Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Back to Hanoi to get to Hoi An

Leaving Sapa was really difficult for me. I really enjoyed spending time with the Hmong tribal women. I forgot to mention in my last post that I sat in the market with Chi and the other tribal women. Chi was hungry and wanted a chocolate croissant and took me to a bakery. I realized that when I got to the bakery with Chi she was nervous to go in. Since I was a tourist I was allowed to go in and buy us the croissants. Chi stood outside and waited for me. We took them back to the market and sat and talked about her life. I couldn't help but feel that I am extremely privileged after hearing her stories.

When we arrived in Hanoi we had a lot of time to walk around the city before our night bus to Hoi An. The first time we were in Hanoi Liz and I wanted to see all these museums but they were closed. Today they were all open and we headed to the Woman’s Museum. It was extremely interesting to see how much of a role woman played in the Vietnam war. The women fought in the war and there were pictures of women with guns and pictures of women who received  awards for blowing up tanks and killing soldiers. We also read about the marriage rituals of the different tribes around Vietnam. They also had an area where you could dress up as a tribal woman and the three of us attempted to construct the cloth head wrap around our heads and Liz was the only successful one.

We tried to get into the War Museum to see the some tanks and Anti Aircraft equipment used by the VC during the war but it was closed. Chris' friend told him that if you walk around west of the Old Quarter you can find wreckage of B-52 sticking out of them. After not getting into the museum we walked around trying to get lost and find one of these ponds. Today Chris has great sense of direction....NOT! We started walking through streets where families lived and no longer in tourist areas. People were looking at us like we were aliens. Luckily we ran into a woman and I think her mother. The woman spoke English and we asked her where we could find the wreckage. Her mother, who was a tiny little old lady who didn't speak any English, realized what we were looking for and guided us. She lead us down narrow alley after narrow alley. We ended up near a small swampy pool of water where there were parts of a plane sticking out.We wanted to pay the woman for helping us but when we turned around she was gone.

After our walk around the city we were all hungry. Chris took Liz and I to eat at Bam mo Nam mo They only serve one dish and it was amazing. It was a beef and noodle soup with something like green apple in it and thin onion rings. So good... good work Chris.

By the time we were done eating it was time to go back to the Drift hostel to catch our bus to Hoi An. Kait, who Chris met in Thailand, was joining us and Liz befriended this girl Emily. So it was 4 girls and Chris on a sleeper bus. Oh fun another long overnight trip on a sleeper bus. To Hoi An we go!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Vietnam- Sapa Sapa Sapa

We arrived in Sapa around 7am and the group decided to all stay at the Pinochio Hotel. On our way to the hotel we were surrounded by Hmong tribe women who wanted to sell us their textile goods and kept asking us how old we are and what our names were and where we are from. They all spoke amazing English I was impressed. Liz, Chris and I ended up booking a 3 bedroom and we chose to be on the top floor so we could have the beautiful view of the rice fields. We all got into our beds and decided to nap.

I had issues napping and gave up so I went downstairs to join Thomas and the 2 other girls for breakfast. We walked to a French bakery called Chocolate and on our way there we were surrounded by the Hmong tribe women who were constantly trying us to buy jewelry from them or other goods. Luckily they don't go into the restaurants so once we were in Chocolate we were safe. We all ordered croissants and tea. It was delicious.

I had left Liz and Chris sleeping and I figured we only had one day here so I went to the tour company that the was recommended by the guys from Holland and booked us a tour of the rice fields. After I booked the tour I realized that we only had 30 minutes to get ready and mind you Chris and Liz were still asleep. So I ran back to the guesthouse ran all the way 6 flights of stairs and swung open the door and luckily they were awake getting ready. I was so out of breath but managed to tell them what was booked for the day.

**Apparently Chris and Liz had woken up earlier and Chris asked Liz where I was. Liz responded "knowing Carrie she probably already had breakfast and booked us on a tour." Hehe yup that's me!

The tour consisted of Greg and Cecile, Thomas, the one of the 2 other girls, Liz, Chris and me. We all met at the entrance of our guesthouse and were greeted by our tour guide Chi who took us on a hike around one of the Mahung Villages.  Chi, was a local from the village and she described the differences amongst the tribes. They wore different clothes and spoke a different languages and that was how you determined who was from which tribe. The villages were located within the rice fields. Chi also told us that the rice that is locally grown is used within the villages and none of it is sold for profit.

As we walked Chi showed us the daily activities of the village and took us to the school as well. We were also being followed by Hmong tribe women again trying to sell us goods. They were hoping that if they helped us hike during the tour that we would by from them at the end. What amazed me the most was during the hike all the women wore were these tiny plastic sandals and we were all struggling in the mud with our regular sneakers. They had this walk down to a T. For lunch Chi made us traditional noodle soup with chicken. I was not able to finish mine because I decided to eat a power bar and Chris called me out on it that it would ruin my appetite. Shut up Chris!

