North America, Asia · 26 Days · 171 Moments · November 2014

Perhaps: I'll head westward for a bit.

7 December 2014

Sadly, the end. Until!

1 December 2014

Yea, no old fashion gymnast Santa Clausish hobos. Please and thank you.
Bienvenue en Louisiane!
Kanpai! Farewell, Tokyo, and an amazing adventure!

29 November 2014

Run, Forest, run!!! Stay, cone, stay!
Did you know that clear umbrellas are the BEST umbrellas?! Well, they are...the better to see you with, my dear! Our guide bought us one each.
Kabuki-za Theatre

28 November 2014

Meanest green flip flops ever.
Snap crackle ankle warning!
Just a heart shaped upside down leg leaf. 'Save my friend from the invisible fire!' TN
Prayer area outside of fish market.
More snaps from the seafood market.
Orders from big names for the day.
Early Saturday morning rise to meet our guide and head to the famous fish market. The fresh tuna auction takes place every morning, except Sunday's when market is closed, at 5:00 am. Only 60 outside people are allowed to reserve spots to watch it take place. We didn't sign up, but we arrived at the market at 9:00 am when it opened, so there was lots of activity. There is the market where fishermen sell to hotels and restaurants, and then outside of that, there are stalls and shops where the public can purchase items. One of my favorite stops this trip! In 2016, the government is building a new fish market. Of course, there is controversy, but the new one will be bigger and better for the economy...not as easy to get to for the tourists. The current outside market will remain in place. So thankful I had the chance to visit the original one. Everything under the sea...huge, fresh tuna, scallops, shrimp, fish, eel, squid...and empty buckets of blood...proof of a good day!
Senso-ji, Tokyo's oldest temple, lantern wishes, incense wishes, cup wishes, drawer and stick wishes... It's a quick shoe off, shoe on experience within the temple. The shopping around it is fabulous - Japanese trinkets to cute boutique stores.
Flush sound for your toilet, Mam? 😳😁🎶
Just a too tall guy in Japan.
Photo #1 is called "fun on a cup"... #2 and #3 is what I call Fun IN a Cup! There are these machines #4 throughout the city...for kids and adults. For 200-300 Yen, you receive a plastic ball with something in it - stickers, key chains, kitty coin purses, fun on a cup, fake shrimp ... More balls than I needed, but YOLO ;), right!?
Lovely Japan and all its color and art.
Japan is famous for its fake fun is that!?
Scott in his happy place! We roamed the chef's market/district- fascinating. Scott purchased an amazing knife. The owner of the shop was very concerned that Scott wouldn't love and care it as h should...the owner showed him a rusty version to nail in the point. We also walked the Buddha Box district, where you custom order and create your shrine. I wanted one, but they're gigantic. However, with no luggage, it could be a possibility!
If you're a squiggle and you know it, cross right here!
Sorry, ciggy.
Monchhichi madness!
Quick lunch at hotel before we power forward. Fish soup, lotus flower salad, rice, stir fried vegetables, and shrimp curry for me!
Just a bird scoping out Tokyo from above.
Sayonara, Kyoto! Bullet train to Tokyo! The most comfortable, lean back, leg room, cool washcloth welcome seats to date. LOVE it! So practical. So efficient. So lovely. I wish I could go further. Vote yes for the Spain Train! Made it to Tokyo! (Still no luggage)

