Posts Tagged With: travel

Day Trip to Koh Sire 

There aren’t many places you can get off the beathen path in Phuket. The infrastructure, the beaches, the McDonald’s, the massages, the 7-11’s. I’ve heard Phuket referred to as “Disney world” and “Thailand light”.

All of which is fantastic, don’t get me wrong. But sometimes I miss that unpolished side of Southeast Asia; that place of upturned soil and hodgepodge of motorbikes nestled alongside unadulterated natural beauty. Koh Sire straddles the divide of polished Phuket and quietly, stunningly beautiful Thailand. 


Just a few miles east of Phuket town, it’s hard to know you’re on another island. Koh Sire is often overlooked due to the lack of tourist facilities, but that’s exactly why we sought it out. If you find yourself in Phuket, set aside a few hours to check it out – but you’ll need a motorbike or a car. And the trip to the temple is a must. Enjoy the photos. 

Categories: Thailand | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Building Goat Sheds In Arusha

Six things I learned about Tanzania:

  1. Swahili sounds amazing. It’s one of the happiest sounding languages I’ve ever heard. Here’s a sneak peek:
    Karibu – Welcome
    Habari gani – How are you?
    Jambo – Hello
    Kwaheri – Goodbye
    Sarafi njema – Have a good trip!
    Asante sana – Thank you very much
  2. Speaking of Swahili, the Lion King names are actually Swahili words! Remember Pumba, the warthog? Pumba means slow-witted/thoughtless in Swahili! Simba means lion. Rafiki means friend. Cool, huh?
  3. Beads are everywhere. Everything is beaded. Bracelets, earrings, bags, shoes, everything.
  4. Tsetse flies actually exist, and they’re the devil incarnate. They’re worse than horseflies, leaving giant welts that itch for days. They even carry a terrifying disease called Sleeping Sickness; if you’re bitten by an infected fly you slowly become more and more drowsy, drifting off into sleep, and then remain in a coma for the rest of your life. Thankfully it’s very rare and a nonissue for anyone considering a trip.
  5. The name “Tanzania” exists because it’s the land between Lake Tanganyika and Zanzibar island. (Put it together, Tan + Zan = Tanzania!)
  6. They take the phrase “rice and beans” to a whole new level.

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One of the great things about going with a school group was that I was able to learn about Tanzania from a more educational perspective. Normally my vacations consist of pure adventure seeking, a bit of relaxation, and a cultural day thrown in here and there. With a school group you’re always assessing the educational merit of your activities. Enter the most impacting activity we participated in: The goat shed.

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Service projects comprised much of what we did in Tanzania. The students fundraised beforehand in order to pay for the materials to build a goat shed for a local villager. The activity was facilitated by the non-profit Seeway Tanzania.

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The students had a blast and learned how to manually build a wooden structure using only a set of directions and a hammer and nails. Another important fact: The fundraising didn’t just pay for the shed itself, but for the goat that would live there. It’s a great long-term service project because the goat continues to provide for the villager’s livelihood.

It took two grueling days to build the goat shed, but I can’t wait to return again this February and see how big Hillda has grown!

Check back soon for the final installment on Tanzania, the safari!

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Cyclo Architecture Tour in Phnom Penh

Phnom Penh is a city seriously misunderstood.

When visiting Southeast Asia, tourists expect two things from Cambodia: The ruins of Angkor Wat, and the Killing Fields. After booking their flight to Siem Reap and their bus to the beach, they plan to pop into the dusty and chaotic city of Phnom Penh for a few nights—no more—to tour the Killing Fields and have a beer overlooking the Mekong River.

I have news. Phnom Penh is so much more than the Killing Fields. It is a city in renaissance. A city overflowing with a culture unlike any other in the world.

Sure, the roads are a bit busy and the air a bit humid. Phnom Penh is a city of 2 million people.

When you visit Phnom Penh, you walk the pebbled streets of smiling women scrubbing pots and brushing the hair of baby girls.

