From Jamie's Philippines Pics

We have also had the opportunity to travel to some amazing places in China, Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Bali. We have archived all of our travels and living experiences abroad; and if you wish, you can read about our adventures by finding the archives on the right of this page and by checking our Photo Album.

We appreciate all of our family and friends who have stayed in touch and emailed us with encouraging words throughout the year. We hope you will continue to keep us in your thoughts as we continue our adventure of living abroad teaching at an international school. For those who have stumbled upon our site, check out the "About Eric and Jamie" section on the right for more information.

Thanks for checking us out!

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness."
- Mark Twain

"Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends."
- Maya Angelou






Skype: "ericandjamie"



Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Thailand - Day 14 - Koh Chang

From Koh Chang Island

On the day after Christmas we got up early to try and catch some more family members before they went to bed on Christmas night back home. I had also agreed to go with Eric to rent a motobike and tool around the island all day. The island's interior is a national park and has several waterfalls that you can visit and swim around. However, despite his excitement about the bike rental, Eric was complaining of bug bites all over his feet. He's right, his entire foot is covered in little red bites and now I get to listen to him complain about how much they itch and how they kept him up last night. I look down and realize I've got them all over my legs but I hadn't even noticed them before he said something (although to be fair I had fewer bites and they were spread out). Plus, they're all flat, not raised like bug bites should be so we really aren't sure exactly what they caused them. I tell him that maybe the water will help and sometimes you just have to ignore them. With that put aside for the moment and with our swimsuits on and some new sunscreen (not waterproof) we struck out.

While I was still talking to family at an Internet cafe, Eric left for the rental place and arrived to pick me up. We left for the first waterfall with me clinging as tightly as I could. As we rolled up, we had to pay a little girl (maybe 3 or 4) 10 baht to park our motobike, and then we had to pay to get in to see the waterfalls! All trip people had been talking about the water falls but we had no idea we had to pay to see them (we should have figured, its Thailand afterall). And you have to pay to see each one individually, 200 baht each person, each waterfall. So after huffing about it we paid and then the guy tells us that this ticket will get us into one other waterfall on the other side of the island. Yeah, that helps a lot. At any rate, we hiked along up to the falls and found lots of people swimming and hanging out in the sun. We jumped in and tried to catch our breaths against the cold but it was fun. We were also the only ones who reapplied sunscreen after we dried off (I'm so my mother's daughter). So we hiked back with Eric still trying to convince me to got to the next one. The problem was getting there on the motobike. We were staying on the west side of the island and the other waterfall was on the northeast side. The road around the north end of the island was very hilly and curvy and I was not all that excited about speeding around with just a helmet on (full body padding did not come included with the rental). However, with the promise to turn around if I got too scared we took off in search for lunch and the next waterfall.

We saw a sign for a Mexican restaurant and stopped (I don't think anyone really understands how much we miss Mexican food) but it was closed so we went next door and had some really bad cashew chicken stir fry. Down the road we flew, braking almost to the point of stopping a couple of times as we tried to navigate our way down the zig zag path.

We made it successfully on the other side of the island which isn't nearly as built up as the western side. It was a nice little motobike drive actually and we made it to the 2nd waterfall successfully. It was a 4 tiered waterfall and we enjoyed climbing the rocks and getting underneath it. We took some great pictures of it. As we were leaving an entire school of Thai kids came and completely overran the place as they were jumping off the rocks we dared not to. Kids are fearless.

We rested in the afternoon and decided to actually find some decent seafood that night. We drove in the dark up and down the hills on the south of the island and couldn't really find a place we liked, so we settled for this rather large English Pirate Pub. Interestingly enough, this restaurant was actually owned by a Russian and the entire place was soon full of Russians. Go figure. A 2 man band played American and Russian songs and we enjoyed the fire twillers as we ate a great seabass (head and tail included) and grilled vegetables.

Great day and great evening overall as we left our little Russian experience with a story to tell.

Thailand - Day 13 (Christmas Day) - Koh Chang

From Koh Chang Island

Christmas morning was beautiful and sunny. We ate breakfast and hung out at the beach most of the day, leaving the resort only for lunch and supper. We decided to treat ourselves to a special Christmas supper and planned to splurge on Mexican (it sounds odd to "splurge" on Mexican but its actually one of the more expensive meals we get over here). So we wandered down to find the restaurant that we had seen earlier. There were actually two places that said they served Mexican food so we just stopped at the first one but when we looked at the menu there were no Mexican dishes on it. We got the waitress to come over and after some broken English attempts she realized what we wanted but said they didn't serve Mexican, the place next door did though. However, rather than having us get up and leave she quickly ran next door to get their menu and brought it to us. Unfortunately, they only offered three dishes (taco, taco salad, and burrito) and I have come to realize my new standards for a "Mexican" restaurant is that it must have a quesadilla on the menu (Eric says his qualification is that it has to have a tamale). By this point we already had our drinks but I remembered seeing another place down the street so I walked down there to see what they had, nothing really so we settled for Thai food in the end, which is actually really good we were just hoping for something different.

