A Paint By Number Journey Thru Chiang Mai & Luang Prabang

I know, I know. This is beyond tardy.  It has taken me a year and a day to post about mine and Stephanie’s jaunt to the beautiful cities of Chiang Mai and Luang Prabang back in February, but I am finally getting around to doing it.  Holy moly, I can’t believe it’s been that long.  Shame on me!!!

This time, instead of doing my typical posty post about the entire vaca, what we ate, who we ate with and at what time, I’m going to chronicle my favorite moments of the trip. So buckle up peeps!

1. Our 16 Hour Train Ride from Bangkok to Chiang Mai.

Instead of flying directly to Chiang Mai, we flew into Bangkok and opted to indulge in the journey of getting to Chiang Mai.  And what reeks more of wanderlusting travel than the huff and puff of a locomotive train? We stocked up on snacks, including  an accidental choosing of PICKLED mango on Miss Stephanie Anne’s part, ordered a surprisingly delicious dinner on board, got our train bunks turned down by the train maid, tucked ourselves in with a good book (50 Shades of Grey anyone?), and then buckled ourselves into bed for the night.  At least I did in my coffin of a top bunk. We rolled into Chiang Mai bright and early the next morning.

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  2. Our guest house in Chiang Mai ~ Finlay’s Cottage.

Steph and I hadn’t booked a place for our first night in Chiang Mai, and since we were meeting Abby for a night we asked her to book us 1 night at Finlay’s Cottage, the place where she was staying.  We loved this place so much that we ended up cancelling our previous reservations and it ended up being our home base for our entire stay in Chiang Mai, both before and after Laos. We loved it that much! The man and woman who run the guest house are a couple of unlikely friends, but are somehow fantastically hilarious. The woman helped us book all our day trips, got us a great tuk tuk driver, made us delicious breakfasts every morning, woke us up to make sure we ate our breakfasts every morning, cancelled our prior reservations for us and made great sarcastic conversation with us when necessary.  The man is from Australia and just never returned, and the woman lived on Koh Phi Phi for 37 years as a masseuse, but when the tsunami hit she broke nearly all her bones and chose to relocate up north, and has been there ever since. They were top NOTCH!

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3. Thai Cooking Class With Beery.

I love cooking but it’s something that I just don’t really have the patience or timing for.  I like to think of myself as more of a “throw together whatever I have kinda chef” and it always works.  I’ve always wanted to take a cooking class in Thailand since I saw MayMay took one on her trip! I figured Steph and Abby were the perfect people to do this with since they are both chef masters.  We signed up for a wonderful cooking class at Asia Scenic Thai Cooking School and had a fabulously flamboyant instructor named Beery, who was just the cherry on top! It was boot camp in the most fun way possible.  We started with a trip to the local market, then went to the school’s garden to smell the herbs and plants native to Thai cuisine that we’d be cooking with, and then got down to cooking!  I made Pad See Ew (because it reminds me of Jessie), Kow Soi Curry and curry paste (the native curry to Chiang Mai which came recommended by MayMay), and Mango sticky rice.

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4. When I Discovered That Friendship Is Hoisting Your Friend Atop An Elephant.

We went on an all-day Mahout elephant trekking course through the jungle, atop the most gorgeous and friendly and massive animal in the world. We learned key commands to “drive” them, fed them endless amounts of sugar cane and bananas, struggled to hoist ourselves atop their massive bodies, struggled yet again to steer our still hormonal lady thru a jungle trek, squealed with glee whilst sliding down her trunk, and then took the most glorious bath in the world with her even though it was filled with piles of shit, I’m sure.  This is my favorite photo from the trip. I really made an ass out of myself, but at least I know who’s got me from all angles as I migrate through this world of ours.

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5. Taking This Photo For National Geographic While Sitting In Tiger Pee.

We didn’t really take it for National Geographic, but we might as well have.  We spent an afternoon at the Tiger Kingdom in Chiang Mai posing with a 3 month old tiger, a 5 month old tiger, and then this full grown tiger. We even saw this guy snap at someone.  OPEN WIDE and guard your life!

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6. Getting Annoyed By Chinese Tourists While Trying to Observe the Long Neck Karan Tribe.

The Long Neck Karan tribe native to Chiang Mai is a bit of a circus detour, but I really wanted to see it since this tribe is the one thing that I’ve always remembered since going to Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! as a child.  We went, it was awkward and fascinating, and then we got annoyed by the Chinese tourists that always come in loud like they own the place with zero respect.

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7. When Steph Walked Like An Ajumma Up The Massive Stairway to Wat Doi Suthep.

The greatest Wat (temple) in Chiang Mai is Wat Doi Suthep, and it’s located at the tippy top of a massive mountain.  To get there you have to take a tuk tuk, to a red jeep and then walk up the insane stairway.  Here is Steph getting back to her Korean roots en route to the top.

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8. Riding In The Back Of A Pick Up Truck While Crossing The Laos Border.

We decided to take the slow boat journey from Chiang Mai to Luang Prabang.  This consisted of a 7 hour minibus to the border, where our small group was greeted by a pick up truck, and we were instructed to hop into the bed of it and stand. Obediently we did so.  FEELIN LIKE A CHOLA.

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9. A Dramatic Reading Of 50 Shades of Grey In French In The Middle Of Nowhere, Laos.

We spent the night in creepy cabins in the middle of nowhere Laos as we awaited our boat ride along the Mekong the next morning.  Our fellow companions were a Swiss couple and our newly made travel companion, French lassie Audrey. Their common language was French, and having never heard of the epic 50 Shades of Grey before, our new friend decided to translate the novel for his lady.  It was oh so sexy.

10. The Sweetest Sendoff From Adorable Laotian Babies As We Set Off On The Mekong.

We woke up bright and early and were escorted to our private boat for our Mekong River cruise.  Our escort service couldn’t have been any more adorable if it tried.  Heart. Melt.

11. Our First Laotian Meal Of Various Flavors Of….Buffalo Jerky.

Steph, Audrey and I set out to try our first Laotian meal since arriving in Luang Prabang.  We turned down a sleepy road in the early-to-sleep city, and perused a menu of our selected restaurant.  There were so many oddly named items, so we took it upon ourselves to order the ones that stood out the most to us.  I believe mine was called “Day Meat Smashed Style”. Basically, we all got variously flavored versions of buffalo jerky.  Needless to say, we were not impressed and stuck to baguettes from the street food vendors for the remainder of our stay in Luang Prabang.

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12.  This Pleasant Lady And Her Amazing Baguettes.

This woman had such a pleasant aura about her, and call me a weirdo, but I loved watching her make her sandwiches. She was so calm, and her sandwiches were so amazing. They were massive and I scarfed them DOWN.  I always got her chicken, brie, tomato, avocado, lettuce and cucumber sandwich and boy did it satisfy.  I also loved that she was one of the only street food stands that had all of her food covered and away from the flies.  Sanitation!!!

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13. Meeting A 16 Year Old Monk Who Loves to Speak English With Foreigners.

We were making our way up to Wat Chom Si atop Pousi Hill just before sunset when we met this friendly monk, Bee.  He is 16 years old and was so sweet and friendly.  He told us about how he loves studying English and hopes to one day travel to America, and loves hanging out on that walk up to the top because so many foreigners come through and it gives him a chance to practice his English.  It was so refreshing to meet someone as young and eager as him to learn and practice, especially after working with Korean students who a lot of the time can care less about learning English. We exchanged information and are now Facebook friends! 🙂

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14. Taking This Glorious Photo Atop Pousi Hill.

Audrey was traveling by herself, and was a lovely addition to our stay in Luang Prabang.  Im so glad we got this awesome photo of the three of us!

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15. Going to Kuang Si Waterfall And Doing A Boob Flop Rope Jump.

We made the journey out to Kuang Si Waterfall with Audrey and 5 Germans that we met.  It was a gorgeous hike in, and once there we got to swim in the springs, and if we wanted, jump from the rope hanging from the tree.  I of course wanted to do it, but was deathly scared once I got up onto the tree.  It was SO slippery, and I was trembling as I used the wooden stick to grab the swinging rope to clutch between my shaking hands. I was a ball of nerves!  Klutzy McKlutz over here.  Well, I didn’t hold high enough on the rope, and when I swung I barely swung and BOOB FLOPPED flat into the water so hard that my top came off under water.  FAIL. But awesome.  This is the face I made upon emerging and confirming my breasts were still in tact.

