October 28, 2013

Vietnam: The Good, The Bad, The "Are You Effing Kidding Me?!?!"

Now it's time for the Vietnam version of 'The Good, The Bad, The "Are You Effing Kidding Me?!?!" But, like before, when we reviewed India, Burma, and Cambodia, we'll start with "The Bad," then move on to "The 'Are You Effing Kidding Me?!?!'" and end with "The Good."

October 7, 2013

Vietnam, Revisited

If you want to catch up on our Vietnam posts before you read our wrap ups, click through for: Ho Chi Minh CitySteph's 30th Birthday in Lang CoHuếHoi AnPhong NhaHalong Bay & Cat Ba IslandHanoiBags of Cats, and Gourmet Vietnamese Recipes.

When I think about our time in Vietnam (now almost 6 months ago!), I get the immediate itch to go back. Along with India and one other place (stay tuned), it's the place we talk about the most now that we're home and are being asked about our trip all the time. It was a very special place for us. We absolutely loved it and are convinced that no amount of time there will ever quench our thirst for all things Vietnamese. We hope to be back in the near-ish future. I already can't wait!

In Phong Nha, Vietnam

September 28, 2013

Did You Know...

What's up bloggy people?!?!

We're back in SF! Confession: We've been back for over two weeks!

Don't worry, we still have a ton of travel updates to share with you and those will be coming soon, we (kind of) promise. We also have a lot to tell you about what it's been like to return, what our lives are like now, and what's on the horizon.

In the meantime, all of the pics from our trip (at least the international parts) are uploaded! Did you know that you can view them at any time from our blog?

Just click on the Pics link in the menu bar on any page of the blog.

From there, you'll be taken to a page with links to all of our trip photos.

Just click on any photo or description and you'll be taken to our Flickr page with all of our albums. So, even though we haven't written yet about Laos, Australia, Malaysia, Singapore, South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, or Zimbabwe...you can still check out our photos.

We hope you'll keep reading our updates and, in the mean time, check out our photos.

See you soon with our wrap-ups about Vietnam!

September 27, 2013

Last Stop in Vietnam (Hanoi, Vietnam)

People - we LOVED Vietnam. Loved it! ADORED it! We're ready to go back. For this reason, our time in Hanoi was bittersweet because it was our last stop. The dive boat in Thailand (read here) and Vietnam were the only two places where I actually felt myself mourning for leaving. But, alas, with flights awaiting us from Bangkok to Australia and because we still wanted to visit Laos, we had to push off from Vietnam.

Chowing down on some spare ribs (I think) in Hanoi
We actually visited Hanoi twice. First, we took a train from Phong Nha (read here) to Hanoi and spent a few days enjoying the city. After that, we took a bus to the mystic Cát Bà and Ha Long Bay region (read here) before returning back to Hanoi for three more days of urban exploration.

On the train from Phong Nha to Hanoi. This guy crawled up in our bunks to take photos with us. Love the friendliness!

September 25, 2013

Ha Long Bay and Cat Ba Island, Vietnam

Don't worry...this isn't another post about bags of cats. Cát Bà is the name of the next destination we visited in Vietnam. I hope you had a chance to check out Steph's post about Phong Nha. It was definitely one of the best parts of our trip. After we left Phong Nha, we took a train up to Ha Noi and spent a few days there before bussing it to Cát Bà Island. We'll tell you more about our time in Ha Noi later, as we actually visited it twice and want to share it with you all at once.

When we decided that we were going to Vietnam, we kept reading about Ha Long Bay. Ha Long Bay (meaning "Descending Dragon Bay") is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has been a popular tourist haunt for years due to the limestone karsts jutting out of the ocean. It creates an otherworldly scene, especially if there is some mist rolling in off the ocean. It's easy to understand where the name comes from. The typical tourist thing to do is to go on a 1-3 night boat trip around the Bay. Since we had already done an overnight boat trip in India (read here), we decided to skip the overnight option and do some day trips instead. We've mentioned several times that the best choices we have made traveling were based on the advice from other travelers so, based on the pointers from other Vietnam backpackers, we decided to head to Cát Bà Island instead of the busy, touristy Ha Long Bay. Cát Bà has the same karst formations and topography as Ha Long Bay, without the mass tourism, and actually borders Ha Long Bay, so we got to see it anyway! We booked lodging at Cát Bà Homestay, which is one of the great choices we made on the trip.

