Thursday, October 28, 2010

Researching Thailand

Wow, we've been overwhelmed with all of the amazing advice we're received since posting about planning Bali. Thank you thank you thank you. If anyone is looking for a good story, ask my mom's dear friend Deb about flamethrowers at funerals or cat-munchin' pythons, you're in for a treat.

So! The next itinerary that needs planning is Thailand. As with Bali, it was cool to find out how many people have spent time in Thailand once we started asking around. From Derek, who was there for three weeks, to Amanda, who spend much of her childhood there, to Gloria, who had some unique experiences in Northern Thailand, there is a wealth of knowledge to tap.  Here's how the plan is shaping up so far.

 In general, Sarah and I are not huge beach vacationors. Nothing against white sand and mai-tais, but between Sarah's tan-resistant (and very subburnable) skin and my short attention span a day at the beach usually turns into Sarah repeatedly applying SPF 50 and my asking after two hours if it's time to go ride bikes.

That said though, I hear the saying for Thailand is - when in Thailand, do as Leo DiCaprio does. Which is go to Ko Phi Phi because you will never see a more beautiful beach. And we figure on a five month trip, one leg that is mainly beachy will be fun. Ko Phi Phi here we come.
Before we get to that tiny island oasis though, we'll spend a few days in Bangkok. We're staying close to the Old City, where Rattanakosin's temples, palaces and pavilions will be a definite stop off. We've also hear of an enormous market that happens on the northern outskirts of town. On one of those days we'll head up the river to Kanchanaburi, where we've heard you can do some touristy but unmissable things like ride elephants, check out a provincial marketplace on the water, visit some historical shrines, etc.

Then, it's time to hop a flight to Krabi (RT 100 per person), then a quick longboat out to Railay, which is a town with no roads that is only accessible by boat. Cool. Thanks for the recommendation Derek. Lots of walking in this area, checking out the Princess Shrine and Cave, hiking out to beautiful beaches, and hopefully renting some kayaks to explore the caves in the limestone karsts. Excellent.

Finally, another somewhat longer longboat ride out to Ko Phi Phi, the proclaimed gem of the Andaman Coast islands. It's hardly an undiscovered place, and apparently has quite the party scene, which we aren't particularly interested in, however there are lots of ways to get away from the party circuit and just enjoy the naturally stunning beauty of this little island. Snorkeling, hiking, and yes, beaching it will be the main items on the agenda for the days we end up exploring Ko Phi Phi.

So that's what we've got! Please let us know if you have favs in any of these places that we should check out - restaurants, beaches, shrines, cultural activities, whatever. We've loved hearing everyone's stories, so let's keep it going.

Next on the planning agenda - India. We've identified Southern India as the general destination, but other than that, there's some thinking, reading, listening to stories to do.

55 days til takeoff.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Belated blog about the land of boiled peanuts

I have no excuses for waiting so long to write this blog post...well, not true, I could come up with many, but for the sake of catching up on some belated blogging, I'll spare our readers the list and reflect on a sunny week that Steve and I embarked on in May 2010. The mission was one beach side wedding in Florida (yay Caryn and Logan!), the adventure ended up including some serious Spanish moss action, 3 days under a tin roof with dear friends (yay Ariel and Erin!), and the sun that we are (yet again) craving in yonder rainy BC.

Phase 1 - Take a red eye to southern Florida (see stripping off of sweater image above in the FL heat), rent a car and drive to Sarasota (home of Mr. John Ringling of the famous family and a whole gamut of retirees), conquer beach, park, and fruity sunset drinks, and stay at great find.

Phase 2 - Drive a couple hundred miles north to Tallahassee (in "the deep south") lose count of the Confederate flags seen, but collect photo montage from the passenger seat of some purely southern gems.

Phase 3 - Get to know Tallahassee and surrounding area a bit by spending time with dear friends, visit family farm, eat biscuits, gravy, and grits, and promise to come back soon.

Phase 4 - Leave dear friends after 3 wonderful days and nights, drive back down south in one day, meet up with more great friends for wedding fun, and work, daily, on acquiring enough freckles to make the Vancouverites envious. :)

It is a week of sun, dear friends, and fun times that we still think of fondly, and probably will even moreso now that the weather is changing. Only now, we'll start dreaming of beaches in Thailand. That said, we were advised upon moving to Vancouver that in order to make it through the winters, you have to go somewhere hot. We've got this coming year covered, but thoughts of returning to the south for a Talla"classy" visit have crossed our minds more than once. Never did get to try any of those roadside boiled peanuts...

