Monday, August 23, 2010

Hong Kong is the Bomb!!!

I haven't been a good blogger lately. I was good in the beginning, but 5 weeks of travel and spotty WiFi connections make it a bit hard. Plus, who really reads this. :)
So, here is the deal. 5 weeks 5 countries and more memories and stories than I know what to do with. Never in my life have I embarked on such a journey. Never in my life did I think I would hold up so well. I finally reached my breaking point last week on week 4 in Vietnam. Long day of traveling with no AC and and everything going wrong makes you snap. Sorry Caroline! After a great but long week in Nam we headed to Hong Kong to visit our friend Jon on the last leg of our trip. We have had an absolute blast. There is such a difference from staying in a different hotel every night to just chillin with a good friend in there apartment. Jon me and Liney have stayed up way too late every night, laughed so hard tears have literally poured out of our eyes. We have beached it up, toured it up, lazed around and have been ending this trip in style. Thanks Jon for saving our sanity at the end. Here are a few pics of fun times...
Thanks Asia! I will miss you and all of fun I have had. On Thursday I am back to reality....

Friday, August 6, 2010

A day with Adam Chew

Adam was our tour guide all day Friday. He was a great man who loved
Australia more than Penang. The first thing Adam told the three of us
when we got in his car was that the Islams controlled Malaysia and
that he loved Australia. We were all confused at why he was a tour
guide and then he informed us he was just a driver who did not have a
program planned for us today. So what did we do?! We laughed and he
continued to drive. His first stop was at two Buddah temples which
were actually quite interesting. The first one was the largest
reclining Buddha in the world. Next stop was Penang hill but don't get
to excited the train up the mountain was broken so we took a jeep up
the steep mountain. The view from the top was spectaular. All in all
Adam turned out to be a great guide with his over zealous personality
and his endless tastings of local food that he offered us.

Yes, I must agree with Caroline. Adam was not the greatest guide in
the world. In fact Adam new relatively nothing about his own country
or city. Yesterday started off with me waking up completely sick. Soar
throat and a bad cold are not fun ways to spend your vaca! Not only
that, but I have planned this whole second half of the trip. Which
puts an added pressure to make sure things go the way I had
invisioned. Both of these factors added together made me a bit of a
big B-word yesterday. And upon meeting Adam our 'driver' I was
probably not the most pleasent person to be around. But as the day
proceeded and as we saw beautiful Penang and ate some amazing food my
attitude changed and I put a big smile on my face.
Thank you Adam Chew!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Surviving India on granola bars and fried rice

Hey All!

I know Caroline and I have been a little crazy posting everyday. But we are kind of using our blogs as our travel journal for now. On our trip we have asked our friends to be guest bloggers. First up is Tom! I know it's long, but if you choose to read anything read this! I almost peed my pants laughing at his funny trip notes. Please read, please enjoy, and please don't judge me and Liney!


