Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Final Countdown,,,

Wow…we can’t believe this it is the end of February already. We are spending the week at a hotel given to us by Mrs. Yanez as a part of her timeshare. When Adrianna approached us with the offer from her mom, the idea of a hotel seemed lovely and we scheduled it near the end of our trip--forever away. Well….here we are at the time share. While it feels like we have been away from home for just days and months at the same time, we cannot wrap our brains around the fact that we are almost finished with our trip. It really is crazy.
While we know we have done and seen so much that we only dreamed of for so long…it hasn’t set in yet. Even as we were zip lining, temple climbing and evading Thai immigration officials we were always so focused on our next task, next city, next country that our adventures have never really been absorbed. Sure elephant riding is cool but when you start worrying about where you are going to sleep that night sets in two seconds after you dismount…you never really take in the “how cool was that?!” factor. We are starting to process it all now.
Even as recently as the bungalow de cockroach…this timeshare hotel seemed so so far away. And now that we are here we realize that there are only three weeks left…one country and a city state, three hotels and backpack transfers, only one more beach town…its crazy people. While it is hard to wrap our brains around what we have done…it might be harder to think that we are almost home.
In honor of our more than half way there blog we have decided to play a game to see who has been paying attention…the first correct answers mean gifts friends…so be sure to comment your answers. (Have we mentioned how much we love comments yet?? Annnddd tonight if our night off from our bar gig and that we might be a little bored waiting for our live Olympic feed on ESPN Asia to start at 2AM??)
Question 1) Guess the destination
This stop (It will be our first in Indonesia) is a popular tourist destination on the Western side of Indonesia…we might see some tangs here and activities include trekking and tubing. It is 78 km north of Medan and is famous for a tangs rehab center that is still recovering from a flood in 2003…where in the world are Kate and Caitlin?? (automatic 2 point reduction if you don’t sing that to the Carmen SanDiego theme.)

Question 2) Guess the Kate
Which Kate gets the most frustrated on long bus rides and the overall South East Asian attitude towards time and transport efficiency?? (A moto and 100 lbs of Bananas on a private express bus?? Sure why not?)

Question 3) Guess the Country
This country’s primary mode of transportation was tuk tuks. Many children and babies. Hollywood connections. Our excursions brought us to ancient worship sights, sea life, and to bustling markets. The currency here begins with an R but USD are the main currency…even dispensed in ATM’s.

Question 4) Guess the Kate.
Which Kate is always wondering what time is it at all hours of the day and night?? (Do clocks offend people here or something???)

Question 5) Where are we??
Please correctly identify which country the Kates appear to be in.

Double Gift Bonus Question::
How many different hotel rooms have we slept in since January 5th?? Closest answer wins..(we might have to really think about this one ourselves)


Friday, February 19, 2010

This is a jam for all the fellas...

Ok people it is 1:40am here in the M to the alaysia as Bridget likes to call it. We have had quite the day. We are here at the Swiss Garden Hotel and Spa courtesy of Mrs. Daria Yanez and family!! Google it people-its nice!! We got here around 2pm and were in the pool by 3. Our room is so nice- it has hardwood floors, a balcony, separate sink and shower area and the best water pressure yet. We are ready to make this our home base for the next week!

Ok so we had a nice day laying out by the infinity pool complete with its own waterfall. Then we headed back up to the room, showered and did some school work then gussied up for dinner. Unfortunately the resort was celebrating Chinese New Year still and all of the menus are fixed priced and weren’t appealing to us so we decided room service pizza and contraband liquor was a delightful dinner for two girls in dresses with earrings and mascara- we made an effort people!!

So there might have been more liquor than pizza which would explain the rest of the night. The one bar here was advertising a band called the Rock Angels and we thought it would be fun to check them out. So after a few drinks and a few games of Guess the Lyrics on the Ipod (we studied the lyrics to Bust a Move- hence the title) we headed to the bar. When we walked into the bar the band was on stage singing some Lady Gaga hits and we were surprised to find everyone sitting quietly listening like they were in a lecture hall or something. That is not our nature. We sat down, ordered some gin and tonics (which were 16MR- the same price as a plain soda) and started dancing in our seats. After a few songs the trio of singers realized what kind of girls we were and pulled us up on stage to sing and dance with them. Throughout their sets they kept pulling us up onstage to dance or having us sign along with them (we butchered Kelly Clarkson but redeemed ourselves with Nsync) and by the end of the night we had created our own fan base at the resort (people came over to say goodnight to us before they left) and we had earned our own spot in the Rock Angels group. The girls are here every night except Monday and are going to learn Whitesnake for us!! They really love us!!

So we had worked up quite a sweat after our fourth set with the band and decided a dip in the pool would be nice. Not to let a closed pool deter us we jumped right in. It was very refreshing!!

WE will post pics of the resort tomorrow, but here are a few of our midnight swim!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Mentos and Mirinda

We are writing you from our posh hotel in Kuala Lumpur (KL)....it is quite the fancy establishment. Hot water. Cold Water. Electricity all day and all night. There are phones, actual showers, pillows, towels and its built on an actual road and there are cars here and all. Quite the town let us tell you. We last left you after our valentine's day/chinese new year evening....

