Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Back to Bangkok!


So, for the third and last time we are in Bangkok. We LOVE it here!! Our hotel is fabulous and the atmosphere on Koa San Road is amazing! Anyway, for the past week-ish we haven't been doing too too much, but here's the gist of it.

In a nutshell, Malaysia is: Funny. We got loads of opportunities to take silly photos... that is, after all, what happens when there are guns, silly hats and canons around. In Kuala Lumpur, we got to go handgliding off the balcony (not the highest one, of course) of the 4th highest communications building in the world. We wanted to parachute off it, but apparently it's for professionals only. Pppfffff.... we are professionals!!!!

In an altogether more gum-free nutshell, Singapore is: strict, efficient and clean. There are signs just about everywhere with restrictions and fines on them. The MRT (public transit system) gets you to wherever you're going in a flash. And the streets are so clean you could eat three day old food off of them... if you dared eat three day old food, that is. Mostly, we spent our time in Singapore shopping for electronics and (shocking!) hiding from rain. We also met up with Baby Beaver on our last night there for some far overpriced drinks and hawker food. Good times.

Tomorrow is our last day on this continent and we fully intend to use it wisely. In other words, we are going shopping, then coming to our hotel to wash off the fine layer of grime that has accumulated on our bodies over the past few months. On Friday, we board the plane, wearing our battle scars proudly - bumps and bruises, cuts and scrapes, burns and bites - and coming to a city near you around 7 pm. Looking forward to it!

A bientot!

Steph and Kris

Thursday, August 23, 2007

They call it "Rainy Season" for a reason...


Aaahh... so, we've finally discovered why hey call it the Rainy Season. Since we've been gone, we've been pretty lucky with the weather... every now and then, we'd get a serious downpour, but nothing major. Well, that seems to have changed in the past week or so.

We arrived in Ao Nang on the 15th to a light shower. No problem. We went out for dinner, booked an island-hopping tour, our elephant ride and white water rafting for the following days and then headed back to our hotel (super snazzy, by the way). The next day, our only plans involved sitting by the beach and tanning a little more. Well, that got rained out. So we sat in our room doing nothing. Thankfully, we had a TV with three English channels, so we were at least able to veg out in front of it. The following day, we got up super early for our island tour, only t0o find out that it, too, was cancelled due to rain. Soo... we retired to our room, yet again.

The next day, we woke up to... get this... RAIN! After being shut up in our room for two day and what with this being our supposed elephant day, we were really upset/scared that it would be cancelled. So, we called the company that runs the tours and they told us that we could still go, but that it would be wet. Naturally, we told them that we didn't mind in the slightest and at 1 o'clock, they picked us up at the hotel. As you can imagine, elephant trekking kicks ass! Like, serious amounts of ass. First of all, the elephants are amazing! So beautiful and gentle and funny. Steph's elephant was named Honey and Kristelle's Luvy. As always, Steph had to be stuck with the rebel... Honey kept rubbing up on trees (which makes balance a rather difficult feat) and stopping at every third tree to rip off branches to eat. We told her she would get fat if she kept it up, but she only speaks Thai, so that didn't work out so well. Another great thing about the trek was the scenery. Basically, the walk you around a tropical forest/jungle, whatever you want to call it... it's amazing. The rain stopped about half-way through, so we were able to get rid of our umbrellas and enjoy it properly! It was great!

The next day, still in the rain, we went white water rafting. Seeing as we were going to be soaked by the of that day regardless of the weather, the rain did not bother us. The raftign was pretty cool... despite the flat tire on the way to the river and the hour wait before we could actually go anywhere. The rapids were not as intense as they could of been, but our guide made up for that by purposely ramming into every rock he saw. Kristelle, who was seated right in the middle of the raft and did nt see this coming, was sent flying forwards. She managed to stay in the boat, but barely... At the end of our 5 km run, we were shipped back to the hotel (where we stayed holed up because of rain).

