Sunday, January 31, 2010

Bangkok update

Bangkok has given us many adventures and MANY laughs so far :) We are LOVING the mango sticky rice but the tuk tuk drivers make us crazy. We've figured out the public transportation: train, boat, and skytrain...

Yesterday we saw many wats (golden shrines) and went to the famous Saturday market. We could have spent an entire day in th emarket, it was HUGE! There were 2 funny stories yesterday that I will have to post later, one involving the police, and one about us missing our bus. Oh man, that was CRAZY funny :)

We are getting tired of big city life, it takes a lot out of us to haggle drivers all day and find our way to all our new places. We got to church today but it was in Thai. The missionaries translated for us though, so at least we knew what was going on. They fed us after church, it was SUPER spicy so the elders gave me coconut cookies to calm my mouth down! Now we are treating Sunday as a day of rest. Scott LOVES his "Bourne Deception" book and I do internet in my free time! Until next time!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Mosquitoes love me.

Okay, lots to catch up on! Well, lets start with the most important:
I love them. A LOT! I've had 2 already today and it's only 2:30pm. I got strawberry first, and just wanted to stick with that because I loved it so much! But now as an experienced fruit shaker my fav flavors are:
Lemon (tied with strawberry)

I am still waiting to try dragonfruit, papaya, and many others!

We got RIPPED OFF at a hotel in Ao Nang. It took both Scott and me a while to get over that, but now that we've been staying in cheaper places we can more easily justify how all that went down. Luckily it was only 1 night. We spent the last 2 days in rock climbing HAVEN: Ton Sai. This place is RUGGED. I felt like I walked into Hawaii in the 50's when our boat landed. It was full of dreadlocks and braids, gypsy pants and stink. Everyone was SO chill and life is cheap over there! It was thrilling to watch these human beings scale the limestone like they did, truly phenomenal. I imagine there no better place to climb in the world! These walls were directly over the ocean with peaks and beaches all around. We had BBQ chicken which was SO DELICIOUS (I don't know WHAT they marinate with!) and corn on the cob. They skewer the corn into long sticks and then shove it in the sand where you are laying.

Oh, I got hurt in the water. I was just wading around and the next thing I know, SPIKES all through my finger. When I pulled it out of the water, my finger was black where the spikes had gone in. It hurt like crazy and I thought I was going to die of poison. A little dramatic maybe, but it's true. So I ran to one of the pedicure/massage ladies on the beach hoping she would pull the spikes out with some tweezers or something. Well, this man came over, and it was obvious he had seen this injury before, and he knew how bad I was hurting. He immediately began searching for a stick and found a sandy one. Then he got a lime and started squeezing it onto my finger, and then tapping (forcefully) the stick onto my finger. It felt like he was pushing the spikes in, and I the acid stung, so I tried to pull away. But he wouldn't let me. After probably 10 min of pounding that stick on my finger, the pain finally went away :) The spikes are still in me, but if we understood his English correctley, I am supposed to leave them in, and they will work themselves out with time. At least my finger isn't black anymore!

The mosquitoes were mean to me. I counted over 80 bites on ONE LEG this morning. There must be 300+ throughout my whole body. I am just waiting for malaria... But yeah, they itch pretty bad and just make you crazy! I could hear them in the night. We slept under a mosquito net, but the netting wasn't too tight, they must have gotten in and then gotten trapped. Anyway, Scott and I were both eaten alive, and we are not happy about it.

In 20 minutes we will leave Ao Nang for Bangkok. We have a small, bad bus for the 11-13 hour ride. Luckily we slept so poorly (with the mosquitoes last night) that hopefully we will be tired enough to sleep regardless. We hope to do a Thai cooking class and get massages from blind people (more sensitive to touch) in Bangkok. And we're glad to get to a big city on a Sunday so we can go to church again!


Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Where has the time gone?

We are oer halfway through our trip. But before I delve into the travels, I have two comments:

BRYAN!!! HAPPY BIRTHDAY! Internet was way too expensive on the island Koh Mook where we were on your birthday, but believe you me, I was thinking about you constantly. I am so grateful to have a brother who loves me unconditionally and even tucked me in, gave me a kiss on the cheek and told me a story on the night before my wedding. I love you Bryan!

Today my heart is sad to hear about Austin LaBato's passing. Young, unexpected deaths are so difficult to understand. My heart goes out to his family and all of us friends who were part of his life.

And now... onto Thailand. It is FANTASTIC here! I would go so far to say that this is so far my favorite spot in Southeast Asia. The beaches are literally gorgeous. I told Scott today, it seems like we just go from one town that we oooh and ahhh over to another.