The next morning we checked out of our hotel and hung around Langkawi waiting for the overnight bus to KL. We didn't want to beach it all day because we figured we would be hot and sandy all night on the bus. We walked around and ended up trying out the aquarium in town because it was cheap, had air-con, and could kill an hour or so. It was pretty cool just seeing all the names and habitats of all the sea creatures and fish that we had been seeing snorkling. We also must confess that the pictures on the post below are from the aquarium and not a snorkeling trip- we wanted to play a little joke on you all but Bridget and AP caught on!!

We got to picked up and taken to the pier for the ferry at 530. We were the 7pm ferry to the mainland...arriving at 8pm for our 945 bus departure. We thought all that extra time seemed crazy but we went along with the plan the travel agent set up for us...and its a good thing. We got to the pier at about 615 or so. And it was an airport style terminal with thousands of people packing in all just sitting there. We followed the signs to where our ferry would be departing from and decided why wait inside when you can just walk up to the boats. Then we realized all the people were waiting because there were guards who did not let you out onto the ferry boarding area until the proper time...just as we were getting sent back to wait with the masses we smiled pretty and were granted permission to wait on the concrete pier. Every so often the doors would open and people would flood out for about 10 mintues stright..so many people. Each time we ran up to a worker and showed our tickets and asked where our boat was...they kept telling us to "wait wait" and they would let us know when it was time. Those "we will let you know when its time" turned into "I don't knows" and vauge points in the opposite direction. (even the guy with the megaphone didn't know!) Finally with about 5 mintues before our scheduled departure, we were able to corner a worker and although he first told us to "wait wait" but then said that it was coming into the pier at the opposite side of the terminal. We asked three more workers just to cover our bases and we only got vague nods each time but we figured we should hustle somewhere and try to do something as to not miss the last ferry off the island. With Caitlin pushing our bags on a cart and Kate walking out in front trying to move people out of the way...we weeded through one of those walls of poeple walking onto the piers...against the stream we fought and make it back into the terminal. We asked everyone where our boat was and no one seemed to know. At about 710 we finally got a little cross with some guy behind a desk and he told us where the boat was...it was crazy and hectic. But the boat pulled off at about 740 after the other 200 people on the ferry found the boat..with all our stress we were still one of the first on it! It was one of those moments where you may or may not be the last team in the Amazing Race and can't find the boat moments.

We got to the mainland, got some takeout dinner, and made it to the bus station with 20 minutes to spare...so much for all that time we thought we would have to change out of our bathing suits and eat and take our time. The overnight bus had lots of leg and hip room with reclining seats...and we made it to KL at about 6AM. After the cockroach situation we booked a fancy hotel online to just be able to chill out for a night and relax and do absolutely nothing. SOOOO we rolled into our hotel 6 hours before check in-just time wearing bathsuits and coverups with cardigans over it lugging our backpacks and plethora of carry-ons looking quite the sight. On the bus we each had our plaid cambodian scarfs out and were using elephant printed sarongs as blankets...wish we took a picture of our hot mess-ness! We must have looked pathetic because they gave us a room right away...prob to get us out of the lobby not wanting the other guests to see the rifraff checking in. Our hotel room is glorious...plush pillows and great water pressure...have you all seen our cribs tour(probably not because the video is taking forever to load)??

We napped and ordered room service breakfast and showered and headed out into the city for a little...we left the room for about 3 hours. 2 hours was spent at the markets and one was spent getting something to eat. SHOCKER!! Once again we failed the budget backpacker test because we decided to buy little rolling duffel bags to ease our transport woes. The backpacks aren't the problem...it is our heavy heavy carry-ons with all of the electronics and books and acutromonts that make things cranky. So with our new rolly bags we can just carry our backpacks and pull the rest and not be weighed down with carry bags and across the shoulder bags and whatnot...i mean we are traveling with pool floats here people!!

We promtly returned to our room and watched movies and got pizza delivered and caught up on school work and facebook and did some laundry and relaxed. It was beautiful. We woke up this morning to a bit of construction outside our room--but no cockroaches and still good water pressure so we didn't complain. Eventually we got dressed, then headed out into the city to see the Petronas towers and get something to eat (we found bagels and cream cheese). Unfortunatly all of the tickets to go up to the skybridge in the Petronas Towers were already all given away, but the building were cool to look at from the outside anyway. After the towers we headed back to our comfy beds with the nice pillows and the water pressure and the electricity. We are pretty sure heaven has to be a little something like this.

After some more lounging around we went up to the 33rd floor of our hotel to check out the rooftop pool. Not gonna lie it was a pretty sweet pool!! The pool had a cool waterfall thing in it and there were comfy sunbeds all around it to just lay on while you took in the awesome 360 view of the city. We did a bit of triathlon training in the pool (two laps) and then headed back to our room to get changed and get some food. We have been craving sushi so we found a cute sushi bar right by our hotel and had a yummy shabu shabu and sushi meal. Shabu Shabu is kind of like japaanese fondue- you cook veggies, meats and noodles in a big pot of broth. We ate A LOT!! We headed back to our luxurious hotel room and did some more lounging around- I mean we really were just trying to get our moneys worth for the room. We filmed a cribs style video blog of our room to show you all- but we are having some downloading issues so keep your fingers crossed there too
Later that night we headed back up to the rooftop pool which turns into a very swanky bar at night. We didnt realize how swanky it was a were a bit underdressed! (we must have walked right by the no flip flops or shorts or tanktop sign on the way in) They tried to sit us at a bad table with no views but we pulled the "we are hotel guests" card and got a VIP table with a great view of the Petronus towers at night. Now we admit we were a bit underdressed for this bar but we were not underprepared- we made sure to bring up a water bottle full of vodka to spike our sodas at the bar. And boy are we glad we did becasue these people charged 34MR which is about $10US for 2 sprites- ridonkulous!! After classing it up for a bit we went and got some Dominos takeout for dinner. We spent the rest of the night washing our shells which have started to smell, taking one last shower with great water pressure and watching Mamma Mia.