You wave at the moto drivers playing chess on the street corner and they wave back. When you visit Phnom Penh, you giggle with the girls in the market as you try on clothes that obviously don’t fit.You are invited to play games in the street. You taste countless different types of sour soups and steaming curries. You never knew a noodle could be cooked so many ways. You never thought flowers could smell so sweet or fruit could be so fresh. You take a selfie with your lover in the moonlight, and look behind your shoulder to see a young Cambodian couple doing the exact same thing. You hear men singing as they pedal their bicycles past you as you walk home from the market. Teenagers sip bubble tea as they get a manicure for a weekend wedding. You try to photograph the architecture of the wooden Cambodian houses peeking out alongside the French colonial facades, but you realize that your camera can never capture the creeping vines, the butterflies, the shadows, the tiles, the apsara dancers carved in wood, the smell of the incense. And when you fall asleep, you dream of the people who were so patient with you in a place where you are so clearly a foreigner.

Phnom Penh is not a place to be “done”. It is not a place to ask, “Is it worth it?” When you go to Phnom Penh, you need to slow down, take a deep breath, and look around you. I have lived here for two years and I am surprised every day.

When my family came to visit, I wanted to show them a part of the city neither of us had experienced before. I had seen the cyclos looping around Wat Phnom on Saturday afternoons, and knew there was a pretty popular cyclo tour. After a quick visit to the Khmer Architecture Tours website, I knew it would be the perfect way to spend the morning.

IMG_5185(All pictures are courtesy of master photographers; my Aunt Pat and my sister.)

There were seven of us: Sean and I, my dad and sister, my aunt and her two friends. We arrived at eight in the morning to a group of men in lime green t-shirts and white hats. They didn’t speak English, and my Khmer small-talk is brutal. We had a tour guide who was a recent graduate of Phnom Penh University with a major in architecture. IMG_5187Our sunscreen on, and our introductions complete, we set off to learn more about the architecture of Phnom Penh.

IMG_5202Our first stop was at a Chinese temple, one of the few in the city.

IMG_2816The temple had a few people praying or making offerings. There is a large Chinese-Cambodian presence, and many Cambodians identify as both Chinese and Cambodian to a certain extent.
IMG_2819The streets weren’t crowded as we cruised along, seven cyclos in a row. I can’t imagine what someone sitting in a barbershop must have thought when they saw us filter past!

IMG_5221We stopped at an old Jesuit church that has now been converted into housing. Before this tour, I had no idea how complicated housing is here in Phnom Penh. During the Khmer Rouge, people were marched out of the city and the houses became abandoned. After the Khmer Rouge, people returned to an empty city to try and rebuild their lives. The government passed a new law which said that if you inhabited a place for one year, then it legally became your property, and you were the rightful owner to sell it as you pleased. This presented a real problem. Imagine that you were forced to leave your home during the Khmer Rouge, crossed the border into Thailand, and were finally able to return three years later. You are dropped off on your street. Not only does everything look different, but you walk up to your door, and a stranger opens the door. Your house does not belong to you. However, the new owner is “so kindly willing” to sell your house back to you, if you can agree on a price.

The whole system is terribly flawed, and shattered the lives of thousands. They not only lost their loved ones, but their houses were now “owned” by strangers.IMG_5224This church had room after room that had been cobbled together and built on top of each other. The church can’t be taken over by one dominant person as each room is independently owned by the people who resettled there after the Khmer Rouge.

IMG_5266The tour was fantastic not only because of the history and the architecture, but I had never seen Phnom Penh from the viewpoint of sitting inside a cyclo.

IMG_2817Each bike was a testament to the life of the man who drove it. You could tell they were meticulously crafted and continued to be cared for. These cyclos are the cadillacs of the city, man. Not to mention one of the drivers who really enjoyed saying, “Ooh la la” to make us laugh. IMG_5226At the end of the day, we said goodbye to our guide and our drivers, our minds full of awe at this city and it’s hidden alleys, temples, and histories that we never knew existed.

If you have the chance, come to Phnom Penh. And stay a while. I’ll take you to my favorite neighborhood. You’ll meet some really great people. It’s a hard place not to love.

Categories: Cambodia | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Visiting Cambodia, Part One (Kep & Kampot)

Have you ever done something so many times that it becomes second nature? You don’t even think twice about doing it? Take, for example, the way you brew your coffee in the morning. Or your drive to work. These things seem obviously simple to you. Until someone else enters your life, and views these things from a lens that completely blows your mind.

Going home to Wisconsin for Christmas, getting lunch at the local cafe is so routine for my father, they start making his salad before he walks in the door. For me, it was a flurry for colors, smells, and tastes I never experience the other 364 days of the year. Not to mention the excessive amount of cheese that is present on every Wisconsin plate.

