not all who wander are lost.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Sleep and Sarongs.

Meesh and I both have bellyaches. We feel feverish....goosebumps sweaty and achey all over. I was affected only for one evening. Meesh had a hard time getting out of bed this morning when the alarm went off at 5:30. We got a late start and were a bit disappointed with what we found. The swell is big, but coming from two some beaches arent getting the swell, so they're flat- and the ones getting it are all mixed up. There are two beaches that are breaking well but the lineup is super crowded and they are far away. We came home, i put on my sarong, had banana pancakes and took a nap. I woke up and paddled out front of our house, at Impossibles. It was only about chest high and by no means that good, but it felt great to get some exercise and to become better acquainted with my short stick. Rinsed off, put my sarong back on, and now I'm relaxing in my room- enjoying the ocean breeze, my iPod, and my pillow. If I'm not surfing in my bathingsuit, or riding on the moto in clothes then I'm wrapped up in my sarong. I paid $3 for them in Cambodia and they have been the best investment! One lays on my bed as a sheet- the other is used as a blanket when I sleep, as clothes when I'm hanging at home, as a towel when I get out from surfing- used to change outta my suit and for lounging on while at the beach. Bali is KNOWN for their sarongs....all of the men and most of the women wear them too. I love it. I love Bali.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Moto Moto

Moto's rule the road in Bali. This is our surf mobile, that's worth it's weight in gold....

Bali Shortboard Day 2

Bali Shortboard Day 2:

...I'm pretty good at this!!! Day two on the shortboard, feeling a bit discouraged even before I got in the water. My first day had not been a success, so I was anxious about how today would pan out. Well, Meesh found a shortcut to Nikko's (the spot we surfed before) which is perfect because otherwise it's a looooong walk in deep sand and hot sun. Then we see the's clean and there is NO ONE OUT. Meesh said that this is the first time she's ever had this in crowded Bali! Hooray! Lucky us!! We stretch and REapply More sunscreen before paddling out into the crystal clear, bright blue ocean. As I'm paddling I'm thinking "fucking hell this sucks! Two months in surfers paradise and I'm going to be floating and flailing like an idiot". Well, I caught a wave right away and I DIDN'T feel like a complete kook. This got me excited. Took another and then another, and with every wave I felt more comfortable and confident. Wow. I'm glad that I decided to give this new obstacle 3 days! I can't wait for tomorrow! On my last wave I even did a floater. Holy hell. Just like riding a bike...

After our surf, I laid out my sarong on the white sand beach. We chatted a bit and took a short power nap. After we rested we packed up the motobike, strapped on the boards, and headed for some late breakfast/ early lunch. My favorite place for this is at a Muslim Warung outside of Nusa Dua that Meesh took me to my first day. For 10,000 I had an iced tea and Nasi Campur (pronounced nah-see cham-poor, and it translates to "rice" and "mixed"). I got a big bowl of white rice and then an array of goodies on top and on the side: fried tempeh, tofu, sweet corn bread, cooked spinach, green beans with sprouts and garlic, curry with chicken and tofu, shrimp chips, and a sausage-esque-thing. And a big bowl of SAMBAL on the side...the BEST sambal in all of Bali. Sambal is chili sauce. It comes in many varieties, and the one that this woman makes is the best. Basically it's plain tomato sauce with heaps of chili peppers and garlic. If you want to make in the US do about 2/3 plain tomato sauce and 1/3 of Srirachas Chili and Garlic mixture. Put it on anything and everything. All of this food for ONE dollar. And that was just mine. Meesh got her own spread as well. When we got back to our beautiful home we showered and then napped....long and hard. It feels so good to be back into a healthy routine of exhausting (but amazing!) physical activity, good food and long naps. Going to hit up the Internet now so Meesh can work, then early to bed.



I posted a blog about New Zealand the other day, and got a heated response back about a comment I made about Aussies. My comment was lighthearted and it was taken to a whole other level by a reader who stumbled upon my blog. It got me thinking again about Stereotypes-- a subject that has come up quite often over these past few months of traveling. As much as we try to dismiss them, they exist. And there's a bit of truth to them...afterall, that's how they came to be. I never judge based on these stereotypes, and I don't believe that any of us should. The only way to know a person, no matter their nationality, is to sit with them and have a conversation. Well, I've conversed with people from every corner of the globe. Many responses I get are "wow!! I can't believe youre american! You're so cool! And well traveled!". Ha! Most stereotypes are negative, highlighting only the bad things about a place, religion or nationality. You can't generalize whole populations...we are all individuals to say the least. But I will say that there is some truth to stereotypes that we just can't ignore. As a traveler, you are representing you're country. Some people may never make it to the US, so I am representing my homeland. The guys I was climbing with the other day stated that all climbers are cheap. Most surfers agree that surfers suffer from big EGO's. My Israeli friends will quickly admit to bargaining for everything...and not giving up until they reach the price they want. Every Aussie will proudly admit to loving a party and being able to drink heavily and often. Anyone who has met an Aussie will agree. Yes, I know- Americans are loud and obnoxious, ignorant people. This is the stereotype we were given. When people say this to me or are quick to judge because of it- i just laugh it off. Yes, im loud. But my dutch friends are loud to. I know the person that i am, so i let negative generalizations just roll off my back. ...Arabs are religious lunatics. Irish people only eat potatoes. White girls dont have booties. French women have hairy armpits. Asians only eat rice. Blondes are dumb. Well here ya have it:

After doing some scouring of the WWW, I came up with some entertaining information and some well written articles about the topic.

" A stereotype is a popular belief about specific social groups or types of individuals. The concepts of "stereotype" and "prejudice" are often confused with many other different meanings. Stereotypes are standardized and simplified conceptions of groups based on some prior assumptions. " --wikipedia

-Dave Berry : "And as Americans, we must ask ourselves: Are we really so different? Must we stereotype those who disagree with us? Do we truly believe that ALL red-state residents are ignorant racist fascist knuckle-dragging NASCAR-obsessed cousin-marrying road-kill-eating tobacco-juice-dribbling gun-fondling religious fanatic rednecks; or that ALL blue-state residents are godless unpatriotic pierced-nose Volvo-driving France-loving left-wing Communist latte-sucking tofu-chomping holistic-wacko neurotic vegan weenie perverts? Yes. This is called 'diversity,' and it is why we are such a great nation - a nation that has given the world both nuclear weapons AND SpongeBob SquarePants. And so today I am calling upon both sides in the red-blue rift to reach out. Maybe we could have a cultural-exchange program between red and blue states. For example, a delegation from Texas could go to California and show the Californians how to do some traditional Texas thing such as castrate a bull using only your teeth, and then the Californians could show the Texans how to rearrange their football stadiums in accordance with the principles of 'feng shui' (for openers, both goalposts should be at the west end of the field). Or maybe New York and Kentucky could have a college-style 'mixer,' featuring special 'crossover' hors d'oeuvres, such as bagels topped with squirrel parts."

Stereotypes have been been around for years, and I dont think that they are going anywhere. Don't be offended by a generalization-- if you are you're own person than no one can judge otherwise. And if they do, fuck em. Take it all with a grain of salt and a smile.


My House. Me Rumah.

This is my home until April 9th, when we leave Bali and move to Lombok. It's literally ON the surfbreak Impossibles, and I could throw a stone at Padang Padang. It takes me 15seconds to walk down to the ocean and about 5 minutes to walk up our steep staircase to the motobike!!! (hahaha huffing and puffing, so outta shape). Though there are surf spots all around here, the wind has been crap so we've been driving about 20-30minutes to the waves (which costs us, round trip, about 50cents in gas). Bali is doing me oh-so-right.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Northland New Zealand

MmMmM...northland New call to me. Whenever I decide that I want to go somewhere, the universe will discourage or encourage this by bombarding me with signs. Well, all signs say GO for New Zealand this December. Though I've found most Aussies drunk and obnoxious, I loooove the Kiwi's!! Keep meeting people, making connections and slowly but surely lining up some work and amazing surf (and some rock climbing!) in northern new Zealand. Yeeeewww! Now I have something to work towards upon my return home, and to work....

Easy and Inexpensive.

I'm living on 100,000 rupiah a day...sometimes even less. Thats a little more than $10usd a day-- for food, transport, and beach front accommodation. Yesterday when our moto was on E, it cost us 13,000 to fill it to the brim...that's $1.50!!! And that tank will last us 2 full days of driving all over, checking surf breaks, etc or nearly a week if we just putz around locally. Our room is 70,000 so split is 35,000ea, about $4. Once we move to Lombok it will br even cheaper because the accommodation is freeeeeeeeee!! Meesh has a job at a surf camp there and part of the deal is that she gets an apartment. Lucky me!! So stoked to be able to live on a budget without stressing too much. And lucky me-- Meesh has MASTERED the art of budgeting and knows all of the cheap cheap but wonderful places to go. Hoooray!! We didn't surf this morning. Woke up at 530am...putzed around and didn't see anything stellar. The wind was really heavy today, spurts of rain, Meesh had work to do, and I had a wickkkked sunburn that probably should be given a day of rest. We are at a cafe now enjoying blogging and reading, and Meesh working. Later we head to Kuta for some sunglasses and dinner. Easy living.


Finally catching up on the crisis in japan. Nearly 11,000 dead, with upwards of 16.000 missing and 190,000 misplaced. The 9.0 magnitude earthquake and tsunami wrecked havoc-- made worse by aftershocks (with magnitudes around 6.5!), frigid temperatures and highly contaminated irradiated water...that's making it's way towards the ocean. This environmental and nuclear crisis is pretty hard to wrap your head around. I'm sitting in a cafe, reading the past weeks worth of New York Times: global edition, as Meesh works on her computer. I've been sooooo out of the loop the past 2 months, it's somewhat of a culture shock to catch up on all that I've missed. The Japanese people have responded with jishuku, a way to express solidarity in a time of crisis. Basically defined, JISHUKU is VOLUNTARY SELF-RESTRAINT. Nearly all of the country is onboard...turning out lights, living without luxuries, and discontinuing any seasonal pleasures that the Japanese population frequently partake in. Try going one day without your favorite luxuries, and without electricity....

Monday, March 28, 2011

Bali Shortboard Day 1

Bali Shortboard Day 1:

I was cursing this goddamn shortboard... until a big cleanup set came
through. Duckdiving is brilliant. But...paddling is a dog, catching
waves is too much work, and even sitting on the damn thing is awkward.
Uncomfortable, unfamiliar. I'm used to having 9' under me, not 6. All
day long it was KILLING me to be out in PERFECT waves...and I was a
total kook. If I had
my longboard I'd have paddled out in half the time. I would have
Caught 95% of the waves I paddled for, as opposed to Missing 95% of
the waves I paddled for. Today was a huge blow to my ego. So, I'm
chalking it up to a good lesson, and a good workout. A hurt ego is a
good thing. Very humbling. I've gone from one of the top surfers in
the lineup to being at the very bottom. Humiliating...and humbling.
But, I'm trying to stay positive and give it a chance. I'm giving
myself 3 full days to get a handle of this whole shortboard thing. My
first day of rock climbing was shit, but the second day was good and
the third was better. Everyone says that I'd have gotten good at
snowboarding if I gave it More than ONE day. "Three days", they all
told me. Three seems to be the magic number, so wish me luck. I don't
want to be flailing around like a goddamn idiot for the next two

Today I learned:
- duck diving is very, Very nice.
- the sun is very strong in Bali, and SPF 30 doesn't quite cut it for
virgin skin and a 3 hour surf sess
- Meesh is a goddess....taking me to the most amazing warungs to eat
cheap cheap Cheap local food. Driving me on the moto to perfect surf
spots. And speaking Bahasa Indonesia to the locals when they don't
speak English
- people from new Zealand are sexy
- the ego is a tricky thing
- I'm out of shape...need to lose some serious LBs and get my act together

Eat GOOD food that's delicious and nutritious, surround yourself with
and pour your energy into a few GOOD people, throw your ENTHUSIASM
into things that make you HAPPY- and everything else will fall into

That's all of the life lessons I picked up in the past 24 hours.

My next rendezvous with mister 6'1" is tomorrow morning...wish me
luck...I'm not getting action from anywhere (anyone)else, so this is
my only option....

Sunday, March 27, 2011



cheaper than laos.
better food than any other country in SE Asia.
kuta bali: insanity.
board purchased....SHORTBOARD.
yep, no longboard. a shortboard. holy christ, its been 10 years. wish me luck.
cell phone purchased....for $30.
meesh: PRICELESS. she knows bali like the back of her hand....
....all the places to eat.
....all the places to surf.
.....everything cheap cheap cheap.
....and how to go about traveling in this country.
amazing place on cliff, overlooking padang padang and Impossibles.
great people at our new great place.
great place = 70,000 indo rupiah a day {$8usd}

feeling a bit homesick.
no internet at new place.
moto bike is necessary in bali, im at meesh's mercy.
missing my mom and dad.
missing linda and MICK.
miss climbing rocks.

taking a deep breath. going to enjoy this new adventure. 2 months to go....

Friday, March 25, 2011

Asia rendezvous recap.

I'm sitting in the Lao airport right now. It's 6:30am. I'm a bit foggy, a bit anxious and a teensy bit sad. Gave Linda a quick hug this morning before jetting out the door. I'm going to miss my funny, tell-it-like-it-is Dutch traveling partner. I've had two pretty amazing months, and now I'm preparing for my second half of the journey. Though indonesia is also southeast Asia, it seems to be an entity all it's own.

Cambodia was my favorite country in SE Asia. The people were incredibly kind and genuine, the prices were much cheaper than anywhere else I traveled, and the sights were outstanding. The travelers you met in Cambodia were a different breed...not there for the party like most that you meet in Thailand or Laos.

Though Thailand was overrun by tourists and jaded Thai people, PAI in northern Thailand was hands town my favorite town in all of SE Asia. Quaint, intimate, amazing. A sort of Utopia. A place filled with really outstanding food, cheap and delicious street food as well as inexpensive restaurants that offered up outrageously stupendous dishes. Also, here is where I had my good friends Ramzi, Linda...and of course, Mick. Pai is where I began to feel like myself again after such a shitty year. I will definitely be making a return trip....sooner rather than later.

And then there is Laos. The "fuckall hatefest" Laos. I know that my friend Emily Corkill will adamantly disagree...but Laos was absolutely my least favorite country. Yes, many Lao people have a smile on their face, but that's because they are ripping you off; you know it- they know it- and theres not much that you can do about it. The rain definitely tainted my experience here, along with the whole stolen bike scenario- but the trip was saved by the beautiful landscapes, delicious local food (laap, jaew mak len, Lao salad...I could go on) and of course- rock climbing. Almost every inch of Laos looks like a postcard. The heart of mother nature lives in the limestone cliffs of Vang Vieng (it's just a shame that the town has become overrun with inappropriately drunk and inconsiderate Brits). It was impossible to take a BAD picture in Laos...whether you were in the old sleepy town of Luang Prabang, party town and outdoor adventure destination Vang Vieng, or the french-inspired capital of Vientiane. If it weren't the case that I was blatantly ripped off Atleast once a day then maybe I'd leave with a better taste in my mouth. Oh well, a great time was still had, a new sport acquired, and some fabulous new friends were made.

And now- a short flight to Bangkok, several hours of killing time in Bangkok International before my afternoon flight to Jakarta, then to Bali. I can't wait to be reunited with my Meesh, and to be reunited with my beloved's been too long.


I just spent 26$ on dinner. Usually I don't spend more than 20$ in a whole day...that's breakfast, lunch, dinner, accommodation and more. But for $26 I enjoyed a fabulous meal at a fabulous french restaurant:

*Steak aux herbes de Provence with frites
*2 large glasses of delicious French wine
*a HUGE cheese tray

For 26. Total. Insane.

Good People make for Good Times.

I'm hooked. A junkie in the making. I want to climb rocks....not now, Right now.

I ran into the boys on day 4, my first day of rest after 3 days of climbing. They were headed to climb somewhere across the river and they said that they'd be out at the Q-Bar later in the evening. We met up that night and of course we talked about climbing. I had a million questions, and they were eager to provide me with answers. Shane asked if I wanted to join them for a climb the next day- they were headed to a place 20k outside of town. He told me to just rent a harness and some shoes, and to meet them at their breakfast spot on the corner at 9am. I could barely sleep. These guys are ammmaazing climbers-- so I was excited that I was even allowed to tag along-- but better yet I was going to get in some climbing as well!!! I woke before 7, had coffee and breakfast, rented my gear and met up with the boys. Let me introduce you:

Mike: mike is 30years old...from upstate PA, but has been living on the west coast for years now. He has his masters degree in environmental education and he is a diehard outdoorsmen. For 6 months of the year he works in Yosemite National Park and the other 6 in northern California or traveling around the globe. He is extremely docile, lover not a fighter, and patient-beyond-comprehension. He is humble and the type of person that always says "bless you" after you sneeze. He's a goddamn powerhouse, 185pounds of sheer muscle...a climbing machine. He dances his way up the rocks. Its fascinating. I'll be visiting him this fall in yosemite for some free camping, hotsprings, and of course- climbing!

Marcus: Marcus is 31 years old, from Switzerland. He is an accomplished graphic designer, musician, cycler, hiker, snowboarder, surfer and climber. As soon as you think you've figured out Marcus he throws a curve ball at you-- he's probably also a master painter and famous philosopher! He has a hand in everything! I love Marcus's attitude-- "no probbblem". He was the one belaying me on a difficult climb the other day. I was up there for awhile, and had to say TAKE a couple times...just hanging there trying to figure out a route to the top. I was cussing up a storm and apologizing for being a shitty climber. He always just gave a little smile and a shrug, replying "...No Probbblem".

Shane: Shane is from new Zealand. He is quite tall with broad full shoulders and an amazing chiseled back. He is extremely quiet and he comes off as serious-- though I get the impression that when he's around his buddies that he's anything BUT serious. He's an athlete through and through- and he's done everything from racing dirtbikes to surfing. The first few days that I hung out with Shane I thought that he hated me. Or atleast was annoyed by me and my constant banter. On the final day, in the final hours, I realized that this wasnt the case at all. Shane is shy and considerate and patient-- I get the impression that not only is he a loyal climbing partner, but the most loyal of friends. When he climbs he is quiet and calculated, each move thought out. If we had a few more days together I think that he would have come out of his shell a bit. No worries though, I'll be seeing him again.

Alon: Alon is Israeli, and is Shanes travel partner and climbing partner. They met in New Zealand and they've been climbing and Traveling together ever since. The compliment eachother like peanutbutter and jelly-- it seems as if they've been friends since birth. Alon is also an amazing climber-- but he shouts cuss words when he falls and he does NOT like words of encouragement while climbing. He takes full advantage of me being gullible...telling tall tales that get me going. "I just met my parents in Bangkok". "REALLY?!? no way!!!". Hahaha. Oh me oh my.

Last but not least,
Ahoud: Ahoud is also Israeli. He met Shane and Alon while climbing in Ton Sai (Thailand), and they reconnected in Vang Vieng. He's the most outgoing of the bunch- with a wicked sense of humor and sharp wit. Amidst the serious climbers, Ahoud is cursing and yelling and talking about cigarettes and beer. I love him. He also gives one of the best hugs I've ever gotten. He always says exactly what's on his mind and doesn't take any shit. He likes to climb, but he doesn't live and breathe it like the other guys do. He jokes that he's "retired" from the sport.

This group of gentlemen really MADE not only my trip to Van Vieng, but to all of Laos. I was having a "fuckall hatefest" until I started climbing and until I met the boys. Our final day together consisted of lounging all day by a blue lagoon, dipping in the cold water and relaxing. We had an EPIC Lao BBQ for dinner and then dancing and drinks @ the Q Bar to finish up the night. Such a lovely group of human beings, who were patient and extremely helpful in assisting me to wrap my head around this new sport. I'm so grateful to have crosses paths with them, and I can't wait for round 2....perhaps next year in Ton Sai!!

Linda and I have arrived now in the capital. We are drinking GOOD coffee at a proper CAFE, and later we are going to enjoy some wine and dinner at one of Vientianes many amazing French restaurants. Laos wasn't so bad afterall thanks to a few special travelers. Hopefully ill be just as lucky when I arrive in Indonesia. Two months of surfing, yoga, music and healthy living. Leaving this adventure and on to the next....

-John Hope Franklin : "We must go beyond textbooks, go out into the bypaths and untrodden depths of the wilderness and travel and explore and tell the world the glories of our journey."

Sent from my iPhone


I loooooovvveee SKYPE. If it weren't for this amazing way to keep intouch abroad then I certainly wouldn't be away right now. After much pestering, my friend Sarah FINALLY made an account. When you talk Skype to Skype (one account to another), it's free!!! So I can call you from southeast Asia, and we can talk for hours, for free. Because I have an iPhone, I'm also able to Video Skype, which is fabulous and funny. Apparently I'm very animated while video skyping...Sarah took these pictures of me when we were chatting the other day. Christ I'm such a nerd. I'm pretty sure that we were in the midst of gossiping about an exboyfriend or perhaps I was rambling about rock climbing....

If anyone wants to chat, my Skype name is:


It's free to set up and account, free to talk to other Skype accounts, and only 2 cents a minute to call landlines and cell phones. So get on it people, this is the wave of the future!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


Headed to the Organic Mulberry Farm Cafe for breakfast. GOOD coffee and ammmaazing mulberry pancakes. I neglected the butter and dressed my pancake with honey and fresh lime. Simply delicious.

Last Day, Lead Climbing.

Last Day, Lead Climbing.

I woke up and already felt defeated. My whole body ached - every muscle, every bone. My fingers were beginning to get irritated and infected. As I attempted to get out of bed, I felt like a 90 year old lady! I made my way to my porch and did about an hour of mellow, restorative yoga. Breathe, stretch, breathe, stretch, breathe, stretch. My breakfasts have been fruit, yogurt and muesli- but this morning I also had scrambled eggs-- protein! Yeeew! TukTuk ride, long walk and them we arrive, at the same place as the day before. Several levels for climbing, and a good 4A to learn how to lead on. My first run up was just Top my instructor had already climbed up, set the line in the anchors, and this was gonna be a piece of cake. Well it took me twice as long as it shouldve, because I was already shaking about the idea of going up this in a few minutes with no safety net! My life depended on me and my ability for the first time instead of my guide! Bah! Shitty climb, but Yong insists that I'm ready to do my Lead Climbing run. "belay on?", "on belay". "climbing?", "climb on". And off I went. Three meters up, attached to nothing. Then I set my first quick draw into an anchor, secured my rope and took a deep breath. Climbed 3 meters more and then set my second quick draw into the anchor, then my rope. One more anchor and then- the top. My arms were shaking, my legs were shaking, my palms were sweating, and I just trusted in my legs to take the final, BIG STEP towards the top anchor. Got it! Secured my safety sling (carabeener) into the top anchor, tied a safety knot, untied my original figure 8, looped it through the top anchor, retied. Untied my safety knot and then came down. Success!! I did it again, in half the time that the first run tool me. Once again we had local food for lunch! My favorite...the roasted tomato, shallot and chili dip, as well as sticky rice, fermented spring onions, a sausage and some little roasted birdies. Mmmm, so delicious. After lunch I decided that I didn't trust my tired body to do more lead climbing runs, so instead I tested myself with a challenging 6A+. First time was a breeze...even Yong commented on how impressed he was. Gave it a second run and this was pathetic. My arms and hands were shot. Made it to the top but it was forced and sloppy. Called it a day around 4pm, did some yoga in the pasture on the way home, and then jumped in the river by my hut when I got back to town.