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16. Observing A Man In a Diaper Walk Down The Street Carrying A Machete.

As the heading says, a man with deathly leather colored skin traipsed down the street wearing nothing but a sheet-like diaper, while carrying nothing but a machete.  I felt safe.

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17. Temple Hopping And Bicycle Riding.

One thing I always try to do while traveling is spend a day with a map in hand and my tuchous on a bicycle seat.  It’s so whimsical and I think the best way to see a city.  Luang Prabang is probably one of the best cities to do this in because it’s so small and quaint.  So, we spent a day temple hopping, monk spotting and drink sipping on our bikes, and it was a beautiful, hot and sweaty day!

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18. Bargaining My Face Off At The Most Colorful Night Market I’ve Ever Been To.

I LOVE night marketing while I travel, and the market in Luang Prabang exceeded my expectations.  It was by far my favorite night market I’ve ever been to.  The colors were so bright everywhere I turned, and the handmade items being sold were so fun and vibrant and unique.  I bargained like it was my job and ended up snagging a pretty awesome travel bag for a sweet deal.  I love this photo I took, and every time I look at it I just want to pop back there!

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19. Meeting New Friends At The All Vegetarian Buffet At The Night Market.

While Instagramming, Steph stumbled upon a guy’s posting of this all vegetarian buffet just off of the night market.  There was a massive spread of food that you put on a plate and then a guy heated it all up for you in a wok.  It was for something outrageous like $5, and was so delicious! We pulled up a seat with everyone else and nommed down on our food. We met some fascinating friends from France, Argentina and Mauritius that we spent the rest of our last evening with.  It’s moments like this when I realize why I love traveling.

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20. Sitting In The Back Of Our Second Pick Up Truck Crossing The Thailand Border.

We did it once, and we did it twice.  Southeast Asia seems to follow Mexico’s lead when it comes to border crossing, because I’ve never felt more illegal in my life.  Sometimes it feels good to live life on the edge.  At least we had a stamp in our passeporto.

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21. Stumbling Upon This Awesome Art Shop In Chiang Mai.

On our last day in Chiang Mai, we randomly stumbled into this art studio/shop filled with a man’s artwork strewn about with every life and travel quote imaginable.  We spent a wild amount of time wandering and finding the perfect purchases for ourselves and our parents.  We both chose pieces for our parents with quotes about our own need to wander the world, and how no matter where we are they’re always in our hearts.

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22.  These Young Boys Getting Massages In Bangkok.

Because they were such babies and they looked so funny and adorable getting a group massage.  I couldn’t help myself.  They were 18 years old.  BABIES!

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23. These Gangnam Style Sandals On Khaosan Rd.

Well, because there would be no better send off back to Koko than to see Psy displayed on some footwear.

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Well, there you have it.  Chiang Mai and Luang Prabang in a somewhat brief pictoral nutshell.  I hope you enjoyed despite my tardiness! Better late than never!!

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Party In The USA!

So far 2012 was my favorite year to date, but it kind of ended with a little bit of a thud for me, so naturally the thought of fleeing the country for a couple glorious weeks was well received.  And what better distraction than 2 weeks stateside with family, friendzies, puppies, beach and lots and lots of cheese.  Nothing that I can think of.

Breathable air, a handsome black man displayed under the “Welcome to the United States of America” sign, and a fat screaming black woman ushering American Airlines passengers to their connections were the first three WELCOME BACK TO AMERICA’s that I got. Then came Mama Schaeff surprising me from behind at the curb, the puppy kisses from Presley, the “Why did you leave me?” ‘I’m mad at you’ stares from Cilla, and the jumping around the car hugs with sista!! Only to be followed up with the greatest welcome home surprise party ever!  Not only was there Porto’s and mimosas, but there was Wawa, Brianne, Kendra, MayMay, Jeanelly, Joel, Justin and the whole fambam. Ahhhhh it felt good to be back in the greatest country in the world!!!

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Seeing as this was my first time back in the states in nearly 1.5 years, I was totally eager to see what super weird Korean things I was gonna carry back with me. To my surprise, I don’t think there were too too many.  My stomach definitely shrunk and I could only eat about half the portion that I could before making kimchi a daily staple in my life.  Jacquie told me I talk way more with my hands, but I also talked like a freakin Italian before I left anyways, but I guess it became a little more dramatic.  But I like dramatic, so hmpf! The big thing for me was the shoes in the house thing. I obviously don’t care about wearing shoes in the house while I’m home, but since living in these parts I keep an almost completely Korean household with regards to outer footwear on my precious floors. Except for when I forget something and my shoes are already on.  Then I wear my shoes in the house. Screw crawling across the floor, no time for that. I’m walking. Swiffer that shit later. However, when I arrived at my surprise party, the first thing I did (after hugging everyone that was there and complimenting them all on their great boots), was say how I needed to take my boots off because it felt weird to walk inside with my shoes on. Here I am sitting with May May wearing her boots, and me wearing my jazzy socks, and my suitcase throwing up beside me.

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The whole time that I was home I was constantly moving, with the exception of my first Sunday home where I slept straight through the night and day until 5:30pm. Heyo jet lag! I’ll take a quick lil wander through the highlights of my trip and all of the beautiful faces I saw and glutinous cuisine I stuffed my face with.

The first thing I did after resting my peepers from a day of travel, was head up to Santa Barbara for some Mexican food and a night out with the Fab 4 and sista!  It was May’s little sister’s 21st birthday, so the alumni came back to show her how it’s done (or tried to). In the end, we realized that in our old age we just can’t hang quite like we used to.

Nomz.

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Kamikazi shots at Sandbar. Where’s the Cassie song?

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Jonesy and sista also sang their own interpretation of Rihanna’s “Diamond.” Give your ears a treat, will you?

Sista and I had a wondrous dinner at Lala’s in Weho with the two handsome brothas Dicecca, followed by Koreanizing Michael Claudio and showing them my Korean hangul (alphabet) skills. They were easily impressed with my enhanced Asian genes.

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The next day (a bit delayed), came the cream of the fatass crop.  I finally stepped foot into an In N Out establishment, and it was even better than it tastes in my dreams.

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Moving onto other excruciatingly delicious things, let me introduce you to the latest pledge to the FRAT house, the gorgeous lil Georgia Jeanne!

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And another gorgeous human modeling his new PSY socks. ❤ Chizzy!

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The next day, Jessie and I helped MayMay celebrate her 29th birthday over heaping bowls of Pho Tai. All things very nom.  I was so happy when the little Vietnamese workers remembered me and asked where I’ve been! They were quite shocked when I told them I lived in Korea now, but very happy when I told them I’d visited their country on my travels.

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Then came Friday, MLK weekend, and the arrival of some of the best friends on the planet!!! Bret, Kayla, Jeanette and Priya all flew in from San Jose and NYC for my birthday weekend, and I must say, that was the best gift I could ever ask for! The weekend was one of the best I’ve had in a really long time.  Absence definitely made the heart grow fonder, and it was so unbelievable to know that even though almost 2 years had gone by since we’d all seen each other, we just picked up right where we left off. It’s so lovely to get older and know that your friends are still so close to your heart no matter all the distance or time between.

My birthday party was on Saturday January 19th at Bodega in Santa Monica, and I could not have asked for a better turn out!  People that I honestly thought were not going to show, showed up, even if only for a quick hug and a smooch on the cheek.  I originally didn’t even want to come home for a visit (sorry), but everyone really made it 150% worth it, and I’m so glad I came 🙂 So, here’s a gander at some of my fave moments as I rang in the last year of my 20s.

Perhaps the favorite, most unexpected of the night was this wonderful guy. Twas so amazing to see Nicholas.

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Brotha was VERY excited to see Nick, and of course talk the sports.

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Siblings Schaeff and one Ho-el.

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The Agoura+ shot. We finally got it good, then Brotha did that!

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TAYLOR LAUTNER CAME! JK.  But my favorite New Zealander and vulgar conversationalist came.  I freakin love you, Alavi!

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Baller & Whore, but he doesn’t call me that anymore because I am a lady. BFFFFFFFFFFFFF4lyfe ❤

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The 1, the only, the FAB 4.

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My beauties clappin somethin out.

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YES.YES.YES. Happiness embodied.

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SBeezy in the Heezy!!!

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Good girl’s gotta get down wit the gangsta!  Love our T$!