Eric ordered some chicken stir fry which came out first but I thought it was mine and started eating it. It wasn't very good but we managed to eat all the chicken and baby corn. I ordered an Isan dish which is evidently a region of Thailand that eats VERY spicy food because when it finally came it was so hot we only ate a few bites of it (and the waiter was watching us to see our reaction). Something was lost in translation because the Enlish description of the meal said it would have peppermint in it. Maybe it did but it was so hot we couldn't really taste anything for a few hours afterwards. Unfortunately my dish came out about 10 minutes after Eric's (and after I had already eaten most of his) so we went to the 7-11 and got a few drinks and candy bars to tide us over until breakfast. So, Christmas dinner was kind of a flop, but it was a new experience.

In order to talk to people back home Eric and I got up at 1 am and called home. There was one "24 hour" Internet place right accross the street but we really didn't want to pay (or to bother the people who owned it since they did actually go to sleep and told us to just wake them up when we needed it). So we huddled on a little stone wall, with our wireless Internet signal, under a street lamp talking to familiy. We talked until the power went dead on the computer (it was only half charged because we didn't have a way to recharge it in our room). We still had people we wanted to talk to though so we tried to find an extension cord near the office of the resort. We knew there had to be something because they had Christmas lights draped on a couple of trees outside. We found the cord coming away from the tree but it wasn't actually a real extention cord, they had somehow rigged and electrical wire coming out of the office. Holding our breaths we plugged the cord into the outlet at the end of the lights and with a brief spark of electricity, our computer was charging.

Since we didn't want to leave the computer outside and since, by this time we were wide awake, we got out the cards and our 1 RMB coins and played poker for an hour while it charged. With another 1/2 full battery we made our way back to the street light and called home again. We got to talk to family and by about 3 o'clock we were exhausted and crashed into bed, a Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Thailand - Day 11 - 12 - Koh Chang

From Koh Chang Island

Jamie and I awoke the next day and got ready for our bus ride. We took this little tour bus company and were the last ones to be picked up. Our luggage was crammed onto the bus and we didn't get to sit together. Some rather rude Europeans told us that we were late, so we wouldn't be able to sit together. I'm not sure if it was their accent that made it so rude or if they were. Nonetheless, we chalked it up as one more bad experience.

The bus ride was decent and stopped a couple of times for food. Just a bus ride, no biggie.

When we arrived in Trat, Thailand, we waited around to decided how to get back to Bangkok. I'll explain later how this will work, but we are hoping that it will be easier. When you read about how, you'll think I'm crazy for thinking its easier.

We crossed a rather cool little ferry over to Koh Chang Island and were crammed into a songthaew with a dozen other tourist to be taken to different resorts on the island. We finally arrived at Magic Resort and settled in to our little double bungalow "on the beach." I'm not overly impressed with it and really think we paid too much for it.

The beach is decent and the island is a sleepy place for tourist on the beaches. Just about the entire island is a National Park.

Jamie and I rested up that afternoon.

The next day we spent entirely on the beach. There is no Internet at the resort, so we've had to go to little Internet cafes to post pictures, email, Skype, and such. It is cheap but still a paint. How hard would it be for our resort to put in a wireless router in the office area? Go figure.

I'll post more later about our Christmas Day and day after where we rented a motobike and went to some waterfalls. The pictures are already up at the album entitled Thailand - Koh Chang. Enjoy!

Thailand - Day 10 - Bangkok

From Thailand - Day 9 - Chiang Mai

Jamie and I finally arrived in Bangkok at 11:00 am, 4.5 hours late and 1.5 hours late for our bus to Koh Chang. We were frustrated and asked around for another bus to Koh Chang but were told that no other buses left so late in the day. We decided to stay at another hotel in Bangkok for the night and catch an early bus the next day. I can't recall right now the name of the hotel, but we didn't venture out into Bangkok again today. We stayed around and rested, frustrated and even ordered a pizza. Internet was costly here, so I stayed away from it.

Our sleeper car on the train was very nice. They charged us for food and drink, but overall, it was a great way to travel and reasonably cheap. We'll definately take more trains in the future but we'll know not to book another travel until way after the train arrives (at least in Thailand). We were amazed at how late the trains were and how it just seemed ok to everyone. If a train was late like that in the US, the people would be revolting!

We've decided that all things associated with Bangkok are no good. So far, the airport is the best thing about the city.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Thailand - Day 9 - Chiang Mai

This was our last day in Chiang Mai and we hated to leave it. We packed up and left our luggage at the Green Tulip Guesthouse and headed for the Chiang Mai Zoo and up the hill to Doi Sathep for the day. We had a train to catch at 4:30 pm that would put us in Bangkok at 6:20 am the next day.

The Chiang Mai Zoo was wonderful. It was nicely furnished with wide walking paths and more vegetation than what I have seen at other zoos. It was nice to see some animals that were more Asian specifically those native to Thialand. The gibbons were especially impressive and we found an animal called a Bearcat. I didn't even know there was a Bearcat, but it reminded us of Rocky Top, "half bear the other half cat, wild as a mik but sweet as soda pop." We spent morning touring the zoo and really enjoyed it. Jamie took tons of pictures and we were able to feed some giraffes and elephants in the process. Check out the pictures under the album Thailand - Day 9 - Chiang Mai.

We then went up the mountain in a songthaew (which is basically a small truck they use for buses and public transportation in smaller cities in Thailand). Doi Sathep is an active temple on a mountain in Chiang Mai. It was nice but not overly special. The views of Chiang Mai from the top were nice and the long steps leading up to it with naga's on both sides were impressives. You can check out the photos of Doi Sathep in the same album.

