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"



Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Day 11 - Luang Prabang

From Laos

Jamie and I made sure we had plenty of rest and finally woke up, checked some email, and had a wonderful lunch down the road. We were able to turn in our laundry and have it done today too, which was good because we were out of just about everything.

Today, we took a minivan to the Kuang Si waterfalls about 29 km out of town. We didn
t know what to expect but they were quite nice. Several people swimming and even though we had prepared to, we didn't go. Also had a small sanctuary there for Asiatic bears they had saved from poachers. The whole trip didn't last much longer that 3 hours, but it was a nice some of the surrounding countryside.

We made it back to town and decided to walk up and down the street night market. Dozens of booths are set up that sell all sorts of handmade items. Of particular interest (if we had the space) were the duvet covers, lamps, and some wooden objects. We are simply overpacked and can't purchase too much.

Dinner was at an amazing little restaurant called Tamarind which served us authentic Laotian food of stuffed lemon grass as well as stick rice, buffalo meat, sausage, and veggies. VERY very good and we might go back. Jamie was hoping to catch a cooking class, but they are full until after we leave.

We walked back through the night market and will probably go back there tonight.

I think tomorrow will be a trip to the Buddhist caves. Check out the pictures. I have rearranged them.

Day 9 and 10 – Kunming to Luang Prabang

From Kunming

Jamie and I slept in and checked out of our hostel at noon and then grabbed a quick bite to eat. We had nearly 4 hours to kill before leaving for the bus station.

We finally caught a cab to the new bus station. It apparently had just opened that day and people were everywhere trying to figure out where to go. We figured it out and caught the bus just in time. The sleeper bus was divided into 3 equal sections of beds. Jamie and I were beside one another in our narrow little beds. Cheapest way to get into Laos. We had time to spare and settled in for our 25 hour bus ride.

The evening was pretty simple just lying on our little beds. The bus stopped MANY times to let people on and off. Apparently, the bus drivers (there were 3 who rotated) would pick up random people if they had room on the bus for some extra money. At one point, we stopped for 3 hours. Not sure why.

Morning came and we still hadn’t reached the China/Laos border. About 10:00 am, we finally reached the border. It was simple enough. The Chinese border building was brand new, rather large, and very nice. 200 meters down the road, we entered the border for Laos which was literally a one room little shack where you overpriced you for a visa. We paid nonetheless and continued our bus ride into Laos.

The roads in China were nice and paved and pretty straight. Once you hit Laos, the roads became sometimes gravel, sometimes dirt, and very very curvy. Luckily, we had stocked up on some Dramamine and were good to go.

At exactly 24.5 hours, we rolled into Luang Prabang. We found a tuk tuk driver to take us to our guesthouse. LP is a charming little city from what we have seen. We ate dinner at a great place right on the river tonight and look forward to our “warm” stay here in Laos before heading to Bangkok in a 7 days.

Day 8 – Kunming

From Kunming

We somewhat slept in this morning and headed out to breakfast before catching a taxi to the bus station.

Our destination of the day was the Stone Forest, a large section of karst landscape that has formed over the last few billion years. It has developed just what the name suggests, a stone forest. You can check out the photos and see for yourself.

It was a cool place, but we only stayed for a couple of hours because it was rather cold plus I was still feeling pretty weak. We took a bus back 2 hours and it dropped us off in a different bus station, so we had to take another bus back to the city before taking a cab to our hostel. This is typical in traveling in Asia. If you do it yourself like we do and save money, you have to go through some hoops before getting somewhere. Or, you can hire a private car and guide to take you everywhere. This of course is more expensive but still pretty reasonable and something many of our coworkers do.

We arrived back at the hostel near dinner time, and ended up just snacking there. Tomorrow, we’d have a day to kill before taking a 25 hour bus ride into Laos.

Day 7 – Dali to Kunming

I was weak and my stomach was still a bit rumbly, but we had wanted to shop for some more marble while we were here, so we hit the streets of Dali to find a certain vase that Jamie had seen 2 days ago. There are dozens of shops selling usually either vases or other containers made of marble or framed slabs of marble which have the most beautiful designs. We finally did buy a vase and headed back toward our hostel, checked out our things, and caught a ride to the bus station for the 4.5 hour bus ride to Kunming.