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Bromance and a princess of mine.  My favorite part of this photo is Rami wearing Bretty’s sweater.  True LOVE.

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The ladies of LALA who made my 20s the most unforgettable ❤

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Salmon pants and a sassy Asian.  Can’t ask for more!

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My favorite intern ever!!!!!!!! And also just one of my favorite human beings ever.

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I can always count on this pretty lady to show up to a coming or going party.  God bless our crazy ex-bosses dysfunctional relationship because we had the chance to meet each other ❤

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Here was a nice little cherry on top, minus the poor lighting. I love all you guys!

The next day was my actual birthday.  The day began as LA as you can get.  Cruising down Wilshire Blvd. in Danni’s Audi convertible, getting green smoothies, rubbing elbows with one Sofia Vergara, and then popping off to an afternoon of brunching, bouncing around a baby Georgiecakes, and planting our butts in the warm Venice beach sand. It was by far the best most beautiful birthday I have ever had.  Thanks guys 🙂

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Sorry Fran and Nick, we are stealing your child.  Meet Mr. & Mrs. Schaeffenchiz and our baby girl Laverne.

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What a beautiful lesbian family you guys make.

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Awkward poses with baby props.

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My trip revolved around lots of important people’s birthdays, and on Tuesday was Mama Schaeff’s birthday! Jacquie and I took her out for a nomtastic dinner, and this is the video I took of her enjoying her chocolate cake and strawberry a little more than anticipated!

On my last day in the land of LA, sista and I went to visit our cousin Danny and his dazzling girlfriend, Nicole, at their boutique, Clover, in Silverlake (cloversilverlake.com).  It was sooo nice to see them and see what they have done to the store.  If you live in the area you definitely have to go!  We caught up on life, travels, work, family and also took many unflattering photos along the way.  Here’s the cutest one, where we cut out Danny’s 10 chins.

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When it really clicked that I was going back to Korea it was a little bittersweet.  I think the two weeks was the perfect amount of time to be home, because by the end I was definitely ready to return and pop off to somewhere in the orient. My last night was a little weird, but I think that’s because it was setting in for everyone that I was leaving again for who knows how long.  As I packed up my 62 lb bag, Cilla laid at the edge of the bed just staring at me, like she knew I was leaving and she was prepared to be mad at me for another year 😦 I definitely miss those babyloves maybe more than anything ❤

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My flight was the next morning bright and early, and I was pissed because my mom didn’t come to the airport with me.  She knows very well!!!! So this time I left back to Korea with tears AGAIN.  Drastically (DRASTICALLY) less than the first time, but tears nonetheless.  Jacquie was sick, so she got a get out of jail free card, so I was off to the airport with Papa and Brotha Schaeff.  I of course had my standard airport anxiety, on top of a stupidly heavy load of luggage that my dad was shlepping around for me.  I always get bitchy when I’m stressed, so I felt a bit bad for how I was acting right before I left.  Nonetheless, here is the last known photo of father, daughter and son before I escaped to the Orient yet again.

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All in all, a trip home was so necessary.  I really needed to get out of Korea and see the faces of the ones I love so much at home, and get a little perspective, because some things over here hit the fan before I left. So, to everyone who made my trip home unbelievable, many many many times one million thank yous!!! ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤

Last but not least, there were of course those things that popped out to me as either things I felt differently about or did differently since returning home. Perhaps the biggest that I noticed was something more than just things I say or do.  Obviously most people in the world do not chose to go live in a country other than their own at their own accord, or travel the world for more than a few weeks  at a time.  So, already that is a huge thing that has set me apart from the people that I associate with home. While everyone at home will always be that part of me that no one else will ever be able to fully know, let me put this bluntly, I almost felt like I didn’t entirely belong anymore. It’s not as bad as it sounds.  I just think that I have wanted to live abroad for SO DAMN LONG, and now that it’s finally happened and been in motion, and I’ve been surrounded by others who have picked up and moved their lives across the globe as well, this side of me that never got the chance to completely flourish has finally found its way out and found others who are passionate about the same thing in the same capacity.  It was most apparent to me during times when catching up about relationships and jobs, and times when everyone would ask me where I’ve been, and where I’m going next.  It’s like people were fascinated with what I’ve seen and where I’ve gone, but at the same time wondering when I’d be back in the states and what did I plan to do once this “vacation” was over.  I couldn’t even put a pin on what the emotion was that I was feeling the whole time until a friend who had lived abroad some years ago, asked me how it felt to be home.  I couldn’t really explain it, and then she said the words “you don’t feel like you fit in anymore, do you?” Ding ding. Life’s funny.

So yea, sorry to end on a weird note.  I’m sure I will be back home by the end of the year, but only for a minute 😉 Being home felt amazing, but being abroad and traveling the world feels more amazing to me. Life is just crazy and I feel like everything is happening so fast these days.  But if there’s one thing I am so freakin thankful for, it’s all of you fine folks that I will always call home 🙂

LOVE YOU ALLLLLLZ  (and come visit me) ❤

A Pupu Platter Of 2012 Whathaveyous

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!!!!!

Wow, another year has come and gone, and I must say, 2012 was my favorite year of my almost-29 years gracing this planet.  So much that I had always dreamt of in years past same to fruition this year, and I can honestly say I am in the best place I have ever been in my life.  And it feels damn good 😉

I had made the resolution in 2011 that by the end of the year I would be living a life abroad ~ check.  In 2012 I promised myself I would do absolutely as much traveling of Asia as possible.  I came to Korea to conquer this continent like a blaze of fire, and in looking back I can say I did just that.  Along with the travel resolutions, I really put my best foot forward to work on getting what I really want, and making that start from within.  I try my best to communicate what I want, but a lot of time it fails when walls get put up, or life just gets in the way.  So, I’ve really tried to be as self-aware as possible just be the best version of myself and hope that it brings with it what I truly want.  That being said, 2012 has definitely been the happiest and most honest year to date 🙂

Now I’m just gonna throw together a few highlights from each month of 2012. Badabing herrrrrr goes!

I began the year on the beach in Koh Phangan, covered in florescent body paint and drinking liquor by the buckets with one of my dearest and oldest friends on the planet ~ my fave biatch and sista from anotha mista, Miz Diamond ❤

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January marked my first birthday to be celebrated away from everyone I’ve always shared my (obviously) favorite holiday with.  I felt a little down about it, then in flew a gift from THE BEST sista ever ~ Sista Schaeff in the flesh, in Korea!

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On her last night here, she snuggled my foot to sleep.  BY CHOICE! ❤

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In February I visited two of my favorite countries so far ~ Vietnam and Cambodia. I saw some of the most beautiful snorkeling waters, caught my first fish, shot my first gun, ate a bowl of pho a day, wondered why they allow Americans in, and saw my life flash before me about 1million times while in ‘Nam.

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In Cambodia I visited the most breathtaking temples I have ever seen, spent an afternoon with beautiful children in an orphanage on the river, saw insurmountable beauties in some of the deepest poverty stricken eyes, and struggled to hold back tears while walking through a living history at the Killing Fields and S-21 genocide museum remnants from the Khmer Rouge of the 70s~80s.

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In March I visited the happiest place on earth, AKA the DMZ, for the second time.  This time we rode bikes along the most intensely guarded border in the world, all while Obama paid the peninsula a visit and peered over to the North with us.

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April means Passover, which also means the sea parts in Korea.  I made the trek down south with a homie and we met Moses, crossed the parted sea and drank makkoli while doing so, obvi.

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Later in April, my favorite story to date came to be.  A couple morons went to a Lady GaGa concert.  They got all gussied up in the hottest of pink and the tightest of attire, only to miss the whole thing whilst trying to attain the most coveted seats in the house during the “GaGa cover band”…. *face palm* At least we looked sexy.

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In May, Wawa came for a visit.  We did many things, but by far our favorite day was our “Day of Culture.”  We visited Gyeongbukgong Palace, learned about the creation of Hangul (the Korean alphabet), ate a traditional lunch, drank tea in a lovely tea house, dressed up and cracked up in Hanbok (traditional Korean dress), and wrapped up with a journey to the Noryangjin Fish Market.  Twas a wondrous day!

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Then came June, and Buddha’s birthday.  A crew of us high-tailed out of Seoul to Gangneung, a little beach town on the East Sea. There were makkoli and soju spurred chicken fights, sexy man-wrestles, toasty bonfires, crashing of high class fancy Korean booking clubs and frisbee games resulting in broken pinky toes and racial slurs. The Buddhaman had an awesome birthday!!

