11/11/12 7th month- Koh Samui to Mandalay

7th month thoughts- 11/11/12 Koh Samui to Mandalay. Beach Hopping to Temple Hunting
2,596 Miles traveled this month
5 long buses (3 overnight)
3 flights
3 Countries visited (Thailand, Singapore, Myanmar)
12 Cities visited (Koh Samui, Phuket Town, Downtown Singapore, Patong, Ao Nang, Railay, Krabi Town, Koh Lanta, Bangkok, Yangoon, Bagan, Mandalay )
1 $3 hour long Thai massage
28,507 Miles traveled total

A few days ago I found out Obama won a second term reelection from a foreigner only wifi spot in a Myanmar Buddist Temple. Weird is the new normal on the road when everything is different. I’m currently on an overnight bus to Mandalay after a few days of search for and climbing a few of the hundreds of temples that pepper the Bagan landscape. We rode bikes around and watched the sunrise and sunset over the almost surreal flatlands. The Myanmar people are warm and genuinely happy to meet foreigners. This month was comfortable as we revisited many places we’ve been to a few years ago while living in Singapore so we were able to relax, dream, and start to plan our life after travels. Thailands Andaman sea area and specifically Krabi prefecture is for me one of the most beautiful places in the world. The emerald green waters, blue sky, and massive limestone cliffs that tower straight out of the sea against the backdrop of colorfully decorated long tail boats never disappoints. We were lucky enough to spend a few weeks lying around its shores. Ko Lanta was a new spot for us and its long flat low tide sunset was one of the most breathtaking I’ve ever witnessed.

7th month Highlights:
Revisiting Singapore & Marina Bay Sands light show and newly finished Gardens by the bay, Phuket town Vegetarian festival seeing people who pierced their faces and body’s with large skewers and branches, relaxing in our $10 beach view room in Ao Nang, sampling all the street cart foods and coconut milkshakes, $3 beachside 1hr Thai massages, Retracing Railay Beach, dreaming of businesses on beautiful Ko Lanta.

7th month ‘Other’ Moments:
Long uncomfortable Koh Samui to Phuket van ride with broken shocks, getting a weird blister on my shoulder, getting tired of rice and noodles!

20121118-180035.jpg

20121118-180053.jpg

Comments Off on 11/11/12 7th month- Koh Samui to Mandalay

10/11/12 6th Month- Mumbai to Koh Samui

6th month thoughts- 10/11/12 Mumbai to Koh Samui. Slums to Paradise
2,935 Miles traveled this month
5 long trains (3 overnight)
1 long flight
2 Countries visited (India & Thailand)
8 Cities visited (Mumbai, Jaipur, Agra, New Delhi, Bangkok, Koh Tao, Koh Phangan, Koh Samui)
100+ bottles of water
25,911 Miles traveled total

My expectations for India weren’t very high but India still shocked me right out of its country (we literally left early). We weren’t prepared for the massive poverty that manifested itself around virtually every corner of every city street we stepped into. People digging through mounds of trash along side the roads looking for something to sell or eat, cesspools all around and people with flys crawling all over them. Animals (cows, dogs, goats, etc) freely roam the cities leaving their waste up and down the sidewalks and smells that make your eyes water. Wandering the streets I was so saddened by what I saw that I didn’t feel right even taking my camera out. I’ll never forget the haunting sight of a young women with stick legs and a extremely bloated stomach who was obviously dieing of starvation and malnutrition just aimlessly wandering around. I never expected a large and I had imagined fairly developed nation allowing so many people to live in these conditions. The TV images of India with its dancing colorful modern backdrop were far from the truth we witnessed. After 4′ highlight’ of India cities we had seen and tasted enough (stomach sickness after 3 days of being careful). I was very worried about catching something from the mosquitos and general unsanitary conditions that I canceled the trains and hotels for the 4 other locations we were planning to visit and booked a flight straight to Bangkok. In doing so we had to skip Nepal which we had been looking forward to but I heard was even less developed than India so it was probably a good decision.

Ahh, Thailand! Maybe our favorite country for the food, people, amazing beaches, massages, and value. We soaked it all up as we explored 3 islands in the Andaman Sea. Relaxing on the beach or zooming around the islands on our scooters, stopping at night markets, and just generally enjoying life at our pace in this INCREDIBLE Thailand!

