A Travellerspoint blog

Thailand Tidbits

First I've just got to say that Lynette and I have cracked our heads on more things during this trip than in our whole lives previously. In India and Nepal the doorways were so low. One night on the trek I missed the sign above the door inside the outhouse that read "Watch Your Head" because there was no light inside. I had to relieve myself in pitch blackness then cracked my head on the doorway on the way out. I had a painful bump the size of a Nepali dollar for days. And let me tell you that's a big bump. And they put shelves in odd places, like directly over the bathroom sink. Lynette bent over to spit out her toothpaste and knocked herself silly on the edge of the shelf. Here in Thailand they have really low rooflines. Their building code, if they even have one, must not account for the head height of foreigners. I was just walking with Lynette out to see the beach and gashed my head on a low hanging corner of a roof. Now I'm sitting here with a bag of quickly melting ice on my head to hopefully keep the swelling down. Most people are short in Asia, as you may expect. And we feel like giants. I couldn't find a shirt that fit me from Malaysia to Thailand, and Lynette is an Extra Extra Large in Thailand T-shirts!! Doesn't do much for your self image.

When we arrived in Thailand a few weeks ago I was delighted to find that "Hello" in Thai is pronounced "Sa-wa-dee-crap" and "Thank you" is pronounced "Cor-poon-crap," so I got to say "crap" at the end of everything. And without offending anyone even. The males pretty much put "crap" at the end of everything to identify they are male, as the women put "Ka" at the end. Of course when I said it I pronounced it with a hardy and clear "CRAP" at the end. But the locals didn't respond the way I thought they would. I'd say "hello" and get no "hello" back, "thank you" and no Thai, "your welcome." Thailand is supposed to be so friendly, The Land of Smiles they call it. But these people were just downright rude. Later however I found out that its spelled "crap" but pronounced "cop" with a very faint "p." Most of the time sounding to me very much the same as the female "Ka." So who knows what I was actually saying all along. No wonder they gave me such the cold shoulder. It doesn't help that their pronunciation of things involves the slightest variations to mean different things. For instance, a guide was demonstrating that "Ma" means horse, "Ma" means dog, and "Ma" means even something else, I forget what. To Lynette and I the three words sounded exactly the same. But he said there were very subtle differences in the tone of how he said it. They must have a very finely honed sense of hearing to detect those subtle differences. So even now with my correct pronunciation of the "crap" at the end of things I might be saying something much different than I intend.

As Thailand is famous for their Thai massages, Lynette and I had to indulge. Here we are getting our first of several so far. The Thai massage is a bit different than a traditional massage, perhaps a bit more painful, especially for someone with bad flexibility such as myself. Some say its like doing yoga without the effort because the therapist bends your limbs in some unusual positions to stretch your muscles. I have real problems when they get to the calves. The women laugh when I winse in pain but don't let up on the pressure.
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They have a hairy fruit here called a rambutan. Check it out below. Doesn't it look like something out of the Aliens movie? Not just on the outside with the long tenacle-like hairs but also on the inside with the stark white slimey egg like center. Very tastey though. :-)
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Another delicacy they have here in Thailand are the insects. We walked by some vendors with metal trays full of various fried bugs, including grasshoppers, crickets, beetles, and even cockroaches. Felt like a scene from Fear Factor. And for some reason God only knows, I got it in my head that I wanted to try a bug. I guess "When in Rome..." maybe. So during a tour in Chiang Mai our guide suggested, for a beginner, to try one of these awful looking things, the bamboo worm:
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We definitely got out the camera for this.
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Here's the moment of decision. "Should I really go through with this?"
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Well I did it. I popped it in my mouth expecting some horrible bitter explosion of bug juices. But I was surprised that it wasn't that bad. Just a bit crunchy, the juices probably all cooked out in the frier. Thank goodness it wasn't a fresh one. I actually almost enjoyed it. I could imagine sitting in front of the tube snacking on a bag full. Would need some salt though.

Speaking of food, we took a Thai cooking class a few days ago. It was really fun. We each made Pad Thai, Green Curry Chicken, Chicken with Cashew Nuts, Hot and Sour Prawn Soup, Fried Spring Rolls, and Sticky Rice with Mangos and Coconut Milk. After making each single portion dish we were able to eat our creation. And they actually turned out pretty good. But by the end of the day-long course we were thoroughly stuffed. Of course we'll probably never remember how to make all the dishes especially by the time we get back home. Fortunately they gave us a cook book with all those meals plus more. So we'll make Thai for everyone when we get back! Here's some photos:
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We've discovered that in Eastern countries (at least all the ones we've visited so far) they serve drinks in bags. Of course the cup is also widely used, but the locals often use bags instead. We thought this was kind of odd and a few days ago got our first chance to get ones ourselves at a local food market in Chiang Mai. They are tied really tightly around the top with a rubber band so you don't have to worry about spillage while holding it. But setting it down can be an issue. Here Lynette is enjoying an ice coffee:
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I'm more of a pineapple shake kind of guy:
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YUMMMY!

The other day we went on a hill tribe tour. We wanted to experience a more rural Thailand and a less modernized area but doing it on one of these organized tours somehow seemed strange to me. Its not like on TV where the travel host goes out to some remote rarely touched jungle village society. I mean busses of tourists visit these people every day. So much so that the tribes moved "for the tourists" from their previous location 3 hours away to a closer 1 hour away from town. Don't get me wrong, I mean I love the fact that these people are able to make a living off the curiosity of the foreign visitor but it sure does take the authenticity out of the experience. However, considering the difficulties involved in finding and then getting to a remote village we did the tour. After the drive out into the country to one "village" you pass a few cinder block houses that while they look a bit primitive hardly appear "tribal." Then you go up a dirt driveway into a large field with a few long rows of bamboo and thatch huts, each filled with various handmade wares for sale, such as scarves and wooden trinkets. And each hut had the same stuff. I feel bad for the poor shmuck in the back. By the time a tourist gets back there, if they haven't bought something already, then they're probably so sick of seeing the same stuff that they sure aren't going to by something at that point. Some villages were more real and lived in than others. Some actually had bamboo houses, but there again the front porches had all been converted into rough store fronts.

In some villages women sit and tend their merchandise, and as you walk by they ask you to buy something. In others, hordes of children, and some women, run up and surround you with hand fulls of bracelets and bags. They sound like zombies, pitifully moaning out, "ten baaaht...ten baaaht" (baht = thai currency) And God help you if you actually do buy something from one of them as I did. Then they all know you're weak and they swarm closer, more aggressively beckoning you to buy, buy. I felt bad that these kids had to work the tourists instead of being out playing somewhere, so I bought a bracelet from one girl. then ten seconds later the same girl was amongst the crowd trying to sell me another. I jokingly said, "Hey, I already bought one from you!" She smiled, but kept on trying. Eventually I took the bracelet I bought and joked around by trying to sell it back to them saying, "10 baht...10 baht?" They laughed. I didn't make a sale but that got them to move on to the next tourist, for a while.
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Here's Lynette being overwhelmed by the young touts.
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On the tour at one village we got to meet Long Neck Karen. I'm not sure which one she was but she was one of the women with long necks. You've probably seen them sometime on a National Geographic show or something. They use the the metal rings to elongate their necks. According to our guide those rings were originally used long ago to protect the women from tiger attacks as the tigers would usually go for the throat. But over time they instead became a thing of status and beauty. Contrary to belief, using the rings does not destroy the muscular strength of the women's necks, so when you remove the rings their heads do not flop over. They can remove them but only do so on rare occasions in order to add another ring. We saw a photo of them without the rings. Pretty freaky.
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Here's a sight for you. This is actually a CLEAN towel. I wrote before about the stained towels we've gotten at hotels and guest houses along the way. Well here's a perfect example. We can tell its clean, it smells like detergent, but its just badly stained. I just still can't get over thinking I'm drying my face in someones fresh butt wipings. I mean look at those brown blotches!! (ignore the love handle)
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Check out this cool bug. Its body is flat and paper thin. It almost looked like the marks on its back were painted on. -- I didn't eat this one.
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Right now we are on the island of Koh Samui in south Thailand. We plan to be here for 6 more days then fly back to Bangkok for a flight to Cambodia. Can't believe Thailand is almost over. We hit our 4 month mark on May 7th. We are 1/3 through the trip. Its hard to believe its only been 4 months with all the places we've gone so far. Long way to go but we are still loving it. No signs of stopping!

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"Peace"

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Posted by schuckley 06:42 Comments (2)

Thailand - Our First Week

Now I know many of you are anxiously waiting to find out what my next milkshake flavor was, so I don't want to keep you in anymore suspense. I went with the Pineapple and was NOT disappointed.