27 November 2014

Walking with cellphone, go for it. Beware of bloody knee fights! Surf and cell!
If you're a cute brother and sister, or Dick and Jane, you may walk here.
Lots of no smoking while walking signs. Duh!
Backyard temple as seen on walk.
Curly French fried potato salty deliciousness! Kyoto
Cute places and representation.
Splashes of leaves.
Kkinkaku The Golden Pavilion A Buddhist Hall. Top two floors in gold leaf.
Hmmmm. This makes me wonder if westerners, such as myself, use holes in the ground incorrectly... It's the whole 'put your back to the cover' part...!?
Where we headed, little fella?
A kitty holding kitty moving truck is always worth sharing.
Bam. Booya!
Just a photo of people taking photos.
Zen gardens. View from within the temple's meditation area.
Since our time in Kyoto was limited, we temple hopped as best as we could. Japanese Maples are almost as powerful as Aspens turning gold. We started at Tenryu-ji Temple, a Zen temple with outstanding mountain views. Emerging from its gardens is the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove. Magical. If there weren't ten thousand people with cameras there, one could frolic about like a wood fairy. Our temple hop took place at the end of the day, so we were able to see the shifts in light from the sun as it melted to set. We then went to Kinkaku-ji Temple, aka "Golden Pavillion," followed by Ginkaku-ji Temple, the "Silver Pavillion." After we left Ginkaku-ji, we walked along the Path of Philosophy. Xxx Creek side, quaint and curvy. Sun thrown shadows. Bungalow Lane hung with xxx. Makes me want to shop!
Arrived at our ryokan-ish hotel, xxx. Ryokan is the traditional Japanese style of accommodation for travelers. We found out it is high season, so we weren't able to afford or secure one of the recommended ryokans, so we opted to use the travel company that we had been using - willing to pay for their expertise and ability to speak the local languages. It was fun to sort of have the ryokan experience, but for what it's worth, we wouldn't recommend this hotel or our Bali hotel. Tokyo's hotel will be an awesome end to our adventure. Lunch of noodles and shrimp tempura - soba, made from buckwheat, and udon from flour. A traditional dinner served in the room. We had sake and tried the plethora of dishes one by one. My gut wasn't too trusting so I skipped a few. I discovered that I do NOT care for raw shrimp. However, please note that I did try.
Just a charming arts and bookmark making table for the children...
Bye bye, sweaty Bali love. Hello, brrrry Japan!
Vending machine ice cream options for days! We had the waffle vanilla chocolate peanut one. Interesting and good.
Loved the express train to Kyoto (and can't wait for bullet train to Tokyo tomorrow!) One of my most favorite things to do when traveling is to create my own little box around me, where I am alive and alert and in tune. It's a vacation within a vacation, like playing in my room when I was little. It's one reason why I love to travel. I enjoy the journey to the journey. Japan by view of train: rows of voluptuous greens ready for harvest; government allotted gardens; perfectly even lines of hung laundry; a kid with his dog; bicycles - ridden, parked, leaning, all without locks; fishermen perfectly placed along the river... I love to imagine their stories. The ride was sleepy smooth. I napped. Scott napped. The ladies behind me napped.

26 November 2014

Men in fancy hats, please cross here.
Whoa wee!
ET phone home. Ouch!
Air Asia continued: No upgrade, but we thankfully paid to move to the hot seat, which is bulkhead. The bathroom doors wouldn't stay shut so bright lights were constantly shutterflying flashes to keep us awake. My blow up pillow was borrowed by a behind the scenes airline person, so note to self for US flight, purchase another! We finally land in Japan; however, my luggage does not. The hotel in Kyoto speaks zilch English, so I contacted the company we hired for most of our trips and bookings (we learned it's easier with a guide who can match trip to wants and speaks language) to reach out to airline for me. (As of Friday am, still to no avail). Scott's did arrive, and we checked in together, so I have hope. No biggie. Only challenge is that it's cold in Japan.
Air Asia = Unfortunate Summary: 1. There was a person who chose to wear five glove-toe socks in flips. Scott thinks it's better than no finger-socks with flips. I beg to differ. 2. Two of the people who shop at the airport like it's Black Friday were on our first flight with bags and boxes and boxes in bags and two carryon suitcases. It satisfied my curiosity about 'who' would shop like that at an airport. 3. Scott does not fit in an economy seat on Air Asia. 4. Water leaking from the compartment above me may cause chaos on board. 5. Spritzer water, cleverly sans spritz, costs $1.50. 6. If you don't preorder food, you don't eat, but get to smell the wet dog, mildewed wool sock stench of the meals of those who did for the rest of the flight. 7. Blanket rental costs $4.00. 8. Everything's for sale. 9. I hate Air Asia.