We interrupt this blog with a commerical for our 2 favorite Southeast Asian past-times. Mirinda and Fruit Mentos. We can not get enough of these things over here. Mirinda, for those of you who dont know, is this amazingly fabulous orange soda. Fanta and Sunkist have nothing on this drink!! Fruit Mentos are another favorite. I know we have these at home but we have been Mentos crazy over here- especially the orange ones!!

Ok back to the blog- So we left KL bright and early this morning to take a bus to the Cameron Highlands. It took us about 4 hours to get here and it was really cool driving out of the city and into the lush green mountains. The scenery is a welcome change from all of the cities and beaches we have been seeing recently. The Highlands are a big spot for trekking but as we are only here for less than a day we didnt have time to do a full trek.We had really wanted to go see the Rafflesia Monster Flower- the biggest flower in the world which is in bloom here only in january and February but you have to take a morning trek to find them and our timing did not allow for that. Instead we hired a taxi to bring us to a tea plantation and a strawberry farm. Our first stop was the strawberry farm. Strawberries are a big deal here!! The farm was pretty cool because everything there is grown hydroponically- in elevated pots out of the soil. Our taxi driver who doubles as a farmer told us that growning them this way keeps the fruit cleaner and allows it to grow bigger. Strawberries are grown year round here- AJ you would love it! Next we went to the biggest tea plantation in Malaysia. The plantation was huge and so lush and green. It was so pretty! Our driver walked us out to the tea bushes and told us all about growing tea and how to pick the leaves. It was very interesting to listen to all of his knowledge. It turns out he knew all of this information becasue his parents moved to Malaysia from India in 1905 and began working at the plantation during its first planting. He explained to us that tea is so big in Malaysia because of the knowledge all of the Indian immigrants brought with them when they came here to work. after the plantation he even brought us to a little tea shop and bought us a cup of chai. Then as an added bonus he brought us to a honey bee farm. Our driver spoke immpecable english and in addition to all of his knowledge about Chinese herbal medicines and farming we also chatted about how Americans and Indians scrambled eggs and how the Chinese New year traffic is very similar to our version of shore traffic.

In the Highlands the food is predominatly Chinese or Indian. (Mayalasia is a crazy mix of ethnic groups, there are maylays, Muslims, and chinese and Indians all getting along peacefully...we are going to investigate this more cause the direversity is facinating here) So for lunch we had a Chinese Lovers Steamboat which is pretty much the same thing as the shabo, meats, veggies and noodles cooked in broth. There was so much food!! During our taxi tour our driver asked us if we had tried indian and when we told him we were going to have it for dinner he gave us tips on what to try. So when dinner time came we headed to the local indian restautant and had a tandori platter with yummy chicken and a banana leaf platter with chicken and pumpkin and potatoes and rice with lots of deliciosu naan on the side- and of course a beer to wash it all down with. And get this- remember those 2 sprites at the rooftop bar that cost us 34MR well our entire Indian dinner with beers only cost us 30MR!!!

Since we are budget travelers we decided to do a bit of food shopping before we head to the lovely timeshare provided to us by the Yanez family. We stocked up on all the necessities including 5 packs of Mentos (sadly no Mirinda). Tomorrow morning we leave the Highlands bright and early and head to Lumut to spend a week at another fancy hotel!! Thanks Mrs.Yanez!!!!!

Keep leaving the comments- we love reading them and we talk about them for days after we read them!!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

KL Rooftop

Soo we did a video blog...we are having some uploading difficultly with the first (a crib tour of our sweet suite) but here is the second-a tour of the rooftop skyline from our hotel in Kuala Lumpur. Blogs on KL to follow.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Finding Nemo

On our last day in Langkawi we thought it would be nice to go for a morning snorkeling trip before catching the ferry to the mainland. We have been seeing some really cool fish and really neat coral so we have debated buying a cheap underwater digital camera. So here are some of the pics of fish we saw in Langkawi.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Happy Valentines Day!!

This was how we spent our romantic 10th Friendiversary Valentines Day!! Miss you all and love you!!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Cockroaches- check!

First off we just want to thank all of you who take the time to leave us comments!! We get ridiculously excited when we log on an see new followers and comments!!
Also we are still having issues with pictures so bear with us!!

So we last left you in Ko Lanta. We cant seem to remember which night we last told you about and we don’t have wi-fi right now to look it up so we are going to start our recap on day number 2.