- An important pre-cursor to keep in mind is that the only "research" I did prior to this trip was watch Slumdog Millionaire. No books, internet, or anything else. This makes me probably the least qualified person to jot down random thoughts about India.
- With the vast number of cows roaming the streets of India, I can't help but wonder whether cow tipping really works, or if it's an urban legend. Really tempting to try to find out, but probably not a good idea.
- Also not a good idea? Trying to eat concealed beef jerky on a plane bound for Delhi. They can smell it. This would have been the biggest scandal to hit India all week, had it not been for Caroline's "rinsing" incident. She is now the Heidi Montag of India.
- Manhattan cab drivers have got nothing on Indian drivers. There is a blatant disregard for traffic laws, lanes, and general human safety on the roads over here. No "oh crap" handles to help you out either.
- Based on a scan of the Matrimonials section of the newspaper, and discussions with our tour guide, turns out the key to landing a hot wife in India is to be a movie star, athelete, or doctor. Just like America.
- Personal observations reveal that in India, if you're a blonde gal with big... err... brains, you can also get whatever you want. Also just like America.
- Indians love curry. Not a surprise. What's truly impressive is their creative use of curry, which can be found in everything. Including veggie burgers.
- Caroline is reportedly a cover stealer. Make sure you use the "tuck-under" technique, or you will be left out in the cold.
- Leslie is also a cover stealer. Which creates an interesting dilemma. Should a guy, a) snuggle in close to get under the covers as to not disturb her sleep, but risk a potentially awkward moment when she wakes up? Or b) try to steal back the covers so that you're not left out in the cold, but risk waking her up and earning the wrath of a tired woman the whole next day?
- I recommend c) snuggle in closer, and then in the morning, completely overplay how cold it was when she stole the covers so that she feels guilty, thereby earning you sympathy credits, which you can maybe parlay into a massage at a future time.
- Note to Leslie's mom, who reads this blog. I was just kidding. Your sweet, innocent daughter slept in an all-girls wing by herself every night, and she loves you dearly. But she did claim to "do every guy in the ward".
- Note to Leslie's dad. I am not in her ward. And she was referring to hair.
- The Hindu religion believes in three main gods: a Giver (creator), an Operator, and a Destroyer of the world. Clever acronym. I can understand the first two, but why would you worship a destroyer? I like it when someone creates (bakes) a cheesecake for me. I like it when someone operates (serves) that cheesecake for me, preferably with fresh strawberries on top. But I'd be peeved if a third person came along and smashed their fist into my cheescake and destroyed it.
- Also interesting to note the three main Hindu gods have wives, or goddesses. They represent power, wealth, and intelligence. We now know who wears the pants in those families.
- What walks around on four legs but has no ears? Mike Tyson's dog. Found in the gossip section of an Indian newspaper.
- I would have imagined the combination of curry, humidity, aversion to deoderants, and generally dodgy living conditions would not be conducive to hooking up. The population density here seems to indicate otherwise.
- The Maharaja is the original player. He had twelve wives, each in a different apartment within his palace, and he built secret passages that allowed him to go from one place to the next without being seen. The kicker? The wives were forbidden from talking to each other.
- Elephant droppings are huge. But don't smell near as bad as human feces on the streets.
- Two men holding hands is perfectly acceptable, and very common, in Indian culture. However, a man and a woman showing affection in public is frowned upon. Not quite sure what to make of this.
- Three men riding on one motorcycle is a sight that will also make you do a double-take.
- Indian men love to take photos of white American girls. Some try to do it without them noticing. Others are far more blatant, and will follow the girls around snapping photos, papparazzi style. It's all fun and games, until you a take photo of them taking photos of the girls. Then they get all confused and upset.
- Leslie has no heart. And Caroline is the little devil that sits on her shoulder, whispering into her ear. Together, they're one bangle-tastic pair.
- Not a revelation, more a re-affirmation. People aren't always completely rational when something is on sale. Logistically, it's pretty hard to use three quilts when you only have one bed.
- It's interesting how we'll spend 30 minutes haggling down the price of a souvenir by $3.50 when we're overseas. This works out to be roughly the equivalent of minimum wage. Yet, there is such satisfaction to be derived from this perceived success. I like to think of it as time well wasted.
- Everybody loves K-Ci and JoJo.
- Due to the cast (or class) system in Indian culture, people of lower casts such as our bus driver are not allowed to enter the hotels or restaurants we go to. This makes me feel really bad. The interesting thing is, I had a chance to have an hour long conversation with him while the others were shopping. Turns out he is a very happy and content man, and loves his job of driving tourists around, then going home to his wife and 7 year old twins in Punjab. Further proof that happiness is really not about having what you want, but rather wanting what you have.
- Traditional Indian garb for women is very colorful and looks really comfortable. It was also unexpectedly attractive, in an odd way. The girls on the trip rocked their outfits. Traditional Indian garb for men, on the other hand, was very rigid, hot, and uncomfortable.
- I have seen an inordinate number of Indian men peeing on the sides of the streets all over India. Yet, I have not seen a single woman needing to relieve herself. Until Caroline.
- Our bus got a flat tire in the middle of a rural town. Luckily, we were right near a tire store. I was impressed by how willing to help out the locals were. Not so impressive? About five different workers each took turns looking at the tire before transferring it to the next guy, thereby taking an hour to resolve a routine issue. Note that many call centers are also located in India.
- We did not see a single tiger on our safari ride through the tiger preserve. However, off-roading through the jungles of India is a spectacular experience that should not be missed.
- The number of Indians that can fit onto one bus is truly impressive. Yes, I meant "onto", not "into", because they literally put people on top of the bus once the interior is jam packed.
- For cheap amusement, wait until Leslie falls asleep. Then quietly sneak into the room with a small twig, and imitate a bug crawling from her neck up to her face. She's a screamer.
- Customer service at its finest out in rural India. In the morning, a dude knocked on our door. "Good morning! This is your wake up call! Weather is beautiful! It's raining outside!". Except we never ordered a wake up call.
- Kudos to Caroline for being so willing to embrace local customs. She has eschewed cutlery and now eats rice and curry using just her right hand. I just hope she hasn't taken on all local customs, which would explain why she couldn't use her left hand.
- As an act of diplomacy, I recommend the US donate and plant one billion venus fly-traps in India. It would improve US foreign relations, while saving tourists from feeling like a giant piece of poo. Not to mention, those plants would feel like a fat kid in a candy store out here. Win-win all around.
- They're not messing around with their garlic naan out here. Ask Leslie. She may have a hard time finding a roommate tonight.
- Best meal of the week? Pizza Hut.
- It costs 20 rupees for a local to visit the Taj Mahal. Foreigners? 750 rupees.
- The Mogul King, Shah Jahan, built the Taj Mahal in loving memory of his third wife, Mumtaz Mahal, who died giving birth to their fourteenth child. The palace took 22 years to build and is one of the most breathtaking sights I have ever seen anywhere in the world. This ultimate monument to love is the pride and joy of the entire nation, and rightfully so.
- I especially love the fact that, as far as I know, the Taj Mahal is the only world monument built to celebrate someone other than the builder or ruler of the land. The selflessness really hit home for me upon entering the main tomb, where Mumtaz's marble coffin sits in the absolute center. Shah Jahan had his own coffin placed next to her's upon his passing, so that they could be together forever, in paradise, which is what the Taj Mahal was built to represent.
- Nice work, Shah Jahan. Way to make all other men feel like schmucks. As if we didn't feel enough pressure already.
- Little Indian boys can be surprisingly confident and charming. Pretty good negotiators too. That's why they are given the job of trying to sell stuff to tourists. A couple of particularly persistent young boys did a number on "Kelara" and "Lassie", and almost got themselves American girlfriends.
- This week has been a life changing experience that is truly beyond words. Among all the vibrant colors of the handicrafts, to the awe inspiring architecture of the majestic temples, the one memory of India that I will never forget is the spirit of the people. India may be an impoverished nation, but its people are rich on pride and tradition. Living in the humblest of conditions with seemingly little hope for a better tommorow, the people remain upbeat and congenial, even to outsiders. They exhibit such strength and perseverance in their everyday lives, while remaining true to their culture, beliefs, and family. Here's to hoping some of that rubs off on me.

