Friday, July 24, 2009

The Joy of Cooking

I have realized since I've been home that there really is, a joy in cooking. Although I have always know I enjoy it, it took this last trip and coming home to realize just home much joy it brings me. Not being able to cook for yourself and having to rely on others for three meals a day is just not as fulfilling as making it yourself. I believe the joy for me comes in many shapes. Much is found in using family recipes and trying to recreate that dish from your childhood you loved. Much is trying something new and spending time to look up recipes in your grandmother's cook books. Most of it for me though, is of course, the end result, and sharing that with others. I'm currently simmering a pot of tripe, short ribs and spices on the oven in attempt to make menudo, which is a soup I could eat every day for the rest of my life. Others however are sometime thrown off by the idea of tripe, and have a hard time getting around it, so we shall see. Until then I have some stirring to do...

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Goodbye Thailand!

It's about midnight now and I'm desperately trying to kill time by spending my last few pennies on the internet. Our flight leaves at 5:30 am so we're attempting to stay up the whole time, which is proving to be much more difficult than expected. We did get a hotel room though so I'm not lugging around my bag and have a place to relax. Today was fun though, and I finally got to see Wat Pho, which holds the great reclining gold Buddha. It was way bigger than I ever imagined and was a great little last day tourist trip. We were going to try and go to the Grand Palace but it was 350 baht to get in, (about $10) and the lines were insane. I don't think we missed much though, it was so packed we could barley walk around just in the entrance, while Wat Pho wasn't busy at all.

Afterwards we of course gorged ourselves on as much street food as we could. There really isn't anything better than Phad Thai for around a dollar and chicken skewers and sticky rice for about 75 cents. I only have about 6 dollars left at this point, but I might be able to squeeze in one more cheap meal before we leave.

Finally, we relaxed at our roof top pool. Oh yes, our $10 a night hotel has a pool on the roof, so we were able to get some last minute bronzing in. Followed by of course, one last 6 dollar massage. The woman at the massage place we go to remembers me from last year, and is one of the sweetest women I have ever met. She showed us pictures of her family who live in Northern Thailand, and told us about her 10 year old son who has just become a monk. She gave me a picture of her and her other son to take home and wrote down her information so I can contact her if I ever some back. I'm not sure if she'll be in Bangkok if I return but she said I was welcome to stay with her family in her home town anytime. It's people like that that make me love this place as much as I do. Not many people in the states would leave you their information and offer a place to stay if you're ever in town again.

Overall the trip has been great and it's always bittersweet to be leaving. I of course miss home but wish I had another month to see all the places I didn't have a chance to on this trip. I imagine I'll find myself back here again one day though, with more time to explore and not quite as tight of a schedule to keep. But for now, I'm counting down the hours until my 18 hour journey home. I must admit Thai food is getting a bit old and I'm looking forward to some variety on meals. I love traveling, but there really isn't anything better than coming home.

So goodbye Thailand! it's been real!

Oh and Will...

see you soon :)

Monday, July 13, 2009

Rain Rain Go Away...

So after a few days of doing nothing but strategically placing chairs in the water to read, para-sailing slightly intoxicated, and eating more thai food than I thought possible, we decided to move to Koh Chang, the next island. Damn. We arrived and raced a rain cloud to our bungalow, where we have been trying to avoid the short bursts of rain ever sense. It actually hasn't been all that bad as the rain let up today and we went exploring the small town of "Lonely Beach". That of course meaning we ate sticky rice and pork and got a massage. Peering out the window of this Internet cafe however I can see sun trying to break through the clouds so I might have to get out there in my bathing suit as a last ditch effort to come home a bronzed goddess, if you will. Yes, I am going to be that girl, laying out on the sun trying to keep my hair out of my face and my book pages from turning in the violent wind.

ps. i was going to post pictures but this stupid computer isn't letting me. Also nobody likes pictures of a rainy beach right?

