Saturday, June 28, 2008

Coming to America!

Here we are with Mike on our overnighter to Goa:Here is a shot of typical India from our train--look at all the trash!
Well we are finally and unbelievably on our way home!! We can't believe it but we are so excited. Time flew! But then when I think about all the things we have done, it feels like we've been traveling for months. So weird.

Look at this sweet ride through Agra!
We spent a day in Agra and saw the Taj Mahal!! I have wanted to see this for a long time, but NEVER imagined I actually would. It sticks out in India like a sore thumb. It just shouldn't be there! You come out of the gates and back into the stinky, rubbish-filled poverty-stricken life of India. We went on Friday night to a secret place behind the Taj to see it at sunset--AMAZING!
These are my 2 favorite pictures:
This was so cool, we got to play a little cricket, ride a camel, and take some cool pictures from behind the Taj for free! The next morning we got up bright and early to beat the crowds at 6am! We certainly did! (It's 750 rs for foreigners to get in and only 20 rs for Indians!--wow! ~40 rs is $1). Anyway, after we saw the Taj and headed for our train back to Delhi--it POURED like a monsoon should! We have been so blessed this trip during the PEAK of monsoon season, it has never actually rained ON us, only when it has been really convenient. It's been great!

The train ride back was an absolute nightmare. We got a non-reservation ticket cause it was cheap and fast, but this means that anyone can get on. I won't even get into details right now because I don't really want to relive those 4 hours. But maybe I'll write later:)

Now we are in Bangkok on a layover, then tonight we head to Beijing for another layover, THEN we head to San Fran to get some housing situated...THEN HOME! YaY! Bring on the clean sheets, soft dry beds, cereal, hot showers from overhead, toilets, and AC!!!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Some pictures

Here are some random pictures from our time in India so far:

Here we are on the very Southern tip of India, where 3 seas meet:
(the wind makes me look fat:)

Crazy cities in India (Ben on the left):

Our typical sleeping arrangements:

Palolem beach in Goa, India. We share the beach with the Holy cows (seriously...Holy):

"The Secret Beach"

We were eating in a restaurant and in comes a cow!

Monday, June 16, 2008


So we left the beaches and headed on a horrible bus to Singapore for a couple of days. Singapore was was basically just a big city with not a lot to do. The coolest and best thing was the Night Safari. It was awesome! There was a night show, 45 minutes of trails through the jungle, then a tram ride for an hour through the coolest stuff. There aren't any cages! The animals are just there and could come eat you any minute:) All the animals were up and alive and moving around. Nothing like the Hoggle Zoo. Our favorite animals were the elephants--because the male was HUGE and had the most beautiful and perfect long tusks, and the lions!! When we went by them we just stopped and were all quiet because they were all roaring. They were perched up on this "simba's rock" and were about 30 feet away ROARING! It was SOO cool!!

We then took a flight the next day to Chennai, India and here we are! We went right to the Rising Star property and stayed a couple of days. It was awesome. The school for the kids is big and nice. There are quite a few volunteers out there who were all really cool. We went to the leper colonies first thing. Wow was it cool. It really pulled at our heart strings. I thought these people would be annoyed at people coming to see them and take pictures of them, but they were SO happy. We just walked through these dirty colonies and sat down with some men and women and just held their hands and smiled at them. Some would talk a little, one cute lady just grabbed my face with her stubs of hands and kissed it all over and then yelled "Halleluia!" over and over. Ben danced with some of them. They were amazing. We brought a guitar and sang them songs. What a great experience. What a sad disease. And how sad that these cute people are just shunned into these colonies away from the world. We left and came home to play with all of the kids. Most all of these kids are children of the people in the colonies. Rising Star is giving them a chance at an education and a life. They were incredible. We played with them for hours. They'd call us all "auntie" and "uncle" and just hang on our clothes and want to be swung around and chased and stuff. They are beautiful and it's amazing work they are doing there.

