Monday, December 5, 2011

Headed home!

There is no place that will make you ready to go home more so than Delhi. Delhi is crazy. We have been here a mere 24 hrs and have already been ripped off, disgusted and engaged in verbal arguments. Ah! It's a love/hate city for sure. At the end of our 6 weeks in India before, I loved Delhi. Now I am exhausted and don't have the energy for all this craziness! So, home it is... at 1am tonight! It's amazing (and scary) how quickly 4.5 months (or a year and a half) can pass by. Sometimes it feels like we just let VT  last month...

We arrived in Delhi so tired because Nepal kicked our butts! We were incredibly busy the entire month we spent there. Nepal is full of amazing outdoor adventures and we tried to take full advantage. We had an incredible time (probably the highlight of the entire 4.5 months of traveling) on our trek. We hiked up to Poon Hill (not a hill, definitely a mountain!) and then over to Annapurna Base Camp for a total of 9 days. We had beautiful, sunny weather and stunning views. It was incredible. There are few places in the world where you can trek each day and have a warm meal, hot shower and a bed to sleep in each night. Nepal is unique and we love it.

After we recovered from our trek and let our blisters heal up, we took off on one last adventure with a New Zealand couple we had met on the trek. We signed up for a 2 day whitewater rafting trip and were beyond excited for one last hoorah! Our trip turned out to be a typical Nepali experience, where anything and everything that could go wrong did! A strike in a town along the way cut our first day short by at least an hour. When we were done rafting and at our campsite, we were told the van would not be along until the strike was over after 6pm. We sat around for 3 or more hours in wet bathing suits waiting for our things! Finally, the boys hitched a a ride and had to walk to the van through the strike in their sleeveless wetsuits! Because the van arrived so late, we were unable to cook dinner and there was no dry wood for a fire... Unreal. But typical Nepali! We did have tents and beer so everything turned out okay in the end :)

The next day had all of the class 4 and 5 rapids but of course the road was still blocked so we were unable to raft the river we signed up for. We were disappointed but still had a good time and were able to hit some good rapids along the way. Because the trip wasn't quite as wild and crazy as we thought it would be, I am really excited for another rafting trip sometime in the near future.

We have some great pictures and I will post them when I get home. It's been an amazing trip and we feel so lucky to have had this time to travel together. We're looking forward to seeing our families and friends... and having some delicious home cooking!

See you soon!

Love, Allison and Nate

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Hello Nepal!

Nepal has been a whirlwind of a trip so far with nonstop planning and prepping for our trek. I suppose that's what happens when you arrive after 3 months of traveling in tropical places. We came empty handed and now are fully geared up and ready to go! It was quite painful purchasing everything... as we have it ALL at home. Hats, gloves, fleece jackets, shirts... you name it, we had to buy it! So frustrating. Not to mention the hiking boots I had to buy and break in! Ahhhhh. I will finally be able to relax tomorrow when we are on the trail... or will that be relaxing?? Probably not... have I mentioned how out of shape we are? Thin but without much muscle - not good! Wish us luck :) 

We did manage to escape to Chitwan National Park for a few days where we did a full day jungle walk, bathed elephants and saw some rhinos from atop an elephant! It was action packed but so much fun and we have some great pictures. The bathing of the elephants was hilarious. We rode on top of the dirty elephant and it was shooting water through it's trunk all over us. Then it rolled over and dumped us into the river. It was a blast!

During our first week in Nepal, we were always late no matter where we were going. It was never by a lot, maybe 5-20 min each time but enough to make us almost miss buses, etc. We were amazed at Nepal, thinking this country was always early for everything. Finally, a man in Chitwan said to us, "I think you are still on India time." We both stared at him wondering what he was talking about. For some reason, unbeknown to us, no one bothered to tell us that Nepal and India have a 15 minute time difference. 15 minutes! We had never heard of such a thing and there was certainly no announcement on our short flight over the border. Thank god he told us or we would have missed a bus or flight eventually!