So we slept in our first morning in Lanta- it was lovely not having to wake up at the crack of dawn and throw our backpacks on and trek out to wherever. So we got up and had a nice leisurely breakfast at a place with free wi-fi and we got to skype Molly- woo woo!! After breakfast we headed down to the beach which was just a 30 second walk from our bungalow. On the way down to the beach the one bartender who had a little Kates crush gave us a beep beep from his moto. So once we got all settled on the beach after about 2 seconds of sitting down we were already sweaty and hot and decided it was time to get in the water where we remained until 5pm only getting out to eat, have a beer and re-sunscreen.
Now lets take a short break here to tell you about the sun here. It is so flippen hot and sunny all day long that we have developed quite the tan. In one of our first times in the Bangkok airport we were waiting at baggage claim next to a flight that had just come in from the islands. Kate made a comment about how when we go to the islands we don’t want to look freakishly tan like these people who had an unnatural glow to them. Well my friends- fast forward a few weeks and we are those people. It is not our fault. Our mothers have raised us right and we have used 4 bottle of sunscreen so far -even a whole bottle of spf 70!! And still we are tan!! How are all your tans coming along back home?? (Lyss we know you have been out of school for snow- have you had time to go tanning?? LOL)

OK back to the beach. So basically our days here consist of stewing in the freakishly clear lukewarm water. It is so hot we only make it out until midcalf before we give up and plop down into the water. This morning in particular we were having a friendly argument about who should go in search of floats because the idea of having to hold our heads above water for the rest of the day was just too much. As we were arguing we met a nice family from Chi-town- they didn’t know where to buy floats though. We tried explaining our philosophy about people in the islands with the crazy tans and they gave us a blank stare so we realizes we must be really tan. So somehow we lasted the rest of the day on the beach (sans floats) and eventually headed back to our sweatbox of a bungalow. The bungalow is so hot that as soon as you get out of the cold-water shower you immediately start sweating again. None of our neighbors seem to realize the excessive heat though as they all just sit calmly on their balconies as we complain and crazily fan ourselves sweating all the while. Once we finally cooled off we headed to dinner and had a yummy pad Thai, chicken with cashews and mango sticky rice which Kate wasn’t convinced she would like, but enjoyed it very much- so much we also got it the next night!! After dinner we headed to our bar with our bartender friends and had some beers while we played Jenga, connect 4 and tried to solve the stupid wooden cube puzzle.

We awoke the next morning to the awful awful click of the fan shutting off- an indication that the island had lost power. People here don’t really make a big deal about losing power like they do back home. When we asked them at 9am what happened to the power they calmly replied that the island had turned it off and it would be back on around 4:30pm. With nothing to do but sweat we booked tickets for the next day to a new island and headed to the beach. It was so flippen hot!!! After about 2 hours in the water we decided we must find floats!! The difficult thing about finding floats here is that no one really seems to know what we are talking about despite them being sold in many locations. We finally decided that we would ask the bartenders if they knew where we could get them. We finally got him to understand what we were looking for by describing it as a bed in the water and our bartender hopped on his moto to go in search of some for us. Unfornately he returned about 10 minutes later empty handed and dripping in sweat. He put a good effort in though. Determined to find a float we went to hotel reception and tried describing it to them again- we had already done this earlier and received a blank stare. Somehow we got our point across and they told us to head down the main road and eventually we would find them. Lucky for us as soon as we turned out of the driveway we saw a store that sold them (this store was literally 10 steps from our hotel driveway but we had never seen it because we always walked in the opposite direction). Victorious we carried our deflated floats back to the bungalow where we set about blowing them up. When I say we I really mean Kate because Caitlin can not blow up a pool float to save her life. She really tried though!! So Kate blew up the 2 floats and we headed back down to the beach where it was now high-tide and it was a little difficult to keep the floats away from the jagged rocks in the water but we tried our best and toughed it out!
Later we headed back to the sweatbox and did our nightly routine of dinner and then bar and jenga but tonight we drank gin and tonics instead of beer!