We left a couple days later on an overnight train to Southern India with Brian and Callie and 2 other volunteers, Mike and Brett. We're going to travel for a week and a half, go back to Chennai, then to Dehli and home. India is hot. India is dirty. And India is crowded. It's nothing like we've seen before. Us girls have to wear Chinadharus which are these long thick traditional shirts and long pants. We can't show ankles. Wow it's hot. Lucky boys. We also can't show affection, no holding hands even--it's taboo here. So we stayed a night on the VERY southern tip of India in Kanniyakumari, where the Arabian Sea, the Indian Ocean, and the Bay of Bengal meet, we went out to the beach and stood on the actual tip. We watched the sunrise and the sunset all at about the same place, which doesn't happen anywhere but places like here. The wind and waves were CRAZY! We took a ferry out to this memorial and huge statue that reminds us of the statue of liberty. It was cool.

We're celebrities here. EVERYONE wants a picture with us. I guess it's the white skin and blonde hair, but guys, old men, children, and whole familes will come up at least every 5 minutes and want a picture. Either taken on our cameras or theirs. It's so funny. Everyone stares at us and sometimes gasps and points. This isn't a tourist spot at all so I'm sure we're totally foreign to them. We found a place for $2 dollars per person to stay the night. It was filthy and only a fan and I could just tell we wouldn't sleep. Needless to say, Ben and I didn't sleep a wink. We had the worst mosquites and bed bugs I could even imagine. We finally turned the lights on at like 3am and went on a killing frenzy. The walls, our hands, and our sheets were covered in our own splattered blood from killing the mosquitos. We killed at least 50. I've never seen so many. Our bodies, especially mine, are covered. I have 381 bites (and this is an under-estimate). Yep, we counted last night. Here's the breakdown, Face: 44, Neck: 37, Back & Shoulders: 46, Left arm: 48, Right arm: 52, Chest: 4, Bottom: 2, Left leg: 87, Right leg: 59. Wow do they itch. Ben got a lot of bites too, but his thick hair is quite a defense mechanism. His feet and areas without much hair are bad. Today we're in Kovalam. It's just north up the coast. We stayed at a $3 dollar per person room last night...we're really moving up:) It was much better though and we actually got really good sleep. My bites are getting worse I swear, bigger and redder, and more itchy. The beach here is cool. The waves are just insane. Almost scary, I dipped myself in yesterday and the undertoe is powerful. We played volleyball on the beach with the natives. Us 6 white people against 6 of them. They said if we won they'd buy us pepsi's, we ended up winning 3 out of 4 games...and never got the pepsi's, but oh well. It was a blast!! Then we played soccer which was fun too. We leave today to the Kerala backwaters. Which is supposed to be one of the highlights of India. We're really excited.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Day 27 out of 48!

Sawat di khrap from Thailand! Wow it has been too long! We haven't been able to get to the internet like we've wanted in the last few countries--sorry! I've been dying to write forever. There's so much to tell--we're in our 4th country now! So I guess I'll break it down into countries...

