Tag Archives: overseas travel

Ubud : day two

18 Aug

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After a lazy morning at the villa (I could spend hours staring out at the green rice paddies)…

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We decided to hire a driver to take us on a sightseeing tour of Ubud and the surrounding areas. It seemed much more efficient than taking the bicycles out for a spin again. The manager at Desa Bulan helped us put an itinerary together as well as find a new driver since Nyoman was booked that day. We ended up with a handsome young local man named…get this… Nyoman as well! This is when I learned an interesting fact about the Balinese people, they are all named one of four names, Wayan, Made, Nyoman or Ketut- both men and women! Every child is simply named by his or her order of birth. The first-born, boy or girl, is Wayan. The second born is Made (pronounced ma day). The third born is Nyoman. The fourth born is Ketut. That’s it, simple and sweet. Not to mention it certainly makes naming your child easier. The second Nyoman was just as nice as the first Nyoman. Seriously, the Balinese people are incredible. Everyone I had met thus far had such a joyful presence.

The first stop on the itinerary was Goa Gajah (also known as the elephant cave). I happen to love elephants (especially when their trunks are in the air!) so I was looking forward to this stop. Although I had no idea what to expect from an elephant cave? Nyoman dropped us off in the parking lot and kindly informed us he would wait for us there. Once we made it past all the stalls of people selling cheap souvenirs (quite a feat I tell you! Especially for a girl who hates saying no) and a man with a massive snake that one could pay a small fee to take a photo with (no we did not stop) we made it to the front entrance. After paying the entrance fee we were informed that we would have to cover our legs out of respect to enter the temple. Luckily, they had sarongs that you could borrow. Doesn’t my husband wear a sarong incredibly well?

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Goa Gajah was nothing like I imagined considering there was not a plethora of elephant statues (although, I did find one as you can see below). I learned that it is instead referred to as the elephant cave due to its close proximity to the Lwa Gajah (Elephant River). The entrance to the cave is actually a bit scary. There’s a monstrous face with bulging eyes and carvings of animals and humans running away in fear. Despite being a bit dark, the stone work was absolutely beautiful – it was so intricate. For such a popular tourist attraction inside the cave is actually quite small. Inside the T-shaped cave you can see fragmentary remains of the lingam, the phallic symbol of the Hindu god Shiva, and its female counterpart the yoni, plus a statue of Shiva’s son, the elephant-headed god Ganesha

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The next stop was the Gunung Kawi, which is a Hindu temple complex, that dates back to the 11th century  located in Tampaksiring. Nyoman informed us that it would be a very long trek down some very steep stairs to get to the ancient site. This information was slightly disconcerting considering it was incredibly hot and as we all know…what goes down, must go up. Although, after weeks of traveling through the very hot and humid Vietnam, I was starting to find the heat less debilitating. So off we went in search of the magical Hindu complex.

This time we did not make it through the souvenir stands unscathed. We were approached by a group of lovely Balinese women selling sarongs. It all happened so fast…somehow Brian was lead in one direction and I was lead in another and next thing I knew we were in dueling shops being wrapped in sarongs in the store by a group of smiling Balinese women. In a matter of five minutes I tried on every sarong the store had to offer (those ladies worked quick!). I decided to just go with it- they were all so gorgeous! In the end I purchased one that caught my eye- it was a gorgeous blue one with a lively pattern. Hey, I needed a sarong for the all the temples, right? When I finally made it out of the store I found my sweet husband standing in the street wearing the SAME EXACT sarong! Clearly, this is a sign that we are meant to be together, right?! The couple that sarongs together, stays together.

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In our newly purchased sarongs we took off in search of the site. Nyoman wasn’t lying…it was quite a trek down. The highlight of the hike was most definitely the man we stumbled upon who was selling fresh coconut water- complete with a machete no less. It was amazing! Much tastier and way cheaper than what I normally buy at whole foods back in LA!

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The site was absolutely stunning and totally worth the trek. It is covered in shrines carved into stone honoring kings and queens from the 11th century.

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After Gunung Kawi temple we were dropped off at the Tirta Empul Temple (also known as the water temple) which provides holy water for priests and bathing for ordinary Balinese, who believe bathing in the water can bring good fortune and health. It was definitely my favorite stop of the day. I loved watching people soak in the holy water. I regret not bathing in it myself! I think I was a bit intimidated (which isn’t the norm for me!) by the holiness of it all. There were so many rules and I was convinced I was going to screw something up and terribly offend somebody. Also I didn’t have anything to swim in and the idea of sitting in the car sopping wet for the hour seemed well, not so fun. So instead I watched. There was something so calming about it. It was a seriously magical place.