Floating Fishing Village, Cát Bà Island, Vietnam (our view from a kayak)

August 14, 2013

Cold Beer and Tackling Fear (Phong Nha, Vietnam)

It's above us, below us, surrounding us. It's as if the darkness has swallowed us up whole. It seems to go on forever. The air is hollow and silent except for the sounds of our breathing and of our arms and legs softly swishing through the black water. The water is so cold that my legs cramp behind my knees. Is it possible for someone to forget how to swim? I'm worried I might. Occasionally, I reach out to clamp on to Tom's arm/hand/back/head/foot just to have a touchstone.

We're in one of the many caves in Vietnam's Phong Nha-Kẻ Bàng National Park (a UNESCO site), and I'm scared. They had told us what to expect, but I was still unprepared. I never considered myself a brave person, but here I am, swimming in the deep, black waters of a mysterious cave that I was terrified to enter. The only light comes from my headlamp and the headlamps of my companions, though I know (from backpacker tales) that they will soon ask us to turn out our torches and tread water in the apparent infinite vastness. Just the thought of it makes my heart race. I reach out again to my touchstone. That's enough for the moment and, in a quick second of calm, I am in awe of what we're experiencing.

There are only a few guesthouses in the area and the most popular one, by far, is Phong Nha Farmstay, owned by an Aussie (Ben, one of the first people to explore the region's caves) who married a local Vietnamese woman (Bich) and is staffed by fellow long-term travelers stopping off for awhile in the countryside. Later that night, when it's all over and I've survived, I tell Ben how scared I was in the cave. "That cave terrifies me," he agrees, "We don't know what's in that cave!"

Now you tell me.


July 20, 2013

Cambodia: The Good, The Bad, The "Are You Effing Kidding Me?!?!"

Have you already read our Cambodia, Revisited post? No? Well, go read that first and watch the photo slideshow. Go ahead. We'll wait for you.

Welcome back! Now, it's time for our full wrap-up of all the best and worst parts of our time in Cambodia. We call this, 'The Good, The Bad, The "Are You Effing Kidding Me?!?!" But, as usual, when we review countries, we'll start with "The Bad," then move on to "The 'Are You Effing Kidding Me?!?!'" and end with "The Good." (We're idealists, remember?)

July 4, 2013

Cambodia, Revisited

If you want to catch up on our Cambodia posts before you read our wrap ups, click through for: Siem ReapPhnom PenhKampotSihanoukville, and Chuck Norris Dim Sum.

It's bittersweet that my 15 year goal to visit Cambodia has been achieved. When I was 14, I was introduced to this country - both the beautiful and tragic parts - and it has remained close to my heart all this time. Cambodia was more than a destination to me, it was the place that started it all. It was the place that first made me interested in traveling and it was the first place about which I ever said, "I want to go there some day." And now I have!

July 3, 2013

Gourmet Vietnamese Recipes from Loose of Limits!

I think we told you how much we loved Hoi An, Vietnam. It was incredible. Beyond Hoi An, we loved all of Vietnam for a variety of reasons. Near the top of that list? We ate the.most.delicious food. You have no idea. It was amazing.

One of the best things we did in Vietnam was take a cooking class. One day, while biking to the beach, we were hungry and stopped at a random little roadside restaurant. Most of the restaurants in the region are family-owned and consist of a few tables in a sparsely decorated garage below an apartment. They mostly serve the same foods so, we considered ourselves incredibly lucky to stumble upon Red Dragon. It took ages for our food to come, but all was forgiven when we started eating. The food was incredible - a combination of old-style Vietnamese food with a modern flare. A good meal is so satisfying. It was the best meal we'd had in 8 months and we were so happy. Impulsively, we asked the chef if he would give us a cooking class and he said yes!