We began on Koh Hai for 2 days and then went on to Koh Mook. They are similar in that they have white sand, beautiful vistas, and more expensive prices, but different because Koh Mook was just a lot smaller, slower paced, and more relaxing for us! We stayed at a bungalow which had access to an infinity pool, which made such a difference!

My favorite meal so far in Thailand has been green curry pizza! The normal currys and pad thai and things are good, but turns out I don't handle spicy so well. And I'm just pretty sick of noodles and rice right now. ( I am reading a novel called Eat, Pray, Love about a woman who searches for pleasure in Italy, peace in India, and I expect love in Bali, INdonesia. Anyway, many of the first 300 pages about her experience in Italy describe the food, which made me really crave that green curry pizza!) We took a longtail boat, then a minibus, then a public bus to get off the island today.

Today we arrived in Ao Nang and have really enjoyed the afternoon. You know why? ELEPHANT TREKKING is why! It was a dream come true. I could go home happy :) Much more thrilling than camel rides in Jordan, Scott and I sat atop that I-dont-nkow-how-many-pound animal and just wandered through the jungle. Our guide even got off the elephant's head and let us take turns. And don't worry, we got some awesome photos!

The nighlife here in Ao Nang is rich. Vendors and shopping everywhere. Over the next few days we are going to check out a few other beaches in the area (one is in the top 10 beaches in the world!) and perhaps do a Thai cooking class before we bus up to Bangkok for the floating market, massages, and to do most of the shopping we'll do here in Southeast asia. Even Scott got shopping fever walking around tonight. I spent $1.10 on 2 needed headbands, but other than that haven't bought a thing! Scott really wanted a custom suit tonight, and the bamboo vases and pillow coverings call to us. We'll see what happens in Bangkok. So until then, enjoy your hot showers :)

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Koh Hai, Thailand

We hit the halfway mark yesterday. It's hard to believe it's flying by so quickly!

Now we are on an island in southern Thailand called Koh Hai. We'll be here for 2 days more and then to Ko Muk for 2 days before we do some rock climbing and animal trekking in a place I can't remember the name of. Then we hope to reach Bangkok about Saturday.

This island is fantastic. I wanted our Thai island experience to be a little nicer break, so we prepared to spend about 40-50 on the room and hopefully get a hot shower and double bed. Well, bad news. We still spend $40, but STILL have cold shower and separate beds! Ahh! It's so obnoxious! But the beach is clean with white sand. The water is perfectly clear teal with a long beach, and then a reef ringing the island. We rented a kayak for $3 yesterday and paddled out to another island. Regardless of my back stroking, Scott rowed us into these tiny narrow, bat infested caves... I was pretty scared, but there was nothing I could do. It was either stay in the kayak with him, or get out and swim!

We've loved the food here and learned a few things about ordering. Ask for 0 spice and it will still be so hot it burns your lips off! Also, they eat WAY more of the dish than rice, we like a more even parts of curry to rice, for example, so we just order more rice and share a dish.

There are TONS of dogs here. They are all over, barking and fighting and lounging at your feet. I don't like any of them, but Scott thinks some of them are cute. Yesterday we were just laying out at the beach and 2 dogs got stuck together, if you know what I mean. We've heard of this happening, but never imagined we'd see it! Well, it got pretty bad because they were trying and trying to get apart, but just couldn't. Other guests went to get help from the resort staff, who just said that the dogs will work it out with time. It took about 25 minutes before they finally split. Then they were limping around and going in the saltwater to heal...

Scott has 3 minor injuries so far, he stepped on a shell yesterday, scraped his knee up in the rain storm last week, and cut his finger on some coral. Luckily none of the injuries are inhibiting, bt just kind of a hassle.

Scott saw Whitney and Devon's blog post today, and thought "Wow, that girl looks GOOD!" It was a picture of me with dry, straight hair and normal clothes on. Yeah. I'm looking pretty ratty these days. We haven't had hot showers in over 2 weeks and I'm REALLY looking forward to using a blow dryer! I was thinking yesterday, and I honestly cannot remember what kind of phone I have. Is it silver, black, white? I think it's a flip phone, but I'm not positive... It's weird, I forget so quickly! Anyway, we miss you all and love to hear the news from home!


Thursday, January 21, 2010

Making a Memory: The Rainforest and the REAL Jungle Cruise

After spending some time in the city, we headed out into the Malaysian jungle for some real adventure -- boy did we find it.

The first day we got settled into our new accommodations, nothing fancy but a lot better than the dodgy hostel in Singapore!

