Thursday, April 25, 2013

A Phi Phi Island Wedding

Beginning of February, 2013
Phi Phi Island, Thailand

At the start of our trip we had the chance to pass through Phi Phi Island for a few short hours and were determined to go back before we left Thailand because it was the most beautiful place we'd ever seen.  Luckily my friend Aimee from home decided to get married there at the end of January which gave us the perfect reason to go back!

Like usual, we didn't do much planning before heading to the island, so we weren't sure where the heck we were going to stay.  We got a tip from someone on the ferry ride over that the cheapest/coolest place to go was the Viking Resort, and if we wanted to save $3 each we could walk there instead of paying for a long tail boat over, like most people did.  He assured us it wouldn't take more than 15 minutes.  Also like usual, that was a lie.  About 45 minutes of hiking along the water on slippery rocks and up and down dirt hills through the jungle, WITH OUR BACKPACKS ON, we arrived at the Viking Resort.  2 very sweaty backpackers.

It always seems like a good idea at the beginning...
When we finally got to the resort we learned that they only had one room left.  A bungalow with one small bed and a shared bathroom that was about a 10 minute walk away.  Cool, we'll take it.

The front of our rustic bungalow
View from the back

Anyways, enough about our usual lodging and transportation mishaps.  Let's talk about the important stuff.  THE WEDDING!  There´s no way I could do their amazing ceremony and reception justice by trying to recap the whole thing here, so I´m just going to share some of my favorite pictures from the night, of which I took about a million:

Favorite thing #1:  While we were busy getting the bride ready for the ceremony a monkey came knocking on the door!  I'm not joking.  I'm pretty sure it was good luck.

There was a knock at the door, so we went to check it out...
Oh hello monkey!  
Favorite thing #2: The bride arrived by tuktuk

Bigger than a normal tuk tuk, it was like their limo version!
Favorite things #3 and #4 pictured here:  The AMAZINGLY gaudy hot pink and red asian-style wedding decor that the hotel staff put together....and the bride and groom drinking whiskey out of the "unity bucket" after their vows.

And favorite thing #4.5: Their hilarious friend Andy did the greatest job officiating
Favorite thing #5: They are the cutest couple ever!

AND they´re extremely attractive
Favorite thing #6: The bride, groom, and guests all sent off Thai lanterns together

Love this
My wedding date with our lantern
Favorite thing #7:  Still can´t believe I got to celebrate this girl´s wedding with her all the way across the world!  So happy.


Favorite thing #8: I had the hottest date in town!  

This lighting makes us look party animals even though we´re far from it

Thanks for letting us celebrate with you guys, Aimee and Mikey!  I think your thai wedding guests said it best.."the bride was very beautiful and the groom was very handsome". :)


Sunday, March 31, 2013

Rags to Riches

Some of the best memories of the trip have been the transportation adventures in Asia.... it is definitely cray. The best/worst travel trip was on a slave boat from Koh Tao to Phuket. It involved an eight hour overnight ferry that looked like this:

Super cozy, right?

Those are Asian sized mattresses, somewhere between a twin and a full, lined up side by side down the length of an old retired fishing boat. If you aren't traveling in an even numbered group then you are sharing a mattress with a stranger. Not that it matters because there is zero space between the mattresses anyway. Once the boat is loaded they give you about 15 minutes to exchange bewildered looks with your fellow inmates and pop some $1 Thai valium. Then it's lights out and everyone lays down like sardines and pretends to sleep under the flickering prison-style light bulbs for the next eight hours.

Don't we look so well rested?

You can imagine how tired we were when we got off the boat but the journey was only half over at this point. We were crammed into tuk tuks and taken to a NASTY looking convenience store, inappropriately named Holiday, with dead cockroaches on the floor, ants crawling all over the walls and an unclean squat toilet with no soap or toilet paper which the owner had the audacity to charge us to use. After two hours at this place, we were ushered to two more convenience stores to spend our money before we finally got to board a bus to Phuket.

Is this journey ever going to be over so Ashley will stop taking pictures of us??

The plus side of Thai transportation is that if your destination isn't too far off the normal route the driver will usually drop your off. So we were dropped off on the side of the highway and ran across to paradise- THE MARRIOTT!!