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Last Thoughts on Indonesia

Throughout my time here, granted it hasn't been long, there have been several occurrences which after a short amount of time begin to seem perfectly normal. I realized that although I may have mentioned them, a few deserve further description, because they really are quite bazaar. For starters, the Gili Islands and run by the mafia. Yes, there is an Indonesian mafia. The islands have no police force of any kind, with exception to the random checks officers perform by showing up and "making sure everything is ok". What does this mean you might ask, well it doesn't mean there are rebellions running the street burning down bamboo shacks, but it does mean you can buy "magic mushroom shakes" at about every corner, as well as a plethora of other drugs. In fact, you could actually sit at a bar and smoke a joint as you would a cigarette and nobody would look twice at you. The island is a small community thought and you get the feeling everyone is watching out for one another and after taking to people who had lived there for some time, it sounds like it all somehow works.

The people on the Gilis are very different from anywhere else I have been in South East Asia as well. The women, who in other countries are usually pretty forward, trying to sell you things to give you a massage, were very quiet and reserved. The men however seemed to over compensate, as they called out to you every time you walked by, either also trying to sell you something, or as far as grabbing your arm and telling you they love you. Or in Camille's case, trying to kiss you on the cheek. At first I found it so annoying I could hardly believe it, but after time you realize it's much easier to simply pretend you didn't hear them, and they generally don't harass you quite as much. In fact, it gets worse on Kuta, the popular beach in Bali because the men are not only trying to get your attention, they're trying to get hired. The "Kuta Cowboys" as they are known cruise the streets for women to wine and dine, and bill. Glorified male prostitutes are really what they are, and knowing they exist makes you a it hesitant to talk to a local for more than 5 minutes. One positive thing I can say however, is just about every man who we told we were from the US promptly replied with "Obama!". I realized this is the first time I have traveled and not been tempted to sew a Canadian flag on my backpack.

The food on the Gilis is also interesting as it's way easier to find pizza or a burrito than it is Indonesian cuisine. After getting to know some locals however, we found the local eateries where the food was 10 times better than the anything on the beach. The spot specifically, where we visited a few times, you didn't really order anything other than chicken or beef and a friendly woman with little to no English scooped rice, veggie, meat, tofu, some sort of broth, and on other thing which I think had nuts in it into a bowl and handed it over with a smile. A large meal which really feels you up, and only for $1.50.

Lastly, an incident which I cannot believe I forgot to write about, its amazing what a $400 bribe can get you. In this case, it got my friend Aaron through customs. He arrived at the airport in Bali from Thailand and was out of pages in his passport for the enormous sticker Indonesia has which takes up a whole page. The girls and I, not knowing what was happening and why he had been taken into a back room, waited for about twenty minutes when Aaron emerged looking, for lack of a better word, pissed. He informed us that because of his full passport they were intending on sending him back to Thailand (at his expense I assume), where he would have to have more pages added at the American Embassy in Bangkok. Luckily for Aaron he had a good amount of cash on him was able to bribe the customs agent to put the sticker on the back page, which specifically states that it must remain blank. Needless to say it was a shaky start to our time here, but as most bad situations usually prove, it made for a good story.

I have had an amazing time here though and found it incredibly hard to step onto the boat and away for the Gilis this afternoon. Now back in Kuta we leave in the morning for Bangkok. I'm not sure when, but I will definitely be back.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Gili Trawangan

The only mode of transportation on the island
Dana took this about 5 minutes ago
The boat we take out to dive

