading

-Aarissca

Rolling Down The Ping River

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For our final full day in Chaing Mai we booked an elephant trek outside the city in same area we were the day before, Doi Inthanon.  Our guide picked us up from our guesthouse bright and early, and we hit the windy Northern Thailand roads.  The ride wasn’t exactly the most enjoyable as we were in the back of a songthaews (think small truck with a canopy on it) for about an hour and a half.  The stop for coffee and a quick bowl of noodles helped break it up!  When we arrived at the elephant camp a group of elephants was just leaving the camp to go on their trek and one ventured over to us in the back of the truck.  The pesky elephant could smell the bags of banana’s in the back of the truck with us.  So this big trunk was poking through the windows in the back trying to find these banana’s!  One of the trainers quickly came over, got that elephant’s trunk out and back with the group of elephants leaving for the trek. It was this moment that we realized just what we had gotten ourselves into, these fellas were big! Really big, playing with an elephant all day sounds really fun, but in reality the earth shakes with every step these big guy take. Were supposed to boss them around? Yikes!

The Elephant is More Scared

Once that big group of elephants left all that was left was us, our guide, and this elephant eating in the distance.  Overall the elephant didn’t look that big, until he brought her over and all 4000kg towered over us!  We spent the next hour or so just feeding her the banana’s from the back of the truck and getting to know her, we like to think of this as bribing our new friend to like us.  After all the banana’s were gone we sat down to learn the khmer commands to control the elephants, about elephants in general (ladyboy elephants even exists, males without tusks), and about this particular elephants history.  Our elephant, Aryana, was 65 years old and worked in the Burma lumber industry dragging logs down the mountain before she was saved and brought to Thailand.  She sometimes can be stubborn and not listen, but usually the 3rd time she will! The guides like to call  her The Rock, because she seems stoned all the time. She doesn’t listen on the first command like she is too baked to hear you, unless food is involved aka she has the munchies!

Up We Go Song Sung Style.

Soon after we were schooled on elephant commands, the trainer did a little monkey-see, monkey-do on the different ways to get on the elephant.  First up was the head down method, so you’d say ‘jalong!’ and the elephant would put it’s head down so you can leap frog up.  The next was he showed us was leg up, where the elephant lifts and bends his front leg like a stair so you can climb up (song-sung was the command for that one).  The last and hardest one for the elephant was Malong, lay down.  Where they actually get down on their stomach, this one took the trainer 4 times to say before Aryana  would do it!  After the trainer did all three it was Aaron’s turn to do monkey-do (as Jessica was still pondering whether or not she was going to run home).  Both head down and leg up went off without a flaw!  The lay down method wasn’t done because it’s tough on the old girl.  After getting on/off down pat, it was time to ‘Huh!’ aka ‘Let’s Go!’ in Khmer.  Off Aaron went around the camp getting the hang of turning (say peh and put the bull-hook on the opposite side), stopping (say how and grip her with your legs a bit) and backwards (say toi and put the bull-hook on her forehead).  Aside from the small detour to a pumpkin patch a little off in the bushes, controlling the elephant went well. We will also mention to our animal lover friends that we never used our bull hook to hurt Aranya, and neither do the trainers at the camp. This hook was blunt and not pointed and does not break or scratch her skin, it only alerts her which way we would like to go.

Playing With The Water

Now it was Jessica’s turn, but she wasn’t exactly fond of the idea at this moment still.  Instead it was off to the water hole to cool off Aryana and get her a drink.  Jessica and the traininer brought out the hose and bucket to cool and hydrate all 4000kg of her.  About 30 minutes later, the trainer asked if Jess was now ready and she gave a head shake.  It took a lot of hyping up and cheering Jess on the elephant too but she did get on!  With her knee not being a 100% yet from surgery, Jessica got on from one of the trainers hut just to be careful and the trainer rode with her to make her feel safe.  After Jessica rode Aryana around the camp for a bit without a hiccup, she got off and we went back into town for lunch.