We woke up the next morning and headed out bright and early to catch the ferry to Ko Ngai. It was a short ride which was a pleasant surprise. We pulled up to a cute little island, a long-boat came out to pick us up and there we were on the cute little island with no ATM and no electricity expect for at night. We got a cute little bungalow right on the beach- and even though we had planned on taking a day off from the beach since Kates back was peeling like a string cheese - we decided the beach was just too pretty and uninhabited to waste the day. Kate was a champ and blew up our raft and we spent the day floating and shelling…and we now have an extra 4 kilos worth of shells in our bag. The beach here was really pretty with clear aqua colored water- not quite as clear as Lanta and a little rockier but still beautiful! The island is so tiny there are no roads or cars or motos just half a dozen resorts right on the beachfront (we use the term resort loosely). The beach even had some shade which our overly tanned bodies appreciated.
Later that night we went to get dinner at our hotel and we ran into 2 couples we had met on the ferry. They were from Minnesota and we very excited to hear our American accents and they invited us to sit and have a drink with them- as we were fellow patriots. We sat and talked with them for awhile swapping travel stories and advice. They told us about a good coral reef right off the island which we decided we would explore the next day. After dinner we headed back to our bungalow where Kate discovered a cockroach in the bathroom but being the tough chicks that we are we just killed it and turned in for the night.
Our second day was much like the first. We awoke at 6am to sound of the fan turning off- there is only electricity on the island from 6p-6a which we think is dumb because its flippen hot during the day!! We spent the day shelling and floating and exploring the colorful reef. We saw lot and lots of pretty fish- angle fish, parrot fish, little pink and turquoise fish that like to swim right up to you like they are going to attack you and a lot of other cool fish that we don’t know the names of. This beach has a crazy difference between tides. In the morning at high tide we only got out about 5 feet before we were up to our necks in water while later at low tide you had to go out literally 500 yards to get past your ankles. We would have to take a break halfway out and try to submerge ourselves in the 6 in deep water to cool off.
Later we sat at a table on the beach and played cards and had a few drinks. We ended up chatting the couples from Minnesota again. They told us to tell our moms that they were parents and they were watching our for us- giving us motherly advice. They also gave us a piece of valuable advice about bugs. They said you should never put your luggage on the ground as it makes it easy for bugs to crawl into it. We hadn’t been overly concerned about this but put the thought in the back of our mind as we headed back to the bungalow. Upon arrival we found a bit of a cockroach motel- the bungalow clearly did not belong to us anymore but rather to the family of roaches that had overtaken it in our absence. At first it wasn’t a huge deal- Kate gave a little yelp as she found one in the bathroom just like the night before. Then Caitlin gave a bigger yelp as she saw one on the wall. At this point the advice from the couples came to mind and we thought maybe we should pull our bags off the floor. Kate placed her purse on the bed and gave a scream as she felt something crawl out of it onto her arm. We figured she must have just imagined it as we didn’t see a bug. However 2 seconds later when she put her hand back in the back a huge 2 inch cockroach crawled out of her purse and onto her arm,. At this point we were jumping squealing and screaming all over the tiny bungalow. We ran out onto the porch to compose ourselves and were a bit surprised that none of our neighbors seemed to hear us and if they did they didn’t care enough to investigate. Then out of the blue came a little Thai lady and her daughter who was about our age. She told us she had heard our screams while they were walking along the beach and that she was worried about out us. We told her about the bugs and she asked if she could come inside and look. She found one crawling on the bed under the pillow and bravely killed it for us. At this point we were grossed out but thought we could still brave it. Then we saw another one of those little suckers on the wall and we bravely knocked in into the trashcan with the help of a broom and decked out in our roach-hunting gear of beach hats and trekking sneakers (Bridge think mouse hunting in Trilogy gear) Kate went to kill the intruder in the trashcan. Then 3 of his little buddies crawled out of the can which lead to blood curdling screams and 2 girls fleeing the bungalow. Kate then marched her way over to reception where no one happened to be, so she went to the next safest place- the bar- and demanded a manager come to our bungalow and move us. So Kate returned manager in hand and we started collecting our belongings to move. When we shook out a couple things and didn’t see another bug we thought it was silly for the manager to stand there while we packed so we told him we were fine packing and that we could move on our own. About 2 minutes after he left a roach crawled out of Caitlin’s backpack brining another round of screams and maybe a few tears. Kate stormed back to reception and the bar looking for the manager who had apparently disappeared but she found another man to take his place. This man was not quite as apologetic and understanding as the first and found the 2 screaming blond girls with tears in their eyes to be hysterical. He also apparently thought nothing of the two roaches he picked up with his bare hands. He helped us throw stuff in bags and carried our packs to our new room