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Zack and Rachel's Asian Chronicles
Life in the Southern Cone

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We moved into an apartment

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Argentina

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permalink written by  zachel on August 24, 2009 from Buenos Aires, Argentina, Argentina
from the travel blog: Life in the Southern Cone
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We made it!

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Argentina

Into the Den, of the Lion. At least that's how I feel right now as were flying into Buenos Aires, Argentina, at the height of the swine flu epidemic. This past April, news channels started to cover an outbreak of a new kind of flu called the H1N1 virus, now known around the world as swine flu. Apparently, scientists found that in the early 1970's the disease was first contracted but failed to spread and wreak havoc. Now almost 40 years later the virus has manifested and the news outlets are perpetuating the sickness in the 24 news cycle. Hopefully, all goes well while were here. The good news is that winter is ending which should put an eventual end to the spreading of the flu.
Our first day was spent relaxing, hanging around our hotel, recooperating from the 48 hours of travel it took to get here. For some reason we were talked into taking a cab from a persistant portano (a person from Buenos Aires) that took a financial liking to us in the airport after we just claimed our bags. Even though Rachel and I made a sacred pact to never take an unofficial taxi from the airport, we relented. I don't know why exactly. I think it was just because we were too tired to wave off his persistent behavior. He was crazy, but harmless, although he did talk us into taking us to El Centro, the center of town, to a hotel that he got a cut from. It turned out to be a good decision. The hotel is an old mansion built near the end of the 19th century, with a spiral staircase, high ceilings, and a beautiful common area just outside our room. Like I said, we relaxed and made our way downstairs to get a bite to eat. We took a walk around our hotel a couple of blocks and then decided to eat at a pizzeria next door. The pizzeria was bad ass. The cheese was fresh but they put too many yangpa (onions) underneath the cheese. Anyway, we were impressed. Rachel told me that the main Argentinian fare was based off Italian food. Pizzerias litter practically every street corner. They are also known for their empanadas. An emapanada is stuffed bread with a variety of different fillings that range from beef, chicken, veggies or cheese. We tried one today for the first time and it was amazing. The wine is also dirt cheap here. Move over two buck chuck because Argentina sells their bottles of wine for around 3 US dollars, which is nice.
We were exhausted from the trip so we came back and finished watching a movie called "My Dinner with Andre," which Rachel and I both recommend. It is a great movie that is based around two eccentric old friends that simply sit down at a restaurant and have an engaging conversation that mainly deals with social norms. It's worth watching.
This morning we arose early, eager to check and see if any of our apartment searching had come to fruition. We had a couple of replies but not neccessarily what we were looking for. Eager to tramp around the city we left our hotel close to ten and had breakfast across from the Argentinian Parliament. I became flustered when the waitress was taking my order and accidentally ordered dessert for breakfast. Now I know that tortas is Spanish for cake.
We took off for a stroll and ended up on a 5 hour walking tour of the city center. It is beautiful. Very European with lots of green space. Huge European buildings grace the city which made Raquel feel like she was back in Europe. I asked her over our main meal of the day what the differences were between Europe and Argentina. Her reply was that the only superficial differences are that it is cheaper and less safe. We headed west towards the bay area. We came across Argentina's version of Tienamen square. Here protestors were still reminding anyone watching about Argentina's dirty war that started in 1976. The Argentinian dictatorship that came to power in 76' sought to quell the leftist rebellion influenced by Argentina's favorite son. Unfortunately, Che's values did not carry over to the men behind the coup. The fascists rounded up and killed anywhere from 20-30,000 people by conservative estimates. For the most part the portenos took it and tried not to get murdered during the dictatorships tenure. The people that caused the most ruckus were a group of women that would dress in black and stand in the plaza with pictures of their missing children. Unable to kill the old women, the dictatorship let them protest. They were eventually ousted after going to battle with Britain and losing decisively. I don't know the exact details but that was the end of the dictatorship.
That pretty much sums up our last couple of days here in Argentina. We're in our hotel now reading and writing. We think we might be able to move into our apartment that we reserved tomorrow.....we'll see. Were waiting to hear back from the middle man that is in charge of advertising the apartment. No big deal though. We like our guest house and are having a great time. We love Argentina!

permalink written by  zachel on August 21, 2009 from Buenos Aires, Argentina, Argentina
from the travel blog: Life in the Southern Cone
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Return to the Motherland