 

We had a quick bite to eat, then met back up with Aryana and another elephant to go on our trek.  Jessica got the new elephant and Aaron got old tested and true Aryana.  Up the mountain we started to go walking through mud, over logs and stopping at camps once and a while.  Aryana showed her veteran prowess taking side paths to avoid logs while Jessica’s young buck took them all on.  After our trek we took the elephants back to where we picked them up, dropped off Jess’s and took Aryana swimming with us in the river to get cleaned up!  Rolling around, spraying water, relaxing, Aryana was sure enjoying the water and the scrubbing and we were enjoying the cool waters break from the heat!  It was pretty amazing when she layed down in the river it turned from quick moving to standstill.  Once Aryana was squeaky clean we got out of the river, kissed our new friend goodbye and headed back to Chiang Mai.

 

 

 

The next day we had to take the train in the afternoon back to Bangkok.  So we got all packed up but during this time we could hear an siren outside go off with some talking on a PA, we heard that sound the day before and didn’t think much of it.  At the reception desk we got to talking with the receptionist and she mentioned there was some insane flooding in the area.  We knew it rained a lot that evening, but not enough to wash houses and people away!  During this talk with the receptionist we found out the trains where cancelled and we had to head to the train station to get a refund.  Some collective thinking later and we had our plan of attack so we could catch our ride to Cambodia tomorrow at 7:30am.  We waved goodbye to our guesthouse and walked up to the road to catch a tuk-tuk to the train station.  It must have been luck of the draw, but we got a smoking good driver!  Expecting a big lineup at the train station for refunds, we forgot about traffic.  The bridges were all packed with cars and people taking pictures of the overflowing river.  Then the main roads were slow moving being under 20-30 cm of water.  However our driver got us off the main roads and down back alleys to beat the flooded streets.  Quickly we pulled up to the train station, with no lines, and got our refund then headed to the airport!  At higher ground in the airport we shopped around for the cheapest flight to Bangkok via the ticketing kiosks, found it and booked it.

Our Tuk-Tuk

Our flight was originally suppose to leave at 5:10pm, then was delayed till 6:40pm and then again till 7:40pm.  We finally got in the air sometime after 8pm and landed in Bangkok after 9pm.  Which sucked cause we booked a 5 star hotel for the night cause we figured it’s be nice for a change, too bad we only got to spend probably 8 hours in it!  The next morning we left our hotel at 6:30am and caught our ride on time to the Cambodian border then Siem Reap.

Getting to the Thai-Cambodia border went off without a hitch, getting through it was another story.  Long lines and corruption all make for a lot standing around.  In all it took us almost 5 hours to get our visa’s and back in a cab to Siem Reap.  From the Cambodian border town, Poi Pet, it was another 2 1/2 hour drive to Siem Reap.  Once we got into town we had to switch to truck cause the cab couldn’t go deep into the town cause of…flooding, oh boy.  The truck took us as far as they were willing to our hotel, cause apparently it’s Atlantis, and told us to walk the rest.  With water up to the middle of our shins we walked for a bit then said ‘we have no idea where we are lets get a tuk-tuk’.  We hopped in and off we went, the driver also offered to take us to a different place cause he also confirmed it was flooded out too.  Not too keen on the offer onward we went to the one we booked and low and behold it was high and dry.  2 cabs, 1 van, 1 bus, 1 truck and 1 tuk-tuk later we finally made to our final destination!  Here we are dry and safe in our hotel planning out our days in Cambodia, somewhat dreading that trip back to Thailand.  Stay tuned, next blogs hint, a Blockbuster hit was filmed here. Thanks for reading!

-Aarissca

Chiang My Oh My

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Well,  were sorry to say that we don’t even recall where we left off last. We have so much to tell that we might have to scrap the blog and do a novel!  On our final day in Bangkok we ventured out of the city a bit to a place where they hold a market called the Damndensaduak Floating Market, which sounds really original and cool.  At this market you hire a boat and they paddle you down this canal to all the different vendors.  You can also hire somebody in a boat with car engine transplanted on the back and the drive shafted in the water with some kind of propeller attached.  Here’s something Jess would say, only Americans would hire those boats cause they are loud and obnoxious.

