The Stories We Could Tell

Our travels have officially ended – Boo Hoo

Sad but true. Our (almost) year of amazing travel experiences has come to an end. It’s unbelievable how time flies. We had so much fun, met so many great people, had unforgettable experiences, and managed to fall even more in love. 2010 surely was good to us. It was hard to say goodbye to the best year of our lives, but we are also excited for 2011. The past year helped us discover what we are passionate about, what is important in our everyday lives, and what we want for ourselves and our family. We look forward to pursuing those things, and might I say, it may actually be fun to finally go back to work (I know I will eat those words someday soon)   : )

Thanks again for coming along with us on our adventures… we couldn’t have done it without you!  For those of your worried about blog withdrawal, I have a few suggestions: James writes a great blog about all things fitness. Find it at www.fitsimple.wordpress.com. There you will find suggested exercises, fitness information, and other great health tips… just in time for your fitness New Year’s Resolution!

We also love www.swellvoyage.com. Call it nepotism, but I disagree! This blog is a must read! It chronicles the adventures of Liz Clark (James’ amazing sister). She has been sailing by herself all over the world for the past five years! Currently she is in Tahiti. Read her blog to hear about how she met and surfed with Jimmy Buffett, how her dinghy became a miniature Noah’s ark, what she is doing to promote environmentalism, and more! Definitely one to add to your favorites!

Here are some other great blogs that we love! Check them out!

www.prissandvinegar.com
www.seatofourpants.com
http://heremethere.wordpress.com

Thanks again for all of your support! We promise to post any exciting updates that happen in our life… in the meantime, we’ll miss you!

xoxo,
Bria and James

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January 6, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Ko Phi Phi

A quick boat ride from Phuket gets you to Ko Phi Phi (pronounced Pee Pee). This island is amazingly beautiful – it’s no wonder they filmed Leonardo DiCaprio’s “The Beach” here. This was also the scene of great devastation from the Tsunami in 2004. As you can see from the photos, the heart of Phi Phi where the majority of hotels, nightlife, eateries, and locals live, is just a small strip of land with water on both sides. Photos that we saw post-Tsunami showed that piece of land had been truly rocked by the waters. Half of the buildings were knocked completely down. It was really inspiring to see how quickly the city rebounded. Besides the few photos we saw, one would never know a Tsunami even hit there. New hotels and restaurants have been built, and the city is once again thriving.

The most memorable part of our visit was boat tour around Phi Phi and the surrounding islands. Pops hired a local gentleman to take us out for the day on his long tail boat. Captain Bai gave us a great tour of the area complete with stops at all of the best snorkeling spots. The fish were massive, plentiful and so colorful. I wished I had a waterproof camera! We stopped at one of the small islands that served as location for much of Leo’s “The Beach.” Captain Bai said he even met the big star when he was in town and jokingly called himself a “Thai copy” of Leo! LOL Bai, not quite! Our boat tour ended on a very wet note when a huge rain squall suddenly appeared. It rained unbelievably hard for 15 minutes. We had to wait under the tiny boat canopy while the crazy storm passed. The rain finally stopped but left some massive waves in its place. Our ride back to Phi Phi was insanely choppy and supper wet. It was as if we were each drenched with a 20 pound bucket of water every time we hit a wave. All we could do was laugh. By the time we finally hit land we were thoroughly soaked and our sides were sore from all of the laughter! Too much fun!

The next day, we chose an activity that didn’t involve water and hiked to the top of Phi Phi island. The hike was tough, but the views were well worth it. Once we reached the top of the mountain, we could clearly see the entire island. The water is turquoise and the landscape is just stunning. We finished our day by celebrating the King’s birthday with the locals  – another big party in Thailand. We got to see more fireworks and even signed a card to the King! We finished the night with a stop at a club to see one of the famed fire shows. Pretty cool!  Young brave souls swing massive fireballs around their extremities – fun to watch, but not on my list of future careers!

All in all, Phi Phi was a big hit with us, a place we look forward to returning to soon!