on the other side of the resort. When we got to the new room we did a careful inspection and shake out of all of our belongings, repacked and turned in for the night. Or so we thought. At about 3am we were awoken by a guy talking outside our room and a knock on our door. We ignored this and tried to fall back asleep but at 3:36am his friends and one lady with an obnoxiously horrible voice and a cell phone/mp3 player joined his outside out room. While he did have OK taste in music the sing-long wasn’t exactly appreciated at this hour- nor was the smoking of various substances. Caitlin finally got up and shut the window thinking maybe they didn’t realize people were in the room they were standing in front of. They noticed someone was in the room and knocked on the door and window again but we have seen Oprah and the power of fear was there so we just ignored their knocks again. Of course a resort with no electricity doesn’t have phones in the room so we couldn’t call reception (not that anyone would be there) and we didn’t want to leave the room with them right outside so we waited it out. As soon as they finally went to bed and quiet was restored- click the fan shut off signaling no more power for the day. We woke up after an awful night of sleep and marched right now to reception and demanded to speak to the manager. He was a very sweet man and said he understood our anger about the cockroaches and the rude neighbors and he gave us a 350 baht discount on the room. We paid our bill, had breakfast and hopped on the ferry to Langkawi.
Now we must stop here and tell you about how we were illegally in Thailand. For our own protection we couldn’t tell you people about this earlier in fear that you might know a Thai immigration officer and have us deported. Since we came into Thailand on a land crossing we only received a 14 day visa rather than the standard 30 day visa. We didn’t realize this little factoid until we only had about 4 days left. Our options were to waste a whole day and paying $70 for a visa run to Krabi for thirty more days or getting a $70 ferry to Malaysia for a day or just accepting the 500 baht a day fine and spending those days on the beaches with our fingers crossed for no police altercations. We chose door number 3 and thoroughly enjoyed our 3 days as illegal aliens. We were getting nervous as immigration jail won’t change your cell for cockroach epidemics but we had Google overstaying Thai visas and it seemed as if we dressed okay and acted apologetic and humble we could just pay a reduced fine and would be free to leave the county. We practiced our speech for immigration and were ready to go at it this morning as our ferry arrived at the immigration stop before entering Malaya.
As we got ready to disembark the ferry we learned that our passports were all ready in immigration and we would not have to face an officer and were supposed to remain on the boat as our passports got stamped and the like. We caused some alarm with the ferry operator as we explained our situation to him because we were supposed to have gone ashore with the passports for expired visa jail if he had known. But somehow we avoided Thai prison again and the director just told us to give him a 1000 baht fine per person and we were free to go. All our apprehension and plans for teaching the prisoner Madonna songs were in vain..we got an out of Thailand for free card. Make that out of Thailand for 2000 baht card. (about $60-$65)
We spent most of the day on ferries but arrived in Langkawi, Malaysia at about 7 today. Once again our passports were raced across town and we just had to sit and wait. While we were waiting we found out that Chinese New Year starts tomorrow and there are no hotel rooms in all of Langkawi. Great planning. With out planned out Malaysia root in the hole, we had promise when the man in charge of the passports told us he would call around and find us a room. He returns and told us to take a taxi to a hotel we had called already but somehow we had gotten a room there. Off we went hoping that soon we would have a room and a meal. We got to the hotel and they have never received such a call and had no rooms available and did not know of any. Defeated and mad we set back towards the road to look for a place. We met a guy from Detroit by way of China (Just like Emily…but he didn’t know of her0 who was so nice and walked all to about 4 guest houses and asked around for us but couldn’t find one either. He walked us to the main road and told us which way we might have better luck…we don’t know why he was so nice and helpful but it sure was reassuring. However we think when he ran into us we just must have looked desperate and hopeless and hot and sweaty…cause we were all of the above.
We spent about 40 minutes walking from hotel to hotel on the main road with our 35 lb backpacks and 20 lb carry-ons, 4 carved coconuts Caitlin picked up in Chiang Mai, two pool floats, and out huge bag of shells…but no where had rooms. It was terrible!! We hadn’t eaten all day and were about to pass out when we finally got one of the last rooms at a hotel. While Kate went to do a cockroach inspection on the room, Caitlin saw 3 people get turned away so we were just in time. We got into out room and had to walk a mile to the ATM to get money for dinner. Our appetizer was grape mentos and water followed by chicken satay and a Mayalasian form of donar (like she had with Adrianna in Spain She can attest to the deliciousness of. ) we are not relaxing in our hotel with actually mattresses, water pressure, and aircon. We don’t’ know what to do with ourselves. What a day! We escaped Thai prison and almost had to sleep on the beach all in the same day!
Tomorrow we are going to check out the beaches here and catch up on some school work before heading to the Cameron Highlands and maybe even celebrate the Chinese New Year. Until then we love when you leave the love!!