Day 1

Our first afternoon we hit the trail hard. We hiked through the jungle up to a look out point. The trail was amazing, real Indiana Jones-esk, but it was a bit challenging.

Then, dinner on a floating barge.

Day 2

The second day, we spent the morning up in the canopy on some rope bridges that were amazing. A sign informed us that they were the longest in the world, hmmm. Anyway, at some points the bridges were more than 100 feet off the ground. Very cool.

In the afternoon, I had a personal highlight. THE BAT CAVES!!!! Sweet. We didn't really knowwhat to expect, but we hiked through the jungle for about 1.25 hours until we arrived. The cave was dark, warm, and very smelly. About 25 feet in, a bat flew right at my face! It was crazy.

This was the next thing I saw.

Yep, that's right. They are bats and lots of them.

The cave kept going and we saw more and more of these little blood suckers. It was mind blowing. The largest chamber we entered had more than a thousand bats in it, maybe 2 thousand. Once we saw that, we decided to turn around.

Day 3

Today we left the jungle, but we did it in style. For two hours, we cruised through the jungle on a native boat. We passed animals and villagers as we floated by the most lush, deep jungle I have ever seen. It was amazing and I loved every minute of it.

Upcoming Plans:

We are leaving Kuala Lumpur tonight on an overnight bus to Thailand. The bus will pass through the border and drop us off in Hat Yai Thailand.

From there we are planning to go to Trang, the provincial capital, and then on to Koh Ngai, an island off the coast. We might also visit Koh Muk or Kradan. Or Ko Phi Phi. It kind of depends.

We are going to rock climb in Krabe and then overnight train to Bangkok.

Tanah Negara

Hey everybody! Last time I posted it was just photos, so I think I have a lot to catch up on! Well, we spent 2 days in Kuala Lumpur, the center of Malaysia. We went up in their sky tower (similar to the space needle) to get a perspective of the city and gain some general knowledge. Then we went exploring the streets (thats the adventurous way to say wandering aimlessly...) We found lots of unique statues and fountains. The KLCC is their big center and is set between the Patronus towers. They look like the twin towers and are very revered here. McDonalds $1 cones saved us in the hot HOT HOT weather- we were melting! Our first hotel in Chinatown was bad, but the next two nights we stayed closer to the business district in a place called the Golden Triangle. That was much better. The included breakfast consisted of 3 pieces of bread...

It took a 3 hour coach and then a 2 hour local bus to reach Tanah Negara- the jungles of Malaysia. The first day I was VERY scared of meeting a tiger, leopard or other big, wild animal. But by the second day, the jungle trekking was so physically taxing that all I cared about was getting to the destination- no time to be afraid of animals. Tanah Negara has these floating barges for restaurants, they were really fun- the ginger chicken was my favorite. The first night we ate with our new german friends Chris and karina. They've been traveling for 7 weeks already and have 2 weeks to go. We spent a lot of time with them, chatting, hiking and going to dinner throughout our time in the jungle. We also met a couple living in New Zealand who is on an 11 month tour. He's from NZ and she's originally from Seattle :) It was so fun to chat with them, and they helped us find a good hostel.

My 2 favorite jungle attractions were the canopy tour ($1.50 US) and the bat caves!!! Well, I actually only like the bat caves in retrospect. There were millions of bats just handing and fidgeting and waiting to nip my face. Nobody gotten bitten by a rabit bat this time, but they definitely brushed up against our bodies. The canopy tour was SO LONG! I was very impressed. We got some great photos, one of which is my favorite pic from the trip so far! It is a hoot!

We rode a 2 hour longboat down the river this morning to get back to the Jerantut train station. It was a nice long ride, and counted as transportation and recreation! We past many wildebeast and just beautiful scenery all along the way. My bum hurt after sitting inside the wood panels for hours though. The 10pm bus to Thailand was full tonight, which is the reason we can do internet though :) We will take the coach to Hatyai, Thailand and arrive about 7:30 in the morning. Then, off to the beaches for what I hope will be honeymoon part two.

I bet you're wondering how the romance is going? Well, we are sweaty ALL the time. Our beds are usually about 1 inch thick, until we lay on them and it becomes 1/2 inch :) We usually get to share a bed, but when it's significantly cheaper, we each end up in a single bed. We stink and my hair is almost always, nope, ALWAYS a mess. So it's a lucky thing we love each other so much, because let's just say we aren't in our best/most romantic state...

We ate dinner tonight at a melting pot sort of place. We buy skewers of meat (squid, pig intestine, vegetable balls... chicken!) and then cook them in the pot of, whatever stuff that is, on our table! It was fun to eat a different style! But we always eat either rice or noodles with some sort of meat. The meat is always in bitesize pieces- no American portions here!

