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Zack and Rachel's Asian Chronicles

a travel blog by zachel

Hello everyone. This blog is meant for our friends and concerned family members who would like to keep track of our adventures in the Orient. We'll be updating our journey with blog entries and pictures periodically to show an idea of how our trip is going.

Coincidentally and luckily, both of our last days at Avalon English Academy fell on February 27th. After an amazing year in Korea, we sent most of our possessions on a slow boat to America while we ourselves took a slow boat to China. Forgoing the conventional form of transportation, we decided to save a little money and take the overnight Weidong ferry from Incheon, Korea to Qingdao, China, our first stop.

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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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Krabi, Thailand

permalink written by  zachel on May 15, 2009 from Krabi, Thailand
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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
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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
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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
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Bangkok, Thailand

permalink written by  zachel on June 2, 2009 from Bangkok, Thailand
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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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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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