The Floating Market

The market really was a massive tourist trap of the worst kind, because once a vendor got a hold of your boat (with a long hook and pulls you in whether you want to or not!) you almost had to swat at their hands to get free, and the constant “you buy, you buy” was enough to make you want to throw your wallet into the river and watch everyone dive in whilst you paddle far far away from there. The market had lots of non-interesting souvenirs at ridiculous prices, but their was  some good food here and there.  It was pretty interesting to see how they do sales when you want to buy something that is on the other side of the canal.  Jess was the initiator for that one, they pass a basket on a stick with the goods over to you then you drop your money in it and send it back.  A lot harder then it sounds, especially with all these tourists stopping to take pictures.

We braved one of these transactions for some Thai carrot pancake things, but soon had buyers remorse as all the passing started a boat to boat to boat traffic jam that Bangkok would be jealous of.  Oh yeah, and one piece of advise keep your hands in the boat at all times or the angry old lady driver will lose it.  Seriously, she made the I punch you gesture at us, and then later asked for a tip. I don’t think so lady! After the market we had boat tour of the further canals where the vendors of the market lived.

Passing of The Food & Money.

Once we got back to Bangkok, we had a night a train to catch to Chiang Mai.  Which was interesting in it’s entirety, 4 bunks in a room and a strong lingering smell of urine.  I didn’t think it was that bad, Jess would rather walk for three days with her pack on her back.  We didn’t expect the train to be exactly on time, but by the time we actually rolled into Chiang Mai it was almost 4 hours late…sort of killed the day for us but we were told that things here run on Thai time, must be a great excuse to be late for work. After we got checked-in to our guest house, we hopped into a cab with some  delicious supper from the place next door and headed to the Tiger Kingdom outside the city.  Waiting for the dinner to go made us a bit tight on time as the place closes at 6 pm, but with some insane driving from our taxi we got there just minutes before.  Since it was so late in the evening and the tigers were becoming active they couldn’t let us play with the larger ones, we had to settle on the smaller ones, still pretty great!

Playing With The Little Tigers

In we went, to play with these little 2-3 month old Tigers and they play hard!  Biting, scratching, jumping, these guys almost had endless energy and actually were pretty gentle with people but aggressive among themselves.  When they did go a bit too hard with people all the trainers did was give them a little bonk on the nose and they’d stop!  Since it was so late in the evening we got to see the tigers get fed their nightly meal of chicken and play fight with each other. It gets super dark early here so it was hard to get good photos, but in the hour we spent watching and taking pictures of these big cats we got a few good ones.

One of The Big Cats

The following day, we walked around Chiang Mai looking into different stores and Jess trying to find a place for a pedicure.  We did go upstairs to one place, sat down and waited for the lady to do it.  However, soon left because the nail polishes she used weren’t up to Jessica’s standards, so she eventually went to a place beside our hostel. (come on those nail polishes were crappy and had no good colors!) That evening we went to a night market where Jess broke down her shopping famine and bought her first things on the entire trip, who would believe Jess had trouble shopping. Picking up some cool bulb lights, a tank-top and a panda egg holder.

Day 6 in Thailand, involved a tour of the Doi Inthanon national park where Thailands highest peak is located.  On the way up our tour guide was asking us whats the highest mountain in the world, then South-East Asia and then he started going into specific countries of where people in the tour were from.  Our guide knew Germany’s & USA’s off the top of his head but not Canada’s!  Which is mount Logan in the Yukon at 5,959 meters. Our first stop at Doi Inthanon was a waterfall called Wachirathan. We greatly enjoyed this tour as the temperature at this height was only plus 16 degrees c and gave us a break from the sticky heat that we have endured on this trip. We were hopeful of a swim in the falls but after we saw them we realized that these falls were much too fast for swimming.

The king's waterfall

At the top of the mountain

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The tour guide on this trip was excellent and told us, that the king and queen of Thailand had been trying to help the mountain people who lived in these high northern mountains because they were clear cutting much of the forest for money and killing much of the wildlife. Causing a migration of the animals that lived there.  Apparently there even used to be tigers in these mountains, but due to the tribes all of the animals moved to deeper jungle. The king and queen in these mountains had their own waterfalls and temples as well and we were able to view both on our trip. We were also able to go to a real village, not a tourist trap one and see the king and queens idea to help the tribes people make money, to prevent them from deforesting the mountains any further. The kings waterfall was the first one we saw, as we mentioned called Wachirathan and was very large and fast moving, the queens was smaller but more remote and the more beautiful of the two by far.

Playing on elephant statues in the park.