So we are off tomorrow to begin trekking. We are headed to Annapurna Base Camp (12,500 ft) with a detour loop to Poon Hill on the way. We have heard that it takes anywhere from 9 days to 14 days to complete the route so who knows! We are in no rush and just want to enjoy our time. We won't have internet for the trekking so I will be sure to blog as soon as we return!

We will be seeing you all shortly... possibly as early as December 7! 

Love, Al & Nate

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Nate's Birthday Bash!

Nate has spent his last 3 birthdays away from home so he is quite used to it. However, I think this one was a little different... We weren't sure where we would be for his big day and it turns out that we ended up in a very small town called Bodhgaya. This village is where Buddha received his enlightenment and is the most important pilgrimage site in the world - quite religious and a difficult place to enjoy a birthday beer! I wanted to make his birthday special so I of course stressed about this for weeks! We ended up having a terrific day together hanging in Buddha's temple and skyping with our families. 

I took Nate to the fanciest place for dinner and we gorged. We had two delicious chicken dishes with the usual roti and rice, followed by apple crumble. With all this food and 6 beers, it was just $30! It was by far the most expensive meal we have had while traveling but worth every penny. Check out the birthday boy below after licking his plate clean! :) 

We traveled from Bodhgaya to Agra to see the Taj Mahal which was amazing in person. Due to all of the pollution, there's a bit of a haze over the city but it was still spectacular at sunrise. We are now in Delhi and enjoying the big city feel. It's off to Nepal for us tomorrow which is exciting but also very sad. 6 weeks in India was not nearly enough time but we will surely come back again. We are looking forward to some serious exercise in the Himalayas! 

A few things we will NOT miss about India: 

1. being called Madam and Sir constantly
2. being harassed by auto-rickshaw drivers
3. paying for toilet paper
4. mosquitoes
5. smelly, dirty, overcrowded train rides
6. sketchy bars
7. pollution
8. men peeing in public

However, we will miss a lot of things from this country! Obviously the food, you all know that by now... but so much more. It's truly an amazing country to travel through and we are so lucky to have had this opportunity.

It's just one month now (to the day!) that we return home. We are looking forward to moms' cooking, snow, hot showers and seeing family & friends.

See you all soon! 

Love, Al & Nate

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Holy City

It feels as though it's been awhile since I last blogged so I must catch you up on our happenings and whereabouts! From Hampi, we took an overnight train to Hyderabad which was a rather over-priced, bustling city with AMAZING food. I realize you may think we talk about food a lot... but the food in India is just simply delicious and must be acknowledged! Hyderabad is known for its chicken biriyani and it was to die for! We did do things other than eat in Hyderabad, although that was our main focus.. We saw a few famous monuments, walked and shopped in the bazaars and went to the impressive Golconda Fort.

From Hyderabad, we hopped a 28.5 hr train to Varanasi. I was very nervous for this journey, thinking how will we possibly entertain ourselves for that long? What about food? And sleeping? Will we kill each other after that long in such a confined space? Well, it was quite the opposite of all my fears. We don't know where the time went but it flew by and was actually enjoyable! We had a good time and neither of us were dying to get off the train when we reached Varanasi. I was so relieved to have this trip behind us!

Arriving in Varanasi was a shock. It's the real India. Smelly. Dirty. Over crowded. Fascinating. It's a holy Hindu city along the River Ganges and it is like no other places we have ever been. The river is unbelievably polluted yet the people believe it to be so holy that they bathe in it each day. You can spend hours walking along the river just watching the people.

When people die in Varanasi, their body is burned and the remains are put into the river. There are six kinds of deaths that don't permit burning and these bodies are dropped with rocks into the middle of the river. During our stay in Varanasi, we saw two dead bodies floating in the river and were told that these were bodies of the homeless who cannot pay for the wood to burn their bodies. Again, this place was so different than anywhere we have been. One of the best aspects of this country is how different each state or region is from the rest of the country.

After a very busy week, we are happily relaxing in the little town of Bodhgaya, which happens to be the world's most important Buddhist pilgrimage site. Next stop: Taj Mahal in Agra!

