Chopsticks and kung fu kicks!

Leaving on a jet plane …

Gili Trawangan April 25, 2010

Filed under: Indonesia — esacc @ 12:02 AM

We arrived on the fast boat to Gili Trawangan and were immediately mesmorized by the scenery of endless blue ocean lapping the sandy shores. And off in the distance in nearby Lombok, the view of endless mountains was increible.

Off the boat we headed straight for Manta Dive to sign up for our open water dive course. From their they suggested a place to stay – Pondok Lita- where we quickly settled in. The first afternoon on the island we spent watching the instructional DVDs for the dive course. The next day was pouring rain so we were happy to have a full day planned for the course. The morning included some skills in the pool and then in the afternoon we took our first dive in the ocean. It was pretty scary at first and I found myself to be very tense but we had an awesome instructor so he did a great job of keeping us calm and breathing. Despite my adiment fish phobia, I found myself largely distracted by my breathing and the sheer beauty of the under water world that I quickly shed the fear and replaced it with respect and admiration. Who would have thought that a girl who would refuse to go in the ocean at the first sight of a fish would voluntarily enter their world.

The second day of the course included so more advanced pool skills and again another dive in the ocean. The current was really strong so we found it challenging to find our neutral bouancy as we dove around a sunken pier but eventually we just rode with the current and it was far more relaxing.

That night was maria’s birthday so her and our new Autralian friends/neighbors, Stinky and Shaun, (brothers from australia) had some dinner and drinks in honor of her bday.

The next day proved to be a challenge getting out of bed for us and our scuba instructor so together we decided totaled a day off and resume the following day. The rest of the day made for incredible beach weather so the four of us took full advantage of it and did some swimming and tanning. That night we all, including the owner of our guest house, ventured down to sunset point to watch the sunset. Then it was dinner time and card time! The ozzys picked up euchre very easily so we spent the rest of the night playig cards and this set the tone for the remainder of the week.

Th next day included our third and fourth dives needed for our open water course and the test writing. On our final dives our instructor brought down a digital camera and took some great pictures for us. On our last dive we saw a nurse shark and a sting Ray! So cool!

The last day was spent again on the beach and playing cards with stinky and Shaun and packing up for our departure. This morning we said goodbye to our friends and the owner of the guest house and we are now on our way back to Kuta for the day to wait out the time we have before heading to the airport for our flight to Darwin tonight!!!!!

 

Bali Bali April 22, 2010

Filed under: Indonesia — esacc @ 9:47 AM

Bali was a pretty interesting place. We flew in early evening and eventually found a place to stay near Kuta Beach. Budget accommodation is pretty hard to come by but for about 7 dollars a night each (including breakfast) we shared a bed and a stinky water hose for a shower for two nights. Kuta beach is beautiful and constantly bustling with surfers and wannabe surfers. We spent a couple hours on our tans and spent the rest of our time parusing the shops.

From Kuta we took a van to the infamous Ubud (the city setting of the novel, Eat Pray Love) where again budget acommodation was tough to find. We decided to splurge a little for a nicer place with a warm shower and pool – and again, breakfast included. We slept like queens!

During the day in Ubud, we rented bikes and rode around the town making our way to Ketut Liyer’s home. The 99 year old man read my palm and told me my future. He also wished that one day I would meet his great grandson and with his positive words we were on our way. Basically I’m going to meet good man, be very rich and healthy and have a good life. (wink wink)!

After the appointment with Ketut we wanted to embrace traditional Ubud so we hired a driver and set out for the rice paddies. Since it had freshly rained everything was soooo green! On the way back into town we stopped at a small village to watch the white herons return to their nests. After watching some locals play soccer, the herons – hundreds of them – returned home to their nests. It was a pretty unqiue sight.

We spent two nights in Ubud where we spent a fair amount of time browsing the endless art galleries that fill the streets.

From Ubud we took a van and a fast boat to the Gili Islands off of Lombok where we got sitauted on Gili Trawagan for six nights. This place is so peacful and quite possibly the nicest place we’ve been yet.