25 November 2014

Kehen Temple Chinese architecture Good relationship with the Chinese Did you know that Banyan Trees die from within? Stunning! And snakes like to live inside...
Lunch after templing at a countryside bed and breakfast 'in the jungle' (per Mario, our guide). Stunning view of volcano and rice farm. Here a carb, there a carb, everywhere a carb carb. At the table next to us were two ladies, who were part of a French art excursion. Just lovely.
'I like coconuts. You can break them open, and they smell like ladies lying in the sand.' WSP 😜
The gateway to each temple is spliced to ward off evil. The gateway will remain open for good, positive spirits, but if a bad or evil spirit tries to enter, it closes shut.
Mother Temple We had to wear sarongs out of respect, so we were thankful our guide brought them for us. Have I shared yet that Bali is hot? Drippingly so? Much like Louisiana in August...just imagine wearing sweaty wool socks and hiking shoes that are as dusty as your face, and then imagine a backpack sticking to your back, and then...go ahead and walk up and down the steps of Tiger Stadium a few bazillion times. If you're imagination is up for it, throw in a happy to show you around tour guide who you can barely hear, much less understand. Oh, and throw away your sunglasses because, well, they aren't with you. Ta-dah! Hot! But, guess what? It gets hotter. Because, You're hotel is doing air conditioner work for the rest of the time you're there, so sweating yourself to sleep and through sweaty sleepishness like a fever or meat detox adds to the stinky spunk of the stay!
Visit to the Mother Temple. The largest temple in the valley sectioned into four. Clans have three temples- one at their home, one at their village, and one in the mountains.
Woke up at 2:00 am to meet our guide. Bumpily slept for two hours for a 5:00 am hike up the live volcano, Batur. Awesome, intense 1710 kilometers on rocky black sand.
I can't lie. The monkeys came in a close second to the sunrise. The guides feed them bread, so they come up to you. I had a Kleenex, which apparently one thought was a piece of bread. He jumped on me to which I quickly squealed! He was startled, so I was basically a springboard to better options. Glad I got my rabies shot 😜! My favorite, which I'm not sure we got on any of the four camera options we have, was the baby monkey...he was too little and couldn't balance on the plant/twig/leaf. I loved him.
The gods must be crazy! Hee hee. Couldn't resist.
Our sunrise breakfast - three pieces of bread, a square of white cellophane cheese, and hot tea in a plastic cup. We met our trekking guide at 4:00 am to begin the fast ascent. There were tons of groups meeting at the base for the hike. Australian is the most popular tourist here since it's so close in proximity. Being pitch black dark, we haD to use head lights (torches) or flashlights. Our guide meant business - fast fast fast. It was cool to look up the mountain, as well as back behind us, as we hiked to see the trails of lights headed upward. The stars were stunning. Our guide took us to a spot that only has a few other people to avoid the masses on the top. We then hiked down to the crater of the active volcano. Steam was coming from within the rock at a few fascinating. There are ceremonies that include animal sacrifices at the main crater quite often, as the villages see this as a holy and important location.

24 November 2014

Sitting on the sand by myself as the sun set on a horizon I've never seen, I sat breathing in awe and in awareness. I am here in Indonesia. Right now. And it was healthy and healing. Anyhow, I read this when I got back to my hot humid room. Perfect. Thankful. We wake up in 3.5 hours, which is 2:00am here, to travel north for a sunrise hike. Bon soir? Bon jour? Bon everything, my sweet friends!
Fresh grilled seafood. Welcome soup with Balinese spices, crab, corn, and egg. 😁 (was hesitant, but was good!) Spinach. Grilled fish, lobster spiny, mussels or clams, and prawns. Oh, and rice! White. A red sauce out of this world. A local beer. Enjoyed in a stillness almost forgotten with a rhapsody of waves.
Some of Scott's awesomeness as a photographer.
Pura Tanah Lot Temple One of seven sea temples along the Balinese coast. It is a romantic, seawhipped temple made of volcanic ash. It is still an active temple for practicing Hindu Buddists. Black shadows of ash black places of holiness ellipses along the undecided water line. It is tourist heavy, mostly in the afternoon because of the sunset and dinners of fresh seafood. There are temples and shrines all over this province. It is important that the first thing a shop owner or family does in the morning is to make offerings for protection of the unknown.
Hello, Indonesia! Maybe one day we will change clothes...or purge and start fresh. Thank heavens for this Lululemon everyday dress and sweater! Left India at 11:00pm, arrived at 11:45am. FYI - I have decided just not to concern myself with time zones and such. The time is what it is wherever I am. I stopped trying to visualize the forwards and backwards of hours compared to the US and to where we were and are going. I quit when all of a sudden all of my learned geography turned to disarray when we stopped in Nepal and were told we were an hour and 15 minutes ahead/behind Bhutan. My brain is cornfused. 15 minutes? What the what? I sure missed something in Geography. Backwards forwards inside outside upside down!
Layover in Singapore. Photo snapshot in the nature zen garden happy peace park #1. Too bad you can't hear the frog. The tree frog. The tree frog that won't stop frogging What an airport. Do people really buy that much stuff before flying?! Why all the Disney? We almost took a photo sitting on Donald Duck's sort of in his mouth..?! But, I had a Dunkin Donut...okay, two! Made me so happy! Nom nom nom! Oh, and we had our calves and feet massaged by a free machine-chair-masseuse. Ouch! Pain! I felt like I was becoming a Geisha!