Our first week here in Thailand is sadly over but we've done a lot so far.

In Bangkok, on the first day we were able to meet up with a friend of a friend from back in the states. Val had contacted us to introduce himelf and let us know he'd be in Thailand the same time as us. He asked if we'd like to meet up for dinner. We were delighted and of course said yes. From his emails, and stories of his past visits to Thailand, he'd sounded funny. And that was very much the case in person as well. We had a great time and a great meal. Thanks Val!

We took a boat tour on the river through Bangkok. Got to see the floating market (or at least one of them.)

We went to see a Broadway style cultural show for an elaborate stage depiction of Thailand's history, religion and festivals. It was pretty spectacular. Especially the hell scene!

We visited several sites around Bangkok including The Grand Palace. Below are a few photos. We were overwhelmed by all the gold and elaborate detail.

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The Sofie Star goes well with all the colors and ornamentation of the palace artistry:
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Dave posing like statue with accidental inappropriate hand placement:
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One day we spent walking the Chatuchak market which is HUGE! We walked and walked and probably only ended up seeing about a third of it. Some of it is outdoor and some is indoor. They sell just about everything there including furniture, clothes, jewelry, birds, dogs, fish, toys, art, and all sorts of doodads. We of course bought a few things including some of those doodads.

Bangkok is a big city and they have a lot of big malls and movie theaters. We decided to head downtown one evening to see a movie, which was a bit of a different experience. After doing some browsing at the mall we arrived at the theater. We purchased our tickets for "Vantage Point" and proceeded to the door labeled 1, as stated on our ticket, and found ourselves in a large swanky lounge area. We were the first to arrive. We went to the counter to order popcorn and soda and the attendant asked us to sit down at one of the small tables and brought us a menu. We ordered the popcorn and soda. He brought us two wine glasses filled with soda and ice, and after Lynette and I looked confusedly at eachother he told us they were free and that our snacks would be up shortly. Our movie was to start in about 20 minutes and after about 15 minutes of waiting I went up and asked if it would be much longer because we'd like to enter the theater. We'd actually been given assigned seats on our tickets, which we found unusual, but we just wanted to get in and settled. They told us that it would be a few more minutes and not to worry because the movie was a bit delayed. After about 10 more minutes we still hadn't gotten our food and a few other couples had wandered in and started through the same process we had. Finally after the attendants noticed I was getting a bit more figdedy one of them politely came and got us and lead us into the theater. He said he'd bring the snacks in shortly. I thought, "How long does it take to make popcorn and pour a soda?!" Anyway, he lead us into the theater as the movie trailers were already in progress and I was very annoyed to find out I'd just missed the Indiana Jones Trailer. In my frustration I failed to miss what Lynette was "ooh-ing" and "aah-ing" about. I looked around and saw all these huge red cooshy leather recliners. And on the seat were bags with a pillow and blanket inside. Because of the size of the chairs there was probably only about half the number (or maybe even less) found in a typical American theater. We settled into the extremely comfortable chairs with our warm blankets and pillows. Let me tell you this is a nice way to see a movie. It was so comfortable I didn't move an inch through the entire thing, which is unusual because I'm usually adjusting position about every 5 minutes. I don't know if it was because it was a good movie or because of the great seats but we really enjoyed the flick. After about 5 minutes into the show they finally brought us our popcorn and soda which we were surprised to find came in a kids toy cup and which partially blocked the screen because it was so big.

Here's Lynette and her "Horton Hears a Who" cup.
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The Thai people hold their hands together like in prayer position when greeting. We thought it interesting to even see their Ronald McDonald doing it.

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We took the train to Ayuthaya yesterday which is about one and a half hours north of Bangkok. There's tons of old Buddhist temples and ruins here which we spent the day seeing. We booked a tuk-tuk tour and were on our way. Check out Lynette in our fancy airbrushed tuk-tuk.

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Here's some of the temple ruins we saw today in Ayuthaya:
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Reclining Budda. Nice that they gave him a blanket to keep him warm:
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We found the story of this buddha head interesting. Supposedly an invading enemy cut off the heads of all the buddha statues and placed this one head beneath this tree, and over the many years the tree has grown up around it.
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A couple beauty shots. Can't get over the flowers we see.
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We loved the texture of this tree's roots with the fallen flowers:
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Posted by schuckley 03:51 Comments (4)

travel ramblings from Dave

Hi, this is Dave. We're now in Bangkok Thailand. Over the next few days we'll be seeing a lot of sights and I'm sure I'll be taking tons of photos to share, but in the meantime I thought I'd just post a few thoughts I've had about/during our travels.

Several days ago in Nepal we had an interesting experience. We actually rode ON TOP of a bus. We met a girl in town that was going to the same temple we were so we all hiked about 30 minutes through town to the bus stop. After finally figuring out where exactly the bus stop was, with no signs to help us, the bus arrived. It was full so our new friend who was a much more seasoned traveler than us immediately started climbing the ladder on the back of the bus saying "I'll ride on top." Well we didn't want to be outdone, let alone miss the bus so we climbed up as well. There were about 4 young Nepali people already sitting up there on the small luggage rack including a few small school children. We found some room and wedged our butts down into the uncomfortable rails. During the trip people came and went and each time everyone adjusted for space and a fresh cheek position. At one point my sunglasses were knocked off by a tree branch that smacked the back of my head, and another time Lynette and I had to play limbo with a power line to avoid being decapitated or possibly just electricuted. As we got higher on the hill and closer to the temple, the roads became narrower and we found ourselves perched over steep hills overlooking the farms below and city in the distance. I imagined all the stories I've read in the past of busses overturning down cliffs in India and I had to lay back and close my eyes to control my fear of heights. The local people all of course laughing behind me while not even holding on to anything. We made it to the temple unscathed and had a lovely time. But its a ride we will never forget.

There were two nights back in Bhaktapur Nepal that were quite memorable. We actually got to sit down and watch a full American movie each night on the hotel lobby TV. And even without commercial interruption as they were on HBO. This is not a common occurance for us because of the foreign television programs and power outages each night but this was a pretty nice place and it had cable and a generator backup. There was no one else in the room so we kicked back on the couches and selected the first thing that we came across that was in English. It was so nice. The movies were not actually that great. But it was so nice to be able to just relax, zone out in front of the tube and understand what they were saying. The first night was Sky High, the high school super hero movie with Kurt Russell. Not very good. But I got so entranced in it that when someone came through the front door of the hotel, I was startled and thought, "hey, who's breaking into my house!?" It took me a second to realize we weren't back home in our own place. The second night was American Dreams, the American Idol type story with Hugh Grant. An even worse film, but I was comfortable enough in the place that I fell asleep on the couch towards the end and Lynette had to wake me to go to bed. I've found myself online many times watching movie trailers as a way to indulge in my love of American cinema. I'm sad that I'll miss so many great movies coming out this summer. I wonder where we'll be when Indiana Jones comes out internationally and if I'll be able to bare the subtitles they'll probably have on the bottom of the screen in these foreign theaters.

All through India and Nepal there are these street touts trying to sell these very small round chess sets with pieces that have pegs on the bottom that fit into holes on the board so they don't fall out. We first saw them in India and they seemed to be everywhere. We wondered how these guys could stay in business. Are there that many chess enthusiasts out there traveling that they can make enough money selling these things? Well it took a while, until Nepal, and many boring flights, train rides, and meals with nothing left to say before we thought "Hey, why don't we buy one of those chess sets?" Now we know how they stay in business. Its a great thing to do when you're on the road for a long time and get bored. I hated the thought of supporting this army of annoying guys that have been pestering us for months, but it turned out to be a non issue because as the saying goes, "There's never one around when you want one." So we ended up going to a local Kathmandu shop to buy one. After closer inspection we decided the peg version wasn't the best way to go because the tiny pegs could easily break off in the holes and then its worthless in a travel situation. So we opted for a magnetic version instead. After small talk with the shopkeeper for awhile I tried talking him down by saying, "Can you give me a better price since we get along so well?" I've come to enjoy bargaining much more because you can say crazy things like this. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't but I get a kick out of it either way. Once I told a tout on the street trying to push tiger balm on us, "No thanks, I've already got a year's supply that I won on a game show." He probably didn't understand what that meant, but Lynette and I had a laugh. I got the chess set salesman to go down from 1000 rupees to 700. I was happy with the price and it seemed so was he, which is really the ultimate goal. So we've been playing chess ever since.