What a neat country! We were in Vietnam for 6 days! We loved it but we were ready to leave when we did. We first went to Hanoi, the capitol and quickly thought "ok we're done here." Big cities in these countries just aren't fun. They're too dirty and busy and dangerous. Vietnam was the worst by far in regards to their driving. They are horrible! Well, actually, they are AMAZING! There are just no rules, millions of motorbikes on the roads and no one stays in their lanes. Our whole time in Vietnam we spent more time going straight head on in traffic than in our own lane. It was nuts and we were always on the edge of our seats biting our lips. Anyway, we went to Ha Long Bay and loved it. It was a quaint little tourist spot on the coast, it was pretty. This was taken in a big market place, one of the cute little babies I got to hold!!Then we took a private boat out to Cat Ba Island. There are 3,000 limestone islands off this coast and they were incredible. Covered in trees with a low surrounding fog. So cool. We loved the island.We rented motorbikes and just rode around all day. There weren't NEARLY as many cars on the road so we were safe. We went to some beaches, had some good food for the first time, loved the night life, and just had a blast. We left and decided an "open bus tour" would be the best way to travel the coast, that way we could stop wherever we want during the days and sleep on the bus and travel at night. Bad idea. We took the overnight on the first 11 hour leg. It ended up being like 15 hours and we were thankful we lived. It was so horrible I can't even begin to describe it. We all got our own little...cot thing. That was barely big enough for me let alone 3 almost 6ft guys with us. It stunk, it was crowded, bumpy, they lay on their horns all night long and half way through the night, I guess another bus driver fell asleep and sent the whole bus off onto the railroad tracks, they had to evacuate quickly and all got on our bus at 2 in the morning. We had people lining the floors now and some that double bunked. Crazy. We passed 2 more trucks on their sides along with a bad motorbike accident. When we got to our first stop, Hue, we quickly exchanged our tickets and decided to get a taxi to Hoi An, where we spent a day. This was a cool little town, probably the coolest "town" feeling in Vietnam. We went to the beach the next day and had fun playing soccer with the natives and playing in the wave. The only problem--we are on Doxycycline...which makes you more sensitive to the sun...which we forgot. Even after lathering the sunscreen on and only being out there a few hours, we boiled in our skin for days. I'm finally getting over the peeling. It was nuts. Anyway, we got a flight to Ho Chi Min city and then stayed the night, we went to a cool Vietnam war museum there where we felt like we got the "full" experience, having been in the country and not known really anything about the war. We took a morning flight to Siem Reap in Cambodia. We were done with Vietnam. Had tons of fun and loved it, but we were ready for the next country.

We stayed here 2 days. We flew in to Siem Reap, the only thing we wanted to see was Angkor Wat. Which was totally worth it. We split up, by the way, with the couple Brian and Callie we were with, they wanted to go see some friends in Phnom Phen, so Steve stayed with us. Cambodia was cool, different than Vietnam, it was more rural and less touristy. We spent 2 days seeing all the temple ruins. If some of you haven't seen what they look like, google them right now, Angkor Wat.
They are incredible. The best I've ever seen. The best in the world. We loved it. But it was SO much hotter here than in Vietnam. We were just dripping sweat and our blistered seemed to rise even more here. It would rain everyday in the morning and afternoon, and it was like a monsoon. I've never seen it come down so hard. But it cooled things down a bit. (This is like an engagement pic:) Haha. So once we were done here, we got a taxi to the border. We heard that this main highway was horrible and that some airline is actually paying the Cambodian government NOT to keep it up so that people would fly ($200 dollar tickets). But we decided a taxi would be ok, definitely not the bus, but a taxi. Oh man alive was it wild. The trunk wouldn't work so we put our bags in front, but we FLEW and I have never had such a roller coaster ride last for 3 hours. It was insane. Pot holes took up the whole road, but didn't phase the drivers, water and flooding, rocks the whole time, detours every 4 minutes...insane!! Our necks and backs hurt after just an hour from the bumps. And by the end of the trip, his trunk was flying wilding open and closed. At least we got it open! When we just had an hour left of the ride and the fun of the road was long gone, the driver decided to stop and tow his friend with a car full of smoking monks. They wanted a picture with us so I got one and they grabbed Steve's butt! It was so funny...and pretty sketchy for munks:) Anyway, we finally made it to Thailand.