We are both finally healthy and free of any and all rashes, which is a huge relief as we head to Nepal in a week. I am having a hard time parting with India as we still have so much to see. I suppose that just means we will have to come back :)

We will be home in about a month and are looking forward to seeing our families and friends. Miss you!

Love, Allison and Nate

Saturday, October 22, 2011


When you travel to a new place, it's sometimes difficult to arrive with an open mind and unbias views of the town due to the number of foreigners you meet along the way who share their experiences with you. I have found that India is a place you must have an open mind. There's no other way about it - you must make your own opinion about each and every place you go. For example, we had read some things about Goa and talked to some people about their experiences there which made me not want to go. We heard there was nothing there but drugs as well as stories of rape and muder. But, although Goa is a tiny part of India, it's still big and there are plenty of different places to go. Since it's still low season, we were able to stay in a goreous and very clean room for cheap and practically have the beach to ourselves. We enjoyed at least 5 beers of day and ate, ate, ate! Goa has delicious food!!! We spent 5 days and could have easily spent another 5. It's always so nice to go somewhere and be surprised at how much you enjoy yourself there! So if you ever go to Goa... stay in Benaulim :)

We are now in Hampi which is a small town built in the middle of impressive ruins from the 15th century. We are a bit templed-out after spending our first two days seeing so many but it was fascinating to see the remains and wonder what this place looked like 600 years ago. It feels good to get off the beach and get some culture! Although Hampi is full of history, it's still touristy and has its scams you must be aware of. Nate put up a good fight over the "10 rupe fee to enter the town" our first day here. We refused to pay, they threatened to bring us to the police station... we said okay and they of course let us go. Every day is a battle of some sort with people trying to sell you things and constantly bothering you. I know it sounds terrible and annoying, but you just get used to it. I used to be nice but now I just say a firm NO to everything and walk away - it's the only way!

The Salers enjoy my blogs when I pick on their son and my parents always tell me to be nice (aka don't tell about his bathroom habits on here) so I've been trying to keep it somewhere in the middle... However, I am sad to report that I don't actually have that much to pick on Nate about right now. He's been a life savior for my scabies bum and has put up with some whining from me about it! He's even given up on calling me Scabes now... I guess it gets old after a month!

We are happy, healthy and still fascinated by this enormous country!

Pictures to come soon and if you would like a post card, send me your address!

Love, Allison (and Nate)

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

XL please!

When planning our trip to India, we were warned by everyone about just how sick we would get from Delhi Belly. I don't want to jinx us... please knock on wood for me... but we are 11 days in and so far so good. In fact, everything is sooo good that we are even gaining weight! Oh my. I never expected this. I truly thought I would get so skinny in India! I guess we have the trekking in Nepal for that :) 

Now about the title to this blog - XL please! XL is my size in India! Ahh! I bought a few sets of Indian clothing (as I had nothing appropriate to wear after 2 months on the beach) and they knew immediately that I was an XL or even a XXL! Yikes. For a quick second I wondered if all the curries, naan and ice cream (I've had a dessert a day since the mites incident!) had caught up with me but thankfully I still fit into my clothes from home. Phew. I don't know how these sizes work here because Indian women are big and beautiful. The young girls are thin but as soon as they become women they tend to be plump. I wonder how big their sizes go and if they even have clothes that would fit Nate?

Anyways, enough ranting about sizes... we have spent the last few days in Gokarna, Karnataka which is a small temple town right on the ocean. We chose to stay in town rather than beachside and it's been great. We spent a day and a half at the beach and the rest of the time just roaming around town and eating delicious food. Tonight we head to Goa for a few days before heading over to Hampi (which I am most excited for).

We will try to post some more pictures soon! 

Love, Al (and Nate)... still waiting for him to write an entry in "our" blog! :) 

Friday, October 7, 2011


So here we are 5 days into our six weeks of India and it sure has been an interesting, exciting and frustrating experience already! Thanks to the wise advice of our dear friend Dan, w flew into the south. Thank God. I can't imagine a better place to enter a country where all is unknown to us. We spent 4 nights in Kochi which was beautiful but a bit touristy for our liking. This was certainly nice for the first few days though. We had places to eat that we knew were pretty safe, helpful travel agents to answer our questions, etc. We kept quite busy with a full day spent in the backwaters of Kerala, a walking tour of the city, a traditional performance and some shopping for me.