The Taj Mahal and the Raj Mahal

Today we visited the beautiful and larger than life Taj Mahal. This 7
wonder of the world does not disappoint. It's perfect symmetry and
size make it an architectural marvel. It's possible to be the worst
photographer in the world and still snap a good shot. We really
enjoyed running around and having a 2 hour photo sesh! Caroline and I
also met the cutest kids trying to hustle us there merchandise, but
then we became friends. The 10 year old proposed to me. I don't think
he minded the 18 year age difference. ;) So cute!


It took 22 years to build one of the most pristine edifices on this
earth. Seeing this wonder is a life changing experience. Once spotted
one cannot look away from the Taj for a few minutes until they have
taken in the full view. Learning about the Taj was fascinating
for me because the love that the emperor had for his wife is a love I
hope to have for my own husband one day. The perfect symmetry around
the whole building is incredible he wanted the building to be perfect
for his wife. He accomplished this and it led to millions coming to
view this edifice from all over the world. Everyone wants to come and
see and feel the love that he had for his wife.

My experience at the Taj today was amazing. I was able to walk around
and learn about the history and share moments with friends that we
will cherish for the rest of our lives. The pictures were incredible
the moments awesome. Everyone needs to make a trek to India and see
this special place in Agra.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Sari's & Bangles

Jaipur today has been quite the success for shopping and for touring the city palace. This city is all pink and was founded in 1776. The pink is a welcoming color and comes from a natural sand. It's been an eventful
day with bollywood movies, shopping, and curry. We have another full program tomorrow that includes elephants and forts.

Hi All!
It's Leslie! As if you couldn't tell with all the exclamation points and emoticons! ;) we are having a fabulous day in Jaipur. We have been shopping and site seeing way too much. But the prices are so cheap we really can't resist. With 4 weeks still to go we better buy an extra bag. ;)
More tomorrow...


Elephant shmelephant

Have you ever ridden up a hill on an elephant to a fort or bought three linen blankets in one day? That's what's happens when you come to india. We all can't get enough of the bangles in Jaipur either especially Leslie. Ask her about her 7th bangle today. You only need 6 for a set. Today was super humid at all of our different spots but that didn't stop us from taking a million photographs and eating curry until we can't anymore. We had our first east coaster get destroyed last night poor Seth threw up 6 times. Tomorrow we are headed to another tiger reserve hopefully this time we will be successful and actually see one.

Hi all!
We had a rad day today in incredible India! We started off early with an 8am start on our bus up to the Amber Fort. We rode elephants up to the top of a huge switchback hill which led to the fort. Riding an elephant is a bumpy journey. They are so giant. We are also riding elephants in Thailand. Which we are looking forward to. Then after touring we headed to lunch and shopping. Now back at the hotel for a little R&R. Then we are finding a Pizza Hut tonight for some much needed American food. I must admit I am a little tired of heartburn and curry! ;)


Agra and all its beauty

Today we drove 6 hours from the tiger reserve to Agra. The drive was pretty entertaining driving through all the small cities and being haggled by beggers. Leslie even had a monkey come up to her window.

Once we arrived in Agra and checked into out hotel the raj mahal we took off to the fort to check out views of the taj and to learn more history of incredible India. We finished the day with more shopping and then had a pizza party back at the hotel. All 9 of us were super excited to eat American pizza and to have a break from curry.


Hi all! It's Leslie! First off, ignore the nasty pics of me that Caroline just posted. Haha! Hot sweaty India equals no hair or makeup for me. Which means lots of pics with my sunglasses.
Loving this whole trip so much. I can't wait to tour the Taj tomorrow. From the fort the views were great, but up close and personal will be fabulous!


Incredible India!!!!

Hi All!!! I am sending a quick blog post from the hotel we are staying at right now in India. The Raj Mahal! Too funny. I don't have much time to post and tell all of the stories from this unbelievable country. I am going to be remotely blogging via email over the next few weeks with my friend Caroline. We are doing joint blog posts. I am going to give you the link to her blog so you can look at the posts and pictures we have already been posting.


Enjoy!!! And everyone please comment and send me emails!!! It's always fun while I am traveling to here from you all!