Well, now I need to go check out more hostel/hotels for Thailand! I'm hoping to try some fruit drinks there and maybe even ride an elephant!!! Love you and miss you!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Best picture yet:

Yeah. We were walking through this park, Scott was holding a banana, and the next thing we knew, this monkey crawled/jumped up on him and had a snack on his head :) Since this photo, we've had snakes and birds on our head/shoulders too.
This was a very ritualistic cremation ceremony we went to in Ubud, Bali. They literally put the body in this cow, and then burn it in front of all the townspeople.

I made some friends :) They LOVED seeing their photo on the back of the camera!
Here are some more of those crazy monkeys. Scott ran up behind one, poked it, and then ran off really quickly. By the time the monkey turned around, I was the one standing there. It got SUPER mad and started hissing and barring it's teeth at me! That is the most scared I've been in southeast asia for sure. More scary than the motorbike rides. (barely...)
The beaches in Bali were pretty awesome. And see that colorful pillow in the plastic bag I'm holding? Yeah, I left it in Bali... (sorry mom!)
Okay, so the flower looked better in real life, it looks like I need to try again. But, I LOVE admiring all the new and different flowers! Singapore and Malaysia have had all sorts of awesome water features which I love too!
Can you believe they take all this water on one little scooter? The streets are serioulsy crazy.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

It's picture time!

We were SO HAPPY we found the church in KualaLumpur, Malaysia. We stayed for all 3 hours yesterday and then went over to a family's house for dinner/lunch. It was FANTASTIC! So great to be in a home and have friends :)
This was our worst hostel. Let's be honest, Scott could barely handle it, and I thought it was bad, but not too bad...

This was so amazing. Uluwatu at night. I'm sad none of the rabid monkeys made it into this photo, because they were EVERYWHERE! We went to see a dance, but decided it was too expensive, so explored the cliffs instead. Those ties are part of the temple garb.

On our walk/hike through the rice terraces in Bali, so SO beautiful!

ahh.. the rice terraces :)

We hired this (now spelt) "teksi" driver for the day. He helped us wrap our sarongs so they would actually stay! His English was very poor, but he was awesome!
This was the Keckak fire dance. They 100+ men told a story of an ancient tribe. The "dance" involced many grunts and hand signals, and then they walked on fire at the end!

Op, this photo is a bit out of place, but this was the night before we left. It was so fun to have my parents over with John and SueAnn to see us off! Those packs on our backs is all we have with us!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Thoughts on Singapore:

I didn't think I'd get to internet again before Malaysia... but who knew, we found free internet in Singapore. Here are my initial thoughts on the country:

It is VERY clean. Never seen a cleaner place. People walk around picking up individual leaves they are looking so hard for litter.

The Singiporians do not mess when they say they will fine for spitting, jay-walking, and eating/drinking on public transport.

The high-rises are AMAZING! Their new casino trumps anything we have in Vegas for sure.

We took a boat tour along the Singapore River to kind of get the lay of the land and see things from a new perspective.

Our hostel is a TOTAL dive. I can only remember about2-3 places worse than this that I've stayed in. I just got out of the shower- worst experience of my life. It was freezing, about 10% water pressure and i couldn't even lift my arms it was so small. I had to change in there too because Scott said I couldn't go trapsing through the halls of the hostel in my sarong.

We read 2 Nephi 2 today, and Scott applied the principle of knowing good from evil to our staying in this awful hostel. Maybe now we will better appreciate our nicer (but still sketch) places in the future.

We are staying in little India :) It is great because we were hoping to work India into our trip, but couldn't. So now we are happy to frequent their markets, shops, and most especially their delicious food stands. Marsala chicken for lunch was perfect!

Some locals told us they never get used to the humidity here. Now we've lost hope. We thought maybe by week 3 we would acclimate, but now we've resigned ourselves to being hot and sweaty the entire trip.

We really love Singapore. It is clean, classy and very organized. There are tons of nice banks and hotels, all of which have the most phenomenal water features I've ever seen! Today I dragged Scott into many a bank office to check out their cool fountains. We were REALLY out of place there though, in cargo shorts, t-shirts, and sweaty hair... it's really gross.

Scott told me I will be a more righteous person if I adopt the missionary practice of only using internet for 30 min, once per week. But don't worry, I'll keep working on him and hopefully check in sooner than later!


Thursday, January 14, 2010

Just Happy to Be Alive

Well my countless trips to San Felipe, Mexico are finally paying off. I have spent more hours than I could count down there riding quads, dirt bikes, and everything else. My ability to dart, jerk, and respond quickly on a motorized vehicle is my newest lifeline here in Bali.