6th month Highlights-
Spending 4 hrs wandering around Taj Mahal, sampling coconut milkshakes almost once a day, trying different massages with each new city, scooter riding around the islands searching for secluded beaches and small waterside restaurants, strolling the beaches with beers, lightning storm and fireworks/ lantern balloons and dinner table on sandy beach as water lapped up under us on Koh Samui, relaxing in our beach bungalow hammock in Had Rim Koh Phangan.

6th month ‘other moments’-
Viewing the slums of Mumbai, getting locked in the bathroom at 4:30am and having to yell for 5 minutes before Wendy woke and let me out, puking and being sick on long night train to Jaipur, afraid to eat Indian food eating 1 plain meal a day, seeing a starving young women with stick legs and bloated stomach, looking out train window in the morning to see many people pooping on tracks, Agra hostel ticks/ bed bugs dropping from the ceiling and crawling around on bed, scamming taxi drivers trying to take us to fake travel agents rather than our hotel, 13 year old tuk tuk driver in delhi, and 13ish year old kid working as head pharmacist in Agra, lathering up on mosquito repellant every day and night.

20121030-104558.jpg

Comments Off on 10/11/12 6th Month- Mumbai to Koh Samui

9/11/12 5th Month- Cairo to Mumbai

5th month thoughts- 9/11/12 Cairo to Mumbai. Middle East Culture & history
On this 5th month we traveled through only 3 new countries, 11 cities 4,793 miles of travel to bring our trip total to 22,976 miles. We have officially past our 1/2 way point from where we started on the other side of the world in San Diego, CA. The spot was slightly before arriving in Mumbai, India on day 154 of our trip. This month could only be described as the cultural ‘experience’ of my life. This was our month in the Middle East and the people, culture and dynamic history was unlike anywhere we been before.

We were in awe at the enormous temples and statues through out Egypt but Luxor and Karnak blew us away. How they were able to engineer these temples thousands of years before modern tools and carve the intricate art works all over the surfaces is astounding. We had a small taste of luxury on our 7 night cruise of the Nile with Wendy’s Cousin along for the ride. We holed up for 10 days in Cairo on the way back while we planned the next few months of travel and waited for our India visa to process. Next we flew to Jordan and explored the carved cliff palaces of Petra before making our way to the beach retreat of Tel Aviv, Israel. The water was warmer than anything if felt with the exception of Fiji. The holy land of Jerusalem surprised us with its mix of old and new. Walking in Jesus footsteps, touching his birthplace in Bethlehem, retracing his walk to be crucified, and touching the spot where he died (whether these spots are authentic or not), I know I’ll never forget. We walked through the 4 quarters of the old city Jerusalem where 3 of the worlds largest religions all coexist in seemingly relative peace… The streets filled with college aged soldiers all carrying rifles and backpacks, Orthodox Jews with their top hats, curly sideburns and tassels, robe wearing arabs, nuns, priests, monks, and tourists all going about their business is something I never would have imagined I’d see together.

As if we hadn’t had enough culture before exiting this region, luck would have it we booked our ticket to India on the least expensive airline at the time Saudi Arabian Airlines. It took us to Saudi Arabia with a 9hr layover at the international airport closest to Mecca. We spent the hours people watching pilgrims wearing nothing but towels, men with red and white headdresses and robes or Indian sheiks with colorful head wrapped turbans, every women escorted with a man (it’s the law) their heads covered or their entire bodies covered with just 2 slits for their eyes to peer out. Some men had multiple wives (they are legally allowed up to 4) others wore business suits. Upon stepping off the plane in Mumbai, the first sight just beyond the runway was what is described only as the slums. Blue tarps, wooden shacks, mud, trash, and animals packed in wall to wall.

