Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Return of Jafar

Friday, September 19, 2008

Thailand to India

Sonu, our Agra rickshaw driver and tour guide

Thieving Indian monkeys

Hood cows

Taj mofo.

Rooftop of hotel in Parahganj, India

Dune jumping

Ha Long Bay

Sweet hats.

Swinging into the Namsong (Laos)

The British Four

Sunset over the Namsong 1

Rambo 5

Mowgli (our trek guide)

Bracelets before the swarm

Our Alaskan friends in Ayutthaya

Buddhist ruins

Royal Palace in Bangkok

In front of our hotel in Delhi, India

Dune surfing in Hoi An, Vietnam

Not a marathon, just rush hour (Hanoi, Vietnam)

Lady Justice (Hoi An, Vietnam)

Charlie in Hanoi.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

crooked teeth

We made it to India with no problems.  And surprisingly we made it out of India with no problems.  Out of all the places we've seen on this trip India has been the most intimidating place.  I know that this has a lot to do with our choice in lodging as budget travelers, as we stayed in probably the most poor neighborhood in Delhi, Paharganj.  We spent our time in this neighborhood dodging tons of people, beggars, cows, cow poop, dogs and motorcycles.  It really was disturbingly fascinating.  When you first see the streets I got this sense of compassion and sadness that people live like that.  But then when I had been immerse in it I became numb to it.  It becomes habit to just ignore the begging children and persistent sales men.  We even witnessed a terrorist bomb that went off a few blocks from where we were staying.  We were hanging out on top of the roof and heard what sounded like a cannon going off.  It was loud and piercing but didn't really distract us as the entire city is loud.  It just seemed like another weird sound coming from the streets below us.  It wasn't until later that we learned from somebody on the street that it was a bombing.  5 bombs went off that day- all in public areas.  As horrible as India seemed it was actually really cool.  I guess on the surface it was intimidating and unwelcoming, but we had a lot of amazing experiences in our short time there.  Maybe we just got lucky, but if you get below the surface it can be very enjoyable.  For instance, most of the people were rude and money-hungry, but we found a few guys who were really genuine when we least expected it.  When we were on a train to Agra this random older gentleman with his family started talking to us.  At some point in the conversation he decided we were like family to him and he called his buddy who managed a local hotel to give us a good room at a cheap price.  Now, everybody in India has a "good room" at a "cheap price" but for some reason we actually listened to this guy and trusted him and everything worked out great.  The city was kind of the same way- if you looked hard enough you could see really cool and beautiful places.  The obvious example is the Taj Mahal.  But what you don't see in the pictures is the town and streets leading to it.  You walk through a filthy town, down some alley where you pay a guy 750 rupee.  Suddenly you're looking at one of the most beautiful buildings, or sites rather, in the world.  30 seconds ago I was stepping over cow poop, dodging motorcycles and trying to explain to a homeless kid that I had no money for him, now I'm looking at the Taj Mahal!  I'd say that sums up the India experience for me.  It was probably one of the most memorable places we've seen so far... still a ways to go though.

I know that this all probably seems a little like a sob story, but it's not.  We had a great time in India.  Just sometimes it's not like being on vacation all the time but just as amazing and refreshing.  For more on India you can email my new friend Gajendra Verma, who after befriending us on train now wants me to help expand his health clinic in America!  I knew he was up to something.  Stay tuned for stories from Germany.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Fun Facts: SE Asia


Vietnam loves ABBA. Read that again. ABBA, "Dancing Queen" ABBA. In a land untouched by the spreading rash of McDonalds and Starbucks,* ABBA lives, nay, ABBA thrives.

While searching a 3 story bookstore for an English travel guidebook, the only English book Erik and I found was the collective ABBA biography...and they had it in 5 other languages (well 6, but the Vietnamese version was sold out). After this curious discovery, and the two ABBA songs we heard on our 30 minute cab ride from the airport, I asked our friend about ABBA.
"Oh yeah" he said
"They love ABBA...but no one really knows why."