There were also many elephant statues around the national park, as the elephant is sacred in Thailand and considered the national symbol. Everyone laughed when the tour guide asked us what Canada’s national animal is and we sheepishly replied, the beaver. So after the waterfalls we went to the village and we saw first hand the coffee plants growing beans that the king had given to the people as a way to make money, we were also able to drink a cup of it for 20Baht and it was fresh and delicious. Then we were taken to a room with a loom and were able to see a women making wool scarves, but as it was a real village there was no one there bugging us to buy things and there was a small donation box, we were told that this was the queens idea to help out the villagers in making some money.

The kings temple and a view of the gardens.

 

Lastly we were taken up to the highest mountain in Thailand and to the king and queens temples, which were built to honor them and there efforts for the mountain people. The kings temple was much like the water fall, grand in size but low in decoration. The queens was very ornate and delicate and Jessica’s personal favorite with a narrative batik made of colored clay tiles on the roof. The grounds between the two temples was also a beautiful garden with many flowers in bloom and was very well kept! The tour was then over and we headed back to Chiang Mai to rest up for the exciting adventure we had planned the next day.

 

That’s all the time we have for this installment, have a train to catch back to Bangkok and then onward to Angkor Wat.  We’ll leave you with this picture below to give you a hint on what we left for next time!  Thanks for reading!

Dun, dun, dunnnnnn

-Aarissca

Trekking Into Thailand

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View from our hostel

On our first full day in Bangkok, we finally rolled out of our hostel sometime after 12 in search of something to eat and to find a currency exchange. As soon as we cleared the back alley and came face to face with a road we were lost. Out came the map and blank stares in every direction. If our ethnicity didn’t scream tourist, this sure did. In 20 seconds flat a man in a tuk-tuk pulled up asking where we wanted to go. We told him this noodle place we heard of, but before we could even finish he said ‘no, no, I bring you somewhere Thai’. Eager to eat, we just went along with it and hopped on.

Weaving through traffic that has a mind of its own, our tuk-tuk driver dropped us off at a fresh seafood place. You pick out what you want to eat and they cook it for you, pretty neat. One lobster, a couple of prawns and one crab was on the bill to fill our tummy’s. What was supposed to be an “authentic Thai hangout” was an overly apparent tourist trap as we saw tuk-tuk after tuk-tuk dropping tourists off. In fact we don’t think their was even one Thai person in that place, but the food was still pretty good, price not so much.

Outside Jim Thompson's House

After our seafood feast, we jumped back in with our tuk-tuk guy to head to the Jim Thompson House. However, he dropped this little bomb on us ‘can you come to this store for 10 minute so I get commission?’ Thanks Jess…(what did I do?!) so off we went. I had in mind some dingy nick-knack store, but he brought us to a custom tailor ran by some wannabe Russel Peters meets Steve Bushimi. Him and Jess started talking about custom blouses and pants, but the two couldn’t come to a price point. No middle ground between free and the world I’m afraid. We exited the tailor shop right after then continued onto our original destination.

The Jim Thompson House, is a house built by an American Designer/Architect, named… You guessed it! Jim Thompson. He enlisted in the army during WWII and was stationed in Thailand for a bit. When he exited the army he loved Thailand so much he moved to Bangkok and started building this house in the 50’s. By taking old South Eastern Asian houses and combining them into one cohesive home while still using Thai rituals and traditions. As well he collected Thai art, before it became world recognized and sought after, some of the pieces in this home are ‘classics’. To fund this project, Thompson worked in the Thai silk industry and pretty much revitalized the whole silk industry in the country, bringing some wealth back in and recognition by the rest of the world to the Thai silk market. The home he was building was located on a canal right across from the silk trade market. So every day he’d go across the canal to work.

View of the courtyard at Jim Thompson

The house was completed in the late 1950’s and soon became the buzz of Bangkok. Thompson then soon opened it up to the public and gave all proceeds to charity. The major twist on this story is Thompson disappeared on a trip in Malaysia and was never found. It’s a very interesting story and worth the read on Wikipedia.

