Thursday, December 31, 2009

Krabi, Thailand 2010

Mark, Elle, Carolynn, Michael (the Ianello's) and I jump a plane from Saigon to Bangkok then Bangkok to Krabi tomorrow--the first day of 2010. I think traveling on the first day of the new year is a sign of lucky adventures for the year ahead.

Right now, 9:43 pm, Michael and Carolynn are flipping through the overflow of Wii games we have managed to collect, Mark and Elle are bringing in the new year with sweet dreams, and I too am going to bed before the clock strikes 12 because this is usually (not always) my tradition: bringing in the year with peaceful sleep. Good night, 2009.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

One Explorer and One Hurt Back

On Christmas Eve, we planned to take a trip to the waterfalls and eat dinner while watching the sunset, but instead I spent the day in bed recovering from a back injury while Michael went out on three hour adventures, returning with food and tea to check in on me. The pictures taken below are snapshot of his adventures and a quick glance of the panoramic view from my bed.

The sunset from the slopes of Phu Si.

Michael's spiritual awakening on Phu Si, or at least that's what it looks like.

Luang Prabang, Laos

Wat Tham Phu Si

A view of the communist bridge from the summit of Phu Si.

Tourists a plenty!

The magnolia-laced climb to the temples at sunset.

Joined by many on the climb up Phu Si.

Yet another Wat (temple).

The beginning of the ascent.

I pulled a muscle in my back and couldn't move for two days, so this was my view.

I stocked up on books, medication, and ginger tea from the night market to ease the pain. Thankfully, Michael brought me street food and goodies from JoMa. I was so thankful he took care of me and was able to have an adventure of his own. Thanks, Michael. I always think you're the best, but on this trip, you outdid yourself.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Luang Prabang-Happiness

Happiness is not achieved by the conscious pursuit of happiness; it is generally the by-product of other activities.
-Aldous Huxley, Vedanta for the Western World, 1945

Th Sisavangvong street life in Luang Prabang. I loved moving down the street and hearing at least six different languages.

For the sunshine, not the rain. I wanted to bring them all home with me.

Artists and vendors setting up for the night market. There were so many beautiful journals, slippers, blankets, lanterns, and so much jewelry to purchase! Consumer Heaven and Crafter's Delight.

The street food in Luang Prabang is unbelievable--every bite is better than the last.

I liked the contrast of the greens, brown basket, and red shirt. Fresh salad!

Pak Ou caves--Buddhist statues line the walls of the dimly lit caves. We needed a flashlight, kindly sold to us for a small price, to explore the dark corners, but there were only more statues and a few spiders to be found.

The view from the stairs at the Pak Ou caves.

The boat trip to Pak Ou was enjoyable for the first hour, the four remaining hours were a like a slow death or a fist to the head, your choice.

Good Luck for the New Year!

Ban Xan Hai or "Whiskey Village" is a tourist stop on the way to the caves of Pak Ou. Rice wine, lao-lao, is served once you step off the boat--warms the cockles of my heart.

The shore of the Mekong River with some cute kids bouncing on the branches.

Our luxurious ride on the Mekong River--all bundled up.

Karinna is ready for an adventure and Michael is showing his thug face. He's a tough man.

A bridge, a river, a garden and me. Oh, and some sunglasses from Forever 21.

This picture captures my love for Luang Prabang: cafe's and monks! Orange is also one of my favorite colors. Whenever I wear orange, I feel powerful. I wonder if the monks feel the same way?

JoMa's Bakery made me smile all week long.

We like to have at least at least three or more drinks on the table in one sitting. I was on a soda water and lemon juice kick.

A view from the old communist bridge.

We dared to cross the old communist bridge, and won.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Luang Prabang, Laos

We arrived in Luang Prabang on December 19th and it was truly a comedy of errors--comes in three--but we still had a wonderful time in spite of the emotional and physical upheaval.