We are now up the coast from Kochi in a town called Kannur (still in the state of Kerala). We chose this place randomly and it was one of the few places we could even get train tickets to because of the holiday. After a brutal 6hr train ride crammed in with a million other people, we arrived hot, sticky and exhausted just to find that the place we booked was absolutely NASTY. The toilet was broken as was the shower but the worst was the sheets. It's indescribable. I have never seen something like this in my life. I spent the night sleeping with as many layers as possible (despite the heat) and was awake most of the night thinking how I just got rid of the mites - what if they come back???

We planned to look for a new place this morning and were approached by a sweet Indian woman who just opened a home stay. Everything is brand new and we are her first guests. Perfect, right? Almost. As we are walking out, she tells us that she's been having some issues with electricity and she didn't report it and now she's in trouble and not sure if we can stay there. So we've been in town since then and are unsure if we have a place to stay tonight! 

We met a friendly Indian guy last on the beach who teaches English and we got roped into joining his class for 2 hours this morning! It was entertaining answering their questions about when Nate and I fell in love, how it is living together, what girls look for in a man, how we dress in America, sports we enjoy, etc. Lots of pictures were taken and we surely made each of their day.

We had not seen another foreigner here until just a minute ago in the internet cafe. It's a nice feeling to be fully immersed in a new culture and fully removed from the Western world. Although it can make things more difficult (finding a clean place to stay), we are able to meet more locals this way and experience their culture. Our new friend gave us some places to eat and Nate is in heaven. This morning, we had two full breakfasts and  coffee for $1 total. For lunch, delicious North Indian food... 2 full meals for a total of... $1. Nate can't stop talking about how cheap it is :) 

Now it's off to the beach... life is good! 

Much love,

Al and Nate

Saturday, October 1, 2011

A String of Baaaad Luck

When traveling for over 4 months, you are bound to run into some bad luck and have some unfortunate things come your way. I get that, and expect it, but am still so bummed every time something bad happens to us. Nate and I are currently in Kuala Lumpur and this is where we encountered bad luck for the first time. During our stay in the Perhentian Islands, I woke up with a small rash under my legs and butt. I used some rash cream we had and continued doing several dives a day thinking maybe it was just from the wet suit? By the day we left, it was bad. Real bad. Covering my entire butt and thighs! And we were on a night bus (with no bathroom!) and I was so itchy. Terrible.

We arrived in Kuala Lumpur and checked into a super clean hostel with a clinic downstairs. We went to the clinic and I showed the doctor my bum. He immediately knew what it was... prepare yourself... and don't judge... mites! Ewwwww. I still have to say ewwww every time I say it. Apparently we slept somewhere with unclean sheets and now I have mites. I choked back some tears as he was telling me how to get rid of them: cover my body in a special lotion and no shower, change sheets and towels, wash clothes, etc. I felt dirty. Please note I am telling you this because I figure only my friends and family actually read this blog so you won't judge :)

I'm not sure what I would do without Nate. He has literally been Doctor Saler and has had to apply all of my cream in my unreachable areas. If I was traveling by myself, the mites would probably never go away. If I didn't have a boyfriend with whom I've lived with for the past year or more, I would struggle. He has been nice (for the most part) and only teased me when he knew I could take it.

Well, the story goes on... Nate has had some itchy stuff going on around his ankle. We were both paranoid, thinking why do I have it and he doesn't? Does he have it? Will it keep spreading back and forth between us? So, off to see the doc again... no mites for Nate... (sorry Darlene for breaking all this medical news to you on the blog!)... Nate has a parasite. Again, pretty gross considering he got it from a fly that was playing around in dog or cat urine before biting him. But Nate is lucky - 3 pills and he's cured. He wins - his bad luck is better than mine!