The next day, we made four tasty dishes and I wanted to share the recipes (and some pics) with you guys. Enjoy!

Nature's Beautiful Bounty!

June 18, 2013

If We Had a Top 10... (Hoi An, Vietnam)

If we were making a Top Ten list of our favorite stops on this trip, Hoi An, Vietnam, would definitely make the cut. (Though I don't think we ever will make a Top Ten list because it's next to impossible to rank all these amazing experiences. What makes something a favorite? Was it the best beach? The most intense? The funniest experience? The friendliest locals? Impossible. So we probably won't' do that.) As I mentioned in our post about Hue (read here), we visited Hoi An twice. The first time, we visited on a day trip with Roman while he was visiting us in Lang Co, Vietnam (read about Roman's visit to Lang Co for my 30th birthday here) After Roman left us, Tom and I decided we wanted to spend more time in Hoi An and ended up staying almost a full week.

Japanese Bridge, Hoi An

June 13, 2013

Best Birthday Card Ever!

I've been meaning to share this video with you all for awhile. My good friend, Nickie, sent me the best birthday card to Vietnam. (Read about my 30th birthday here.)

You guys, that's a talking horse with the voice of my friend, Nickie. Everyone needs one of these.

Thanks for thinking of me, Nickie! (She also sent an awesome lip balm with SPF from Hurraw. It's organic and vegan and raw and fair trade and all those hippy dippy things, and I LOVE it!)

Death by Africa (This is just a joke, Mom.)

So, as it turns out, when we casually and impulsively decided to visit Africa (read here), that we were unprepared for the amount of planning a trip like our's requires. Tom has been hard at work on an itinerary for South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Zambia for weeks now. We'll share some details about how we plan on exploring Africa in a later post. For now, I want to tell you some scary shit I've been reading. I've been reading several different guide books and have come to one very serious conclusion: Death in Africa is pretty much a sure thing. 

(Mom, That was a joke. It's safe. I promise. Kind of.)

June 12, 2013

Huế in a Day (Huế, Vietnam)

Roman, Tom, and I are quite the trio. Tom knew Roman from the first time he lived in San Francisco (about 13 years ago when I'm sure they were involved in some shenanigans I'd rather not know about) and, when we returned to SF together in 2004, I was quickly introduced to Roman. His giant personality was overwhelming to a newbie like me but, over time, I couldn't help but love Roman. This was no more evident than the time about 5 years ago when Tom told Roman that he and his cat could move into our apartment with us for a few months without consulting me. (Roman had just bought a condo in the city but needed to leave his rental before the condo was ready, so needed a place to stay.) Of course, I gave Tom a stern talking-to for springing this on me without asking but, mostly, I was excited. It was during these two months that we really became the Three Amigos, the Three Musketeers, the Three….Little Pigs? What I mean is that we perfected the art of staying in, ordering take-out, and making games out of whatever was on TV. We had so much fun together, and we were all sad to be apart when Roman moved into his new place. It was also during this time that Roman became as much of my friend as he was of Tom. So, to say that I was happy to see him when he FLEW OUT TO VIETNAM FOR MY 30TH BIRTHDAY is an understatement. I was over-the-moon! The best part about our time with Roman was that the three of us got to be together again. But another great part of his visit was that we took 2 really great day trips. The first day trip we took was to Hoi An, which was amazing! We'll write more about Hoi An later. It was so fantastic that Tom and I went back and spent almost a week there after Roman went back to the States, so we'll combine our stories and photos from both visits into one post - coming soon! Another day trip we took was to Huế (pronounced "Whay"). Huế was the capital of the Nguyen dynasty and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site full of impressive monuments, including an impressive Citadel that we toured.