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Lastly, we took a drive through the Tegalalang rice terraces. Talk about AMAZING. Ever since our trek in Nepal I have been obsessed with terraces. I mean, they are just simply stunning.

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 After the four-hour driving tour both Brian and I were starved and in need of you guessed it…a beer! So we opted to be dropped off in central Ubud to grab lunch.

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After lunch we decided it was time to go back to the villa and cool off in the pool. I mean it’s not a vacation unless there are a few hours in the day spent doing absolutely nothing, right?

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That evening we arranged for a local woman, Wayan Suriani (who came highly recommended) to come to the villa and prepare us a traditional Balinese meal. It was amazing! Definitely my favorite meal while in Ubud.

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Next up…my visit with Ketut, the famous medicine man from the movie Eat, Pray, Love!

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365 til 33

30 Jul

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If you’ve been following along with my blog since the beginning then you know that I come up with a list of goals to tackle each year. The first year,  365 til 30 my goals included driving across the USA, learning French, learning how to tango, going camping, spending a week at Tassajara, Learning how to cook, volunteering, getting a French bulldog & publishing my writing. I was pretty damn successful that year in accomplishing my goals. To the point of obsession actually. Accomplishing those goals before turning 30 was all I could think about for 365 days. Brian was very happy when that year was over. HA. Over the last few years I have continued to create a list of goals…doing so helps me focus on the things I want from my life…a framework if you will.

365 til…33!

Travel

Every year you can pretty much guarantee that one of my goals will be travel related. I am a travel nut! Seriously, why can’t I just travel the world and get paid for it? (Is anybody listening? I’m totally available if you want to pay me to travel) During 365 til 30 my travel goal was to drive across the country (check!)…during 365 til 31 my travel goal was an overseas trip (Brian and I went to Hong Kong and trekked Nepal!)…365 til 32 my travel goal was again an overseas trip but this time for our honeymoon (we took a month off and went to Vietnam and Bali) This year my travel goal is much simpler, all I want to do is take a road trip with Brian. I love road trippin’ with that man. Actually, it was on our first road trip together that I knew I loved him. We were only a month into dating when I asked him if he wanted to take a road trip to Santa Fe with me to visit my friend Chantal. He must have thought I was crazy. Who would want to sign up for that many hours in a car with a person you’ve only been dating a month? The answer to that question is ME! And him I guess Brian as well because he said yes. Luckily, it was a total success. This year I’m thinking a road trip from LA to Seattle. My ideal stops along the way would be….Big Sur, San Francisco, Ashland, Eugene, Portland, Olympia & Seattle.

Learn

This year I am dying to learn more about photography. For a girl who appreciates a beautiful photograph, it is a crying shame I can’t shoot one as well as I’d like to. Especially when it comes to this blog, I would love to post higher quality photographs. Well, I guess I do sometimes but sadly they are not shot by me and instead by my photographer husband. With that said, I will be signing my ass up for a photography class as well as making Brian teach me all his tricks. He even has an extra Canon Rebel camera waiting for me. Winning!

Writing

You can also pretty much guarantee that one of my goals each year will also have to do with writing. This year it is travel related. I want to publish my various travel (road trip, Hong Kong, Nepal, Vietnam & Bali) essays. Wish me luck!

Health 

I want to go vegetarian for a month. Ever since my gallbladder surgery a few months ago I have had the hardest time with my digestion. It’s been driving me crazy! I’ve decided that meat might be the culprit. This coming from an Irish gal who loves a good steak. Sigh. I thought what better time to test out vegetarianism then now! Oy…I’m scared. Any vegetarians out there want to offer some advice?

Home

Decorating our new home has been on hold for a bit now…between shelling out money for our wedding and honeymoon we have been neglecting our home. The space totally deserves more! I plan on decorating with the help of pinterest and my very talented interior designer mother. So here we go…one room at a time.

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Hanoi, Vietnam : day one

28 May

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The first stop on our honeymoon was Hanoi, Vietnam. We decided to start the trip in Vietnam and end it in Bali knowing that Vietnam would be filled with frenetic energy and Bali would be calm…and we wanted to end the trip on a calm note. After twenty-four hours of traveling, Brian and I arrived in Hanoi at 11pm. I always find it off-putting to arrive in a foreign country at night. It only adds to feeling totally out of sorts. After battling the longest customs line ever created, we walked out of the airport doors and were immediately swarmed by a sea of cab drivers trying to get business from us. For some reason everything we had read about negotiating the fare first went out the door- I blame the twenty-four hours of traveling and the long customs line.