The best part of traveling in Luang Prabang is walking the streets, up and down staircases, and finding yourself in the middle of an alley way lined with bookstores and cafes. There are beautiful villas, French restaurants lit by the natural sunlight peaking through the doorway and candles on every table. I was only able to enjoy a few adventures until I was instructed to "stay in bed and not move," of course; I'm very bad at following rules. I danced around the room a little bit, but by dancing I mean shuffling my feet back and forth with my new slippers and jewelry on. You see, there's an enchanting night market where you can buy beautiful quilt coverings, bags, t-shirts, lanterns, and my greatest weakness, silver jewelry for cheap cheap.

We shopped and walked for three days: eating, talking, and playing cards. On the fourth day of our vacation, Michael and I took a boat trip to visit a cave, which took about ten minutes, and the freezing boat trip where your nose and fingers are about to be severed from your hands, was about four hours long. I think this is what caused my back injury, or maybe it's my age. I'm not sure, but when I woke up the next day I couldn't move and could barely breathe. Laughing and sneezing were the worst feelings in the world rather than the quasi-orgasmic experiences they're supposed to be. As a result, I remained in bed listening to four podcasts of This American Life and reading The Gunslinger. I've never read a Stephen King book before because embarrassingly, I've been one of those people in the, "Oh, I would never read Stephen King" camp even though I have read Dan Brown on a plane trip before. For Shame! The Gunslinger: thrilling, thoughtful, great for teenage readers (I wanted my students to read it right away), and you can tell that Stephen King loves his story as much as you, the reader, do. My back was in intense pain, but at least my mind was happy.

I have much more to say about the beautiful land of Luang Prabang: the people, the food, the sights, the sounds...and many pictures to share. This really was, oddly enough, one of my favorite trips for many reasons but the one thing that I'm miss the most right now is the candy cane mocha from Jo Ma's. I love this bakery/eatery, and I'm sure anyone who has visited Luang Prabang has praise to shower on Jo Ma's. If I could only remove the cranky, waddling, gray-bouffant-haired westerner who manages the place (more on her later), Jo Ma's would be a slice of paradise.

Michael's parents arrive tomorrow night, so we're on a polish and organize mission in between nap and Wii breaks. Enjoy your break, if you are lucky enough to have one, and if not, make sure you waste a great deal of time on Facebook at the office. You deserve it.


Friday, December 18, 2009

Twinkle Tour

Ho Chi Minh City glows florescent during the holidays, and many people park their motorbikes for fantastically kitsch photo opts. Pam and I went into the city last night to witness the revelry and grab a bite to eat. Here's what we saw...

This picture isn't as clear as I would like it to be, but if you look closely, you can see a Vietnamese flag in the background. Viet Nam played Malaysia (in soccer, of course) last night and was picked for the favorite. They lost (sad saps), but the crowds still waved the flag all night long.

I leaned out into the street to snap this shot--woman vs. the wild.

Christmas in front of the Sheraton Hotel.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Two Of My Favoirte Things

Michael and the Roach...

The other night Michael captured a cockroach under a coffee cup with a magazine. I stood behind the balcony and shrieked until Michael made me face my fears, pick up the man-made trap, and gently usher the roach down seven stories. I did it! Goodbye, fearless roach.

The walk to school is under construction, which means there are angry, loud trucks and frustrated taxi drivers every square inch. But, my favorite sight can still be seen on the side of the roads. Today, on my way to work, I captured one of the many street sweepers who cleans and endless amount of debris from the overworked streets in Phu My Hung.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Christmas in Nam

"Let it snow" is pasted on school windows and shop windows all over the city, and if there's one thing we're not getting for Christmas, no matter how much we pray to Santa, it's snow.

I'm not sure life gets much better than this. Happy Holidays, everyone!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Vietnamese: Who Mattered Most In Asia in 2009

Yeah, these guys are pretty good, but I think they forgot to place me on the list.

Big things happened on the world's fastest moving continent in 2009 -- boasting big people behind them. From art to politics to adorable military fashions, the pace and magnitude of Asia's growth and change has been dizzying, led by the men and women (and children) we've compiled below.