23 November 2014

Hmmmm..?! Pushing. Pushing. Donde esta mi agua rojo?
Tiny people and giant babies, come in here!
More Taj and a few of the con artist mafia.
Just being artsy in a tomb at the Taj...
Thank goodness for booties!
Just a green heart leaf on the Taj Mahal grounds.
Drive to Taj Mahal. Darkness and foggy. Small red lights turn on along the road to show the way of the lanes. Pin drops of smokestacks, farmland, and a brick factory.
Headed to Taj Mahal today! We rented a car and driver from our hotel to take us to Agra to see the Taj and a few other surrounding sites. We wanted it to be at our leisure and pace. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case. Not to mention that we think our driver (an older man) was feeling extremely ill (all over the road, rubbing his neck and stretching his collar, sucking on candies like a mad dog) and he didn't know where he was going, he was a part of some screw the dumb tourist scheme. When we got to Agra, and with Taj Mahal this way signs abound, he acted confused and pulled over shouting on the phone for about 25 minutes. Then told us that we were waiting for a guide. We said we didn't pay for that, to which he told us it was complimentary. We knew it was fishy, as the hotel we were at was impeccable and 100% guest services oriented. I don't want to elaborate. It gets worse. I just find it terribly maddening and saddening. Oh, and don't forget sunglasses here, either. Bright!

22 November 2014

Lunch at Karims Shared tables For Scott - Seekh ka bob Mutton boti roll Chicken sheesh ka bob For me - YUM! Plain daal Palak paneer For all: Butter naan Coke Classic Another paparazzi moment...can I take a picture with you? Can I take picture with you?
Spice Market sacks of color spiced air saffron high saffron suffering cough even the locals
Delhi Markets
Street Food: Cheese Paratha with spices YUM YUM YUMOLA!
We scramble walked, avoided rickshaws and cabs, and pushy people to market. A one legged man adopted us. Once we felt ok and that he wasn't going to send us down some dark alleyway to murder us, we accepted the guidance as beneficial. Without him, it would have been difficult to navigate our way through the nameless streets and curves and aggressiveness. Much different than the markets in Katmandhu in that overall, it felt much more organized...if you can imagine.
Red Fort pigeons
Just a guy chilling out and watering-ish the grass.
First stop today was the Red Fort. We strolled the grounds, and what we could see was gorgeous. There was a lot of construction going on, so we were a bit limited. This was the first time we became aware of the fact that people were taking pictures of us and videoing us...we were not needles in a haystack. People were amazed by Scott's height. We think one person called him snowman. People wanted to take pictures with and of us...not too nonchalantly, either. I caught one girl videoing us with her iPhone, acting as though she was filming the scenery. I finally stared at her and made a silly face at her camera so she would know I knew she was a creepy stalker. Although somewhat irritating, I remained in awe of seeing people in awe of us. The Go-Pro was also a huge hit in the sense of getting people to stare at you. Folks were fascinated...

21 November 2014

Goodbye Nepal and all of your mayhem. Hello, New Delhi!
Chaos, all aboard! One body pat down - check! Second body pat down - check! Third body pat down - check! Which is more concerning regarding security at the Katmandu airport - the three very personal pat downs or the fact that after the first pat down, or even the second one, that security still thinks there is a way for someone to slip a person a knife or a gun or a...? The airport has this space with trees roped off as sacred. It is even mopped hourly. Yea...not quite sure.
Just a dude on a roof.
OR2K 'Light to Katmandu' Scott found this jewel doing research. It was by far our best Nepal meal. The vibe was right up my alley. Leave your shoes at the door, sit on a velvet pillow on the floor, free wifi, and a top to bottom JBear friendly menu. Needless to say, my stomach was ecstatic! I could have sat there all day - reading, writing, eating, sipping...
Mount Everest Stunning. I will leave out the details of a three hour delayed flight - delayed because the money hungry airline triple books flights. Or the three, super fun security body checks...