So after getting ripped off by our cab driver (lesson learned- always negotiate the price BEFORE getting in the cab) we got dropped off at our hotel located in the Old Quarter, also known as the “36 Streets”, one of the oldest parts of Hanoi. Formerly a center for resistance against the French, this part of town evolved in the 13th century when artisan guilds were concentrated along each of the original 36 lanes. Tinsmiths were found on Hang Theic (Tin Street), bamboo basket makers on Hang Bo (Bamboo Basket Street), Hang Bac (Silver Street), and so on. While much of the Old Quarter has become modernized with cafes, restaurants, hostels, hotels and shops, you can still see the remnants of the original 36 streets- a very interesting juxtaposition.

After a solid night of sleep we woke up ready to explore the city by foot. I quickly learned that getting around bustling Hanoi by foot is a harrowing adventure. The narrow streets are packed with motorbikes, bicycles and cars; crossing the street feels like you’re playing a terrifying game of chicken. Considering there is rarely a break in the traffic flow, you just have to brave it and cross, in hopes the sea of motorbikes move around you. My plan of action- close my eyes and let Brian lead the way across each street.

We spent the morning wandering around the Old Quarter & Hoan Kiem lake, taking in the city.

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My favorite thing we stumbled upon during our morning walk was this scene by the lake- a bunch of very happy Vietnamese women dancing together to loud music. The more I watched, the more it became clear that it was some form of a (public) group exercise class. You couldn’t help but smile watching them- so lively! I was about to join in, when the music abruptly stopped, clearly, saving Brian from definite embarrassment.

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After a few hours it was time for our food tour – something both of us were very excited about. Prior to our trip, I learned through my research that hiring a guide to take you on a food tour was very helpful. One, because the street food scene is better understood by a local and having a guide who spoke both Vietnamese and English was very helpful when trying to order at non-tourist spots. We were not disappointed by this experience. The food was like nothing I have ever experienced before, each dish was an intoxicating mix of new flavors. Our guide, Chingh, a twenty-five year old girl born and raised in Hanoi was incredibly knowledgable and had quite a spunky personality. She didn’t just tell us about the food at each stop but also shared stories about her family life and her drive to work in tourism despite her parents disapproval of a career that it considered better suited for a male in Hanoi. She had such a great spirit. I always love talking openly with locals- it makes the city come alive and opens up your eyes to the world around you.

We made seven stops on our food tour. SEVEN!

1st dish – Mien Luon (eel noodle)

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2nd dish – Nuoc Mia (Sugarcane juice)

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3rd – Bun Bo Nam Bo (southern beef noodles)

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4th – Cha Ca (grilled fish)

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5th – Banh Cuon (mushroom + pork roll)

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6th – Banh Trang Tron (mixed noodle dish)

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7th – Cafe Trung (egg coffee)

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With our sweet guide Chingh

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After eating our weight in Vietnamese food we decided to head over to the backpackers district, more specifically a street named “beer street”…for as I’m sure you guessed…a beer. We had been reading about “Bai Hoi”- the local beer made fresh daily and sold for the insanely cheap price of 3,000 dong per glass which translates to 16 US cents. Hard to believe, right? So we found a patio spot and sipped beers while taking in the scene (this area is filled with young travelers from around the world, although Australians seem to make up the majority). IMG_  62

After a few beers (not the best beer I have ever had but certainly refreshing on the hot afternoon), we went back to our hotel to take a nap before heading out for the evening. We had a quick dinner at a neighborhood Vietnamese spot – before setting out on foot through the Hanoi night market, also known as Dong Xuan night market, which is a weekly market held on weekends in the Old Quarter.  I originally thought it was going to be just a food market but instead the stalls were packed with clothing, shoes, jewelry, decorations, toys, etc, as well as a few food stalls. The market was crazy and a tad overwhelming with jetlag, but equally fascinating. The market was filled with locals who seemed to come to the market not just to shop but as a social activity. Young couples strolled arm in arm as little kids excitedly ran around at our legs. The market was a complete sensory overload.

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After the market we crashed at 8pm. It was the perfect way to end our first day in Vietnam.

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