So it is with Cambodia. When my friends and family come visit, they are amazed by things that I view as my day-to-day life. Take, for example, dodging motos when crossing the street. Or ordering lemon when you want lime. (Don’t ask.)

My aunt and her friends visited this past month, and it was a total blast. We had so much fun exploring Cambodia, and I love any excuse to play tourist. My aunt is one of the best photographers I know, so I asked to steal some of her photos for my blog. (Seriously, she gets one of her photos in her annual work calendar every year!)

So, here you go. Cambodia from another pair of eyes.

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The view from my rooftop in the Russian Market neighborhood. If you’ve ever been here, you can see White Linen Boutique Guesthouse in the bottom center. (The lavender colored building.)

 

 

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Walking through the Russian Market.

 

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The meat venders of the Russian Market.

 

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Fruit outside the Russian Market. (As if you needed any more evidence that the Russian Market is one of the best in Phnom Penh!)

 

IMG_4718Sunset over the Kampot river, a two hour drive from my school. It makes for the perfect weekend getaway.

IMG_4741The famous Saraman curry at Rikitikitavi in Kampot. Saraman curry is a special Cambodian curry that is not easy to come by. It is very, very rich and very flavorful. The primary ingredients are dry roasted coconut, shallots, garlic, cinnamon, and a lot of yum.

 

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My friend Anna snuck down to Kampot with us for a weekend. We woke up nice and early to get a yoga session in with the sunrise. Little did I know, my aunt snapped a great photo!

 

IMG_4791Eating breakfast off the balcony at Greenhouse in Kampot.

 

IMG_4801Downtown Kampot.

 

IMG_4813Downtown Kampot.

 

IMG_4818The famous Durian statue in downtown Kampot.

 

IMG_4838Walking along the Kep coastline. What a contrast.

 

IMG_4847Monkeys along the Kep coastline.

 

IMG_4851Monkeys along the Kep coast.

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IMG_4888Buying snacks in Kep.

 

IMG_4902My favorite hotel in Kep, the Kep Lodge.

 

IMG_4954Ordering squid in Kep.

 

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Browsing the crab market.

 

IMG_4982On the drive home from Kep, we passed at least thirty busses carrying young women. Sadly, we deduced they were being taken home from their factory shifts. Check the label of your shirt right now. Does it say, “Made in Cambodia”?

 

IMG_5023Passing a family of five on a moto.

 

IMG_5024Beautiful smiles.

 

I love all these pictures for so many reasons. My aunt takes a fantastic photograph, and it is a reminder of how beautiful this country is that I have come to call home.

Check back soon for the next blog, in which I give you yet another tour of Phnom Penh!

Categories: Cambodia | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Walking with Elephants

Happy February! Please forgive me for not posting in the past month. We’ve been absolutely crazy busy with visitors and traveling. My aunt and her friends flew over from Wisconsin for two weeks, and my dad and sister are here with us now. I love having guests visit—when else do I get an excuse to show off one of my favorite countries, visit my favorite restaurants, and play tourist on a school night?

In terms of the blog, the Go Pro is a blessing and a curse. It’s a curse in the sense that we take a lot less photos now, so have less to work with when writing a blog. On the other hand, it’s a total blessing when you have so many hours of absolutely perfect film footage that you don’t even know where to start.

That’s a bit how our photos of Mondulkiri were. Sean took great photos, but even more video. This weekend he took the best of the best and made a stellar film about our trip. I hope you enjoy. I fell in love with the elephants all over again, and groaned at the sight of our poor car being towed by a tree limb behind a van. (Our timing belt broke, and how else do you tow a car 200 miles in Cambodia? Hail a passing van, find a stick and some rope, and cross your fingers.) Take a look, and if you can, watch it in HD.

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Door County, Wisconsin

While my blog normally covers all things exotic and foreign, it is all a matter of perspective.

For all of my non-American readers, today you will experience the exotic culture and geography of the Upper-Midwestern United States. A part of America that is so familiar to me, I can close my eyes and recreate each of the five senses purely from memory alone. We all have places like this—my friends in Ethiopia can taste shiro and injera, and smell the wild baboons in the Simien mountains. My friends in Cambodia can feel the salt of the Gulf of Thailand on their skin and the taste of tangy prahok in their mouth. Similarly, Sean and I can hear the call of the hermit thrush, taste of cheese curds, and imagine the waves of Lake Michigan lapping the rocky shore.