The bus to Kunming was uneventful and we are continuing to enjoy reading our Kindles. They have been a lifesaver on all of our trips. After being dumped on the side of the road, we caught a taxi to our new hostel in Kunming, The Hump.

We still hadn’t decided what to do for the rest of our journey. I was feeling better, but figured we’d at least see the Stone Forest while we were in Kunming the next day.

Day 6 - Dali - Christmas Day

Yesterday at some point (I believe it was the Hawaiian pizza), I became very ill with food poisoning. Apparently, I have been a bad boy this year and Santa decided to give me food poisoning for Christmas. I was up most of the night doing things that people normally do with food poisoning.

Jamie and I were supposed to go to Kunming today; but because of my condition, decided to stay in Dali in bed all day long. I slept most of the day, ate nothing, and drank some water. Jamie took the time to read all day long, which of course she didn’t mind.

We were able to awake at 2:30 in the morning to talk with Jamie’s family and again at 4:00 am to talk to mine for Christmas day back home. By that time, I was feeling somewhat better, so we figured we would be able to leave Dali tomorrow.

Not an exciting Christmas this year, although we were serenaded all night long pretty much by our hosts at the hostel who had 20 friends over eating, partying, and singing Christmas songs all evening.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Day 5 - Dali

From Yunnan Province

Great day overall as we took in the sights of Dali. Several things to do here, but less so in winter months. After breakfast at our hostel, we headed out to the center of town to walk around and then caught a ride to the entrance to the ski lift chairs that went up Cangshan Mountain. It was a nice 30 minute ride to the top and very peaceful and quite. It somewhat reminded us of Gatlinburg, but only larger and of course, with a Chinese twist.

At the top was a Buddhist temple which we decided to not linger around, but instead head south along a VERY level and maintained path that took us 11 km winding around the top of the mountain. As you can tell from the picture above, great overview of the city. Certainly a cake walk hike compared to Tiger Leaping Gorge and Elephant Hill the previous days and we welcomed the nice stroll through the mountain. We ended our walk and took a cable car back down the mountain.

A very late lunch was a local fried cheese and a pizza. We then walked the streets of Dali Old Town and made our way north to see the old Three Pagodas at Congshen Temple. These have actually been restored as early as 1986. It is expensive to go into the grounds and it was late in the afternoon, so we decided to take a couple of pictures from the entrance and head back to town.

On the way out, Jamie did find a marble pestal and mortar she had been wanting. Solid marble and very heavy, it was a bargain here in Dali because Dali is very famous for its marble. It is everywhere and very beautiful. If we were going back to Shenzhen, it would be tempting to purchase more marble pieces (vases, framed art, etc). Incredible deals that are literally 90% off of what you would pay in the U.S.

We strolled back through town and will probably stay in the hostel relaxing for the evening. We aren't sure if we are going to stay in Dali all day tomorrow (Christmas Day) or head to Kunming.

Check out the pictures of today and check the blog again for our upcoming trip to Kunming.

We hope everyone is having a wonderful holiday season. We miss our families...

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Day 3 – Lijiang to Dali

From Yunnan Province

We didn't really have a plan for today, so we packed up and checked out of our hostel around 10:00 and headed out for our last day in Lijiang. Our first stop was N's Kitchen for brunch and a fabulous western breakfast.

We then decided to check out the Mao statue on Red Sun Square, then head toward Black Dragon Pool. Black Dragon Pool is a feeder pool for all of the canals in Lijiang as well as a rather nice park area. Wonderful views of Jade Snow Dragon Mountain as you can see above. Despite still being tired and sore from Tiger Leaping Gorge, we decided to check out the view from above on Elephant Hill. Jamie decided not to trek the entire way, but I decided to go all the way up. I can't find anywhere that says how many steps the hill was or how high it was, but it was enough to cause me to gasp for breath several times and stop periodically. It was one of those times where you had already gone so far, so you might as well go the rest of the way.