We had one more unfortunate incident while staying here. One goal was to put all of our pictures on Snapfish for everyone to see and as a way to safely back them up. After using our camera and usb on the computer here, we were told it has a virus. Sure enough, the virus attacked our usb and all of our pictures from the past month were infected and gone. We spent the day tryin to figure out how to fix it and had no luck. I was mopey as I care so much about our pictures. But then at 9pm it finally worked on someone's Mac. The virus may still be there but our pictures are all up on Snapfish. Hooray! As Nate always says, everything works out... phew!

So we have spent our 3 days in KL recouperating. We ran a lot of errands, did tons of walking and saw the million shopping malls that they have here. We saw a few sites but focused on resting up because today we go to INDIA! We realized yesterday that we booked this flight back in April and made our whole trip work around this one flight. I can't believe it's time!

We have had an amazing first two months to our trip. The only bad weather we encountered was in Thailand and we easily made up for that in the Perhentian Islands, Malaysia where we had sun, beach and diving with whale sharks! We are looking forward to experiencing a new culture and are heading to India with open minds.

Hope you are all healthy and happy back at home. Miss you!

Allison and Nate

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Time Flies!

Nate and I have been in Thailand a little over a week now and I am quickly realizing that we just don't have enough time! 4 months sounds like a long time to travel... but we are actually entering our 8th week already. Crazy! After meeting so many different travelers, I am hearing of hundreds of new places we must add to our ever growing list of places to see and things to do.

I know exactly where I get my urge to "do it all" - my mom. My dad has always had to tell her "pick two" because she always has a million things planned for them. I find myself in this situation quite often while traveling so in Thailand we picked two... or maybe three. We flew into Phuket and went straight to Koh Phi Phi. This is a big party island but is supposed to have some of the best diving in Thailand. Unfortunately for us, it rained the first three days. We managed to keep busy with reading, hanging out with new friends and, of course, eating! We made sure to find the best restaurants (with the biggest portions for Nate) and we enjoyed many delicious Thai meals. The weather finally took a turn and we were able to enjoy the beach and go diving. 

The second stop for us was on the other coast in a place called Nahkon Si Thammarat. We have been here for three nights visiting friends Jake and Emma. We have been spoiled staying in a huge house where we can take hot showers, do our laundry, check our email and eat home cooked meals provided to us by wonderful hosts. It has been truly amazing.

Next up is a small, quiet island called Koh Muk. This is an island that Nate went to with Jake, Emma and Peter two years ago and it was his favorite place. It's actually the only place he wished he was with a girlfriend, not Peter! ha! I am glad he is willing to go back as it sounds amazing and I would have forced him to anyways. It doesn't get much better than a quiet bungalow on the beach... 

Hope all is well at home.
Pictures coming soon - I promise!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Ripped Off

It would not be appropriate for us to leave Indonesia without being ripped off one last time...

The ripping off is constant and I have been very fortunate to have Nate fight for every nickle and dime for us. Last night was one of my favorites... we were at a used book store trying to trade our Lonely Planet for a Thailand one. The only book they had was a ratty, photo-copied one but it was recent so we went for it. The man started at $14 and the bargaining went on and on long enough that I needed to take a seat. After going down and then suddenly coming back up on the price, Nate became so furious that he told the man, "Okay. 5,4,3,2,1. I'm LEAVING." Imagine him holding up the appropriate number of fingers as he counted. It was as if he was talking to a child and I burst out laughing. The man was perhaps caught off guard and in the end took our book for a trade and charged us a minimal price for the new book. Every time we bargain, we get the price we want and say from the beginning but it takes soooo long.

After paying a ridiculous airport fee of $17 each this morning, we go and search for a snack to bring with us. We find a box of Ritz crackers and think that sounds pretty good and different. The stories did not put price tags on their items so they would simply make up a price for each item you inquired about. Well the first place wanted $6. The next... $5. And on and on. We had to search all the stores before finding one that was $4. Nate tried and tried to bargain the woman down to $3 but she wouldn't budge. In the end, we paid her and started to leave when Nate decided he didn't want our box because there was a small tear from the top. He picked a new box which had a price tag and was less than $3! The woman was trying to rip us off and wouldn't even bargain. Nate was appalled, she was embarrassed and I was just happy to have the crackers!

The last story for today is a good one... in the Bali airport they do security a bit differently. You check through as normal but then there is an extra security check at your gate where you are not allowed to bring in ANY liquids. You cannot have water and you must purchase it on the airplane. A bit of a rip off? I think so.

Well, we are now in Thailand where things seem to be a bit cheaper and it is low season! We just finished  a deliciously spicy papaya salad and a green curry. Off to an island tomorrow - life is good :)

Hope all is well back home!

Love, Allison and Nate

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Last of Indo...

We have now been in Indonesia for 3 weeks and it's hard to believe that we leave on Friday! We have seen so many beautiful places here and shared some wonderful cultural experiences. Since my last post, we saw a shark diving(!!!), met a great group of people from Germany and Sweden, stayed in a place totally off the map, and of course, saw about 10 more beautiful beaches. Life isn't so bad :)

While in Kuta, Lombok, we found the most perfect beach that I have ever seen without a soul on it. Then we went to a remote place called Taun and there, again, we found the most perfect beach. The coastline in this country is unbelievable. At this second beach, there was beautiful sand, huge waves and warm water. However, on the second day, all of the locals came out to play. We were constantly stared at and harassed by young boys. The 15 kids running around naked didn't bother me so much but the rest was just too much. It was that day that we decided that, yes, it is better to have a beach full of foreigners/tourists rather than a bunch of locals.

We are 5 weeks or so into the 4 month trip and we are of course still enjoying each other's company. It's certainly been a learning experience and takes the relationship to a whole new level. For example, this morning we were in a taxi heading to our next destination when Nate leans over to tell me something... "Al, I took the most satisfying dump this morning." Gross. Disgusting. Do I really need to know that?? What I have learned from the start is that not only am I Nate's girlfriend, but I also have to fulfill the role as his best male friend. Since he travelled with Peter before, I am constantly trying to live up to those expectations. So when Nate makes these comments, I simply nod and say "wow, that's great..." it's a good thing my dad and brother act just like this so I am pretty used to it.

It always seems that it's time to leave a country just as you are finally figuring things out. We have learned a lot during our time in Indonesia and it will make our next trip back here much easier! Originally we were hoping to cover much more territory than we were able to. Indonesia is huge and traveling throughout is not that easy for the budget traveler. This trip we covered Bali and Lombok. Next trip will be Sulawesi! Countries like this are ones you can come back to time and time again.

Next up: Thailand. I am beyond excited. I dream of thai curry every night... I plan to eat my heart out!

Much love and prayers to everyone back home recovering from the hurricane.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Gili Trawangon

Nate and I have spent the past week in paradise. Imagine a place where you can see the most stars you have ever seen, watch a sunset and sunrise from the same spot on the beach, and swim in crystal clear turquoise water each day. It's amazing and exactly what we've been looking for. It's the first place we have completely relaxed. We never know what day it is and it doesn't even matter. 

Our first night here (after a long 12 hour travel consisting of 2 boat rides, one 5 hr ferry ride and 2 bus rides) was a bit overwhelming. We found a place to stay and then went out looking for some dinner. We ended up in honeymoon land with loads of beautiful resorts and very classy restaurants. Not only are we not on our honeymoon, but we are straight up backpackers! We managed to find something within our budget and the next day found a backpacker's paradise: cheap, delicious, night market food! We were not over-joyed with our room so we walked around the island our first day here and found a quiet, remote room where we wake up to the waves each morning. Our place is over 50 years old and hasn't been touched once since it was built. It is by far the most run down place on the island and that we've ever stayed, but it gives us exactly what we want. For $8 each a night with breakfast included and a beach, it's paradise to us... 

We have yet to meet any other Americans on the Gili Islands (or anywhere, really) but there are tons of Europeans. You never have to really wonder where people are from here.  If a woman is topless on the beach (even in an Islamic area), she's European. Otherwise, probably Australian. Nate and I sometimes stand out on the beach, as he is probably the one and only man with body hair and I am one of few girls who did not hit the tanning bed for months before this vacation. Also, I don't have a thong bathing suit...  there are some very interesting styles here and it's great for people watching :) 

After spending a week straight in the sun (yes, mom, I reapply spf all day long!), Nate and I have some nice tans going. I did get my first burn of the trip when we went snorkeling the other day. I must have had a slight wedgy and did not realize it at the time. After two beautiful snorkeling trips, I had a crisp tush but only on one side. It's a new look here for the Gilis ;)

We are not sure when we are leaving here or what our next destination will be, but I will be sure to keep you update. Also, pictures are hopefully being uploaded soon. Stay tuned! 

'til next time,

Al and Nate

Thursday, August 18, 2011


Arriving in Bali was refreshing in so many ways. Don't get me wrong - we enjoyed many aspects of Singapore, especially the cleanliness, the delicious food and how incredibly diverse of a city/country it is. But being in Indonesia is an incredibly different yet wonderful feeling. We didn't get into the airport til 1am (which means an extra day on our visa - score!), spent the first day in Kuta Beach and then headed here to Ubud. Kuta was nice enough, but Nate and I are both beach snobs. We like crystal clear blue water, beautiful white sand that is like dust on your feet and, most importantly, a quiet beach. Kuta was busy with surfers (which I was bummed I didn't try) and lots and lots of tourists. Plus, the water was not that beautiful... so we continued on our way.

Everyone we know who has been to Indonesia says that Ubud is a must-see and we couldn't agree more. We have fallen in love with this little town, as it is like no place we have ever been. Ubud is small and very artsy. There are two or three main streets that are lined with galleries, shops and adorable little restaurants. Ubud has a very European feel to it which is a pleasure to have when in Asia! There are hundreds of tourists here but it's a very different tourist feeling than anywhere else. There are no trashy tourists... Everyone is very classy and polite. The town is filled mostly with couples and a few families. It's hopping during the day yet very quiet at night with only a few places playing live music. Once off the main few streets, there are gorgeous rice paddy fields that you can walk through. There is an undescribable feeling you get in Ubud and you just have to come here to understand :)

We happened to plan our stay in Ubud unknowingly when the biggest ceremony was taking place. The Queen of Ubud passed away 6 months ago and they have been busy preparing for her cremation this whole time. Yesterday, all power was shut off in the town until late in the evening so that people would go and enjoy the festival. We were there with a thousand other people in the sweltering heat to witness the new king ride into town on an enormous tower and the queen to be inside  a huge fake cow which they later burned with her body inside. We didn't always understand exactly what was happening but it was certainly a good insight to a special part of the Balinese culture.

I'm not sure our choice of accommodation was quite the best... but it was of course the cheapest! It's run by a crazy local who goes by the name of Mr. Chicken. The bungalows are nice and there is a pool but it is very loud. Our neighbor in the next bungalow snores so loud that we can hear it when trying to sleep. The power here is also a bit unreliable along with the water but hey that's a part of the experience, right?!The free internet is definitely a bonus and something we won't have very often in our travels.

Nate is currently down the street at the Post Office trying to send a few items back to the States that we picked up for our future home. There is beautiful woodcarving here and it was difficult to choose between a few items. We eventually decided on a beautifully framed painting, a mirror with a wood cut frame, salad tongs made from bamboo wood (random purchase) and another small painting. I hope he has better luck than we had in Taiwan with the huge frame we tried to send home!!

We are headed to some islands tomorrow for some R&R... will write more when we can! 

Monday, August 15, 2011

Philippines and Singapore Recap

It seems that a whole year has passed since Nate and I left for Taiwan and promised our mothers we would start a blog. Oops - sorry! It's now up and running and we promise to do our best to do some writing over the next 4 months.