On our last day in Ao Nang (and, incidentally, Thailand), we finally got to go on our 4 island tour by long tail boat. We woke up to some pretty nice weather, actually, but we didn't trust it. Our first stop on the tour was Tup island, which is actually two small island connected by a sand bridge. The "bridge" is only visible (and walkable) at low tide, which is why this was our first stop. We got to lie in the semi-sun for about an hour and do some swimming before getting back on the boat to visit "Chicken Island". We didn't actually get off at Chicken Island, as it's more of a photo-op stop. It's really just a big rock that looks like a chicken's head. Kind of lame, but funny. We got to do some snorkelling around this island... it was cool, there were loads of fish to see, but Steph kind of lost it when the guide started throwing bread in the water all around her and the fish attcked. She actually got bit by a fish! Bastards! Anwyay, after that we went to Poda island, where it started to rain. This would have been a nice beach for sunbathing, but instead we sought refuge under some trees. It didn't work so well... Our last stop (after the rain) was the Princess Cave at Railay beach. It's named that way because of some kind of legend about some kind of Princess. Obviously, we're not too sure... The cave was really pretty from the outside, but for some reason there didn't seem to be any entrance. Half-way through our tour of this island, however, our guide came running up to us shouting about how he was afraid of the waves (it had started to rain again) and how we had to go. So we got back on the boat, and headed out. He was right to be scared of the waves... by the time we got back to Ao Nang, we were drenched and feeling rather queasy... That night, you guessed it, we stayed in because of the rain.

On Tuesday, we hopped a bus to Malaysia (easiest border crossing of all time) and we are now in Kuala Lumpur. We are pretty shocked to say that we will be home in just over week, but surely that's good news on some level.

See you all soon!!

Steph and Kris

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Poo-get and Pee Pee

Hello again!!

So, before we get started on this post, we would like to clarify two things:

1) The "we" now being referred to includes only Kristelle and Steph. Josee-Anne left us last week for a far more Canadian experience (and she better be reading this if she doesnt want a serious ass-kicking).

2) In Thailand, "Ph" is always pronouned "p". So, when visiting a place called Phuket or Ko Phi-Phi, as we did last week, the suppression of giggles is mandatory. So, get your chuckles out, people, because we are about to tell the story of Poo-get and Ko Pee Pee. How childish!

So, on the 9th of August, we flew from Bangkok to Phuket (for 36$, thank you very much). We arrived in Phuket and promptly found a beach... it was not a difficult task! We soon fell asleep in the sun (we had to be at the airport for 5 AM, can you blame us?), which was a huge mistake. When we woke up, Steph's back was fried and Kristelle's front was not much better. So we headed in and slathered on the after-sun. The next day, Steph went Scuba Diving, while Kristelle went back to the beach. This time, though, the brilliant girl stayed under a parasol! Thank goodness for parasols! The diving was, as always, amazing! Loads of unidentified fish and colourful coral. If it had not been for the sea-sickness and the near-vomitting experience at 6 metres on the second dive, it would have been a perfect day. But alas! Anyway, on our last day in Phuket, we did some shopping (naturally!) and walked along the beach. Steph got talked into parasailing, which was really cool.... painful as hell, but cool. They strap you into that harness so ridiculously tightly... let's just say, that if any of you plan of parasailing at any point, a triangle bikini top is not sturdy enough... it'll come right off, I promise!