Here is Door County in early June.

DCIM101GOPROThe Holiday Music Motel, a vintage throw-back in Sturgeon Bay. One of the best hotels I’ve stayed at in the US so far. Absolutely fantastic breakfast in a ‘serve yourself’ diner setting.

 

DCIM101GOPROI felt like I was either in my grandmother’s kitchen or a church basement for a Friday night fish-fry. (If you’re from Wisconsin, that sentence makes perfect sense.)

 

DCIM101GOPROOn the shores of Lake Michigan, at Whitefish Dunes State Park.

 

DCIM101GOPROOne of Sean’s favorite places in Door County, Cave Point County Park.

 

DCIM101GOPROPerched on the rocky ledges of Cave Point.

 

DCIM101GOPRODoor County is famous for its lighthouses. This one is located in Peninsula State Park, one of the most popular State Parks in Wisconsin.

 

DCIM101GOPROOn top of Eagle Tower, with Horseshoe Island in the background.

 

DCIM101GOPROHorseshoe Island.

 

DCIM101GOPROHiking the Eagle Trail. Was it difficult? Not so much. Beautiful? Absolutely.

 

Screen Shot 2014-06-23 at 10.37.14 PMSean goes spelunking in the caves along the Eagle Trail.

 

DCIM101GOPROIn Sister Bay, Wisconsin, there is a famous restaurant that has goats grazing on their roof. We, unfortunately, visited on a day that they were mowing the lawn. No goats, but certainly an entertaining photograph!

 

Screen Shot 2014-06-23 at 10.33.48 PMWe then visited The Ridges Sanctuary State Natural Area in Bailey’s Harbor. It was recommended for being particularly beautiful and remote, with an active bald eagle nest. As you can see in the above photo (which is actually a screen capture from a video), I became a mosquito-fighting phantom, covering every part of my body from the ridiculously vicious mosquitos that were there!

 

DCIM101GOPROInside The Ridges there is an old homestead from the early 1900’s.

 

Screen Shot 2014-06-23 at 10.31.41 PMWe were the only people for miles around. It was a fairy land.

 

Screen Shot 2014-06-23 at 10.30.15 PMThen we popped out on the shores of Lake Michigan once again. I never get tired of this view.

 

DCIM101GOPROOn our way home, we found yet another lighthouse. Door County never ceases in its simple beauty.

 

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Kim And Sean’s Big Adventure To The Coast: Part One

I have been chomping at the bit to share our most recent adventure with you. As teachers, we work the basic 9-5 (or more like 6-5) job, Monday through Friday. When the weekend rolls around, we’re normally too knackered (a word I’ve adopted from our Kiwi friends here) to do anything but lay around the pool and catch up with our friends. When we got our first three-day weekend, we were set on venturing out of the city. I love Phnom Penh, it’s awesome, but there is so much more of Cambodia to see.

In Kuwait, there was Kuwait City, and that was pretty much it. I never felt like I was cheating myself on the weekends because I was doing all that there was to do, and I was loving it. Here, there is so much vast, untrammeled beautiful places, that they whisper to me in my sleep, taunting me.

When we accepted this job, I began to Google and fall in love with the Cardamom mountains.

We were planning on catching a bus to the coast, but our friends offered us a ride in their car to head out into the mountains to a lodge on the coast. (Yes, you can do both “mountains” and “coast” in one weekend!)

So, we all packed into their Mitsubishi Pajero and headed to Koh Kong.

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It’s a four-and-a-half hour drive, and really got stunningly beautiful about halfway through. If you look at the map above, you can see all of the environmentally-protected areas. I never knew Cambodia had so many reserves and parks myself until we got here.

The most popular part of the coast is Sihanoukville, which is near Ream National Park on the above map. To get to Sihanoukville it’s about a two and a half hour drive. The Cardamom Mountains, where we were going, take up the left-hand side of the country along the Thai border. Koh Kong is a small town along the border, and the lodge we were staying in was a twenty-minute drive inland. We were meeting another couple there, who also work at the school.

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Our friends Chino and Anna have a lovely puppy named Kampot. I am kind of falling in love with him and his goofiness.