Since we are a few weeks into our trip, I will do a quick recap for you all. We began our trip with a short but busy trip to Bocolod to visit Nate's sister, Rachael. After spending a sleepless night in the Manila airport, we arrived to Rachael's small but cozy one room pad in a boarding house. She left us a very informative note, ensuring us that yes, that little futon is indeed her bed and that the big trash bucket in the bathroom is her shower. Oh, and if her brother needs to go #2 (she knows him well) that he must dump water into the toilet to flush it manually. We were a bit blown away by her accommodations! We spent two nights there, slumber party style, and then were off to Dumaguete to visit Harold a.k.a Mr. Nice ;)

Once in Dumaguete, we were treated like royalty by Harold. For those of you who don't know H, he is a friend of Rachael's and truly one of the kindest and most generous men I have ever met. H runs a very cool hostel where you get to enjoy grilled seafood on the rooftop on Wed nights and free oysters on Friday nights. But did we stay at Harold's Mansion Hostel? Oohhh no, we were VIPs staying at his house. We were spoiled with privacy, our own bathroom, a motor bike and cheap, cheap beer. During this time, I completed my Open Water Diver and Nate did his Advanced. I was incredibly nervous about diving and when Nate preferred to stay out and drink the $1 San Miguels, I insisted on going home to study my book... yes, still a nerd, I know. However, this plan backfired on me when I saw that the book H left for me was in Danish! Needless to say, I passed and had a great time doing the course! On my last day, we joined a group going to the famous Apo Island where I was able to dive with Nate. We saw all kinds of things from sea turtles to beautiful fish to poisonous sea snakes!

When our courses were over, Rachael arrived, we relaxed and then the four of us went to Siquijor Island for a few days where we stayed in cute little rooms over-looking the ocean. Siquijor is a witch craft island so we figured a trip to the local Shaman. This woman may have been the most adorable person I've ever seen... 86 years old, shiny gray hair, dressed from head to toe in pink. Her job is to rid you of all your bad spirits and we are believers! We witnessed her cure two guys before us and were then blown away by her work on Nate. I forgot to mention that Nate had a very upset stomach when we arrived to the island due to a day old hamburger he thought was a good idea to eat at the ferry terminal. When the Shaman did her trick, she told us that his belly was very sick with a bad spirit and she was sucking it out of him with her magic stone and water. She giggled throughout Nate's treatment because she had never seen so much junk come out of someone. (The glass of water turns cloudy and fills with particles) She even gave Nate a piece to keep (gross) but I wouldn't let him take it home with us. Nate has vowed to never eat a bad spirited hamburger like that again! We witnessed the water turn from cloudy and with particles to absolutely clear water! Visiting the Shaman was a great new cultural experience for the both of us.

When leaving Duma, we had to connect in Clark before flying to Singapore. We were not very surprised when our Cebu Pacific, world's worst airline ever, was cancelled. We changed our plans, took a boat and a van and arrived in Clark where we were disgusted. When booking these flights, we were unaware that Clark is one of the cities in the Phils best known for the sex trade. We all know it's hard seeing women in situations, but trying seeing children. The city was creepy and we only left our over-priced, somewhat gross hotel room once to get some chicken and beer and run right back up to our room. It was truly an eye opening day and makes you really appreciate the work that volunteers are doing over here to help fight this.

Okay, on a more positive note, we arrived in Singapore without a problem and had beautiful weather for 3 of the 4 days. We spent the majority of our stay walking around the city, spending time in Little India and Chinatown. Singapore is beautiful. There is so much green here... we have forgotten what 1st world countries are like! We spent a day in the Botanical Gardens and a day on Sentosa Island, which has a surprisingly nice man-made beach where the sand and palm trees are all imported! We were a bit scared of the prices here, as our hostel dorm rooms were costing us the majority of our daily budget. We focused on seeing the sites as cheaply as possible and walking, walking, walking. I am proud to report we have both lost around 5lbs and feel much better about ourselves without that extra Taiwan chunk we had after living it up our last few weeks there! :) We may have slightly starved ourselves here (not because we wanted to lose weight - $$$) and we cut out beer. We each enjoyed one Tiger Beer on Saturday night and that was it! I suppose a little detox is good now and then.

As we head to Bali tonight, we are looking forward to beaches, bungalows, relaxing and reading, cheap beer and food... but we will certainly miss hot showers, amazing public transportation, and high speed internet!!

Much love to all our friends and family!