Sunday, March 25, 2012

Angkor Wat- Siem Reap, Cambodia

Cambodia was such a cool country to visit.  My mom came with me and stayed for a few nights before heading back to the states. Unfortunately she got really really sick towards the end of her visit and had to have a doctor come see her in the guesthouse! Coming home from Angkor Wat to find my mom hooked up to an IV was more than traumatic but at least she’s healed up now and still says she had a good time with me.

 I was only in Cambodia for around nine days and each day was filled with temple visits and classes but I still had time to shop at the night market and visit the landmine museum (it was a really interesting and informative visit- you should research landmines, it is still a very serious problem but with donations we could become a landmine free world!!!). Academically, one of my favorite professors from UPS came out to Cambodia to teach us while we were there. I was really glad I got to take one more class from him before graduating. 

It is hard to explain the majesty that is Angkor Wat. Some temples have trees growing out from them, others have monkeys trolling around- they just seem so magical. Something that is so old yet still so preserved. My favorite part was looking at the bas reliefs at the main Angkor Wat temple, we had been studying them for class but seeing them first hand was incredible. The detail and craftsmanship was amazing.  On another field trip we hiked up to a river with a thousand lingas- Lingas are a symbol for the Hindu God Shiva- they can help with fertility and such things they look like an erect penis. If I had to count how many times I’ve touched or been near an object that is supposed to help with fertility and baby making throughout my time in Asia it would be like 10!!! All I’m saying is that I’m probably pretty darn fertile now so watch out world! 

One of the coolest things we did in Cambodia was go to a private traditional Cambodian shadow puppet show. It was so cool!!! They performed an excerpt from the Ramayana (extremely famous Indian story) we studied the story in my Art History class. I’ve never seen anything like it. It was outside and it had candles on the ground leading you all the way down to a huge white screen that had a rower fire behind it. We sat on the ground with the band right next to us. The shadow puppets were really big and the guys danced all around with them. Afterwards we got to try for ourselves- they were really heavy. Also as a treat we made smores using the shadow puppet fire in the back- it was slightly dangerous but delicious. 

Cambodia is definitely on my list of countries that I would like to return to but up next was INDIA!!!! A dream come true- I’ve wanted to go there since I was a little girl. Stayed tuned for my adventures from India! 

Oh yes, while in Cambodia I got a foot treatment where you stick your feet in a tank with fish that eat off your dead skin- it was terrifying!!!


Thursday, March 8, 2012

La la la la Laos

My mom and I arrived in Laos and my mom was instantly in love. I thought Laos was beautiful and kept hearing that Laos is like what Thailand used to be ten years ago. For some reason while I was in Laos I felt more self-conscious about being a tourist. It was an interesting time for me but I still had a really fun time with my mom. Here are some stories from our time in Laos. 


My mom had a very interesting proposition one day while exploring the village across the bridge. She and I had been sitting watching the sunset, drinking beerlao (our new and favorite beer) when she was approached by an older gentleman. She and I were about to leave and cross back over the bridge to find some dinner when this older man comes over and asks if I am her daughter. My mom says “Yes, this is my daughter.” The old man smiles and then asks “Would you like a son?” My mom and I looked at each other not quite understanding the question. He continued, “Yeah, a son for a daughter?” It dawned on us that this old man was on the prowl. He explains that his son would make a great husband and can speak four different languages. He smiled a toothless smile and put his arm around saying “daughter!” He then looks at my mom and says that if she brings me back here tomorrow morning that he’ll pay the bridge toll so that I can cross and meet my future husband. We told him that we had to think about it. Believe it or not we never did make it back to the bridge the next day and I can’t help but think, what if?

Paper Making Village


While in Laos my mom and I did some good, wholesome elephant tourism (yes I am being facetious- I took a whole class on animal tourism and the ethics behind it, so I’m aware of the questionability of paying money to ride a wild animal but it was still super fun).  Besides the many memories and the lingering smell of elephant, my mom and I were also left with over 200 horrible photos of us riding the elephant. Now when I say bad photos, I mean BAD photos. Out of the 200 only 10 were useable for facebook profile pics or for a frame later. The nice lad who carried our cameras and followed us around to capture all the excitement of the elephant riding had extremely good timing for snapping a shot every time I made a face or my mom blinked. It was an uncanny ability that he had. Half way through our ride I was invited to leave the safety of the enclosed bench atop the elephant and slide down to straddle the elephant’s neck. I gently placed my legs behind her ears and she not so gently slapped her ears against my legs, she continued to do this the rest of the ride, I liked to think of it as her high five of friendship. By the end my mother and I felt fully communed with the elephant and my mom told me it brought back memories from her circus days. Need I say more?!

A decent elephant photo

A romantic sunset cruise was one of our last mother-daughter activities in Laos. It was just her and I and our very own boat driver. He took us down the Mekong River and on the way back we watched the sunset. The waves were hypnotic and the sun was warm against our faces. It was so romantic that we even held hands a little bit. My mom and I finished our time in Laos by shopping to our hearts content at the night market.

Romantic sunset cruise

Below you can see us in our matching Beerlao t-shirts (perhaps my most favorite purchase!)  and yes we wore these at the same time and totally looked like awesome tourist- our coolness is indescribable.

Beerlao for life!