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Then came July and two events which could be classified as the greatest events of the century. One more than the other, but one got more hype than the other according to the Facebook.  You can use your own judgement on that one.  One required us to dress to the nines to bid adieu to all the homies we grew to call family, and also the ones we grew apart from because a lot of people that came with us were weirdos, let’s face it. The other required some prior temple-sculpting, lots and lots and lots of soju, mudmudmud and practically no clothes. Mud Fest was by far my favorite event of 2012.  Shit was CRAY TO THE MAX!

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August was the most bittersweet month of the year I’d say.  It was sweet because I took a 2.5 week summer jaunt on over to the Philippines with my lovely lass from home, Brianne.  We saw some of the most picturesque islands, snorkeled and ate our faces off, hiked miles in our little warrior Havaianas, posed with stalagtites, missed the whale sharks, got in a fist fight with a very mean typhoon, and let tempers fly with shitty budget airlines.

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August was bitter because our contracts ended and some left KoKo and I had to face the harsh reality that the world as I knew it was shattering before me.  Well, that’s an over-dramatization, but that’s how it felt at the time dammit. I also got thrown into my deathbed by some plague I contracted in the Philippines.   So, not only were my friends leaving, but I was deathly ill and partying with an IV in the hospital, unable to hand out proper goodbye hugs. NOT COOL WORLD.

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Then on rolled September.  Grabbing my bearings on who was still left in my Seoul-cial circle happened naturally.  I got back in the go-out mode (at least for the time being), and some friendships from the previous year had the chance to blossom.  Late in the month for Chuseok holiday, a group of us gals decided to pop off to Osaka and Kyoto, Japan with boy toy Joshy. We frolicked by bicycle all over Kyoto, made the most of the typhoon stricken city by stuffing our faces with enough sushi and sake to fuel an army, and tore up (literally) a karaoke room.  Best weekend ever!!!

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October was of course Halloween, and we got down with our bad selves…and Bob the Builder.

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In November I actually had a REAL Thanksgiving, none of that Pho shit (pardon me, it’s just not suitable cuisine for Thanksgiving).  Josh Rich was also in town as my 6th visitor to the Orient. A Happy Happy Turkey Day it was!

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And last but not least, I think the winner for best December event goes to my dance crew’s (WORD TO YO MAMA’S HIGH WAISTED JEANS) epic ass kicking in the 90s dance battle for the African kids. Real winners put in the effort, and effort we put in. Obviously you would know this had you been at our latke-rehearsal party, our cheese and crackers rehearsal party where Matty ripped his jeans, and our final rehearsal party that almost interfered with us attending the actual party because we were too focused on perfecting our dance.  What a BOMB DIGGITY way send out 2012!!!

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As you can see, 2012 was quite the year, and it’s been a pleasure looking back on it with you. Here’s to an even better 2013, and going home to America in 10 days!!!!!!!

PEACE & CHICKEN GREASE, HOMIEZ.

Konichiwa Bitchez ^^

Chuseok a year ago marked my very first “I’m so happy I’m in Korea moment.”  My newly found group of friends and I took our haven’t-been-paid-yet-broke-asses to Muuido island off the coast of Incheon, and it was magnificent.  I couldn’t help but think back to that long weekend a year ago as I was taking off from Seoul headed to Osaka, Japan.  A year ago I had found a group of 3 girls who at the time were my best friends in Korea.  2 of them have come and gone from our lil circle, and one fine lassie was added to the mix for good.  A lot can happen in a year, and it has definitely been the best year of my life so far.

And the number one reason why this year has been the tops, is because as of Chuseok 2012, I have traveled to 6 countries in Asia.  Since we are now making monies, a group of us decided to peace out of Korea for the long weekend and cross the sea on over to Japan! We ended up snagging expensive-for-flights-to Japan, but reasonably-priced-for-the-holiday flights to Osaka.  Steph went a couple days before, then me, Katie and Josh(ephine) joined, with Jeewon a day behind us.  It was an awesome girls trip plus Joshy boy.  He really practiced patience, and learned a lot about Adele and the cleanliness habits of girls during the long weekend.  Props to you sir.

The three of us arrived in Osaka around 5pm, then had to navigate through the horribly organized train system that makes up Japan.  We are definitely spoiled with the brilliant and user-friendly subway on this peninsula, lemme tell ya! Luckily Josh met a girl on the plane who, along with giving him useful phrases to add to his list, also helped us figure out how to get to our hostel. Bless our giant Joshephine! My first thoughts upon arrival in Japan were that it is so clean and everyone on the street has their own STYLE.  It was so refreshing to see, because while Korea is stylish, it’s also super buttoned up and repressed for individuality.  I was also amazed by the amount of people reading BOOKS and not on their smart phones.  This was like a cool drink of refreshing water!

So we made it to our hostel in the funky Americamura district, got some nomtastic bubble tea (boba) and a dinner of the most delicious beef I have ever had the pleasure of sinking my teeth into.  It must have been because we were eating amidst an angel.

Here is what our hostel looked like.  It was as if we went to sleep away camp for the weekend! Or a frat house, however you want to spin it. Minus the uncleanliness.

And this is our bathroom.  I envisioned 6’4″ Josh like Buddy the Elf trying to cleanse himself in that teeny little space.

The next morning we woke up bright and early and were off to Kyoto, which was about 30 minutes by train.  We dropped our bags off at the guest house and were off to bike around the city for the day.  Kyoto felt like such a quaint little city, not like we were in a big city at all.

Our first stop was at the Golden Pavilion, or Kinkaku-ji.  It was this massive golden palace with no windows set beside a beautiful lake.  Once we got in it was like we stepped into a Sailor Moon field trip.

We were also greeted by this very polite Japanese man and his spread legs.

Joshy and Steph were also celebrity status when they got  interviewed by a slew of giddy Japanese school girls.

After looking at the temple, we tried a bunch of delicious flavors of mochi (Japanese rice cakes) and the most AMAZING wasabi peanuts.  I almost died and went to wasabi heaven.  Here is Katie trying to figure out which nuts to buy.

Next we biked to the Imperial Palace, but since we could only go inside with an appointment, we biked around the perimeter and scoped out the lush flora.

After the Imperial Palace we needed to orient ourselves, so Katie and I took the liberty of hopping into the map to grab our bearings.

Then we were off to bike along the river.  This area was just beside the Gion district of Osaka, which is also known as the Geisha district.  While biking along the river I felt like I had been plopped down in Europe somewhere.  It completely did not feel like Asia to me.  There were street musicians and dancers and painters and everyday people just sitting on the side of the river reading books and drawing and talking.  It was gorgeous and it was one of the things that made me fall in love with Japan, especially Kyoto.

After riding along the river we parked our bikes and went to see what Gion was about.  It was a small area with a lot of hustle bustle, but still very quaint and historical feeling.

We crossed the road with a couple of geishas.

Saw some more geishas.

Saw the Gion Red Temple gate.

And gawked at the amazingness of Japanese snacks.  And this is only the deli-ish section.  Korea please take note.

We had then planned to bike further south to another shrine that we all wanted to see, but unfortunately it was starting to rain and getting late and we had to return our bikes.  So, we headed out for a much earned and DELICIOUS conveyor belt sushi dinner that our homie Moe from the guest house suggested. It was bomb….except for the accidental sampling of raw horse.  SICK.

The next day, thankfully not sick from the horse,  Steph and I planned to splurge on a day trip to Hiroshima to see Miyajima Island and the Atomic bomb museum, however a typhoon decided to hit Japan and we opted to save our $300 and stay in the typhooning Kyoto for the day.  We didn’t realize how bad the weather was til we were on the outskirts of Kyoto at a Bamboo forest, which would have been gorgeous had it not been for the awful weather.  Here are my homies trying to figure out what direction the bathroom is in.

So we called that quits fast and got the train back to Kyoto where we traded in our umbrellas for full body ponchos, and decided to spend the afternoon eating Japanese nomz inside.

Yakisoba noodles with seafood!

Okonomiyaki pancake, which I swear tasted like the holidays to me.  Almost like a gingerbread cookie oddly enough.  It was okkk

After stuffing our faces, we tried to figure out a plan for the evening.  Moe helped us decide on going to a Kabuki/Geisha/tea ceremony show in Gion, which we were really excited about….that is until we got there and saw THIS SIGN.  If you can’t read it, it says that the theater is closed due to the typhoon.  Angry birds we were.

