Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Klimbing in Krabi Thailand!

Railay Beach, Krabi, Thailand
One of our last stops was in Krabi, Thailand on Railay Beach where we spent 8 days spoiling ourselves at a nice private villa at one of the beach resorts. Besides being absolutely gorgeous, the next best thing about Railay is that it is only accessible by boat. The beach is cut off from the mainland by huge limestone cliffs shooting out of the water which means no roads or motorized vehicles . . . . and most importantly no motor scooters! Being away from roads and cars gave us the much needed excuse to finally relax and slow down after traveling for 4 weeks. On the days we weren't relaxing we took a thai cooking class (so I can make Thai food that WON'T make me sweat profusely), snorkeled, kayaked, swam, and climbed.   
On the day we snorkeled, we hired a guy from the resort to take us around on his boat. . . which basically meant we paid him to go spear fishing with his buddies while we snorkeled. We actually had a lot of fun with them despite thinking they were pirates when we pulled up to their boat. Judge for yourself. So instead of snorkeling looking at fish, I was more fascinated watching them catch fish with their spear guns. It was impressive to watch them track a fish from the surface, take a deep breath, dive down about 20 feet, aim, and take a shot.  They caught a couple good size barracudas that we ate that night for dinner at our hotel!
The climbing on Railay was incredible and definitely the highlight of the trip for me (close second for Margie behind those cute Tiger cubs). The rock was unlike anything I have climbed before with stalagtites and giant pockets in the rocks everywhere. We hired a guide named Jan, who was the top ranked woman's climber in Thailand, to take us climbing four days. She was great fun and took us on a bunch of awesome, challenging climbs. As I was climbing one of the routes, I heard something next to me. I turned and saw a monkey who climbed a tree next to the rock to see what I was up to. He looked right at me and cackeled. . . . I assume he was laughing at my poor climbing technique as he swung from branch to branch effortlessly.

Bangkok, ThailandBefore flying home we did have a quick layover in Bangkok for 1.5 days. We spent the day siteseeing and found that our feet were pretty tired from shopping and walking around temples. Luckily there was a "fish spa" near by. A fish spa is where you stick your feet into a large aquariam that has about 5000 little fish inside that enjoy to feast on the dead skin of your feet. It felt nice and relaxing until you looked down and saw all the fish basically eating away at your toes! I can't say that we'd do it again. . . .but it really did help both of our feet! After 2 months of walking in flip flops and barefoot on the sand, my feet were a bit rough, however after a 20 minute buffet for those little fish, they honestly felt much softer! When in Rome . . . . .  

Probably the only good thing that came out of the riots in Bangkok earlier this year was that Margie and I got over half price for a couple nights at a 5 star hotel called the Penninsula. We had already planned a nice "end of the trip" dinner at the hotel but as we were getting ready for dinner Margie checked her email to find some exiting news that she had just made partner at her law firm! It made for an extra special dinner that night and a perfect end to our 5 weeks together traveling! It was also something to keep our spirits up as we headed back home and back to work. . . I wonder. . . what will fade first, my smile, tan or spirit?  

Friday, November 12, 2010

Animal Kingdom! Chiang-Mai, Thailand

Besides sitting next to a 400 pound tiger that could rip me in half, there were 2 equally disturbing things before we even set foot near it. First, the only form we had to sign was an insurance waiver from AIG (weren't they the ones that the governement bailed out for making bad bets. . . was this one of them?) Second, the only justification they gave us regarding the safety of spending time with tigers is the fact that they are nocturnal and are "sleepy" during the day. . . .therefore we would be safe (Enter your own Siegfried and Roy joke here). We got to spend about 40 minutes total with baby tiger cubs that were just like little kittens and full grown adult cats that were frightening beautiful creatures. Regarding the safety of this, we were with the trainer who was armed with a 10 inch wood stick (looked like a backscratcher), which most of the time was on the ground because he was snapping photos of us. Totally safe . . . .

Sure . . . . Tigers are cute (especially the cubs) but could they paint pictures? Could they play soccer? Seriously? Elephants that not only paint, but paint pictures that are better than your kids artwork? It was amazing to watch these massive animals pick up a brush with their trunks and start painting pictures of flowers, mountains, etc. We proudly own one of these pieces of art so you can come admire it for yourself when you come over to try our Vietnamese and Thai cooking skills!
Besides having places to play with Tigers and Elephants, Chiang Mai, Thailand is the gateway to the northern moutains of Thailand, so we also went on a mini-safari, mountain biking and white water rafting. We were taken around in this 1950's Range Rover which was quite an adventure in itself on some of the so called "roads". Our river rafting guide was a hoot, his name was "toocrazy" who thoroughly enjoyed his job of taking us down rapids backwards, sideways and anyway to get us wide-eyed while he laughed uncontrollably at us. Along our trek we also met a very nice monk who invited us into his temple to meditate with him. I'm not very good at clearing my mind, but it was nice for us to sit quietly and listen to the birds and circular saw that was running the near background.
Lastly, we ate wonderfully here in Chiang Mai, surprising huh?


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Hoian, Vietnam

Hoian is on the central east coast of Vietnam and was a welcome change of pace after being in the hustle and bustle of Tokyo and Hanoi. It has the charm of a small European city, with beautiful buildings and cafes lining the streets. It is also on China beach where the US soliders used to come to relax when on leave during the war.

Our hotel was a cool little place that overlooked a rice paddy, where every breakfast you could sit peacefully and hear the sounds of birds, crickets, and most importantly, no motor scooters! We very much enjoyed our time here, walking around the city without the fear of getting hit by another scooter.

If you plan on ever visiting here, plan on buying some bags on your way out. Turns out the baggage shops are here for a reason, for every bag shop there are about 5 custom tailor shops on every street.  With that being said, Margie and I bought three new bags to haul around all the new clothes (as we would find out later at the airport, about 50 lbs worth). Once they get you measured, you start picking fabrics and designs, then 24 hours later, custom made clothes for you for about 10% of what you would pay at home. Margie was in heaven getting clothes that actually fit her well, and I was happy knowing that what Margie saved on clothes just may have payed for our entire trip over here! With that, hopefully the Nordstrom monthly payments will decrease this coming year. . . Margie has a very suspect grin on her face as I'm writing this.

We also took an afternoon to take a Vietnamese cooking class, which was excellent. We learned how to make a ton of new foods that we loved over here, including spring rolls with homemade rice paper. Seemed easy at the class, we'll see how well it goes back in our own kitchen though. So. . . free invitation to anyone reading this to come over to our house and try some Vietnamese food. After all, I am Vietnamese!