I had never been on an international flight before this trip so many of you may already know this, but one of the great things about them is the free alcohol. The first time we experienced this I was like, "What!?" I hadn't indulged however because I usually like to sleep on the flights and alcohol wires me, but on the three hour flight from Nepal to Thailand the other day I thought what the heck. I started with a rum and Pepsi. During the meal they offered free wine. I didn't want to offend so I had some red. Then before the meal was over they came back with the wheeled bar again, so I got another rum and Pepsi. After dinner they came by with Coniac! But I'd hit my limit. I didn't want to be stumbling through the aisles striking up incoherent conversations with strangers. I thought, "man, on longer flights they must have a bunch of drunks by the end of it." Like with one flight we were on these two young blokes were just getting beer after beer with a few breaks in between for mixed drinks. By the time we landed they must have been sloshed. But hey, whatever. They might have been big sissies about flying and needed something to calm the nerves.

Another great thing about the flights is the onboard movies. So far I've seen Michael Clayton, Water Horse, and Live Free or Die Hard. That combined with the great meals and comfortable seating, there have been flights that I didn't want to end. That's a far cry from the domestic flights I've been on back in the states.

For anyone headed to Kathmandu, and we recommend you do so, I have a few restaurant recommendations in the Thamel district. We found this great place that we ended up eating at every morning for breakfast. It was really cheap and they had the best banana pancakes that I've had on the whole trip, and believe me, I've had many. They were crepe style with the bananas wrapped inside, and there was some kind of spice added, like cinamon or nutmeg. They were fried in a pan so there were some golden brown crispy parts. It came with honey on the side to pour over. Nowhere in India or Nepal has had maple syrup. Must be hard to come by there. But to my surprise honey is a fantastic substitute for maple syrup. Don't know why it never occurred to me to try it before (probably because I always had maple syrup) but it was really good. I'll be using it regularly when we get back home. Lynette almost always got the set breakfast which included eggs, fried potatoes, toast, grilled banana, and grilled tomato. It was very cheap and filled her up for a good while. I also started drinking tea there, with milk in it. I was never a big tea drinker before but I've drunk so much Coke and Sprite on the trip, because that's all that's offered (or safe) besides water and coffee, that I needed a change. The place is Helena's. You can sit on the roof top for a fantastic view of the city, but its 8 flights up! After our mountain treks we have thighs of steel so that was no problem for us. :-)

Good Mexican or Tex Mex food has also been really hard to come by on the trip so far. Hadn't had it anywhere through the first 3 months. We were talking to someone in Kathmandu about this with a woman we met in Kathmandu and she recommended Northfield Cafe for Mexican which was right near our hotel. Everywhere else in Nepal uses Nepali Chipatti bread (like thick pitas) for their enchilada and chimichanga tortillas. But this place, which is owned by an American, uses authentic corn tortillas. The chicken enchiladas that Lynette and I both got were to-die-for.

And the New Orleans Cafe had incredible chicken burgers. There's a lot of good food to be found but sometimes you have to be lead to it by people you meet or you just stumble upon it.

We're in Thailand now, and my long search for a quality milkshake has finally come to an end. It's not called a milkshake though, but that's a minor detail. Its called a Frosty, but its basically a milkshake by American definition. It has the perfect consistency. The cool thing is all the flavors they offer. I had the banana almond yesterday. Who knows what I'll get next time. The suspense is killing me.

Well that's all for now. Remember if you are a newcomer to our blog you can register by clicking the button to the right of your screen and entering your info. This way you'll get an email notifying you everytime we add a new entry, and you won't have to keep checking back for something new.

Dave and Lynette
dbuck242@yahoo.com
lschimpf@gmail.com

Posted by schuckley 06:22 Comments (2)

More of Nepal

Dave here. I thought I'd share some more photos from Nepal.

Here's a few more shots from our trek:
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Another example of the amazing layered farm land:
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Nepali clothes drier:
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Lynette's paragliding take-off: (No that's not a bun in the oven. That's just her fleece tied around her stomach.)
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Me in the air trying to ignore my fear of heights:
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I've seen some of the most amazing flowers here. Some have colors I didn't know existed in nature. Here's one I thought was exceptionally beautiful:
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We just spent a few days in the town of Bhaktapur which is not far from Kathmandu. It has some great old buildings and beautiful wood carved windows. Plus a plethera of temples. Here's one, The Nyatapola Hindu Temple, that was right outside our hotel. Its the tallest temple in Nepal:
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We happened to be in Bhaktapur during their new years festival which lasts several days. (Its the year 2065 according to their calendar) On one day there were groups of people marching through town playing all kinds of different instruments. Music could be heard all through town all day and late into the night. It was really fun. The last night of the festival was the big event. They had this huge chariot which looked more to me like a temple on wheels. It had sat in a little square near out hotel for a few days while kids played on it and people made religious offerings on it, and on this night it was used in a massive tug-of-war celebration. Everyone in town came out to see it. There were huge crowds of men on each side pulling on it with these long thick ropes. People were cheering and shouting. Even rocks were being thrown in the crowd. It was a wild sight. We got to watch the whole thing from a safe distance at the roof top restaurant of our hotel. Here's some photos of it.

The chariot during the day:
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The chariot during the tug-of-war. Its the small structure in the lower right hand corner:
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Our hotel doorman and a little friend during the festival:
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Some more photos from temples of Bhaktapur:
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Some scarey masks for sale, and a scarey tourist:
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Its amazing how often Mickey Mouse shows up. Here's one example we saw in a village during our mountain trek. We've also seen ice cream carts named after him and even a rinky dink amusment park with funky versions of Mickey and Minnie faces sculpted on the entry columns.
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Pics from a couple temples around Kathmandu:
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That's all for now. We've got a few more days here in Nepal and then we head to Thailand. We met some Americans this morning who now live in Bangkok, Thailand and they talked about how nice it is there. So we are even more excited to go there. And we're looking forward to the Thai food! But we need to learn how to say "No spicey please." It will be sad to leave Nepal though. We really have loved it here.

Posted by schuckley 06:00 Comments (1)

Nepal

Himalaya Trek

Lynette writing here. Nepal is awesome and is already at the top of both mine and Dave's list of favorite countries we have visited. We are currently in the town of Pokhara which is the ending and starting point for a lot of the treks in the Annapurna area of the Himalayas. There are so many treks you can do in Nepal so Dave and I went to the trekking company in our hotel and told them we were looking for about a week long trek that wasn’t too difficult but gave us good views and went through some mountain villages. We were set up on the Ghorepani/Poon Hill 7 day trek along with a porter to carry our backpack and a guide so we didn’t get lost in the Himalayas and eaten by the Yeti that roams these mountains. We flew from Katmandu on March 31st and then started our 7 day trek through the Annapurna area the next day. This was an amazing experience. Physically more difficult than anything I have ever done before. It started out easy enough but got much harder. The first day involved about 4 hours of walking on relatively flat ground. It involved some up and down but nothing like we experienced on day 2 and day 3.

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That night we stayed at our first “lodge” or “tea house.” Now before you conjure up thoughts of warm cozy inns with fireplaces, blankets, and warm cuddly soft couches to snuggle in and drink a cup of hot cocoa let me set you straight. These lodges or tea houses, as they are sometimes called, are basically converted barns. They are not heated and it is COLD in the Himalayas. The walls are so thin and have cracks between the boards so you not only can clearly hear the person in the room next to you, you sometimes can also see them. The toilet facilities were usually not only outside but sometimes down a flight of stairs and across a yard. This made having to go to the toilet in the middle of the very frigid night a real experience. Hot water was scarce and laundry facilities non-existent so as you can imagine Dave and I were looking and smelling pretty ripe by the end of our trek. The lodges and tea houses are run by families who live in the small villages scattered throughout the mountains. They make a decent living by running these lodges and giving the massive amounts of trekkers who hike in these mountains a place to sleep for the night and food to eat.

Here are some photos from along the trek:
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This time of year is beautiful because of all of the blossoming flowers. Everywhere you looked as far as the eye could see there were trees with pink and red flowers.
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Here's an example of one of the primitive lodge interiors:
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Only a few places had a fire stove in the "restaurant" for getting warm and drying clothes:
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We were welcomed to take photos in one of the lodge kitchens:
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Along the trail there were several "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" type rope bridges. We often felt we'd fall through the loose hole-ridden wooden slats.
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In the villages and on the trail cute children were always smiling and waving and saying "Namaste" (hello) They would usually follow by saying "sweet?" (meaning "please give me some candy")trek_kids.jpg
kid_swing.jpg

The 2nd day of our hike was definitely harder than the first. It involved a lot of uphill hiking. The inclines are steep and usually involve tons of stair steps. On this day we began by walking over 4500 stone steps up the side of a mountain. We took breaks when we needed but with the increase in altitude (even though it was less than 3000 meters) we seemed to be experiencing quicker shortness of breath. We had just reached the outskirts of our destination for the night which was the village of Ghorepani when it started to rain and then the rain turned into a hailstorm. Thank goodness we were in a village so we could run for some shelter and wait it out. In a matter of minutes the green grass looked like it was in the middle of the winter and there had just been a snow fall. That night we slept at the highest altitude we would sleep, which was over 2800 meters. Altitude is supposed to affect your sleep and I would definitely say that neither Dave nor I slept very well over 2000 meters. Just in-and-out kind of sleep.

