Wednesday, April 29, 2009


Greeted by our friendly tuk tuk driver, we set off into the darkness with the warm wind blowing through our hair. Beads of sweat were already forming at our temples and it was only 5:00 a.m. Man was it dark. The only light came from our tuk tuk’s headlight which illuminated the bumpy dirt road about 3 feet ahead of us. It was hard to believe in the darkness that the sun should rise triumphantly behind Angkor Wat in less than 30 minutes. Our driver let us off at the front gate and pointed to where he would be waiting for us.

Enveloped in the darkness, I had to fish in my bag for a small flashlight to illuminate the way across the stone causeway that crossed the moat to Angkor Wat. Savoring the peaceful quite, we positioned ourselves at the reflecting pool and awaited the sun’s grand arrival. Alone in the darkness we felt as though we were the first people to discover this captivating place. As the first rays peeked up from the horizon it was magic. Blues, purples and pinks radiated into oranges and yellows. Of course with the oranges and yellows the silence was broken by the first onslaught of tourists coming to see the sunrise. Lucky for us our timely driver had the inside scoop and delivered us to our own uniquely serene experience. As the sun rose slowly into the sky, the sweat began to poor off of our knees. Knees! Really?! Who knew that you could have wet spots on the front of your pants from sweaty knees! That’s Cambodian Heat for you.

We had never really heard of Angkor until we started planning for our trip. We read the book One Year Off by David Cohen and thought the place sounded interesting. In the interim we had friends visit Angkor who raved about it. We had no expectations and were blindsided by the mystery, beauty and triumph of the area. Angkor has many temples, all amazing in their own ways, that really are the gems of Southeast Asia. The temples were built between the 9th and 12th centuries. The most commonly known, Angkor Wat, was built in the early 12th century and was a significant religious center (first Hindu then Buddhist).

Complete with its magnificent face towers, the fortress of Bayon was one of our favorite temples. The haunting faces gaze down at you from above. Are they smiling? Are they laughing? Are they judging? Only you know which one it is at the time you are there. What have these faces seen? Love and hate. Peace and bloodshed. Devotion and disbelief. What an inspiring sight to ponder in our journey.

Our Photos:

Monday, April 27, 2009


.......Or this could happen to you!

Ruins: Paestum, Italy.
Ankle: Jen's (she doesn't really have a hammer's just positioning!)

Friday, April 24, 2009


Thailand. What can I say. Everything we have ever heard about Thailand was fantastic. Great food, wonderful people, beautiful temples, elephants, cheap prices, personal tailors, unbeatable massages, the list goes on and on. Sadly, this is not the Thailand we got to see.

While in the Tokyo Airport we learned that protests against the government had started in Thailand. Everything we read said that the protests by the Red Shirts, wanting the current Prime Minister to step down, were peaceful. I recalled that in October 2008, protesters had taken over the Bangkok Airport and was leery of heading into an unstable situation. I checked the U.S. Department Web Site and there were no travel warnings listed for Thailand. Thanks to the web we were able to learn that the protests were not near our hotel, that we could get to the U.S. Embassy and the airport without having to go through the protest area and we mapped our route from our hotel to the embassy. We registered with the U.S. Embassy in Thailand and hoped for the best.

We arrived shortly after midnight on Wednesday and Bangkok was alive with happy bustling tourists, locals and children playing in the streets. It was business as usual. The next couple days were spent sampling the Thai cuisine and organizing our trip north to Sukhotai, Chiang Mai and the elephant reserve at Lampang. Our plans to leave Bangkok were delayed a couple of days because the trains and buses were booked by people traveling for Songkran (Thai New Year).

While we waited to head north, the protests began to escalate. Protestors stormed the location of the ASEAN Summit in Pattaya (1.5 hours south of Bangkok). The summit was cancelled and several leaders were evacuated by helicopter from the hotel. As the protestors from Pattaya headed back to Bangkok the protesting in Bangkok turned to rioting. The Prime Minister declared a state of emergency. By doing so, the military moved into the city, tanks rolled into the streets and people could now be arrested without a warrant (due process). The rioting spread in Bangkok to part of the tourist area (2 train stops from our hotel) where the Red Shirts threw petrol bombs at police and sent hijacked public buses now empty, on fire, with the gas pedals rigged, careening into the lines of riot police.

We debated, is it better to get out of Bangkok into the more rural areas of Thailand away from the violence but farther away from the airport if something really bad happens? Or, stay in Bangkok where you can get to the airport or embassy if you needed to get out of Thailand quickly? Searching for more information on the “state of affairs in Bangkok” we found broadcasts on Aljazeera (the English version) to be the most informative. Really?! Who would have ever thought that Aljazeera would be our news program of choice?! When we learned protestors were blocking roads outside of Bangkok including near Chiang Mai, two deaths had occurred from rioting and if the Prime Minister stepped down no government would be in place, we decided it was time to abandon our already purchased bus and train tickets to flee to the sanctity of……….Cambodia. Cambodia?!?! A country with such a war torn past, we never thought we’d say that!

With the help of the nice airline representatives and hotel owners we were able to leave Bangkok fairly quickly and at a reasonable monetary cost considering the situation. When we cancelled one of our accommodations up north Ryan received the following reply:
Dear Ryan,
I'm very sorry about the crazy people made everthing bad now but i beleive the government can control in a few days.
Looking forward to welcome you next time.
Thank you,
Sad. Very sad for the peaceful people of Thailand.