5th month highlights- Walking around the enormous columns and statues of Luxor and Karnak while our Egyptologist guide deciphered the hieroglyphs for us, sunrise hot air balloon ride over the valley of the kings, lounging upon the top deck of our nile cruise with drink in hand (thanks to our favorite under the table bartender) and watching the people along the banks at work, seeing the night sound and light show at Karnak, braving the crazy horse carriage ride despite the warnings from our boat guide in order to explore the impressive temple of Edfu, taking in the amazing views from the cliffs above Petra, Jordan, the amazing breakfast in Tel Aviv, Israel, visiting many of the biblical sites all over Jerusalem, floating and smearing mud all over ourselves in the lowest place on earth, the dead sea.

5th month ‘other’ moments- Dealing with all the Egyptian touts and catching a pickpocket with his hand in my empty pocket, overpaying for a long bus tour with military convoy out to see Abu Simbil, trying to get a train ticket back to Luxor ordeal and shady black market dealing, VERY uncomfortable 9hr train ride to Cairo with people sleeping in the overhead bins, in the isles, blasting the Koran on their cell phones, the Shiite guy chanting and praying Very loudly next to me, while being the only foreigners on the entire train, learning we were staying only a few blocks from the heart of the Egyptian ‘Arab Spring’ revolution in Tahir Square where a 2nd foreign women was raped by the hundreds of mob protesters their, the lawless anything goes as long as you honk driving in Cairo, the 9hr 72mile 6 transfer border crossing and travel between Amman Jordan and Tel Aviv Israel (including the 1hr waiting for my bag to be searched for no apparent reason and without explanation), sitting in the Jerusalem mall/ bus depot food court surrounded by at least 30 college age kids in uniform all eating with their rifles dangling from their heads, crossing into Palestine’s west bank check point fenced border on the way to Bethlehem, walking the streets of Mumbai and seeing all the slums.

20120911-183439.jpg

20120911-183447.jpg

20120911-183459.jpg

Comments Off on 9/11/12 5th Month- Cairo to Mumbai

8/11/12 4th month- London to Cairo

4 month thoughts- 8/11/12 London to Cairo. Adventure
4 countries, 14 cities, 3,000+ miles from London, England to Cairo, Egypt and 18,000+ total miles, we find ourselves back in Africa. Right now we’re on an overnight train down to Luxor preparing to meet up with our cruise up the Nile river. This 4th month we started to really hit our stride and had more amazing bucket list moments than ever. Our pace was a comfortable mix of a few days of fast paced city hopping alternating with a week in the same place.

We got around 3 new ways (by rental car in the French countryside, ATV rentals all around 2 amazing Greek islands & for Wendy, a horse around the Giza pyramids) which all added a splash of excitement and adventure outside our ‘normal’ city exploring days. Part luck and part by design we found ourselves celebrating our 4th wedding anniversary in one of the most romantic places in the world – Paris. The city and the amazing Eiffel tower didn’t disappoint. That night we flew to a place which in all honesty I had low expectations for because of the simple fact that everyone raves about it. The Greek islands. I didn’t believe it could live up to the hype but I was wrong. It was just our style and blew us away with its relaxed beach lifestyle, clear calm waters, and super fun transportation, the ATV!

4th month highlights- Visiting the mysterious Stonehenge, the Eiffel tower (picnicking around, climbing to the top, and watching it sparkle at night), driving to Normandy beach and the strange Mt. Saint Michel beachside cliff & Abby night entrance, seeing the Parthenon at the acropolis in Athens, finding a secluded cove in Naxos Greece to skinny dip in or the moonlit table on the water below the portal ruins, our amazing cliff side hotel view in Santorini and our never ending sunset watching ATV quest, the many stunning large white domed mosques with multiple skinny towering minarets or the night festival atmosphere during Ramadan in Istanbul, Turkey, marveling at the foot of the great pyramids of Giza or climbing down into the deep dark inner chambers of the red pyramid with only our cellphones for light.

4th month ‘other’ moments- Hanging out/ sleeping in the Athens airport, Mosquitos loud techno music all night sweating hot camping hut with no potable water and staying up wandering until sunrise, hot and dingy Istanbul hostel and getting tons of bug bites at another hostel with stray cats living there, avoiding sketchy areas of Cairo and seeing almost no other foreigners at major attractions, Wendy getting a scraped knee on a crazy wild camel at Giza pyramids and the scorching 110 degree temperature! 20120820-153948.jpg

Comments Off on 8/11/12 4th month- London to Cairo