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Cambodian countryside.

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We took a bathroom break on the long drive at a small roadside cafe. I love Cambodia’s calico sky.

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We found a new litter of puppies at the cafe. They were such cute little things! I want to get a dog so badly, but know it would be tough on both us and the doggy due to all the travel we do. I think I’ll just offer to babysit Kampot as much as possible!

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As we rolled into the Koh Kong area, Chino and Anna pulled off the road and told us we would be able to spot the lodge in the forest. I was confused about what they meant, but, lo and behold, we saw the teeny bungalows peeking out of the wilderness! You can only access the lodge by boat, but I will talk more about our arrival later…

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The pull out where we spotted the lodge. We are loving Cambodia.

Before we headed up the river to the lodge, we decided to get lunch. We had been driving since 8am, and it was around noon. We drove up to the coast and took a dirt road along one of the tributary rivers to a place called the “Crab Chack” (… or “shack” to us Western landlubbers). We had heard about how divine the seafood along the coast was, but I truly had no conception of what we were about to experience.

IMG_6716The Crab Shack was a little hideaway on the coast with hammocks, tables, and a few tourists sipping beer alongside the locals.

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You could walk along the beach, where Anna and Sasha looked at the beach glass. I was on a sensory overload. I didn’t know where to turn or what to do, it was all too much to soak in. I kept telling Anna and Sasha that I felt like I was on some tropical vacation that I would have to leave in a week and never see again, but then realized that I will be living here… for quite a while.

Then the food came.

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And what a feast it was. Anna told us to order the prawns with garlic. Each plate was heaped with the largest prawns I had ever seen. You would then create a dip made of fresh crushed Cambodian pepper and squeezed lime. The pot at the top of the photo held rice, which made it a symphony of flavors and textures in your mouth.

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I had never had such prawns in my life. They were so meaty, it was mouthfuls of shrimp. Never before in my life did I ever think I’d say, “Wow, that was a delicious mouthful of meaty, tender, juicy shrimp.” No tartar sauce needed here, folks.

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While we were eating, Sean spotted quite a beastly arachnid above our table.

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Here he tried to take another picture of the spider, but instead got a great shot of the atmosphere and mood of our lunch. Love the guy in the back.

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I was sad to leave the Crab Shack, but know that we will be back.


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Then it was time to head to the lodge… but this step of the journey must wait for another day. As it was our first ‘big journey’ out of the city, we took 300 pictures in 3 days. We were a little out of control. Instead of cramming all the pictures into one long post about the weekend as a whole, I thought you’d enjoy shorter, more focused posts to keep it interesting and palatable.

Check back in a few days to see where this boat takes us!

Categories: Cambodia | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Egypt: The Grand Finale

 

Happy February! Tonight I aim to bring my blogging of Egypt to a close. It’s been incredibly fun remembering our adventures and straightening out the Egyptian history in my mind, but there’s a lot happening in Kuwait right now that I’d love to share with you, too! Thus, today I will finish Egypt, then talk about our recent adventures.

Our last few days in Luxor were a mix of exploring the town, visiting a few more temples, and checking out some swanky hotels. I would love to go back to Luxor in the future and cruise the Nile in a sailboat for a week. It was so relaxing and beautiful. I could picture Cleopatra sailing through the azure waters being fanned and fed grapes : )

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On our final afternoon we relaxed on the roof of a restaurant drinking smoothies and smoking shisha. You can see Luxor temple in the background, then the Nile, and across the Nile is the West Bank and Valley of the Kings. What a view!

 

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Sean and my dad visited Karnak temple together while my sister and I went swimming and caught up on our girl talk. Karnak temple is actually more like a city,

spanning 247 acres. It is considered the “sacred place”, and the main site is the Temple of Amun. Sadly, there are only a few obelisks left there, as most of them were looted and carried off to Europe. (Which Sean and I saw when we visited Rome!)

 
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Another photo from when Sean and my dad visited Karnak temple.

 
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Sean, me, and my dad standing with the statue of Horus at the temple of Edfu. Horus was the patron god of Egypt. Can you believe this gorgeous statue is over two-thousand years old? I can’t even begin to fathom it. (It was constructed in the 200’s BC.)