I was rewarded with a great view of all of Lijiang as well as Jade Snow Dragon Mountain. Jamie sat and waited patiently, and I finally made it back down after an hour. Our next stop was supposed to be on Jade Snow Dragon Mountain, but for some reason, the cable cars weren't running. We decided to grab our stuff back at the hostel and head for the bus station for the 3.5 hour bus ride to our next destination, Dali.

We have arrived in Dali and are sitting now in a very cozy guesthouse, Sleepfish Lodge. Our dinner consisted of a wonderful homemade stew and tea. Dali so far is warmer and we are certainly enjoying it. We are able to sit in the room without bundling up.

We'll head out early for a full day in Dali. Be sure to check out the Photo Album for pictures.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Day 3 – Tiger Leaping Gorge to Lijiang

From Yunnan Province

We slept in after our utterly exhausting day, then packed up and headed out to walk the low road back to Qiaotou. We knew we would have to walk at least 6 km and climb over the road rubble before we might be met with a van to take us back to town. We had walked about 8 km before we hitchhiked with a truck that was headed into town, That truck dropped us off about 7 km outside of town and we began walking again. After 10 minutes, another truck came along and we hopped in the bed to ride all the way into town. After hitting up a store for some lunch (Oreos, almonds, Chinese Pringles, and dove bars we loaded a bus headed back to Lijiang. The ride was uneventful and we made it back safely, climbed into a cab which dropped us off near our hostel.

After a quick rest, we headed out to N’s Kitchen for some western food. I was able to download the VPN and get blogger and Picasa working.

Check out the PHOTO ALBUM for all photos.

Day 2 – Lijiang to Tiger Leaping Gorge

What a day! Jamie had an early morning skype call and after a quick breakfast we taxied to the bus station to head out for a two and a half hour bus ride to Qiaotou, where we began our long hiking journey to the Middle Tiger Leaping Gorge. Check out the map above and follow along. We were lucky to find a driver who took us on the low road the first 12 km. From there we walked along the low road until we reached a fork in the road. We knew that they were building a new road and we could here the blast of dynamite throughout the gorge. At our fork, we thought one way (the low road) was blocked due to rubble. So we headed up. And up. And up. Eventually, rather than continuing on the switch-backing road, we decided it would be faster to take a path, which was really just a goat trail. We ended up in someone’s yard, and they managed to communicate that we had arrived at one of the mountain villages on our map, no where near where we had intended to go. However, we knew where we were and our destination. Our helpful villagers pointed up onward (and up, again) until we found a sign leading us to a hostel where we promptly sat down, exhausted, and had a pancake lunch.

Refreshed from our meal and looking at our map we now knew that it would take us about two hours to reach our original destination, so on we went. Our unplanned route took us past some beautiful waterfalls, a herd of goats, and on our way down we met a guide dog that we named Scout. Scout led us down to Tina’s, a landmark hostel for the Middle Tiger Leaping Gorge. We rested a few minutes, dropped our bags off, and continued the climb all the way to the bottom of the gorge. After a few wrong turns we made our way to the path which was 2 km almost straight down. We hurriedly enjoyed the reason for our hike before trudging our way back to Tina’s, this time 2 km straight up. We stopped several times due to utter exhaustion, with Scout faithfully checking on us and barking encouragement to continue.

We rented our room, dropped off our stuff, and headed back to the dining room where we made some new traveling friends from California and England (Avi, Chuck, and Lee). After an okay meal and some great conversation, we fell into our beds.

Day 1- Shenzhen to Lijiang

From Yunnan Province

Jamie and I woke up early to finish packing and took a cab to the Shenzhen airport to catch our 2.5 hour flight to Lijiang. Lijiang is in Yunnan province in southwest China. You can read more about it HERE – LIJIANG

After arriving, we lucked up and caught a free ride to downtown Lijiang, then a quick taxi to the Panba Hostel. After settling in, we headed out to walk around the old town and ate lunch at a café overlooking one of the canals. After lunch we walked around some more, shopping and taking pictures.