After lunch we continued to walk through the fields and stopped at a waterfall....the view was unreal. You can see the villages and the rice fields. At the end of the tour I felt obligated to buy things from the tribal woman who helped me during the hike. There were some muddy areas and she would put her foot down and make me walk on her foot so I would not slip and fall. I ended up buying 2 purses from her.

That night we had dinner as a group. I ordered pasta and we all tried Dalat red wine from southern Vietnam which they served cold. After dinner we all went back to our guesthouse and all ordered banana pancakes with chocolate sauce. Chris decided he wanted to be different and ordered something that looked like fried bananas. It was gross.

The next morning Chris and I decided to rent a motorbike and check out the rest of Sapa. At the motorbike place they gave us a map and I was in charge of the map. After everything was sorted we had to head to the petrol station to fill the tank up. Chris wanted to look at the map and I realized I had left it at the motorbike place. Give me one responsibility and leave it to me to mess it up. I go to Chris "Promise not to hate me" and he goes "What did you do" and I said "I forgot the map" and he just laughed at me because I acted like a little kid who got in trouble with their parents. He forgave me and luckily this other couple came to fill up their tank and gave us an extra map. So its all good!

The mountain views were amazing and we ended up meeting Thomas, Cecile and Greg at the waterfall stop. They had already finished going up the waterfall so Chris and I decided to head up and check it out. Chris was nice enough to treat me to the waterfall. The waterfall was pretty and we took some pictures and decided to get back on the bike and check out the mountains. We drove a little further up and decided to stop and take some photos. Chris and I were irritated that there were soo many power lines covering the mountains. We then started to talk about life and our goals and what we are looking for. I wanted to learn more about Chris and get to know him.

We looked at the time and decided to head back into town to check out the local market. While walking around looking for a bite to eat Chris and I saw a cooked dog. Yes people they eat dog here. Chris wanted to try it but there was no way I was going to do that. Chris and I settled on chicken noodle soup. After eating we waited around for our ride back to the train to Hanoi. We said goodbye to our friends and Liz,Chris, and I were getting on an overnight train back to Hanoi. Luckily we had hard sleepers this time. When we got on the train we played a game of cards. It was a game that Chris had learned from Israelis. I was too tired and it took me awhile to grasp the concept of the game and Liz and Chris decided to make fun of me for it. Whatever I can take it. Unfortunately Liz couldn't stop coughing and wasn't feeling well so we did not get much sleep even though we had beds this time. I was just looking forward to going back to Hanoi and head to our next destination.... Hoi An!!!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Vietnam- Halong Bay

A van came to pick us up and take us to the dock where we would take a ship to Halong bay. Halong Bay is made up of 1,969 islands of various sizes. It is known for being one of the natural wonders of the world. Fun fact: "The folk tale has it that the dragons descended from heaven to help locals by spitting jewels and jade to the sea, forming a natural fortress against invaders; these precious stones are represented by the lush green outcrops. Several islands boast beautiful grottos and caves with contiguous chambers, hidden ponds and peculiar stone formations."

When we arrived at the dock we were surrounded by people who were trying to sell us anything from water to pearl necklaces. It was extremely overwhelming. The poverty rate in Vietnam is very high and you will find it that people are trying to always sell you something. They have no problem getting right up to your face and constantly ask you to purchase something from them.

Liz and I chose to do our tour through a company and not through our hostel because we were not in the mood to have a crazy night of partying and drinking. We looked forward to spending a relaxing day and night on our ship which was called the Golden lotus. We shared our tour with a family who had 2 small sons, one Lucky and the other called Joshy, they were half Asian half Australian, a German couple and 2 guys from Spain.

We sailed through the beautifl limestones and took us on a tour through one of the caves. Unfortunately the cave was extremely touristy and they had placed neon lights within the cave to give it more of a disney land effect. It was an amazing cave and our tour guide was great. We bumped into another tour group whose tour guide was Vietnamese who spoke like he was Australian. It was nuts!!! He told us that an Australian guy was his English teacher thats why he speaks English with an Aussie accent. He was also so dapper in his suit jacket and fancy chain around his neck. Our tour guide and him were walking around the cave joking around and amusing both groups. After the cave Liz and I went kayaking around the small limestone islands it was such a beautiful sight and so peaceful.

Side note: The boat was aware of my dietary needs (no shellfish and no pork). The chef made a number of "special" meals for me. Lets just say I've never eaten soo much tofu in my life. The waiters were bringing me plates of fried tofu, regular tofu, tofu and veggies and tofu in sauce. I never want to look at tofu again.

That night we took it easy and enjoyed a cup of tea, playing card games with the two little boys and practicing my spanish with the 2 guys from Spain. They had to correct a couple of my sentences... what can I say its been awhile. Liz and I both had a really good nights sleep on the boat.

The next day Liz and I finished up breakfast and we would be heading to one of the islands called Cat Ba Island. We were told by other friends not to do the monkey temple and so we chose to ride bicycles instead. Once we got to our destination they dropped the tour group to the national park where the monkey temple was and they took Liz and I to a house with a shed full of old bicycles. All the bicycles were old and not well taken care of and they made soo many noises when you peddled or changed gears. It was hilarious and we decided to make the best of it.

