Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Numbers Don't Lie

All the stats stats stats you ever wanted to some of our favorite photos in a slideshow.

Continents visited: 6
Countries visited: 17
Bribes given: 1, OK probably 2

Hottest temperature: Bangkok at 100F
Coldest temperature: Kilimanjaro at -10F

Phone cards purchased and not used: 3
Other useless cards purchased: 2 (international drivers' license and Hostelling International cards)

Annoying songs that played incessantly, spanning multiple weeks and multiple countries until we felt malaria-style crazy: 4 (Beautiful Girls by Sean Kingston, Umbrella by Rihanna, African Queen by 2face Idibia, that Boat and Raft song by all southeast asian musicians)

Injuries: Dennis 7 (not including 4 trip/fall accidents), Kristi 2
Illnesses: Dennis 3, Kristi 4
Illnesses cured: Dennis 2 (excema, migraines), Kristi 1 (beer allergy)
Weight lost: 80 lbs

Number of old European ladies that were bigots that we were forced to spend time with: 2

Types of places slept in: 13 (tents, a van, hotel, hostel/guesthouse/residencia, apartments aka kindness of friends and total strangers, airports, planes, buses, trains, brothels, flop houses, a cult, and dorm rooms)

Nations that know what decent coffee is: 5 (but what does it matter when you're usually served Nescafe anyway)

Modes of transportation taken: 20 (airplane, ferry, party van, city bus, intercity bus, train, subway train, funicular, commuting escalator, cab, moped, dalla dalla, combi, saamlaew, tuk tuk, crocodile boat, long tail boat, land rover, bicycle and cyclo)

Longest bus ride: 22 hrs from Iguazu to Cordoba

Most off-schedule bus ride: Phitsonuluk to Suknohnoket, where a 1 1/2 hour bus ride turns into 3 when the driver stops to pick up groceries, drop off laundry, pick up his son's friends. Oh, and mopeds were passing our sad, anemic bus on the left!

Most fun bus ride: Huay Xai to Luang Nam Tha (meeting Paula, drinking lao lao with old men on the side of the road, laughing at the entire family puking in the row behind us, and feeling exhilarated by the hair-pin mountain turns and near-misses with livestock)

Most uncomfortable bus ride: Luang Nam Tha to Luang Prabang (again, Laos, but this time at 14 hours through amazing scenery which we didn't really see because we were sitting on bags of rice in the middle of the aisle)

Worst bus ride: 3 hour trip from Hanoi to Halong Bay sitting in front of 3 Australian friends talking really loudly. Sample conversation:
Friend #1: "Hollywood movies are such crap. I usually just avoid them."
Friend #2: "Oh yea, me too. Except for the Cohen Brothers. They're pretty good. Wait, that's not it. I mean the Farrelly Brothers. Dumb and Dumber is the best movie of the decade."
Friend #1: "Oh yea, they're great. Pretty much the only American films I'll watch anymore are Jim Carrey films. Well, Robin Williams, too."
Friend #2: "I loooove Robin Williams. AND Jim Carrey (etc. etc. for the next hour...)"

Most watched film on a bus: Rush Hour 3 (4 times on asian buses)

Number of buses taken: Incalculable

Longest flight: Hong Kong to Jo'Berg at 16 hours
Shortest flight: Vientienne to Siem Reap at 1 1/2 hours
Most favored airline: a tie between JAL and LAN
Most hated airline: Iberian

Most days without showering/ bathing: 7 on Kilimanjaro

Number of salt, pepper, sugar, or powdered milk packets "acquired": 65
Number of mini-soaps "acquired": 54
Number of "high-quality" condiment packets "acquired" (your soy sauce, jam, butter, etc..): 31

Number of actual alpaca sightings: 2

Well, that's about it. So long, folks, and thanks for reading! Until next time...

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Best of the Trip

Without further ado...

