Adventures in Asia

by Greg & Francie

Ten of my favorite places on the trip

It was pretty hard to come up with this kind of list but I managed to squeeze it into my busy schedule.  There were definitely other wonderful places (Mae Salong-Thailand, Meung Ngoi-Laos, LiJiang-China) that just barely missed out on the list.

How many years would it have taken to discover all these places if we hadn’t went traveling for so long?

Here they are in chronological order (with a corresponding picture or two):

Koh Jam (Jum), Thailand-This island near Krabi doesn’t have full time electricity and is better off without it.  Great food and an amazing stretch of beach…think ‘quiet time’.

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Koh Jum sunset

Hongsa, Laos-It takes a while to get to dusty Hongsa and there isn’t a lot to do when you get there.  However, it is incredibly peaceful and you can ride an elephant along trails.

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Luang Prabang, Laos-Former colonial town that is a lot of fun to hang out in. Everyone in E Asia passes through Laos eventually.

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Kalaw, Myanmar-Off the beaten track in Burma where you can do hiking or just relax in the hill country.  One of the best bars in Asia (Hi Snack and Drink).  Great Nepali food.

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Hong Kong, China-Absolutely beautiful yet gritty.  Incredible food and excellent shopping.  One of my top 5 cities in the world. 

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Songpan, ChinaOne of the few small towns in China.  Horse trek in the gorgeous Sichuan Province and rest up afterwards at the fun tea houses.

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Wolong, ChinaFreaking Pandas man!  Everyone loves Pandas! 

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One year old Panda

Francie, shifu Wong and shuo yi

Outside of Lhasa, Tibet-Definitely in the running for most stunningly beautiful place on earth. 

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Gili Trawangan (Lombok), Indonesia-Incredible atmosphere with no cars on the small, beautiful island.  Incredible snorkeling right off the beach and a vibrant nightlife.

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Kaikoura, New ZealandThe beautiful coast and unbelievable plush hills were actually remarkable topped off with a small town and lots of seafood.  Seals, whales, dolphins and sheep–oh my!

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November 7, 2007 Posted by | Beach, burma, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, New Zealand, SE Asia, Sichuan, Thailand, Tibet, Travel, Wolong | 11 Comments

Francie’s last set of photos

Francie just got her last set of photos developed and I think they are really fantastic (but maybe I am biased).  It includes pictures from Tibet, Bangkok, Indonesia, and New Zealand.  Below is a subset of the pictures or click here to see all of them. 

Boy in Tibet. He brought the horses on Francie’s horse trek.
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I like to call this one ‘Baby with tin can’. Tibet
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This woman was trying out the binoculars. Unfortunately, we think she was trying to focus on the rock a few feet away from her (at the right of the pic).
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Man prostrating himself in the Barkhor in Tibet.
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Kids taking care of business in Lhasa.
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We think this munchkin was in Bangkok. Francie loves the dogs and they love her.
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Three year old elephant in Ayutthaya, Thailand. While you may not love the fact that he is being taught tricks, keep in mind that his previous job was/would have been in the lumber industry (Thailand ‘freed’ all the elephants from doing manual labor). Regardless, it is a pretty damn cute picture.
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Gili Islands (Lombok), Indonesia
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This is definitely the best picture we have of Rinjani. We are standing on the volcano’s outer cone looking down on the inner volcanic cone.
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Francie and I at the Rinjani Volcano.
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These two pictures are of the large Dusky Dolphin pod (at least 200 dolphins) that showed up when we were whale watching.
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We still have a few Burma and China videos to post.  Does anyone know some good software that rotates MOV videos (I was holding the camera sideways).

November 4, 2007 Posted by | Bangkok, Beach, China, Indonesia, Nature, New Zealand, Photography, Rural, Thailand, Tibet, Travel, Wildlife | 4 Comments

The 5 pound Lobster

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Holy shellfish.  Right before we left the islands in Indonesia, Greg, Randall, and I decided to finish with a bang and ordered this 5 pound lobster at the local seafood restaurant on Gili Trawangan.  Definitely the biggest one I’ve ever seen (in person). It was plenty to feed 3.

Mmmmm…. Delicious.

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October 13, 2007 Posted by | Indonesia, SE Asia, Travel | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Climbing Gunung Rinjani

September 30th – October 2nd 2007, Greg, Randall, and I climbed up the Rim, down the crater, then up the opposite Rim of the active volcano Rinjani in Lombok, Indonesia. The last eruption was 2004!

Practical info: We arranged the trek through Lightning Fast internet cafe on Gili Trawangan in Lombok. We paid 725,000 Rs a piece and this included transport to and from Rinjani, all meals and equipment (except clothing), and porter and guide for 3 days and two nights. From talking to some other travellers on the trail, this appears to be a really good price.

Day 1: We started the trek in the town of Sembalun, which is actually the opposite of most treks – usually you start in Senaru. We did it backwards so that we could arrive in Senaru early enough on the 3rd day to get back to Gili Trawangan that evening. It took us about 5.5 brutal hours of steep climbing to get to the first camp, just below the crater rim. A couple hours in we passed some other hikers who told us how tired they were and informed us that we still had “a REALLY LONG way to go”. Thanks! I really wish they hadn’t said that.