And I'm not talking love, like the way we love Journey in the US. This isn't a "Journey rocks cause I'm drunk and can scream the lyrics to 'Don't Stop Believin' at the top of my lungs!" No, this is a true, pure artistic acceptance of the disco quartet that is ABBA. Apparently, at every club in Hanoi at midnight they play "Winner Takes it All." Now that's devotion (also, if you want to argue that Journey is always a great band, not just after 8 Heinikens, see my side note below).

So, I guess they were wrong. Disco never died, it just moved to Vietnam.

*Side note: We did see one fast food restaurant, KFC, in Hanoi...which I found especially ironic since (to me) KFC is the epitome of American Southern tradition, like Nascar, Journey, and American flag sweatpants.

Lost in Transportation

Erik and I have been in Vietnam for 8 days today. Tomorrow will be one month since we flew from Singapore into Thailand. Which also means tomorrow is our 45th day travelling. The halfway point to being broke in 90 days (distant cheers across the stadium).

Vietnam has been intriguing. The people are unique, they are very different from the people in Thailand and Laos. Which seems strange since they all are so close to each other. Luckily, a friend of mine lives in Haoi and was cool enough to show us where to go and what to see. He also speaks Vietnamese, so that was a plus (especially while trying to learn card games from two Vietnamese girls...if you're reading this, Thanks Daniel and good luck trying to figure out that one card game).

When I look back at this week or so, I think of buses. Many buses. The 5 hour bus to Ha Long Bay (which was beautiful...huge limestone mountain islands scattered across the ocean like chess pieces), the 15 hour bus to Hoi An (quaint town, reminded me of what I imagine Cuba to be like), and the 17 hour ride on a city bus to Mui Ne (where it has not stopped raining). Tomorrow we get on a bus for 4.5 hours to Saigon and then a 2 hour flight tomorrow night to Bangkok...so we can make our flight Saturday to India.

I'm starting to feel like I am lost in the transportation. Even on our 2-3 day breaks between each bus trip, it has been hard to relax. The rain has been more-or-less consistant, but I guess that's what makes this an adventure and not a vaction. Sunday morning we will arrive in India. South East Asia has been amazing, but we are ready to move on.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Charlie here we come

Tomorrow we fly to Vietnam. We had to leave our new found British friends behind yesterday. They will continue to drink themselves stupid in Laos and Thailand. To them this trip is like spring break for us... so imagine a bunch of drunk dudes in Daytona but you can't understand what they say- even though they're speaking your language. They were a good time though and we hope we can see them again.

<-- View from our Guest House balcony

The Namsong River was a great time. Even though it took all my money from me, my driver's license, my cross, and some of my dignity, I would recommend it to any other travellers I see. The first day on the river we went tubing. Tubing is like bar hoping but instead of walking to the next bar, you float on a tractor tube. After a small Laotian child ropes you into the bar you can enjoy many activities such as: zip line (see video), rope swing, volleyball, mud soccer, dancing, and drinking! It really was a good time. I hope some Lao dude finds my $100 and buys himself a nice herd of cattle and maybe a wife included.

We kayaked the day after tubing. One of the stops on our kayaking trip was at an underwater cave. We had to swim under rocks and surface on the inside of a cave with about 2 or 3 feet of space above us. It was really freaky- the guide didn't allow us to go too far because the cave could have filled with water at any moment and trapped us! We had head lamps on to see in the dark, but we could never see the end of the cave- the light just faded into darkness. We were hoping for some serious rapids on the kayaks but found none. There was a section that dominated all other kayaks, but we're proud to say that team America stayed afloat. It wasn't until the end of our journey that the (jealous) Brits boarded our kayak and successfully capsized our vessel. We shrugged that off and reminded them of how much they owe us for WWII. So later that night they gave Nick a t-shirt... I guess we're even.

Our last adventure on the Namsong was at a river bar. Seems pretty typical and not really adventurous, but this bar was different. People were dancing, some were raving, and some were dancing with fire! These people brought there own fire torches on chains and fuel and just started dancing among everyone else. It was hilarious.

So, off to Vietnam. Enjoy the pictures and video.

Nick vs. Zipline