 

Live. Laugh. Love. April 15, 2010

Filed under: travel — esacc @ 3:53 AM

Time to shed a layer of onion…

The endless road trips, boat trips, train and plane rides we have taken in the last 7 weeks has really proven the effectiveness of “taking a drive” to clear ones head. I never really understood this as an effective means to think and reevalutate situations, but I now really understand what it’s like to be alone with your thoughts and feelings with little more to do than simply think and feel.

Often times while making these long trips I put my iPod on and do just that: think and feel. And I believe I have grown from all the self reflection.

It’s funny because I realized that for a long time when I looked back on my life I very rarely emphasized and revelled in the happy times that happened over the course of my life, but rather I focused and dwelled on the things I failed at, or the things that hurt most – most of which occurred in the not so distant past. And it was this negativity that created a jaded and almost unpleasant outlook for the future. But with all of the time I have had to think and feel those memories again, I have realized that my life has consisted of far more important and meaningful times than I have given credit for. I feel like I am driving Maria crazy as more often than not I find myself ranting on and on about happy childhood memories I have and most times I end the rant (or rather reflection) with a sympathetic “oooh. Awww.” hahaha. Being away from friends and family has certainly made me appreciate where I come from. And it is also by being away from those whom I love and trust most, that my trust has been restored in others. I have realized that in comparison to a lot of the people I have met, that I come from a good place and I am very fortunate to have a family who loves me and gave me sound morals and values to live my life by. And even more so, have given me the capacity to embark on this adventure and be successful in it. Being away from them has truly made me appreciate and respect them for all they have given me and provided me with.

I can confidently say that I feel like the parts of me I felt I lost, are back in full force. And I can hold my head high and smile and feel pure happiness and love…feelings I was afraid to endure for a long time. I said to Maria today – “I love smiling.” As simple as it may sound, it took me a long time to smile out of pure bliss. And laugh out of pure love from the heart. And live with each breath. And now I do it each and every day – Live. Laugh. Love.

 

Phnom Penh. Too expensive!

Filed under: Cambodia — esacc @ 2:58 AM

We arrived in phnom penh just after 6 pm and shortly after made it to our guest house – Me Mates Place. From the short tuk tuk ride from the bus station to our guest house we quickly realized this city was far more expensive than our beloved siem reap – and locals were not afraid to rip us off. We were warned that phnom penh was pricier so we sucked up the expensive guesthouse and settled down for dinner. It was upon meeting the outgoing bar and wait staff – Tony Montana – who was sporting a hat similar to my own that I realized in my eager attempt to get off the bus to rescue my bag I saw being carried away from the bus by a stranger that I had left my hat and my new paintings on the bus!!!! Quickly upon realization we hopped into a tuk tuk, overcharged again, and headed back to the bus station. After a few phone calls I was told that the bus was across the river at the depot. Relieved, we hopped in another tuk tuk and drove to the depot and picked up my belongings! It was this tuk tuk driver that we deemed a lifesaver and decided to hire him for our time in the city.

Our two nights in the city consisted of hanging out in the restaraunt of our guest house – too afraid to venture out after dark as we heard stories of travellers being mugged – so we hung out with the staff and other guests playing games.

During the day we visited the genocide museum – S 21 – which was a high school coverted into a torture prison during the civil war in 1975. It was really heartbreaking as it really makes everything seem so real. We were however lucky enough to meet one of the 7 survivors of the S21 prison and upon meeting him I was somewhat star struck in the sense that I was at a loss for words. As I tried to wrap my head around all that he went through and experienced in his life it really made me feel almost selfish for the life I’ve had and the luxuries within it to see a man stand before me in the prison, freed of his shakles but not of the vivid memories and pain that went with them. It was a truly remarkable experience and one I will not soon forget.

After S21 we went to the killing fields which again was a mind numbing experience. Walking around the killing fields you could actually see reminents of clothing and bones of the victims protruding through the ground. And in the monument in which they constructed housed the hundreds of skulls of the women, men and children that they discovered in the pits of the killing fields. It certainly made it seem real to me and again it left me with an uneasy feeling of confusion as to how my life and the lives of those who endured this montrosity could be so different. It was an unsettling experience but definitely one that put things in perspective for me.

During our stay in Phnom Penh it was the Khmer new year which meant a lot of businesses were closed which left us with little to do (which is probably a good thing considering the higher costs of things. )

This morning we packed up, said farewell to our friends at Me Mates Place and headed for the airport. We are now into the second and final lag of our flight to Bali!!!!!