Bangkok is huge! We only got a glimpse because then we had to take an overnight train to Chiang Mai, it wasn't bad at all, except for the drunk loud Irish people below us the whole time. But we loved Chiang Mai. It was so cool. We found a really nice $15 dollar a night place and it's the best looking room so far. We went to a snake zoo and a monkey zoo. So cool. The snakes were huge and we went to a show and we were the only ones in the whole little stadium thing! Haha, but it was cool. We had some videos cause they guys were crazy. Then we held some and walked around and the guys wouldn't leave us alone, they kept trying to scare us, well succeeding in scaring us by throwing this rope at us and pretending a snake was biting our ankles. But then they kept trying to scare Ben by taking a snake's actual head and pretending to go for his crotch, well they actually would go for his crotch and got quite close. It freaked him out. The monkeys were really cool and cute. We got to hold some baby ones and some older ones. The show was really cool. Sunday church here was AWESOME. Chiang Mai has the biggest branch in the whole country. The address was quite hard to find, their addresses are just jumbled numbers and dashes and more numbers and the houses around don't go in any order. We heard that the numbers have something to do with the property size and order of purchase....random and quite chaotic. But after an hour of searching on our motorbikes, we finally found it! It was a beautiful little church with beautiful property, totally didn't fit in this busy crowded town. Walking in was like a breath of fresh air, like wow, this is so cool--we're home. We had a translator the whole block because I guess there are at least 40-80 English speakers a week, which is awesome. It was a great meeting. The people and missionaries are awesome. It is such a testimony builder to know that wherever in the world we go, the church is the same and it's true. It feels the same, and the Spirit is the same. So cool. Oh! And I met Melissa Steed! If you have seen the Work and the Glory movies, I met the actress that plays the Steed daughter. I saw her walk into church and thought, 'man she looks familiar' as soon as she spoke though I knew it was her. So I went up and talked to her and she's here with BYU teaching English for a few months. She was really nice and it was fun to meet a little celebrity in Thailand!

Monday we started our adventure that brought us here. And it was an adventure. We went on a 2-day trek to do hiking, elephant riding, and bamboo river rafting. We left at 9am Monday, we were with 4 other girls: 2 from England and 2 from Canada. It is amazing to see the other tourists, most of them are English and they ALL travel for about one year. It's pretty crazy, it's so different from what we do. When they hear that we're only out here for 2 months they think, "oh that's nothing!" They just travel everywhere in the world, drink and party at every place, and definitely just 'live for the moment.' We actually had a SWEET missionary experience for a couple of hours with them. I don't know how our religion came up, but it did and they all had questions and were intrigued with the "Mormons." We bore our testimonies and literally covered ALL the discussions. It was so sweet. Ben and Steve were so good, having been on missions, but I did pretty well too:) The group:We had about an hour drive to a waterfall that we hiked to and swam in, it was so pretty! We had a lot of fun here. Then we drove another 30 min to lunch, then another 30 minutes to where we started our trek. Wow was it hard. It was literally right through the jungle, and it started raining on us in the beginning. Which caused all the leeches to come out ready to find our blood. Oh it was so annoying, we had to watch our every step and stop every 5 minutes to check out feet, which most of the time was successful in finding them on us. Ben didn't get any, but I of course did, luckily then never actually started sucking cause I wore some pretty thick socks. But Steve got sucked a few times. Along with that there were mosquitoes, spiders, and other weird colored things. It was so pretty, but it was all either up hill or downhill. So it was tough and we were so sweaty and gross. It was about a 4 hour hike. A girl had a step counter thing and it was about 15 km. We finally got to our destination: a little remote village where we were to sleep. The toilets were gross, the shower were pretty much non-existent (so we didn't shower), mosquito bite count tripled, and there was nothing to do for 4 hours till we could go to about 8pm:) We had dinner, and then decided to just go lay down. Wow. I don't sleep well in weird foreign places, and taking a look in this room made we wish we didn't do the 2-day thing. Everyone slept in the same room, there were just small thin mattresses on the floor with a small hard pillow and a wool itchy blanket, and mosquito nets above each bed. When we laid down, the mattress and pillow and blanket were damp and stinky. So damp that we got wet just laying there. Ah! So horrible. We said our long 'please let us fall asleep tonight so this night goes quickly' prayers, put in our earplugs and tried to go to sleep. I felt Ben twitching after just 3 minutes of laying he was out the lucky boy. I don't know, I probably got 2 or 3 hours of sleep miraculously. It wasn't as bad as I thought...but it was bad. Finally the morning came, we had breakfast and took off at 8am.
The highlight was to begin. And it was--Steve, Ben and I got on one elephant, two of rode in the little wood saddle, while the other rode on his head/neck. They were SO cute! It was an hour ride through the river and jungle, mostly the river which was awesome. The water came up to the elephants waist! It was so fun! I loved when it was my turn to ride on the head. You just put your legs behind her ears, which she'd constantly slap so it kept the bugs off! And I laid down on her head so I could see her trunk swing and get water. So cool. After that ride, we had a small hike to where these Thai guys made bamboo rafts right there on the spot. We got on in a standing line and ours was sinking! They put one more big bamboo thing on but it was still pretty sketchy. Good thing we had changed into our swimsuits. It was 2 hours down the river. Totally fun. Ben and Steve got to steer with the bamboo sometimes and there were rapids and cool sites all along the way. It was way fun. Then we stopped, had lunch, and left to go home. We had so much fun.