Getting ready to run across the highway.

pKimb graciously used her Marriott points to book us a night in a $600, two bedroom suite at the Phuket Marriott and ohhh did we take advantage of every minute there. First off, they greeted us with leis and fresh watermelon juice. And they didn't even seem to care we were dressed in dirty rags with disheveled hair.

Finally feeling human again.
Our honeymoon pic. We decided a three wives marriage might be pretty perfect.
Can you guess which side is mine and which is Ashley's?

Even though all we wanted to do was pass out for 24 hours, we couldn't waste any time sleeping. This place was FANCY and we didn't even have to sneak in. They have a baby elephant that plays by the pool! We spent most of the day playing with him, playing in the pool and taking veggie carving classes.

Ash and pKimb shooting some hoops after stealing the ball from a little Chinese kid.

We were able to communicate with this elephant thanks to our Mahout training.


Apparently the Marriott has a private beach because when we went to watch the sunset, there were only four other people on the entire beach. Heavenly.


Ashley swimming under the sunset.

pKimb, thank you, thank you, thank you!!!! The trip has not been the same since you left :( We love you and miss you in the weird way.

Our third wife. 


Thursday, March 28, 2013

The worst transportation experience of our trip- and a hilarious email exchange

After Koh Tao we decided to take an overnight ferry to Phuket.  Let's just say I would have rather been biking and kayaking in Laos.

Here's the email Pkimb sent our friend Isaac about our horrific overnight ferry experience.  

From: Pkimb
We just slept here...

Overnight Ferry Prison for Backpackers

And now we feel like this...

Am I really posting this picture??

From: Isaac
Question:  have you been sold into the sex trade, and that’s the cattle car they use to smuggle you across borders?  Regardless, I’ve created a “Free Ashley & Kim² From the Thai Sex Trade” donation/charity on Facebook.  You’re welcome.

From: Kim M

I think being sex slaves would be better.  Let's put it this way...I slept 15 minutes on that boat and had a dream I was in a plane crash.  Yes I said dream not be the judge.

Just had to share this.  It was actually worse than the "after" picture shows, if that's possible.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Koh Tao Recap

Sometime around the end of January
Koh Tao, Thailand

After a few days living it up on Koh Chang, we headed to Koh Tao for some more island fun.  As you know from Kim's post, Tragedy in Paradise, this is where I lost my iphone/3,000 unsaved pictures/only wifi device/heart&soul.  I still have nightmares about it slipping out of my hand, over the railing, and into the water.  It had been such a happy day!  Out on our first ever fishing expedition, ready to catch some giant barracuda, happy happy happy.


And then plonk.  Into the ocean.  ALL THE MEMORIES.  Ok sorry I'm getting emo over here.  Back to Koh Tao.  Maybe I'll just bullet point it.

1.  It was insanely beautiful.

This picture doesn't even do it justice

2.  We happened to be there at the same time as the Full Moon Party was going on just an hour boat ride away on Koh Phangan.  Sounds like an easy jaunt over there to partake in one of the biggest parties in the world, right?  And YOLO, right??  I know, but there were some important details we had to consider.  There was the fact that we had just arrived that morning after a horrific 9 hour overnight train ride from Bangkok and were worried we were too exhausted to party all night long that same night.  Or the fact that not only would we have had to party all night long, we literally would have had to leave at 4pm on a boat to the Full Moon Party to only return back to our hotel/island at 10am the next morning, essentially forcing us to be awake and partying from about 7pm until 9am the next day, without anywhere to sleep or rest or hide from the craziness.  Also, we were scared we might lose all our things, or lose each other, or get drugged, or have one of us get so drunk we'd have to leave them in a place called the "no rape zone" we heard about, or have one of those people who carry around big sn@kes and put them around your neck so you can pay them to pose for a picture approach me- and then I would have died, and so ultimately, it just didn't seem like a good idea.  The next day we saw the people who did decide to take the boat over to the full moon party and we were SUPER happy we didn't go.  

Yes,  I know.  This probably would have been me if we had gone...