Friday, March 2, 2012

The Land of Modern Merry Monks: Thailand

After our few nights in Hong Kong my mom and I made our way to Bangkok, Thailand to begin our winter vacation! We spent three nights in Bangkok and enjoyed our very first away from home Christmas there. It was a low key affair exemplified by our use of a chair as our Christmas tree. But my mom surprised me by bringing my very special (had it my whole life) Christmas stocking all the way from home to Thailand. And to top it off it was stuffed full of goodies! We explored the city the next day and ventured to the train station. We spent a few hours in an internet cafĂ© skyping home to my Brothers- they were enjoying Christmas by themselves at my mom’s house. They seemed to be having a good time eating lasagna and only fought over what to watch on TV. Needless to say I missed my brothers and dad on Christmas very much but I was very thankful to have my mom there with me. It was a new adventure and perhaps a new tradition. (Christmas in a new country every year, what do you say mom?!) We went to temples and drank cocktails- overall a fantastic Christmas and stay in Bangkok. Our next move was an overnight train from Bangkok to Chiangmai.

Bangkok, Thailand

Our overnight train was a smooth ride that included an art project (we drew pictures of each other), Zoolander, and a disgusting meal consisting solely of mushrooms (my mom was a cham for eating most of it). We got picked up from the train station and taken to our very sweet guest house which was within the city walls making it super easy to walk everywhere. Now let me say, Chiangmai is awesome- maybe one of my most favorite places that I have been to on this trip. The food is delicious and affordable, the people are sweet and helpful, and there are tons of crafts and goods to buy, and temples upon temples to explore. Although it was a vacation for the both of us we did not do much resting. It seems that we spent most of our days walking to different temples, taking pictures, and stopping to eat. This sounds relaxing and it was but we walked ALL over that city. 

Our self portraits of each other.... I look like a transvestite
One of our favorite stops was at a little temple at the end of a dead-end road. There we met some modern and merry monks. My mom being the friendly gal that she is gave one of the monks a warm smile and said ‘happy new year.’ The monk looked at us and finally said ‘Happy New year, where are you from?’ ‘We are from America,’ we said. The monk continued to sweep the leaves away and we continued to look around. We went inside and sat for a while as we were leaving another monk approached us and started asking us questions. Our conversation soon became a 20 minute talk- it turns out this monk was from Bangladesh and was my age only a few weeks older. He had the sweetest smile : ) After a while this older man joined our conversation and told us that he was good friends with the head Monk and was a teacher at a school nearby. For some reason he seemed to be very taken with me and offered me a job to come teach English at his school. I gave him my information and told him that this was for professional use NOT personal. The Modern Merry monk thought this was very funny. As e-mails were being exchanged my mom and I asked the monk if he had a facebook. He said, ‘Of course!’ I was very surprised by this fact but it turns out A LOT of monks are on facebook. I guess we had been standing there for a long enough period for the head monk to notice so he ordered the younger monks to bring us a drink-it was a little box of soy milk. As we were leaving the head monk gave my mom a little talk about giving up perfection and finding a meditation center. My mom and I think it was a cosmic encounter and still chat with our friendly modern monks on facebook.

We headed back to our guest house to prepare for our New Years Eve celebration. We went home a different way and found a few new cool temples with New Years offerings and one with a loud speaker describing the dharma at top volume. It was all magical and lovely until I got us lost. Oops, I was totally confident that I knew where we were going but alas- I did not. We did eventual make it home and had ourselves a tasty Thai dinner. At this point in our vacation I had become addicted to banana and coconut shakes!!!! SOOOOOO GOOD!!! So to celebrate the New Year I partook in the nectar that is a banana-coconut shake. A few days pervious I found out that one of the girls from my trip, Annin and her family were going to be in Chiangmai for New Years. Annin’s family is from Eugene so we were all excited at the prospect of spending it together- getting together the whole Eugene clan. Sadly, Annin and I had never fully connected and did not make any formal plans. So after our New Years Eve dinner, my mom and I headed back towards our guest house. We were rounding the corner when low and behold there was Annin and her whole family sitting at the bar just two doors down from our guest house! It turns out they had been staying right across the street from us the whole time! We drank cheap drinks, wore silly New Years hat, let off very illegal looking fireworks, and rang in the New Years- Eugene style!

The Eugene Crew

New Year offerings
Another highlight that my mom and I had while in Chiangmai was our all-day Thai cooking Class. I have to give her props because it was all her idea- so good choice mom! It was run through by a sweet couple-a Belgium woman and a Thai man. It was a great set-up, a visit to a local market, a drive through the country, then the rest of the day cooking at their organic farm. Since it was around new years they were very booked up so initially only one us was going to get to cook. As luck would have it someone dropped out and both my mom and I were able to cook delicious Thai food. We were in a special group were there was only seven of us instead of a normal sized class of fifteen. Two of the girls in our class were from the JET program, two ladies were on vacation from China, and our last member was a woman who taught IB art in Malaysia. She invited me to stay with her and family any time I was in Malaysia- a good connection I think so! While on the farm we all wore red aprons and had to wear big straw hats while in the garden. It was pretty funny seeing so many different people all in this same silly uniform. Our cooking teacher/ the owner led us around the garden showing us the different ingredient that grew on their farm- thai basil and lemon grass, just to name a few. We spent the whole day learning to cook; soups, curries, sweet and sour tofu, pad thai, and mango sticky rice. We now each have a cook book full of tasty Thai recipes and I anticipate cooking each recipe this summer!

Next top Chef

I loved Thailand and without a doubt I am coming back. But my mom and I’s vacation was not over, not even close because we were off to Laos!