New York, United States

Coming home to New York City was bittersweet for both of us. Since I had never even been out of the country before February 2008 I was a little anxious to get back home after so long to visit family and see Phish in all honesty. It was nice to be back in NYC. Rachel's brother Matt lives in Manhattan so we stayed with him at the time. He took us to alot of the hot spots in the city. We went to one of the cities best pizza joints the first night we were there. Griminaldi's. Real New York City pie is famous for being big slices and for it's fresh mozzarella used on the pizza. It was really good. The next day we met up with our friend Duke from S.K. and first ate pizza again at Lombardi's, then went to Brooklyn and checked out his almamatar, Pratt University. It's a famous art college where the likes of Robert Redford and other's all graduated. Debbie Does Dallas was filmed here (illegally). As expected the area was decked out with art installations.
Our purpose in Brooklyn that day was to see a free David Byrne concert in Prospect Park, Brooklyn. I'd seen David Byrne of Talking Heads fame once before and remember being a fantastic concert. We were really impressed with Brooklyn. It was a surreal day, people hanging out having a good time in the park. I think both Rachel and I wouldn't mind settling down in Brooklyn one of these days. The concert was cool. His performance wasn't quite as good as the previous time I saw him but it was still incredible. The band revisited Talking Heads classics, Crosseyed and Painless, Life During Wartime, among others. It was just an awesome experience.
All three of us stayed at a hotel in Manhattan that night in Times Square. We got slices of pizza at a 24 hour pizza shop. We decided to check out the Metropolitan Museum of Art to look at an exhibit by Francis Bacon. Bacon's paintings were haunting. We looked at the exhibit with two of Duke's friends. The paintings were visceral that's for sure. I had never been to the museum and was captivated by the historical paintings ranging from Van Gogh, Monet, Chagall. The museum was fantastic but it didn't stack up to the Chicago Museum of Art, nothing does. :)
Our trip was coming to an end. We ate at a great burger joint in Manhattan and then spent the rest of the night with Matt and his girlfriend. Our time in New York City was over and Rachel and I had to say goodbye for a month. All in all it was an amazing trip.

permalink written by  zachel on June 7, 2009 from New York, United States
from the travel blog: Zack and Rachel's Asian Chronicles
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Bangkok Round 2

Bangkok, Thailand

This was our second trip to Bangkok. Our friends Carina and Isaac had just moved to the city to attend school and we decided to stay with them for a few days before we headed back to the states. We had a great time and it was a fun sendoff. We did all the things that we never got around to doing the first time we were here. We made it to the Royal Palace, went to Wat Ureum. Went back to Mai Kaidee's this time just off Khao San road. The best part of the trip was being immersed in the culture around Carina and Isaac's apartment. For a reasonable price they found a place in a decent neighborhood equipped with fruit markets, mechanic shops and I even saw a sweat shop. It was all pretty developed though and retained a lot of culture.
I thought our last day was the most exciting. We found a cabbie that seemed nice but decided to take us on a joyride. We noticed this as we were crossing the bridge for a second time. He jipped us out of the equivalent of 1 dollar. No big deal. It turned out to be great though. We walked around and kind of ran into an off the map temple that was unreal. It had rock face surrounded by a moat with giant goldfish and an ancient turtle. After this great find we trekked mostly, to Wat Arum which overlooked the river, I forgot the name where we got some great views. Really a great way to end the trip.
Oh yeah, we also found the Chinatown in Bangkok to be really engaging. Lot's of great food little knick knacks for sale. It was bittersweet leaving after over 3 months on the road. We still had a New York City adventure awaiting for us.

permalink written by  zachel on June 3, 2009 from Bangkok, Thailand
from the travel blog: Zack and Rachel's Asian Chronicles
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Ko Phangan