So, after that lovely experience, we headed to Ko Phi-Phi, a very small island about an hour and a half away from Phuket. Phi-Phi is actually one of the islands that suffered the worst damage during the tsunami, and many places on the island are still being rebuilt. Despite all this, the beaches of Ko Phi-Phi are outstanding. In fact, our trustworthy Lonely Planet describes Ko Phi-Phi as "the prettiest place on earth" and we would tend to agree. White sand beaches, crystal clear green water and giant limestone cliffs off in the distance do tend to make for quite a day at the beach! Another really cool part about the beach on Phi-Phi is that the water is only shoulder deep at most and the waves do not come crashing in on you at every second. You can just sit there in the water and enjoy the cool of the ocean. Great! We spent a few days on Ko Phi-Phi, just relaxing... with the most exciting thing that happened to us being that we got locked in our room on the first day. Steph had to climb out the window to get help at the front desk and we needed the aid of 3 Thai men to finally get the lock fixed (and by that, of course, we mean replaced).

That's about it for the past couple of days. Sadly, Roisin, Callum and Matt have gone home, so we no longer have our favourite Europeans to keep us company. (We're supposed to write about them in a verysentimental way - you know how the male ego is - but we can't come up with anything sappy, so they'll have to settle)

We are now settled in Ao Nang for about 5 days (seems like forever!). Next time on Rice and Noodles: white water rafting, elephant riding, island hopping and Malaysia! See you then!!

Steph and Kris

Monday, August 6, 2007

The 11th wonder of the world.

Hello again!!

This blog is being written from Cambodia, a country which we were not actually planning on visiting, but which we will be sad to leave tomorrow morning... Our venture into Cambodia really came to be because Roisin was planning on coming here alone, which would suck. So... we took a look at our Lonely Planet, decided Cambodia sounded pretty cool, and went to get our Visas. Very wise decision, in the end.

On Monday, we caught a night bus out of Laos and into Phnom Penh, the Cambodian capital. The border crossing was relatively painless, if you can overlook a 24 hour bus ride, a taxi ride in the forest with eight people crammed into a 5 seat car (the driver was even sitting on someone's lap) and a really fat/smelly/sweaty Cambodian man who really got on our nerves.

We arrived in Phnom Penh around 8pm on Tuesday and promptly went to find food... our menu for the past 24 hours had consisted of Pringles, M&Ms and pistachios. Then we found a bar (we met some new English boys, Andy and Simon, so clearly the evening was going to end in a pub of some sort) and finally our beds. The next day, we visited the killing fields. The killing fields are a memorial site for the thousands of people who died in the 1978 Khmer Rouge genocide. The mass graves and tower of skulls were really quite depressing, but the beer-sponsored benches kind of detracted from the experience... Also, don't bother asking what the genocide was about... we don't know. The signs were pretty unclear and mostly in very broken English.

The next day, we caught a bus down to Sihanoukville, which is essentially just a beach town. Our hotel was about a 3 minute walk from the beach, so that is of course where we spent our first day. It's a beautiful beach, but when you first arrive you have to be prepared. Not for the intensity of the sun, but for the swarms of women and children who are just waiting to pounce on rich tourists. The minute your feet hit the sand, you've got a woman pulling at your hands and feet offering manicures and pedicures, a little girl trying to sell you bracelets and a little boy trying to sell you all kinds of books. Being the sucker that she is, Steph gave in to the manicure/pedicure combo (5$! Come on!) and the three of us had a bracelet made... fools! Anyway, we had a great day at the beach, got some colour (red) and then headed back to the hotle for dinner. The next day, it rained all day, so we stayed in... it was Simon's birthday, and Matt and Callum had come to join us, so we had a bit of a party in the hotel restaurant. It made for some pretty inetresting photos.

Yesterday morning, we caught yet another bus to Siem Reap, where we are now. Siem Reap is a few kilometres away from the Temples of Angkor, which were very nearly voted one of the new seven wonders of the world this July. They didn't win, but they came oh-so-close! The Temples date back to the 11th century, so what we got to visit were ruins. They really are quite amazing. We got to visit three small temples and the main attraction, Angkor Wat. They are all in varying states of shabbiness, but just about everything about them is charming in a decrepit kind of way. Except, of course, for the stairs... they are a death trap. The stairs to just about all the temples are extremely high, about 1 inch wide and go straight down. It's insane! Apparently, this is also where they filmed part of the Tomb Raider movies, although Kristelle said she didn't recognize any of it.