We closed the book on day one after the Jim Thompson House and went back to the hostel to plan out our time in Thailand. Which didn’t go to well because we fell asleep instead, oh well. The following day we got out of the hostel at a better time and hopped in a cab to the train station to find something to eat, exchange money and book some way out of Bangkok. This time we went three for three, got pretty much all our travel for the 5 weeks in Thailand, had a bite to eat and changed our money over. Pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty good.

 

 

Inside one of the houses at Jim Thompson

 

Our itinerary looks a little like this:

September 23rd to 28th – Chang Mai, Pai

September 29th to October 2 – Siem Reap/Angkor Wat

October 3rd to 9th – Island hopping

October 10th to 14th – Ko Phangnan

October 14th to 21st – Island hopping

October 22nd to 24th – Bangkok

 

 

 

 

 

Feeding Fish at Siam Ocean World.

To cap the day off we went to Siam Ocean World, a fairly big aquarium in a posh mall. It was an enjoyable 3-4 hours looking at all the different species of salt water fish and the coolest part the sharks. The aquarium is home to a bunch of different species of barrier reef sharks and hammerhead sharks! Overall it was a really cool place to end our day.

Tokyo, and Then it was Time to Go

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We know you have anxiously been awaiting the arrival of some really great big fat guys, and it would be mean to disappoint you readers any longer…. We know you couldn’t wait to see these large men in thongs bum shots, so here they are! The day started out really lucky, as when we had initially tried to purchase seats to sumo at home we were faced with having to buy all four seats in the stadium box. Seats at this event in the lower bowl are a box with four cushions on the ground that you sit on cross-legged and that get very crowded with all four people in them. Research before the event had told us that ticket sales were the lowest they had ever been, primarily because the sales were fed by tourists, and tourism has been down since the tsunami. So we were very lucky when we came to purchase Sumo tickets because we happened to get fifth row box seats for the price of two, and did not have to share the box with anyone.

The sumo events themselves start off slow with the lowest on the sumo hierarchy wrestling first, and we had grand delusions that we could seriously take these guys on! But the title fights did not disappoint us, with the grand yokozuna weighing over three hundred pounds, and winning the match in his category. It also surprised us to see that many sumo wrestlers were not Japanese but Mongolians, Europeans, and many other ethnicity. The sumo we found most comical was a sumo from Czech Republic in the top, makuuchi division. He must have only tipped the scales a bit over 200 pounds and the crowd loved him. The Japanese man in the booth next to us used our Japanese Language book to tell us that this man was his favorite but never wins because he was very small. This time was no exception and the Czech did lose his match again making him 0 and 4 for the tournament so far. We also felt a warmth from the Japanese people here that was lacking so far in our trip, we couldn’t really get many locals to talk to us and felt rather discouraged with the Canadian-Japanese relations.However at the Sumo fight we were making friends on both sides of our little box and might we say milking it quite nicely! The people to our left shared a bottle of Sake with us and the people on our right kept giving us food and glasses of beer. We learned the Japanese word for cheers, Kampai.

The "little" guy

 Lastly, there was an opportunity to try a favorite dish of sumo wrestlers, chanko nabe. It was served hot in the basement and at 250 yen it was a steal of a deal. It turns out that sumos and grannys everywhere cook alike because sumo food was no different from grans homemade turkey soup. It had mushrooms, and carrots, and turkey, and veggies. Hardly unhealthy… we were told that it was not the soups unhealthy properties that made the sumos so large, but the sheer amount of it that they consumed. Gran had better buy a bigger pot to feed these hungry men who eat two meals totaling 20,000 calories per day.

Aaron san

 

 

After the sumo festivities wrapped up we had a chance to fulfill one of Jessica’s dreams in Japan. We finally met Lisa Uno!!! Lisa is like many Tokyo hard-working women and works late into the evening. Interested in fashion, as many women here are also (picture new york with black hair) Lisa works at a clothing store as the manager and was just finishing up work as we were finishing up sumo, so at 8pm outside a sushi restaurant in Shibuya we met Lisa. It was probably most boring for one of us (Aaron) as we laughed and caught up on old times reminiscing about Throhild and Alberta in general. There were some jokes made about squirrels, or squeels as Lisa used to call them. But the thing that stuck out the most was that time might pass by, but friends are friends, no matter the country or the time zone. It may seem like forever when your apart but once your reunited nothing really changes between good friends, you just pick up where you left off, and that was comforting to know, especially since we left so many good friends in Canada to come on this adventure.