3.  Kim and Pkimb talked me into taking a hike in the million degree heat over to some place called Banana Beach where I was supposed to be able to swim out to some amazing old bar in the middle of the water and enjoy the sunset.  When we got there a million hours later, super sweaty ready to swim we found out that there was no bar in the middle of the ocean to swim to, and the beach and water were COVERED in giant banana slugs (hence the name) so we didn't even get to swim really.  There was at least a cool looking rickety old bar on the beach that we got to go to, which was fun until we thought we made a new Thai friend who actually turned out to be a drug dealer and stopped talking to us the second we told him we weren't interested in any opium.  

4.  Pkimb got her first Thai oil massage on our last day on the island, which was one of the best massage places we had been to, except for the fact that Pkimb, the first timer, got stuck on the bed closest to the front window/doors of the shop and, while Kim K and I were back behind our privacy curtains enjoying our massages, Pkimb had to strip down in the front of the massage parlor, without a curtain, rushing to get under the skimpy little sheet they give you.  This was probably funnier to us than it was to Pkimb. :)

All of this takes us to our last day on Koh Tao.  The day before the worst day/night of transportation of our entire trip.  


Meet Pkimb

This all happened about 2 months ago....we're a LITTLE behind... but this blog is our journal and we don't want to leave too much out, so let's just pretend it's still the end of January and we're still in Asia for a bit, k?  K.

A quick backstory:  After spending time in Laos with our 13 new friends, Kim and I headed out on a flight to Bangkok to meet up with our lovely friend Kim M (we'll call her by her asian name, Pkimb, for the purpose of this blog) from home who was flying in to spend 10 days with us in Thailand.  

The good:  We got to see Kim!!  I mean- Pkimb.

The bad:  Kim K came down with a very nasty case of something very nasty.  

A tiny Asian version of Kim 
I had been really sick with the same thing the day before so I can say with complete understanding- it was bad.  When we arrived in Bangkok to meet Pkimb at the airport, it was pretty obvious Kim K wasn't going anywhere except the bathroom.  The only problem with this was that the 3 of us we were supposed to be getting directly on a 7 hour bus/ferry ride to the island of Koh Chang.  After a few seconds of trying to figure out what we should do, Kim K noticed a sign for an airport hotel and was like guys- you go ahead I'll meet you tomorrow- and ran off to go puke her brains out. 

Fast forward a day or so and the three of us are sitting pretty on a beach in Koh Chang together.  It was so amazing having Pkimb with us.  She's the most hilarious, easygoing, up-for-anything travel partner you could ask for and there are way too many stories that happened while we were traveling with her to share here, so I'll just pick a few of my favorites over the next couple of posts.

Pretending to fit in at the fanciest hotel on Koh Chang

Enjoying all the hotel had to offer
One of the most beautiful beaches I've ever seen

To start- there was the time (or 7) we snuck into the fancy hotel in Koh Chang next to our budget (gecko-infested, cement bed, situated next to a night club) hostel.  We spent the day swimming in their infinity pool, playing darts by the ocean, and buying rum and cokes like they were going out of style so that the waiter didn't kick us out.  We then snuck back to the fancy hotel's beach area that night to enjoy the cocktails and the ocean view from their cozy beach chairs.  About 20 minutes into our private cocktail hour, their security guard started walking around the beach with a flashlight looking for trespassers.  (Us.) We didn't really have anywhere to hide and we didn't know what to do so we just got really quiet and sat perfectly still, which worked fine until he shone his flashlight in our faces.  And then.  He walked away.  I know I'm not explaining how funny this was very well and it's probably one of those I guess you had to be there moments, but it really was hilarious and we could not stop laughing.  We were sitting there, giant cocktails in hand, at the fanciest resort on the island and we were apparently invisible.  After the security guard left we just kept laughing saying... if he's not looking for us...what IS he looking for?  

The next night we had a similar we-must-be-invisible experience when we decided we wanted one of the fruit shake vendor guys on the street to mix our favorite cocktail for us for the price of just a fruit shake ($1).  All it took was buying our own bottle of vodka, bottle of baileys, and ordering a banana shake.  As he started pouring all of the ingredients into the blender for the fruit shake, I leaned over and started pouring in our vodka and Baileys.  Don't mind me.  Just adding a little something extra.  Nothing to see here.  He literally did not look up, threw the lid on, and started mixing our shake.  Have I mentioned how much I love Thailand??

