Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Having fun with the family in Hong Kong!

The last stop of the trip was/is Hong Kong! I'm still here, but that's a whole other story.
My aunt Danae and uncle Mike live here..... which is great! Pictures of wakeboarding....


Danae getting ready to totally rock it.

Mike's pastyness showing through the water (his words, not mine!).

Mike wakeboarding.


Danae attempting jumps.


Me, wakeboarding. Pretty fun. Definitely addicting.

On a side note, I was sick for about a week- fever and all. They though that it was typhoid, malaria, or dengue. Luckily it was none of those and I got better on my own! So who knows what it was, but right now, I don't care. I feel better and that's what matters!! Thanks for taking good care of me, Danae and Mike!!

Back home in time for 4th of July!!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Laos=Awesomeness

There is only one word to describe Laos: AWESOME. We spent about a week there- good food, nice people, pretty scenery and plenty to do.
First stop: Vang Vien (aka Backpacker Mecca)


From the outside, Vang Vien seems like a sleepy town full of lazy backpackers that have nothing to do. While this is partially true, there is plenty to do- tubing!



The main attraction of Vang Vien is tubing down the river. Basically what happens is that a tuk tuk takes you 3km up the river and drops you off. Sweet. So you start floating down the river and then there are bars along the river. Hmm. Interesting. So in order to pull you into the bar, little kids on the sides of the river throw you a piece of bamboo to grab onto and they pull you in. So basically you spend the whole day floating down the river being pulled into different bars along the riverside and drinking. Hazardous? Probably.



It gets even better. These bars also have swings that are about 200 feet high where you swing off and jump into the river. Extremely hazardous? Definitely, but the little kids are there with sticks of bamboo to pull you in!


The only picture I have of other people tubing.


Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures from tubing because I didn't want to break or loose my camera. So here are some pictures of the scenery and other things.

One day we went to explore the caves with our new friend Lewis. So we rented motorbikes and headed out!





Riding motorbikes. Don't worry mom, we had helmets.


The main highway. Yes, those are cows.




The view from the guesthouse window.


The sunset.


More scenery. Totally breathtaking.


Last dinner in Vang Vien. Complete with french fries on my pizza and the cheese on top of all the toppings. Oh yeah.


Second stop: Luang Prabang (aka the most chill place I have ever been)



On our way to Luang Prabang we were right in the middle of the clouds. Kind of a cool feeling.





The waterfall in Luang Prabang. Complete with leeches!


Eating vegetarian street food. Probably not the brightest idea in retrospect.



Bowling! All the bars close at midnight, but guess what stays open? The bowling alley!!


I also went mountain biking while I was in Luang Prabang. I thought that doing a half-day advanced course would be fun! Well, what a story. Turns out that it was 50 km of biking (approx. 30 miles) and was by far the most intense ride of my life! It started out fine. My guide and I were going to cross the Mekong in a boat with our bikes to get to the village side and start riding. Well, it turns out that when a small, packed boat turns quickly, things fall out. Things like people and bikes. Yes, I fell into the Mekong River with my bike. What made the experience even more fun was all the people on both sides of the river pointing and laughing at me. Apparently people falling into the river doesn't happen that often.

Anyways, I made it through. It was an interesting ride. Very scenic and a good experience.

After that, we rode until we reached another mini-river.


If you look closely, you can see that the guys are carrying a motorbike across the river with two sticks of bamboo.

Another mini-river.

Crossing the river on the way back with the boat packed full of stuff.

The town that we stopped in. They may not have running water or paved roads, but they do have satellite TV!

Bikes and rice fields in the background.

Rice fields that I was riding through. Good thing I didn't fall into the rice fields. I later learned that they have tons of snakes. Ahhh so comforting.

Bottomline- Laos is a great country where the people don't pester you to buy things, the food is good and there is plenty to do. Lots of outdoor activities that are absolutely incredible. Go there if you can. It may be kind of hard to get there, but well worth it!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Same, same, but different- Southern Vietnam

We just spent a week in southern Vietnam (Saigon). All I have to say is that I have never seen so many motorbikes in my life. And, although the dollar may suck in Europe, it still dominates in Southeast Asia..... woohoo!



The insane number of motor bikes.


The amazing amount of stuff that people carry on their motorbikes.


A few facts about Vietnam:

-Population of 85 million, with 70% of those under the age of 30

-Biggest industries include tourism, fishing, cashews, coconuts

-Ho Chi Minh, the now famous communist Vietnamese leader, studied in the United States and studied closely the Declaration of Independence, Bill of Rights, etc.

-The Vietnam War could have been avoided had the United States stepped in earlier when Ho Chi Minh asked when the French came back into Vietnam after WWII. After the United States denied Vietnam help, Ho Chi Minh had no choice but to ask the Russians and Chinese for help to fight the French.

-Just a refresher, during the war- North=communist (Hanoi), South=democratic (Saigon/ Ho Chi Minh City)

Day 1: Exploring Saigon

The first day, we went and explored Saigon (now known as Ho Chi Minh City, or HCMC).




The palace from the 1970s.


In front of a tank.




Really cool incense.