We rode our bikes through the town, there was really not much to see at all. We passed by a couple of locals bulding houses and little kids were running out to say hello which I thought was cute. Finally we got to a part up the hill and saw a bunch of trucks moving big rocks and the road was no longer a road anymore. We didn't know if we needed to go up the hill to get back to our starting point so we decided to hop off our bikes and walk them up the hill. All the workers were laughing at us and saying hello and giggling. Luckily we ran into a couple who were biking down the hill and they told us it was not worth it to head up the hill because it was dangerous. We decided to head back and we rode passed a cave that was closed off to tourists. There were a bunch of little kids on bikes who told us we could not go in there so we waited until they left and Liz and I headed to the cave and hid our bikes in the bushes. We snuck into the gate that closed people off from getting to the cave, climbed up the stairs and there was another gate that was locked so no one could get in. It was pretty dangerous to get around since all there was was a ledge of grass to walk along and climb over the fence. Well you know me I always have to get myself into trouble. So Liz watched me climb over the ledge and over the fence and got close enough to the cave. She thought I was going to kill myself. It looked like a great cave but it was way too dark to explore.... oh well so much for that. We headed back and returned our bikes to the shed and we were taken to our hotel.

We got to the hotel and I found out that they were also notified about my food issues. Again I was served a number of different tofu dishes.... god help me. After some food Liz and I wanted to head to the beach so we decided to walk and find our way there. Luckily we met 2 really cute English guys, who were on motorbikes, and they were nice enough to give us a ride to the beach. Liz and I took a nap on the beach and walked to another beach where we met a couple of American and Canadian girls and we talked about our travels and the dangers we have encountered and items stolen from us. I was able to relate to the girl who had her camera stolen.. yah it sucks.

That night Liz and I went out to a bar and met 2 guys from Holland who told us that we had to go to Sapa located in northern Vietnam. They showed us pictures and told us about their village tour and I really wanted to go. I emailed Chris via facebook and asked him if he wanted to travel with Liz and I to Sapa (northern Vietnam) where the rice fields are and Hmong tribe live. He was on the 1 day tour and he told me he would let me know.

The next morning we got back on the Golden Lotus back on to the main land. They dropped us off at a restaurant and we got the "VIP" treatment which meant we got to sit in a seperate room with chairs covered in cloth with the other VIPers. The other tourists sat in a bigger room with harder chairs. Again lots of tofu... I never want to eat Tofu ever again. I then headed out to go to the bathroom and low and behold there was Chris sitting with his tour group. I didnt want to interupt him so I waited patiently and told him that he had a couple of hours to determine whether or not he wanted to go to Sapa with us. When we all arrived back in Hanoi, Chris apparently flipped a coin which determined his fate which meant he was coming to Sapa.

So we went back to the tour company where we booked our Halong bay tour and Chris and I played a game of phone tag on who was buying the train tickets and if we could get on a sleeper bed.

*Side note: What is it with men and not being organized??? I dont get it dudes... get your sh*t together.

Chris and I played phone tag for too long and by the time we figured everything out there were no sleeper beds left... I wanted to kill him. So what did we do???... we booked hard seats and we would be taking a long train ride up with the locals.

Like I have said in previous posts the Asians love their AC. The three of us tried to sleep on the train but it was soo cold I felt like we were in Alaska. We started to take clothes out of our bags to keep us warm. I barely had any warm clothes with me so I dealt with what I had. So we took a very long 12 hour freezing cold train ride, with the locals who wouldnt stop staring at us, and the three of us got 0 sleep. When we finally arrived, in the town close to Sapa, we joined a group of tourists from the train that Chris had met earlier. There was a sweet couple who live in Switzerland named Greg and Cecile, a French guy named Thomas, and 2 other girls. We got on a mini bus and Chris was nice enough to let me nap on his lap and off we went to Sapa.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Vietnam- Hanoi

Liz and I landed in Hanoi and shared a cab with 3 Americans from Seattle and headed to the new Hanoi backpackers hostel. When we got there is was $8 a person per night... not bad... and the rooms were really clean and the staff was extremely welcoming. Since Liz and I had pulled an all nighter we decided to take it easy and see the Turtle Tower and go to a water puppet show.

The story of the turtle tower: "The Turtle Pagoda is a picture perfect little shrine in Hanoi's Hoan Kiem Lake. According to legend, in the 1500's a golden sword was taken from Emperor Le Thai To by a turtle in the lake. In some tellings of the tale, the turtle was heroically returning the sword to the lake where it belonged. In others, the turtle supplied the gold sword to the Emperor so he could smite his enemies. Still others say the turtle stole the sword and the Emperor had the lake drained looking for it. And in another variation, the turtle indicated to the Emperor which way his troops should go to win the war. In any case, this shrine was erected to commemorate the a turtle and a sword." Fun little fact for the day.

