Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Back in the USA

Well, the trip has come to an end. Religious monuments, history museums, memorials, chaotic cities, soccer celebrations, holiday festivities, street vendors, markets, elephant treks, beaches, coral reefs, buses, airplanes...it all comes to an end. I was hoping to have some amazing epiphany on my travels, about life or myself or my place in the world--and what I realized most is that life goes on. No matter where you are or what happens--life goes on. Pol Pot kills millions of your country men, and still you need to tend to the cattle. King Suryavarman II creates the largest, most elaborate religious monument in the world, and still you have to figure out how to get water to support your family. Buddhists believe in impermanence, and it's got to be one of the reasons they are so laid back. Take it as it comes. Dogs run about, and nobody is concerned about what they eat or where they roam. Kids learn early to take care of themselves and land on their feet. Things are somewhat punctual, but move slowly. Don't lose face or cause a scene. It'll all work itself out. Is this a mantra I can adopt? I'm from the East Coast, so I highly doubt it, but I'll try. Everyone seemed so happy and content, despite their economic conditions. Do they have existential crises? I don't know, but they sure do look happy swinging in their hammocks at 2 in the afternoon after a big lunch cooked roadside...

I could have gone on for months. I loved every second of our trip, even the rainy two hour wait for a boatload of people to fill just 6 empty seats on a bus on a Cat Ba Island pier. I would do it again in a heartbeat. The region is amazing, and I look forward to going back; But I must say it is good to be home--home to our new house and the new adventures that await us.

Thursday, January 15, 2009


One of my favorite things about our travels has been exploring new cultures through food. And as we all know, I love to eat. The food has been amazing in every country, and even more amazing have been some of our interactions with street vendors and restaurant owners. One of my favorite was in Cambodia at a night market. After a supremely delicious dinner of fried noodles made on a wok over a lone wood burner, roadside of course, the staff started bringing us samples of exotic looking fruits. We had a great time attempting to communicate which fruits we had in our country and they really enjoyed introducing us to new ones.
Last week I had an interesting food experience on the island of Ko Phi Phi in Thailand. Bo and I took a long tail boat to a remote beach on the island to have breakfast and enjoy our last morning there. At this point I was noodeled and fried-riced out, so I was looking for something different. Beef and red peanut pancake? Hhmm, sounds interesting. I imagined Banh Xeo, which Bo's mom makes--it's a Vietnamese egg/omelette/crepe type thing that you eat with beef, herbs and sauce. It's awesome. The term pancake, I have come to learn, is often interchangeable with crepe or rotee or even omelette, so I thought there was hope. What I got was a pancake sandwich. Nice fluffy flapjacks, ala USA. The stuffing between the pancakes, you ask? It resembled a nice beef stew with pinto beans. Word to the wise--red peanut apparently means pinto beans. So I had a nice stew and pancake breakfast. It was not all that bad, though I would not recommend ordering it.
And Cindy, just for you--we tried the stretched squid! A fully dried squid is heated over an open flame and then in Vietnam, beaten with a stick while squating by the side of the road, or in Thailand, run through a rolling/stretching device on a cart. It is then served with a chili sauce. It pretty much tastes like squid-flavored cardboard. Bo likens it to squid jerky. Ordering the squid and watching the process is more enjoyable than the actual consumption. It's definitely an experience.
Some of the best things we ate were things we'd never seen or heard of before. Unfortunately, we only wrote some of them down. I'll never forget the experience of walking up to a street vendor's cart, having no idea what I'm doing or ordering, pointing, smiling, laughing with the vendors that think I'm crazy, and ending up with one of the most amazing culinary treats of my life.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Singapore Airport

I have much to blog about, and will do so as soon as we get to a proper internet cafe, but I wanted to take this brief opportunity to let you all know that there is a swimming pool at the Singapore airport. A rooftop swimming pool with a bar. And it's not even outrageously priced--about $9 USD to use it. So, if you're ever stuck in the Singapore airport and you've got some time to kill...

Saturday, January 10, 2009


I was pooped on by a bird the other day. We were sitting on beach chairs on a beautiful white sandy beach on Phi Phi Island. I didn't see it happen, Jodi had to tell me...
Does this count on my list of seeing people get pooped on by birds?
I say yes!
Total now stands at 3.

One other thing. Not being able to put one arm in the water for a week is really tough when you're at some of the best beaches in world. I almost entered a state of depression out here!

Thankfully, today we decided to roll the dice (with advice from a medical professional) and we went snorkeling. Just awesome! Much more water activity to come!!!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009


Just a quick update to let everyone know where we are. From Ko Phagnan in the gulf, we headed across the Thai peninsula to Railay Beach on the Andaman Sea. We spent 3 days there, and then moved over to Ko Phi Phi--just landed here. The weather is hot and sunny, pretty much perfect beach weather. We're counting the days until Bo's stitches come out so we can book a snorkeling trip. For now he isn't spending much time in the water, and his right arm isn't spending any. He perpetually looks like he's waving to someone on the beach. Anyway, on Monday we'll head to Phuket. We have a flight early Tuesday morning from Phuket to Singapore. We fly out of Singapore on Thursday morning. Is there really just one week left on our adventure? I can't belive it. The beaches here in Thailand are the most amazing I've ever seen. White sand, turquoise water, giant limestone karsts jutting up out of the water; but I guess these breathtaking beaches and indescribable sunsets will get old at some point...