The next day the melting hail appeared as beautiful snow along the trail. It contrasted wonderfully with the red flowers in the trees. I hope the colors come across on your screens.
trek_snow_path.jpg

The 3rd day was the hardest. We had to wake up at 4:30 a.m. and walk straight up a mountain for about an hour on rough stone steps. This was so we could get to the top of Poon Hill to see the sunrise over the Annapurna range. After several breaks we made it and because it was a clear day we could see the numerous peaks on the Annapurna range in all their glory. There are about 5 or 6 you can see from this view and again this is just amazing. The day had just begun however and we had hours and hours of stair climbing in front of us until we reached our next destination for the night. Going up is hard but going down is treacherous. It is really easy to slip on the rocks and loose gravel going down a steep incline and it is also really hard on your ankles, calves, and knees. We made it though without any injuries thank goodness. After going down P Hill we walked for awhile and again had to go about an hour straight up and then back down, and then we again had to go straight up stone steps to our destination. This all involved hours and hours of walking – probably about 6 1/2 to 7 hours. We were exhausted when we finally reached the village of Tadapani where we spent the night. It again hailed that day but we had been at our lodge for an hour before it started. Quite a few people were not so lucky including a group of 13 Americans on an eleven day camping trek. The weather was so nasty and cold that instead of setting up their tents, their guide made the decision to have them stay in the lodge instead. It was so cold – freezing cold. I had all my layers on and I was covered with the down sleeping bag. This was a low point for us since this was by far the worst lodge we had stayed at. At first we could not get our door to latch close and it kept opening up with a strong gust of wind. There was no electricity so there was no light in our room. (Fortunatley we'd brought small flashlights.) We were so tired and not feeling well and freezing cold and on and on. To keep our spirits up we said it could be worse – we could be on a camping trek like the American group!

Here are some shots of us after conquering the tough morning climb to the top of Poonhill for the gorgeous view:
poonhillsign.jpg
poohnill_lyn.jpg
poonhill_davelyn.jpg
The Sofie Star makes it to the Himalayas! Thanks Sofie!
poohnill_star.jpg

Lynette tries to keep warm in the freezing cold:
trek_lyn_bag.jpg

The 4th and 5th days were actually not too difficult in comparison but none of the trekking days were easy. You are either going up or down. The 4th day we stayed at our favorite village on the trek and our favorite lodge. The town we stayed in was called Ghandruk and it was this picturesque little village with old houses and carved wooden window frames. The lodge we stayed at was well run and actually had an attached western style toilet in the room!!!!! You have no idea how excited this made Dave and me. The dining room was nice and the food was good, it was really nice. We could have stayed here for a few days. This is also the place where Dave drew our trekking guide whose name was Prakesh. The owner of the lodge saw the drawing and asked Dave to draw him the next day in exchange for a drawing of Dave by the owner’s daughter – who was probably around 10/12 years old. The drawing of Dave by this little girl is absolutely adorable. She made Dave look slightly Nepali and this drawing is absolutely one of the highlights and will be framed hanging on the wall in our house some day. Whenever Dave draws it always gets attention and people respond so positively to it and it is a wonderful way to connect to the people when you don’t know their language, and in my opinion shows respect to their culture. The 5th day we spent in Jhinu near the hot springs. To get to the hot springs you had to go down stone steps for about 30 minutes. I soaked my weary bones in the spring and enjoyed the environment while Dave sat on a big bolder in the middle of the river and watched the rapids rush by.

A few shots of the area around Ghandruk village:
gurung_view1.jpg
gurung_build1.jpg
trek_window.jpg
Farming is still the main occupation in Nepal. The farmland is made up of terraces down the sides of the mountains. We saw these everywhere and it made us think of the farming challenges that exist because of this. All planting and harvesting is done by hand. trek_farm_layers.jpg

It was a lot of fun for Dave to do the Sketch of the lodge owner, even if a bit stressful with the whole family watching over his shoulder with excitement. Afterward they posed with their portraits:gurung_sketching1.jpg
gurung_sketching2.jpg
gurung_sketching3.jpg
Here's the adorable drawing of Dave (as a Nepali)
girls_sketch.jpg

The 6th day we walked to the village of Pothana which was a pleasant walk, again of course going up/down and then the 7th we had a short 2 and a half hour walk to our ride back to civilization.

The trekking experience is one of my favorite experiences ever. It is not easy but completely worth it. We met tons of people on the trails from all over the world. We met an American Mom trekking with her 3 teenage children. We saw smaller children than that hiking the trails with their families. The people who live in these areas are hearty and strong. There is a porter tradition where they carry goods up and down the mountains using these special baskets that are carried on their back with a cloth strip that goes around the front of their head so the bulk of the weight is taken by their foreheads. Women, men, and children all carry things in this way. Some of the loads these people were carrying were extreme. This tradition also is applied to trekking. We had a porter named Ram but he was from the city so he did not do the forehead thing (only villagers do the forehead thing – they start training their kids at an early age) but he did tie together several packs and sleeping bags and carry the entire load.

The porters even sometimes carry tables up the hills to be assembled later for the camping treks.
trek_porters.jpg

Our porter was very excited to get a portrait by Dave as well:
sketch_porter.jpg
But our porter's favorite drawing, being a porter, was the one Dave did of our backpacks sitting on a rock wall during lunch one day on the trek. He giggled and smiled every time he saw it.
sketch_bags.jpg

Whenever Dave does a drawing of someone they innevitably want to keep it. So his sketchbook is thinning out a bit. But he always makes sure to photograph the drawing first so we have a record of it.

I already want to come back to Nepal to do more treks and have not felt that strongly about any other country we have visited.

davelyn_mount1.jpg

After our trek we have been taking it pretty easy here in Pokhara. Although we did do one exhilarating thing - we went paragliding today off the side of a mountain! Yep – we did. It was awesome of course. The view was a bit hazy which was bad so we could not see the Annapurna range peaks but we could see lots of the town of Pokhara and the surrounded hills and it was just awesome to be flying around above the hills. A few times we were flying just above, just below, or even right next to huge beautiful birds. Amazing. Both Dave and I loved the experience but it made us both sick to our stomachs. They warned us when we booked it that some people get sick and actually throw up while in the air. They told us to eat a light breakfast which we did. However, after about 20 minutes in the air we both started feeling nauseated. I was up for about 50 minutes with my guide and Dave was up for about 40 minutes. We were both able to hold it together and did not puke in the air which our guides I’m sure were extremely thankful for. But, it took awhile after being on the ground before we started feeling better. The reason for the sick stomachs is basically motion sickness. You spin around, go up and down and experience G force winds and all this combined can definitely make someone ill if you are predisposed to motion sickness. We met two very nice Israeli girls in the truck on the way up the hill to the launch area, and one of them unfortunately got very sick in the air and was puking all over the place. Hopefully it didn't hit any villagers below!

Here are some more sketches Dave has done on our trip:

Katmandu, Nepal - Stupa (Buddhist religious structure)
sketch_stupa.jpg
Agra, India - Taj Mahal
sketch_taj.jpg
Auckland, New Zealand - building
sketch_NZ_build.jpg

Ok friends and family. I hope all is well with everyone and until next time.

Lynette & Dave
lschimpf@gmail.com
dbuck242@yahoo.com

Posted by schuckley 04:33 Comments (3)

Chillin' in Goa and on to Nepal

Hello all - Lynette writing here.

I'm writing from the legendary city of Kathmandu in Nepal! The air is cooler here and a lot less humid than India which is a nice change. We flew here yesterday very early in the morning - so early in fact that we had to wake up at 2:30 a.m. to get to the airport on time. But more on Nepal later - let me tell you a little bit about Goa, India which is where we spent a little less than a week.