Here's our lovely fruit shake vendor

Here's me, adding in the special ingredients

Sunday, March 10, 2013

13 Reasons Not To Travel With 13 People

Hannah and Neil messaged us before they got to Luang Prabang asking us to book a room for them and two other friends they had picked up on the way. We booked the rooms, made them a welcome sign, and headed down to the river to pick them up from their two day longboat journey.

About 15 longboats were all pulling in at the same time and we weren't sure which one they were on until the loud party boat appeared. We heard a group of people singing "Na, na, na, na...GOODBYE" and knew without a doubt that Hannah and Neil were on that boat and had something to do with the singing. Turns out Hannah and Neil made a lot more than two friends since we spoke earlier that morning and the next thing we knew, we had a group of 13. 

And here are 13 reasons why you should not travel with 13 people.

1. You can't get enough rooms for everyone in one guest house.  Everyone starts frantically running around town with their 15 kg backpacks on trying to find rooms near each other and inevitably, two guys will have to share a double bed. No judgement.

2. Going anywhere takes forever. Because everyone is split between four different guest houses, you have to pick a meeting place and hope that everyone shows up near the agreed upon time. There will always be hangovers and French people working against you (we love you, Chloe!) so you end up waiting quite awhile until everyone shows up.

3. Everyone has different bargaining techniques. This also makes getting anywhere a very time consuming process. Unless you want to get ripped off, you have to bargain for everything in SE Asia. It's a way a life, even the locals bargain. 13 people huddled around a tuk tuk driver, all trying to negotiate the best rate is quite amusing. I chose to step back and watch because my bargaining technique usually ends up in us paying more than the driver originally requested. Some people act offend, one girl going as far as to say "I'd rather be raped that pay that price" ($3/person). Some people act indifferent and walk away, knowing the tuk tuk driver will eventually follow them down the street and agree to a lower price. With all these different methods going on at the same time, you can imagine it takes awhile until everyone, including the driver, can agree on a fair price.

Kuang Si waterfalls is the most beautiful place we went in Asia and my camera died when we got there. Do yourself a favor and google it.

4. 13 people can't technically fit in one tuk tuk. But as we've mentioned before, "Safety Standards" doesn't translate into Lao so you just hang a few people off the back.

5. It's nearly impossible to find a table big enough for 13 people. I quite enjoy sitting in people's laps now.

6. Food takes forever to come out. Half the group will be done eating and have paid before the other half gets their food. And someone's order always gets lost in the hustle and bustle. 

7. Much to Ashley's dismay, everyone talks about poo and their stomach troubles at dinner.  Ashley here- Who talks about their deepest darkest poo secrets with their brand new group of friends... WHILE THEY ARE EATING?  Everyone.  Why though?  Why do we have to know that you haven't had a normal poo since the day you arrived in Asia?  We're in Asia too.  WE KNOW.  Keep it to yourself.

8. Everyone has a travel horror story to tell. At the end of Round Robin Horror Stories with 13 people, all you want to do is lock yourself in your hotel room and not eat or drink anything until you can hop on the first flight back home. Restaurants in India will purposefully poison your food because they get a cut of medication sales from the pharmacy around the corner?? In Cambodia they reuse plastic bottles and fill them with unsafe tap water and resell them?? People hide in the luggage compartment of the buses and steal your stuff?? This last one actually happened to Ashley and she had to cancel her credit card after she noticed a $300 purchase at Adidas and realized her card was missing.

9. Jenga isn't as fun. Ash and I are a little competitive when it comes to games. Everyone reading this has probably lost a few games of Cranium or Scattergories to us. The game of choice in SE Asia is Jenga. We mastered this game pretty fast, building towers so high that it would be structurally impossible to add any additional levels. We had to start playing No Hands Jenga where you use your nose, tongue or toes, because regular Jenga became too easy. Throw in 13 players and all the fun of Jenga is lost. There is always someone half invested who insists on playing. They start talking to their neighbor and don't pay attention which means you have to wait forever for it to be your turn. When you finally do catch their attention , they put zero effort into calmly and strategically removing pieces. They will either take out the base piece holding the whole tower up or remove a piece all willy nilly causing the tower to fall. So you only get one, maybe two turns before the tower falls even though it has potential to grow much taller. You can imagine how irksome this is for us.

30 rows.
10. Someone always ruins a picture.

