Monday, August 13, 2007

Goodbye Philippines

Jeanette and I took our final trip of the Philippines to Boracay. It is a small island with beautiful beaches. We spent the entire time laying out on the beach, drinking mango shakes, reading, and sleeping. It was a great relaxing time! Honestly it was so nice just to be able to do whatever we wanted whenever we wanted. I love those kinds of vacations.

It is sad to say but my time in the Philippines has ended. I arrived in the States just a few days ago. I am still working on trying to catch up on my sleep and adjust to life. There is much to do in order to find a job and a place to live. I had a great time in the Philippines; I experienced and learned so much there. I hope to never forget those lessons and amazing memories I shared there. Thanks to all who made it possible and for all of those that made it fun while I was there.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

I'm off again

I know I just returned from Thailand, but I am off again for another trip. We are headed to the island of Boracay for some R & R on the beach. I will be gone for about 5 days. Take care while I'm gone. I'll be thinking about you while laying on the beach sipping on my mango shake.


You must beware that this could possibly be the longest blog entry you have ever seen in your life. I am going to attempt to capture the last four AMAZING days I spent in Thailand. I have added more pictures to “My Pictures” as well for you to see. Perhaps they will do better justice portraying the beauty of what I saw.

Day 1:
We arrived at 3:00 in the morning to Bangkok. We had hired someone associated with our hotel to pick us up so we didn’t have to worry about anything at that hour. Well he pulls over on a street in the middle of Bangkok and says I can’t go any farther, but your hotel is that way. Ahh! So we walked aimlessly through dark alleys and past drunk people up and down the streets until we finally found our hotel. I kept thinking to myself, “what I am I doing?” It certainly was scary at the time, but funny now that I think about it. We stayed in a hotel on Khao San Road which is known as Backpacker Road. There are tons of foreigners that stay on that road when in Bangkok. It was amazing to me how many people were still out and about at 3:00 in the morning. We took a few hours of sleep and then headed off for some adventures. We took a two hour train ride out to Ayuthaya which is the ancient capital city of Thailand. Our train ride was fun. The man next to Jeanette kept talking to her and laughing, thinking she knew what he was saying. We were all cracking up because we had no idea what he was saying to her in Thai. Ayuthaya is really beautiful. There are old Buddhist Temples and Chedi’s (pointy pillar-like structures) all over. It was really neat to see the worn down architecture and the different representations of Buddha. We even got to ride elephants. Yep! We road huge elephants through the ancient capital city of Thailand, no big deal. Just kidding, it was a big deal, it was so cool. Unfortunately they have turned everything into tourist sites, so it’s not as exotic as it sounds, but still pretty cool. Then we ate a great Thai meal on a floating restaurant on the river before returning back to Bangkok. So in Thailand a popular mode of transportation is the Tuk Tuk. They are basically three wheelers that have been converted into little truck-like things. They target tourists around and of course tourists love them because they are cheap and fun. The catch is the tuk tuk driver will take you wherever you want to go, if you will go to a store and look around so they get a gas voucher. The local gem stores, clothing factories, and handicraft shops offer Tuk Tuk drivers vouchers if they bring tourists in to their stores. It’s a clever strategy, but kind of funny. That’s not the only funny things about Tuk Tuks, they tend to drive out of control. They drive so fast, dodging cars, and driving on the opposite side of the road when there is too much traffic. It’s really fun/funny! Every time we road one during our stay in Bangkok I just cracked up the whole time. Well our Tuk Tuk driver this night was by far the best. He paid no attention to the traffic signals, other cars, etc. Every time we were stopped and the light changed he popped a wheelie because he was taking off so fast. Oh man, it was too funny! You gotta love the Tuk Tuks. Day 2:
We woke up early and headed out of Bangkok to the famous floating market. There is the cutest little town with water canals instead of roads. On several of the canals there is what is called the floating market. Boats with various food items, clothing, etc travel up and down the canal selling their items to other boats passing by. It is really neat to see all the vendors passing up and down the canal. I had the most amazing coconut pancakes off one of the boats, oh man they were good. Later that day we went to the weekend market in Bangkok. It was so cool to see all the different vendors with the Thai souvenirs and beautiful handicrafts. This market is enormous, it is said that if you were to walk 8 hours a day for two months straight you would still not make it through the entire market. Yeah, it’s that big! I bought lots of cool Thai silk pillow cases and other fun stuff. I may have gone a little overboard on the purchases, but oh well.
That night we went to dinner and did lots of people watching. It really is so interesting watching all the people interact with each other and the hustle and bustle of the food and clothing vendors lining the streets. I also bought my first personally tailored, handmade suit. Yep, I’ve officially grown up! You can get business suits made really cheap in Thailand and since I will be looking for a job, I decided it to take advantage of it. I really struggled deciding though, I guess I just wasn’t ready to make such a grown up purchase, but I did, and it’s a beautiful suit.

Day 3:
This day was one of our Temple days. There are over 440 Buddhist temples in Bangkok. All of which are decorated with such beautiful, extravagant details. It really is indescribable how ornate these buildings are. It was a Buddhist holiday and so there were many people at the various temples worshiping. I’m not sure of the symbolism of all of it, but people were praying at the feet of Buddha, lighting candles and incense, laying flowers and leis on various statues and figures, placing coins in special buckets, and donating items to the monks.

We saw the Standing Buddha (which is huge), the Lucky Buddha (which was one of my favorites, this is where many people go to get married) and then we went to the Marble Temple which houses the Black Buddha. There were about 30 different representations and poses of the Black Buddha surrounding this temple.
Then we went to the Golden Mountain. It too is a place of worship, built in the shape of a mountain that overlooks the city of Bangkok. We spent the evening at the night Bazaar in the city. I can’t even adequately explain the good food of Thailand available. I was in complete heaven smelling and tasting everything, especially the Kiwi shakes. This bazaar seemed to be more of a trendy market, there were local designers and artists selling the most beautiful clothing and art work. I may have spent a little too much here too.
Day 4:
We started off our day going to the Jim Thompson House. Jim Thompson was an American that helped to revive the silk industry in Thailand years ago. He is famous for his work in Thailand and all over the world now. His home was a beautiful traditional Thai home with amazing Asian art throughout.
We then went to the Wat Phra Kaew and the Grand Palace. The Wat Phra Kaew is the largest and most ornate temple we saw by far. There were several different buildings and statues throughout the grounds of the temple. Inside the temple there is the famous Emerald Buddha; which isn’t really made of Emerald, but of Jade. Anyway this where many important religious ceremonies and events occur. It is also the temple where the King and his family go for worship. The Grand Palace is on the same grounds and was the residence of the royal family. One thing I really loved about Thailand is how proud the people seem to be of their country and especially their king.
The last temple we saw was the Wat Pho which houses the Reclining Buddha. The Reclining Buddha is absolutely huge and made of gold. You can’t really comprehend how beautiful these temples and various Buddhas are until you see them in person. Every inch of the temple walls were covered in gorgeous murals. As we were walking around the grounds we saw many of the monks heading for the temples. You see this night marks the end of the Buddhist holiday and the monks head into the temples to stay for three months of fasting and meditation. They do not leave the temples and only eat once a day for three months. It was very humbling to see these dedicated men seeking enlightenment head into the temples.
That concludes my amazing trip to Thailand. I saw so many different things while I was there, all of which I cannot describe in this blog. The colors, the feelings, and the smells cannot possibly be captured.