India overall was one wild ride after another. We were excited to go to Goa because it is known for its laid back atmosphere and less conservative culture - meaning I could actually wear a tank top and Dave and I could hold hands in public. We thought it would be a great way to recover from the nonstop touring we did in the Rajasthan area of India. After arriving in Goa we were picked up and taken to our hotel in Calangute. Right away I did not like Calangute. It is the busiest beach town in Goa and since we were there at peak season it was packed full of Indians on vacation with there families etc. The beach itself was disgusting. There was trash everywhere and it was completely packed with people everywhere - mostly groups of Indian men laughing and playing. As soon as we saw the beach we turned right around and went back to our hotel. The hotel itself was ok but our room was right next to the kitchen and so we heard loud kitchen noises way into the night, and then in the morning we were greeted by loud noises by children in the reveberating marble lobby. This was not the relaxing time we were hoping it would be. I was very unhappy to say the least and we called our travel agent and asked to be changed to a different hotel. Due to the holidays (Easter and Holi - Hindu holiday where they throw colors on each other - fun!) and this being India our travel agent wasn't exactly responsive to our request.

This was definitely a low point on our trip. India is a very trying and challenging place. Foreigners are treated basically like walking ATM's and you are constantly harrassed by beggers, sales people, and touts. The daily confrontations with poverty is overpowering and the materialism that exists here is unreal. People offer help without being asked and then expect to be paid. You absolutely can trust no one who wants to help you or give you something which is sad because you have to have your guard up constantly. The sales people know to play on our emotions and are skilled at making you feel like you hurt their feelings by not buying something. We had one incident where a woman asked us if we wanted to buy a sarong or blanket and we said no. Later we actually bought a sarong and blanket off another woman. The first woman came up to Dave and I and said in this pathetic hurt voice - "hey do you remember me? I asked if you wanted something and you said no." This is a tactict to play upon the western guilt tendency. We are are all rich in the eyes of the Indians. It was getting to us and we were both ready to move on. We had been looking forward to Goa because we had heard it wasn't like that. It was supposed to be relaxing and laid back but seeing that Calangute was just as busy as other parts of India our spirits sunk. Then there was the "sunscreen" incident.

Dave and I went to a pharmacy in Calangute and bought what we thought was a major brand "Banana Boat" of Sunscreen - SPF 30. We used it the next day and spent just a couple hours in the sun. It didn't take long for us to start seeing the effects of sunburn on all exposed parts of our bodies when we got back to the hotel. We just couldn't understand how we got so burnt. My shoulders got hit the worst on me and are still a bit sore and now are starting to itch. Dave figured it out - we were sold bogus sunscreen. Someone filled Banana Boat Sunscreen containers with generic lotion and sold them. We bought two bottles of it and both were filled with the same lotion. It said on the bottle unscented and ungreasy which was not the case as the "sunscreen" smelled like flowers and was pretty greasy. This is what I mean by not trusting anyone - you can't even trust your local pharmacy in India.

We eventually took matters regarding our hotel in Goa into our own hands and found a cheap resort in a more remote beach north of Calangute called Vagator and ended up having such a wonderful time we didn't want to leave. Goa was made famous by the hippies in the 60's as a place to take drugs, dance all night, and then zone by the beach all day. In parts there is still this kind of vibe but we also saw lots of European visitors and families here. It is extremely cheap in Goa - even cheaper than the rest of India. Dave and I would eat at a restaurant and both get something to drink and a meal and the total cost was under $6 dollars. The resort we moved to was awesome and relaxing. It was a short walk to the beach and many off the wall shack restaurants. One night we went to this bar called the Nine Bar which overlooks the ocean and plays trance music while the sun sets over the Arabian sea. It was magical and we both had a thought that was surprising - we didn't want to leave India!

The other really fun thing we did in Goa was rent a scooter and drive to a secluded beach called Aswem and eat at this great french beach shack restaurant we were told about by a girl we met earlier in our India travels who lives in Goa. The roads are not well marked and Dave and I were driving all over the place and drove in a circle at one point. A friendly man (did not want money - yay!) on a motorcyle ended up showing us how to get to this beach. At one point he pulled over and told us to go over a bridge and turn left. We thought we went over something bridge like and so turned left which was wrong and we ended up lost again. But by some strange coincidence the man we had followed earlier showed up on the street we were lost on and again we followed him to the correct turn off. The bridge that we were supposed to go over was a very large bridge, in fact it was the bridge used in the Bourne Supremacy movie where Matt Damon's girlfriend is shot and the jeep goes into the water. Dave had never driven a scooter before but after a bit of practice he was a pro and drove us around safely. It was a great day. We ended our Goa trip by spending several hours before heading to the airport bargaining for stuff at the Anjuna flea market. It is sooooo much fun to buy stuff because it is so cheap.

Although we were sad to go, we left Goa on Wednesday March 26th and flew back to Delhi. The next day early in the morning we flew to Kathmandu, Nepal. The flight was only 1 hour and 30 minutes from Delhi to Kathmandu so that was nice. Kathmandu is the biggest city in Nepal and there is a developed tourist area called Thamel which is where we are staying. It is really fun and packed full of cafes, internet places, adventure companies, guest houses, hostels, cheap hotels, restaurants serving all kinds of cusine, shops, and on and on. We liked it here immediately and because we had just come from crazy India - we were barely affected by the traffic and pollution of Kathmandu which you read about. The sales people are no where near as pushy and we just feel better here. We are not sure of our plans but plan to do some sort of trek and tour. We are here for 28 days which is quite a bit of time.

Take care and until we write again!

Lynette

Hi. - Dave here. In a few days I'll have tons of photos from Nepal to show, so here's one last batch of shots from India. They are in no particular order.

You can take photos of people in India, but they usually want money afterward. Like this woman did. Just a small amount though so its worth it.
india_womancarry.jpg
india_waterpalace.jpg
india_wallboy.jpg

Here's the hallway on the train from Mumbai to Goa.
india_train2.jpg
This is our cabin area.
india_train1.jpg

Indian spices
india_spices.jpg

I love the bamboo scaffolding.
india_scaffolding.jpg
india_pipeman.jpg

Paints
india_paint.jpg

We went to a fabrics shop and bought some things, including Lynette's outfit seen here which they made from scratch in one night from material and pattern she selected.
india_lynette.jpg

A holy cow
india_holycow.jpg
india_doorwaylady.jpg
india_building3.jpg
india_building4.jpg
india_building5.jpg
india_building6.jpg
india_building7.jpg
india_sculptor.jpg
india_tajlynette.jpg
india_tajdave.jpg

Some of the trucks have these huge loads strapped to them. They dwarf the truck and fill the road. And they look like at any moment they will bust.
india_truckload.jpg
india_braceletlady.jpg
india_musicians.jpg
india_bowl.jpg

The trucks in some areas are painted with very decorative and colorful designs. - Even including trucks with hazardous chemicals!
india_acid.jpg
india_whitetemple.jpg
india_candles.jpg
india_details.jpg
india_detail2.jpg
india_doorstatues.jpg

Here is the place where Ghandi's body was cremated.
india_ghandi1.jpg
india_ghandi2.jpg
india_grafitti.jpg
india_juicestand.jpg
india_headcarry.jpg
india_lynettedoor.jpg
india_manbike.jpg
india_metalshop.jpg
india_mosque1.jpg
india_mosque2.jpg
india_nighttemple.jpg

In many towns there are streets of tiny shops with people making all kinds of things.
india_papershop.jpg
india_streetshop.jpg

india_schoolgirls.jpg

our email:
lschimpf@gmail.com
dbuck242@yahoo.com

Posted by schuckley 21:05 Comments (1)

India - Train from Mumbai to Goa

Hello. This is Dave writing. We are still in India.

A few days ago we arrived in Mumbai for 2 days. We met with my cousin Grace's friends who moved from the US to Mumbai 6 weeks ago for their jobs. We met them for dinner. They were really nice and we had a great time. It was nice to just hang out with some people from back home that we had a connection with through family. They were really kind to make a long drive by cab to our hotel location so we wouldn't have to find our way around town. The food was just OK but the company was refreshing.

The next day we saw a few sites in Mumbai. Afterward we needed to make our way back to our hotel to pick up our bags. But we didn't know where we were or how to get back to the hotel. We tried haling two cabs but neither driver knew how to speak or read english. A passerby tried assisting us with communicating with a driver but he also was not profitient enough in English. Finally we stopped a man who could read the written address we had. He took one look at it then looked up and pointed across the street. There was our hotel right across from us the whole time! We couldn't believe we'd been all around town and then ended up on the very street we began from simply by chance. We had a good long laugh.