When we first arrived I was pumped to rent a car, but after seeing the craziest roads I have ever seen that all changed. All I wanted to do was ride in the back of a taxsi (the spelling is right) because that was thrill enough.

But then a few days ago we ended up on Nusa Lembongan. A mouth-dropping beautiful island off the coast of Bali. The island doesn't have any cars so we decided to rent a scooter and check it out. Turns out we got around just fine. Although, Stefanie did dig her fake nails into my flesh every once in a while.

[Sorry, this next little bit is a side story.]

Today we boated back to Bali and I kind of had a breakdown with the Taxsi drivers. They are all the worlds greatest scam artists. I think they must all wake up each morning and recite some personal mantra like, "I will do and say whatever it takes to trick and scam money out of foreigners today." Really?!? Do you they have to be such jerks? Anyway, we got off the boat and started bargaining, but everyone was telling us different prices and they all said it was the best price.

Finally, I just blew up. And said, " YOU ALL SAY YOU HAVE THE BEST PRICE. BUT YOU SAY 100,000 RP, YOU SAY 90,000 RP, YOU SAY 110,000 RP. YOU ARE ALL LYING TO US! WE HAVE 60,000 RP! THAT'S IT. YES OR NO?"

We got it for 60,000 Rp, which was still probably too much. Oh well. I just need to get my head around this whole Asian culture. Everyone wants to bargain, all the time. ANY ADVICE? I'm sure by tomorrow I will have had an attitude adjustment.

[Back to the story]

So when we got to Jimbaron today. I didn't want anything to do with more taxsi drivers so we rented a scooter and braved the streets. I do some of the craziest things I could imagine on that scooter, and work every second to be safe. It's probably not that bad so don't be worried ma and pa. But we're doing good and praying a lot for safety.

[Another note]

Jimbaron is home to great seafood and the Four Season Hotel. We drove up to the resort and walked right in past security. Foreigner status gets you lots of places. On our way in we bumped into the hotels director of marketing. He ended up taking us on a little golf cart ride to one of the restaurants. On the way I asked about his work and he asked about what I was doing. I told him I wanted to work for an airline. He handed me his card and offered to put me in touch with some good friends and Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines. SO COOL!

The truth comes out:

Okay everyone, here's the deal:

Scott and I are really glad we are doing this backpacking adventure now in our younger years because we don't really see ourselves going like this again. We like the resort life, it turns out :) No, we are having a great time, but after only 1 week, all our clothes are stinky, hair ratty, bags heavy... you know the drill.

Everytime we eat I wonder if it may be the last... we usually eat once or twice a day, partly to save money, partly because we get busy and don't think of it, and partly because we spend so long trying to find a good warung (streetside specialty that is cheaper than restaurants.) I guess I'm writing about that now because internet time trumped food tonight, its 5pm and I haven't eaten since 5am!

Here's what we've been busy doing since we last wrote: (I keep notes in my notebook that I want to type about, but then forget my notebook everytime we are at internet!)

we did REFLEXOLOGY! Okay, I don't know how much of that method is bunk, but I promise you there is some truth to it!!! My sinuses feel clearer my kidneys cleaner after that foot massage! I'm not saying it's not a mental thing, but whatever it is, it works! We paid 4 dollars for 1/2 hour massages for both of us and it was the best money spent since we've been here!

After that we caught a cab to Sanur where a water taxi took us to the island Nusa Lambongen for 2 nights. Well half way through the cab ride, I realized that I forgot my charger in the hotel, so our sweet driver took us back for it. The indonesians are REALLY nice here, we feel so welcome. They truly go out of their way to be kind to us. Anyway, with that 40 min time delay, we BARELY made the boat to Nusa... we literally ran through the streets, asking where to buy tickets as we ran. It was really crazy. The boat ride was pretty choppy, but we have iron stomachs. The boat ride to and from the island required that we walk through the ocean to get into the boat. No port or dock on either side, just sand and water!

The island was fantastic! It was kind of rainy, but we had a great sunset and the BEST food we've had in Bali. The first night I saw another lady with a bowl of pasta I knew I would love, so I went with that. Every time you order something you have NO IDEA what it will come out to be. The other morning for breakfast we ordered waffles which came out as those sandwich things you make in a sandwich maker after church on sunday. You know what I'm talking about?

Our hotel there was the most expensive of any, but worth it! We were on the second floor and had a perfect view of the ocean. I wish you could see photos! It was so cool to look out and see 50+ fisherman out collecting our lunch and dinners :) This island is also known for their fantastic seaweed, which they brought in with buckets and buckets and will sell to countries all over the world. One woman was out collecting worms for bait and Scott couldn't help himself. 5 minutes later he was out with her, grabbing worms out of the deep sand. I opted to stay on the lounge chair, chatting with 2 women from Holland who came to Indo with their road bikes for 5 weeks to tour the island. Boy were they fit, and they were tired! This last few days on the island was their reward! On the island we also made friends with 2 young couples from Australia, an older couple from England, a couple from South Africa and then the 2 women from Holland. One guy from Belgium was there teaching diving lessons and he helped us out a lot in the beginning. It's really fun to swap stories and get/give tips with other tourists. It's always nice to see someone who speaks English!

On our 1 full day on the island, we rented a motorbike! It was the PERFECT place to get started because there are no cars on the island! We just tooled around the island all day, exploring the mangrove forests and stopping in at little viewpoints. We had some really tough rain at 2 points, so we pulled under a shelter. One woman invited us into her bungalow, so on our way in, Scott totally slipped and fell prettymuch on his chest. I mean he was flat on the ground. He quickly hopped up, not badly injured, but he does have some fairly painful scrapes on his right knee. Speaking of injuries, my feet are DESTROYED from my chacos. Ugh. Theyu rub rub rub and when wet, cut into my feet. I bought $2 cute flip flops today so hopefully the change of shoe will help. I couldn't bear to wear my Mizuno's in this weather.

We went to a warung for dinner last night and had the BEST fish I've ever had. And I consider myself a conosouir of fish! One dish was like ground fish wrapped in lime leaves and then barbequed in banana leaves. It was just delish! The other was a fresh jackhead fish, seared to perfection. Just this little hut we never would have found were it not for the scooter. We had to drive home in the dark and rain which was pretty scary, but luckily Scott is brave. I took my turn driving too, but Scott freaked out so much it just wasn't worth it.

Today we caught a boat back to the mainland at 8am. Good thing we didn't have breakfast because 2 locals puked on the ride. It smelled sooo bad- I don't even want to think about it. There was no getting away from it. I ended up sniffing my gum to try to get the smell out of my head! Once arriving, we went to Jimbaron, where we are now. We found a great place to stay- we LOVE the pool! WE got oriented, then rented another scooter. It's scarier here with all the busy cars, horns, and pedestrians. Every time I get on that thing I am convinced I will die. Anyhow, we're not dead yet! We took a little ride down some main roads and found the 4 Seasons Resort! Scott says our white skin and American attitudes are our passport to anywhere we want on the island. The people love Americans, and Obama! So we got through the series of gates to the hotel and made our way to the beach. We actually saw another white guy on our way in, began chatting, and he is going to email some friends he has in Sacramento who work for the Public Relations division for the airlines!!! You just never know when you'll get a job lead! We relaxed and enjoyed the 4 Seasons life and then returned to our hotel.

Went for another swim, and then showered off for our date tonight. We are now halfway to another costal town, Oolu Atu for a Balinese dancing show. But before we left Scott had to get a haircut. Wow. Talk to me about how that went later. Don't worry, in the end of the day, his hair looks great :) Anyway, we love it here and have made some really amazing memories already.

Being out here in a foreign land on this island is really helping us learn to rely on each other and on our Heavenly Father. We truly feel the sealing power in our relationship and we are so grateful for the bond that we now share. Thank you for all your love, support, and prayers for our safety! (and of course for your blog comments, we love hearing from you!)


Monday, January 11, 2010

Time for Some Offerings

Okay, who knew that Indonesia's were so religious? Definitely not me! I had no idea. The whole country is filled with temples, big and small, ornate and less ornate, inspiring and common.

We have been trying to figure out why the people are so happy and welcoming. Initially, I honestly thought it was to get my money. But as I have ready about the culture, I've learned that it is a way of life. Almost every person you meet says, "where are you from?" or "where are you going?" They all really want to know. It's there way of changing your relationship from stranger to friend.

And we think it's because of the OFFERINGS. Three times a day the people pay homage to the gods by leaving flower offering. Some are for good luck and good health. Others line the streets outside of every shop warding off evil spirits. It's almost impossible to walk down the street without stepping on or tripping over a flower offering with burning incense. I LOVE IT! And we really think that this selfless act of good karma reminds the people to think outside of themselves.

So with a pure desire to absorb the culture and find TRUE happiness, we have joined with our Indonesian brothers and sisters to give our offerings. We have visited about more than 15 temples. Some are much more grand that others.

Each time we wrap ourselves in sarongs to show respect.