Happy Chinese New Year!!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Elephants- Check!!

Once upon a time in a hot hot land in a hot hot place there were two beautiful girls who were sweating beyond what a lady should ever do. This hot hot land is southern Thailand and this hot hot hot hot place is their 500 baht a night bungalow 500 meters from the sea. Close enough for budget purposes but surrounded by much bigger bungalow resorts that block the breeze. Our little bungalow provides the quietest night sleep yet (surprising considering the amount of roosters we see roaming around…have we told you guys about the chickens in Asia yet. What about the one that sounded like it was between us in bed in Siem Reap??), comfy bed, and nice nighttime sleeping temperatures but the other 17 hours of the day our bungalow and its surrounds are hot and unbearably muggy, humid, hot, swealtering…we imagine hell to be as hot as this bungalow. We are currently perched on our front deck surrounded by our drying clothes and just waiting waiting waiting for a breeze or some evening temperatures. It is even hotter inside the bungalow than we just described…that is why we sit on the porch. We are kind of in a cul-de-sac of bungalows, and the three closest to us have their tenants on the porches too…however they are sitting calmly and chatting amongst themselves…totally obvilious to satan’s sweat box we are all sitting in right now. We aren’t sure if its just our bungalow because they are cool calm and collected where we are cursing and complaining and dreaming of that snow everyone back home is buried under.
Vent over we need to back track and fill you all in our our last day in chaing mai, and trip down south to the islands.
We went elephanting, a trip we had planned (and had funds lined up to pay for) in Laos while our Laos dreams went to the wayside we kept the elephants alive and arranged to stay in Chiang Mai another night in order to visit a sustainable, elephant friendly nature park. (there are lots of elephant parks in CM but most put saddles on the elephants, have shows, and teach them to walk on two legs…we were cautious not to end up at that type of park. We found a pro-elephant rights park and spend the day there. We were told they were booked for the normal time however we could go out in a smaller group earlier in the day for the same price..it was pitched like it was a bad thing but we think we had a better deal that the normal time crew that was piling in just as we were finishing up.}
Our group was the two of us and Dan from New York and Emily from Detroit, a couple that have lived on a mountain in China for three years and are in Thailand on vacation. They were really cool and we talked most of the drive with them comparing stories and giving advice and catching up on jersey shore gossip. We got to the park and were asked to change into Mahout Uniforms—denim jumpsuit type outfits that immediately killed all cuteness factors. Caitlin is still ashamed that she wore head to toe ill-fitting denim. The hard straw hat they gave us toped off the ensemble and was the icing on the cake. What not to wear should really come to Asia for that among many other trends we have noticed.
Sex appeal killed we headed over the elephants that were tied up having a snack. (they were tied up to keep them away from poachers, elephant stealers, and the angry polish neighbor who does not appreciate elephants in the yard) We had sugar cane and bananas in all our pockets and were able to feed them before the training started. The one mahout (elephant caretaker that spend almost 24/7 with his elephant and you can see the tenderness in their eyes when they talk about and to their elephants) helped us to feed the one baby male there by wrapping the trunk around necks and having us shovel banans into his mouth rapid fire. He even made the elepant kiss our cheeks (Caitlin might have gotten a little lip action) which sent chills up our spines and the the big wet suction cup of a kiss left elephant slobber everywhere (not that we appricated the outfits at all) At this point we would like to describe an elephants mouth for those of you who have not had the opportunity to experience something like this. It looks exactly like an element of the female reproduction anatomy. That’s all we are saying. Use your imagination or google image to figure it out. Or buy us a drink when we get home and we will tell you all about it
Next up we boarded the elephants and were taught the commands to make it move. And then we both got on the same elephant and with Dan and Emily on a very preggo elephant we set off on our trek. We were not in baskets on the back..we were on the neck of the elephant with the ears flapping on our legs. Elephants are not soft (it kind felt like a brillo pad nor are they particularly comfie really. We had rashes on our legs from elephant hair) Nor do they move when they don’t want to. Our Mahout walked next to us the whole time (talking on his cell phone. We had a convo with Dan and Emily over lunch about who he would have been talking to. We decided it was his girlfriend upset because he spends so much time with the elephant and not with her) and when we couldn’t get our elephant to move he would say one thing share a look with the elephant and she would lumber two more steps and stop to eat again. Up hill was better than downhill we must say. Halfway through the trek we switched drivers and for the downhill portion Caitlin was up front and Kate was in the back. Both clingling onto the elephant for dear life and scared we were going to fall off while Miss Thang Elepahant took her sweet sweet time going down the mountain in two step intervals. It hurt. However it was an amazing experience to be that close to a well taken care of elephant.
We knew our time on the elephant was close to an end when the guide said something about the watering hole and our elephant went faster than she had the whole 3 hour trek. Although we were ready to get off we were glad she was finally showing some speed. 0.5mph. The watering hole proved to be another experience. We pulled our elephant up to a huge platform where we thought we were going to dismount before giving her a bath…instead the guide just asked for our camera and glasses and hats and told us to move back to allow for the mahout to board as well. Clutching the rope we had the steepest decent yet into the watering hole. Riding an elephant that is happy to be in the water is like riding a bucking bronco. She was rolling from side to side and standing up and then laying down and shaking her head. We tried to scrub her with the brushes they gave us but most of the time we were just holding on for dear life. It was fun for the first 5 minutes and then we noticed the ultimate party foul—elephant poop in the pool. Then we were holding on for dear life, while avoiding the poo, and keeping our mouths shut. Dan and Emily’s elephant was a lot taller and a lot more round so they were a bit higher up than we were…so every so often when they would look over you would catch the look of shock in their eyes. So fun!
The next morning we hopped the early flight to Bangkok. Once there we booked a second flight to Phuket (Amazing Race style) figuring the extra money to fly was well worth not having to go into Bangkok with 40lb backpacks and wander around looking for a bus station. We had a 4 hour wait and then a 2 hour delay but our day in the Bangkok airport was quite delightful. There was Burger King (Taylor Freezer ice cream machine!!) and Auntie Anne’s and an amazing waiting room for Bangkok Airways flyers. We first thought it was just for 1st class customers however they let everyone in and there was free water and snacks and popcorn and wifi. It was beautiful. We would get trays full of water so we didn’t have to get up so much and spend the day planning out the rest of the trip…you people just wait. We’ve got some good stuff lined up.