After picking up our bags we made way for the train terminal for an 11:00 PM departure on an overnight train to Goa, (a touristy coastal state with lots of beaches where we are now and will be for another 5 days before leaving India.) The train ride was quite an experience. When we arrived at the station it was mobbed with people. It seemed like total chaos. We made our way through the crowds to our platform even though we were 4 hours early just to make sure we knew where we'd have to go at departure time. Then we headed back to the waiting area we found a huge hall with mostly Indian people sitting everywhere. In the seats, on the floor, squashed together as far as the eye could see. The air was hot and damp even with the many fans overhead. But we happen to see a sign that noted "upper class waiting room upstairs." Yippee - Our travel agent had booked us an upper class cabin ticket so we were so thankful to see this sign. So we went up to what, compared to downstairs, seemed like paradise. The smaller room was much more modern and only had a few people waiting there. There were lots of empty seats and several air conditioners. Since I had been feeling ill all day from a relapse of the stomach bacteria I thought I'd gotten rid of a few days earlier I quickly sprawled out on one of the lines of chairs and took a nap. Lynette watched the news on the flat screen television which to her disappointment was in Hindi, not English.

An hour before our departure we went down to the lower level to find some snacks before going over to the train platform. Seeing that we were foreigners, one of the many Indian porters came up to us and asked us where we were going. Now from experience we know that no one here in India offers to assist you with anything without something in return, so we figured we'd need to tip this guy, but in this chaotic situation we felt the assistance was welcomed. So we let him lead us to the best snack stand and help us pick out the right crackers and chips we'd probably like. Then, carrying our snack bags he lead us through the crowds to the platform. After a garbbled announcement came over the PA he informed us that the train was delayed by about 30 minutes. So he went and tracked down a luggage cart that looked more like a primitive flat wooden wheel barrel for us to sit on since all the benches were taken by the mobs of people. He tried to make idle conversation with us but his accent was very thick and it was hard making most of it out so we found ourselves nodding and smiling a lot. After a while he ran off so we thought, "hey maybe we'll get off without having to tip this guy." When the train finally pulled up you could see through the windows that the cars were packed with people sitting and standing filling the aisles all the way up to the doors like they were about to fall out. Regardless, some of the people on the platform jumped onto the entrance steps before the train even fully stopped so that they'd be the first to get seats once the masses started boarding. Lynette and I were kind of in a daze from all the commotion and were really confused as to which car to get on. We found what we thought was the right car but didn't see our name posted on the passenger list pasted near the car door. Then from out of nowhere this porter comes running back up to us and grabs us to come down to the other end of the car to board. To our relief we saw our names on the sheet posted there. But right as we were about to board we were stopped by about 6 uniformed guards with machine guns. At first we thought our fears of someone smuggling drugs in our bags and having to spend the rest of our lives in a hellish foreign prison were about to come true. But then we saw all eyes from the crowd leading to the back of the line of guards. A very important Indian man and his wife and child made their way through the guards and boarded the same car we were to be on. A man nearby told us that it was a very important criminal attorney who had done many mob trials. We didn't know if he was the defending or prosecuting attorney though so we didn't know if we should be happy or worried that we were on the same train car. In either case we didn't have to worry too much about our bags being stolen in the middle of the night because there were about 3 or 4 armed guards sitting in the entrance ways at both ends of the car all night. After the craziness of them boarding the train died down we were allowed to get on. The porter lead us down a hall of curtains with bunks behind them and at the end behind another curtain was our small cabin area. It was actually nicer than we thought it would be. It was air conditioned and at least we didn't have to share the room with anyone. We even had what seemed like clean linens and pillow. When we entered the cabin to put our bags down the porter cornered us inside and scawfed at the small money I tried to tip him. He demanded 500 rupees which is a huge fee for such a service. Most tips here are between 10 and 50 rupees. He said it was the required porter fee that he had to give to the office. I said, hey- you never told us it was going to be that much before. He just shrugged and refused to leave without the money. Even though he was a scrawny gaunt faced man and I knew I could take him he was kind of scarey. He had this crazy look in his bloodshot eyes, and I think he'd been drinking so I didn't know what he would pull. So I decided to concede and give him the dough. Afterall 500 rupees is a lot here but it amounts to about maybe 10 US dollars. After all that he even had the gaul to ask for a tip on top of that fee but we flatly said no. After about 4 more times of him asking and us saying no he got the hint and asked to shake hands then disappeared down the hall probably to assault some other unsuspecting foreigners. We were too tired to care and after getting comfortable and having a few snacks we went to bed on the fold down bunks. They were narrow and hard, but after the long day it didn't matter and we fell fast asleep.

That's all for now. You all take care.

Dave
dbuck242@yahoo.com

Lynette
lschimpf@gmail.com

Posted by schuckley 04:55 Comments (1)

India and photos

We are finishing our 12 day tour of Rajasthan. We had a driver who took us by car to several cities. The shortest ride was around 3 hours but most ranged between 5 and even 8 hours. That's a long time to put up with the crazy India traffic. Our driver is nice, very helpful. But like most people here, he likes to weave back and forth through traffic, pass vehicles in the opposite lane narrowly missing oncoming traffic, and just generally drive like a bat out of hell. He has this race-car-driver attitude and even refers to himself as Jeff Gordan, Earnhardt and the like. Yesterday we drove from Jodhpur to Udaipur. He said it would be about 6 hours but he got us there in just under 5. I was thankful for less time on the roads but the fact that most of the drive was through hilly, windey roads made it seem even longer than 6. Lynette and I were bouncing back and forth in the back seat containing our nasua as he whizzed through countless picturesque villages and beautiful terrain that presented some great potential photos. But by the time I got my camera into position and snapped the shot all I'd get is a blurry view of something 20 yards past what I was shooting for.

Lynette and I both picked up a little stomach bug. Oddly enough we think it was from a McDonalds here in India. But who knows for sure. For several days we both had the hershey squirts. I was happy though that it wasn't the "run to the bathroom in a hurry or I'll burst" type of thing. That was up until the one day when that all changed. Half way through a 4 hour car ride from Ranthampor to Jaipur I got what started out as intense stomach cramp then turned into the fight of my life to not make massive doody in my pants. Only one other time in my life have I had such devilish poo pains. That was at Disneyland in California where I could at least run to one of the many comfortable facilities in the park. But here I was on a bumpy road in the middle of the Indian desert with nothing but run down villages, herds of camels, cows, and goats, as well as the countless Indian onlookers who seem to have enough reason to stare. Now in such a situation running behind a crumbling building to relieve myself wouldn't have been the worst thing but after considering the logistics it wasn't my first choice. I decided to see if I could tough it out. First I asked Lynette to find her stash of Immodium which, in the end, I think is what saved me. But first I had to wait for it to take effect. In the meantime I clenched like the dickens. Every time the car hit the slightest bump, and there was no shortage of them, I thought I would lose the battle. I pounded my thigh, gritted my teeth and held on for dear relief. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity the agony began to subside. I had successfully held the flood gates. All I have to say is "Thank you makers of Immodium."

We both tried to resist taking one of our three doses of antibotics because we didn't want to use them so early in the trip in fear of running out later, but after a few days of not getting better we gave in and took them. Now we are feeling good.

Most of the mattresses so far in India have been about 4 inches thick on top of a wooden panel. Not the most comfortable. The pillows are hardly pillows at all. So thin I barely notice them. The linens ranged from questionable to bad to worse. Usual dingy and grayed like they've been used for years. At one place the sheets were so old that there were two large holes worn through the center. The strange thing is these aren't horrible hotels. They are actually on the nice side. But it seems they place their attention on different things than we do back in the states. On the exterior the hotels may look like palaces. They decorate the insides with their versions of extravagant detail and flourishes. But then the plumbing is old and won't work properly. Or the floors and walls are cracked, dingy and stained. The room doors and cabinets will be made of partical board with ugly delapidated laminate. Its really hard to explain. Each place seemed to have a different issue. One place the AC didn't work. Another had a mosquito problem. And the electricity goes off everywhere. Usually its only for a few minutes but here in Udaipur it goes off for three hours from 11:00 to 2:00 everyday.