We have a long ways to go:
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Day 2: We could have woken up at 3am the next morning and climbed in the dark to the summit (the highest point on the crater rim) to watch the sun rise. That didn’t happen… instead Randall and I were woken up by our guides at 6am and we stumbled out of the tent and proceeded to hike for 1 hour on a very steep gravel trail in a delirious state to get to the crater rim. Greg stayed behind in the sleeping bag; what a smart man.

We were greeted by this troublemaker when we returned to camp. He stole part of my breakfast and a container of margarine! Just look at the evil gleam in his eyes:
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This is a view of the crater, the lake, and the smaller cone on the morning of day 2:
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You can see from this photo how steep the rim walls are. That is why my legs were severely sore (mostly from the downhill) for 3 full days after we finished the hike.

After eating breakfast under duress (i.e. threat of monkey invasion), we hiked down the crater to the lake and the nearby hot springs. We spent about 3 hours there hanging out. The hot springs were excellent and felt great. The only disappointing thing about the otherwise idyllic spot was the profusion of garbage all over the area, some of which appears to have been deposited there by travelers, not Indonesians. I think it’s really sad that people who should know better and who have every advantage of a thorough environmental education would choose to litter in a National park. Shame on you.

Here is the lakeside view, with Greg the explorer:
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A shot of the hotsprings, from above:
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Our lunch break was long enough for some of us to take naps:
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Following our leisurely break was a brutal 3+ hour scaling of the opposite crater rim and then a 45 minute steep decent to get to camp.

Day 3: The hike from the second rim down to the town of Senaru (our endpoint), was through some totally different scenery and foliage than the way up, which was mostly grasslands. It was jungly, more lush and green, and more humid:
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We saw some more Macaques (the trouble maker monkeys) and also a few of the rare Silvered Leaf monkeys (which are actually black) from a distance. The trail wasn’t quite as steep as the one on the opposite side. My legs were already so sore that I resorted to taking a Vicodin about halfway down. It served the double purpose of both taking away the pain and making me feel like a sparkling individual!

We arrived back in Senaru around 12:30 or so and were back on the beach at Gili Trawangan by 4pm.

The trek was amazing and beautiful, but the feature of it that stands out most in my mind at the moment (probably because today is the first day I haven’t been in pain) is what a physical beatdown it was. The trail was either very steep uphill or very steep downhill without much in between. It makes it all the more impressive that the guides and porters do this hike carrying about 60 pounds each, packed into baskets hung onto the ends of a larger bamboo stick, which they balance on their shoulder. Wow.

Another awesome hiking adventure. Hopefully we’ll have some more during our 10 days in New Zealand, starting Oct. 9th. 🙂

October 6, 2007 Posted by | Indonesia, Photography, Rural, SE Asia, Travel, Wildlife | 3 Comments

Randall-tastic

As you know our friend Randall has been travelling with us these last few weeks in Bangkok and then Indonesia.  Say hello to Randall!

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Randall is an old friend of Greg’s and I didn’t know him too well before he came to meet up with us.  Since then I’ve gotten to know him and learned what an interesting guy he is (as well as a good travel companion).   One of the benefits of globe-trotting with Randall is that he is very sociable and does all the work of befriending locals and other travellers.  All Greg and I have to do to feel like we’re hanging out with a bunch of buddies is just show up at the bar!  Awesome.   He is also a trooper under duress.  Our recent beatdown trek at Mt. Rinjani could have ended in disaster if he had turned out to be a whiner or a big baby.

Another interesting fact that I’ve learned is that Randall has a special connection with monkeys, as you can see from these two photos:

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And finally, here is a shot for the ladies:

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Yay for Randall!

October 4, 2007 Posted by | Indonesia, Misc, SE Asia, Travel | , , | 1 Comment

100 Pound Tuna

Some fishermen caught this huge yellowtail tuna north of the island today (Gili Trawangan).  Yum,  sushi.

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They quickly sliced it up to sell to various bbq fish places around the island.
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October 4, 2007 Posted by | Indonesia, Travel | 1 Comment

Mojitos and Snorkeling

That is all we do all day long…

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Don’t hate us…

October 4, 2007 Posted by | Indonesia, Travel | 1 Comment

Still hanging out in paradise

Two more days before we head back to Bali and then onward to New Zealand.

Gili Trawangan was particularly beautiful today. Here are some more pictures that Francie and I took.

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October 4, 2007 Posted by | Indonesia, Travel | 2 Comments

Gili Trawangan Kids

No.  Not those kinds of kids but kid goats.  There are a number of small goats that roam the island and look for scraps.  My nephew (Jack) and niece (Rayann) show goats in Texas (they are 13 and 12 years old).  My niece is showing a goat in the State Fair of Texas this week.  Good luck Rayann!

I think these little goats have really unusual markings.

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They also like to hop and skip around a lot.
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October 4, 2007 Posted by | Indonesia, Pets, Travel | 2 Comments

News flash: Francie attempts to throw Greg into a Volcano

Using all of her physical reserves, Francie tried to throw Greg into the volcanic cone of Mount Rinjani last Monday.  However she ultimately failed because the cone is 2 miles away and her strength was not enough. 

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Leading up to this climactic event were a series of altercations brought on by the 24-hour a day close proximity that her and Greg have been in for the last 9 months.  Examples of the escalating disagreements between the two travellers include; where to eat breakfast, whether to lie on the beach in the sand or the shade, and which brand of drinking water to purchase. Thankfully the incident did not end in tragedy, and the married couple reports that they have since resolved their differences.

October 2, 2007 Posted by | Indonesia, Travel | , , , , | 4 Comments