On the way back from sumo and dinner with Lisa, Jessica walked over to a couple of gentlemen outside the train station from our hostel.  It was a father and son from Oklahoma who arrived late at their hotel and were turned away.  Here they were at 11pm trying to find a place to sleep for the night, and it just so happens Kanalian had some openings that night!  We all hopped in a cab and headed that way.  The two American’s were grateful and Lee was his usual hospital self and cleaned them a room ASAP!

Later in the week we had the chance to visit the Ueno zoo and see the giant pandas. Lisa was able to spend her day off with us and she came to the zoo as well. The pandas were very cute and the zoo had many other cool exhibits worth seeing if you ever make it to Tokyo. These included dwarf hippos, A full terrarium of snakes, lizards, turtles, and geckos, and many species of birds.

The Panda at the Ueno Zoo

The toucans were one of our favorites.After the zoo wewandered in search of some food and found a japanese farmers market with many interesting foods that could be purchased. We had just moved to our new hotel in Tokyo, and no longer had a kitchen so it was not practical for us to buy food here but the fresh fish was so reasonable and delicious looking that we  opted to eat supper in the market. The place we chose was a stand that made donburi bowls with chirashi on top, which basically means sushi just not assembled. Jessica had a tuna bowl, Lisa had a salmon, and Aaron had a BBQ eel. We also tried takoyaki, which was a fried ball of dough filled with octopus and covered in BBQ sauce, mayo, and fish flakes. Delicious and cheap! Then we all walked back to the train station to end our evening and head back to the hotel.

Jess & LIsa at the Zoo

 

Things from here kind of slowed down for a bit, Jessica wasnt really feeling well and wanted to stay in for the morning in the hotel so Aaron went on a solo adventure to a free government tower to see the rooftop view. Later that evening, we both went in search of some cheap camera lenses in the Shinjukuarea, but as we were on a budget we didn’t purchase any. (cheap turned out to be 600$ yikes!) As Jessica had missed the towers earlier we decided to go back up them on our way home and ended up with some great night shots of the city. Then we went to bed to rest up for our night out Tokyo style, at a club that Lisa was so kind to take us too.

 

Night Shopping in Shinjuku

 

The expense of taxis in Tokyo makes the nightlife crowd rather interesting. In Tokyo party goers head to the clubs around 12am, with things heating up at about 2:30 and the club winds down at around 5:30 am when the first train starts running again and can cheaply take the party goers home. Who are we to mess with Japanese tradition? We met Lisa and two of her friends down in the Roppongi area at midnight, we were dressed to impress and wearing our runners (good for dancing, who brings heals backpacking anyway?!) Jessica was really worried about wearing runners to the club because of all the Tokyo women who suffer in their heels, even on the train because they are all about looking good. She had told Lisa earlier in the week about her green sneakers, and was so happy and touched when Lisa showed up to meet us in her sneakers as well, so Jessica didn’t feel so silly. Once we paid the incredibly expensive cover charge, 3500 yen for men 1500 for women (haha Aaron), we drank our two free drinks and we danced all night! We thought the club was very cool, with four floors and an elevator between each one. The top floor had sit down cocktails and drinks, the 3rd floor had carpet with velvet walls and electro music, the second floor had top 40’s and a huge crowded dance floor full of pushy people, and the bottom floor was hip hop. We opted for the less crowded über chiquevelvet electro dance party and by 5am we were ready for some food!

The girls at the club!

Lisa took us to a udon noodle soup place that was owned by a famous Japanese actress and she said that this udon was done just right, in true Osaka fashion (as it is an Osaka food and Lisa is from Osaka originally). We all ordered our own bowls and they were MASSIVE and delicious. Jessica’s was a suyaki beef with mushrooms and Aaron’s was a hot and sour with chicken. We all finished our soups, except Aaron (lies), who was mercilessly teased for eating less than girls (true). disapproving Head shake Aaron (girls are better at flabbingtheir gums anyways).

Eating Udon

After soup it was time to head to the subway, which was comical in itself because people were going to work, mixed with scantily clad, drunk, party goers heading home. Who was scantily clad and drunk? But the saddest part was that it was time to say goodbye to Lisa. We were leaving Tokyo, the next day and Lisa had to work. Jessica was not very good at saying goodbye, but in the end we both know that it is only see you later. Besides, everyone loves a good excuse to travel to London! Right Lisa!!?