June 7, 2013

My Dirty Thirty! (Lang Co, Vietnam)

You guys, I have the best friends in the world. And, beyond that, my husband is the bomb-dizzle. He's the cat's pajamas. He's the bee's knees. He's my numero uno. Seriously, you should be jealous that my husband is so fantastic. And that my friends are so amazing. Here's why.

I turned into a grown-up a few months ago. That's right, I turned 30. And, because my life is amazing right now, I turned 30 IN VIETNAM! I have to admit that I was a little down about turning 30 away from home and my friends. We make a big deal out of birthdays in my circle and both of my BFFs (also turning 30) had surprise parties for their big days. (I made special videos for them. Check out the videos I made for Ashley and Lauren.) There was a part of me that really wished I was going to be home for my 30th and showered with attention, surprises, tiaras, theme parties, and feather boas by my pals. But, of course, I was still psyched to be lucky enough to be in VIETNAM for the big day! My biggest request for my birthday was that it be a bit luxurious. I didn't want to deal with haggling over a room rate, the possibility of bed bugs, or running out of hot water mid-shampoo. We used Luxury Link to find amazing deals on high end hotels for our honeymoon three years ago. (Read about our awesome honeymoon here.) Remembering how well Luxury Link worked for us before, my awesome husband (see above) returned to the site to book a place for my birthday and settled on the Angsana Resort in Lang Co, Vietnam. (Part of the Banyan Tree brand of properties.)

Embarrassing Sneak Peek of me, the Birthday Girl

June 4, 2013

Ho Chi Minh For the Win! (Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam)

Vietnam was a place that both of us were very excited to visit and after our time there we realized we loved it and we can't wait to get back!
HCM - Yes please!
Before we got to experience anything good that Vietnam had to offer we had a 16 hour, miserable, overnight bus ride from Sihanoukville that was supposed to be 11 hours (read about our time in Sihanoukville here), we arrived in Ho Chi Minh City (HCM) exhausted. 
Sleeper bus from Sihanoukville to HCM - a rough night

May 27, 2013

Burma: The Good, The Bad, The "Are You Effing Kidding Me?!?!"

Did you read Tom's thoughts on Burma? No? Well, you should. Check them out here.

And now, our full wrap-up of all the best and worst parts of our time in Burma. We call this, 'The Good, The Bad, The "Are You Effing Kidding Me?!?!" But, like last time, when we reviewed India, we'll start with "The Bad," then move on to "The 'Are You Effing Kidding Me?!?!'" and end with "The Good." (We're idealists, remember?)

May 24, 2013

Sunny Sihanoukville, Cambodia

Why am I writing all the blog posts? Because Tom is the laziest blogger EVER! No - really it's because all of his computer time has been consumed with planning our African safari (read here), which is a lot of work. So I'm giving him a free pass and catching up on our travel adventures.

After our quick departure from Kampot, Cambodia (read here), we decided to head to the beach. In my opinion, any travel woes or dips in enthusiasm can be cured with a few things: 1) White sand, 2) Crystal clear water, 3) Beach massages, 4) Fresh fruit cocktails, 5) Having your husband say you look hot in a bikini. With that in mind, we hopped a bus bound for Sihanoukville, Cambodia, also known as Kampong Saom. We decided to stay on Otres Beach and found a great little beach hut.

Oh hello beautiful water!
Home Sweet Home

May 20, 2013

The Worst Blog Post Ever (Kampot, Cambodia)

Apologies in advance - this post is neither interesting nor funny. I'm just not feeling funny or interesting today. (Don't worry. Nothing's wrong, I'm just in a chilled out mood and having difficulty channeling my inner Tina Fey.) I hope you'll just 'ooh' and 'aah' over a few of the pictures and tune back in when we post again with what I'm sure will be a riveting piece about street meat or traveler's diarrhea. With that said...Ladies and Gentleman....Kampot, Cambodia.

