Beijing - Day 1

6:30 - Arrive train station.
6:31-8:00 - Get horribly lost. Feel lonely and depressed.
8:01 - Meet local. Exchange English practice for directions to hotel.
8:30-10:30 - Roam around downtown Beijing with new friend, again with the English practice. Marvel at Forbidden City from afar.
10:31-11:30 - Get situated in hostel.
11:30 - Eat 16 potstickers. Rethink badmouthing of chinese chinese food.
12:30-2:30 - Meet new locals, again for the English practice. Roam old town with new friends.
2:30-3:00 - Spend 2 weeks' budget on tea.
3:00-4:00 - Write postcards in beautiful Beijing park. Rethink tea purchase.
4:00-dusk - Smile about the happy first day in Beijing.
Wednesday October 18 2006File under: travel, China

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Unfamilar Territory

It has taken me a few days to get my mindset shifted to be able to enjoy China, but I think I am coming around. Not only is it the change from Thailand to China, but the change from small town to big city, warm weather to chillier, and traveling with folks to traveling solo all happening at once. Those things considered, I'm doing pretty well.

The big thing to see here in Xi'an is Emperor Qin's Terra Cotta Army. If you've never heard of it, any explanation I give will sound dumb, so I suggest you go learn about it. Sufficive to say, it was pretty cool. They've built a great museum around the whole thing and showed the whole process of excavating them.

Yesterday, I went to see the Small Wild Goose Pagoda. It was built in 709 or something, way way back. Around the pagoda, there are beautiful grounds an other buildings in the traditional style. It was a great place to sit and soak up the traditional China-ness of everything.

All my other efforts here are in regards to the small things. While they don't sound like much, the few small victories I've managed have raised my spirits much. Riding public transportation, ordering food by pointing and smiling, and purchasing a train ticket to Beijing using only gestures. But with my small victories have also come small defeats. Last night, somewhat down about the whole Chinese-Chinese-food-is-not-at-all-like-American-Chinese-food thing, I opted to indulge myself in the cultural experience that is pizza hut. Same same, but different.

The whole time that I have been in Xi'an, it has been foggy(/smoggy?) and it rained pretty good yesterday, so I haven't been too inclined to go adventuring. But that has allowed me to catch up on a few movies here in the hostel and also catch up on my reading. Tonite, I leave on a sleeper train to Beijing, which I am greatly looking forward to. I hope to see some of the country side that is the China in my mind. Just as long as we get out of this fog(/smog?), I think I'll be fine.
Tuesday October 17 2006File under: travel, China

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Month 1 round up

Who would have thought a month could go by so quickly? Looking back, there were so many good times. I was fortunate in so many respects; everything aligning with my job, visas, and tickets to allow me to come here, meeting up with so many good friends and having a great time with them, and avoiding all the stuff travel horror stories are made of like sickness, robbery, and that crazy stuff that you never even want to hear about.

It works out nicely that my month 1 round up can exactly coincide with my Thailand round up. (I left the country on the last day possible on my 30 day visa.) There is so much to say about Thailand. Firstly, the Thai are some of the nicest people I have met. There was always someone around to help you suggest restaurants (sometimes a little forcefully, mind you), help you make travel arrangements, and always to offer a smile. Shane commented that there wasn't one person who didn't return his smile. Besides the people, Thailand has much natural beauty on its side. The islands of the south have beautiful beaches with picturesque views everywhere you look. The caves and waterfalls seem straight out of some idealic deserted island movie. In the north, you can barely walk 3 block in any given city without running into some gilded temple, almost all of which were open and welcoming to passing tourists.

All in all, I really enjoyed my time in Thailand. As a country, it is so tourist friendly that it served as a great jumping off point for me to kind of ease into unfamiliar territory. Speaking of unfamilar territory, I'm now in China. But we'll have to save that until next post.
Sunday October 15 2006File under: travel, Thailand

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Goodbye Thailand. Hello China

Okay, so this will be a quick one because I am at a funky computer kiosk at the Bangkok airport (and it is 4:30 in the morning). Just a quick note to say that after a wonderful month in Thailand, I am headed to China.

I had to get out of the country to renew my Thai visa anyway, and I've got this Chinese visa that I paid out the nose for, so I figured why not, right? So I bought a one way ticket to Xi'an China. Where's that?, you ask. I don't really know. In fact, I've never known less about a place I am traveling to. All I've got a is a Berlitz pocket guide to China and an adventurous spirit. We'll see how that goes, I suppose.

I've been meaning to make a couple of posts recently with pictures and the works but the tropical island internet gods have been conspiring against me. I hope to find a good internet connection in China and do a big ole picture dump soon. I've got a couple of good ones of Shane getting harrassed by a monkey, more caves (no cobra this time), a live puffer fish, and more monuments. I'll try to get those up soon.

So sawadee kahp Thailand, nee hao China!
Friday October 13 2006File under: travel, Thailand

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Everybody was Kung Fu fighting


Wednesday October 11 2006File under: Thailand, travel

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Careful - cobra

In an effort to see what Ko Lanta has to offer while we are here, Trista and I made our way to some much touted caves. Well, as with much of traveling, we didn't really have any idea what we were getting ourselves into.