Inside the temple.


Day 2: First attempt at the beach- Vung Tau

We decided to get out of Saigon and go to the beach. In reading our travel guides, we heard of this place called Vung Tau, which is known as the French Riviera of Vietnam. I think the person writing Lonely Planet must have been in an altered state of mind when they wrote that. Definitely not the French Riviera. Quite the opposite. Needless to say it was an interesting day full of people staring at us wondering what the hell we were doing there. That night when we told some local people we went to Vung Tau, they laughed at us. Yeah. It was that bad.



Laying on the beach in our clothes because everyone else was wearing clothes and not swim suits.



People swimming in the ocean in their clothes.
Scenic. There was a stretch of boats that were pretty. That's about it.

Day 3: Guerilla Warfare- Cu Chi Tunnels

By getting a late start to the day, we definitely had more of an adventure by riding public transportation.


Shooting a machine gun. Pretty awesome. Don't worry mom, it was totally safe!


The little tunnels that people lived in for 15 years.

The death traps that they set for American soldiers... Ahhhh.

The Viet Cong guerrillas dug over 200 kilometers of tunnels underground just outside of Saigon. Totally nuts!

Day 4: Mekong Delta

On day 4, we decided to do some more exploring and go to the Mekong Delta. Lots of scenic stuff. (I can't figure out how to turn the pictures on this .... sorry!)


Day 5: Second, successful attempt at the beach-Mui Ne

We decided to give the beach another go on our last day. This time we got it right. Mui Ne is a town about 4 hours outside of Saigon. It hasn't been very developed- yet. That's about to change since a bunch of nice resorts are being built.



Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Southeast Asia Trip!

Today I leave on my 1-month Southeast Asia trip with 3 friends from school!

Here's a list of the places we're going:

Vietnam: Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)
Thailand: Bangkok, Koh Samui, Phuket, Chiang Mai
Laos: Luang Prabang
Hong Kong

Should be fun trip! I will try and write as frequently as I can, so we'll see!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

There's no humidity here- Amy, Samy!!

I have had quite a few visitors in the past couple of weeks- awesome!! I love visitors because it's an excuse for me to do all the touristy things that I don't normally do, and should do since I don't know how long I will be in the Bay Area for.

Amy and Samy came to visit on their way back from Coachella. Amy and I have been friends since before I can remember, when we both lived in Miami. Samy is her boyfriend.


Amy and Samy in front of Ameoba. I think they bought about 100 million records even though they don't have a record player....

The bee Amy found on Memorial Glade. MRahhghidghdigh.

At Bear's Lair.

At the Golden Gate Bridge... and it was actually clear that day!

On the bridge... ahh!

Final shot... sad face :(

Come back next year!!

A long overdue post on Krakow, Poland and Prague, Czech Republic

This is a bit late, but better late than never.... I guess. So after Christmas, Justin and I took a trip to Eastern Europe. I just love below freezing temperatures, cramped trains, walking miles in the snow, and gypsies. I now understand why Eastern Europeans drink so much- it's so cold!

Me being cold.

Justin being cold, but not as cold. Jersey boy....

Krakow, Poland

Choo choo train!

Salt Mines

The first day, we went to the salt mines. I wasn't really quite sure what to expect, I had never really heard of salt mines. It's exactly what it sounds like. Except that in Poland they've carved these little figurines out of the sand in there. Hmm. We got kind of lost after the salt mines which was interesting because it was getting dark, and really cold. But Polish people are super friendly and we eventually found our way!

This room is thousands of feet underground in a salt mine- incredible!

Other carvings out of salt.

Auschwitz-Birkenau

The next day we went to Auschwitz, which was definitely a sobering experience. It's hard to believe that such atrocities happened not so long ago.

The gates going into the concentration camp. I think it says "Work will set you free."

The train tracks where people used to come in. Really eerie.

Where people slept.

The Castle


In the courtyard of the castle.

Trying to warm up inside the castle.

In front of the dragon.


Prague, Czech Republic

We took an overnight train to Prague. It was interesting. The guy on the train came to lock our door right before we went to sleep because gypsies come on the trains at night and rob people. Hmm....

Yay for tiny spaces!

We arrived in Prague at like 6am and started doing touristy stuff. I'm not going to lie- it was damn cold!! I guess that's to be expected in January.

The famous bridges and skyline in Prague.

The old town square. Very original name.

The famous clock tower in the square. People wait around every hour to watch the clock. I'll be honest, I wasn't that impressed- I was expecting fireworks or something a bit more entertaining considering all the people, but still a very interesting piece of work.

The Prague Castle at night. So pretty.

Picture with the unfriendly guard at the palace.

Another night shot.

The communist museum that was right next to the casino. A very interesting business concept I think- gamble a little and then when you lose all your money, want everyone to be equal... ahhh!

It snowed. This is the view from the top of a tower that looked like the Eiffel Tower, but in Prague.

What do you do when it snows? Why, build snowmen, of course!!

The John Lennon Wall. Took us a while to find it, but pretty interesting once we got there!

This was the last of my European adventures. I had a good time. And now it's time for my bank account to recover so that I can take another trip!