January 6, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Phuket

Phuket has simply beautiful beaches. The water was clear as could be and warmer than bath water. We didn’t see any sea life, the waves were few and far between, and the beach was immaculate. Really lovely. We stayed in a part of town called Karon beach. Great outdoor restaurants line the beach, and if you’re lucky, you may even catch an elephant strolling the streets. My favorite part was the street vendors who sold the Thai version of crepes. Delicious for dessert!

To really experience the nightlife of Phuket, you have to venture to Patong. It felt like a cross between Las Vegas and Tijuana. There are more bars than you could count and scantily clad ladies and lady boys beckon you to enter their club. It was total sensory overload but great fun.

We didn’t just party in Phuket, we also got our share of culture too. We stopped at Wat Chalong – noted as one of the most important temples in Phuket for its healing powers. People who pray there must have pretty good success in getting their prayers answered. You see, it is customary to thank Buddha for a wish he grants you by giving an offering of fireworks. Fireworks were booming during our entire visit – lots of answered prayers!

We also went to see the Giant Buddha atop Nakkard Hills. The structure is massive sitting at 45 meters high and with a base 25 meters wide. She’s a big girl. You can spot her pretty much wherever you are in town, and once you actually make it to the top of the hill see her in person, the views of Phuket are unmatched.

January 5, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Phetchabun

We had the rare opportunity to visit a rural farming village called Phetchabun. Most tourists don’t venture to this area, but my Dad has been all over Thailand and knew this would be a special place for us to see. The visit was definitely one of our favorite parts of the trip as it really gave us a true feel of rural life in Thailand. Many of the people in the village have dirt floors in their homes and basically live off what they harvest, but they couldn’t have been more generous to us. I think this is the place where we really fell in love with Thai people.

One of the most interesting things we got to do in Phetabun was to watch the entire process of making silk, literally from start to finish. We visited the silk farms where they raise the worms on Mulberry leaves. Next step is the boiling pot, where the worms are boiled out of their cocoons. No waste here – the silk is pulled off like string, and the worms are eaten (actually considered quite the delicacy in Thailand, we were stubborn and refused to try the wiggly guys). The silk strands are then thoroughly dried then dyed beautiful bright colors. Lastly, the silk threads are woven on looms into silk. Not only were we given a great tour, we also left with four huge pieces of beautiful silk fabric. Now we just have to decide what to make with them!!! Told you Thais were insanely generous.

In town, we visited the temple of a monk who apparently had a sweet spot for cock fighting. As with many other temples, locals visit to pray for good luck, happiness, wealth and health… but this temple was a little different. As offerings for the monk, people leave rooster statues as a tribute to his liking of cock fighting. Years and years of offerings have led to a football field size piece of land covered with roosters. It was unbelievable. And the temple itself felt like it would be better suited in Las Vegas. The metallic gold and silver roosters in the front had me looking for the nearest slot machine. No luck there, but maybe that does mean we will have great wealth coming to us?????

January 4, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Lopburi – aka Monkey Town

Welcome to Lopburi, a town run by monkeys. Seriously. They even have an honorary monkey mayor. There are so many monkeys running around here, it is amazing. They all tend to congregate around the temple Prang Sam Yot. Lucky for us, we happened to be in town on the day of the Lopburi Monkey Festival. Turns out the locals host a huge party for the monkeys every year in November. Thais, who believe donating food will bring them good fortune, gave the monkeys over 2,000 kilograms of food. Yikes. We saw monkeys drinking from personal milk bottles, feasting on all sorts of fruit, and even licking huge ice sculptures made sweet by various fruity flavorings. We had been warned that the monkeys in Lopburi were very aggressive and had no qualms about stealing your hat, purse, or whatever you may have in your hands at the moment. Fortunately for us, the monkeys we saw were too fat and happy to even notice that we were there.

The celebration was complimented by dance performances from some locals. Our favorite was their rendition of the monkey mating dance. Not only were they dressed in monkey suits, complete with disturbing monkey mask, but they even pulled my dad from the crowd to get him in on the action. He was a great sport until one of the “monkeys’ jumped on his back… not really his type of mating dance.