Vo Trong Nghia bamboo design
Vo Trong Nghia: Bamboo architect (Vietnam)

Vo Trong Nghia is building himself an enviable reputation. And he’s doing it with bamboo. A pioneer in green architecture, Vo Trong Nghia designs modern buildings with a traditional Vietnamese twist. His innovations, such as a culture centre shaped like a bird’s wing and a central pond for natural cooling, are sustainable, affordable and inspiring. In 2009, the architect took home two prizes at the prestigious International Architecture Awards in Helsinki.

Travels 2009-2010

There are so many cheap and wonderful places to travel in SE Asia. Last year, Michael and I walked all over the world and plan on doing the same this year. Here is our itinerary for 2009-2010.

1. September: Hong Kong(karinna)
2. September: Mui Ne, Vietnam(karinna and michael)
3. October: Bali, Indonesia (karinna and michael)
4. November: Hoi An, Vietnam(karinna, michael, kris, betsy)
5. December: Luang Prabang, Laos (karinna and michael)
6. December: Krabi, Thailand (mark, elle, carolynn, michael, karinna)
7. February: Bangkok, Thailand (megan, dan, michael,karinna)
8. March: Beijing, China (IB Training)
9. March: Spring Break—No plans yet, but maybe, India!
10. April: Siem Reap, Cambodia (ambika, karinna, michael)
11. May: Mui Ne, Vietnam(karinna and michael)

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Soon Enough

Two more days until we board the plane and wave goodbye, for two months, to memories of exploding elbows, glass in the feet, food poisoning, taxi cabs, friendly smiles, wonderful coffee, our luxurious apartment, and new friends. It’s been quite a year, Saigon. I’ll be on the coasts of the USA, but will be back soon to kiss your hot steamy lips once again. Soon, soon enough.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Beach Time!

This weekend 18 ladies from Saigon South International School will be traveling to Mui Ne by train for some much needed beach time. We have a little over three weeks left of school, so we're finishing up final projects, entering grades and writing finals. I've been to Mui Ne two times this year, this is my third, and every time I've loved walking down the white, sandy beach, getting a massage and eating the fine food. A hedonist, I am. Hedonism aside, we'll focus on yoga this trip. My yoga teacher from Saigon Yoga is coming with us to Mui Ne and teaching three classes over the two days. Here's to sand and sweat--cheers!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Birthday in Bangkok

I celebrated my birthday in Bangkok, Thailand this year with my boyfriend, Michael and good friends, Dyana and Joanne. We ate street Pad Thai every day, to the point where I don’t think I’ll need the mouthwatering goodness of grease, noodles, tofu, sprinkled with peanuts for a few months or at least a few days.

Most of our hours were spent walking around in the mind bending heat, shopping and visiting. Dyana and I took the ferry boat to the Grand Palace and Emerald Buddha where we sat in silence, reflecting on our past year and future health for our friends and selves. Joanne accomplished a great deal of her shopping goals, and Michael searched for schools to attend in Bangkok. At night, we all sat by the road side listening to live music, drinking gin and tonics. A successful adventure!

Our final destination was Bumrungrad International Hospital. Because our Insurance covers a full medical check-up, Dyana, Joanne and I made our way through the stations of a five star hotel masquerading as a hospital. Take picture, sign name, fill out form, move past the Star Bucks/bookstore, up the escalator, flat screen televisions hanging on the wall, glass windows, plush couches, wellness center… The doctors x-rayed, took blood, checked our eyes, pinched and prodded us. After four hours of experiencing medical care as a well oiled machine, a doctor sat down with me and explained that I am in very good health. She said I needed to exercise more often, which is why I’ve been doing yoga every day, but other than that, I have the heart of a horse. We all compared notes. Joanne said she had care like that of Bumrungrad in China, but Canadian Dyana and U.S.A. I agreed that we’d never seen care of this caliber. Until next time, Bangkok!

Dyana and Karinna at the Grand Palace. Boat Stop #9

Joanne listening to music, thinking about China.

Lady Perched, waiting. Just waiting.

Patriotic sky outside Koh San Road

More Temple, Yum.

Midnight, my birthday. I am now an adult. It took a long time.