It's now 8am on tuesday- my first day off from climbing. I'm really missing the climbing today, but my body DEFINITELY needs a break. Moderation, Cailin! This is something that I struggle with. Laying in the hammock on my porch, enjoying the chilly morning. My plans for today: absolutely nothing. One point in time Linda and I are going to ride bikes to the Organic Mulberry Farm for mulberry pancakes, but other than that I don't plan to leave this hammock! Tomorrow we head to the capital, and Saturday I'm of for Indonesia!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Rock Climbing Day 2

Rock Climbing Day 2:

After some fresh fruit, yogurt and muesli, i met Yong @ the Green Discovery office. We hopped into a TukTuk and drove several kilometers down the road. We hopped out, crossed the SKETCHIEST bamboo "bridge" and then walked a few kilometers more through a small village, sugar cane farms, and herds of cows. The backdrop-- huge, beautiful limestone cliffs. As we walked I was a little bit worried about my second day. My body was still pretty tired and I was a bit discouraged from my last climb of the day before-- only making it half way and slicing up my fingers. Today I had all of my fingers taped, and nearly all of my body was rubbed down with tiger balm. Thankfully we were in the SHADE today! My first two climbs were a level 4. The day before my first ever experience climbing was on a 5a, my second on a 6. So...this was good for me!! I made it up pretty quickly and then climbed it again from a different angle. Getting through this swiftly and successfully gave me the confidence that I needed. I did two climbs on a 5A and two climbs on a 5B. I didn't fall, I never needed to just hang and take a break, and I made it to the top of each one. And really- I wasn't scared at all. My biggest emotion was frustration...when I was stuck to the side of the wall with no idea where to grab next, or where to place my next step. This is purely my ego-- not ever wanting to be a "beginner" hahaha. After 6 climbs we finally took a LONG lunch break. My arms were fucking shot. My fingers hurt. And my whole body was shaking. I was stoked on lunch- as discussed and promised, Yong didn't make me a "tourist" lunch-- he brought LOCAL LAO food. On the menu was grilled catfish, fermented cabbage and spring onions (which had a VERY potent smell), cured buffalo skin (odd appearance and texture, decent taste- but not my cup of tea), sausage, sticky rice and jaew roasted tomatoe and chili dip. Oh yeah, some of those yummy spring-roll-esque things that I had at the morning market in Luang Prabang. We sat and enjoyed our lunch by a wall/cave that is level 7A...very difficult. Marcus from Switzerland, Mike from California and two guys from New Zealand were climbing this seemingly impossible scenario. Mike is great-- he lives in northern Cali and then works 6 months in yosemite. He is soft spoken, sweet and buff. He is an avid rock climber and the most advanced of the bunch. He did the lead climbing on this bit. Lead climbing means you climb without the safety of a rope and quick grabs. It's YOUR job to free climb and set up the quick grabs for the others To hook into. Marcus is the least advanced- but god bless him- he gave this difficult run a go...several times, with no success. The guys from New Zealand are pretty damn good climbers and though I didn't get their names, they were good guys as well. It was so relaxing and enjoyable to eat a delicious Lao spread in the company of such fine Human beings. One thing that I really like about climbing, which is different from surfing, is the lack of ego. Even when I was climbing the easy level 4, everyone cheered me on and offered me Advice or pointers ("try for that pinch by your left hand..."). After lunch I ran up the 5B again, and felt pretty beat. Yong suggested we try the 6A before heading home, and though my body cried no, my ego said yes. One more climb, 6A, don't quit now!! Well, half way up the very steep, very difficult wall my body told me to F-off. Completed exhausted and defeated I yelled to Yong, "you got me?!?!?!", and the second that he said yes I let go. I probably shouldve saved time and strength and called it quits before this wall, but I had to atleast Try. We packed up, trekked out, made it safely across the bamboo bridge and then the TukTuk dropped me at my bridge. I crossed the bridge then tossed my bag. Clothes and all I walked into the river and laid down. Goddamn, it felt amazing!! Going to have a mellow up for my 3rd and final day of rock climbing. I'll be learning how to LEAD CLIMB!! After talking to all the guys I think im going to invest in a harness and sneakers-- make this a full time hobby. I'm hooked. Terrified of heights?!?! Never.

Saturday, March 19, 2011


Falang means "foreigner" in Lao.

Today when climbing, my adoring teacher Yong invited me along to a festival in town, an annual event, only Lao people. I asked if it was okay of i brought Linda along, and he said it was fine. We agreed to meet at the climbing headquarters at 8pm. We arrived and out of a thousand people, Linda and I were the only white people there. EVERYONE stared at us....EVERYONE: monks, women, men, children, and especially young guys. We played some typical festival games like throwing darts at balloons and such. Then we grabbed a table and posted up. Their was a band playing, food, and of course-- Beer Lao. We were only there for a few hours, but we learned heaps about the Lao culture. For example, you pour someone a cup of your bottle of beer. They are supposed to finish it and then hand the cup back to you and say thank you. If they don't finish the cup it's rude- and You don't finish the just pour the rest out. So, it's not unusual to share cups, but it's not okay to share whats inside the cup. Also, dancing. You only dance in Laos if someone asks you. They ask by coming up to you, placing their hands in prayer, and bowing to you. Women don't ask men, men ask the women. And Lao men are very shy, so if a man asks you it is Extremely rude to decline. When you approach the dance floor, you don't make eye contact- especially when you're dancing. To make eye contact is scandalous. So everyone is slowing stepping around a big circle that has formed, twirling their wrists, not looking at one another. So random. Linda and I danced a fair amount and just cracked up at the slow, disconnected "dance" (or rather, a walk). We drank bottomless cups of Beer Lao. We snacked on BBQ'd crickets served with lime leaves, dried squid, fried meatballs with lemongrass, watermelon seeds and sweet popcorn. To say that we were popular with the Lao crowd would be an understatement. I think that we were the highlight of the festival- much to Yong's delight. He had a smile from ear to ear all night as he told everyone that we were with him. Linda and I called it quits around midnight-- danced out, snacked out, and a bit drunk. Tomorrow is day 2 of climbing...but Yong and I agreed on starting our excursion around 10am. An extra hour of sleep will do us both good...

Rock Climbing Day 1

Wow. Rock climbing. THe gnarliest thing ive ever done. We climbed a huge limestone cliff just to GET to the rockclimbing. I had about 30minutes of safety and lessons before I climbed to the top of this HUGE fucking limestone cliff. STRAIGHT up. There is no "rock wall" to practice on, just the sheer cliff in mother nature. I was so scared, hysterical giggles...but I did it. Theres been a few times in my life that I've felt insanely proud of myself, and this was one of those moments. Wow. For a girl who is terrified of heights I did it. Cut my fingers pretty bad on my second climb {the first was a 5A, my second was a 6B...this is difficult, not for beginners}. My arms were exhausted and my whole body ached, the sunwas beating down, and I just got a bit sloppy, slicing the skin off my fingers on my left hand when I tried to grab one of the JUGS {there are jugs, underhangs, left cling, right cling and pinches}. I called it a day early because I still wanted to have some energy for the next two days. It was awesome. Terrifying and soooo very difficult, but awesome. Tomorrow I use my legs more and rely less on my arms -- I have to stop POWERING my way up. I'm going to tape up my fingers and try to channel my inner "fearlessness". Heading out now with my guide, "john". Hes a few inches shorter than me, with a ginormous smile. He's a 24 year old Lao whoLOOOOOVESSS music. He invited me to the village for a big festival tonight. It's going to be an authentic good time.

Two more days to go....

Friday, March 18, 2011

And just like that...

As Forrest Gump said, "...and just like that, the rain stopped."