Saturday, January 3, 2009

When was your last tetanus shot?

Or I could have titled this entry:How do you say, "where's the closest hospital?" in Thai?
Jodi and Bo are officially retiring from motor sports!
How many stitches do you get when you add two Vongsakouns and one scooter?

Okay, okay, you get the idea... no worries, we have avoided anything serious... just a little scuffed up, that's all... can you expect anything else from us?

So, we're at an island called Ko Pha Ngan... it's cloudy and windy. A bummer since we were really looking forward to this portion of the trip. Thankfully, we're very resourceful.

This is a pretty decent sized island and since the beach was less attractive today we decided to discover what the rest of the island has to offer... waterfalls, jungles, elephant treks, restaurants, etc. What's the best way to do that? Rent a moto (scooter) and cruise on your own schedule... we've done a few tours with groups and they've been a bit underwhelming... we wanted to be on our own schedule this time... great idea right?

Well, we should have stopped when we were cruising along and we stopped for some gas... while getting gas, I noticed the gas station owner had a pet monkey... really? A monkey? It was sitting on her lap, hugging her... of course, I see this and I want to get in there and play with the monkey... I sit down next to the monkey and he starts climbing all over me... very cool... he jumps all over me, funny stuff.

Then I decided to feed the monkey. I wanted to buy some bananas for my new friend but the owner said that the monkey didn't like bananas. I guess all my monkey studies over the years have proven to be a waste. Anyway, she says that the monkey really likes these Jello type desserts that her friend sells... I bought four of them that come in little cups for about 50 cents. As soon as I open one, I hand it to the monkey and he grabs it right from me... He starts scraping at the Jello dessert trying to get it out of the cup. I see this and I figure he's having a hard time getting them out of the cup so I get a knife and take another one of the cups and cut the Jello into bite sized pieces for the monkey.

Maybe the monkey enjoys scraping the Jello out because the next thing he does is jumps up and bites me in my stomach. Dude, we were just buddies! What happened?

He got me pretty good. Thankfully, no skin was broken... just a lot of laughter from Jodi and a small bruise on my tummy... I gave him the other 2 cups of dessert but didn't feel he deserved them after the aggression. I forgave him though and we are still friends.

Anyway, this monkey story has nothing to do with what happened to us, it was just a foreshadowing of future events.

Jodi and I continued our tour around the island and the further we went, the worse the roads got and the steeper the hills... Actually, the paved roads turned to dirt roads with plenty of pot holes and terrible traction... fun in a four wheeler or a dirtbike but a bit tougher to manage on a moto.

After several hours of cruising, Jodi and I are cruising up and down some hills that are alternately paved and unpaved... I naturally gain speed during the paved portions and slow down during the unpaved sections. All of a sudden!!! We go over a hill that's paved and it quickly turns unpaved and sandy on the downslope of the hill!!! Oh no!!!

Jodi and the moto come crashing down atop me and she and I slide about 10-15 feet on the gravel... all happened in slow-motion... thankfully, she landed on top of me and I took the brunt of it...

Results: Jodi has several cuts on her fingers and a scrape on her shoulder.

Me? Well the entire right side of my body is shredded... my moto gear included flip fops and swim trunks so...

we went to the doctor to clean my wounds and take the dirt out of my cuts... while looking at the big gash on my elbow, he says that its way deeper than it looks so he pulls out the stitching needle... the favorite part of my Thai doctor? Him taking scissors to my skin and cutting "dead" parts and telling me, "Let me know if this hurts."... umm dude, you are cutting chunks of my body off of me and you have used no medication... it hurts.
8 stitches later and a lot of iodine, here we are at the internet cafe, relaying the story to you.

The first stitches in my life will cost me $60, no trips into the ocean for the right side of my body and no more massages on the right side of my body for the rest of the trip. But hey, we learned a new lesson after this and Jodi's separated shoulder last year and me rolling a 4-wheeler last year: NO MORE MOTORIZED VEHICLES WITH HANDLEBARS!!!

Do jetskis count as a vehicle? Bring it on!!!

Friday, January 2, 2009

New Years Eve in Bangkok!

There's a lot going on in Bangkok right now... a revolution, protests to the revolution and a devastating nightclub fire on New Years Eve...

We know that a lot of you are concerned so here's a quick note to let you know that we are okay (although a little hungover) and have left the hustle and bustle of Bangkok. We are currently sitting on the island of Ko Pha Ngan and relaxing... the beach will be nice for a while...

By the way, this island is like a mini-Jamaica... lots of dredlocks and plenty of Bob Marley music... and it's the home of the famed Full Moon party... but alas, we are only here for relaxation...