Side note: When you get to Vietnam there are no crosswalks and if you want to walk anywhere to cross the streets you have to dodge 1,000 motorbikes just to get there. The traffic is insane and everyone and their mother drives a motorbike. You basically need to just walk and the people driving the bikes work their way around you. This took me awhile to get used to and I had to work up the courage to cross the street and not think about getting hit.

At night we went to the water puppet show. It was cute but not worth it. The puppets are made out of wood and the show was in a waist-deep pool. A large rod supports the puppet under the water and is used by the puppeteers, who are normally hidden behind a screen, to control them. Thus the puppets appear to be moving over the water. There was a band and women singing songs it Viatnamese. After the show we had a couple of drinks and I met this crazy guy names Matt who is from Tasmania he kept trying to convince me to visit there once I ended up in Australia. I was not in a social mood so Liz and I called it a night.

The next day we wanted to do some sightseeing and go to the museums. Unfortunately most of the museums were closed on Monday so we did not get to see much. While we were walking the streets we bumped into the 2 Canadian guys who we were sharing our dorm room with and asked them if we could join them since we didn't really have a plan. We ended up going to the Presidential Palace where there were a number of guards in front of the building. We wanted to take photos in front of the Palace and there is a line that you cannot cross. If you happen to step over the line the guards start blowing a whistle. Well you know me... I had to mess with the guards and kept on hopping in and out of the line. Lots of whistle blowing!! Luckily I didn't get into too much trouble.

At the end of the day Liz and I went into a tourist office and booked our trip to Halong bay. We booked a 3 day 2 night tour which included sleeping on a ship for a night while we sailed through one of the wonders of the world. Across the tourist information office there was a restaurant where people sit down on little plastic stools and plastic tables where you cooked your own meat on a tiny hot plate. The tour owner told us to try it so we did. We sat down with the locals and the waiters brought us a massive plate of beef, onions and tomatoes. We also ordered some bread rolls. We cooked our meat and made steak sandwiches it was amazing. We also had a chance to chat with the locals and ask them where to go and eat.

Side note:When you go to Vietnam, especially the major cities, you will see lots of people sitting on small plastic chairs eating and drinking. I feel like people are always eating and drinking here.

So I found out that Chris, the guy I met in Thailand at the full moon party, was also in Hanoi. We had been facebooking back and forth to try to get together. I accidentally gave him the wrong address of my hostel and he was meeting up with a friend of his and things were getting kind of confusing. So I played the waiting game on trying to figure out where to meet.

While I waited Liz and I played some pool with the Canadian guys. We split the teams up so Derek was my partner. At first my pool playing skills were awful until I finished a couple of beers and I was playing pretty well. Liz even told me to close my eyes and hit a ball, which I did and the ball made it into the pocket! Finally got word from Chris on where he would be drinking so I went down and asked the owner of the hostel where it was on the map. It was kind of far to walk and I was about to say forget it. The owner was nice enough to have one of his staff members drive me on the back of his motorbike to my destination. Here I go again on the back of another motorbike just to see some boy!!!

When I got to the bar where Chris was he was sitting with Kait, a girl he had been traveling with who met in Chiang Mai, his friend and an older man he met at his hostel. Not going to lie it was a little awkward at first. I had to remember that we were not in Thailand drinking out of buckets and covered in neon paint we were sitting at a bar having intellectual conversations. After we drank a couple of beers we all walked down a dark street and the group was a bit hungry. Chris' friend from home had been living in Vietnam so he spoke Vietnamese and he randomly went up to this woman to see where we could eat some food. All of a sudden she is coming out with a small plastic table and plastic stools sits us down and serves us food and beer. Unfortunately I could not partake in the food as it was pork but the beer was nice.

Kait and the older man went back to their hostel and we waiting till Chris' friend headed back to his apartment. Chris and I had some privacy to catch up and talk about travel plans. He walked me back to my hostel and we said goodnight.

I was leaving for Halong bay the next day.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Bangkok round 2 nov. 3rd-Nov. 7th

Liz and I got on an overnight bus from Phuket to Bangkok. Let me tell you they love their AC here in Southeast Asia. Every time we get on a bus they blast the air and I don't have warm clothing. Oh and the dude sitting behind me thought it was a great idea to stick his bare nasty stinky feet on my arm rest between my chair and window. I was not having it so I stuck my back pack in the space and pushed his feet off. I figured if I said something in English he wouldn't understand so desperate times calls for desperate measures and pushing his feet with my bag was the only way. Liz and I tried to fall asleep but it was difficult to sleep in the cold.

The next morning we woke up and saw that the bus was entering Bangkok. When we got off the bus we were hoping there would be a tuk tuk. Our only choice was another bus or take a cab to Khao Sahn rd. Back to backpacker land. We decided to take a cab. Now after traveling in Thailand for a month you know when the locals are trying to scam you or take advantage of the fact that you are a tourist. When we got to the cab we wanted to charge us a flat rate 400 baht! I said NO! I want meter! After haggling with the cab drivers I got my wish.