Halle-fuckin-lujah! Just as I was approaching insanity the hard downpour turned into a drizzle and the sun began to make it's way out from behind the clouds. Vang Vieng is actually quite beautiful when you are able to look around instead of looking at your feet- trying to dodge man-eating puddles. We had a relaxing afternoon just cruising around town. We had a full "comfort" day, trying to shake the bad mood and get back to our happy selves. We watched twilight, ate pizza and drank beer. In the evening we had cheeseburgers and french fries, and played endless rounds of Shithead. I managed to book myself a 3 day rock climbing course. No one else has enrolled, so for $150 I have 3 days of one on one instruction, along with lunch and equipment. No "rock wall" here, just the real deal from mother nature. But still, even after a semi-rain-free-day, I don't really like Laos. And neither does Linda. She put it right when we were chatting this evening before bed...

"Cailin, I just don't understand. Everyone is so excited about Laos-- but I hate it. I feel guilty, like I'm doing something wrong... But im trying, and I just don't like it."

Linda, I fully agree. Keeping our chins up though and despite our situation we will have a good time. Tonight we opted out of the party - instead we relaxed in the room, talking about everything from love to farts. So much of a place isn't where you are but who you're with. Im thankful to have Linda with me here in quite sure I'd be sad and lonesome without her!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

When All Else Fails...

When all else fails....
When the rain won't stop...
When you're sad and cold...

Drink beer. Eat pizza. Watch Twilight!

Hoooooray! Found a bar with a binder full of movies...and guess what, they have twilight!! Alot of people in the bar aren't happy with my movie choice, all of them coming down off of last nights high, but I don't care. TWILIGHT TWILIGHT TWILIGHT... I LOOOVE YOU.

Photos From Home

Woke up really frustrated today with Laos. Called my mom and Sarah and that helped to cheer me up a bit. Then I opened up my email and had a message from my mom with these photos. Really missing my dad alot, so it was great to get these! Thanks mom!

F*ing Hatefest Continues...

I have been in Laos for 9 days now. I've had 2 good days-- days of food and complete relaxation. For the past 7 days it's been raining. I cannot stress to you about the AMOUNT of rain and the INTENSITY of rain. It's COLD and suppressive and has everyone on the brink of hysteria. I'm trying to be Suzie optimistic, but these conditions are paralyzing. After a hellacious, freezing, uncomfortable 7 hour drive, we arrived in Vang Vieng. Linda was carsick the whole twisty, twurvy, bumpy ride and I was a severely nauseous myself- and I Never get car sick. Vang Vieng wasn't at the top of my list as a place to go. The thing to do here is Tubing. You rent a tube, float down the river, and get insanely "pissed". You get a free joint with your 'bucket' of booze. Most young travelers you meet say that this event was the highlight of their trip. Those of you that know me KNOW that this is NOT my cup of tea. When we arrived last night we ran into my German friend Philipp. He said that everyone in town starts drinking When they wake up around 1-2pm. You see them at dinner, "oh man im so wasted, I need to eat some food". After dinner when you're back home, you pass the communal bathrooms and everyone is throwing up. They take a nap and then they are out on the town at night for round 2. This is the usual behavior, so now that it's nonstop rain- the drinking has intensified. Philipp said that he's leaving for Vietnam early. All there is to do here is tubing, rock climbing, or trekking-- none of which can be done in the rain. Every restaurant in this town plays FRIENDS or FAMILY GUY (truly a stoners paradise). Philipp says that over his past few days here that he has watched EVERY episode and can't stomach anymore. I'm feel like I'm stuck, and I hate that feeling. Honestly, I don't like Laos. If it was sunny I could keep myself occupied with adventure, but it's not. Every encounter I have with someone from Laos, they try to rip me off. Most of the travelers here are different from those I met in Cambodia and northern Thailand- they are young backpackers here to "get fucked up". I'm 9 days away from my Bangkok flight to Bali...but 9 days is a long time. Friendships and love affairs can happen in less than this while traveling. I KNOW that I don't want to spend all 9 days in Vang Vieng, even if the sun eventually shows itself. I don't want To be cold anymore, and I don't care to be drunk all day. Ideally I would like to snap my fingers and be back in Pai. I'd have my Wicked Omlette for breakfast @ the Witching Well, hang by the river in the afternoon. Do some yoga and play some guitar. I'd have maasaman curry @ Na's and then have a drink and play some music in the evening at Buffalo Exchange. But I guess that this is what traveling is about. Seeing all of it. Some of it you like, some of it you loathe. You take away some of this and some of that and you carry it with you forever. Now I know that there is a little slice of heaven waiting for me in northern Thailand and that Laos is somewhere that I can say "yeah, I've been there...". Say a little prayer that this rain stops or atleast eases up a bit....

Thank God for Linda and thank God for cardgames like shithead....

Side note: woke up this morning, freezing- more rain. Said the F word about 50times. My apologies. I only made my "no swear word" about 2days

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Rain Rain Go Away

Rain Rain Go Away

Though monsoon season is still a month away, I think it's come early this year. Today was the third day of nonstop rain. It rains all day and all through the night. Yesterday and today it was torrential downpour-- rain that was just endless. As I lay in bed right now typing up this blog, the sound of the rain outside my window is deafening. There are moments when the buckets turn to a drizzle, but there hasn't been a dry moment for days and there doesn't appear to be one in sight. And it's FREEEEEEEZING cold. I'm layering clothes- two pants, several shirts, all my scarves. All the research I did told me that southeast is HOT this time of year, and very very dry. When you are living out of one small rucksack for months at a time, every inch of space counts. SO: I left out warm clothes (hoodies, longsleeves, etc.) and my rain coat. I debated packing it, but based on the information I had, it would be unnecessary and just take up room. Well I'll be damned. I've been soaking wet for 3 days, with mud splattered up the backs of my legs and pants from my flip flops. I've been chilled down to the bone (except when in the sauna) and I'm even getting a little sniffle. I've doubled up in vitamin c and I'm trying to change out of my wet clothes as often as possible. What is it that you want to do on a rainy day?? Linda and I both agreed- relax and watch a movie. Well lucky us, the bar up the street shows movies once a week and tonights movie was PULP FICTION. Pulp Fiction is an American classic, so I was glad to be able to share it with Linda. For 50,000kip you got a "ticket": a seat and a beer. Not a bad deal. The movie was better than I remember and it was great to relax and settle into some Cinema-it's been over 2 months. It's the small comforts from home like this that are really nice from time to time. Aside from the movie, we did alot of nothing today- and it was awesome. We woke up late and had a long breakfast on the Mekong. Linda hit up the Internet cafe while I went to deal with the whole bike fiasco. Me and a doZen Lao people negotiating a price for my "stolen" bike. They started at 250, and after some serious haggling I gave the woman $50usd. It was 50 bucks more than I wanted to part with, but shit happens and atleast I didnt have to pay what she was originally asking. Afterwards I decided I'd skip lunch and use that money to get my legs waxed. Ive been growing out the hair on my legs for over 2 weeks so I could get em done- and Linda was embarassed to be seen with me because they were so hairy. Well nearly two hours of torture later I finally said enough is enough. They only got the front of my legs, from the knee down. And nearly half of those hairs were plucked, not waxed. So now 1/4 of my legs are semi-waxed, the rest...very hairy. Atleast it only cost me $3. Scooped up Linda, filled her in about my painful experience, and we went for lunch. Enjoyed a lovely meal, shared a beer, and played some Shithead. Then, we went from lunch to coffee. Following coffee was the fabulous sauna, and then grilled fish for dinner at the market. Topped off with pulp fiction and now we're going to bed. Tomorrow we head to Vang Vieng. I've heard mixed reviews, so I'm hoping that it's a good time-- or atleast that theres no rain.....

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Linda is Here!