OH WELL, guess we’ll go get shitfaced on sake and sushi and hit up a karaoke room instead. Cue sloppiest, most fantastical night ever. God bless the little Japanese fellas who had to clean up after our disaster.

This is what 30 bottles of sake….

 

and Celine Dion looks like, if you were curious.

It was an awesome last night with all of us together, and the next morning we checked out and popped back on up to Osaka for a day of exploring, and saying bye to Steph.

Our first matter of business was to rest after our wild night, and then hit up Osaka Castle, which played a major role in the unification of Japan during the sixteenth century.

Once inside we read about all the different wars and heirs that occupied the castle…..and most importantly, we got to play geisha for 15 minutes.

We were getting hungry (and one boy quite cranky) and decided to head to Namba and the River walk.  We got the most tasty ramen at a little hole in the wall place on Dotonbori street, which is the most famous street in all of Osaka.

I regret to say I didn’t eat any Takoyaki (octopus balls), but here is what they look like and how they’re made.  Next time I go back to Japan I promise myself I’ll try, because apparently they’re bombtastic.

After stuffing our faces, we did what any normal person in Japan does.  We went to an arcade and Katie and Jeewon broke it down on the DDR with a silly looking, hardcore DDR Japanese boy.  Here’s a video to show you just how asian they are.

We ended our last night in Osaka by trying to ride an extremely ginormous ferris wheel on the river, but failed miserably when we got there too late.  Instead we decided to sit, talk, eat the massive amounts of mochi and snacks and green tea kit kats (and a 1/5 of booze for Josh) on the side of the river before catching the last train back to our hotel.

Overall, Japan was awesome!!!! I am so in love with it and glad I got to experience it with the lovely bunch of friendsies that I did.  The people there are so polite and exude attitude and style and individuality, which I love, especially after coming from Korea.  Obviously Korea will always hold a special place in my heart, it was just that they’re such different cultures, and I wasn’t really expecting that.

Until we meet again, sayonara Japan!!!

 

The Philippines: An Ode To My Havaianas

To wrap up my twelfth month of living abroad, I decided that instead of going home with my additional 2 weeks vacation, I would go and travel to another exotic land for a couple weeks.  I decided I wanted to go to the Philippines after hearing rave reviews from some friends who went in the winter.  For starters,  I was trying to think who from home would drop life in a snap and meet me in the Orient.  Other than my sister, that person would be Brianne, and life she did drop for a couple of beach basking weeks in the biggest archipelago in the world!  It didn’t even take any coaxing.  The mere question was asked and the dates were secured off from work within a week.  BOOM!  One thing that I am extremely grateful for is having friends who are so eager to travel and come meet me all over the world.  It definitely helps to ease a little bit of the homesickness that could easily have crept in far earlier.

Going to the Philippines was actually both mine and Brianne’s first trip where the primary activity that we’d be doing would be relaxing, so to begin, we were both in unfamiliar territory.  What? Vacation? RELAX?! NO! Oh, but YES! However, our vacation did not start out relaxing.  Not in the least bit.  We had to work up to that one.

Lack of relaxation began all the way in LA, starting with Brianne’s trip.  Her flight was delayed I think 18 hours, then it was rerouted, and even had an emergency landing in Hawaii, just because the other delays weren’t enough. My trip also started with a bit of high strung action as I bolted through Incheon airport like I had a Buzz Lightyear jet pack on my back because the security did not understand “GATE CLOSED” while I was still standing in the security line. Zest Air apparently had some technical difficulties at their check in counter.   Despite the momentary airport nerves, I made it to Manila on time, unlike Brianne. I had half a day before her new scheduled arrival, so I treated myself to a 2 hour massage and some dinner amidst what we would later find out to be the Red Light District of Makati in Manila. I knew it felt sketchball city when all those creepy eyes were following me. The next morning I had a brief panic attack because Brianne still hadn’t arrived and it was already 8:30am.  Thank GOD for my sister  who called the airline to get an update on Brianne’s flight for me.  This was when I learned about all the rerouting and whatnot.  Of course I was expecting only the worse.  Around noon, I decided to go get a coffee while I waited for her arrival, when cue yellow cabby coming up the street with a very exhausted looking Brianne in the backseat, and me bolting after the cab as if my life depended on it.  She was trying so hard to tune me out (because she thought I was a mother begging for money) that she didn’t even realize it was me til I was pounding on the window.  I retrieved her (and her Peruvian money) safe and sound and we rejoiced in each others arms! Let our vacation begin!!!!

We started our first official vacation day together off with a bang.  After Brianne did a quick freshening up, we hitched a cab to Intramuros, which from my research is really all there is to see in Manila that’s of any historical note.  Intramuros means “The Walled City,” and it’s the original portion of the city that is still standing after the Spanish colonization and destruction.  We were given a less than romantic tour through the walled city via horse and carriage in the rain by our tour guide, Nestor, and his horse with the ever-growing poop bag.

Manila Metropolitan Cathedral, as seen from our horse and carriage.

We befriended some girls in leopard pants who just wanted to sing Justin Bieber and “Call Me Maybe.”

We also got a little frisky with the Filipino presidents.

We got some awkwardly angled photos taken by Nestor in St. Agustin’s Cathedral.  Fun fact, the ceiling is painted, not carved.

We made a lovely little friend, Jonathan, at the Casa de Manila. He was precious and we were practicing our Korean with each other.

We went to Baluarte de San Diego, which was where the Spaniards kept their prisoners.  When the water would rise they would be tortured and drowned.

After our tour of Intramuros, Nestor decided to give us even more of a tour.  He took us through China Town, which continued the shitholeness of Manila. The streets were unlike streets I have ever seen.  Gah!

He even took us almost all the way back to our nook in the Red Light District, until his wheel broke. He hustled us far too much for our day’s journey, and why I didn’t pitch a fit, I don’t know.  But Nestor got away with murder that day. Oh well, twas a grand day nonetheless and I’m sure him and his mistresses ate well for a week!  Adios Manila!!

Next we were off to Donsol, which proved to be a bit of a bust, but still beautiful! First, we flew into the further of the two airports and had to take a 3 hour van (with many Disney stuffed animals) to Donsol that cost an arm and a leg.  Second, I should have trusted my gut on this one, but of course I didn’t. We went to Donsol because the region is famous for Whale Sharks!  My homie 4names told me that you can go there and snorkel with them and I instantly wanted to jump on that opportunity.  However, I knew it was the off season and that they’d migrate, but I didn’t realize that they completely stopped taking boats out to find them, which they do.  Boo.  For future travelers to Donsol, the best time to go is in the winter months!

Unfortunately, this is the closest I got to a gloriously large Whale Shark (they’re the largest fish in the world, are vegetarians, and known as gentle giants….so they’re not Great Whites mom!) I WILL be back to do this eventually!!

So, instead of swimming with whale sharks, we drank red wine on our patio, got a buzz, went on the river to watch fireflies mate, and then retired to our boudoir to read our books side by side.  Totally the same, right?

The next day we were off to the spectacular city of Naga (where the airport from hell was).  The owner of our hotel in Donsol, May, was the sweetest woman ever.  She reminded me of Chaz Bono in appearance, but what an angel she was.  We were her only patrons, so she took it upon herself to accompany us to Naga and make sure we got a place to stay while we were there.  She hopped in a tricycle with us when the van broke down upon entering Naga, and was just the kindest.  I’m a strong believer in people living up to their names (I love Mays, and Joshes can suck it).  So, we finally found a place that was quite luxurious, a wee bit out of our budget, and had “beds” which as far as we are concerned, were only box springs.

The next day is the worst day in the history of our Filipino adventure.  We were supposed to have a full 4 days in beautiful Boracay, but instead we were stranded in the Naga airport for 8 hours while Manila flooded and every Air Phil Express plane had to be rerouted, while every Cebu Air plane took off according to plan.  Long story short, we finally got out of the foodless airport and into Manila late that night, and I had to pitch a fit for them to actually put us up in a hotel in Manila that was infested with hookers and pee.  We got on the first flight out the next morning, after I reached my limit and pitched another fit when our flight was delayed ever-so-slightly….. again.