We had the cab take us to Sawasdee hotel, which was the hotel that Eden and I stayed in when we first came to Bangkok, and settled in. We were looking forward to San Diego and the British boys to make their way up here and we would see them the next day.

Liz and I were debating on playing with tigers or going to the seven step waterfall so we decided to walk around and go to different tour agencies to compare pricing. While we were in one of the offices Liz looked outside the window and saw Scott, Eden's friend, walking down the street. We got so excited and greeted him. He took us to a museum and a mall that was serving different types of food. I had some vegetarian fried rice and Scott and Liz had some meat satay and seafood. Scott had to head out to meet a friend so Liz and I got on a bus that was free back to our hotel. We would meet Scott later for drinks since he was heading to the islands the next day.

Liz and I had some street pad thai for a $1 and made our way up to the rooftop bar where there is a one man coverband. This Thai guy sang a couple of classics and has an amazing voice. It doesn't sound like he is Thai. We ended up sharing a table with two guys from England. They just met each other at the bar and we were having a great time until things got really awkward. One of the guys became extremely cocky and told me that he was going to kiss me and then the other guy discreetly told me he was interested in me as well. In my early 20's I would have found this flattering but I was so uncomfortable and it created an awkward atmosphere. I just came to the bar to hear the one man band. Luckily Scott came and when he finished his beer we left and headed back to the hotel. One of the guys, not the cocky one, came running after me to kiss me and I said no. I let him down easy and wished him well. We headed to our hotel and arranged to have breakfast with Scott before he headed down south.

Next morning we met up with Scott around 9am and ate at a restaurant around the corner from our hotel. We had the most amazing egg sandwiches on baguettes and tea. Breakfast cost us $3 per person not bad right? We then said goodbye to Scott and decided to use this day to run some errands.

So I had decided to continue to travel with Liz and go to Vietnam and Cambodia with her. This meant that we needed to get Visas for Vietnam. I'm sure we got scammed because we had to pay $100 just to get the visa when we should have done it online but what was done was done. We spent the day running around booking flights and running errands. We met up with San Diego and the boys for dinner. Liz and I decided to call it a night and let the boys have a boys night.

The next day we took it easy, chilled and I got to go to yoga and Liz was able to get a mani pedi. We also realized that when we booked our flight we booked it for the 6th but our visas were for the 7th. Yup I know how silly are we. We had to go to the Air Asia office to switch our flight and unfortunately we had to pay an additional $44 for our flight. Oh well you win some and you lose some.

At night we met back up with the boys to eat some street food. The boys also ate bugs like grasshoppers and grubs. We then headed to the rooftop bar to listen to the one man band...he is there every night I guess. For some reason I just couldn't hang so I called it a night.

The next day Liz and I decided to show the boys around Bangkok. Liz and I agreed that we were having a better a time in Bangkok since we knew our way around and knew what to expect. We took the boys to the market and walked on the streets where Thais were selling stolen goods, food, and the boys didn't believe me that you could buy human teeth off the street until they saw it with their own eyes. We then took them to the reclining Buddha. This place was a little tough for me to return to since its where my camera was stolen. But I went and bumped into the same security guard that made puppy faces at me when I offered money for my camera back. I gave him a nod like I know you and he didn't recognize me. I let it all go and moved on. I've made new memories with my new camera.

The boys were leaving around 5:30 to catch a bus to Chiang Mai and Liz and I were going to pull an all nighter since our flight was at 6am. We had one last meal with the boys and I had a coconut. I've developed an addiction to coconut whether its the actual coconut or in a shake. So good!

Aaron, the guy who lives in Bangkok, came to have dinner with Liz and I. He treated us which we greatly appreciated. Went out to the roof top bar and pulled our all nighter. At 4am we headed to the airport to catch our flight to Vietnam!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Oct. 26th-Nov.2nd From Ko Phangnan to Railay Beach to Ko Phi Phi to Phuket (Thailand)

Oct. 26th: Beth, Liz and I woke up at 5am to head to Railay beach. So here is what was in store for us starting at 5am: A mini van was going to pick us up from our hotel to take us to a ferry boat back to the main land. We then hop on a bus to a stop in Krabi where we get picked up by another van to take us to a longtailboat which would then take us to Railay beach. Each stop you make they give you a sticker which lets the drivers know where to take you. I literally felt like we were cattle getting branded by stickers. Such is life!

While we were on the longtail boat heading to Railay beach we fell in love with our surroundings. Railay is one of Thailand's most sought-after beach areas. In just one small peninsula we were surrounded by white sand beaches, soaring limestone cliffs, viewpoints,  the diamond cave and a lagoon hidden inside the cliffs, shaped and fed by the changing tides. We stayed on the east side since it was cheaper and noticed that there are no roads; only footpaths, no buses, no cars, just longtail boats. It was a great way to get away from the party island life and here is where I was going to rock climb.