Ko Phangan, Thailand

Ko Phangan

This is another island that people rave about when talking about Thailand. It's famous for hosting the full moon party and being an island where anything goes. As we've found It came at a price. Let's just say police corruption run's rampant on the island (and in Thailand in general) It's a perfectly safe place to visit. We found the bargain of the century our third night on the island nabbing a bungelow for around $15 a night right on the ocean. The pool at the resort was one of the best parts. It looked like the pool of a palatial estate.
One of the days on the island we rented a motorbike and cruised around. We had a nice time until a car tried to pull out in front of us and I tapped the brakes aware that we were in gravel and even though I only nudged the brakes the bike fell. Luckily it was only going about 5 mph. I jumped off the bike before it fell and tried to prop it up. Rachel was not so lucky. The bike fell on her, thankfully the only damage was a small scratch on her leg. The bike had some minor cosmetic damage that we were told by a westerner that witnessed the scene was going to cost 100's of dollars. A new acquaintance told us that our best bet would be taking the bike to a honda shop and try to switch out the parts. We did this the next day and paid about $15 dollars that would have cost us at least a hundred at the shop. Still we ended up paying the shop about $90. Which was a rip-off but what can you do when they have your passport.
The night before we left the island we had an amazing meal at a restaurant we decided to check out. It wasn't thai food but they had an incredible eggplant tapas, with garlic bread and real fried potato wedges. Definately, the best meal on the island we had.
We booked a flight on air asia from Surat Thani to Bangkok. I remember getting a tuk-tuk after the bus dropped us off in the town and then the guy trying to drop us off on the side of the road because he didn't charge us enough money, what an asshole. So, we yelled at him and made him take us to the airport then caught our flight that took us to Bangkok.

permalink written by  zachel on May 28, 2009 from Ko Phangan, Thailand
from the travel blog: Zack and Rachel's Asian Chronicles
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Relaxing in Railay

Tonsai, Thailand

I can't believe that we didn't write about Railay. We just didn't have anytime since we stayed their for eight days lounging around the pool and eating at our restaurant, and watching movies on HBO. Railay was the closest thing we did that would be considered a normal vacation. The atmosphere here is great. It's not really an island but a peninsula that you can only reach by boat. It might as well be an island. Were close to the island where James Bond filmed Man with the Golden Gun. We ended up meeting some real characters while on Railay. Our new friend Peter who was an enigma in Thailand. He was an American living off the generosity of the Thai people. Not having any money left, he stayed in the bungalow's for free drank for free. Supposedly he had some sort of arrangement with the owners that he would pay them at a date......tbd. One night we had left some pineapple juice outside which he proceeded to drink and slept on our porch.
The highlights of Railay almost a year later was the snorkeling expedition we went on with a family visiting Thailand. Ever since snorkeling on Ko Phi Phi a week earlier I wanted to try again. We saw a lot of nemo looking fish on our slightly underwater adventure. During the trip we went a couple that biked from Austria to Thailand. They were then leaving the next day to go from Alaska to the tip of Argentina. I think I remember them saying it took 6 months just to get through China alone.
Another great day on Railay included a hike we took up the side of a rocky hill. I think we both wore sandals and the hike turned treacherous when we tried to reach the lagoon on the other side. We smartly decided our lives were not worth the risk of us busting our heads open on the rocks at the top of a cliff. We made it down safely and went to another part of a beach that we hadn't seen yet before. It was beautiful and it lacked any commercial businesses and the hustle that the other beaches proliferated. We would definately come back to Railay if we had the chance.

permalink written by  zachel on May 20, 2009 from Tonsai, Thailand
from the travel blog: Zack and Rachel's Asian Chronicles
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The beach life.

Ko Phi Phi, Thailand

Here we are in beautiful Ko Phi Phi. We've inadvertently arrived in the midst of raining season, but fortunately we only had one rainy day. We're staying in a bungalow tucked into the jungle by the beach. A cat, who we named Boots, has been frequenting our porch, begging for food. Yesterday we went island hopping and snorkeling. It's unreal! We made friends with a British girl named Ellie who's traveling solo. I never want to leave!


permalink written by  zachel on May 16, 2009 from Ko Phi Phi, Thailand
from the travel blog: Zack and Rachel's Asian Chronicles
tagged KoPhiPhi

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Beautiful land, beautiful people

Luang Prabang, Laos

The pictures really speak for themselves in Luang Prabang. After being in Asia for over a year alot of the temples blend together. Luang Prabang in Laos will re-invigorate the spirit to go temple diving.
Before I delve into our time in Luang Prabang, half of the adventure was getting there. From Chang Mai we took a two day boat trip along the Mekong Delta sauntering on a tourist boat throughout lush green valleys with subtle hills on either side of the river.
Once we reached the town we were exhausted and in need of some decent shelter. We found a place on the main drag. The whole town is quaint and charming. Best of all, the town is home to thousands of Monks that live in the wats. Many of the townspeople of Luang Prabang are devout Buddhists and wake up before sunrise to give Alms to the Monks. They give food, drink and flowers to the monks. The monks have to eat the most food in the morning since they are not allowed to eat after noon.
There are two highlights in Luang Prabang that were must sees. One morning we were there we went to a temple overlooking the city. We were lucky that we took the opposite way to reach the top of the temples. One thing that was kind of funny was that the statues were spray painted we guess because of lack of funds.
We kept hearing about a gorgeous waterfall about 45 minutes out of the city. They turned out to be some of the most beautiful waterfalls you could ever hope to see. The water was crystal clear since the basin of the falls was limestone. We hiked to the top of the small mountain and basked in the pools of water overlooking a stunning valley. Another great part of the day turned out to be visiting a bear sanctuary that was at the base of the waterfalls. The bears are taken from poachers looking to extract their stomach bile for medicinal purposes. Now there is no need for this because of advances in medicine. The bear fund tries to educate local people to try to eliminate the poaching of the bears on the black market.
When we left Luang Prabang, we hired a driver whose truck broke down on the way to the airport. We had to walk the rest of the way to the airport. We knew it wasn't a good situation since I had to pust the truck to even get it started.