January 4, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Temples and Traditions

Here are some more pics from some interesting temples we visited in the Khao Tao area. The Wat Huay Mongkol (the temple of the Black Monk) is steeped in tradition. The Black Monk is one of the most revered monks in Thailand because of the miracles he was able to perform (one of which was his ability to desalinate water). Many Thai people visit this temple to pray for luck, happiness and good fortune. A gigantic figure of the miracle making monk sits at the top of a flight of steps. Two massive black wooden elephants stand on either side of the steps. To increase the likelihood that one would have good luck, local people circle the elephants walking under the bellies of the carved beasts three times for good luck, or throw coins into the mouth of the elephant. We partook in all of these traditions – one can never have too much good luck, right?

The Khao Takieb temple is also known as monkey mountain. There were truly monkeys everywhere. And they were aggressive. These monkeys had no fear and would gladly take whatever you had in your hands and eat it. I clung tightly to James and my Dad and wished that I had a stick. I guess they were just Buddhist monkeys who also wanted to see the temple, and it was pretty cool to see monkeys so up close and personal. Surrounding the temple exterior is a series of bells that you are supposed to ring in succession (again for luck). This was made a little intimidating because there were monkeys sitting under the bells. But in the interest of luck, we managed to avoid the monkeys and ring all of the bells! Success!

January 3, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Lady Boy Shows and Temples

If you visit Thailand, there are two things you MUST do. You have to visit the many beautiful temples – they really teach you a lot about Thai culture and customs; and you must see a Lady Boy show. For those of you that are unfamiliar with the term “lady boy,” it most simply means cross dresser, and sometimes means transgender, but at a lady boy show it certainly always means fun. We had the pleasure of attending such a show, which I feel confident will be James’ last. If you’ve ever been to a drag show, you can imagine what we saw! The beautiful performers did their best to lip sync to many American tunes from artists like Cher. As you can see from the photos, I had a blast, can’t say the same for James or Dad. On a more serious note, it is really admirable how open Thai people are to alternative lifestyles. Lady boys get lots of respect in Thailand.

January 2, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Khao Takiab

A short jaunt outside Khao Tao is Khao Takiab – home of a few more temples and some great beachside eateries. We spent the day hiking pretty much straight up a mountain to see the hidden temple. Hundreds of years ago, monks built a temple in a sink hole at the mountain top. It is almost as if the temple is situated in a cave without a roof. The strenuous hike was well worth the climb as the temple was truly awe-inspiring. The way the sun hit the structure made it look as it was being lit from the heavens. This stop was one of the highlights of our trip. It was Thanksgiving back in the states, and we were so happy to be able to spend our day in the presence of such beauty. We capped the holiday off with some local Thai street food – noodles with duck (close enough to turkey right?). Happy belated Thanksgiving!

January 1, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Hua Hin – Part II

We stayed about 10 minutes outside Hua Hin in a town called Khao Tao. We passed the day at the beach in Khao Tao relaxing in the sun and trying our hand at stand up paddle boarding (or SUP as my super hip Dad calls it). We call it SUP because it is SUPer fun! James caught on quick and took off in the surf.

By night we returned to Hua Hin for more nightlife. We went back to the harbor to watch the fishing boats coming in, then hit up a bar to watch an amazing Thai cover band. They did songs by the Eagles, CCR, Jimi Hendrix and more. We were instant fans. If they didn’t know a word in English they just hummed their way through. It was amazing.

December 30, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Hua Hin – Part I

One of our favorite visits was to the beach town of Hua Hin. About a three hour drive South of Bangkok, this town feels sort of like a much smaller version of Bangkok with a beach. There was so much to do and see there. Our first day and night on the town took us to the harbor, to a night market, and to (brace yourself) Sizzler. Who knew there would be a Sizzler in Thailand? It gave us a good laugh and allowed Bria (the extremely picky eater) to fill up on enough salad bar to last a few days! We love Thailand!

December 30, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment