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31 October, 2014


Layover in Kenya
After months and months of penny pinching, checking for bedbugs, overnight traveling, and surviving on instant noodles without seeing any familiar faces, it was a thrill to meet up with Ruth Ann and Frank, Dennis' parents. And as if that wasn't enough, Dennis' Grandpa Ed surprised us by meeting us at the African Tulip Hotel upon our arrival in Arusha, Tanzania. 
Africa was even better than we had dared to imagine. We had several days of safari drives throughout different regions of Tanzania -- Ngorogoro Crater, Arusha National Park, Tarangire National Park, and Selous Game Reserve.

It was so extremely different to see these zoo-worthy animals out in the wild. It's just not that often that you see a full-maned lion chomping on a freshly killed wildebeest, or see (and smell) the corpse of half an impala nestled in the branches of a baobob tree next to his leopard 'friend'. We saw ostriches bobbing their heads and flapping their wings in the midst of their mating dance. We felt hippos bump against the bottom of our boat, and it only gave us 1/5th of a heart attack.
We hung out with the Masai, and joined them for a little cultural shoulder dancing, ate the mexican-candy-flavored baobob fruit, and cuddled day-old baby goats.
We stayed in the nicest lodges and glamping 'tents' I've ever seen. Some of these places may have had more chairs than I have in my entire house. And after our long-term-budget-minded traveling, you can be sure that I used all the soaps provided and wore those bathrobes way more than necessary.

Some places even had armed (?) guards to walk us back and forth from the dining room and our 'tents' as a caution against those pesky neighborhood leopards. (whaat??) However, they did nothing to guard against the monkeys who lived in the trees above us and periodically found it humorous to throw small sticks and debris at our tents.

We relaxed on the beaches in Zanzibar and even did a little snorkeling -- including an encounter with a watermelon-sized octopus who changed colors four to five times in front of our eyes.
Dennis and I happened upon the Dhow Countries Music Academy in Zanzibar where he collaborated with a local music teacher and whiled away the afternoon plinkin' away on their well-worn pianos.
Tanzania is a beautiful country, and I can't wait to flaunt my new wildlife knowledge at the San Diego Zoo to finally show up my zoo-veteran mom.

02 October, 2014


As we sit here in a Kathmandu tea house pouring cup after steaming cup of divinely balanced Nepali Milk Tea down our hatches while plugged into the global fabric thanks to a rare gift of reliable Wi Fi, something occurs to me  -- independent travel is an essential rite of passage enabling all who embark upon it to

1. Recognize the relativity of their culture

2. Witness the unyielding dynamics of global interdependence

3. Thumb their nose at the absurdity of object fetish consumerism

Now I'm not claiming that wanting a fresh pair of kicks, diamond earrings or a Bugatti are irreconcilable vices; but after last week experiencing the extreme wealth and excess of a place like Dubai immediately followed by arrival in a mad house brick and mud hole in the ground toilet constant black out $694 per capita GDP world like Nepal,

It makes me wish that global standards of living were more attuned to the balance level of this Nepali Milk Tea. It really is so, so good.

Now that we got that bit of the way, let's talk about some recent experiences on the road --

We dipped out of Koh Tao on 5 September, spent a harrowing day and night on the cheapest boat/bus combo we could find (tip : choose a medium priced transportation package when confronted with a range of options), passed a pad thai and ping pong filled day/night in Bangkok, and hopped on a plane to Nairobi, Kenya.

We continue to debate whether layovers in which you don't leave the airport count as having visited a country. I say yay, Becca says nay. While I don't really feel that us being in the international terminal of Nairobi for 4 hours means that we've been to Kenya, I do believe that you can learn/experience a lot of a place from ground time in one of their transit hubs


 In Melbourne, Australia we learned that Fosters beer isn't actually an Australian brand and is instead a marketing gimmick; in Australia, for whatever bizarre reason, they seem to prefer Corona.

In Nairobi, we learned about the exotic Amarula fruit; small and orange like a kumquat, it's also the base of a popular cream liquor. Animals seek out this fruit once it has fallen on the ground and fermented, wobbling around in an intoxicated state afterwards (proof: youtube link)

In Doha, Qatar we learned that although they just built the new Hamad International Airport in 2014 and expect to accommodate 30 million visitors a year with world class facilities and duty free raffles in which you can win a million dollars or a new McLaren, they still have gaping defects in their PA system which cause it to frequently go off delivering fractured gibberish announcements (definitely not Arabic) at ear splitting volumes. Becca's mom knows all about this, as it became increasingly difficult to Skype with her due to these.

Okay, you see we have a lot to write about -- or rather I've made a lot of observations / formed many opinions ( that's one of the important premises of travel, no? ) and so it can be daunting to write a blog post because there are thousands of experiences you're still assimilating. I actually meant to write about Africa when first beginning to type, but so much happened in the interval between Koh Tao (Becca's post a few days ago) and our arrival at Kilimanjaro Airport in Tanzania, it would be a glaring omission to skip out on some of the details. Africa needs it's own post, several in fact. So I'll do that this week once we get settled in; we're jumping on a bus to Pokhara, Nepal tomorrow and setting up camp in an apartment near the lake there.

Our journey continues to be an enriching and charismatic experience beyond any expectations we had upon setting off almost 7 months ago. We jumped ship from LAX with little to no plan outside of new camping equipment / backpacks , a week R&R stopover in Fiji, and Working Holiday Visa's for New Zealand. We hardly had enough money to spend a proper weekend at Downtown Disney -- truly, if we tried to get a park hopper pass, 2 nights hotel room, nice meals and a few souvenirs -- we would have bankrupted ourselves.

But life had other plans for us : we adapted to our new environment, learned what it would take to survive, and then we far surpassed that threshold and thrived. I really wanted to use throve instead of thrived, but I will play by the rules.

Highlights of the voyage up until African Safari (which itself was nearly a month ago...so we have a lot of infotainment we're sitting on) -- presented in free association shenanigan form

kava ceremonies birthday bash police cover band (actual police officers) coral sea kayaking waterfall bathing coconut slurping kiwi picking road tripping elfin hot springs glow worm caves bike riding hostel managing clock punching seafood processing pig hunting snowboarding monkey temple massage dirt floor warung kombucha swigging China Town yellow fever vaccine at Petronas Towers Yemeni cigar food cart foreign fruits way too hot cramped on trains colonial architecture scuba diving white sand beaches beach front bungalow skin peeling shipwreck night dive.

Thanks for reading, even if you didn't make it this far.

30 September, 2014

Koh Tao, Thailand

Both of us were born and raised in San Diego, California. We have perfect weather the whole year long, easy access to all sorts of thrilling water activities, and more beaches than we could hope for. And yet, it took flying across the world for us to look into scuba diving.

Testing out our equipment
Upon a personal recommendation from a coworker at my beloved mussel factory, we signed up for Open Water Scuba with Simple Life Divers. There are over 50 dive shops on this tiny 13-square-mile island, but Simple Life is small and keeps you in intimate groups – Dennis and I had two instructors all to ourselves. There are two mornings worth of class work with videos and worksheets to cover the important material, but then you get to spend two afternoons + one morning diving in the 82ยบ+ Gulf of Thailand. YUM.

Upon our first trip under the surface, I began to comprehend the hype behind all those glass bottomed boats and underwater hotels. There are oh so many more kinds of fish than the ones you see swimming around at Petsmart. (A disappointing lack of goldfish and beta out here though.)
Weibel's Butterfly Fish + Giant Grouper

Before we even completed our three-day Open Water course, we decided to continue on to Advanced Open Water, which luckily contains zero book work for our atrophied college graduate minds, and even more diving trips than Open Water. Of these, we got to go on a night dive, swim down to 30 meters (100 feet), and through the wreck of HMTS Sattakut. The HMTS Sattakut first belonged to the US Navy during WWII and then the Thai Royal Navy from 1947 until it was sunk in 2007 to form an artificial reef and give divers an opportunity to explore a wreck. It was tremendously ghostly, but gives me grand dreams of becoming a treasure hunter and finding Rose’s Heart of the Ocean necklace.

Dennis diving around the HMTS Sattakut
With our sightings of everything from puffer fish and giant groupers to eels and stingrays, we have called our diving adventures a success and are counting down the days until we can strap on our diving gear again.
Stingray and Moray Eel

The rest of our time in Thailand we spent lounging on the beaches of Koh Tao and filling ourselves with as much pad thai as we could stomach. We had another all night ferry/bus trip (through the most turbulent seas I’ve encountered) to Bangkok. Bangkok is overflowing with young American, Aussie, British, and European backpackers, and can all be easily found on Khao San Road bartering for the lowest prices on everything from Chang beer to knock-off watches to fried insect snacks. By the time we boarded our next plane, I hypocritically had had my fill of fellow backpackers and was ready for the next exotic leg of our trip – TANZANIA, AFRICA. 
Visiting with Bangkok's native Ronnie McD

30 August, 2014

Southeast Asia Travelin'

Beachin' in Sanur
It seems absolutely incredible that less than a month ago, we were waking up before the sun, dressing in too many layers to count, becoming more psychotic with each passing minute, pulling beard after beard, as we toiled away in our respective mussel factories. And now what are we doing? Sometimes waking up before the sun, simply to enjoy the spectacular sunrise. Slathering on sunscreen and donning our swim suits. The hardest decisions we are faced with are if we are going to take our leisurely stroll before or after breakfast. And perhaps the best of all, there is no chance to inadvertently fill any company car with petrol instead of diesel.
Sacred Monkey Foreset
We spent two weeks in Indonesia. By any other standard, two weeks in a given country on vacation seems like plenty of time. But there is just so much to do, numerous places to go, and almost too many experiences to be had. We spent a week in Sanur, lounging on the beach, eating as much local food as we could stomach, and making every excuse for a massage. Yes, of course the "exertion" of an hour-long meandering stroll definitely deserves a 90-minute traditional Balinese massage.

Hangin' wit da monkeys
But after a week at Keke Homestay, we dragged ourselves away to Ubud where we stayed in the equally charming Jati Homestay. Ubud, for those of you who aren't exactly privy to Indonesian geography, is about an hour inland, and one of the three destinations for Elizabeth Gilbert/Julia Roberts in Eat, Pray, Love. Beyond this, it is home to the Sacred Monkey Forest, banana pancakes, yoga studios, numerous traditional Balinese dance performances, and many, many artists -- both expatriates and locals. In fact our very own Jati Homestay is owned by Jati himself and it part homestay, part art gallery. In our time here, we happened upon the funeral/cremation of a young man from the royal family in Ubud. This was a spectacular event, and I can only hope that my own funeral is half as spectacular. I fully expect to have a giant horse in which I am placed and set on fire...please keep that in mind for future reference.
Giant horse for cremation
Between the scenery, the monkeys, and the surplus of avocado shakes, it is easy to see why so many artists find inspiration here and settle down in a long-term fashion. Although Dennis has more experience and perhaps more credibility on the matter, Ubud seems to be the most San Francisco place I have seen abroad. Every other store front offers raw, vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, carb-free, sugar-free, (delicious-free?) food, yoga, art galleries, or organic linens. All in all, it was a beautiful place, and the monkeys just made it even better.
Really hangin' wit da monkeys

Traditional Balinese dance

From Bali, we flew to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia where we spent two nights near Petaling Road in Chinatown and perused through knockoffs of everything you could imagine. Nikes, Ray-Bans, PSPs, iPods, Chanel purses. Need a drone-like helicopter that also takes photos? Well, they've got that too. Kuala Lumpur is a huge city with construction sites in every direction as far as the eye can see. In a scavenger hunt for a yellow fever inoculation that Dennis needed for the next big leg of our trip, we visited three different clinics/hospitals before we were directed to the Petronas towers, what were previously the tallest buildings in the world until 2004. With the shot in his arm and the paperwork we needed in our moneybelts, we grabbed our backpacks and made our way to Sentral train station where we hopped on an overnight train to Butterworth.

Left: Petaling Road in Chinatown
Right: Petronas Twin Towers
The thing about traveling on the cheap as a backpacker is that transportation can be (is usually) uncomfortable, long, and happens at inconvenient times. Our train left at 9:30 pm and didn't arrive until 5:30 am. Ugh. Then a short ferry across the sea, arriving in Georgetown, the supposed reputable "food capital" of Southeast Asia, at 6:30ish in the morning. One thing to take note of is that it is HOT in Malaysia. I mean, not just hot. But like, real friggin' humid. To walk around in the heat is a struggle, but to do it with your bags full of everything you have needed and will need for this extended trip is somewhat miserable. It is on this trip from Kuala Lumpur to Georgetown that we made our firm decision to:

1. Travel between places as infrequently as possible
2. Never own so much stuff again in our lives
3. Be rich someday (soon) (like maybe tomorrow) so that we can hire sherpas to carry our bags for us

I think these are very reasonable and attainable future goals. Please don't argue with me otherwise.

Train ride + Ferry ride

Georgetown is a small little island, and although it is smack dab in the middle of Southeast Asia, visually it is so very different from any of the surrounding areas. Of course there are temples, courtyards, and generally very Asian looking architecture, but because of her past of being an influential post for the British East India Trading company, many of the buildings in Georgetown are colonial in appearance. If you were to mysteriously wake up in Georgetown, the only clues to help you figure out you weren't in Europe would be the humidity and the obvious presence of the lady-boys.

Lots of street art around Georgetown

The supposed big draw to Georgetown is the food. There are street carts on top of street carts, a much cheaper version of any American carnival, but instead of fried oreos and foot-long hot dogs, there is pad thai, mini octopus skewers, pineapple fried rice, and juices from all sorts of alien-looking fruits. On the Travel Channel, Anthony Bourdain even does an entire episode on Georgetown, eating much more dried smelly fish than I would ever let pass my lips. Everything considered, there is some superb cart food here, but there is great cart food everywhere else we've been in Southeast Asia. I personally don't understand what all the hype is about, and wouldn't necessarily recommend Georgetown as a must-do. If you're in the area, of course you should see it, but it's nothing to go out of your way for.

Delicious example of cart food
After three nights in Georgetown, we hopped back on the ferry and boarded our partially overnight train at 2:30pm, stopped for an hour or so at the Thailand boarder for our visas, and arrived in Chumphon at the lovely hour of 2:30am. Twelve hours you say? That's easy! THEN, we waited around for the ticket offices to open and purchased our bus and ferry tickets to Koh Tao. This was not so difficult, but included a lot of waiting around and being herded like cattle on and off different modes of transportation, finally arriving on the island of Koh Tao around 11:00am, and about 24 hours after we had last had a room to call our own. Like I said about traveling on the cheap as backpackers... We purposefully scheduled an extra day on Koh Tao to recover from our long and exhausting journey before we started our OPEN WATER SCUBA DIVING COURSE.


To be continued...

03 August, 2014

Vay K

The rumors are true: We've traded rapidly declining winter temperatures and unreasonably early wake up calls to toe the factory line for sun kissed beaches and summer time bliss in Bali. It's nearing 3 pm in the afternoon here as we officially declare from our balcony overlooking the banyan and frangipani trees, spirit houses, and distinct architecture of sloping red tiled roofs adorned with stone cut crests : IT'S VACATION TIME.

Clean air proper at Lake Kaikoura en route to Christchurch

And no ordinary 2 weeks off to XYZ in summer style vacation either -- no, no. This moment is among the earliest phases of an expansive global odyssey that will carry on for an indefinite amount of time to the ends of the earth and back. We set out with appetites for adventure and exoticism, not having any clear indication what forms (if any) such criteria might present themselves to us in. We explored a number of extremely fulfilling choice destinations in Fiji and New Zealand before coming to terms with the dwindling (read: dwindled) bank account balances that stared us down with frighteningly sobering authority . Our compelling desire to continue living a nomadic lifestyle carried us onward to the south island in hopes that we might scrape together enough dough to tack on another adventure or two once we felt it was time to move on.  After a somewhat uninspiring but ultimately character building / finance accruing 3 month stretch working 7 days a week in Blenheim, New Zealand, we have realized that vision of wanderlust in grand fashion.
 flower power anyone?

After our personally designated last day of work at the factories, we celebrated with a conveniently timed company party at the extremely popular Speights Ale House -- a comped Prix Fixe three course gourmet meal with open bar tab to boot. You can bet that we made them pay handsomely for the privilege of having us there. The next morning, we hopped on a bus to Christchurch and then tarried on to Queenstown for a phenomenal (albeit too quick) snowboard session in the Southern Alps. We both fell in love with Queenstown and recommend that our family and friends keep it highly in mind as an alpine adventure destination. The town is refreshingly small and there isn't a bad lake or mountain view to be had from any corner of it. We mainly went down there to use it as a jumping off point for a day snowboarding at Coronet Peak. It may be true that each of us has snowboarded exactly 2 times in our lives prior to this, but I do declare that we held it down and quickly progressed to the intermediate routes -- and one which was listed as an intermediate route but was clearly for the seasoned powder shredder. I mostly complained all the way down this run while Becca effortlessly glided down in her usually graceful manner. It was difficult to keep my eyes on the runs because the views were so spectacular. After our snow capped mountain visitation, we hit up a joint in Queenstown called Fergburger. The Fergburg is easily one of the top "steamed ham" (Simpsons reference anyone?) purveyors in the world at large ( if you dismiss this statement, you haven't been and you ain't ready). Be sure that we ordered hulk-sized double Fergburgers to complement our action packed day on the slopes.

Coronet Peak snowboard session / fashion statement

We fled north for Christchurch the day after snowboarding to camp out at the airport there and await our brief flight to Melbourne, Australia en route to Bali Denpasar International. We save money where we can, and one sure way to do this is to sleep in airports whenever we have an early flight out in the morning -- nearby hotels don't ring in cheaper than $100 a night, and our check in was at 4 am : what is the other sensible alternative to posting up in the airport with it's free wi fi and open late food stands? NONE.

We rolled into Bali in the early PM hours of July 30th. Fortunately we had dialed in a place to stay in the area of Sanur, and had little trouble arranging a taxi to take us there for an agreeable price. The strength of the U.S. dollar against the Rupiah here is extremely fortuitous for us, and has enabled us to literally live as millionaires. In fact , when we exchanged a couple hundred bucks to get our feet on the ground , we walked away with almost 5 million rupiah. It's monopoly money, people.
True men don't kill coyotes and wear sarongs

Our "homestay" is in a perfect location -- down an alley from one of the main thoroughfares of Sanur (Danau Tamblingan st.) , quiet yet close to all the action. We've got our own balcony and really nice features throughout the room for under U.S. $20 per night -- this style of room in a first world country , not even considering it's close proximity to a fantastic beach , would easily run you $150 - $200 a night. The whole scale of economy ( see what I did there?) is amazingly favorable to us here; our daily routine consists of free walks along the path ringing the beach, impossibly relaxing hour long massages for $5.50, drinking the milk/juice from fresh coconuts for $1.20 , 660 ml (Tall) beers at a private cabana on the beach for $2.60 each, awesome gelato for $1.20 a scoop, and ridiculously tasty dinner at any number of local restaurants ("warungs") for between $3 and $5 total. And despite the absurd prices, everything is top quality. We had plans to be on an island called Nusa Lembongan right now, but opted out of them because...well, how could we uproot without giving this place it's proper due?
what a tasty couple o coconuts

Our next move is to Ubud, Bali's cultural capital, in about 4 days. We'll have plenty more photos and such to post now that we're actually doing exciting and culturally stimulating things -- we hope that anyone reading this blog enjoys it beyond their "obligation" to as immediate family or valued friends. We have a lot to say, and travel is not nearly as gratifying when you can't share it with the ones you love, old friends and new. Stay tuned, share our journey!!!!

garden temple pop shot

Until next time,DW & BC