The bathrooms aren't as bad as I thought or read that they would be. They do have a lot of the squat toilets but they aren't as filthy as I expected. If those aren't adventurous enough for you there's always the street urinals.
pee2.jpg
And if that doesn't thrill you just go anywhere.
pee1.jpg

Before we left for the trip I had a ton of dental work done. But wouldn't you know it, a few weeks ago one of my crowns cracked and half of it broke off. Luckily I found a nice little dental depot here in India and got fixed right up. (just kidding) My mom works at a dentist office back home. If she and the doc ever get patients that worry about visiting the dentist they can show them this photo and remind them that it could be worse.
dental_depot.jpg

The city streets are crazy. So much going on in such a narrow space. And look at the mass of wires that drape from building to building and pole to pole. What a mess.
street_wires1.jpg
Its common here but very strange to walk down a street and see cars, rickshaws, and motorcycles whizzing by as elephants walk at their own slow pace and cows stand motionless blocking the road.
street_elephant.jpg
street_cow.jpg
city_view.jpg
city_view2.jpg
decay.jpg
delhi_street1.jpg
delhi_street2.jpg

I've always wanted to see a real snake charmer. I got my chance. This snake was really eyeing me, and moved towards me looking like it was ready to attack. Even though the guy kept reassuring me that the venom had been removed it didn't sooth my worries. You can read my body language that I was quite uncofortable. But what a great experience.
dave_snake.jpg

We really feel like human photo-ops. I had that one encounter in Malaysia and Lynette mentioned several instances here in India where people have asked to take their pictures with us. People are just interested in us because we look so different. They stare at us constantly like we are from another planet. At one temple I started sketching and so many people were coming up to look over my shoulder as I drew the buildings. It was fun, but it really put the pressure on me to do a good job. Then there happened to be a Malaysian camera crew there filming a documentary. As I was sketching the temple they asked me if they could film me drawing. That was pretty cool. Maybe I'll end up on TV in Malaysia!video_sketch.jpg

This looks really safe! At least the driver has a helmet. There's actually another child on the other side too.
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We got to see the Lotus temple which is a beautiful structure that looks like a huge Lotus flower and slightly resembles Sydney Opera House.
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Lots of streets filled with bazaars and stores. We are getting a little better at haggling now with some practice. Lynette is definitely better than I am.
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We rode elephants up this long path up to an amazing fort. It was about a 20 minute ride. There was a huge line of elphants going both ways along the narrow path. In some places it jammed up and I was fearing a massive stampede if one of the elephants had decided to freak out. But it was so much fun.
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Didn't get any shots of us on the elephant but heres proof. See the shadow of the tail.
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Pushkar was a nice town. But there is a holy lake where the priests try to con you into donating huge amounts of money. First, as you begin to walk down the steps to the water they hand you a dish of flower petals, spices, and other oddities, to be thrown into the water as a blessing. When we said "no thanks" they insisted that it was free. So we took them. Then they followed us down to the waters edge and split us up. One priest for each of us so we were more easily influenced. They recited these long prayers where we repeated each phrase. By the end they are inserting lines saying that "I will donate such and such amount of money." My guy was asking for 50 to 100 american dollars which is about 4000 rupees - a huge amount. (Most donations and tips are around 20 rupees.) I got up and gave the guy 10 rupees. He got all pissed saying "what's with the 10 rupees - you ask me to do this for you..." I stopped him and said "Hey, I didn't ask you to do anything." and walked off. Lynette's guy was telling her that if she didn't donate a large sum that she would have bad karma for one day." But nothing bad happened so we figure he must have been lying. :-) Kind of a shame that such a holy place is turned into such a mockery. If they hadn't pulled all that we probably would have just donated more money than we did.
Here's Lynette being worked on by the priest.
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We've seem so many temples, palaces and forts. But this one tops them all. The Taj Mahal.
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Here are some others.
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We got to experience a royal wedding one night. They do this long procession down the street with elephants, camels, chariots, and a mass of people dancing and having fun. There was a string of men carrying these huge lanterns on their heads. What a sight. It was really fun.
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Posted by schuckley 03:24 Comments (1)

Incredible chaotic India!

-17 °C

(Note: We wrote and tried to post the following blog two days ago but our connection went out before we could post it for viewing. We are now in Pushkar, India where we have been able to find another place with internet access.)

Lynette and Dave here. Sorry no pictures but the internet connections have not been very good. We are hoping that we will come across a more modern town with newer quicker computers but so far no luck. We have been in India since Tuesday March 4th. Right off the bat it was crazy. The airport is rundown and the bathrooms are pretty rough. There was actually a woman sleeping in the Ladies room I used. The most crazy thing here has to be the driving. There are rules but absolutely no one pays any attention to them. All the cars have scratches on their sides, front ends and bumpers. Not only do they NOT file an insurance claim when two cars bump into one another they don't even stop. We saw a car wedge between a bus and another car right in front of us and scratched both sides and when the traffic moved everyone just went on their way. No one even got angry! They do not use their turn signals and if you want to pass the car, horse drawn carriage, camel, rick shaw, bicycle, motorcycle, or elephant in front of you - just honk your horn and go for it. Nuts and scarey!

We spent two days in Delhi and hired a guide to take us around for the day. It was extremely reasonable. It cost about $16 US dollars to take both Dave and I sight seeing for an entire day. This includes transportation in a car with a guide. We saw the largest mosque in India as well as a bunch of other Delhi sights. We walked around Old Delhi which is almost undescribable. It is packed with people, vendors, stalls, people making anything from nails to paper to we have no idea what else. Dave and I are constantly being stared at and sometimes glared at and sometimes laughed at. Yesterday we had about 5 people want their pictures taken with us. People here I guess are completely entrigued by Westerners.

We started a tour of the Rajasthan area of India and are now in Ranhampor where the famous tigers are at. We spent two and half days in Agra and went to the Taj Mahal twice. The Taj Mahal itself is an amazing sight to see and it is no wonder why so many people want to see it and why it is considered one of the seven wonders of the world. We saw it both at sunset one day and then went back today to see it at sunrise. Dave drew an amazing picture of it also. Seeing something like the Taj is surreal. We kept saying to ourselves - can you believe it we are actually looking at the Taj Mahal! Amazing. Now onto the not in the guide books part... the citry of Agra where the Taj Mahal is located, is not a pretty place. Its filthy, run down, and smelly. (But not as smelly as Dave had imagined it would be.) The power goes off constantly and there is so much smog in the air that the views of the Taj Mahal are somewhat foggy at points. That does not detract people from visiting though. The first time we went it was for sunset and the place was packed. To get to the Taj Mahal you are dropped off about 500 meters from the actual spot due to an emissions ban surrounding it in order to help with pollution - I don't think it is helping much though. So, once we were dropped off by our driver we were immediately hounded by cycle rickshaw drivers. When I say hounded I mean hounded. We could say "No" a million times and they would keep on persisting. The touts selling stuff are the same way as well as people begging. A little boy begged for a solid 15 minutes at another monument we were at. The begging is sad and constant. We are targets because we look like "rich" foreigners so the little kids and poor come up to you and ask for money pretty constantly. India has no welfare system in place so the poverty here is rampant and extreme. I don't want to ruin anyone's day so I won't describe some of the examples of extreme poverty we have seen in our very short time here. The worst city from what I have read is Mumbai (Bombay) which ironically is also the richest city in India. It is where they make all those Bollywood films and is refered to as Bollywood. We go there for a day and half next week before heading off to Goa so that should be an experience.

You also have to tip constantly in India and people constantly want rupees (India money) for watching your shoes at a mosque to taking a picture of their donkey. India is full of extremes and we don't want to make this seem too negative since we have met some great people, seen some absolutely amazing temples, mosques, monuments, on and on. It is amazing how old this stuff is and that it is all elaborately carved from stone and marble by hand.

That's all for now, until we can get to another computer. Which who knows when that will be. Just a reminder to anyone that doesn't know, you can subscribe to our blog by clicking the subscribe link at the upper right of the screen. This way you will get an email everytime we add a new entry.

Lynette and Dave

lschimpf@gmail.com
dbuck242@yahoo.com

Posted by schuckley 02:53 Comments (2)

Malaysia

Dave here. Wow, we are in Malaysia! I can't believe it. We have done and seen so much in the past several days. I don't know where to begin. Well first of all I'll say that Pringles Potato Chips just don't taste the same here as they do in America. They are smaller and just don't have that same melt-in-your-mouth salty goodness. I don't know why they just don't call them something else.

Of course we ate the Pringles anyway, picked them up from a 7-11 (yes they have 7-11) because our first dinner experience in Malaysia didn't go so well. First off we couldn't read the menus, and the waiter didn't speak English very well. I had to show him a photo of a beer on my camera to ask if they had any. They didn't. I ordered a chicken dish not really knowing what it was and got one chicken leg on a plate in some red sauce. It was quite tasty yet it didn't fill me up, especially since Lynette and I were sharing. Then we both ordered apple juice thinking that it would be in a bottle. Our guide book suggested not drinking the water or using ice. The apple juice came and without thinking Lynette took a sip and I took a rather healthy chug, it was very delicious homemade juice. Only then did it occur that it had ice in it. The rest of the night I worried that we'd get sick and have diarrhea. Thank goodness we didn't. Later we found that the water here is pretty clean so we have had ice since and eaten vegetables etc. with no problems.