My favorite Dutch woman is here! Rejoice!! I stood in the rain for one hour yesterday, waiting for her slow boat to arrive. When she stepped off the boat I screamed LINDDDDAAA! bah! So excited. We walked through the cold, pouring rain back to our guesthouse - a new guesthouse, where they don't steal your bicycle. I talked her ear off for the first hour- barely taking a breath. We've only known eachother 2 weeks, and been apart for four days, but I was so excited to see her that I almost burst with joy! I drug her off to the herbal sauna, already laughing because I knew what shed say once we got there. "Fuck! this is HOT!". Hahaha. Oh Linda. She stuck it for a full hour and actually really enjoyed herself, asking if we could return the following day. The skies had opened up, literally dumping buckets. It was freezing cold and we were sopping wet. Linda looks at me and says "what the F is going on?!?" bah. We hail a TukTuk (Whig are quite expensive, and still we are completely saturated by the time we reach the night market for food. Oh well. We shivered our way through our delicious, super inexpensive meals and then decided to head back to the safe dry warm haven of our guesthouse. Split a big Beer Lao with Linda, played some shithead and went to bed early. Hooray, Linda is here!!

Swearing Off the Swear Words.

One week, swear free. Well, no F word. Wish me luck. 

Happy Again.

Linda is here. Beer is cold. Banana Bread is good. Stolen bike? What bike...? Life is good.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Fuckall Hatefest.

Fuckall Hatefest.

I average one meltdown every three weeks when I'm traveling. The meltdown usually lasts only a day or so, but it's pretty gnarly and, I think, necessary. The whole "what goes up must come down" theory. Balance. Well today is apparently that day. Fuck Fuck Fuck Fuck Fuck. Yep, I said it- and I'll probably say it 200times more before noon (it's now 11am). Woke up at 6am, watched the monks procession from my deck and enjoyed the coolness and serenity that the light rain offered up. Met a friend at 730am for breakfast which was just a short walk from my house. Around 9 I returned home and wanted to go for coffee and some WiFi. When I went to unlock my bike, I noticed that it wasn't there. Confused, I did a lap around the Guesthouse. Where was my beloved hot pink bike hiding?! Finally I ask the owner where my bike was. "oh, stolen. Sorry." what the fuck? You're kidding right? It was locked up, I carried it up the flight of stairs and laid it alongside the house. At night we close the gate and lock it up. So you mean to tell me that someone hopped the fence, took my bike, threw it over and then climbed over?! Oh - and crazy enough, they didn't take any bikes that belonged to the owner?! Yep, that's some fishy bullshit. In the pouring rain i walked barefoot to where I rented the bike the day before. When I told them they didn't fret they just said that I had to buy a new bike. Oh-no-way-Jose!!! I told them that I was going to talk to my guesthouse again and then the police. Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck. Walked to the coffee shop- soaking wet and muddy from head to toe. Called my mom and didn't get any comfort from That conversation. Cried a bit into my up of coffee and then stopped being sad and got really pissed off. Like, epically pissed off-- insanely pissed off. I just came off of the most amazing dare some motherfucker taint my Lao experience. You know the saying "one bad apple"...yep, well now I no longer love Laos. In fact, at the moment I loathe Laos. I cannot wait to leave. Dear Laos, I'm not recommending you to anyone. Fuck you for stealing my bike. Love, Cailin. Thank God that my fun dutch friend Linda arrives today or I would be miserable and all alone in my ex-favorite-town. (sina and the crew left this AM). I have an hour left of this hatefest I hope, and then it will pass. Hopefully this goddamn rain will do the same...

Asian Beauty Secret #1

Asian Beauty Secret #1:

I've always wondered why Asians have the most impeccably beautiful skin...and now I know. Herbal Saunas. I have never been so beautiful in my whole life. Seriously. My healthy skin is radiating and my whole body is as smooth as the day I was born. And it's not just external, internally I feel superb as well! Yesterday when I returned to the sauna I brought along a pumice stone and some deep conditioner. In the steaming hot sauna as the sweat poured off and I inhaled the aromas of fresh lemongrass and eucalyptus, I scrubbed and scrubbed. Honestly, there wasn't much left TO scrub- I'd scrubbed off Several layers of dirt at my sauna session the night before. Still, I went at it with an indescribable enthusiasm. When I'd retreat to the deck for some fresh air, as you do, I'd have a cup of hot tea. The huge urns of hot tea are simply outstanding. I have no idea what kind of tea it is, but it's damn delicious. I get cramps hours later, so I'm guessing that there is a touch of senna in it... Anyways, you sit- sip- cool down and socialize. And then you do it all again. Women are rubbing milk, creams, exfoliants and such on their bodies. They splash some of the tea from their cup onto their faces and arms, scrub at their bodies with loofas and pumice and washcloths. And all of them- absolutely stunning...their skin, the picture of health. Most of the women there were familiar faces, all having been there the night before as well. I'm guessing that I'll see them tonight as well. Though its only 6am, I'm already looking forward to my evening sauna session: naked, wrapped in a sarong, sweating and scrubbing and loving life.

Good Better Best. Boom.

Every day has been better than the previous. Honestly. Every town is better than the one before. The food is delicious and the people are fantastic. The scenery has gotten increasingly beautiful with every move I've made. And it's gotten cheaper as well as I've cruised on. Aside from the fact that I'm missing Mick way more than I'd anticipated, this is the happiest I've been. Totally content. Everyone keeps asking me when I'm going to visit the temples or the caves, take in the sights. They all gasp in disbelief when I tell them that I haven't, I won't, and I have no plans to do so. If you've seen one temple (or in my case, if you've seen nearly 40 of them), than you've seen em all. I don't want another photo of a Buddha sculpture, and I'm sure that my facebook friends don't want to see another one either. Today was temple & "touristy" free...and it was divine. Woke at 6am and saw the monks procession, went to the morning market for a light breakfast and some social time with the elder Lao ladies who were doing their daily grocery shopping. I'd rented a bike which has proven to be an outstanding decision. Rode my bike to Joma Cafe and indulged in an expensive coffee. For 16,000kip ($1.98) I enjoyed the priciest cup of Joe in all of Luang Prabang. But- it was a large mug of freshly brewed coffee (no sludge with sweet milk- which I Do enjoy cold, but Don't enjoy hot). Also, I got a free refill. For 3 hours I relaxed and enjoyed my coffees, their comfortable chairs, and of course..their free wifi!!! After my lazy morning, I continued on with my lazy day. I covered some serious ground on my fabulous new was glorious. I love this town even more than I did upon my arrival. It's adorable. Had a hankering for some Pho (Asian noodle soup) and had a plethora of shacks to choose from. One in particular was packed FULL of Lao people. Clearly, this must be the place. It was a bit more than the other places - 15,000kip - but by far the best I've had yet!! I have tried Pho in every town I've been to in southeast Asia- and this one takes the cake. She had one item on the menu: Pho. With pork. There was no sign to the restaurant and the seating was informal. A huge plate of fresh herbs and spices came with my bowl of soup: mint, cilantro, Thai basil, watercress, lime, chilis, etc. The broth was PERFECT- not bland like many that I've had thus far. The pork came two ways- a bit of loin that had been sliced, and perfect miniature pork meatballs. Ammmmmaaazing. I finished my bowl quickly and was tempted to ask for seconds. I denied my "inner fatty" and told her NO- only one bowl!! Dangit. Got back on my bike and peddled my fatass home. When I got back to my homey-yet-semi-creepy guesthouse I passed out. Slept like a rock for two hours, making up for the few hours I'd gotten the night before. Decided on some dragonfruit for an afternoon snack-- grabbed some from my stash, picked up a knife and headed for our guesthouses front yard. A Lao man, in his 40s or 50s approached me and asked if I was the one who played guitar. When I said yes he asked if I didn't mind allowing him to play a tune or two. No problem at all. Turns out that my new friend Pang is an outrageously talented individual. A classically trained guitarist, fluent in french, with a pretty good handle on English. We passed the guitar back and forth and shared dragonfruit. I gotta say, my mini travel guitar was a great investment...the best $140 I've ever spent. I said goodbye at 4pm, jumped onto my bicycle and peddled as fast as I could to the Lao Red Cross. 4:05pm and I'm the first woman in the sauna....and it's HOT. Burning, Scolding Hot. Over the span of two hours I'm in and out, in and out, in and out. I drank many cups of hot tea and several cups of water. Because I was there alone, alot of the Lao women and girls were attempting to chat with me. They gave me a good seat in the crowded sauna, poured me tea and offered me milk (fresh milk) to put on my face and body before entering the steambath. It was really fantastic and completely relaxing. Next I walked into one of the side rooms and enjoyed an hour long Shiatsu massage ....ahhhmmmmmaaaazing. I was rubbed down with a eucalyptus cream and every knot and ailment was addressed. By the time I'd hopped on my bike to return home, I had spent 50,000kip ($7) and I'd enjoyed 3 and a half hours at the Lao Red Cross. My skin was absolutely beautiful, my hair was silky (thank you deep conditioner!)and my soul was happy- down to the core. There was a light drizzle which cooled the air and made my ride home just a much of a pleasure as my massage had been. I met up with Sian and friends for a dinner at the market and had the whole roasted fish that is stuffed with lemongrass- for 20,000kip ($2.50usd). Moist, perfectly seasoned perfection! Dessert was balls of sticky rice and shredded coconut, with mashed banana in the middle. I assure you that I had some sort of religious experience while eating these bits of heaven. Southeast Asia really knows how to treat their bananas! Had an early night and peddled my bike home through the rain, settled into my old bed in this ancient, creaky, beautiful guesthouse and was asleep in minutes. This was probably my most favorite day yet....