20 November 2014

Just a rusty, lonely and separate from airport baggage claim.
Yak & Yeti Hotel Salud, David, Beverly, and Uncle Stubob!
What the what!?
Nepal Market Walked to the market from our hotel, butting our way through a scurry of people. Katmandu's crosswalks are above the street. Brilliant, in my opinion, based on the no-method, method of driving. In Bangkok, you watch what is coming and when ready to walk, stick your hand out as if saying stop. We found it easiest to just get behind a local who is planning to cross and follow his lead. I say 'his' and not 'his/her' because out and about was around 97% men. No women. Above the crowds on the high crosswalk, you have the opportunity to reassess your sense of direction. Helpful when you fall into the hurried pace of the people. Challenge: Remembering that the right side of a pathway is, in fact, the wrong side. Walking against traffic is not super fun...or productive, for that matter. Street Food: Potato, peas, and other vegetables deep fried. Couldn't understand what the man called it.
Just some fellas laying out in their suits.
Hello, Nepal! Whoa, Toto, we aren't in Kansas anymore! What a culture shift! Brown LA haze. Beep beep honk honk. Cloth masks everywhere to protect lungs from the exhaust and grainy dust. It's almost a must have. Police men are the red lights. Even the plants are brown coated with dust. Chaotic market at twilight = sensory overload and just a plain bad idea. But, I think getting pooped on twice from pigeons above was certainly the highlight of the Nepal leg of this adventure. Honk honk beep beep beep.
Landed in Nepal.
Just hanging in the cockpit on our way to Nepal. Empty flight means VIP-ish care. Awesome shots of Mount Everest to come.
Goodbye, Bhutan, land of old happy people just sitting around spitting red seed juice on the ground. Bye bye millions of roaming dogs of the same curly tail breed (except that one random shaggy white wiener dog mix). Good bye, red red rice at every meal. Good bye, cows and bulls just doing what they do, galavanting about the village. And good bye, would you like some tea, would you like some tea, would you like some tea.
Bhutan airport. Delayed flight. So they brought us tea or coffee, pound cake-ish something yummy, and then some hot noodles. The stewardess wasn't having it when I said no thank you to the noodles. "PLEASE," she insisted.

19 November 2014

Pretty ladies in pretty dresses my use the facilities here.
Hot bath farm house. While waiting for Scott to have his turn, the hosts served us Ara, but with a fried-ish egg mixed into it. I tried it. VOMIT.
The best lunch in Bhutan was our last lunch. A precious, bright restaurant. What we are: Fried Bitter Got (yum!), cauliflower, red rice (shocker!), cheesy mushrooms, pasta, and 'ema datse,' which is the formal way of explaining cheesy mixed peppers. They said bitter got is a climbing vine. I imagine maybe like kudzu. However, during my trip, I don't recall seeing any creepy climbing vines. Whatever, it was quite good.
The Foundation's flag with Tiger's Nest! And, of course, this is your brain on philanthropy!
Tiger's Nest hike Arriving before other tourists allowed us a peace and stillness that we wouldn't have had with lines of people. We had a moment with a monk caretaker as he did his daily prayers. We sat and meditated against the wall of another shrine. We were given Holy Water - poured into our hands for us to taste and place on our heads, and we were given a snack from the offering plate (shhhh. Mine was delish!)
7:00am Foggy morning for our Tiger's Nest hike. We had no worries anticipating the fog to have lifted for the sun to shine by our descent. We wanted to go early before the masses of tourists made the trek, and I am so glad that we did. The hike of 3,100 meters was an intense two-hours, but we took our time. Nature's beauty fog kissed.
More on hike to Tiger's Nest. The fog was an eerie loveliness.

18 November 2014

A most happy moment was driving at our Paro hotel, which meant two things - a hot shower and a bed! Scott and I went up to the restaurant in the hotel to wind down before sleep. Little did we know that also in our hotel was a tour group of 25 or so. It was their last night in Bhutan and probably together for awhile, so they donned bits and pieces of Bhutanese clothing...goa, a flag as a cape, etc etc etc. Apparently, they were feeling very festive, festive to the point that they thought they were the only ones in the dining room. Ding ding ding. Toast. Ding ding. Toast. Ding ding ding. Toast...I think every person needed to share how much they love one another and their guides. Clap. Clap. Clap. But, wait, then the girl I found immediately bothersome, began to sing. Then another joined in...then another...til they all were singing something along the lines of 'We are the World...' And, that was our cue to scat!
Lunch was rushed because of the construction taking place on the path back to Paro. More red rice!
After a slow and leisurely one-hour hike, our driver picked us up and we visited Fort Punakha - Dzong, which means 'the Place of Great Happiness'. It is Solam's favorite temple.
Suspension Bridge Ice green colored River.
We arrived at our final overnight camping spot around 2:15. We explored the village and played with a few local children as they returned from school. The children were so sweet and intrigued by our English. In Bhutan, students learn English first. You could tell how excited they were to come kneel with us and practice what they have learned in class. One little girl pointed to a dog sitting by me and said, "this is an orange dog," which made me giggle because I typically say "es el gato blanco" when attempting Spanish. It was funny to hear what I must sound like. finally joined us for dinner, and we laughed, told stories, and shared Druk 11,000, a malt beer made locally. 8:30 in bed!