We ate a decent little Mexican restaurant back in Chiang Mai afterwards and headed back to retrieve our luggage and then to the train station. We boarded immediately and were quite pleased with our sleeper car accommodations.

After departure, the train stopped cold after about 20 minutes. After a 2.5 hour delay, we were told that our train would not be arriving in Bangkok until 10:00 am the next morning. This was a problem because our bus to Koh Chang left at 9:45.

Keep reading Day 10 for what happened once we finally go to Bangkok.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Thailand - Day 8 - Chiang Mai

Jamie and I had another full day today as we were picked up from our guesthouse at 7:30 am. Our destination was Northern Thailand to a multitude of different places. Here is a run down of what we did today, and all of the pictures can be found in the Thailand - Day 8 - Chiang Mai album.

Our first stop was at the Hot Springs on the way from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai. Confusing huh? These were typical hot springs like you'd find in Hot Springs, Arkansas or Yellowstone National Park in the US. It was quite touristy and we only stayed for about 20 minutes. Interesting nonetheless.

Next we visited a rather odd ultra modern temple just outside of Chiang Rai. When you see the pictures of it, you'll understand. The entire structure and surrounding area was just so strange. Although you weren't supposed to take pictures inside the temple, Jamie snuck a few because, as she said, "Everyone else was blatently disobeying the clearly posted signs, and they weren't enforcing it." The temple inside had the typical Buddha statues, but it was the paintings on the back walls of the temple which struck me as so weird. The mural wall painting had modern references to such things as 911 and the World Trade Center attack represented by a large creature wrapping its tenticals around the buildings while they are on fire, some figures in what appeared to be Star Wars space ships, and even a picture of The Matrix's Neo (Keanu Reeves) only holding some sort of laser gun. Like I said, very weird. The entire temple was very pretty and sparkled quite elegantly on a sunny day. You can look up more information just by googling "The White Temple Chiang Rai." Our pictures will give you a good idea.

Our next stop was the Golden Triangle which is the border of Laos, Thailand, and Burma (now known as Myanmar). We took a boat out on the Mekong River, a river which spans across 6 countries and is the lifeline form 1000s of people depending on it. Our little guide showed us the Myanmar side, and we actually were able to cross into in the Laos side for some quick shopping. The most interesting part of this was when we tried Snake Whiskey. We thought it was a brand of whiskey, but it was literally a large jar which had snakes in it and somehow ferment it or something. There was also gecko, a scorpion, and a root whiskey. Amazing! We were also able to get some fake passport stamps, although I think Jamie and I will find our way back to Laos for the real thing sooner or later.

Lunch consisted of a buffet at a restaurant which literally said "Buffet for Tourist Groups." They aren't hiding anything. Food was decent, but nothing to write home about, although I guess that is what I'm doing now.

After lunch, we went to the northern most point in Thailand along the Myanmar border. I'll pause here to explain that there are dozens of tour vans which carry tourists like us to these locations, so at each stop, there are numerous shopping opportunities of basically the same stuff. We casually look but rarely purchase anything. Jamie did find some earrings and a small pendant, and we were able to buy some soveniers for some family members.

Jamie and I were looking forward the going to some of the Hill Tribes in Northern Thailand. It is also one of the stops mentioned in 1000 Places book. We arrived at one of the tribes next which consisted of a small little village in a U shape on a hill. They have bamboo homes and straw roofs but also satellite TV. Go figure. They were brightly colored clothing and sell handmade silk scarfs, dolls, and other trinkets. The Hill Tribes came down from Burma about 200 years ago and have stayed in the area living in the mountains.

Our last stop for the day took us to 3 of the more interesting tribes one can see. The Karin Longneck tribe lives next to what our guide called the Big Ear tribe, and one other. You can clearly see some of the pictures in our album of these intesting people. The unnamed tribe had women who wore brightly colored outfits and chewed on a tobacco that was colored black and red which stained teeth. They constantly spit on the ground which turned it red. For them, the black and red teeth are a sign of beauty. They were lively and very welcoming to tourist especially those who spent money.

The Karin Longneck tribe were the most interesting. Beginning at the age of 5, girls begin wearing brass ring coils around their necks. They used to actually use gold but it became too expensive. While it appears as though their necks are actually longer, it is all an illusion as the rings are actually just pressing the ribs down. Nonetheless, the elder women who are considered the most beautiful have up to 5 kilograms of weigh in brass. Pictures we have show the uncoiled brass that was taken off of the women shown above. 5 kilos is 11 pounds of weight resting on their shoulders, YIKES! We were able to take pictures of smaller girls wearing the neck rings too.

The final tribe were similar except they expanded their ear lobes to crazy sizes. I remember having some students in class who would do this to their ears back in Georgia. The girls seen in these pictures have some pretty large holes in their ear lobes. Once again, it is a sign of beauty of obviously hard for us to understand these customs. The longnecks do take the rings off occasionally for clearning but wear them to bed at night. Interestingly about these cultures, the men usually stay at home with the kids while the women go work in the fields. We will be moving there soon!