Most Favored Nations
New Zealand

Favorite Big Cities
Buenos Aires

Favorite Small Cities
Dunedin, NZ
Zanzibar Stone Town, TZ
Wellington, NZ
Chiang Mai, TH
Seville, SP
Phitsanulok, TH

Favorite Small Towns
Goreme, TR
Luang Nam Tha, LA
Lushoto, TZ
Hang Roa, CL

Favorite Natural Places
Victoria Falls
Iguazu Falls
Serengeti/ Ngorogoro/ Lake Manyara (Tanzania safari)
Easter Island
Grand Canyon NP
Milford Sound
Fox and Franz Joseph glaciers
Tam Coc
Sequoia NP

Best Meals
Monigo's home cooked dinner in Tokyo
Any/ all udon in Tokyo
Any/ all Thai food (except 1 plate of terrible pad thai)
Mexican food in Chiang Mai (yes, really)
Pho in Saigon and HaNoi
Anna's mother's homemade Spanish tortilla
Menemen and Turkish breakfast (a tie)
Lunch at Japanese 7-11s
Ugali in Dar es Salaam
Fruit shakes in Cambodia
Sol y Luna "naturista" restaurant in Cordoba, Argentina
Omlettes at White Rose in Battambang, Cambodia
Touy and his wife's baguette sandwiches in Luang Nam Tha, Laos
Jungle cooking in Nam Tha NF (rattan soup, wild mushroom and banana flower stir-fry)
South Indian snack shops in Tanzania
Maoz falafel in Spain (yes it's a chain, no we were not traveling in falafel-rich countries)
Wine in Spain and Argentina (even the $2 bottles and boxes)
TVP in Zambia (tastes just like chicken, I swear)

Favorite Historical Sites
Angkor Wat
Rapa Nui
Stone Town, Zanzibar
Goreme/ Cappadocia
El Alhambra
Wats in Bangkok
Aya Sofia
Wats in Chiang Mai
Luang Prabang

Favorite Museums
Apartheid Museum, Johannesburg, South Africa
Choeung Ek Killing Fields, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Tuol Sleng Prison Museum, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Museo de Arte Latinoamericano, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Tate Modern, London, England
Prado, Madrid, Spain
Crazy House, Dalat, Vietnam
Park Guell, Barcelona, Spain
Picasso Museum, Barcelona, Spain
War Remnants Museum, HCMC, Vietnam

Favorite Markets
Nihn Bihn
Chiang Mai night market and local's market
Istanbul spice market
San Telmo antiques market in Buenos Aires
*Favorite Mall: MBK in Bangkok

Favorite Bargaining Moments

  • HaNoi bread lady (Why did she hate me and love Dennis?! Why did her prices change minute to minute?)
  • First cabbie in Bangkok (Dennis puts his foot down)
  • Arusha safari/Kili operator (Mostly because we got a way better deal than the Danish lady)
  • Nihn Bihn market (Lots of teenage girls pointing and giggling at Dennis. Just because I low-ball you on a pair of mittens, doesn't mean you should call over other vendors to laugh. Also learned a valuable lesson about myself: If I'm force-fed dozens of candies, I will end up buying way too much candy.)
  • Hoi An guesthouse (Dennis throws old school hissy fit)

Favorite Places Stayed
Anna and Juan, Seville
Jonathan, Lusaaka
Daniel, Wellington
Axel and Merwa, Granada
Hotel Mayorazgo, Madrid (fanciest place, hands down)
Darasavath Guesthouse, Luang Nam Tha
Camping in the Serengeti
Hotel Maipu, Buenos Aires
The 'Party Van', New Zealand (except gravel pile/ 4 am rooster night, and mosquito swarm down by the river night)
Akha Lodge, Nam Tha NF
Shoestring Cavern, Goreme
*and for a sense of balance, our least favorite: Legend Has It West End hostel in Sydney

Favorite Phrases Learned
New Zealand
- sweet as...(cool)
- stubbies (manly short-shorts)