OH!  HELLO LOVER!! Never have crystal clear aquamarine waters looked more beautiful than after spending 8 hours in the worst airport ever, and another unwanted evening in the slums of Manila.  We finally arrived in Boracay!!! We checked into our hotel, none other than La Isla Bonita, grabbed some breakfast and a cocktail (but not after I had a cranky “bacon” moment), snagged some new sunnies, sucked back a coconut and HIT. THE. BEACH. and got very very burnt.

The rest of our stay in Boracay consisted of snorkeling, meeting other awesome teachers from Korea that I can’t wait to see again, beach basking, drinking and shopping.  All that’s really necessary is a pictoral journey of our stay in paradise.

I enjoyed my favorite tropical snack.

While Brianne felt otherwise.

We snorkeled amidst the glorious waters…

With Panama Ji-ho and all of his closest life-jacket clad Korean chingus. Fun (or not so fun) fact, Asians suffer the most drownings in the Philippines because many can’t swim.

We went to Crystal Cove Island, where we saw stalagmites/tites, and climbed on rocks while pretending to be Ariel from The Little Mermaid.

We got back to our dancer/cheerleader roots and put on quite the performance with a rope.

Played with electric blue sea life.

I also got this heinous photo of me with the living water balloon, Flounder, the puffer fish!  He was slimey and gross and gave me the heeby jeebies!

We also went out and met some hip peeps, and some tools who ended up being kind of fun as well.  Can you spot the toolbox keeper?

Boracay was everything I had hoped it would be!  Alas, we were off to the final island of our hopping, and boy was it our fave! Last but not least was Palawan, home of El Nido, the cutest, most quaint and lovely little place.

Palawan is the biggest island on the west side of the Philippines.  For the first time on our trip, our flights were all on time and we landed in Puerto Princesa as planned, found the De Loro hotel with the sweetest staff ever, and got to booking our excursions.  Right when we arrived we signed up to go to the Underground River tour the following day, which is one of the 7 Wonders of Nature, and boy was it! Immediately after getting our permits for the river, we were off on a 4 hour tour of Puerto Princesa.

We caught a quick Filipino mass at St. Agustines Cathedral.

Despite my frustrations, I learned how to weave a rug, or place mat, or towel….or something, out of dyed grass. He was not a very good teacher.

Gazed at Honda Bay in the distance, and also creeped on cute kids and a horsey.

Then I turned into a beautiful butterfly at a butterfly garden.  It was random.

The next day we were off to the Underground River in Sabang bright and early!  We had an 8:30am appointment, and Sabang was about 1.5 hours away by van. We got on one of the earliest tour groups because they regulate the amount of people who are able to enter the cave each day due to excavations and research that are being held there.  They allow 800 people to view it each day, so lucky us!

The boat ride was about 45 mins – 1 hour, and was really cool, but a bit long.  Brianne and I were exhausted and regret to say that we took mini snoozes here and there.  The cave is filled with bats, so they are all over the ceiling!!  Our guide kept telling us that when we look up to not say “WOW” or else we’d get bat shit in our mouths.  MMMMM! It was interesting, despite our snoozes, because the different stalagtite and stalagmite formations looked like different things, so the guide kept pointing out “this is the cathedral and The Last Supper” and “here we have broccoli in the garden” and “oh, and there’s a penis!” It was magnificent!

It was kinda hard to get good pictures in the cave, but these are pretty decent considering the lack of lighting combined with my shitty camera.

After floating thru a natural wonder, we were off to scour and repel rocks and zip line….all while in our slippery havaianas! We had no idea we were about to be rock climbing, or we would have packed the appropriate footwear.  Oh well, hakuna matata!!

The journey wouldn’t have been a journey had we not been hammin it up for the camera along the way, now would it?

Oh! Welcome to our rock home!

Say a prayer….or hug a rock. I LOVE THIS ROCK SO MUCH!

Just hanging out with some lopsided stalagtites.

If it looks as if I’m barefoot, it’s because I might as well have been.  Havaianas are not proper rock climbing attire.

I’m coming outttttt, I want the world to knowwww, gotta let it showww. That’s what comes to mind.

Finally at the top, ready to go down in our sexiest garb.

Stole these from the computer screen because I’m Jewish.  Flyin highhh

SO MUCH FUN!!!

The final destination of our stay on Palawan was the little nook of El Nido, mine and Brianne’s favorite place on our whole trip.  El Nido is so special because it’s still not a hot tourist spot, so you have to take a 6 hour van ride up from Puerto Princesa just to get there, and then once you’re there, there aren’t ATMs anywhere, so you gotta come stacked with the cash monies. It’s this quaint little backpackers haven interspersed with locals and everyday Filipino life everywhere.  The people were so kind and helpful, and then on top of it, the village is surrounded by island after island for miles and miles.  It is STUNNING and unlike anything I’ve ever seen in my life. You look out into the ocean and it’s like you’re in this cove encircled by mountainous islands on every side of you.

We took a private van overnight up from Puerto Princesa, which is actually really unlikely because they pack these vans to the brim.  We just happened to be the only ones who booked to leave at that time so they were gonna try and cancel on us, but of course we pitched a fit, and got our van for a little extra money, but we were fine with that as long as we didn’t miss another day of our trip because of travel delays. So, we left at 6pm, and it took us more like 8 hours to get to El Nido because our driver kept stopping to fist bump his friends, pee, and sleep on the side of the road.  It was sketch, but we made it there in one piece.  We actually crashed at some random hostel called Full House because we got in around 2am with no accommodations and our driver happened to know the owner.  It sufficed, but we didn’t see Uncle Jesse 😦

The next morning we woke up to this majestic view, then hitched a tricycle into town to grab our bearings.

We stayed at a nice little place called the Garnet Hotel.  It stood out to me initially because it was bright orange.  Then it also had an adorable staff, so it was perfect. It’s on the main road of El Nido, and the little guy working there helped us set up our snorkel tour for the next day, and got us a personal driver to take us to Las Cabanas beach, which is situated just outside of El Nido, and then 2 guys to motorcycle us around up to Long Beach and a glorious waterfall.

The only downside to our time in El Nido was that it was really overcast, but it was a small price to pay.  It was breathtaking no matter what.  Here we are gallavanting and enjoying Las Cabanas beach and all the islands!

All that lush flora on our walk to the beach!

How cliche of us….it says Dani & Bree in a heart.

Our next day was spent island hopping.  It was a ridiculously rough day, and the boat ride out to the islands was SO choppy that we were soaked by the time we got to the first lagoon! But, this was some of the most magnificent snorkeling I have ever done.  I wish I had pictures to document it, but they will just live in my memory.  In one dive spot I felt like I was in a starfish graveyard that was scattered with roses everywhere.  There were fish that looked like they jumped right out of the 80s in their flourescent scales, and I even felt like I was swimming amidst Ariel and King Triton’s palace beneath the sea. The snorkeling was so unbelievable that we found ourselves snorkeling way far out away from the boat, until our nerves got us and we’d swim back just a lil bit closer.  We swam into a secret lagoon where we could barely see in front of us, and also happened to be where part of the Bourne Legacy was filmed.  I swear I also saw numerous jellyfish swim past me.  Later we came to find out that the Box Jellyfish, which is apparently the most deadly thing on the planet and can kill 100 people with one sting…..resides in the waters we were swimming in.  Comforting!!

Above Ariel’s Kingdom, where Bourne Legacy was filmed.

A bomb ass lunch was served on one of the islands, with a side of our new friend Cucoy’s underpants.  That man would touch anything and everything under the sea.

The next day was our favorite day of the trip by far!  We had two young guys, Wang Wang and Neil, and their motorcycles at our service.  We were driven way out of El Nido up to Long Beach.  We drove through remote little villages and got to see how the other half lives, let the wind catch our hair, walked as close as I ever have to cows, had a monkey man fetch us coconuts up a tree, and then hiked (in havaianas…again) to a gorgeously refreshing waterfall.  I can now check riding on the back of a motorcycle off my bucket list 🙂

We had some fans as we passed through…

And only drove on the safest of terrain.

Met some ballers as we drove through their hood.

Next came the hike to that delightful waterfall.  We got stuck in the mud along the way, forded many a river and scoured many a rock.  And we might as well have been barefoot whilst doing so.

Here is Brianne pretending to like my coconut.

What woman doesn’t want an au natural brassiere straight from the earth?

MADE IT without any falls along the way.  That’s saying a lot for me.