 

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Art inside the temple of Edfu. You can see the gods Horus (with the falcon head), Toth (with the Ibis head, the god of wisdom), Hathor (with the disc and horns above her head, the goddess of love and beauty), Sekhmet (with the lion head, the god of destruction), and a Pharaoh in the center.



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Sean outside the Temple of Edfu.

 

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We took our lunch break at a McDonald’s in Aswan, on our way to the Temple at Philae. I hadn’t seen my sister look so happy our entire trip!

 

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Here I am at the Temple of Isis at Philae. It is an island temple on the massive Lake Nasser. UNESCO saved the temple when the government dammed up the Nile and Lake Nasser was flooded; the water damage to the Temple would have corroded it to nothing in a matter of decades. Luckily, UNESCO moved the entire temple to a higher island in the lake, deconstructing it and rebuilding it piece by piece.

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Isis is pretty much the most important female goddess in Egyptian mythology. She is known as the “mother of God”, and is the wife of Osiris (the god of the dead) and the mother of Horus.

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Here you can see the Temple of Isis at Philae from the boat we took to get to the island. It was so surreal!

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After all those temples and history lessons, it was time for a break! We found the Hilton in Luxor and lounged the day away.

 

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Transportation in Luxor.

 
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I made some friends while walking around the town of Luxor. They were so cute and spunky! I talked to them for a while and luckily had a few chocolates in my bag.

 

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Baking bread in Luxor.

 

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This man was truly amazing. He had a jewelry store that was about as large as a walk-in closet. The gems, which he polished there in front of you, were unlike any I had ever seen before.

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We spent a long time looking at his stones and even bought a few.


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On my mom’s last day, we booked a Nile cruise with a man we found along the shore of the Nile. He seemed really nice and offered us a good deal. We were glad we chose to go with him, it was a real treat! Emily and I loved lounging on top the boat while we cruised the Nile.

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My dad, loving life, on board the boat.

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Lunch on the boat. It was fresh-caught fish, cooked on the boat. The rice was made by our captain’s wife, and it was my favorite! It was an unexpected feast.

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We stopped the boat to explore a banana plantation. We climbed around an old building for a beautiful view of the Nile from the West bank.

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My mom loved the bananas on the plantation! I have to admit, they were delicious, and I had quite a few myself.

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My family and I walking around the island.

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Our boat captain, Galal. He was fantastic.

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My sister in the street by our bed and breakfast in Luxor. Call it dingy, but I love how authentic everything is! In Kuwait everything feels new and fancy. Egypt was the true, romantic Arabia!

 

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My mother and sister were on a quest for perfume. Last year when we were in Jordan they found some perfume that they absolutely loved. While they may not have found the perfect match, they still found some enticing scents!

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The entryway of our bed and breakfast, Mara House. I can’t recommend it enough!

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Transporting of goods outside of Luxor.

 

Overall, our trip to Egypt was amazing. It was intense, and I returned home with a completely new understanding of Egyptian culture, both living and historical.

Would I return to Cairo? Absolutely. Luxor? You bet.

The food was excellent, the people were friendly, the history is astounding, the Nile is, well, it’s the Nile. Need I say more?

If you ever get the chance, you should undoubtedly go.

I’ll send you my itinerary : )


 

 

Categories: Egypt | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Sri Lanka: Ella, Part 1

To resume my photo exhibition of all that is beautiful in Sri Lanka, I bring you to my favorite place on the entire island, Ella. Ella is a small town in the hill country, known for it’s idyllic waterfalls, cascading cliffs, peaceful lifestyle, wildlife, and flowers. I had died and gone to heaven.

First, Sean put together an amazing video that he took on his pocket camera. He’s got a small camera that is about the size of a credit card. The quality isn’t the most amazing, but he is able to take video everywhere we go. I hope you enjoy the video as much as I do : )

To continue, let us begin the documentary on my dream village, Ella…

As the train rolls into Ella the tea plantations become more sparse as the jungle becomes wilder and the hills grow hillier.

The Buddha temple in front of the train station. I love how colorful this religion is!

After riding the rails all afternoon, Sean and I went on a hike to stretch our legs. Unfortunately, everywhere in the hill country clouds up around 3pm. Even though our views were cut short, we had fun playing in the fog!

Take note of this photograph for the moment. In the pictures below, we returned to this waterfall the next day. Instead of a wall of swirling mist, you will be pleasantly surprised!