- lady boy (where to begin?)
- farang (foreigner)
- laa kha (goodbye), khaaw hai chohk dee (good luck)

- sabadee (hi)
- sabadee (hi)
- sabadee bo (how are you?)
- sabadee (I'm fine, thanks)
- sabadee bo (how are you?)
- sabadee (I'm fine, thanks)
- Koi bo kin siin (I don't eat meat), koi kin de tuk-tuk (I only eat tuk-tuks)

- te ah kuhn (no thank you)

- chuc mung nam moi! (happy new year)
- tai sao khong! (why not)
- dat qua! (that's too expensive)

- konnichiwa bitches (hello bitches)
- j-chud, j-bono, j-pop, j-anything (japanese-)

- mambo (hi, how's it going?)
- poa co chiz com ndizi (I'm cool crazy like a banana)

- tesekkur ederim (thank you)
- sow (the easier way to say thank you)

- vale vale (OK OK, said in nearly every sentence)

- hola/ciao chicos (hi/bye guys)

The Madcap Recap Begins

OK, first I must apologize for being blog-negligent. After a whirlwind road trip back east, the interesting experience of finding an apartment in New York, and actually getting settled, we're finally ready to lift our nose from the grindstone of finding gainful employment to provide our readers with some kind of trip recap. We promised stats and 'best of' lists. Numbers don't lie, and neither do we. So consider this the first in a couple of posts before we let this blog slide into the annals of internets history.

So how did we arrive at this point, you ask? Well, after our trip up and down the I-5 corridor, we headed back east for real, making our first stop in Pocatello, Idaho: the rough midpoint between Denver and Portland; a meeting place with our friends Phil and Alexis moving their lives in the other direction; a tiny city that no cartographer can imagine, let alone map; and our first opportunity in the U.S. for Dennis to compulsively add to his supply of mini-soaps.

After Pocatello, we spent a few days camping and hiking in Yellowstone National Park. We didn't see any bears, but we ingratiated ourselves with a small, informal group of geyser geeks (or maybe it was 'geyser gazers'?), who gave us the scoop on some cool, off-the-beaten-track geysers.

Next we drove through South Dakota, stopping to hike around the Badlands, and doing a drive-by photo opp of Mt. Rushmore after feeling guilty for paying to get into the Crazy Horse Memorial, which should be renamed, The Vision of One Megalomaniacal White Man and his Greedy Family. A few more hours of boring landscape, interrupted by the Corn Palace and an obsession with South Dakota's free tourist coupon newpaper, and we were in Minnesota. Did you Know...Since 1892, there have been three Corn Palace structures build. The Mitchell founding fathers wanted something to put their town on the map, and there you have it. An average ear of corn has 800 kernels, arranged in 16 rows.

Just south of Minneapolis, we ended up camping in a gorgeous lakeside spot amidst the most mosquitos you can imagine, and waking up in a crazy thunderstorm. Somewhat sleep-deprived, we pushed on to Chicago, which we decided to rename Kimcago, after our friend Kim who not only traveled all the way to Cambodia to visit us, but put us up for a couple of nights, too. We also confirmed the rumors that our friend's little sister Emily opened up her Sweet Cakes Bakery at the site of an old friend's apartment and my quasi- first date with Dennis. Any eerie feelings were quelled with delicious cupcakes.

In more coincidences, we ran into my friend Erica doing a road trip of her own, and did a little stoop-sitting with her one evening. It started to feel like we had really come full circle from almost a year ago when we drove out west to catch our plane to New Zealand and met up with a roadtripping Erica. I'll forever feel like any time I'm driving a distance over 200 miles, I'll end up running into Erica doing the same, and I hope I'm right.