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Southeast Asian Fishing Pants

TAK BAT : the monks' alms procession

Research...a little goes a long way, and unless you plan to be an ignorant tourist than it's best that you do JUST a bit before heading into a foreign country.

Last night I moved into my new place. It's one of the oldest homes in Luang Prabang...and it is the most charming and authentic place that I've stayed yet. There are just a few rooms, so I feel lucky to be staying here. It's 50,000kip a night, so $6.20USD. I'm scared of the dark and what is has to offer (who knows....boogeyman?), and though I was glad to have my own space, falling asleep ended up being a bit difficult for me. Loud, old fans....creeky first night in nearly 4 months when I've had a room to myself! Didn't fall asleep until well past 2am. At 6am I heard the drums. I'm living across from Wat (which means "temple") Paphaimisaiyaram. I jumped out of bed to catch the monks morning procession.

"Daily at dawn, saffron clad monks pas barefoot through the streets while pious townsfolk place tiny balls of sticky rice in their begging bowls. It's a quiet, meditative ceremony through which monks demonstrate their vows of poverty and humility while lay Buddhists gain spiritual merit by the act of respectful giving."

...The guidebook and any website will tell you....

*stand across the road from the procession or better still watch inconspicuously from the window of your hotel
*refrain from taking photos or at best do so from a considerable distance with a long zoom. NEVER use a flash.
*maintain the silence

(to eat sticky rice you use your right hand. You grab a small fistful and roll it into a ball, then use the ball to dip into sauces. This is why they put "balls" of rice into the monks begging bowls.)

As I quietly made my way down the street I saw a swarm of tourists, snapping away with their digital cameras, and several Korean women gabbing away. There were 3 old ladies sitting on the corner with their offering. They must have felt like Paris Hilton leaving a club on a Saturday night. The flashes were nearly blinding. Ahhh-- i got so angry!!! What the fuck people!! Show some respect. Turn off your goddamn flashes, step back a few feet and attempt not to bastardize this beautiful display of humility and devotion. It was so disgusted that I quickly made my way back to my guesthouse, embarrassed to be a foreigner in this country. I sat on our deck and just enjoyed from a distance. I couldn't help but to cry a bit- first of all because it's so beautiful. Peaceful and moving. And second of all, I cried for the culture--- this is why I wanted to visit southeast Asia now as opposed to later. It's uneducated tourists like this that "ruin" a place. As much as the monks and locals try to fully participate in this morning procession, you can't help but to be distracted by a hundred flashing cameras. It took the peace and MAGIC out of this beautiful daily ritual. So Please Please Please...before you head to a country, take a few minutes to open a book or browse the web to learn a bit about where you're going. It makes you a better tourist and ultimately it makes the world a better place. Afterall, life is about respecting one another and our cultures. That's how billions of manage to share such a small place in the universe. Understanding and respect.


Groups: I do not like. I never have. Ever. When I was a kid I was intimidated to hang out with big crowds of little kids. In highschool I LOATHED going to parties. In college I had a very small, close group of 5 friends. Back home in Jersey I dip in and out of varying social circles, but there's not any One "group" that I belong to. I sooooo prefer one on one- I LIVE for one on one. Quality over quantity. I have good friends around the world...I'm almost constantly in the presence of someone, usually just one though- never more than 3. More than 3 people and things become complicated. When you become a group of four then you're too many. Maybe im just too selfish to be in a large group- I'm not happy to follow the leader- I know what I want to do, where I want to eat, and when I want to nap. This morning we wasted hours on debating breakfast. Tonite we had a nice dinner across the river, but there was 7 of us....4 too many. When the bill came it was a complete clusterfuck. I ended up paying thousands and thousands of Kip more than I owed and we were still coming up short. It took 30 minutes to work it out. As we were working out the bill, someone was planning a trip for the waterfall for the next day. Okay- a group at the waterfall...this is fun and pretty difficult to fuck up. Then they start on meeting for breakfast and walking around the market. Oh no no no. Not me. Alarm is set for 6am. I'm doing yoga, sneaking off to have breakfast alone, gonna crack out on some wifi and then get myself a private room. I wish that I liked big groups or felt comfortable in them- but I'm just a social loner...if that makes any sense.

Multi-lingual Scrabble

Last night we played scrabble in English, German and French. I love traveling....

Lovely Luang Prabang

Love love love Luang Prabang. And I love Sina (pronounced Zena). We had such a delightful morning at the market, and an even more lovely leisurely coffee and chat that followed. At the market we had purple rice that was steamed in a banana leaf with coconut milk (1,000kip) and some really outstanding spring-roll-esque things (5,000kip). A large noodle is made FRESH, rolled out onto a plate, then into it they roll a mixture of diced meat, mushrooms and fresh herbs. You top it with crispy fried onions and garlic, crushed peanuts, chilis, and spy sauce. Mmmhmm, they had both me and Sina moaning for me. I'll definitely go back tomorrow for more! I LOVE the outstanding selection of mushrooms that Laos has to offer. After the market we had a Lao coffee (which is like tar!), enjoyed our snacks from the market, and chatted away for a few hours. We covered it all: love, politics, languages, travel, family....the good and the bad. I told her about my plans to spend a few months in New Zealand and India next year- and then do one year in EUROPE. I want to buy a van and just cruise around, staying at the places of friends that I've made over the year- surfing along the coast and occasionally sleeping in the van. Above is a picture of my scribbled itinerary as we assessed the weather and time of year best spent in each country. As always, a loose plan- but Europe is definitely the destination. Hooray!!

Morning Market

The best way to understand a culture and get a feel for a town is to head to the morning market. Woke up early this morning, did some yoga, and then Sina and I skipped off to the Morning market. We were a bit too late for the selling of snakes and other live animals....but we still had an amazing time and enjoyed some new food, fruits and herbs. My favorite new herb is called Som Pan-- and it has a delicious salty citrus flavor. Ammmazing. They have a great selection of herbs here- so fresh and fantastic. Hopefully tomorrow we can pull ourselves outta bed and make to the market before 6am!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Solo Solo

Settling into this quaint little town and loving it. Every country I've visited has been a completely different experience for me. Cambodia was go go go, do do do, see see see. Thailand was all about the people that I was traveling with; Meesh, Mick, Linda, Ramzi and Dean. Now in Laos I want to be by myself. I really love my 3 Germans: Sina, Phillip and Arthur...but more than anything I just want to relax and fly solo. To start my break I've opted to rent my own room. The past two months I have shared beds and floor space. I have slept in hammocks and in cramped dorms. I've slept 3 to a bed and shared bathrooms with 20 people. Now, in quiet mellow Laos- I want my own bed, my own room, my own space - and I want to do things in my OWN time. This morning It took hours for the 4 of us to navigate a breakfast!! It stressed me out way too much. Let's split up- I'll eat Pho (noodle soup, what the locals have for breakfast) and you guys have our American breakfast. I have NO problem eating alone, but they insisted we eat together. After this fiasco I said that I was going to take some time for myself and id meet up with them later in the day. It was glorious and relaxing. When we met back up we had a great time- snacking and sipping beers along the Mekong. I taught them how to play the Dutch card game SHITHEAD, and now they're hooked. Came back to the guesthouse to do some yoga and now we're about to head out for dinner and boardgames! Two weeks is usually a pretty short time for me- but when I looked at the calendar today it seemed really long!! I even contemplated heading back to Pai to see my friends! Snapped out of it and now trying to make some plans for the upcoming weeks. Wish me luck.