Now, while the Temples were really impressive, they were not very exciting (naturally!). The excitement came later, when we were walking down a path to another ruin and we spotted two monkeys just sitting there in the middle. One of them was playing with something shiny and the other had nothing. So we obviously took out our cameras... well, it turns out, the monkey with nothing took a liking to Steph's silver camera, and while she was crouched in front of it (not too close, we promise) the monkey decided to go for it. So what did we do (everyone, not just Steph)?? Ran for it, screaming like little girls. The monkey didn't give up that easily, though. It got awfully close to Steph, hissing and baring it's teeth... then they followed us down the path for while. Overall, a slightly scary, but mostly exciting (and by exciting, we mean still scary) experience.

So that's about it for the past week... tomorrow, another long bus, this time to Bangkok, then it's off to Phuket for some serious beach time!

See you soon!

Steph, Kris and Jo

Thursday, July 26, 2007

About Time!

Our first bucket of the day!

Steph, Jo, Kris, and Roisin in their tubes.
Sign number 1.Slightly tipsy...

Self-portrait in a tube



Again, we think that means hello, but possibly not. Anywho, you may have guessed by the title and the new language, that we are in a new country. And that country, ladies and gentleman, is fantastic! Setting foot in Laos after being in Vietnam would make anyone breath a sigh of relief. Don't get us wrong, we really enjoyed Vietnam, but the atmosphere here in Laos is just so much more relaxing, refreshing and fun. For example, when you get harassed in the street in Vietnam, it goes something like this:
Cyclo driver: "Madam! Madam! Cyclo? 1 hour? Cyclo?
You : "No thanks"
Cyclo driver: "1 hour! Cyclo! Where you go?"
You : "No"
Cyclo driver : "1 hour! Cyclo! Where you go?"
You (walking faster) : "I don't want a cyclo.We're walking, it's healthy"
Cyclo driver then proceeds to follow you around for ten minutes repeating the only 3 sentences he know in English.

In Laos, it's more like this:
Tuk-Tuk driver: "Tuk-tuk? Waterfalls??"
You: "No thank you"
Tuk-Tuk driver : "Ok"
It's fantastic! And fantastic. That's all.

Anyways, we started our tour of Laos in Luang Prabang, which is a lovely city. It's all green and mountainous around the city and the actualy town is quite cute. We wandered around for a while before meeting Roisin, Matt and Callum for dinner and drinks. On our second day, we got Lao massage (3 dollars for an hour!) where our massage therapists doubled as mosquito killers... we'd be getting massaged and then BAM! She's slapping you, giggling and saying "Mosquito!" The massages were nice though, and after feeling thoroughly relaxed, we decided to climb up a mountain to see the temple and the sunset. There were too many clouds for the sunset, but the temple was pretty. Anyway, thats about it for Luang Prabang... but it might ineterest you to know that the "international" airport is about the size of Fairview.

On Tuesday, we (the six of us) came to Vang Vieng, where the main attractions are re-runs of Friends and Tubing. So, on the night we arrived we got our fill of Friends (our brains went slightly numb) and the next day we went tubing. Tubing was FANTASTIC! The picked us up around 9, and we first headed out to a couple of caves. At the first cave, we had to wear headlights and pull our tubed butts through it with a rope. It was fun. The second cave was less fun, and probably more interesting, but we couldn't really understand what the guide was saying... something about mermaids and eagles and Buddha. After that, we ate rice out of banana leaves and the real fun began... we hit the river!!! So, we got in our tubes and slowly started going down the river... no rapids or anything, just nice, relaxing fun. And then, out of the blue, some Lao guy is sticking out a bamboo stick at you to pull you to shore. You grab on and then there you are, at the most make-shift bar you could ever imagine. It was all made of wood... that is, the bar was made of wood, the floor was made of wood, the walls were made of wood... and so forth and so on. Here, we were faced with two choices: 1) drink your whiskey and coke out of a bucket (that's right, a bucket) or 2) jump off the trapeze from oohh, 15 metres, into the water. Naturally, we did both. After a short break, we got back on our tubes and headed to the next bar. There is literally one ever 200 metres. Each one is essentially the same - booze, trapeze and benches. Good times. Needless to say, we did not stop at all of them, but we sure would have liked to! We did about three (getting a bucket at each - Oh My!) and then headed back. Our first sign that the boys had had too much to drink was when they started dropping their pants for all to see. Our next sign was when they jumped off the trapeze with no pants on. By the time we got back into town, we were probably not walking too straight, either, but at least the girls kept all their clothes on. But we really had a great time!