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Travels in Our Own Backyard

Fall weather makes both Sarah and I nostalgic for the vibrant colors and feel of New England, whether it be Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, or the one and only Massachusetts. In recent years though, we've come to deeply appreciate the fall in Vancouver, which on certain years shows that it can go toe to toe with those east coast forests. I walk about 30 minutes to and from work most days and these leaves have kept me entertained for weeks, dreaming of far off places, watching the soccer games in the fields, and even getting inspired to start a new novel. Here is a little homage to fall in Vancouver and to remembering that the joys of slow travel don't necessarily have to take you far from home.

(56 days till liftoff!)

Monday, October 18, 2010

In a Sentimental Mood

Hello readers,

Allow me to get sentimental for a moment about my travel buddy whose unending support and care always baffles me. After a busy work weekend (for the both of us) and a night of not-enough-sleep, I threw on the iPod to wake me up a bit this morning before going, going, going some more. Lo and behold, my living room dance party shuffled it's way to an appropriate opening song whose lyrics made me think of all the places we two will soon explore in the safety, warmth, and enjoyment of each other's company:

"I say, hey, I be gone today
But I be back around the way
Seems like everywhere I go
The more I see, the less I know
But I know one thing that I love you."

Here's the song: Say Hey by Michael Franti

I dedicate this sentimental post to my travel buddy who is undoubtedly rolling his eyes as he reads this, but I say, hey, I love you.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Researching Bali

Everyone has been fantastic help in responding to our posts on Australia travel, which has gotten us very excited to keep on with the planning venture. Bali is next on the list of places to think about.

Bali is an Indonesian island located between Java and Lombok and is home to the majority of Indonesia's small Hindu minority. (Thanks Wikipedia). From everyone we know who has visited, it is a beautiful, lush, beach and culture filled place, and we can't wait to visit. Here's a summary of what we've heard so far and the plans we've made:

1) Katu. Tourists. As many tourists as flies on roadkill. We're going to go ahead and skip this one.

2) Gili Islands. It's amazing when you start asking people about travels locations and find that many of them have been to places you never would have expected. Case in point, the research assistant I work with has been to this little trio of islands off the coast of Lombok where all motorized vehicles are outlawed, you can buy magic mushrooms at the corner store, and you can walk around the perimeter of the biggest of the three islands in 90 mins. Wow. After a long debate, we decided if we'd had two more days, this would have made the itinerary, but with only 8 days in Bali, we've decided to spend out time exploring Ubud.

3) Ubud. The artistic and cultural center of Bali. Its a collection of village up in the hills, surrounded by rice patties, temples, and mountains. Bali has been a noted cultural center since the 1200s when nearby Java was overthrown and the Hindu intelligensia fled to Bali. The island remains mainly Hindu despite Indonesia being predominantly Islam. From what we've read, religion still permeates much of life in Bali from daily offerings to family relations, to multi-day ceremonies where the whole island stops to celebrate. We're excited to experience a culture so different from ours, so we've booked a place for the whole stay in Ubud, within easy striking distance of all the monasteries, shrines, and ancient architectural sites in the area.One thing we are particularly keen to check out is the traditional dancing. There are a number of dances, here is a description of one from the guide book:

"Kecak - Probably the best known dance for its spell-binding, hair-raising atmosphere, the Kecak features a "choir" of men and boys who sit in concentric circles and slip into a trance as they chant and sign the "chak-a-chak-a-chak" imitating a troupe of monkeys. Sometimes called the "vocal gamelan" this is the only music to accompany the dance re-enactment from the Hindu epic Ramayana."

A fun fact about Bali - traditionally, each persons' name starts with either I or Ni to designate male or female, then with Wayan for first-born, Made for second-born, Nyoman for third-born, and Ketut for fourth-born, then followed by something about them. For instance I Nyoman Darma Putra is a name given to a male third born who is meant to be "dutiful" or "good" (darma). When I received confirmation of our booking at Ibunda Bungalows, the email came from Ketut Sumbar Jaya. I look forward to finding out what his name means.

75 Days till Liftoff (Holy Cow)