17 November 2014

Stunning prayer wheel. They are located thought the country. Everyone is welcome to walk and turn it while being grateful and making prayer. You just walk it clockwise.
Yea...just a rat's nest.
Sonam arranged for us to stop at one of his friend's houses for tea and to meet a Bhutanese family in their home. We climbed the ladder to the second story of the home and were led to the floor in front of the window to sit. The family consisted of a young couple, their two children, and the grandfather. Families always stay together in the same home throughout life. We were served a traditional guest welcome meal of pork butter sticky rice, dried corn, ara, and butter tea. The pork butter rice is made often and kept in storage for when guests come to visit. Butter tea has a reddish pink color and is very rich. Ara is the local house or village wine that is made from wheat. I feel like the taste has a sake element to it. You sip it out of a tiny saucer.
We took tea and lunch at a village stupa. It is a resting point for villagers when crossing over the mountain. A few ladies carrying bags of government distributed grains stopped and visited with us ...or well, with our guides.
Our next four hour Trek began at 9:00am. We spent a quiet moment in a rice steep (pronounced step). In awe of the sense of calm that is ever present.
Day #3 Sonam sought out the village caretaker of the monastery that we slept in front of so that we could go inside. The monasteries and houses are all built in the traditional farm house way. Gorgeous pine floors, very simple and warm. The first floor of the monastery serves as a school. Up the steep stair ladder to the second floor is where the shrine is located and where rituals take place. The shrines are all carefully detailed and hand painted. Every item strategically placed as an offering. The farm houses are three stories. The first floor is for the cattle. The second floor is for storage and living, and the third floor is for the shrine. In the olden days, the bathroom was a hole in the floor of the second floor balcony area. This is no longer for health reasons. 🙈🙉🙊
Just a taste of a wild gooseberry...very tart, but turns sweet when washed with water.
Night #2 The beauty of trekking with a tour such as this is that they drive ahead to make sure camp is set up before we arrive. For the second night, we were set up on a ledge in front of a monastery. Upon our arrival, they set up some tea and a plate of peanut butter crackers..."very continental" Dinner consisted of vegetable soup, curried beef, honey carrots (yum!), cauliflower, peas, and of course, red rice. Dessert was two juicy slices of pineapple. We also opened the whiskey to cheers with our new friends. Asleep by 7:30pm!
Bhutanese country side. Quiet and gentle. Chili peppers are picked and then dried on people's roof tops. They are seemingly put into everything cooked.

16 November 2014

Upward about 20 more minutes where we had lunch at a holy site flowing with prayer flags. Today, I conquered the milk water juice box... This was an interesting experience for me in how hierarchical this system worked. As someone who is always used to having everybody in the group share in camaraderie and conversation, it was hard to stop inviting our camp family to join us.
Clustered prayer flags on top of mountain. Clouds create the perfect backdrop to the fabric flaps of someone's memory.
Tea stop #1
Up and up.
Just a foreshadowing wooden countryside tub hot stone bath for Scott ... I did think about it...but, I was lost at the description of sitting in the emperor's new clothes in a wooden back yard tub where someone is joyfully tossing hot blocks of coal directly from the camp fire into your run water for heat.
First day of hiking, we began with a visit to the village in which we stayed. We learned that it would have been an insult not to do so. The perfectly layered rice fields were being cultivated by the families and neighbors in the village. It is the lovely spirit of let me come help you with all my strength with the knowledge that you would help me. Not communicated, but silently understood. Even from the children as they return from school. Some villages have a machine-ish contraption to assist in separating the rice from the stalk, while others bang the stalk on a rock to separate it. There is a gentle rhythm to the consistent movement...a well choreographed scene that is hard to comprehend in 2014.
Town of Thimpu.
We stayed on an archery field, where locals often head to to gamble and play. I could barely see the point where an archer would aim far! Also, I found it interesting that in lieu of Buddhist beliefs, a new life of a young tree that happened to be growing in the arrow's pathway will be protected by a bamboo cage as it grows...however, once that tree is grown, chop chop it seems based on the tree stumps lingering aside the new and protected fellas. Fun fact: 72% of Bhutan is forest. Our foggy morning in our dining tent was perfect with tea, a hot bowl of water, and granola with hot milk as a first course, followed by quesadilla shaped eggs, toast with jam, and a sadly delicious instant coffee.
First night dinner at camp: tomato soup, local red rice, curried beef, broccoli, and eggplant. We are in a tent with a candlelight set on a tomato soup can. The chef carefully presented each course. Aside- So thankful to be traveling with a friend who lives food and may or may not eat some of mine that I don't care for so we don't get punished or poisoned...(I had a terrible nightmare this first night where I thought the chef wanted to kill us and keep our heads #delirium) Scott and I were SO very exhausted after what we thought was our final course, so we headed to sleep. We didn't know we missed the chef's dessert until the next morning. It wasn't a fun feeling to think you've hurt the chef's feelings, so we apologized. All was forgotten.