We then got to experience life in a college town and meet a woman named Teapot in Ann Arbor, while hanging with our friend and poet extraordinaire, Sean P. Norton. Summer vacation is a beautiful, beautiful thing. We drove straight from Ann Arbor up to Champlain, NY to visit my family and attend my favorite Fourth of July parade. We also reunited with the cats, who seemed very healthy and content, if a little spoiled, what with their casserole dishes filled with catnip strewn about the house. (Why, Mom, why?)

We moved in temporarily with our friend, Brooklyn resident and painter extraordinaire, Matt, who kindly guided us through the process of looking for an apartment in New York. After meeting dozens of brokers and seeing about 25 apartments, we finally put our money down on one in the Flatbush/ Ditmas Park neighborhood of Brooklyn. While waiting for the place to get repainted and coated in varnish, we went down to DC to hang out with friends.

After having lived in DC for eight years, it was strange being back, but not really being home. Of course, we had to cruise by our old house to see if anything had changed, but it looked exactly the same, down to the same half-dying plants in the back yard and the same patch of peeling paint above the front door. We indulged ourselves with going out to eat at some of our old favorite restaurants, and we got to meet the new-ish babies of our friends Allison and Jean. Before we knew it, it was time to load up our stuff in storage into the back of a U-haul truck and move. And despite it being one of the easiest moves ever (thanks especially to DC folks who came up to Brooklyn to help us move), we still found ourselves missing the days when everything we owned fit into a backpack.


Friday, June 20, 2008

Back in the U.S. of A., or Driving on 5

OK, we've officially been back in the U.S. of A. for two weeks, but with all the catching up with family, friends, laundry, and filing our late taxes, we've been a bit blog-negligent. Being back has been both strange and wonderful. For one, we have a plan for the whole next couple of weeks, and we've gotten to see family and friends on the west coast that we haven't seen for a while, as well as some friends that helped see us off on the trip about nine months ago. I should mention that a couple of friends are mere days/weeks away from having babies, which could only mean that Dennis and I possess some kind of shamanistic ability to help people conceive (a marketable job skill?).  It's also been a little strange but wonderful to be able to have great, long conversations (in English!) which hadn't happened often enough around the world. 

Our first real efforts at repatriation were going to Costco, and then buying a minivan that we could drive to visit said friends and get us and our stuff back to the east coast. Yes, not only are we bloggers, but we own a minivan. It has tinted windows, and we fluctuate between thinking this makes it even less cool or possibly more cool. At any rate, it's a mode of transportation and it runs equally well in the Town and in the Country. 

After staying with Ma and Pa Campbell for a few days, we headed to Seattle to visit Ben, Emi, and their charming 4 3/4-year-old daughter, Azi. After hitting the sites and a farmer's market (hello again, delicious west coast food), we headed down I-5 to visit Matt in Olympia, who took us sailing on Puget Sound. We arrived just in time, because the next day the boat was being sold. We got to enjoy a sunset cruise and spot lots of seals along the way. God speed, Spackle. We hit Interstate 5 again down to Portland to visit John, Jenn, and brand new Portland resident, Phil.  We relaxed and ate more delicious homemade food, including tacos, which we try to eat at least once a day now. Good luck with the 'birth plan' guys! Our last stop on the whirlwind tour of the I-5 was Eugene, where we saw Craig and Deb (good luck with your 'birth plan' guys), and Eric and Stephanie. After more great conversation and homemade food, including our second rhubarb pie, we had to head back to Camp Campbell to prepare for the longer drives ahead. And even though we've been kept pretty busy, it's easy to remember why we missed home.


Friday, June 6, 2008

Santiago, Thrice is Nice

It´s sorta hard to write an entry on Santiago the city, partly because Santiago always stood for something else. It was the place we had to go to get to Easter Island and Valparaiso, it was where we came back to, and ultimately it is the city which we fly back to the States from. As a result, Santiago is a place full of anxiety, anticipation and sadness.