For those curious, here's what the restrooms have to offer here. Haven't figured out yet how to properly use the hose without getting the pants wet.
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Luckily they also have Western style most places. Not sure we will be so lucky when we get to India.
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Our first few days in Malaysia were spent site seeing in the city of Kuala Lumpur. Its amazing to see all the different cultures and religions all combined in the one big city.

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There's large populations of Indians and Chinese in addition to the native Malaysians. So there are countless mosques, Buddhist, and Hindu temples. A few of which we visited. Here are some photos.

This Hindu temple is just on a street corner across from our hotel.
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Here's some others.
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We also took the tour to the viewing bridge of the famous Petrona twin towers in the city. Its a brief free walk along the bridge that connects the two towers. Its always nice to get a view of the city from above. Afterward we went down to the huge mall that is beneath the towers. It's 6 very expansive levels of all the same stores and restaurants you'd find in any American mall and more. We stopped at Chili's for lunch and had some of the best hamburgers ever. Its been a while.

Here's the Sofie Star at the Petrona Towers.
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As we were walking through the mall two young foreign fellas stopped me, maybe in their twenties. They looked to be perhaps of some Asian decent. One of them, who was kind of hip looking and wore rather trendy clothing, could not speak English. The other more ordinary looking guy told me in broken English that his friend was wondering if he could take a photo with me. Not, would I take a photo OF them, but would I be IN the photo WITH him. Of course this sounded very strange to me and my defenses went up. I immediately wondered what scam they were trying to pull and I said "no." But as my guard went down I added "why?" The guy kind of smiled as if he didn't really even know why himself and just said, "My friend here just wants to get a photo with you." I figured, "what the hell and agreed." So he comes over and stands next to me. (I know you are all wondering what's this guy going to pull right?) Now Lynette didn't see any of this go down because she was a few stores back looking at something in a window. She just turns around and sees me standing next to this dude and a guy about to take our photo. As the guy next to me sees Lynette approaching he motions her over too. He must have seen us together earlier and knew we were together. So I said, "Lynette, come over and get in this photo." (Hey if I'm going to be embarrassed somehow I'd rather not do it alone.) So she walks suspiciously over and gets in the shot. We all smile, I of course keep my hands on my wallet and passport pocket, and the guy snaps the shot. They say thank you and walk off. So there's no big catch here, that was it. I thought that was weird enough without any big surprise at the end. I still don't know why the heck they wanted a photo of me. Maybe he just thought it would be cool to have a shot of him with a big white dude for his living room wall or something. Anyway, it provided us with some good laughs for quite a while.

One day we hailed a cab to go to a Buddhist temple we wanted to see. The cab driver could speak absolutely no English. We had a heck of a time trying to figure out how to tell him where we wanted to go. We showed him the guide book with the name of the place and the map, but unfortunately he couldn't READ English either. So what do you do in a situation like that? You end up driving around and getting out somewhere you hadn't intended. He gathered that we were looking for some kind of temple so I guess he just took us to one that he knew. It wasn't the one we'd wanted but it turned out to actually be a great experience. We went into a Temple of Fine Arts and asked a very nice Indian woman where this temple was that we were looking for. She told us that it was about a 10 minute drive away. Then she asked us if we were hungry and wanted to eat there. There was some kind of make shift restaurant along the side of the building. She said it was an Indian style buffet - we could eat as much as we wanted and then just pay whatever we wanted. This sounded like a good deal but very suspicious, (I know we sound like very suspicious people, but you have to be to some extent when you are in such foreign places) and from our vantage point it looked like no one was over there at the tables. If there is no one eating at a place like that you wonder how long the food has been sitting there and if it is okay to eat. But I walked over to get a better look. There were actually several people eating there and they looked like pretty normal local folks. Some of the guys had on a tie like they stopped by for lunch on their work day. So we figured, why not - these are the kind of experiences we are looking for. I asked what the one dish was that looked like chicken. The woman told me that they were totally vegetarian there. It was actually pieces of mango in some kind of gravy. It was really good and ended up being Lynette's favorite. I preferred a really tasty spinach in sauce dish. There were also some bamboo chute looking things in a tomato like sauce. The woman told us to just chew on them to get the flavor that's inside of them and then spit them out. She considered them extremely tasty. I thought they were just okay.

After lunch we went across the street to the Buddhist temple that the cab driver thought we were talking about. We went through the courtyard and into the small temple area, taking off our shoes to enter. After giving a blessing to a woman, the young monk came over to us and asked us where we were from. We ended up having a really nice long conversation with him. He took us over to the neighboring building which had to be unlocked. It was another temple with thousands of little Buddha statues inside. They were displayed on shelves that encircled the room. They were all white and were of varying sizes. Display cases on the walks housed more Buddha statues from a wide range of other countries. The monk talked to us for a while about Buddhism and then afterward asked if we wanted a blessing. We went back to the other temple and sat down on some stools. He handed us a spool of really long yellow string. Lynette held the spool, I held some of the string between my hands, and the monk held the end of the string. Then he began a really long chant in some foreign tongue. When he was finished he tied yellow strings around each of our wrists and sent us on our way. He did not tell us what the strings or the chant meant, but it was a really cool experience.

This is the Buddhist temple
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Here's a shot of the inside and the monk who we spoke with.
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On another night we went to China Town for dinner. We ate at one of the many street-side restaurants where the food was unlike anything we've ever had at Chinese restaurants back home but was really good.
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I liked this guys beard. Hopefully by the end of the year mine will be the same length.
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This guy standing in the middle was staring at us at dinner.
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After dinner we walked through the streets of vendors which seemed to go on forever. It was really crammed and people were hollering at us constantly to come over and check out their various merchandise. Of course they all claim they've got a really good deal for us. After trying on a few different shirts we quickly realized they don't make clothes big enough for us westerners. Even though the extra larges didn't even fit us they would of course tell us that it looked wonderful and perfect on us.

Here's a shot that shows how it felt to walk down the street among all the vendor tents.
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On the last day in Kuala Lumpur we were driven around town by a really nice cab driver that we met the day before. He offered to take us to several local sites before taking us to the airport. The fare was a really good deal so we agreed. First he took us to the Batu Caves which we were really anxious to see. Below is a photo. You go up this really long staircase to enter these caves that were discovered about 100 years ago. Since then all these Hindu shrines and statues have been built inside the cave. Its also known for all the monkeys that live inside of it. It was awesome.

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We had a rather disturbing surprise when we arrived in Kuala Lumpur. When we got to the airport we tried to get some money out of an ATM and our cards didn't work. Luckily we had brought some American cash for just such an occasion and were able to exchange it to the local currency. We tried again at a different ATM and even though we should have been able to get money out we were not. Lynette contacted our bank through email and found that our ATM cards had been turned off because they had detected unusual activity. We assumed that this was because they saw it being used in a variety of different countries, which bothered us because we had notified them prior to leaving that we would be out of the country for a year and even gave them a list of most of the countries we would be visiting. The bank emailed us with a phone number to contact them because they needed to speak with us verbally for verification before they would turn the cards back on. They wouldn't just do it via email. However, with the country codes etc. the number they gave us was not working. We also had to deal with the issue of the time difference and figure out when their office would be open. But we didn't know where their office was located so that took some time. Finally after two days of emailing we were able to get a hold of them by phone and clear up the situation. It turned out that it was due to some glitches with the actual ATM machines that caused the problem. We are hoping it won't happen again but if it does at least we have gone through the process once and it will hopefully not cause as much dismay.

Two days ago we flew to the Malaysian island of Langkawi off the North West coast of the country. It is more of a resort island and way more laid back than the city where the traffic is crazy and people on mopeds are nearly running you over. We've been here one night and are loving it. The pool is huge and the water is warm. The beautiful beach with visible islands just offshore is right out back. The accommodations are really nice and the room is rather large compared to what we've had previously. I went for a jet ski ride yesterday and today we are getting massages at the spa. Really rough here! :-) It will be sad to leave the day after tomorrow when we head back to Kuala Lumpur for our flight to India.

Lynette's foot is healing well. We have a plethora of other minor injuries that we've incurred along the way that we are dealing with day to day. Rashes, cuts and scratches on feet and knees, bug bites, pealing skin from sunburn, back ache, etc. But we are doing fine.

I've taken tons of photos. I wish I could post them all. I copy the ones I like from my camera to the computer and then when I look at how many I have to upload I end up having to delete a few because it would take too long. But maybe I'll be able to get back online soon to add more.

Posted by schuckley 02:05 Comments (4)

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