Beth, Liz and I were going to stay in the Diamond resort for one night and Beth was unfortunately leaving us the next day to join her tour group and Liz and I would have to find a cheaper place to stay. Luckily we got in early and had enough time to kill to explore the island. The hotel gave us a map of the peninsula and it looked like a little kid drew it with intent to look like a treasure map. First stop the Diamond cave.

After going to the caves in Laos, which were extremely disappointing, we were hoping that the diamond cave was a proper cave with stalagmites and stalacmites. Phra Nang Cave, known as the Diamond Cave,  is on the east side of the peninsula.it was beautiful , but small and in the middle of the cave was a large shimmering limestone that looked like it was covered in glitter.

We got a little hungry so we decided to grab some food at a place called Ya Ya's. Here is where we met Tyson and Phil from Canada and Nick from Australia. These guys were traveling together and were heading to Vietnam after Thailand to ride motorbikes throughout the entire country. I tried to coordinate rock climbing with them but they looked like they needed some rest. After we ate we tried to walk up to the Lagoon but it was pretty high up, steep and we were wearing flip flops. Plus it was getting late and we did not want to head back down in the dark. We decided to head over to the west beach to check it out and it started to down pour. We stopped at  a cafe and ordered some tea. Liz asked for some milk and they brought it to her in a baby bottle with the tip cut off. We were a little weirded out but we found ways to amuse ourselves with it since Beth decided to take a nap in her chair and we took pictures of her sleeping with the baby bottle. It was time to head back to the hotel but it was raining, and there was thunder and lightening. We had no idea what path we were on and the ground was covered in mud and massive puddles. It felt like we were walking through a swamp. The thunder was so loud that Beth and I started to scream. Liz lead the way back to the hotel and the locals were laughing at us because we screeched like little girls.

Got to the hotel, watched some TV and passed out.

Oct. 27th: This morning we said farewell to our beloved Beth and Liz and I headed to the Ya Ya hotel. We then headed to the west beach and we ran into two girls from England named Rachel and Anna. They are sisters traveling together. They were going rock climbing at 2pm so I was going to meet them and join them. They told us to check out the cave full of wooden willies. When I say willies I mean mens....... yah know. Here is a link to a picture of the cave it was well.... interesting. http://evsglobalchange.wordpress.com/2010/05/07/the-phallus-shrine-in-phra-nang-cave-rai-lay/
"Dedicated to the spirit of the drowned princess (phra nang) who gave the beach her name, this small shrine in a small cave is notable primarily for the dozens of carved red-tipped phalluses donated by fishermen seeking her favour." We then walked a long the beach and I was able to order pad thai off of a long boat. I love this country! Any time I want pad thai its right there even on a boat on the shore.

Unfortunately it started to down pour again. No rock climbing for me today.... sad panda. We headed back to Ya Ya's for some tea and thats where I met Meeka and Sarah from from Canada. They were only traveling for a short period of time but I was able to coordinate rock climbing with them for the next morning. Thats why I came here to rock climb!!! I wasn't going to leave until it was done!

That night Liz and I went to the last bar all the way at the end of the east beach. We made so many friends on that beach everyone joined us..... Tyson and Phil, Rachel and Anna, Meeka and Sarah and this awesome guy named Darren from England who is traveling to China to learn Kong Fu. Had an amazing night!!

Oct. 28th: Woke up at 8am to meet up with Meeka and Sarah to go rock climbing. They took me to the company where they booked it and they were able to take me as well. The guide was hilarious and called me his American girlfriend. So it was me Meeka, Sarah and this woman who was really annoying. I don't remember where she was from but she only went rock climbing for 1 day and thought she knew everything. I think she was trying to be helpful with trying to explain how to climb up the cliffs but she was extremely bossy and yelled.

Anyways, I climbed up 4 different cliffs and climbed up to one that had a cave in it. Once I am able to download my photos I will attach a link for everyone to see. I had a blast with Meeka and Sarah those girls were hilarous. We then headed back to the rock climbing office where we needed to hop on to a longtail boat to get back to the mainland in Krabi to hop on a ferry boat to Ko Phi Phi. I ran to the west beach to grab Liz, who was having tea with Darren, and we ran back to the office and got on the boat. On the boat we met a girl named Anita, from England, who was teaching English in Bangkok and was on holiday.

We arrived in Krabi and when we got off the long tail boat all these Thai men surrounded us asking us where we were going and carried our bags to the ferry office. They marked our hands in pen for Ko Phi Phi. We then got on a van to the ferry that took us to Ko Phi Phi (The Island of Free Buckets).

When we got to Ko Phi Phi Anita was extremely helpful. She showed us the way to the cheap hotels and where to find the greatest pad thai on the island. We walked towards Harmony Hotel and low and behold who do we run into... the crazy Canadians Dustin and James!!!! Emma and Kerry were on the Island as well! Basically everyone we had met at the full moon party ended up at this island.