But as a city, it has treated us remarkably well. The lesson that we were taught throughout the trip is that cities rise and fall in our estimation based upon the quality/availability of food and the lodgings we stay in. In Santiago, there were a few good veggie options (plus more bad pizza, sadly), but the hospedaje that we stayed in made us love the city. Located in the heart of downtown, the Green House is run by a family that seems to revel in going out of their way to help travellers. Each time we left, they kept luggage for us, did laundry and each time we came back they helped orient us to the city and tell us how to find places to eat. Nice way to end a trip that has included a full range of places.

The city itself is somewhat lacking in charm--being as it is a business capital. There are a few wonderful plazas to walk through, a smattering of cathedrals and parks, some very strange sand art by hundreds of young Catholic children, but it somehow lacks the energy of our favorite stops. As I said, Santiago just stands for so many other things for us. And while we are tired, and while Santiago didn´t fully charm us, we would love for Santiago to be the place where some kind patron gave us a boatload of money to keep travelling.


Thursday, June 5, 2008

Valparaiso (I´m Well Aquainted with the Works of Pablo Neruda)

Desperation has set in as the international leg of our trip is now hours from being over. With that anxiety in mind, we decided to squeeze one more city onto the itinerary. Valparaiso is a seaside town with rolling hills hugging the port. The hills are covered with all forms of brightly colored, dilapidated structures made from combinations of corrugated metal and stone. The fact that the city experiences quite a bit of earthquakes combined with the, admittedly beautiful, slapdash structures gave an element of danger to our visit.

The problem for Kristi and me is that in the entire 9 months we have been out of North America, we have had exactly 10 days of bad weather. We have grown soft. Very soft. We spent two days, hiking up and down the hills of Valparaiso getting drenched by a fog\rain that made Eugene, Oregon in winter look like Phoenix. So, while the UENESCO World Heritage parts of the city are wonderful, we may, just may, have prayed to find an indoor mall. We also found ourselves relying a bit much on the turn-of-the-century ´ascensors´, rickety wooden box-style funiculars that scale some of the steepest hills for a modest fee, thus adding another element of danger to our visit.

The highlight of our stay was our visit to the poet Pablo Neruda´s (less famous) house. The house is constructed with a panoramic view of the city and is itself an amalgam of the city. Portholes from ships line the stairwell, salvaged stained glass, custom designed fireplaces, model ships, and a study that groans like a ship at sea when the wind blows all come together with a strange unity. There is even a small ¨heliport¨on top of the home for future travels to the stars. Poets think of everything.


Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Easter Island/ Isla de Pascua/ Rapa Nui/ Fantasy Island

Ah, Easter Island. The mystery, the allure, the end-of-the-world tiki-ness of the place. When we stepped off the plane onto the narrow airstrip surrounded by palm trees and stone sculptures, with a host of lei-bearing residents waiting for us in the tiniest airport ever, it felt a bit like Fantasy Island. It seemed it couldn´t be possible that we were actually there, despite the 6 hour flight from Santiago. But seeing no man dressed in a white suit, we chose to believe it and felt extra lucky that this remote destination was a possibility on our round-the-world ticket, since the cost of getting here from DC would be twice as much as what we spent on our 20-stop ticket.

After choosing a place to stay from one of the people that show up at the airport with rooms to rent, we settled in and explored the major town on the island, Hanga Roa. As this task only took about 15 minutes, we spent the rest of the day relaxing, looking at some of the moai (big tiki guys), cooking up some dinner, and watching the sun set.

Rapa Nui turned out to be the ideal stop for us as we were winding down the trip. We went on plenty of fun day trips filled with looking at ruins, learning about the anthropology of the island (I won´t spoil the mystery and allure by divulging what we learned here), going to the beach, scrambling around the craggy volcanic coastline, and plain hiking around. We also spent a good amount of time relaxing around our little apartment, playing backgammon, and discussing how long we could stay on this 12-km-long island without getting bored. We settled on 2-3 months on our current budget and 5 months on a bigger budget. Did I mention that the island is jam-packed with wild ponies?