The bed and breakfast we stayed at in Ella was called “Waterfalls Homestay”. It was run by an Australian couple that got tired of their 9-5’s back in Australia, so they moved to Sri Lanka and opened up the most dreamy B&B on the face of the earth.

We spent quite a bit of time with the other people at the B&B, along with the owners Marty and Karen. They had the most beautiful property and open-air patio imaginable. They cooked dinner and breakfast for you, run by their personal Sri Lankan chef Kalam.

Their place only has three rooms, as it is more of a homestay than a B&B. Sean is standing at the door of our room. I wish I had gotten a photo of the inside; it was just as beautiful as the exterior!

In the morning, we awoke to breakfast on the patio across from the waterfall. Monkeys were doing backflips through the trees as I sipped coffee out of a french press. (Did I mention it was $50 a night?)

The first morning of our stay, we had “hoppers” for breakfast. Hoppers are a Sri Lankan favorite, which I had for breakfast and lunch a few times, but not enough! I really loved them; you have a special skillet for them, which is a metal bowl that is held over the stove by a handle. Inside the bowl you pour a coconut-crepe-thing, swirling it around to create your outside. then you lightly fry an egg in the center. Heavenly!

We set back on the hiking trail in the morning, following the railroad tracks we took into Ella the day before.

Due to the hills and heavy rains, there is a lot of terrace farming in Sri Lanka.

Our first hike was to the top of Ella Rock, which you can see as the highest peak in this picture. It was the same hike we naively set out on in the fog the day before. We are so glad we attempted a round two!

At the top of Ella Rock. (Dad, aren’t you proud of my sun protection? 😉 )

At the top of Ella Rock, where we ran into two Canadian female teachers from the American International School in Guangzhou, China. We met up with them later in the village for a few drinks and quality educator conversation!

Can you spy where I am?

Here is the same photo as the above picture that was clouded out by mist. What a difference a clear day makes!

Swimming in the waterfall was a real treat after we hiked all the way up to the top of Ella Rock.

Monkeys were spying on us!

We found two snakes mating on our hike! It was the wildest thing; they would rapidly intertwine with one another in a frantic dance.

They were incredibly large snakes – we made sure to keep our distance!

After making it to the top of Ella Rock, we treated ourselves to a piña colada and cribbage over lunch. (Don’t worry, I’m pretty sure I won the game…)

I would like to close this post with one of my favorite things about Sri Lanka: the curry! If you order “curry”, what you get is a large plate of rice with all of the above side bowls. Starting at the very top we have a coconut sambol (the orange mix). In the lower right-hand corner is a dal (lentil) stew. The rest, I honestly have no idea. All I know is that they are the most delectable curried vegetables I have ever tasted.

Next time I will finish our trip in Ella, our tuk tuk adventure, and our mysterious journey to the ends of the earth! (Or should I say… “World’s End”…)

I hope the sun shines in your corner of the world this afternoon. Love and miss you all!

Categories: Sri Lanka | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

March: In Which I repair my bicycle, see a saloon for children, and Andrew dons a tablecloth or three.

It is now the beginning of March, and I have become disappointed with my lack of touristy-Kuwait-photographs. It seems that I haven’t been taking pictures of things that amaze and amuse as I did when I first arrived in Kuwait. I have been storing my camera only for traveling outside of the country. Upon realizing this, I vowed to spend a week snapping photos of the strange, the silly, and the sunshine of Kuwait. After all, I still don’t think I have convinced *all* of you that you could live a pretty posh life here, too 😉

Below are yet another series of photos that portray my daily events in Kuwait. Keep your eyes peeled, there are a couple gems!

Last weekend my friend Sharon and I walked to a nearby Thai restaurant. On our way back, we stumbled upon the “Saloon Elite 4 Kids”. That’s right. Saloon. In Kuwait. For Kids. It’s actually not a typo—what we call a “salon” in English is written as “saloon” everywhere you go in arab-speaking countries. They know the place where you go to get your hair cut as a “saloon”. It makes it seem a little Wild West-esque… or a little predatory in the case of a “Saloon Elite 4 Kids”.