 

Maria and I need space. April 13, 2010

Filed under: travel — esacc @ 1:48 AM

7 weeks. 49 days. 1176 hours. Of pure togetherness. And no fights! But we are slowly morphing into each other. Yesterday, on three separate occassions, we both said the exact same sentence at the exact same time – then looked at each other awkwardly.

3.5 months to go.

Good thing we get along!

 

Angkor What!?

Filed under: Cambodia — esacc @ 12:17 AM

We arrived in Siem Reap a couple hours later than expected and to our amazement we had a tuk tuk waiting for us sent by our guesthouse – The Happy Guesthouse. We arrived late in the night but were still greeted with smiling faces and great service.

The next morning we borrowed some bikes from our guesthouse and rode into town to the markets and shops. I don’t think I stopped smiling the entire time. From the moment we arrived in Cambodia I have just felt this deep connection to the country and it’s people. Both pride and compassion for the people and place.

Our second day here we were picked up at 5 am to start the first of three days of temple trekking Angkor Wat and more. We were blown away by the sheer volume of temples that sprinkle the countryside surrounding Siem Reap. The first day we explored Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom which had us out and about from 5 am to noon. We easily could have spent far more time at each place but with the temperature increasing and our energy decreasing we decided to call it a day. The second day we explored the temples on the bigger circuit and the third day consisted of a 45 minute tuk tuk ride in the hot breeze to the furthest temple. Maria and I both seemed to have an interest moreso in the temples that lacked preservation and rather remained in their natural state so we didn’t fully appreciate the temples on the last day. After three days of temple trekking we were templed out and exhausted from the heat. Our friends that stayed at the same guesthouse did three full days – 8 am to 6 pm – so needless to say, they were exhausted.

Our evenings included trips into town to the night markets and then back to the happy guesthouse to watch a movie or call it a night.

Shopping in Cambodia got the best of me. For some reason I had a hard time holding on to my dollar bills (they use American dollars here!) and it wasn’t just because of my love for shopping but more so for the deep compassion I felt for this country and it’s people. When I could I tried to compensate a cold drink or a snack in replace of the dollar bills but it wasn’t always well recepted. Regardless I walked away feeling good and usually with some sort of souvenier for friends and family and the children or vendors were a couple dollars richer.

The last day of temple trekking we found ourselves with a couple hours to kill so we hung out at one of shop areas alongside the road. It wasn’t long before we had a group of local children around us playing the alphabet game. It was a pretty rewarding experience!

Now a tid bit about the happy guesthouse. For anyone going to Siem Reap I strongly recommend staying here. Although it’s located across the river and few blocks from the city centre it is well worth the one dollar tuk tuk ride to town. The owners are fantastic. Although they don’t speak a lot of English they understand completely, and have enough young locals hanging around that step in to help. They have free wifi and free computers with Internet. They have bikes you can use for free to get to and from the city centre – less than a 10 minute ride. If you want to use the bikes to see the temples it’s about 1 or 2 dollars a day (if you’re brave enough to bike the distance in the scorching heat and hike around temples all day-this is definitely the cheaper way to do things.) They have DVDs and tv and a book swap as well. Our room for two people was 6 USD night which they discounted to $5.40. And on a really hot day they came in and gave us free air con for an hour. They arranged all of our transportation for the temples and our bus to Phnom Penh as well as took care of our laundry and our postage. And the food was delicious and much cheaper than most places in town. I absolutely loved this place!

I am sad to be leavig Siem Reap as we are now on the bus to Phnom Penh. It’s a six hour bus ride which in comparison to some of our previous bus trips, it’s a walk in the park. We will be in capital for two nights, one of which is the Khmer New Year so that will hopefully be a unique experience.

 

A new perspective on the temples of Angkor Wat. April 11, 2010

Filed under: Cambodia — esacc @ 7:46 AM

Temples of Angkor Wat. Traditional Cambodian Scarf. Ray Bans.

Temples of Angkor Wat.
Traditional Cambodian Scarf.
Ray Bans.
Siem Reap, Cambodia

One of my favorite pictures from today!