That night we walked around the island where people pass out flyers for happy hours and free buckets. This is why I call Ko Phi Phi the "Island of Free Buckets" because there are a number of bars a long the water that will supply you with free alcohol. So much for getting away from the party island life here I go again!!!

Oct. 29th-Nov.2nd Life on Ko Phi Phi:

I had soo much fun on this island all of our friends that we met on other islands made their way here and they all stayed at the harmony hotel. Our gang which consisted of Wayne, James, John, Sophie, Kat and somehow San Diego managed to change his flight to head over and then Tyson, Nick and Phil made their way over as well. It was nice to be on an island where you know everyone.

During this time frame Liz and I discovered our favorite restaurants and had breakfast at a bakery near our hotel every day and had dinner at Calamaro which was a restaurant that served everything but specialized in Italian food.

For Halloween I wore my full moon devil horns and watched a little girl Thai box and watched John and Wayne get in the ring and Thai bo for a free bucket. We either danced the night away or stayed at our hotel watching free movies when it rained.

On Ko Phi Phi we were able to see the most beautiful viewpoint, which is the picture above, we visited long beach and I was able to schedule a tour to monkey beach and Maya bay where they filmed the movie The Beach. We also experienced Thailands rainy monsoon season. It was a shame that it rained a lot while we were on the island but we lucked out on the weather when we went to see Maya Bay.

To all the friends that I have made on this trip it has been an absolute pleasure meeting all of you. We had such a great time on Ko Phi Phi even though it rained for a majority of the time, and my legs were covered in millions of misquito bites, it was totally worth coming here.

Nov. 3rd: Liz and I decided to check out Phuket for the day and then take an over night bus up to Bangkok. Some advice about going to Phuket... DO NOT EVER EVER EVER GO TO PHUKET!!!

The second we got off the ferry to Phuket there are taxi drivers harassing you. There are no tuk tuks here and you have no choice but to take a cab with a set price. We told the cab to drive us to the bus station so we could book our tickets for Bangkok. We bought our tickets and walked to a cafe to eat some breakfast. We then found a tuk tuk driver to drive us around the island to all the major points for 40 baht. We were not impressed at all with Phuket. It was dirty and overcrowded with tourists. After our tuk tuk tour we took a bus to one of the beaches and it just didn't compare to Ko Phi Phi. We could not wait to get out of here.

So some news: Here is where Liz and I discussed the fact that I would continue to travel with her to Vietnam and Cambodia. These places were not on my list but hey carpe diem! Why not right?

We walked into an internet cafe to check flights from Bangkok to Hanoi and met a woman who we ended up paying 100 baht to drive us back to the bus station. Now I know I am a horrible horrible driver, and those of you who have been in a car with me know this, but this woman could not drive for her life. Liz was soo stressed out for the first time I thought she was going to strangle this woman. We made it back in time to the bus station ran to a seven eleven for snacks and ran back to catch the bus.

I'm going going back back to Bangkok Bangkok.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Oct. 21st-25th Ko Phangnan Full Moon party 2010!!!!!!!!!

Oct. 21st.: Liz, Beth and I got on a boat from Ko Samui to Ko Phangnan where we would be staying at the Vimarn Samut Resort. I ended up paying $300 for 3 nights here and when we got to the hotel we were extremely disappointed. I swear there was asbestos and the room was extremely damp. I ended up meeting Aaron and his friend Dave there and they both had really nice rooms with a TV and Fridge which we did not have in our rooms. We decided to make the best of it even though our room wasn't as nice. I did have to look on the bright side and noticed that the good thing about our hotel was that it was far away from the party beach so if we wanted to get away from the crazy chaos, neon paint and fire dancers we could.

The full moon party was on the 23rd but there are a number of parties before the date that lead to the full moon party. So we decided to have dinner by the beach and see what Ko Phangnan was all about.

Beth, Liz, Aaron, Dave and I ate dinner by the beach and I of course ate pad thai. Aaron thought it would be a great idea to get the party started by ordering buckets. Now let me tell you about these so called buckets. They are buckets used to make sand castles and there are a number of bucket stands surrounding the beach all with a different name and inappropriate messages. The buckets are 150-300 baht... its 30 baht to $1 so you do the math. These buckets are lethal!

We ended up bumping into the Canadian guys, James and Dustin, and here is where the neon paint and dancing started. Aaron had a neon dragon painted on to his arms and he was nice enough to buy me devil horns that light up. We all were covered in paint and neon necklaces, braceletes and horns and got up on a table and started to dance.

I felt really bad for our friend Dave. He came to the island with pink eye and when he tried to take a picture of us dancing on the tables he ended up falling backwards and it looked like it hurt. He was also trying way to hard to get the ladies and was being way too picky when we told him just to dance and have fun. He ended up getting lost in the crowd.

Beth, Liz and I just continued to dance till 3am. 

This was only the beginnning till the full moon party.

Oct. 22nd: This morning we woke up, had breakfast and went straight to the beach to relax and get some color. Since we had such a late night that night we decided to take it easy and I ended up taking the longest nap ever. Liz and Beth woke up earlier than I did so they headed into town to grab food.