15 November 2014

Good morning, Bhutan! Fog awoke us early from our sleep. We had that first-time, after a long while, of sleeping in a tent feeling...where a fresh layer of traveling grime is present. It was so nice to see where we were in daylight. Scott and I had a tent separated off to the side, while the chef's tent and our dining tent, which doubled as our guide and driver's sleeping tent, were side by side.
Welcomed by our precious guide, Sonam, and driver, Raj, with white silk scarves, we loaded up and headed through the countryside to stop in Thimpu for lunch and quick village stroll. Questions and curiosity poured out of my mouth at every new site my eye ball's saw. Sonam was so patient and elegant in his answering and explaining history, ritual, and the life going on today in this magical country. I am enamored by the abundance of prayer flags that flutter throughout village and country side. Clusters of prayer flags strung and on towering sticks represent death and a memorial of someone. Prayer flags that are places sporadically represent a thank you or a prayer or a wish of a single person or family. There is meaning in color and in how the flag is hung on the bamboo stake. Our first stop on the way to Thimpu was at a crossroads of two rivers, which represents bad luck. To deflect this, three stupas were built.
Hello, Bhutan!
Adios, Bangkok!
The hurried jaunt back to hotel. We had found out our flight details for the next day, and that we would have to be picked up early early. Tuk tuk madness! A night night all day coffee.

14 November 2014

I mean, nice work on the runner's shadow!
After a bizarro cab drive with a driver who is clueless, and I'm pretty sure can't read his own language, we arrived at Issaya Siamese Club for dinner. The house restaurant is off the beaten path and was reviewed highly by foodies who have dined in Bagkok.
Drinks before dinner at the Moon Bar in the Banyan Tree Hotel. Stunning 360 degree view of Bangkok as the sun set. We found this jewel via Lonely Planet online blog by a local expert.
Just a dragon tail boat gas station...
Walking back to the pier for the hotel, we find: Another lovely temple Monk robes on a line Street views A rooster Giant Buddhas for sale
Just some street food goodness. Deep fried shrimp and fried soft shell crab with a homemade sauce for dipping. And, no way Jose, I didn't try it. I did try the deep fried wonton-ish thing and found it quite delicious. An all together hearty lunch on the curbside of a temple.
Deep into the market. It's a single filed walk as we peer into stalls and shops. I only am able to see the head of hair right in front of me. Thank goodness Scott is tall! The market is bewildering to me in the choices of products being sold, limited space within the shops to even shop, the repetition of items from booth to booth, and the random American junk. We experienced a blind woman singing karaoke in the middle of the path, a stall of strawberries (didn't know strawberries grew in Bangkok), a man on a motor bike attempting to enter the market against the flow of people traffic, and an accidental turn which led us behind the scenes - eerie and cool.
Bye, bye GP. Hello, Wat Pho. Resting Buddha. Lines of Buddhas. A temple protected by snakes.
Some more lessons learned: 1. The place is super shiny. I mean crazy bright, so don't leave your sunglasses back in your loft in Louisiana. 2. If you have anxiety about being amongst masses of sticky people standing in tour group clumps, where no one pays attention to the fact that the sidewalk may indeed be there so folks can actually move forward, the GP may be one to skip. 3. Allowing umbrellas into such a sardine can packed space is just a terrible idea. Wait, I must clarify, open umbrellas being held by 88% of the said mass of sticky tourists...tourists who see no issue or concern for their neighbor and walk side by side with open umbrellas above their heads through pathways, such as, let's just say, a doorway...then appear confused and a bit shocked when they and their umbrellas are squished into one another. (Scott has a good photo on his big camera). 4. Emerald Buddha is very pretty, but very tiny, and quite hard to see, but it's always fun to walk barefoot at a palace...
Arun Wat as viewed from the river.
November 14, 2014 Per Dennise's suggestion, we hopped on a boat and ventured down stream to have coffee and breakfast at the Mandarin Oriental, which was a few piers down. Both mornings we sat outside, soaking in the warmth and sights along the river. Fast paced zips and zooms with barges, ferries, and dragon tail boats just doing what they do. After Scott's feast and my well-done omelette with a side of waffle, we were ready to head to the Grand Palace to see the Emerald Buddha and Wat Pho for the Resting Buddha.
Sunset drinks over looking the city that knows no smart growth...
Lunch was beef broth soup, and tapioca pork meatballs (saku) with dehydrated garlic on top for Scott and Noi. I had a tasty clump of sticky rice, fresh pineapple, and some parsley.
Noi is a speedy tour guide and a chatty fact sharer. We zip zoomed through the flower Market...exquisite. Colorful bursts for the senses.