Rewarding ourselves with a dip.

One of my absolutely favorite things about El Nido was that everyday we saw the same people.  Whether it was other foreigners, or the local children playing hopscotch in the street.  I had one of my favorite nights at a local restaurant called Squidoos, where we met a young couple who’d been traveling for the past couple months on a tight tight budget, a young British Indian couple who had just come from visiting a cousin teaching in Korea, and the most fantastic little French family who reinstilled my faith in the French people.  We had a couple of those amazing nights just filled with great conversation and travel stories.  Loved loved loved!

A trip is never a trip without the addition of cute Asian babies.  So, here I am playing a most adorable and rigorous game of High 5 with the cutest little babes on the planet!!  They were so cute they took my attention away from my most delicious nutella crepe!

After 3 wonderful days in El Nido, we bid adieu and were off on yet another 6 hour van ride back to Puerto Princesa where we spent our final night.  My friend Mandy and her boyfriend Luke were actually having their first night on our last night, so we all met up and went to dinner at a burger place called Skybox.  It was really nice to get to say bye to Mandy in person since she obviously left Korea while I was gone.

As you can see, it was an amazing trip and I’m so glad that Brianne and I had the opportunity to meet up on this side of the globe and see each other while I celebrated 1 year of life abroad.  We were wonderful travel buddies, and until our next worldly journey….Daniel & Brian will always have ze Peens…and our little warrior Havaianas ❤

 

 

 

 

Back When I Was In Nam & Cambodia…

I knew before heading out to Vietnam and Cambodia that this was going to be a very different trip than Thailand was.  Thailand was all lighthearted and bomb diggity, but this trip was on a whole new level of amazingness, and was extremely educational. I’m the first one to say how unknowledgeable I am about most things concerning Asian history, so I was super excited for this trip.  This trip had a major focus on life and death and everything in between, of course being in 2 3rd world countries and all. In addition, 2 of my best Asian princesses are part Vietnamese and Cambodian and I’ve heard stories here and there about the history or things that have happened to their parents/families, so I was really eager to experience their history first hand.

This was also overshadowed by some events that struck me from home.  My first day in Phu Quoc I found out that the mom of one of my great friends from high school passed away after a very long battle with cancer.  I really really loved her so much, and began thinking about the last time I saw her, and I think it was at a funeral for our friend’s younger brother who was killed in Afghanistan about 1.5 years ago.  Before and after moving to Korea, she would Facebook message me just to say hi and give me recommendations when packing for the long haul.  Sweet sweet lady that Iris Grant. Then, on my final night in Phnom Penh (which was already an emotionally draining city), I found out on Facebook that my ex-boyfriend, first love, whatever, welcomed his first baby boy.  Crazy how life comes full circle like that.

ANYWAYS, moving on to the trip….

Katie and I flew out to Ho Chi Minh City (formerly known as Saigon) on February 15th, had a 3 hour layover in the Shanghai airport (AKA the worst airport in the world), then landed in HCMC at the crack of dawn on the 16th. After feeling creeped out in the alley outside the hostel Abby found for us all, we rang the bell and were welcomed in.  The next morning we all packed up and headed out to the airport for our little jaunt to Phu Quoc, which is a small island off of Southern Vietnam in the Gulf of Thailand on your map. Well, for some this little getaway turned into a big hiccup.  Our dear friend Matteu Pierre lost his passport somewhere in Saigon, therefore Katie stayed behind with him to sort it all out.  While they freaked out, Abby and I flew off to what we would come to deem the Kingdom of Lesbia, with the boys, Mark, Gavin, Kenny and Scotty.

Phu Quoc is gorgeous and for the most part pretty remote and no one really speaks English.  Basically it’s a lot of pointing to the item on the menu for what you want, big hand motions, and walking the person over to what you are trying to show them so they understand. But I can handle that for a couple days. Our first day there I got my first bowl of pho in Nam which SUCKED, and was cooked in a makeshift kitchen on the sand. It later started to pour rain, and after watching the “restauranteurs” poke holes in their thatched roof to prevent the water weight from collapsing their establishment, we made a mad dash and began dancing in the rain and singing Italian love songs.  This is how we looked afterwards.

The next day Abby and I made a failed attempt at killing ourselves, meaning we lived, by trying to ride one of these:

After Abby had an anxiety attack, we traded these bad boys in for whimsical bicycles and frolicked around. Thank god we traded them in because that night while returning from the Duong Dong night market, it started raining and I don’t think I could hold onto my life on a motorbike, on a black as F road in the outbacks of Nam at night. You’re welcome life, and mom.

Our nights on Phu Quoc consisted of the boys coming to our resort to steal our aircon and drink their $1.50 bottle of Vietnamese Rum in our room while Abby and I laid in our beds in our PJs and Mark straightened his hair to look like an Eastern European grease ball.  I’ll refrain from posting the video I took to maintain our friendship.

On my last day on the island, Abby and I booked a snorkeling/fishing half day trip which turned out to be absolutely amazing!! During the drive down to the South we stopped at a Pearl farm which was aight, but we got to see how pearls are farmed. We also got a chance to really see how the Vietnamese live.  It’s really intense to see the shacks these people call home, and makes you appreciate everything that we are blessed with by just living in a 1st world country like American or Korea.

Onto the snorkelfishing!  Turns out I’m a pretty good deep sea fisherwoman, and after being coached by one of the Lesbias on board I caught 3 fish!  Here’s lucky numero uno! I think I named him Harold.

After fishing we were served a very delicious meal on board.  It consisted of some type of Vietnamese/Thai fusion noodle, sauteed Morning Glory (long and green stuff that was bomb), some egg frittata type thing, white rice, potato and carrot soup, fried fish (later we were told it wasn’t the fish we caught), and a special surprise of sea urchin if we wanted to try, which I did.  When in Rome! It actually turned out to be not so bad.  They prepared it with onion and peanuts and soy sauce so I thought it was pretty tasty and kinda had a peanut buttery texture. That was an extra 20,000 dong more (~$1).  Then we finally got to snorkel!  And let me tell you, this was the most gorgeous snorkeling I have ever done, and I’ve snorkeled in a lot of beautiful places! We made 3 different stops and saw some of the most gorgeous corral and fish ever!  One of the lesbias said she thought she saw something that looked like a Barricuda and kept telling herself to keep swimming lol. Abby has also never swam in the ocean like that before, due to her inability to tread water, so she was having a gay ‘ol time wandering off out in the open water in her florescent life jacket.

The next day I left Phu Quoc behind and flew back to Ho Chi Minh for a few days. Phu Quoc was beautiful and all, but I was so happy to be in a CITY with hustle bustle and historical sights to see. One thing is for sure, the hustle bustle is alive and kickin in HCMC.  One finds that out instantly when crossing the street and seeing your whole life flash before you. The trick is to just walk slowly and the motorbikes with families of 5 on them will just go around you.  I ended up enjoying this game of “trying not to get killed.”

On my first day there I met up with Katie, Matt and Kenny, who also ended up leaving the island early.  Matt was still getting all his passport ish sorted, so he was a bit stressed but trying to have a good time.  Katie and I ended up leaving the boys to go check out the War Remnants Museum, which was essentially a “We Hate America” museum. I don’t know why they allow us in the country after going there. Granted I’m not very knowledgeable on the Vietnam War, but from what I saw there we did some pretty nasty shit that is still affecting their people today physically and mentally.  We drowned those horrid images in some shopping at Ben Thanh Market, the best coffee in the world and a bowl of delicious pho at the place there Clinton ate when he journeyed there. All better.

Abby arrived the next day and the 3 of us went to the Reunification Palace which was pretty boring actually. I almost stepped on a massive carpet which was poorly labeled.  That was pretty much the only highlight. That night we met up with the boys to try and find a place where we could drink snake blood.  This is apparently called a snake ceremony and is done all over Vietnam, but you wouldn’t think that given the looks of disgust we got whenever we asked a Vietnamese person.  We found a place that did it, but it ended up being extremely expensive and none of us were down to pay $60 for taking the life out of a snake. I’ll just have to do it another time.  Instead of a dinner of snake we got some Pho Hung which was bomb diggity and a nice trade off.