permalink written by  zachel on May 9, 2009 from Luang Prabang, Laos
from the travel blog: Zack and Rachel's Asian Chronicles
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Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai, Thailand

Since coming to Asia I've been reading and hearing about how amazing Chiang Mai is and I'm relieved to say that this city mostly lives up to the hype. After taking the first flight of our trip from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, we arrived in the midst of the bustling weekly Sunday handicraft market. We checked into a cute guest house with a garden in an inner courtyard. It was a lot cuter until we discovered we we had company in our room-- a giant cockroach on the wall to the side of our bed! Fortunately for me, Zack was brave and captured the critter in a pizza box and took it away.

Our time in Chiang Mai was spent walking around town, eating delicious Thai food, and riding bikes. We were both surprised to find that Chiang Mai was not very bike friendly. To add to the confusion, Thais drive on the left side of the road. It was all worth it as we discovered a handful of ancient, ornately decorated Wats and temples throughout the city.

The highlight of Chiang Mai to me was the private vegetarian cooking class we took. Zack and I arrived at 9am to the restaurant. Our teacher was a kind, talkative young Thai woman with excellent English. First we learned how to roast sesame seeds and cashews in a wok. After that we took a trip to the local produce market to buy the food that we would later cook. We learned a lot about Thai veggies, including Thai eggplant, which is green and circular. We learned that no Thai dish is complete without chili peppers. When we came back to the kitchen we learned the proper way to chop Thai veggies. Next, it was time for a marathon cooking session where we learned how to make TEN different dishes. It was intense, but well worth it. Zack and I each had our own burner with a wok and it was a fun competition to see who could remember what to do and who could make the better dish. Usually, the teacher had us make different variations of the same dish (for example, adding coconut milk to one soup but not the other). By 1:00 we had finished and it was time to feast. There was wayyyyy too much to eat, so we had the food bagged up, literally.


permalink written by  zachel on May 3, 2009 from Chiang Mai, Thailand
from the travel blog: Zack and Rachel's Asian Chronicles
tagged Cooking

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Bangkok, Thailand

There is a lot of bad press out about Bangkok being a seedy town and it is, especially around the foreigner areas, but overall I thought it was more scenic than expected.
After arriving by a combination of taxi and train from Siem Reap we had a taxi take us to Kao San road (not sure if I spelled it right) and got a hotel.
We ended up getting some mediocre Thai food at a tourist restaurant on the strip and then turned in to watch some bad movies on our tv.
In the morning we headed out to the central post office to mail some souvenirs and gifts back home. We decided to take a river taxi since it was close by the river. This was the way to go, we ended up seeing alot of great Buddhist sites from the river.
For lunch we ate at a place recommended by Lonely Planet since it was closeby the post office at Naaz restaurant which had some decent Indian food.
We wanted to back to the area of our Hotel by the river since it was so scenic. We stopped off at the Royal Palace complex and went to a Buddhist temple called Wat Pho. Here was the most massive indoor Buddha I have seen in over a year in Asia. It was a reclining Buddha that was close to 30 ft high and probably over 50 yards in length. Rachel took a couple of great pictures.

There was a time crunch and it didn't look like we were going to have time to go to the Royal Palace or the museum before they closed down for the day. Were going to be headed back to Bangkok at the end of the trip so we'll have more time to explore then. We booked a cheap flight through Air Asia for a total of $80 for the 2 of us to get to Chang Mai. The next day we woke up and got ready to depart. We're here in Chang Mai now and are really enjoying it.


permalink written by  zachel on May 1, 2009 from Bangkok, Thailand
from the travel blog: Zack and Rachel's Asian Chronicles
tagged Bangkok and Watpho

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