I'll have some of this and summa that...

Mmm food! The reason that I live and breathe! Here are a few of my favorite things in Luang Prabang:

1: Lao Luang Prabang smoothies-
The fruit is already in the cups, every variation under the sun. They add ice and a bit of sugar water and BOOM. smoothie, For 5,000kip (bout 50 cents US). My favorite is the fresh lime and mint. Sooo good.

2: Wine and WiFi -
Two of my favorite things in the world come together here in luang Prabang: delicious wine and the BEST wifi connection!!! Got to talk to Julia for atleast 30minutes today, perfect connection, while sipping a refreshing glass of Sauvignon Blanc. The wine was 35,000kip ($4usd), which was a splurge (costing more than my room!), but it was well worth it. This is going to become a daily ritual.

3: Salad Balls? -
Lettuce wrapped seasoned eggplant.
Seasoned rice noodles wrapped in cabbage.
And drumroll....sticky rice that is sweet and salty, mixed with fresh diced green onions and peanuts, wrapped in spinach. Holy Christ. I could eat these things all day!! Salty, sweet, savory and ammmazing. 5,000kip will get you nearly a dozen of em!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Mellow Day on the Mekong.

Laos. Wow. Breathtaking. Raw, untouched, picturesque beauty! It's slightly confusing- speaking Lao and paying in Kip. I've spoken Khmer, Thai, Dutch and Lao these past two months (and on occasion when I get really confused for some reason I'll speak spanish!). I've payed in US dollars, riel, baht, and Kip. Sometimes I have to say hello 3 times before I get it in the correct language.

$1usd =
4,000 Cambodian RIEL
30 Thai BHAT
8,000 Lao KIP

SuSuDay (Cambodia).
Su WA Dii kah (Thailand).
Sa BAI dee (Laos).

In two weeks I arrive in Bali, where I'll be using the Rupiah ($1usd= 8,800) and speaking Indonesian. I can't wait, and I don't want to forget all that I'm picking up. I've been trying to practice Khmer, Thai, Lao, and Dutch everyday--even if that studying only entails going through my notebook and reading them over a few times. Tonight I begin my German lessons from Sina and Philipp....I can't wait, it's a little less "throaty" than Dutch.

Right now we are 4 hours into our slow boat ride to Luang Prabang-- now only 5 hours to go! I'm not complaining though- this country is absolutely stunning. I have good company, I've brought along some good eats (papaya salad!) and it's nice to have some free time to practice my languages and plan my next few weeks. Aside from a few little adventures, my plans mostly consist of what I want to eat and where to get it! Ha! Here are some dishes I'm really looking forward to:

*jaew maak len - a dip of roasted tomatoes, chilis, and shallots
*khai phun - dried seasoned river moss
*koy paa - chunks of fish blended with herbs, lime juice and sticky rice
*naem khao - balls of cooked rice mixed with sour pork sausage and fried whole, then broken into saladlike dish, eaten with fresh leaves and herbs

And then....drumroll that I've already had, loved and vow to eat more of: LAAP. LAAP is Lao style salad of minced meat tossed with lime juice, mint, and chilis. Its serves with a plate of lettuce and herbs that you use to scoop it up and eat it with! Brilliant! My only other plans are to visit a waterfall in Luang Prabang, tubing and a 3day rock climbing course in Vang Vieng, and then one week in Vientinae eating, going to the herbal sauna, eating and doing yoga. Life is good.

-Miriam Beard : "Certainly, travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living."

Sabai Dii, Laos!

The ride from Pai to the border felt like I was in a high speed chase- only we werent running From anyone, and we weren't running After anyone. I barely slept during the 7 hour drive because I had to use all of the strength in all of my limbs to keep myself in the seat. We flew around curves, hurdled down the (thankfully) empty roads, and held on for dear life. I finally stopped crying upon our 3am arrival at the border. Perhaps it's because I was so exhausted, or so dehydrated that my body had no tears left to give. We woke up at 630am to have breakfast and get back on the road. My new traveling partner Phillip helped me with my heavy rucksack and he secured us a seat in the truck. Last night in Pai while I was sitting in the bus station with my crew, Phillip walked up with a big smile on his face, asking if I too was headed to Laos. When I said yes, he smiled an even BIGGER grin and said "perfect! We travel together!". He is 23 years old, a nurse from Germany. I've only known him about 24 hours, but he has a smile on his face the whole time. I swear- even during our brief "power nap", he slept with a smile on his face. I've nicknamed him "the gentlemen". He opens doors, helps me with my bags, carries my pillow for the boat, helps me on the boat, and helped me to navigate the total clusterfuck of a line at the Lao border. And it's not just me- he does this for everyone. Truly a lovely person. The border was mayhem. A mob of people fill out papers and then hand these papers, a small color passport photo, and your passport to the otherside. Everything is done by hand...and it's a slow process. Then- anytime between 20minutes and 2 hours- it's ready! They call out your name to the mob once or twice. You push or way through with $35usd and grab your passport with your new Laos visa. If you don't hear them call your name, it goes back into the pile. Good god almighty. Finally on the slow boat and there are more people than seats. Brilliant. Managed to score some seats together though...Phillip, myself and Sina- a German girl that I'd met a few times while in Pai. So now I am down two Dutch, and I've acquired two Germans. Already I am glad about my decision to come to Laos. Pai was great, but so was Cambodia before it as Laos will be after it. We are cruising down the amazing Mekong, sipping Beer Lao, and quickly making new friendships (that's what close quarters and long hours will do)! Sina, Phillip, Katie, Monica, Andy, Zach and I will spend a few days in Luang Prabang, then once Linda arrives we'll head to Vang Vieng for some tubing and rock climbing. I finally cracked open my Laos book and im super stoked on all that I'm reading. I wish that I had more time in Laos- I'd love to do a trek up north and see the caves towards the south- but with two weeks I'll have to keep it simple with Luang Prabang, Vang Vieng and Vientinae. I fly out of Bangkok on Saturday march 26th for Bali, so I'll have to catch a flight from Vientinae back to thailand on the 25th. I wrote up a short, loose itinerary about the things that I want to do- and of course, the food I plan to eat. Missing Mick a lot, a whole lot- but Phil is going to be a great travel partner though so I'm thankful for the company of such a fine gentleman.

Arrived in town, saw a beautiful sunset, drunk tourist from our boat was beaten within an inch of his life with a stick by an angry local- the shock tool a while to wear off. Found a guesthouse, 150bhat a night- 2 beds, so Sina and I shared a room ($2usd each). Grabbed a delicious Lao dinner with the Germans- Sina, Phil, & Arthur, Anthony (france) and Carolyn (USA). Anthony doesn't say much and Carolyn says too much-- she's a bit off. I've never had to worry about shaking someone from my travels, but she's attached herself like a leech. She won't use a squat toilet, all the rooms are "dodgy", she has to have hot water, and she's just a complete fucking weirdo. She ordered sweet and sour chicken in Laos, and is always talking about her church. This girls gotta go- but she has no plans to do so. I may have to break apart from the group, because I will not spend my 2 weeks in Laos with her. Anyways- ranting aside- Laos is great. Food was cheap and delicious, as were the beers (BeerLao). Early to bed and then back on the slow boat...

-Unknown : "Travel only with thy equals or thy betters; if there are none, travel alone."

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