13 November 2014

One by one I have to share these...I should have grasped more of them by photo, but boy did they made me chuckle! As one of my best friend's niece, Helen, would say, "so dramatic!" 'whoa!'
'Roll or run!'
We took the Sky Train, where people sneeze freely into the air like a two year old, to the explore the night market for dinner: Chicken sate and peanut sauce, spicy cucumber and tomato salad red pepper SPICY, deep fried minced crab, roasted duck over sticky rice, and my favorite, mango sticky rice pudding! We had tapioca purée shaved coconut hot porridge - well, not me. Liquidy porridge with colored tapioca balls just isn't my thing. We ended the night walking the old red light district, which is now called Japanese Street and Boys Street. Interesting to say the least.
Meditation class with Buddhist Monk...LOVED. We meditated through walking and sitting. Mind & body. Awareness. Suffering.
First stop - the stunningly steep Wat Arun/The Temple of Dawn
We feel great! Thursday began at 9:00am with a Long Tail Dragon Boat tour down the Chao Phraya River. Our super chatty guide, Noi, met us in the lobby of our hotel, and we were off! Bumpy, bumpy, gorgeous fun. We went off the beaten path and ventured through back canals. I love seeing the alley ways of houses and peeking in to see how people live. Is that creepy?!
Good morning from Bangkok! Slept hard as a rock for an hour or so...was perfect! It was so nice to be horizontal.
Made it to Shangri-la Hotel Bankok...32 hours later! Gorgeous view of the river. Can't wait until daylight.

12 November 2014

Even the lucky kitties have lucky kitties. The shops are overwhelming with cool finds. I need to remember to make a list of possible happies to take back with me at trip end.
And, landed - Tokyo's NRT airport.
Ah, the packaging. The corn is for my nephew who is the best corn eater around!

11 November 2014

Such excitement and anticipation flying over waters that I've never flown over before to places I've never been with cultures I've not yet experienced. I love that we are chasing the seemingly endless sunset westward around the world. It's also fun that our windows have a fade-to-blue tint button, except that if its purpose is to block the piercing setting sun from passengers, the tint needs to be darker. The man behind was not pleased with the window's limits and hurumphed, "unbelievable...this is an $80 million plane!" I just smiley face nodded and ordered a 'it's never free' (fussy attendant) plastic cup of wine.
Blinding blue windows!
Running into my sweet best friend, Melly, at the airport was kismet and made my heart so very happy.
Scott and I ready to start the whirlwind, world-wind adventure! International itinerary in brief: DEN>NRT (Tokyo) NRT>BKK (Bangkok) BKK>Paro (Bhutan) Paro>KTM (Nepal) KTM>DEL (New Delhi) DEL>DPS (Indonesia) DPS>KIX (Osaka, Kyoto) Train to Tokyo
Salud from the Denver airport!
First leg down! BTR > IAH Will I ever learn that packing, literally putting items into suitcase, not the mental scan and imagined motion of perfectly packing the strategically strewn items, is best done prior to the 5:45am day-of departure pick-up time? Notes to self: J, your Tetris skills, while mad, may fail you in real life packing skills. Wait, no, I take that back. I blame the me who bought the tiniest suitcase ever, not the mind boggling Tetris queen. J, don't wait until the morning you have four legs of flights, beginning at 7:00am, to cut the tags off your new suitcase and open the sucker up for the first time. J, be thankful for your traveling companion, Scott, and his sweet girlfriend, who patiently waited on Laurel Street as sweat poured from your frantic brain, inevitably making your hair curly from the hecticness. Alas, all is well that ends well. Hector and Marvin at the United check-ins were so jolly and helpful. First jaunt down.