Afterwards, we had a 3.5 hour drive back to our guesthouse. It was a long day but full of culture and something I'm sure we will never see again. Tomorrow is our last day in Chiang Mai unfortunately. We will be going to Doi Sathep, the highest peak around and perhaps the Zoo. We leave on an overnight train at 4:30. I'm not sure I will be able to blog until we reach Koh Chang Island on Monday afternoon (Monday morning for US). We'll post some pictures and fill you in on the details of those days. Blogging should slow considerablly once we reach Koh Chang. We will have Internet, but there won't be much to talk about. Our plan is to completely relax, read the 15 books we brought between us, and have some R&R.

Email me with questions or comment, post them here, or start a post on the message board (which by the way, only a few people have done).
Posted by Picasa

Friday, December 19, 2008

Thailand - Day 7 - Chiang Mai

Jamie and I woke up early to go to the Flight of the Gibbons. We were taken outside of Chiang Mai about 30 miles and up a mountain. It was freezing cold at first, but once we were outfitted for our flying gear, it was pure excitement after that. A group of 9 followed our two guides as we zip lined across the tops of trees in the mountains. There were 18 platforms in all ranging from 60 - 120 meters long and most about 90 meters above the ground. We took quite a few pictures and they are in the album for Thailand - Day 7 - Chiang Mai. After our gibbon flying from platform to platform, they fed us a nice Thai lunch and then we hiked up the waterfall you see here in this picture. Great way to spend a morning and we loved every minute of it.

This evening, we went to Muay Thai boxing matches which is the national sport of Thailand. The pictures are online now under the Thailand - Day 7 - Chiang Mai folder. I think I will just provide the link every time now instead of transferring the pictures to the slideshows at the bottom of the blogsite. It is much easier.

Muay Thai was interesting as there were 6 fights in the night, the first one was actual children fighthing. The kids were about 7 or 8 years old and went 3 rounds. Interestingly, we saw on the flyer that said "Charity Child Fight," which we took to mean that one of the fights was for a children's charity. Nope! They actually had kids kicking and punching one another. Interesting to say the least and something we can say we witnessed. It was disturbing seeing the adults encourage them though.

The fights themselves are much like kickboxing. The customs and traditions are interesting as each fighter comes into the ring and does an individual routine before the fight. Music is played with drums and wind instruments during the fight and speeds up toward the end of each round. We aren't exactly sure how scoring is kept, but I plan on reading up about it. Several times, we thought the other guy should have won. The Thai nationals were cheering and chanting and seemed very excited the entire time. I think most westerners just saw it as a novelty I'm sure like many people see American sports as odd.

Tomorrow morning, we wake up early again and set out for Chiang Rai, the Golden Triangle, and the Hill Tribes of northern Thailand. Of course, I'll blog tomorrow night and post the 100s of pictures I'm sure we'll take. We bought a battery charger for Jamie's camera, so she should be good to go, although it has already died again after just one day of use.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Thailand - Day 6 - Chaing Mai

Jamie and I finally arrived in Chiang Mai at 10:30, 3 hours later than the bus schedule called for. Trains are notorious for running on time, but perhaps Thailand is different. I personally feel as though we spent more time stopped on the tracks than we did actually moving on them. It was a long long night. Luckily, we were able to book a sleeper car for the trip back to Bangkok on Sunday, December 21. I had told Jamie that I was coughing up the money for a plane ticket before I did that nightmare of a train ride again.

We safely and easier found our little guesthouse in Chiang Mai. It is called the Green Tulip, and I can safely say that it is the cleanest place I have ever stayed except for perhaps the 4 Seasons in Atlanta. Definitely the cleanest Asian place we have stayed. Jamie and I have a little fan only room with 2 single beds sharing a bathroom on a floor for a whopping $7 per night. They have also helped us get some great discounts on some area adventures and booked everything for us for the next 3 days. Here is a little mini schedule of what we will be doing...

Thursday afternoon (Dec. 18) - I decided to just rent a bike and ride around the city seeing some temples, the old city walls, and enjoying the bustling city. As I type this, Jamie is still at a Thai Cooking Class. She has wanted to do this since we arrived in Thailand. All that was time for her was this afternoon because of the other events we have planned. I'll let her do a special report, so stay posted for it.

Friday (Dec. 19) - We will be going to spending the morning and midday on the Flight of the Gibbon Treetop Adventure, where we'll be flying around on zip lines from tree to tree. I'm actually not sure what else we'll be doing, so check back on those days. Gibbon Treetop was featured on Amazing Race Season 3, or so the brochure says.

Friday night, Jamie and I will take in the action of Thailand's national sport, Muay Thai Boxing. More to come on this...

Saturday (Dec. 20) - We have booked a 14 hour trip to see Chiang Rai, the Golden Triangle (Laos, Myanmar, Thailand corner), and the Hill Tribes of northern Thailand, famous for their brightly colored garments, exotic styles, and animistic beliefs.

Sunday (Dec. 21) - our last day in Chiang Mai and we'll be spending it going to the Doi Sathep (high peak temple) and perhaps the Doi Zoo. We leave on a train at 4:30 pm.

So much to do here in Chiang Mai, and we now wish we'd booked more days here. Things can get expensive, but we are hoping they are all well worth it.

Thailand - Day 5 - Ayutthaya

Jamie and I awoke early because we had a train to catch at 8:20 am. We checked out of our little hostel of Suk 11 (great place for anyone going by the way), and took a taxi to the train station. The frustrating thing about Bangkok is the tuk tuk and taxi drivers who are just downright rude when they do not get to rip you off. The other day, we had a taxi driver want 200 baht to take us across town to our hostel. This morning, another taxi driver wanted 200 baht to take us not even half of the way to the train station. Of course, they claim that the afternoon traffic would make the price that much if they ran the meter, but when we waited patiently for one that would run the meter, we only paid 82 the first time and 96 the second time. Grr...