We then took a nap and headed out again for supper. We ended up eating at a VERY Chinese restaurant (with live music). Our meal included a mushroom and chicken stew (complete with a chicken foot) and some fried rice. Walking back we bought a paper flower with a lighted candle which we then floated down the canal for good luck. We were exhausted after our day and knew we had an early morning going to see Tiger Leaping Gorge, so we crashed.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Winter Holiday Trip


Just finished booking our initial flight to Lijiang where we will start our next trip for the winter break. Lucked out on some tickets by actually messing up the booking and then getting a better rate when I had to rebook. I'm not sure how well you can see the #s above on the picture, but I'll list them in order of what our plan is.

1) Leave Shenzhen on a direct flight to Lijian, China in the Yunnan province - here we will hike Tiger Leaping Gorge among other things
2) Take a 3-4 hour bus ride to Dali to check out some more scenery in this backpacker paradise.
3) Take either an overnight bus or train to Kunming to check out the city and surrounding sites.
4) Take a 28 hour bus ride south to Luang Prabang, Laos. Here we will enjoy this UNESCA Heritage Site and hang out with the Laotians.
5) Take a 5-6 hour bus to Vang Vieng, Laos where the highlight is apparently tubing down a lazy river.
6) Take a 3-4 hour bus ride to Vientiane, the capital of Laos for site seeing.
7) Take a flight from Vientiane to Bangkok, Thailand for our job fair and hopefully land a great job for 2010-2011.

More details to come on this, but I wanted to go ahead and set up the geography.
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Sunday, December 6, 2009

Winding Down

It has been a couple of weeks since I last posted. I didn't have much response from our Top 10 Lists, plus we have become super busy at work here.

The last few weeks have been quite up and down. My grandfather passed away the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, but I was unable to go home for the funeral due to costs and my length of stay being so short. Fortunately, my family was very understanding. The funeral was held on Thanksgiving Day and the local church provided my family with a nice Thanksgiving meal. Thanks CUMC. When Jamie and I first began discussing moving to China, we knew that the death of a family member would be tough. We knew that this could potentially happen and we have both lost grandfathers since coming to China. This is certainly the hardest part about being away from home, and we only have each other to comfort us in these times.

Onto other news... I finally have Chapters 1 - 3 sent to the school for approval. I will then just need to apply to the IRB and then I can begin my research coming in January. If all goes well, I should research and write Chapters 4 and 5 next January and February, and hopefully finish up by June. Jamie is on a similar course, but it will depend on the speed of her committee and school as to how long it might take her. We predict no longer than next August.

We have been working hard on our dissertations as well as at work. Jamie is in the swing of things now with her IE classes, and we both are busy planning middle school lock-ins, running the school store, and preparing for the Southern region middle school Model United Nations conference. We are hosting it and preparing it has been quite the busy task. It isn't until April, but we have had to prepare for teams way ahead of time.

We had initially wanted to go home for winter break this year, but the costs of airline tickets are just too much. We are instead, as of now, going to take a tour of southern China (Kunming, Dali, Lijiang) and then head down through Laos (Luang Prabang, Viang Vang, and Vientiane). We'll finally end up in Bangkok on January 4, 2010 and prepare for our Job Fair. We are hoping to land a job at a school that we both like. We have a list of schools that we are willing to interview for positions.

Griffey is doing well. No change there and he still sleeps 22 hours per day it seems. We just bought a new travel laptop that we are excited about. It only has an 8.9" screen and we think it'll be perfect for traveling. Certainly weighs less than what we've been using.

I am finally recovered from my kidney issues, although I did bruise a rib pretty badly playing basketball 2 weeks ago. It is healing nicely though.

We are just hanging on for another couple of weeks until winter break. This first half of the year has flown by, and the 2nd half I'm sure will too. We are looking forward to Jamie's parents coming over for Chinese New Year and we'll be going to Vietnam to tour the southern and central parts (Ho Chi Minh City, Danang, Hoi An, and Hue). Should be a blast for all.

Hope all is well everyone else's way. Feel free to drop a comment on Facebook or our our Blog if you see this. Also be sure to check out our Top 10 lists. As I said, not many people commented on it.

Take care everyone...

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