So tomorrow morning, we are headed out to Laos' capital, Vientiane. Apparently, it's quite nice, so we hope it lives up to its reputation. In the meantime, anyone who has been reading the blog and not posting should get on that immediately. 8 comments is really not enough for us!!! Korp Jai (thank you, we think).

A bientot!

Steph, Kris and Jo

Friday, July 20, 2007

Dragon Tales


So, let's see... last time we "spoke" we were just leaving Nha Trang for Hue. Well, Hue pretty much sucked. In a nutshell, we got screwed into getting up way too early, Kristelle burned her calf on a motorbike and we walked around in the sweltering heat for two hours trying to find the friggin citadel. When we finally found it, we were too hot and annoyed to really look around, so we were quite quick about it. That night, we took an overcrowded (as in, people sitting on stools in between the aisles of seats) 12-hour bus to Hanoi.

In Hanoi, we celebrated Kristelle's birthday in style. And by that I mean we went to the hospital to tend to her leg. The night was more stylish... we featsed on pizza and pasta (ooohh, so not Vietnamese!) and then hit a few bars with Matt, Callum and Roisin (our buddies from the sand dunes) where we enjoyed 65 000 dong vodka/pineapples. Yummy.

Yesterday morning, we left for a 2 day/1 night tour of Halong Bay. From Hanoi, Halong City is a three hour bus ride, the most exciting part of which is the expansive rice fields and sickly looking cows. It all becomes worth it, though, when you finally hop on the boat that will be taking you around the bay. The only word to describe Halong Bay is breathtaking. And we don't mean breathtaking like you just walked past a particulalry rank sewage pipe in the streets of Hanoi and can no longer breathe from fear of vomitting... oh no! We mean breathtaking as in the scenery is so amazingly beautiful that no words (or probably even pictures) can do it justice. Ha long litterally means "where the dragon descends into the sea". Legend has it that the 3000 islands and ilsets of Halong Bay were formed when the great dragon that lived in the mountains ran towards the coast. Its flailing tail gouged out the valleys of the bay and the areas dug up by its tail filled with water, leaving only the land we see now visible. After a short boat ride, we went to visit the "Surprise Cave". It's a rather impressive collections of stalagtites and stalagmites, though its charm is greatly diminished by the multicoloured lights stuck in every possible place and the penguin shaped garbage cans set at regular intervals. It kind of felt like DisneyLand. From there, we sailed on to Cat Ba Island, where we spent the night in a room overlooking the water. When you walked out our door and looked straight ahead, there was just water and mountains in the distance, turn left and you saw giant rock formations, the like of which you could find in the latest King Kong movie... only less dark and creepy, more sunny and fun. This morning, we sailed back to Hanoi, taking full advantage of the bright sun to tan on the boat's upper deck.

Kristelle and Steph went to put some pictures on CD to upload them to the blog, but the CD drive does not open here... so, what we're really trying to say is that we got stuck in a crazy thunder storm for you people, but you still have to wait. Too bad.

And now, we are hungry, so we'll talk to you again when we get to Laos.

Steph, Jo and Kristelle