The train station was bustling and we we quickly found our train and was off on the 1.5 hour trip to Ayutthaya. Because this was a spur of the moment decision, Jamie and I had done little research on this area and thus didn't know what to expect. We read where you can rent a bike all day for 30 baht and follow the map they give you to all of the places. After we exited the train, we stored our luggage for the day at the station, found the little bike stand, and off we went. The coolest thing about the bicycles was taking them across the ferry into the town. The ferry ride was 4 baht per person, but 5 if you had a bike. It was amazingly easy and we even had the locals help us out with getting the bikes on and off the small little boat.

The rest of the day was spent visiting some temples. It was a bit frustrating because you had to pay 50 baht per person to get into the temples. I will add the titles to the temples later but the photos will be in Thailand - Day 5 - Ayutthaya folder. This whole day reminded us of Cambodia's Angkor Wat because of the style of architecture and the temple formations. Actually, some of the architecture is Khmer style. After a long day of riding around, we had to wait about 2.5 hours until our overnight train ride. We found this cool little guesthouse restaurant called "Mint's Guesthouse." The owner was very funny, the food was delicious, and we definately recommend it to anyone who needs to kill a few hours before their train ride. He more or less makes a living from tourist waiting for a train ride in Ayutthaya to/from Bangkok/Chiang Mai.

Our train was an hour late, but we finally boarded at 9:20 and were off on on a supposedly 10 hour plane ride to Chaing Mai. The sleeper cars were booked, so we had to settle for an AC seat. Read about Thailand - Day 6 - Chaing Mai to find out how our train ride went.

Bangkok - Day 4

Jamie and I spent the entire morning traveling on Bangkok's public transportation system to purchase train tickets to Chiang Mai and bus tickets to Koh Chang. After finding a bookstore that carried 1000 Places to See Before You Die (not that we are dying), we discovered that one of the places was on our way to Chiang Mai. Ayutthaya was once the capital city of Thailand; and today, it is a sleepy little town which still houses the remains of some amazing temples and Buddha statues. More about it on Day 5. After finding two one way tickets to Ayutthaya and an overnight train to Chiang Mai (no sleeper car), we sought after the bus station to purchase tickets for Koh Chang Island. We might have to cut our time in Koh Chang short because of the return bus times, but we'll see. We successfully manuevered from one side of the city to the other using Bangkok's Skytrain and underground Metro System.

Afterward, we headed toward the river to take the river ferry. Along the way, we stopped at the Shangri-la Hotel and the Oriental, 2 more places to see before you die. Technically, you are supposed to stay there, but since the cost of a room is upwards to $400 US per night, we are not doing that. The Oriental wouldn't even let us tour the grounds because we had shorts on. La-tee-dah!

We took a neat little river ferry up toward a Khmer style temple called Wat Arun. Very cool and we were able to climp up and see a pretty good view of the city. Afterwards, we ferried back across the river and headed back toward the Grand Palace through some amazing shopping street vendors selling everything from cell phone chargers to wooden statues to handkerchiefs. And of course, there was the street food.

Afterwards, we decided to head back to the hotel, grab some Mexican food at this little place called Charley Brown's (rumored to be the best Mexican food in Bangkok), and then head to get a famous Thai Massage.

We found this little place recommended on the Internet called Health Land. After having some difficulty finding it, we finally walked in at 8:45. They promptly called us back, gave us some cool little slippers to wear, led us through a series of hallways and rooms into our own little private room for 2. They had little pajama bottoms and tops for us to change into and then the stretching, pounding, walking on, and kneeding began. Jamie loves this sort of thing and regularly has her feet massaged in China every Friday afternoon. I hate having my feet touched and really can't stand having my legs or head touched either, but I went anyway. I can honestly say that those 2 little women who massaged Jamie and I are the strongest 80 pound women on the planet. She twisted me around like I was a rag doll. All in all, it was a great experience and came to a grand total for both of us for 900 baht = $25 for a 2 hour massage. Afterward, they gave you some delicious honey tea and we were off to collapse. I didn't get a chance to blog that night because I was so tired. Great day! Check out the pictures entitled Bangkok Day 4.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Bangkok Day 3

After yesterday, Jamie and I decided to take it easier today. We went to Lumphini Park to hang out for a while and even did some paddle boating around their little lake. Of the pictures of Day 3 in Bangkok, see below or the photo album, the statue is of King Mongkutklao and the giant lizards are, well, giant lizards. Jamie found a black cat that she considered a "wild cat." After our adventure in the park, we ate some delicious street food and tried to find the National History Museum, but couldn't find it. We did see Chulalongkom University. We had wanted to see another movie, so we went back to Siam Square and shopped around until the movie started at 5:45. We had 3 hours to kill, so we just shopped around for Jamie a camera and me a backpack. Jamie's camera can't be charged, so we'll either have to find another charger (harder than it looks over here) or buy her another one. She's opting for another camera while I would like to find the $3 charger.

