Thursday, May 31, 2012

A long awaited arrival

After a couple months of planning, a night in Taipei and 5 flights, I finally landed in Bangkok to join the two world travelers! It only took a short tuk tuk ride to the hostel before we dug into some phad thai across the street! You have to travel to Thailand for the real deal!

The following morning we took a swing at recreating Thai culinary masterpieces! Our cooking course started at the local market, where we learnt about all the different Thai ingredients like lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves and coriander.

We made some amazing dishes which included Tom yum soup (one of my favs), glass noodle salad, chicken with cashew nuts, fish cakes and sweet chilli sauce and red curry. We finished off the 5 course meal with bananas in freshly made by yours truly coconut milk!

The next day we headed out of Bangkok to an area called Kanchanaburi. There we went to see Erawan falls and some very cute but stealthy monkeys!! 

After climbing up the path for an hour, we reached the 6th level of the waterfalls and decided to try out the waters.

Not only were the waterfalls serene, so was our wonderful homestay at Ban Sabai Sabai (roughly translated as place to relax, relax).

It was hard to leave the beautiful countryside, not too hard though because we were beach bound!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Island of Gods

After beach hopping in the Philippines and Indonesia for awhile, we decided to leave the beautiful turquoise waters and white sand beaches for a day to explore the interior of Bali. From our guesthouse in Padang Bai, we set out for a trip through the lush green rice terraces, narrow winding roads, jungle covered ancient temple complexes next to bubbling waterfalls, looming active volcanoes surrounding by lakes, and big city shopping full of Balinese hand made crafts.

We watched as the local Balinese arrived at the Besakih temple (largest Hindu temple complex on Bali) with their offerings for the special week long full moon celebration (only happens every 10 years).The amount of devotion was evident all over Bali where every house has its own small temple. People leave a small offering in a hand woven bamboo basket with little servings of rice, flowers, food, and drink for the gods three times a day. Even at our guesthouse run by an Australian couple, a little Balinese boy came every morning and night to lite incense and leave an offering at the small temple on the balcony overlooking the village and ocean.

 They even leave offerings on their motorbikes!

 Of course I also made a friend at the temple.

The rice terraces were never-ending. With an amazing irrigation system set up in the way that they plant the rice so that the water flows throughout all the terraces.

Mount Batur, one of Indonesia's more active volcanoes was an impressive sight looming over the lake and rice terraces below. People often take treks up the volcano at 2 am to watch the sunrise from the top.

We discovered an amazing temple at the bottom of 371 steps beside a bubbling river lined by rice paddy fields and trees. It was a great place to meditate on the days sights and to catch our breath before the long climb back up.

The day ended in the town of Ubud. The central cultural spot for massages, art and cooking classes, food, and handicraft shopping. We found some lemongrass gelato and a market of course! Bali may not have left our backpacks  full of emptiness, but it definitely left an impression on us.

Localitis of Love

 Boracay, Philippines:

This gorgeous island in the Philippines had a killer combo of the most beautiful beach and sunsets. Of all the places so far this beach had the bluest water and the sunsets were the most impressive.

After spending about a week here the romance-filled air started to go to our heads...
As  is typical for us, we tend to join the local trends of all the places we go to. In India it was wearing bindis and buying the gaudy Hindu goddess pictures, in Japan it was Hello Kitty and chopsticks, so how could we resist jumping on the bandwagon in the Philippines as well. The problem was, what I've dubbed "localitis" (doing as the locals do). In Boracay, it was couples wearing matching his and hers tshits. At first, as always, we thought these were so silly and laughed as everyone was wearing them, but eventually you catch that localitis and you just can't resist...

Friday, May 11, 2012

Royal Treatment for the Princess Backpackers

Never ones to follow the beaten path, Erin and I took a step away from the backpackers lifestyle (thanks entirely to the Lorenzo's !!) and lived in the lap of luxury for two days when we arrived in the Philippines.

We were so excited when we saw our room, the tv even had my name on it welcoming us!

 You could say this hotel was a little nicer than some of the other places we have stayed in so far during this trip..and it's possible we may have spent a large portion (lets get real, the entire time) of our two days in Manilla at the hotel.

We may have stuck out like sore thumbs, with our giant dirty backpacks, but we somehow managed to settle in nicely. I don't think the staff were used to our backpacker type however. On the first day of the most amazing buffet breakfast that was included the waitress came up to me, after I had already been to the buffet twice and had just finished my plate of blueberry pancakes that she had given to me not minutes before, and asked "finished already?" She had no idea just how much these little white girls could eat! Slightly embarassed, I only returned to the buffet two more times after that...

Another evening lounging in the lobby, Erin and I laughed as one of the women working at the hotel was walking aroung with a little white board and two bells.

Erin: "What's that chick doing? Why is she caring a sign?"
Laura: "What's that sign say? .. I think that sign has my name on it.. That sign has my name on it!!!!

We had a message for us and this was the hotels method of finding us, turns out, pretty effective.

We clearly were not used to this kind of attention and treatment, but we survived... and never wanted to leave!

On top of all this, we were treated to an amazing Filippino dinner and in typical style the food was far from running short! This was also where our love for calamansi drinks began, a true love story that lasted throughout our entire time in the Philippines. Thanks again for that lovely Philippine hospitality!!!

Friday, May 4, 2012

They cum in all different shapes and sizes

In between our time chasing cherry blossoms and geishas (see posts below), we also ran after a few members, willies, shlongs, weiners, phalluses... Whatever you want to call them, simply put, we were literally running after two humongous pink and black penises!

It was the Kanamara Matsuri (Penis festival) in Kawasaki! It's centered around a shinto phallus shrine where prostitutes used to pray for protection from sexually transmitted diseases. Nowadays, it's mostly become a tourist attraction, as well as an excuse to get dressed up in a ridiculous costume, including a penis box, a blow up doll, or a samurai, and drink lots of saki, beer, and shochu. 

There were also phallus images absolutely everywhere... on the flags, shirts, souvenir glasses, lollipops, and carved vegetables. 

The temple resembled a regular temple with lots of tori gates. They had a drum performance and a karate group put on a show half way through the day where they broke boards with their feet and hands.

Everyone joined in the festivities from the old and peverted to the young and innocent. Fun for the whole family!