I don’t think I have explained what a “bakala” is to you yet. A balaka is where all good things can be found for cheap. It is like a 7/11 run by your favorite relative. They’re small shops on every street corner, selling everything from dish soap, salt and pepper, fresh fruits and vegetables, to hairspray and baby diapers. (Not to mention blow-up animals and soccer balls, as you can see in this picture.) Nothing has a price tag, it’s all determined by the old man sitting behind the counter watching television. They are all so friendly, and they even cater to you once they know your “usual” needs : )

I don’t know if I mentioned this before, but when my dad and sister were visiting Kuwait, my bicycle broke when my dad took it for a test drive. (He swears it was already broken…) I finally took it to the repair shop this past weekend, where they fixed it right up for a mere 4 KD! That’s less than $15. It needed a new pedal and crank. I love the repair shop; again it’s run by an old man who just hangs out talking shop with his friends and rummaging through old parts. Imagine their amusement when a young white foreigner walks up with a broken bicycle! I never know who is more amused in Kuwait: me or the people I interact with. What a joy it is to be alive!

After getting my bicycle fixed I decided to head over to a place some teachers recommended I visit, “King’s Coffee”. They sell coffee by the kilo, and grind it fresh there for you. I bought a quarter kilo for 1.5 KD (around $5.50), and the man ground it there for me. I sipped a complimentary espresso while he prepared my beans. Upon getting home, I have to say that it is the best coffee I’ve bought in Kuwait! It is so much fresher than the Maxwell House I buy at the grocery store. You can really find anything in Kuwait, it just takes a bit of time to hunt for it. (That should really be the title of this post, “Kuwait – The Great Scavenger Hunt!”)

While riding my newly-repaired bicycle home from Salmiya, I found some interesting art outside of a floral shop. The sign in the background (the one in English) says “Kuwait Flowers”.

This is embarrassingly enough the view from our front window. The parking lot for our apartment has been plagued by this eyesore ever since we moved in. It was actually covered up completely last week, but then for SOME reason they dug it up again! Imagine not watching where you were going and stepping through the caution tape…

We went into the downtown area one night with our friends, Megan and Andrew. We went to the Old Souq. Sean liked this building, although I don’t know what the ’51’ symbolizes.

*Update: A friend of mine recently told me, “the “51” was for this being the 51st year of independence from G.B. I’ve seen lots of pictures from last year reading “20-50″ which was their big celebration year of 50 years as a sovereign nation as well as 20 years after kicking out the Iraqis.”

I post this picture purely for my sister and father. This is the place in the Old Souq where Emily kept finding bags with bird poop on them. The shopkeeper has hung up a curtain above his bags now so that the birds can’t poop on them! It was the most hilarious thing; Emily SWORE she needed a particular purse, which had bird poop on the side. I was determined to haggle the guy for 1 KD seeing as it was filthy. He would swear, “No! No! 3 KD only!” and throw the bag in the back of the shop, only to grab ANOTHER purse from the rack that ALSO had bird poop on it! We went through four or five purses and he would NOT lower his price. We were laughing so hard by this point that the purchase became irrelevant. Needless to say, he doesn’t have to worry about haggling over bird droppings any longer!

In the Old Souq. Look at the ceiling behind Sean… don’t you love their national pride?

Spices, spices, spices. I bought a half kilo of died sage for 500 fills!

We love this man, we call him the “Iranian Carpet Guy”, seeing as he is Iranian and he sells carpets. He sells the best tapestries, souvenirs, and gifts in all of the Old Souq.

Megan and Andrew were having quite the discussion as to which tablecloths to purchase. I think Andrew was trying to make the decision by osmosis…

And THEN we got a package in the mail from our lovely family in Washington state, Amanda and Aiden! (Sean is Aiden’s uncle, and Amanda is his cousin.)

My absolute favorite thing about this package is the custom’s form. How could you POSSIBLY deny a parcel that claims it contains a “paper heart” on the inside?

We love Aiden’s art – I have quite a collection proudly displayed over all of our apartment!

Which reminds me, I hope that Amanda and Aiden (and the rest of our family in Washington) received the card we sent you guys in the mail? Please let us know if you haven’t yet. We were impressed that this package from Amanda and Aiden only took about 5 weeks to get here! Kuwait has been impressing me with their postal service recently!

We love you and miss you all. I hope that the weather in North America begins to warm up and the sun starts to shine. Here it is a lovely seventy degrees and sunny during the day time. The only thing negative about March in Kuwait is that Sean can’t watch March Madness… but that’s a blog for another day.

Categories: Kuwait | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

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