Not many English movies to choose from, so we decided to see Burn After Reading with John Malkovich, George Clooney, and Brad Pitt. It was independent filmish, but very dry humor. Overall, a decent but forgetable movie. Definately a renter for those of you in US.

Tomorrow, we'll probably take the Skytrain to the river and explore the riverboats and ferries. There is one more temple we really want to see and we'll probably end up at the National Museum or Art Gallery. We are enjoying the street food over here. So far, we love the chicken or beef on a stick, rice "cakes," and Jamie tried a beef with rice dish today that was excellent. Chicken on a stick will run you about 5 baht (about 18 cents) while other dishes will run about 20 baht (75 cents). All in all, we are eating our lunches and dinners at these places for about $2. This is good because our Mexican meal the first day was about $18. It is amazing how you get used to not spending a lot on food, so when we do buy food that cost us regular US dollar amounts, we are taken aback. We'll have just outright sticker shock when we go back home for the summer. Nonetheless, we are looking forward our first day's meal which will be Chik-fil-A for breakfast, Zaxby's for lunch, and Chili's for dinner. Book it!

As for now, we are LOVING the Southeast Asian food. The spices and combinations they use are amazingly delicious.

Jamie and I do not purchase a lot, if any, souvenirs of the places we visit. We have collectively decided to purchase a cookbook for every area we visit. So far, we have a Mexican, Wyoming, etc. We did not purchase one in Cambodia because they were hard to find, but found one today at a bookstore. We'll no doubt find a Thai cookbook. I'm excited for Jamie to cook some of these dishes back home for our family and friends in the states. You'll have to harrass her about it.

All for now, sawasdee krab!
Posted by Picasa

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Teacher Student Touch Rugby

On Thursday, December 11, the teachers played the middle school rugby team in touch rugby. Of the teachers, only 3 had even played rugby before and 2 of those were from Australia. Only 1 western teacher had played before, so we were at a decided disadvantage. After a 5 minute crash course on how to play, it took us another 45 minutes to figure out what we wre doing. This whole offsides rule really got to us. I don't expect anyone from back home to understand what the offsides rule is but it is frustrating when you are trying to figure out how to play. Rugby is a constant sport like soccer, so you do run around the whole time. Thank goodness I've been playing basketball lately or I would have been huffing and puffing the whole time.

Overall, it was a great experience. After halftime, I got into the flow of the game and figured it all out. Touch rugby is not the toughest sport to play, but I was told that real rugby is considerably more difficult. I'll take their word on it. There is an album in the photo gallery of more pictures. Jamie had taken over 150, but we trimmed it down to 32.

I know this post is out of order, but I had uploaded the pictures forgetting that I didn't make a post on it.
Posted by Picasa

Bangkok Day 2

Jamie and I woke up fairly early to hit the town visiting some temples and the Grand Palace here in Bangkok. We waited around a considerably long time for the bus, but eventually found our way downtown. We had a pretty full day of just walking around Bangkok and visiting 2 smaller temples, eating the street food (chicken or meat on a stick, rice cakes, fruit), visiting Wat Po (Temple of the Reclining Buddha which is seen above), and the Grand Palace, where the King used to live but still conducts ceremonies. The Grand Palace is nice and also houses the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. The Emerald Buddha is in fact jade and they decorate him according to seasons, so right now he is wearing a "coat" for the winter season.

We are a bit frustrated with the hassle of the tuk tuk and taxi drivers and their constant pressure and haggling. Tuk tuk drivers will simply just not take you where you want to go, but instead will want you to visit their friend's jewelry store or tailor shop. The taxi drivers will not want to start the meter and instead "agree" on a price which will always be overinflated. Yesterday, a taxi driver wanted 200 baht to drive us back to our hostel. I adamently told him to forget it and took a real metered taxi that only cost us 82. So far, the tourist traps in Bangkok have been quite disappointing because of these people. And to think, they call this the Land of Smiles. I call it the Land of Smiles and Crooks. That must be why they are smiling. Another guy told us that Wat Po was closed at 3:30 and wanted to take us somewhere else. We walked around to check it anyway and of course, it was open until 6:00. It becomes a bad feeling when you don't want to trust anyone, but this is the territory when you travel to different places and become the tourist. We have been telling everyone we are from China and I'm going to start telling these people that I am a hired assassin. Perhaps that will back them off.

We found this little back alley restaurant of Thai food last night that was delicious. We retired early because of our exhaustion for the day, but I was able to upload a TON of pictures. I'll label them later.

I'm going to make post out of order concerning my touch rugby game, so don't think I played that in Bangkok.

Today, we are going to check out another temple or 2 and see some other sites in Bangkok.
Posted by Picasa

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Thailand Winter Break 2008 - Day 1

Jamie and I left our apartment in Shekou, China at 8:45 pm on Friday night, December 12. We waited around for 30 minutes for the bus to the Shenzhen airport, but it never came, so we had to take a cab. Shenzhen airport is nice, but fairly small, so getting in and through wasn't a problem. We boarded our Air Asia flight and was off to the "Land of Smiles." Air Asia does not have reserved seating, so you just sit wherever you can. They do not serve you free refreshments, but charge you. The plane is clean and the seats are leather, but overall, you are getting what you pay for, which is a cheaper ticket and overall experience. Compared to Emirates airlines which took us to Cambodia, Air Asia is like comparing a Ford Pinto to a Cadillac.