Here we are at Pura Besakih the largest and most important temple in Bali. It is on the highest mountain and overlooks most of the island in one of the most breath-taking views I have ever seen.

Some lady stopped our car on the road to bless and give us offerings. We were so confused when she did it. She was throwing water on us and sticking rice to our foreheads. It was hilarious, we just kept laughing. But we were very happy because we dropped off our offerings and prayed at the Besakih Temple.

When we got to the highest temple, a priest helped us go through the prayer process. It was very involved and we ended up covered in flowers and rice. Who knew? The funniest part was when he insisted that we give a financial offering. Too funny. Everyone is trying to make a dime...sounds like priest craft to me.


Wow, i don't even know where to begin!!! We have done SO MUCH since our last internet stop! We now realize that we got totally ripped off on our taxi from Kuta to Ubud. Oh well, we learn with time. After only 2 days we are already getting a lot more saavy. Here are some of my favorite things we've done.

1. Orange cream juice. It's officially better than Simply Orange, if you can believe that!

2. Mokey Forest. Oh my gosh. I hope Scott is blogging about this because it was DEFINITELY a highlight! You just walk in and you see about 50+ monkeys at a time. They are not afraid to jump on you and eat out of your hand. We got off the beaten trail at the monkey forest and I saw a river snake/alligator thing. It was about 5 feet long and it looked deadly. Luckily Scott saw it too or nobody would believe me!

3. The ceremony for the dead. We learned all about how the dead are buried for a while until the family has money for the ceremony. There were about 200 people there to watch the tribal leaders transfer the carcus and then burn it in a HUGE fur covered bull. The entire experience was about 3 hours, it was HOT HOT HOT! We met some really nice Aussie honeymooners who gave us some great tips for the following day.

4. That night we went to the Kenack ritual dance/story. There were 100 guys doing chants while dancers told their stories. I love how Scott asks me the moral of the story or applications to my life that I have learned from these dances and cultural events. He keeps me on my toes! Oh, but before the show, we ran out of time for dinner, so we just grabbed a bit of grilled chicken on the road. Wow. Um, that village boy was LYING when he said it wasn't spicy, and lets just say we had to work to find any meat off of that thing!

5. The next morning, we had FANTASTIC "Banana pancakes" (crepes) at Sania's House (our homestay. We LOVE Sania's house- a nice pool with fountains running into it, a good bed, a fan, cold water, and TOWELS!!! I am so happy :)

6. WE got a "coach tour" which basically means prepaid air-con "taksi" which was our best idea yet! The taxi took us all around to the various temples and sites for a set price. It was so nice not to haggle and be wondering what our next step is. The driver Boody just took care of us. He spoke zero english though, that was a bummer.

7. It was a torrential downpour in the morning. We thought we would never see the sun again. The villagers were all well-prepared and to them, it was no big thing. We hiked at least a million stairs throughout the day. Temples are always built above, on high ground, or down low, hidden in caves. It is cool to learn about the meanings of all their rituals and practices. Many of the offerings (set out 5x per day) are to keep the demons out. The gated entrances to palaces are for that purpose also. Demons cannot go straight, so we always turn some corner to enter a holy place. Kites are a big deal in Indonesia because it is thought that you are soaring with the Gods. WE saw some men bathing in a sewer in the middle of town early this morning, and read in our book that since the body is so wholesome and good, the men think nobody can see their nakedness. We are learning lots in the culture and history part of the tour book!

8. Im sure scott wrote about this, so I won't take the time, but giving our offerings and praying at the highest point of the holiest temple in Indo was probably the best part of our trip. Scott and I both LOVE getting in with the people and doing the things they do.

9. I got a bite on my arm I am fairly concerned about... hmm... and, we learned that someone dies every 10 min. in Indo by auto accidents. SO< we decided not to rent a car after all. Another tourist told us the Balinese accident logic: If you (the American) weren't there, we wouldn't have had a crash. It is ALWAYS the tourist's fault :)

10. We had a huge buffet lunch at one of the most beautiful spots in the world- but it was just a huge cloud from all the rain. Good thing the food was fantastic! We went over budget yesterday (with the buffet lunch, all day taxi, and we each got a sarong for the temples) so we are going easy today. But don't worry dad, I am buying and drinking water often!

11. So far the food has been really good. Neither of us have gotten sick, regardless of the lack of sanitation. All our food is very fresh! I've fallen in love with many new fruits! WE went to the morning market at about 6:15 today and had a great time! The meat section was gross, the fruit cool, the live chicken section was crazy! Big live ones go for about 2 dollars! When I asked the price, the chicken salesman laughed at me and looked at me like I was crazy! :)

This morning we had more banana pancakes before our hike through the elephant grass and rice terraces. It was so beautiful! The walking path (found in our lonely planet guide book) led us through vistas and then little villages. My chacos started to chaff (sp?) me... Anyway, now we are here using internet before we get REFLEXOLOGY massages and get ready to head out to Sanur, a costal town where we'll catch a boat to the island. The island has no cars, atm's, and definitely no internet. So until Singapore, goodbye!