So anyway, Steve left to India a week ago and Ben and I spent a few days in Bangkok. We were really looking forward to all the shopping everyone was talking about, that you can get basically ANYTHING for basically nothing. It was pretty sweet, not as great as we thought, but we did do some shopping. We liked Bangkok, we went to the Grand Palace, which was so amazing. Their Buddha stuff is incredibly ornate and jeweled and just wow. They have this 40 meter golden Buddha laying on it's side in this building. It was incredible. We rode the Tuk Tuk's around everywhere (which are just little open motorized taxi things). Ben also got some pretty sweet deals at a tailor shop. He got 2 suits, 2 shirts, 3 ties, and another pair of pants for $330 which was pretty dang sweet. Amazing fabric and customized to his body--he looked pretty dang sexy:) We're excited about them. And I got a real oriental dress. So pretty, I can't wait for it.

So then Krabi!! BEST beaches in the world. They are postcard picture perfect. Amazing. It's heaven here. The water is SO warm. We just kneel in it and stay in it for hours. It's theraputic I swear. We've been in absolute paradise here. We spent a few days on the beach in Ao Nang, took a boat out to Phi Phi Island, spent 3 days there, took a boat to Railay Beach--the BEST so far. I guess it's beaches are top 10 in the world. And now we're back in Ao Nang till Singapore. It's been a second honeymoon. Yesterday we hiked to a secluded Lagoon in the middle of the limestone "mountains." We had to basically rock climb the whole time, up and then down. Good thing they had ropes, but they were wet and muddy so it was so sketchy. It was one of the hardest things I've ever done, and I'm SO sore, but it was amazing down there and totally worth it. The beaches are breath taking, the sunsets are incredible. The places we stayed were fun, the people were fun, the food's been amazing!! And we're both SOOO tan!! Our burns are gone and we are looking like the natives:)

It's amazing all that we take for granted in America. We're SO blessed and spoiled. The touristy places aren't so bad, but when we take the motorbike even around the corner away from the beaches, we see the real life living. It's sad. It's National Geographic stuff sometimes. They all have these tiny little wood houses, room on stilts. You can see the aftermath of the tsunami here some places. Some places are still just sprawled out in pieces on the ground. The little children of these Asian countries are so beautiful. They have the biggest brightest prettiest dark eyes, dark hair and skin. I want one of them! Haha, I love seeing them out in their natural little homes. Laying in a hammock doing nothing or just playing with a stick in the dirt. So different than America where kids are playing with their new iPhones and nintendo games. This is definitely a "once in a lifetime" trip. So we're really trying to make the most of it. Get out there and explore, be with the people, play soccer with little native boys on the beach, eat weird food, get dirty, etc. It's so fun and really puts life in perspective. We are so blessed. We are so watched over out here everyday, I know I've said that but we see little miracles everyday. Like the rain for one! It ALWAYS hits hard at the most perfect times, not when we're out and it would destroy an afternoon, cause man it would. When it comes, it floods basically. Anyway, this is long and I'm payin for it:) So I better go. Love you!