On our last day in Japan, we woke up early to catch the highly anticipated fish market where the giant Tunas are sold. We grabbed a taxi at 4am (as the train does not run yet) and paid the stifling 3800 yen charge. Things seemed awfully quiet in the area and we wandered around trying to find the actual auction place, but were sadly informed by a sushi vendor that today was a national holiday and the auction was closed for the day. He told us we could come to it tomorrow but as we were leaving that day it was not possible. We decided to cut our losses and enjoy a no holds bar sushi breakfast and the man invited us in to eat. He had tanks full of live fish and shrimps and any other thing you could possibly want. It was sad to see the little fish lose their friends and life, but they were honestly too delicious for either of us to care. Even Jessica. The favorite of Aaron was a tuna plate filled with all different cuts of tuna, and the favorite of Jessica’s was a salmon roe sushi that was put on rice and wrapped in salmon.

After our feast we headed back to the hotel packed up, and took the train to the airport. We can report that we are safely arrived in Bangkok, Thailand and are now at our hotel plotting the next leg of our adventure!

P.S. The public holiday that prevented up from seeing the fish market was the national day for old people. Thwarted by them old buggers again!

-Aarissca

The Tokyo Skyline at Night

Blog Ni from Japan (or two in English)

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The day started with plans to head to the town of Hakone for a dip in some hot springs and nice view of Mt. Fuji.  However, it was sort of derailed when we got to talking to our host at the hostel, Lee, about a bunch of temples and shrines nearby in Kamakura.  The deciding factor was that Kamakura was only a 30 min train ride away as an opposed hour and a half to Hakone.

Entrance to the Engaku-ji temple

The first temple we went to was Engaku-ji, and we really can’t tell you much on the subject as every sign was in Japanese. In fact we found it very discouraging to wander around the place looking at buildings that had no explanation or meaning to us. Later on (with our friend google) we learned it’s one of the most important zen temple complexes in the area. As well that it was founded by a Chinese Monk in 1282 by the request of the Japanese ruler at the time to honor those who died in a war to fend off a Mongolia invasion the previous year.

We did partake in a tradition Japanese tea ceremony where you are given a cup of green tea, a couple little odd shaped sweets and a incense to put in a sand pit.  After the cup of tea we wondered around and looked at the last few buildings on site we didn’t see then moved to the exit.  In Kamakura, there are many many Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines all scattered throughout the city but after our initial experience with the temple we decided that one was enough. Besides it all being in Japanese characters, it wasn’t very affordable, with the entrance to every shrine at 300yen and 100yen more for each divided part once inside.

A little discouraged we hopped on a train to head to our original plan Hakone.  Enroute, we got side tracked once again in a town called Odawara looking for food and then side tracked even further when we found a castle in the town.  The only  castle in the surrounding Tokyo area.  Food wise we opted for something close to home, Kentucky Fried Chicken, it was no easier ordering here over anywhere else we’ve tried.  The chicken burgers, dare we say, were better than back home (just really small portions) and the pop selection was really cool, Aaron opted for some fizzy green unknown substance while Jessica stuck to the good ole Coke.  By the time we were done with the good ole kernel, the castle in town was closed (after we finally found it) so we just walked around the grounds for a while, which was free and still quite beautiful.

We were leary about trying to make it to Hakone, as a friend had told us a story about missing the last train and sleeping at the station, so we opted to wander around for a bit more before we left back to Yokohama. Walking around pretty aimlessly we wound up finding a hole in a seawall that lead to a beach, there was a few locals swimming and a couple fishing.  The evening was put to rest by just sitting on the rocks looking around and playing with the camera.  The day didn’t totally pan out the way we wanted, but did see a bunch of different things and we got to spend some lovely quiet time amongst the busy life here just lazing by the sea.

The View Of The Ocean

Things here start looking up by the next blog and all we can hint is that it involves an old friend for Jessica and 300 pound men.  Stay tuned and Thanks for Reading!