The cave entrance was a 30 minute trek up slippery ladders, through streams, while dodging some pretty gnarly looking spikey trees. Our soft-spoken guide, who had obviously done this about 800 times before, was quick to offer his advice on wear to step, what was slippery, and what not to hit your head on all with one or two words. "Careful", "Careful: slippery", "Careful: head", all in his soft-spoken calm tone. While cruising down one of the trails, he slows down and points to the bushes, "Careful: cobra," he says. Sure enough, a 3-foot cobra is just chillin in the grass. Ah, Thailand.

The whole cave experience was something else. We shimmied through narrow openings, crossed slippery 2 log bridges, and just about ate it numerous times. I enjoyed myself quite a bit. I'm sorry to say we can't all say the same. Still, it was just another one of the experiences that make travelling so great and adventurous.
Tuesday October 10 2006File under: travel, Thailand

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It

Sometimes there are moments that are so perfect, so right, that you can't help saying to yourself, "This is it. This is what it is all about." These moments often only last for, well, a moment, and they require letting go of the future and the past. It is about the way things are now.

I had myself an it moment the other day. On a beautiful beach on Ko Lanta, watching the sun go down, with my arms around a pretty girl. I was lucky enough at the time to realize that it-ness of the moment, because it was quickly gone. But for that moment, things were right.
Saturday October 7 2006File under: Thailand, travel

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Week 3 wrap up

Three weeks gone already?!?! I guess when chillin' on the beach reading a book is the only thing you do, time just flies by. Well, yesterday we made the 1.5 hour boat trip from Ko Phi Phi to Ko Lanta. We've only been here for 24 hours, but I'm pretty sure I love it. It is low tourist season, so there aren't the throngs of tourists that there were in Phi Phi. Also, there is much more to explore. There are waterfalls, caves, and national parks that are all begging for my attention, but that will come in due time.

I think I am going to take this opportunity to really really chill. The place we stayed last night had a pool, chairs on the beach, T.V. (with HBO) in the bungalows - it was just gorgeous. And all that for only $2.50 per night. Tonite we are going to try out a new place. If it is anything like the last one, I will be a happy camper.

Okay, so sorry for the pictureless post. I will get to another picture dump here soon. I got a couple of great ones of the sunset last night. But in the meantime, turn your attention to Una Estrella for Andrew's pictorial wrap of his trip.
Saturday October 7 2006File under: Thailand, travel

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Mission(s) accomplished

Going into this trip, I didn't have much of a plan, but I did have a few goals. I'm pleased to say that a good number of those goals can now be checked off.

Firstly, it was/is my goal to get at least one geocache in every country I visit. So far in Thailand, I've gotten two. The last one was in Phuket at a beautiful waterfall. Per saved the day by finding it after the rest of us had given up. Three cheers for Hanwool.

Another goal has proved to be underambitious. The original goal was to read a book a week. I've been here for 2.5 weeks, and I've already read 4 books, all trash. And that is with having constant traveling partners. Once I set out on my own, I imagine I will bump the average up to 2 a week.

Goal #3 is really one of my favorites: go 24 hours shirtless. I went a good 6 weeks while in Palmyra, but that wasn't real life. Well, after yesterday, I'm pleased to say Mission Accomplished. We are back on Ko Phi Phi after letting Andrew and the boys off at the Airport. Yesterday, Trista and I took a tour out to Ko Phi Phi Ley, the highlight of which was Maya Bay, made famous by The Beach. (I didn't take this picture, but I could have.) We also snorkeled, stopped at a beach inhabited by monkeys, and got the experience of riding in a "traditional" Thai long tail boat. (More about that later). Anyway, it was a great time.
Wednesday October 4 2006File under: Thailand, travel

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Week 2 Round Up

Week two of my grand aventure was a nice change of pace from week one. While week was one full immersion in the culture, and packing in monuments, treks, and elephant rides, week two has been much more chill. I've spent no less than 3 days on the beach, snorkeling, reading, swimming, and getting sunburned. Andrew, Per, Myke and I spent 3 nights on Ko Phi Phi. Then they headed off to Ko Lanta while I headed into Phukettown to pick up Shane and Trista.

After meeting back up, we've spent the last 3 nights here in Phukettown at the best hostel I have ever been to (did I mention the free internet?). Yesterday we spent the day at Patong beach where Myke tried to shrelp the gnar, but was mildly thwarted. He will prolly try again today. The rest of us juggled, hackied, read, ate fresh fruit, bodysurfed, and got really sunburned (okay, so maybe just Trista and I got the burns).

It has been great having the 6 of us together. Being with good friends in such a beautiful place is just the ticket. Meals are fun. Traveling is fun. Going to 7-11 is fun. It is all fun. But tomorrow, Per, Myke, and Andrew head off back to the states. After that, it sounds like Shane, Trista, and I will go back out to the islands, at least for a bit. But who knows. I'll keep you posted.
Saturday September 30 2006File under: travel, Thailand

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