We arrived at our hostel, Suk 11, at about 3:45 am. Although we said we'd sleep in, we made it to breakfast downstairs at 9:00. The hostel has a ton of character, is clean, and is only running us $25 per night, which is actually pricey for most hostels, but we have our own private room and bath.

We rested a bit longer Saturday morning and finally got up and about by noon. We took the Skytrain, like the "L" train in Chicago, to Siam station which I guess you could consider the Times Squarish area of Bangkok. Several upclass malls located there with overpriced items. We walked the streets and malls for several hours just taking in the city. We decided that since we weren't dressed appropriately for the temples, we'd have a knock around day and hit up some touristy areas early in the morning. The street food vendors in Bangkok are excellent, but we didn't eat any. We walked around and saw what they had, but ultimately decided on a Mexican restaurant that we just couldn't pass up. Yes, we flew all the way to Bangkok, Thailand to eat Mexican food, but it was quite yummy. We'll have our share of Thai food for the next 18 days as well as the street vendor food.

We bought tickets to see the movie, The Day the Earth Stood Still, in one of the fancy malls. Cinemas in Asia usually have you reserve a seat for the show like an actual theater or sporting event. This theater had 3 levels and 3 levels of pricing. We stayed away from the IMAX showing because it was just too expensive. The seats we chose were just like the ones at home, but for a couple of more dollars, we could have been 2 rows back and had some larger chairs, and another 2 rows back and more money, it would have been a nice reclining type chair or couch. Pretty sweet idea.

The previews were way over 20 minutes and included some odd commercials, most of which were in Thai.

The most interesting part of our day included right before the film. Just like at a ballgame in America, the played this little video and played the Thai National Anthem. Everyone stood, didn't sing, while the anthem was played. Afterwards, the movie immediately started. Pretty interesting and neat!

Afterwards, we splurged on some ice cream in the mall and have now settled back in to get some rest for our trip tomorrow of temple viewing. Dress codes are supposedly strictly enforced here, so we'll be sure to adhere to those rules.

So far, so good in our trip to Thailand. We'll post some pictures later. Not much to really show and I might just wait until tomorrow when we get back to explain about some of the temples.

Hope everyone is getting their Christmas shopping done. Sawatdee!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Thailand Trip Itinerary

Hello family and friends. Jamie and I leave for Thailand tonight at 11:20 pm. I had posted our itinerary before and thought I would post it again. Above is a little map to show you where we will be going. If you really want to get froggy, Google Earth or Map some of these places and you can really see some things. I haven't checked, but I doubt Thailand has a cloudy cover over it like China does.

Friday December 12 - leave at 11:20 pm on Air Asia from Shenzhen airport in China and arrive in Bangkok, Thailand around 1:30 am early Saturday morning. We'll take a cab to Suk11 hostel and stay there for the 5 nights we'll be in Bangkok.

Wednesday December 16 - we'll get up and check out of Suk11 and hang around Bangkok until a 10:00 pm overnight train leaves from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. We'll arrive Thursday morning in Chiang Mai and check in to a place called the Green Tulip hostel.

December 21 - we'll take another overnight train from Chiang Mai back to Bangkok arriving in the morning on December 22. We'll then hop on a bus which will take us on about a 5 hour ride to Trat, Thailand where we'll hop on a ferry boat to take us to Koh Chang island checking in at the Magic Resort on the island.

December 22 - December 29 = we'll hang out on a double bungalow on the beach at the Magic Resort for 7 wonderful nights.

December 29 - take the 5 hour bus back from Koh Chang to Bangkok and catch an afternoon flight back to Shenzhen airport in China arriving around 9:00 pm. Cab back to our apartment in Shekou.

Check back daily for some updates, pictures, and details concerning our adventure. We are excited to be through with the first half of the school year and receive a much needed break.

Leave a comment, email me, or find me on Facebook if you have any questions or comments.


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

2 More Days to Thailand

We have just 2 more school days before our winter break. We'll be off from December 13 until January 5th. It'll be a nice break for us. This semester has flown by and we can't believe that half of the school year is almost up. Our students have just finished Unit 4 of 10 units in all of our classes and have completed some amazing work. The quality of work these students turn in is simply amazing compared to the work of students we taught at home. Let me rephrase, while at home, you would receive 3 quality tests, projects, A's on an assessment, here you might have 6 out of 15 have an A, and the rest have a B. Students who are not as proficient in English are usually the only one's who will receive a P, which means they are still in "P"rogress.

Thailand is still on and we are excited about it. We'll leave on Friday night in Bangkok. I'll repost our itinerary so you can follow us. I'll also be posting every day and try to upload as many pictures as possible. As you can tell, I really enjoy my new camera and take numerous pictures everywhere we go. I have included a map of Thailand here and will use it a few times as we travel around. You can see boxed in red Bangkok, Chang Mai, and Koh Chang Island. These are the 3 places we'll be seeing.

Griffey is tentatively scheduled to be shipped over here on January 1, 2009. I am excited yet very very worried about his trip. Yes, many animals are shipped every day, but of those many animals, none of them are my precious dog. I probably will not sleep on New Year's Eve because I'll be worried about him. That is fine because we'll be Hong Kong anyway that night, so there should be plenty to do.

Just wanted to update everyone. Haven't had too many people join or post on our message board. It might be a bust, but I really think it would be a great place for people to post thoughts concerning topics. It doesn't take long.