Our final day in Ho Chi Minh was my favorite I reckon. We got up early to go to the Cu Chi Tunnels, which were used by the Cu Chi Vietcong people during the war. The Cu Chi people live in the South, obviously, but fought for the Northern Vietcong. Shady Sheisters. So we took a tour about 2 hours outside of Ho Chi Minh, where we had the cutest tour guide named Slim Jim.  Why you ask?  Because he “eats like a bird, smokes like a chimney and drinks like a fish.”  Once at the Cu Chi tunnels we got to see real life boobie traps, secret holes for hiding, crawl through the actual tunnels and shoot a gun!  The 3 of us bought a round of 10 bullets and got our hardcore on with an AK47.

My first time shooting a gun!

They had to widen these tunnels to accommodate the fat westerners.  The Cu Chi people crawled through these, where as I walked through hunched over with my butt slightly hitting the sides.

All in all, I enjoyed Nam, especially the pho and weasel poop coffee. Thank god I brought some coffee back with me because I ain’t getting THAT in koko. Next time I need to go visit the North, because I hear that’s where it’s at. Now onto Cambodia, which I absolutely fell.in.love.with.

The only things I didn’t like about Cambodia were my polka dotted legs from mosquito bites and the 13 hour bus ride that it took us to get there. This is how I looked on the bus ride because I couldn’t handle the heat, so the only thing to do was sleep, and bob. Compliments to Katie for this gem.

I LOVED Cambodia, but at the same time I just felt so awful seeing their quality of life, but I guess that is all they know so it’s just life for them. The people here were so warm and eager to help and talk to you and point you in the direction of what you should do next. Not to mention, the Cambodian people are freakin gorgeous. I think every man working at our hotel was attractive. Our first city was Siem Reap and we were staying at the same hotel as the boys this time. We got in pretty late after that bus ride from hell, so the 3 of us lassies indulged in some pool time, some vino and our first ever Cambodian dishes.  Twas a lovely way to unwind and prep ourselves for Templing out the following day.

We were picked up by our sweet tuk tuk driver, Sovann (pronounced Sowan) at 9am the next morning and he had a list of temples on the agenda, all of which MayMay recommended to me 🙂 First we went to Angkor Wat, which is one of the Wonders of the World, and yes it is quite a wonder! It’s massive and beautiful and seemed never-ending in size. Inside there are several levels and smaller temples.  We weren’t allowed up to the 3rd level though because we were too scantily clad.  Good thing because we didn’t feel like waiting in the massive line anyways.

Outside before we entered

Next we went to Ta Prohm, or the Jungle temple.  This temple was magnificent!! It had trees with the most insane roots growing out and over and on the sides of the structures. Some of the buildings had scafolding to preserve them from being crushed by the tree.  Talk about a freakin miracle!

I think this tree looks like a dancing woman wearing bell bottoms 🙂

Next on the temple tour was Bayon Temple, or what I called the Faces temple. I love drawing faces and eyeballs, so you know I loved this one.  There were literally faces everywhere!

Ajummas do Cambodia (old Korean women)

And the last of the day was a hike to the top of a temple/mountain to see the sunset.  We actually thought we were going to see Angkor Wat at Sunset, but I think there was a bit of a mixup in communication.  Nonetheless, it was really pretty from the top of the mountain, and tonssss of people were there.  Including Juan (h-Juan as we like to pronounce it), the nice handsome man from Jersey we met in Blue Pumpkin outside of Angkor Wat.  He gave me his bottle of deet to rid myself of the polka dotted leg syndrome and that towel shielding my sunburn from the sun.

That night we were so exhausted and completely templed out. Abby and I got massages at the hotel and then we just kinda vegged out for the night while the boys were out gettin’ all buck and ya know.

The next day we thought we were going to a floating market, but it turned out to be a floating village on the Tonle Sap River. We got our own boat and driver and were taken to a crocodile farm that was random, but cool to see, and a tiny little shopping area with nothing much aside from Pringles (our staple), coffee and some trinkets. After buying another can of Pringles we hopped back in the boat and were taken to another floating store.  This was when it was dropped on us that we were going to an orphanage and we should buy something to give to the kids. Holy Jesus. This is what they meant by tourist trap. BUT, we ended up all chipping in $10 each and bought the kids a box of 25 packets of ramen and some notebooks for school. We were then taken to the orphanage where we got to meet the adorable freakin kids. Dear god Cambodian kids are ADORABLE. We gave our gifts to the teacher since we didn’t buy enough to hand out to every student, and then we just sat down and played with them.

One little girl named Jae came right up to me and sat down next to me.  I swear she was a mini Wawa.  She was so sweet and just kept wanting me to hug her and give her high fives. Before long kids were swarming around the 3 of us, and it was just one of those feel good 10-15 minutes of your life. I think it was a little difficult for Katie since she’s adopted, but it was cool to get to do that with her 🙂 Kids are just so damn cute anywhere you go.  I swear I wanted to steal at least 5 babies a day, AT LEAST. When we left the orphanage Jae just stood in front of me and put her arms up for me to pick her up.  Such a sweet heart. Now I know why Angelina keeps freakin adopting these kids.

Mini Wawa!

That night we actually went out in Siem Reap which was so much fun!  I had tried to meet up with my friend Matt’s friend who lives there (sorry Matt, I know you’re reading 😉 but due to my shitty wifi we missed each other.  Oh well!

The next morning we were off, yet again on another bus ride.  This time to Phnom Penh, and it was only 6 hours. ONLY. At least the bus was better this time, but I swear it stopped every 15 minutes to let some Cambodian family off at their house or to wash their babies poopy pants in the river.  GET ME THERE ALREADY!

Well, we got there. And as I had anticipated, I dropped my shit and RAN to find me a tuk tuk to get me to the Killing Fields. I only had less than a day in the Capital city of Phnom Penh and I wanted to make sure I saw the Killing Fields and S-21 (the Genocide Museum). Both closed at 5pm so I hit the ground running.

I went to the Killing Fields by myself that day, and this began the most emotionally exhausting day ever. I was getting annoyed with some people who kept saying “oh it’s just a field I don’t need to see it.”  But really, it is a big deal.  If you don’t want to see it because it’s morbid that’s understandable, but to say because it’s just a field is f’ing ignorant. I think I really liked Cambodia because you’re literally living in the people’s history, given that this genocide by the Khmer Rouge happened in the late 70s, so anyone around 30 years old or older either was alive for it or has a parent or relative or friend who was. So when people were saying oh it’s just a field, I kept thinking how if someone had said that about the Holocaust “oh it’s just a camp” I’d be infuriated, because it’s not “just a camp,” those were people’s lives. Sorry, rant.

Anyways, I got there and got my headset and was on my way.  Right when you get in you see a giant building that is 17 stories high. In it are skulls, bones and clothes of people who were killed there. It’s their way of paying tribute to those who were lost.

As you walk along the audio tells you where different buildings stood and have anecdotal stories to go along with some of them. I won’t get into detail because it really was so sad, but as you’re walking past the mass graves and killing trees, there are remnants of clothes and bones that have washed up with rain that are just laying right at your feet.  It was so eerie but also fascinating at the same time to be just walking in history. It was really something to think that this happened a little over 30 years ago right there.

Next I hopped back in my tuk tuk and was taken to S-21 where I met Katie and Abby. S-21 was originally a high school and a middle school and was later turned into a torture facility by the Khmer Rouge.  This was ever creepier than the Killing Fields.  You can walk right up to the metal beds that victims were strapped to and see blood stains that were barely washed away.  You could walk into the brick cells and the wooden cells if you wanted to.  I was too creeped out, so I just poked my head in one of the brick ones.  The wooden ones I literally snapped a photo and ran. All throughout the museum they have photos of the victims.  Ranging from infants to elderly people.  There were a couple of photos that made me cry and it was just awful, but I’m glad I went to see it.

Pardon the sad note.

The rest of my last day was spent being girly. We got a delicious dinner, some massages and then just wandered and shopped for a bit.

On my flights home I was with Scotty, and after being in the Kuala Lumpur airport for 3.5 hours, us and another EPIKer Thyla, still managed to almost miss our flight, or rather almost accidentally boarded a plane to Perth, Australia….oops.

Vietnam and Cambodia were definitely 2 countries I didn’t even think about going to before I came to Korea, let alone 3 of the first I’d travel to!  It was such an educational trip and I loved it so much!! Sorry to end it on such a downer note, but I mean, I knew that was gonna be a bulk of what we saw.

So, to liven your spirits, enjoy the fruits of my creeper labors.

Hello britneyspears.org!

And finally…say CHEESE!