11. There are lots of people that can post ugly pictures of you on Facebook. Back when Facebook was in its prime, we had to send an email to our girlfriends, imploring them not to post ugly pictures of us on Facebook  We are single girls trying to meet our husbands. Posting ugly pictures of us on the internet is not helping our cause. Unfortunately there is no way to police this with so many new friends taking pictures of you.

12. When one person gets sick, everyone gets sick. And it hit me 10 minutes before boarding a flight to Bangkok. I ran to the bathroom eight times on a two hour flight. Fortunately I had the foresight to take my airsick bag with me because I wasn't able to make it to a bathroom in time when we got off the plane.

13. So many people to say goodbye to :( Even though it can be annoying to travel with 13 people, it's definitely fun to make so many new friends. We've learned a lot of new games and dance moves, have done things we wouldn't have done had we been traveling alone, picked up useful travel tips and laughed a lot. Despite only spending a few days with people, it's always sad to have to say goodbye. 

Steven dancing and jazz handing for a spork.

Group hike to watch the sunset.


Friday, February 15, 2013

50 Shades of Orange -OR- That Time I Fed Bananas to the Monks

January 18th, 2013
Ashley here

One of the coolest things about Luang Prabang, Laos is being able to see all the monks walking around town.  There's actually a sign up in the main market area that I saw that says something like- 'You're probably really curious about our monks!  People are always asking...where are they going and what are they doing all the time when they're walking around?  The answer is- they're doing the same things as you!  They're going to school or going to see their family or getting some exercise.  They're normal people just like you!'  Uhhhh yeah, normal people except for the fact that every morning at 5am they walk through the streets in lines and collect their one and only meal of the day from old ladies and random people on the street who go out and feed them every morning.  Totally normal. 

All pictures courtesy of the internet.  Picture me squatting next to that girl with a few bunches of bananas on my lap.

A tiny bit of background: There are at least 30 Buddhist temples (wats) in Luang Prabang and real-life-shaved-headed orange clad monks live in all of them (I think).  Every time we would hear someone talking about the monks, it seemed like they were trying to one-up the last person we heard talking about them with their description of their orange robes.  From poppy to pumpkin, turmeric to tangerine, marigold to saffron.  It was like everyone was practicing for their next poetry slam.  

More like 50 shades of hungry.   HOW DO THEY SURVIVE ON ONE MEAL A DAY???

Anyways I feel like this is going to get really long so let me at least try to cut to the point.  We heard that you could get up at the crack of dawn and join the buddhists in feeding the monks, and Kim was kind of like ehhhh that sounds really cool and we should definitely do it, but I think I'd rather just watch.  And I was kind of like 5 in the morning?  That sounds horrific but I really want to feed some monks so fine ok let's do it.  The next day at 5 in the pitch black morning we got up and started walking to the main street in town to figure out how I could take part in this cool tradition.  I'd done some research the day before online and read that people usually fed the monks rice (oops left our rice cookers at home) or sometimes bananas, and so we went in search of a good deal on bananas at the local fruit and veggie street market.  I got a few bunches of them and we headed out to the street to get situated and wait for the monks to come.  

Once we saw the old ladies sitting on their stools with their big bowls full of rice, I started getting nervous.  I didn't have a stool, I didn't know what to expect, and it seemed like the internet had lied to me about the bananas, because no one else had any.  I stood around with Kim for a bit trying to figure out where I should squat and what was going to happen, and then we saw the first line of monks start walking down the street and I just plonked myself down next to a row of old ladies, set my bananas on my lap, and tried to copy what the ladies on my left were doing.  It was going fine for the first 9 or so monks, but then I realized I was running out of bananas and there were still about a million more monks coming down the line.  At about monk number 16 I was out.  Then I didn't know what to do.  I just stared down at the ground and waited for this first line of monks to pass, then ran across the street to Kim who was standing watching, taking it all in like a normal person.  

I felt like they were probably going..."rice, rice, rice, rice, rice, banana? rice, rice rice." Luckily they're monks so they didn't make fun of me.

After my few minutes of getting to at least attempt to partake in this awesome tradition, I stood with Kim and we watched row after row of monks get their food for the day.  Everyone involved was completely silent and the sun started to come up and it really was an amazing sight to see.