We arrived in Phuket around 9PM and found a booking office right in the airport where we were able to line up that night’s accommodation, taxi to the ferry in the AM, and Ferry tickets. At first they gave us all their expensive hotels to look at but they soon realized we were no hot water, no aircon kinda gals (imagine that!) and it worked out. Although looking back our hotel was creepy. It was kinda desserted and we might have been the only guests but it did the job.
The ferry the next morning was HUGE and packed from bow to stern with more westerners we have seen the whole trip. We couldn’t find seats but then found some towards the middle of the boat…everyone wanted to sit on the sun deck and on the edges for the view it seemed. About 30 minutes into the ride the water started getting choppy and the whole boat was splashed and drenched from the huge sprays of water. We were lucky to be on the inside and stayed mostly dry.
South East Asia played another one of its little tricks on us when we got to Phi Phi Island where we were supposed to switch boats to get to Railey Beach (our destination-a tip from Dan and Emily) SEA won again because what we had figured was a direct connection turned out to be a 4 hour layover. We were pretty mad but then looked up from the pier in both directions and noticed deserted beaches in either direction and decided it wasn’t so bad after all. We stored out bags and grabbed our sarongs and after getting our first meal since lunch the previous day we set off to enjoy our “layover”. The beach at Phi Phi was beautiful. All the beaches we have seen over here in Asia have been very pretty with very clear blue water, but Thailand is in a league of its own with its beaches. The beach at Phi Phi was covered in powdery white sand and the water was the clearest we have seen yet. The Island is surrounded by these huge limestone karsts in the water and the combination of the white beach, the dark rocks and the blue green water was just amazing! We easily passed the time between boats soaking in the sun, floating in the water and collecting shells on the shore. We almost felt bad for the day trippers there who would only get to spend an hour before their boat blew its whistle and they had to leave.
We got back on the ferry (we were sunburned and wet and in our sarongs with ice cream cones and out new straw hats and trying to get our bags from the left luggage and we were quite the sight) and arrive in Railay with enough time to find out hotel, check in, shower, and get to the beach for sunset. The ferry arrives in the harbor on west Railay and we were tendered to shore in longtail boats. You have to jump from the boat into the water and walk up the beach. We did separate trips to avoid jumping with the backpacks on and ending up face first into the water. Railay on approach kind of looked like Phi Phi. It is one of those places where when you show up it is so unique and pretty and untoursity you almost feel like you’ve discovered a new place. ( Reminancent of our first night in Cinque Terre Italy) There were many tourist there but you didn’t feel like there were compared to many other places.
We were spending two nights and one full day in Railey so we set off the next morning across the island to get some exploring/beach time in. There aren’t any motos or cars on the island just a few sets of paths for us to follow. We walked along on one to the beach that had huge rocks and cliffs on the one side…you could hike to viewpoints and hidden lagoons in a few spots but we we feeling the beach. We spent the majority of the day on the beach, once again crytal clear waters and huge rock formations we could look at and even swim to and explore. It was pretty hot so we stayed in the water for most of the day. We got some Pad Thai from the beach version of street venders…they beach a boat at the shore line and cook up what you want right there in the boat. Pretty cool. Once we had our fill of sand and surf..we cleaned up and headed back to the beach for a sunset beer…or six. One restaurant sets up mats right on the beach and we claimed one and just hung out. Maybe two beers in we realized that we have been friends for 10 years. A decade. We quickly decided that the evening would be our anniversary…we star gazed, and a little Thai boy showed up with sparklers and minor fireworks yet no parent. So the nanny in both of us took over and we had a firework display and later in the evening on the beach people were buying 155 baht paper lanterns to send up in the air. They about 3 ft tall white Chinese lantern shaped lanterns with a candle in it. Once the lantern fills up with whatever comes off a candle it floats off into the night for good luck. You can see them for so long after they take off. Not wanting to literally throw our money up in the air…we thoroughly enjoyed watching other people do it in honor of our 10th friend-aversary. (Not sure that was their intent but it was appreciated)
The next morning we took the morning ferry to Ko Lanta..where we currently are stationed. We didn’t have an hotels lined up so we started talking to the hotel people on the pier and were soon being carted off to the other side of the island to a hotel right on the beach for cheap that sounded too good to be true. Don’t worry followers concerned with our safety we most definately weren’t sitting in flatbed of a uncovered pickup truck or anything. An Australian couple was in the truck with us and the sun was directly on the one side of the truck…Caitlin and the guy almost had 3rd degree burns to show for our ride. The hotel turned out to be a bust…they lied to us, had crap rooms, and we saw a drug deal go down. We made the driver take us back to the pier and refused to get out of the truck to see any of the other places he wanted to show us. We were sweating and hungry and defeated showing back up at the pier an hour later. It was bad. The other hotel people were still there and showing us all sorts of paplets and flyers and telling us where we wanted to stay…it was quite overwhelming. There weren’t many options available in our price range..although one guy kept telling Caitlin she could stay at his house for free (she didn’t ask about the free wifi because we might have taken him up on it) but we ended up going with a nice young girl to her family’s place. It turned out to be a very nice beach, close to stores and food, and everything we wanted minus a pool and pus 50 degrees.
We were able to get some beach time in after we got settled and finally got to eat another meal. (The water here is freakishly clear- its like a swimming pool you can be neck neep and see see what color your toenails are painted) We found a cute bar last night that has all sorts of wooden mind games and the bartenders know magic tricks and they love us…so we like it there. We aren’t so good at the mind challeneges and mostly ended up with a pile of funny shaped wooden pieces in front of us and not a box or circle like we are supposed to. But we think our friend Dave Martin would be great at them (he can solve a rubix cube…we think can also picture our friend/his wife Alyssa there saying that’s great honey, wooden blocks-wanna do some tequila shots??) So we played with the bartenders and even won a few games of connect four and jenga. The one bartender thought it was funny we were both Kate, so he named us A and B and called himself C. (most people usually go with the Kate 1 and Kate 2..our ziplining guide would just yell 1 or 2 at us) There was also free popcorn and the one bartender might have a crush on us…we’ll probably going to end up back there sometime in the next two nights. Its owned by a guy from Ohio and plays country music and Jack Johnson. We met an interesting child with dreadlocks last night (and by met we mean we eavesdropped on her conversation with her equally strange mother).
Today we slept in until the heat in the bungalow got to unbearable and we headed to breakfast and some school work before hitting up the beach. Since we began the post the sun has set and it’s finally cooled off enough to be able to walk around again. Phew! Until next time..Leave the love!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Zipline video take 2!

Zipline Videos!