-Aarissca

Outside Odawara Castle

Yo from Yokohama

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Jim's Lip

Well it is day three here in Japan and we have to say that we are doing really well for ourselves. It seemed like a toss-up whether or not we would actually even make it out the door to the airport as in classic Jessica style someone wasn’t packed yet at 3am following a night-cap with some gfs…. I know the suspense has been killing you readers and we (mostly Jessica) are so excited to report that Jim DID shave off his mustache.  Much to Barbs dismay, who mentioned that “Jim has no top lip” and the mustache was no longer there to  hide that fact.

The flight to Tokyo was in total about 15 hours of air time, most of which we slept and we arrived here at approximately one in the afternoon.  We managed to purchase a subway ticket to Yokohama (with a little local help) and took a two-hour train to our destination.  Once we got off the train we proceeded to wander in circles lost until someone (in true Jessica style) batted her eyelashes at a man who walked us the entire way to the hostel.  The hostel is lovely by the way, and was all handmade by a Japanese & Canadian carpenter.  The entire thing is natural honey colored wood and has ship helms mounted on the ceiling.  We feel that we have almost mastered the train stations and have had many successes full wanders around, seeing the Landmark hotel, a carnival, and Japans own China town.

 

Gate at Japan's China Town

It has been a bit more difficult than we had originally thought to get around as not many people speak English, and most signs are in Kanji symbols   There are also many customs that the Japanese people abide by and we have seen that it is very offensive to some to break them, for example we were holding hands side by side on an escalator and an older Japanese man wanted to walk down instead of standing. He proceeded to yell at us in Japanese (we can only assume he was telling us to move over) so when he got by us we started to laugh. That obviously offended him because he chased us all over the shopping mall (literally) screaming at us in Japanese. We escaped him by walking quickly and not looking back.

 

Heart of love at the top of Landmark tower

The landmark hotel was very cool to go to, it had the worlds second fastest elevator and on a clear day you can see all the way to Tokyo and Mount Fuji. The day happened to be clear for us and the view was great. Lastly our struggles here have been with food. The meals here have been different from home, even sushi is nothing like Canadian sushi. Venturing out for dinner we purchased a rice bowl with pork and a Japanese man proceeded to crack a raw egg onto it which was to eat, as is. Not exactly our favorite food. China town had delicious noodles and Peking duck (we opted for roast pork because the duck was sold out) and was probably our favorite meal here. There is also healthy inexpensive meals at local stores similar to 7/11 in Canada where you can purchase fresh noodle bowls and take them home to cook. We have decided that this will be our go to food from now on. Today we are going to venture out of the city to Hakone and hope to visit the natural hot springs or Onsens (in Japanese) and will be meeting Jessica’s friend Lisa tomorrow for dinner in Tokyo, we are also hoping to catch a Sumo wrestle tomorrow.

The view from Landmark tower

It’s another busy day ahead of us full of annoying old people so thanks for reading!

P.S.  There is a comment section below, feel free to leave your interesting comments or questions.

-Aarissca

And were off!

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We have the packing blues

Well it’s the night before the grand adventure and how are we feeling? Anxious, unready, nervous, and flippin’ ready to get on that plane! The airport journey starts bright and early departing at 7:30 am and landing in San Francisco before our destination of Tokyo, Japan. We are trying to stick to a tight budget on this lengthy trip and have discovered that Tokyo and Budget don’t really go together, so we have opted out to stay outside the city in Yokohama for the first four nights. We have complete faith in our abilities to find the public tube that will take us to our destination… We think.  

The most anticipated part of Tokyo for Jessica is going to be meeting her highschool friend Lisa Uno, who lives in Tokyo. And eating fresh sushi, YUM!   For Aaron it is seeing a sumo fight.

Things at home are wrapping up and we are completing some last minute packing before having our goodbye family dinner. What have we requested for our last home cooked meal you ask? STEAK yum! Mom and Dad Sturtevant have been so helpful getting things together for our trip. Jim has promised to shave the mustache he has had since he was eighteen years old as our goodbye gift. Oooh we (mostly Jessica) hope he does! It will be one last go out with the girls tonight too for Jessica before the departure, that’s definitely a must. Well it’s time to get back to that mess called our luggage in the dinning room.

 “A journey is like marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it.”

 – John Steinbeck

Keep you updated as much as we can, thanks for reading

Aarssica