Things I want to buy:
mosaic platters- SO COOL!
A coconut hair clip. I can't go a second with my hair down
Cool Indo purse. Looks like a Jeru bag...
and... some coasters and salad tongs maybe. I havent gotten anything but a poncho so far.

love to you all!
xoxo, Stef

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Our Arrival

After about 25 hours of continuous travel we finally arrived in Bali yesterday. The flight was brutal, but the island is beautiful. Everywhere you look, taxis and motorcycles are whizzing by as they weave in and out of traffic. The narrow streets are packed with locals and tourist, and the greenery is overwhelming.

We found a hotel tucked away down a little ally that was perfect, air-con and warm water. After getting settled in we went for a walk on Legion and Kuta beach, wandered through the shops, and found a great little restaurant for dinner. We sat next to a German couple and chatted with them throughout our meal. They told us about all the island's highlights.

We are looking forward to leaving this busy beach city today and heading up to Ubud in the mountains to take in some dancing and jungle hiking!

Lessons I've Learned:
1. It is VERY humid. I need to get my mind around this whole sticky situation.
2. Air Conditioning may be one the greatest inventions EVER.
3. Exotic honeymoon adventures with your wife are AMAZING.

We made it to BALI :)

Well we made it to BALI, INDONESIA :) It's kind of different than we expected, but we are so happy to be here. It is pretty hot, but mostly just HUMID! The streets are very very narrow and dirty, there are people everywhere. The craziest part so far are the roads. The drivers are NUTS and nobody yields for anyone. Normal size motorcycles fit 2 parents and 3 kids... they carry live animals and water barrels... you name it!

The 15 hour flight from LAX- Taiwan felt pretty short. Both Scott and I slept most of the time, and wrote thank you notes, wrote in our journals and did stretches when we weren't sleeping. The food wasn't bad, and we just had a great time. But then it started feeling really long during our 3 hour layover, and then the 5 hour flight felt like 20 hours! IN taipei we met a sr. missionary couple who just finished their mission and are going back to Cambodia to teach dance at an international school. We got some noodles, we were STARVING, and boarded the next flight. We had absolutely NO problems with security or customs, what a dream! We even had little scissors and toothpaste... anwyay, the flight into bali was SO COOL! It was just surreal to look out the window at the whitesand beaches and red roofs.

We got a taxi to our hostel/homestay in Legion, right beside surf town kuta. After haggling the price, ($20/night) we decided to stay at a place with AC adn hot water our first night. We rested for a sec and then went to explore the beach and little shops. We bought water (so cheap!) and razors and then went out to dinner for 1.50 per person. We had chicken curry and fried rice, so delish! So far neither of us are sick :) We sat beside a German couple who had fair English. This is their 12th time to Bali they love it so much! They were REALLY helpful, telling us the best dance group to watch, the primere snorkeling spot for this time of year, and which Taxi service to always avoid. It was sad to say goodbye!

We got back to the Sri Beach Inn (i think we're the only guests) through some fairly intense rain, and took a little while to dry off. It is so humid nothing dries. I didn't bring my towel, which I regret. Oops. Our backpacks are WAY too stuffed. We eliminated 1 side bag already, but you better believe I'm getting rid of more things today. It's just too much stuff. And sorry mom, my travel pillow is definitely on the cut list.

This morning we spent some time repacking our bags and taking cold showers. We are using a half broken watch and never really know the time. We are using internet for $1/hour (very different from New Zealand!) at a nice resort closer to town. There is fun Balinese music playing in teh background behind me, and I'm looking out toward an infinity pool. We headed to the markets in Denspensar today and will end in Ubud tonight.

I think I am having a bit of culture shock. I guess daily life in America makes me forget that people across the world wash their feet in sewers and eat literally whatever they can find. Scott and I feel so lucky to be here and have this opportunity to experience such rich culture and hopefully see more of the beauty Heavenly Father has put on this earth. We love each other and so far, we LOVE Indonesia!!!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

And We're Off!!!

We are leaving tonight at 11:55pm from LAX through Taiwan to our destination: Bali, Indonesia!!! I can't believe the time has arrived :) We will post here as frequently as possible. THANK YOU to everyone who helped make our wedding a success, we couldn't be happier!