The beach at sunset

For the last few days we've been on Gili Trawangan, one of three Gili islands just off Lombok, the island next to Bali. These islands are commonly describes as "no cars, no dogs, no worries" and I couldn't agree more. It really is a little piece of paradise and just as I read, I really don't want to leave. I wish we had another week here at least. The beaches are white, the water is clear and the diving is amazing. You can sit on the beach all day, each cheap local food (or expensive American) and there is always a reggae band to be found at a local bar in the evenings.
I went on my first dive in 3 years yesterday and it was quite a jolt back into it. Everyone is so laid back here though, they didn't make me take a refresher course, so I just watched everyone and slowly remembered what I was doing. Once we were in the water though it all came back to me, and there was so much to see it was really amazing. I saw a turtle that was about 4 feet long and about a billion tropical fish. The only thing that really proved difficult was the current. The dive was a drift dive so you really don't have much control, and sort of swim where the current takes you. Today however, I went on another dive which was much calmer and it was easier to swim around and get a better look. It was actually quite an exciting dive as we dove 30 meters (about 100 feet) and it was the deepest I've been. Now that I've completed the dive and the test they give you at the bottom I'm qualified to dive at that depth anywhere in the world, so that's pretty sweet. The test by the way, is quite a trip. My instructor gave me a grid with the numbers 1-30 on it, all mixed up and I had to point to the even numbers in order on land, and the odd numbers in order at 30 meters. Needless to say it took me twice as long underwater, but I did finish it. It was a bazaar feeling looking for a number, knowing it's there, and not being able to find it. It's a bit like being drunk to be honest, except underwater.
I have one more dive tomorrow, and I think I might be able to do some underwater photography, which I'm really excited about. I'm sort of a tag along in a group much more advanced than I am, but I'm sure they'll let me snag the camera for a few shots. After my last dive tomorrow we head back to Bali to catch a flight in the morning back to Bangkok. It's been a great experience here though I'm really glad we made it down here despite how much it cost. If anyone is considering going to Indonesia I would highly recommend it, and especially the Gilis, they're really something.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009


Notice Camille and I crashing into each other...

We've been in Bali for 5 days now and are heading out to the Gili Islands in the morning. We arrived here late, and after Aaron had to bribe the customs agent with $400 to get into the country, due to a lack of space in his passport, we we're all a bit frazzled. We decided to change our original plan of going to a less touristy area and took a cab to Kuta, where we knew we could find a place late. The only way I can think to describe Kuta is the Cancun of Indonesia. It's literally lined with souvenir shops and bars, and the company isn't exactly ideal. None the less, the surfing is amazing, so we decided to give it a go. Camille, Aaron and I rented boards and headed out on our own (I've been surfing once mind you, 5 years ago) and attempted the waves. After much saltwater swallowed and a few spills we came to shore where the guy who rented us the boards promptly informed us we "should probably take lesson".

The next day we went to the airport to pick up Sarah only to discover she wasn't on the flight. After a few hours though we got hold of her (she was in Japan) and picked her up the next day. Once she got in it was back out to attempt surfing again, without a lesson mind you. We actually didn't do horrible, and I managed to stand up long enough to snap a picture. Sarah even got out there after all her jet-lag and gave it a go, doing quite well for her first time and with my instruction.

Today however, we decided it was time to get out of Kuta for a while so we headed inland to Ubud. I'm really glad we made it there and would love to go back if we had more time, but the one day was a good taste. I of course have been wanting to visit this "Traditional Balinese Healer" which I read about it Eat Pray Love (I know, I know, but it sounded really cool). We road down these small windy alley roads until arriving in front of a small shop with herbs growing out front. We sat down and promptly ordered the "Vitamin Lunch" which promises to revitalize. I can honestly say I've never had anything like it, and it was by far the best meal I have had here. It began with turmeric lime and honey juice which was made right at our table and followed with a spread of red rice, tofu, bean sprouts, spinach, seaweed, stuffed tomatoes, and fried coconut. It was absolutely amazing and each dish came with a tag telling out not only what was in the dish but which vitamins, and what part of your body it helped. Of course I felt slightly ridiculous as the woman (Wayan) who owns the place immediately asked if we had read "the book" and introduced herself as the one and only star. She also informed us that they're making a movie after the book, staring Julia Roberts. All that aside though, I'm really glad we went there, the food and hospitality were amazing and it cost us each only $10.

After the lunch we visited a monkey sanctuary which was quite a trip. The monkeys weren't afraid to literally scale tourists to get the banana in their hand. Needless to say we didn't have any bananas, so we didn't have to worry about that.

Now we're off to the Gilis tomorrow for some relaxation on the beach, I'm sure I'll take way to many pictures and post them as soon as I can.