Just a reminder that you can find links for the message board and our entire photo album under our email addresses at the top of the page. I can figure out how to make them larger. Of all of the cool features on blogspot yet it won't let me make those 2 things larger.

Thanks for your continued support in reading our blog. I check to see how many "hits" we have every day. As of now, the number averages about 20 per day. I'm assuming most of these are ones who have committed to be followers. Kudos to you!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Winter Break Party and Victoria Park

Friday night, QSI Shekou celebrated the winter break (Christmas) by going to the Bierhouse near SeaWorld for a catered dinner buffet. The food was great (German) and everyone seemed to have a great time. I think a group went to kareoke afterwards, but Jamie and I decided to call it a night. I won a raffle prize of a chalk board. It reminds me of those you'd put on your dorm room door so people could leave messages. It has a little holder on the front for the chalk and along with 20 or so pieces of chalk. I'm just glad I was a winner (first time for everything).

Jamie and I went in to Hong Kong today to basically just walk around and see some things we haven't seen before. We went to another part of town we hadn't been to and see if we could find a better mall with a better bookstore. We found one we liked and purchased some books there for our trip to Thailand next week. We then went to Victoria Park which is like a smaller version of Central Park in New York. Nice little park for the city though complete with tennis courts, lawn bowling, basketball, etc. We ate at a wanna be "Mexican" restaurant for dinner. Makes us miss the wanna be Mexican restaurants at home. All in all, a successful day as we bought over 10 books to take with us on our trip.

The message board has been vitually ignored by everyone going on its 4th day. Let me explain the purpose again. I've set up some topics for discussion or you can create your own. All you have to do is sign up with an email address and you can then post your thoughts on the message board under your name or alias. The more you post, the higher your social status becomes. You will start as an "untouchable" and eventually work your way up to being Zeus. We thought it was clever. You'll see the more you post. Anyway, hop in there and let the world know your thoughts on just about any topic.

I've added a couple more photo albums at the bottom. I'll need to start deleting some of them because they are just getting too long. You can always go to our Google Web Album to see all of our photos. I'll clear the ones at the bottom out so we can put our Thailand photos there next week. We have a Christmas 2009 album and one of just Victoria Park. Enjoy!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

NEW Message Board

I have found a pretty cool message board site that I think might work here for our blog. I'll post it here and the link will always be the right side of the screen. All you have to do is sign up and you are all set for posting. I think that it can be a great place for posting concerning topics of sports, politics, government, economy, travel, and just about anything. We have a wide variety of friends from everywhere, so we could have that variety of perspectives. I'll moderate and I think we can all agree to keep it civil. I'll try and stir up some discussion concerning this. Spread the word concerning the message board. Jamie and I are regulars on a couple of boards mostly concerning politics. Enjoy!

EandJBrown Message Board

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Game On!

Well, the protest ended in Thailand, so Jamie and I are cleared for take off to Thailand. This is bit of a relief. Amazing how some people around here blow things off and others absolutely are scared to death about things. I wasn't too concerned about entering Thailand. They are not targeting Westerners or anything like that. India, however, I'm not too sure that we are that adventurous. There are some families still going to Mumbai. I wish them a safe travel. Obviously, the odds of something happening are slim, but I feel good about my trip to Thailand. We'll be safe and stay away from the lingering protestors just in case.

I've put a new poll up on the side. Our last poll proved to be wrong, so let's all try and get this one right this time. It looks as though unless I we find a bunch of friends by the end of December, my goal of 50 followers will run a bit short. Only 29 followers to date, which is still pretty good. I wonder how many of those are still around. Oh well, enjoy the poll and be sure to check back for updates concerning our trip to Thailand. Jamie and I are going into Hong Kong this weekend to buy some books for our trip. Between the flights, trains, buses, and other means of public transportation, we'll need to keep occupied.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

What's Going On

Like Marvin Gaye used to say.

Well, Thailand is looking iffy, but we are still optimistic. As long as we can fly in, we'll be fine. The protesters just need to move. Clearly they do not understand that Jamie and I are trying to get into the country. Perhaps I'll send them an email or update my Facebook status so they can see that I'm trying to get in. That should do the trick. I'll keep you updated. What will we do if we don't get to go to Thailand. Other than cry like Notre Dame fan, we'll look for ways to change the plane ticket to another location or just hang out in China with 1.3 billion other people. There is a lot to see here too all accessible by train. We will not be spending our time in Shekou for 3 weeks... Ouch!

Griffey will be on his way sometime after the very first of the year. I'm excited about this. His paper work is about set and we'll be making arrangements for that. I'll also keep you updated and let you know when he'll be flying. If something happens to him on the plane, you can rest assured I will "set the building on fire" (anyone seen Office Space?)

Jamie and I have just 8 more days of school after today. The kids are winding up for the break but so are we. Our grades are due on Friday, so we will be expected to keep them busy the last week of school. Go figure.

It is now official. My beloved Vols have hired Lane Kiffin to be the next head coach. I have mixed feelings about this and was sad to see Fulmer's last game. I'm glad they won though. I'm optimistic about Kiffin and hope they do well under him. I think he'll bring a renewed energy to the team. If not, his wife sure will. Have you seen her? She'll look great in orange!

Jamie and I hope that everyone had a great Thanksgiving. Be careful this holiday season.

Buy a Kindle Here!