The few peaceful days that we did have in Bangkok were very interesting. Locals and tourists ate fruit, noodles, meat on a stick and more from street vendors. Streets were lined with clothing and souvenir stalls. Men in turbans tried to get my attention with phrases such as, “I know your lover name.” Women tried to get Ryan’s attention yelling, “maa-sauge for you sir?” Old fat white men ran around with young beautiful tiny Thai women. Hmmm. I wonder, is there a potential gain in access to resources for these women that out weighs the seemingly wrong-ness of the situation? Maybe there is more that I need to learn (because I don’t know much about it), but the scenario seems rather disgusting.

Which reminds me, while we sat in the Tokyo Airport waiting for our flight to Bangkok a white man from the U.S. in his 60’s struck up a conversation with me when Ryan left to buy water. He asked if this was my first trip to Thailand, I replied “yes.” He told me about the Thai New Year Festival that we would encounter. And, then he said he had spent more than 150 days in Thailand over the past year. “150 days the past year?! Wow that is a lot! Do you travel there for work,” I asked? “Um,” pause………..”Um,” pause……….”vacation,” he said. I thought to myself, Jen you idiot! You know the sex trade industry is booming in Bangkok and the look on the man’s face and his hesitation confirmed it. Uggh!

Sadly, we only have the photos on this page to share of Bangkok and guava juice :) We hope to visit Thailand again in a more peaceful time.


Thursday, April 23, 2009


Friends: We planned a short trip through Tokyo to visit our friends Elizabeth and Jeremy who have been living and working outside of Tokyo for nearly 3 years. They were fantastic tour guides and Jeremy is the only reason we located any structures by map in Tokyo. In Tokyo, there are no street signs (despite having street names) and buildings on a block are assigned an address number by the order in which it was built. This means that building #4 and #5 may be on the same side of the street, at opposite ends and 5 stories up. We had entertaining shopping experiences and culinary adventures trying hot molten octopus balls, squid jerky, outstanding sake and yummy sushi.

The smallness of the world revealed itself when we received an email from our neighbors in St. Louis (Beth and Chad) telling us that they would be in Tokyo at the exact same time. While Elizabeth worked, the rest of us met for an incredible traditional Japanese lunch (photos to prove it!) served by a beautiful Japanese Kimono wearing woman. It was great to see friends from home. Thank you Elizabeth and Jeremy!

Cherry Blossoms: When we decided to visit Elizabeth and Jeremy, I hoped that we could time it with the famous cherry blossoms in Japan. It could not have worked out more perfectly! The blossoms peaked while we were there and I took endless photos of them. If you are not interested in cherry blossoms, just scan the photos!

Gai Gin Card: Pronounced “guy-jean,” meaning foreigner, was a card we played frequently while in Japan. Not bowing at the appropriate times, not being able to speak the language (or read the signs), and jay walking are just a few times that our card came into play. Thankfully we were not expected to know the many unspoken rules and customs in the Japanese culture and they looked the other way when we violated them.

Kanpai to friends!

Our photos:

Monday, April 13, 2009


Pepito whisked Paquito and Juana Loquita away from the Sydney airport. Together again, in a new land, it was time to shed their identities for new roles. With her ruby red slippers, Juana L was quite pleased with her new role. Paquito’s every expanding mane made him perfect for his part. Pepito’s freshly shaved and shiny noggin helped him embrace his character and he did actually need a little grease for his joints after his 1,000 stair climb in the Blue Mountains the day before.

This Oz was different and yet similar is so many ways. Instead of tornados there were cyclones (Hamish and ???). Instead of the yellow brick road it was Highway 1. Instead of the Scarecrow accompanying us on the whole journey, he flew in for a two week vacation from the U.S. and tried to relax and lose his brain instead of finding it. Our Lion already had courage as he dove into his crocodile pie and kangaroo steak. This Tin Man was all heart as he bought rounds of Guinness for us on St. Paddy’s Day. No one was singing “Somewhere Over The Rainbow,” but the Lily Allen’s song “I don’t know what’s right and what’s real anymore” played over and over on the car radio prompting conversations about the Wicked Witches in society and the lack of reality in the Emerald City. There was no Toto, but we would like to offer up Mr. Cassowary as the strangest looking bird ever who would fit right into the dreamy world.

The Tin Man and Scarecrow actually found the Wizard and were transported back to Denver, not Kansas. Dorothy and Lion eluded the wizard and escaped into the outback (Undara Lava Tubes, Uluru and Kata Tjuta). Good thing the Tin Man had already been to the outback!

The Interpretation:
What started out as a few days of traveling with Joe turned into a few weeks . And, what fun we had! Joe picked us up from the Sydney airport and we drove north together all the way to Cairns. Joe’s friend Kevin joined us in Byron Bay and brought Cyclone Hamish with him (for those wondering….a cyclone is the same as a hurricane, but located in the southern hemisphere). While we weren’t close to the land effects from Hamish, he made the seas too rough for surfing lessons and poor visibility for diving (the snorkeling wasn‘t too bad, though). Joe and Kevin left us in Cairns (they flew home via Sydney) and we drove further north to Cape Tribulation and into the edge of the outback to see the Undara Lava Tubes. Hiking at Uluru (Ayer’s Rock), Kata Tjuta and the Blue Mountains followed by sightseeing in Sydney finished up our trip in Oz.

We’ll leave you with a little Ozzie speak: “That story was crazy as!“ This statement will never be completed, you will never know crazy as what, just that it is. You might even get a “good on ya” or good job!