When Aaron, Dave and I woke up we met up at the front of the hotel and walked to the town where all the restaurants and bars. We chose to eat at the Mona Lisa, which was run by Italians, and I ended up eating a pizza. Beth and Liz walked by and decided to join us and take advantage of the free wifi.

So things to know about the islands: 1. Everything is kind of pricey for Thailand. 2. They have bars and restaraunts that will play family guy or friends all day long. 3. You have to pay for internet at the cafes uless you are at a restaurant and use their free wifi. 4. You will have your clothes damaged by neon paint 5. You will see people with burns from playing with fire (either from the jump rope, hoop, or spitting fire) 6. You party till the sun comes up!

Since this was the night before the full moon party we decided to take it easy and just watch the fire show on the beach. The fire show consists of a number of Thai men playing with fire and twirling it like a baton. There are also places on the beach where you can jump rope fire. I mean it the jump rope is litterally on fire and the locals and tourists just go ahead and jump in. We also watched people place alocohol in their mouths and spit as hard as they can from a stick of fire trying to light another stick in front of them. Whoever is able to light the stick up wins a bucket. We saw a number of people get burned either from the jump rope or the  spitting contest.

Like I said we wanted to save our energy for the next night so we headed back to the hotel to sleep.

Oct. 23rd: FULL MOON PARTY!!!!! So my morning consisted of going for a run with Aaron, eating our free breakfast with the ladies, a little beach, a little lunch, which consisted of sketchy pad thai that was bright pink and realized it had shrimp in it, and let the shinanigans begin!!

We walked all over the main streets looking for outfits for the party. I had an idea in my head of what I wanted. Since there are ultra violet lights everywhere I wanted to make sure I wore white. I ended up finding a white shirt and white shorts and decided to splatter them with blue neon paint. Liz and Beth found their outfits as well and we walked to the dock to meet up with Emma, Kerry and Rachel sincelked all over the main streets looking for outfits for the party. I had an idea in my head of what I wanted. Since there are ultra violet lights everywhere I wanted to make sure I wore white. I ended up finding a white shirt and white shorts and decided to splatter them with blue neon paint. Liz and Beth found their outfits as well and we walked to the dock to meet up with Emma, Kerry and Rachel since they were staying on Ko Samui and taking the boat over. Once they arrived they all bought outfits as well and we headed back to the hotel to pregame and cover ourselves with neon paint.

Since I was the artistic one out of the group I ended up painting everyones faces and arms and legs. After I painted the group I chose to paint a blue flower on my face. I wore my hair up and bought a headband that said full moon party 2010. My entire outfit was white and neon blue. Aaron and Dave joined us and we painted a large pink hand on Dave's face to blend in with his pink eye. Now off to the beach!!!

Before we got to the beach Rachel and I decided to grab cheese burgers and fries so we could last all night  and these burgers were amazing! We walked down the beach and the scene was unreal. The beach was packed with people walking around with their buckets. There were 10,000-12,000 people on the beach partying. It was like spring break in Miami but it was 10 times better! There were even places where you could pay people to watch you sleep so you could wake up and party again.

I was happy that we had such an amazing group of girls. We all felt safe and we created a buddy system since the beach can get a bit crazy. Some of us were dancing on tables, others were buying buckets, and I decided to jump through a hoop of fire.... twice. After I jumped through a hoop of fire we ended up meeting a number of people and thats when I met Chris from Chicago. Chris used to work in finance and has also decided to quit his job to travel the world. I told him to take my camera and take pictures of me sliding down the slide with fire pillars on the side. We hung out for the majority of the night and I met his friends who he was traveling with and one of the girls was injured during a motorbike accident but she still came to party hard. Side note: motorbiking on these islands are very dangerous and we saw many accidents happen.

The night was ending and I did not have enough energy to stay for the sun rise. I said goodbye to Chris and walked back to the hotel. I thought it was really funny when I got back to our room Kerry, Beth and Rachel were passed out. Emma and Liz came back later and thought it would be amusing to take pictures of us all passed out. Emma, Kerry and Rachel needed to head out back to the pier to get the boat back to Ko Samui so we said goodbye and went back to sleep. We knew we would run into Kerry and Emma when we head to Ko Phi Phi. 

I had one of the most amazing nights of my life!

Oct. 24th and 25th: When I woke up I was still covered in neon paint and glitter. We washed up and packed and headed down to eat our free breakfast. We then moved to another hotel closer to the pier since it was cheaper and it had a swimming pool.

These next 2 days we used to recuperate and we hung out with Remco, San Diego and a big group of friends from England who we met in Ko Samui.

On the 25th we rented a 4x4. It was soo ghetto and thank god Liz knew how to drive stick. We drove to another beach on the island that was more peaceful and relaxing. We only had one cd in the car and it was techno of course so we drove around jamming to techno around the island.

Next stop: Railay beach!