One of the craziest things about traveling like this is that we can get excellent recommendations on some places and we visit but are less-than-impressed. And you realize that your judgement is completely dependent on your personal experiences. And sometimes, afterwards, you realize that, if you'd done things differently, you would have enjoyed a place. This is what happened to us with Kampot, Cambodia. Our time there was only so-so, but we know people who have absolutely loved it there and, if we had the chance, we'd do it again, and we'd do it differently.
This is us, rolling our eyes at Kampot

May 16, 2013

Burma, Revisited

If you want to catch up on our Burma posts before you read our wrap ups, click for Yangon, Mandalay, Kyaukme, Bagan and Inle Lake.

When Steph and I planned on traveling in SE Asia we both wanted to go to Burma. When I travelled there 10 years ago (see previous post here) it was one of the best traveling experiences of my life so I was excited to share it with Stephanie. I was also eager to see how the political changes in the country have benefited the Burmese people, if at all. I was pretty skeptical that the announced political changes recently would have much of an impact on the country's people, but once we arrived, I was happily proved wrong. There was a noticeable difference in the openness of the people. When we checked into our guest house in Yangon there were posters, calendars and even a clock of "The Lady" (Aung San Suu Kyi) everywhere. I also immediately noticed how the people seemed a lot more relaxed and at ease. There were people hanging out on the streets, chatting with storekeepers, and children playing soccer. Years ago, people who were seen by the police (or undercover military) in groups were viewed as suspicious, so things were very quiet on the streets and there was an eerie feeling of secrecy. Thankfully, one thing that hasn't changed is that the people of Burma are still the kindest people I have ever encountered in my life. Over and over, we were greeted warmly, hugged, and invited into the homes of the people we met. To be honest, it was overwhelming at times. (Steph was even moved to tears a few times because, as Westerners, we're just not used to this kind of kindness with no strings attached.)

Peasant woman in Bagan

Novice Nuns outside Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon
Dave, Kate, and Steph at dinner in Bagan
Steph's favorite kid outside Kyaukme

May 14, 2013

Big News! Change Of Plans! We're Loose Of Limits!

So, big news people. BIG NEWS!

Want a clue? Click play for the perfect soundtrack to this post. (Just press play and listen to it while you read. As always, email blog subscribers, the video won't show up in your feed. You'll need to visit the blog and click play.)


(PS - I already told BFF Lauren that we were going to Africa and the first thing she said is that she wants Tom to hold me up into the air while we stand on the edge of a cliff, a la Simba and Rafiki. I have the weirdest and best friends.)

May 7, 2013

Cambodia's Killing Fields (Phnom Penh, Cambodia)

I mentioned in this post about Siem Reap that I have cared about a family from Cambodia for the past 15 years. I don't know the exact date, but they moved to the United States after the genocide in their country and after suffering monumental loss of lives in their family. I won't tell their story - it's not mine to tell - but I will say that hearing their story when I was 14 changed how I viewed the world. Before then, I didn't know anything about Cambodia's Killing Fields and Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge army. I didn't know that this brutal regime killed over 2.5 million of their own people through execution, exhaustion, and starvation. I didn't know that such awful things could happen in the same world I lived in. But they shared parts of their story with me, and I learned about this beautiful country and the horrible history they'd survived.
At Choeung Ek Killing Field, people leave bracelets at the mass grave sites in remembrance of the 

May 6, 2013

The Post You Have Been Waiting For... (Unless Your Name is Anna L. or Pam M.)

This is the post you've been waiting for. Just admit it. This whole time, we've been posting about diving and yoga and UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and how fantastic life is, you've secretly been waiting for our WTF-This-Place-Is-Awful post, haven't you? Well, here it is, in all its bizarre glory. (Anna L. and Pam M., you probably do not want to read the rest of this post.)

May 3, 2013

Angkor! What? What? (Siem Reap, Cambodia)

I've been interested in Cambodia for almost 15 years, so finally being there was a bit surreal. There were only a few families who were ethnically different in my very white, very Christian home town. Yet, somehow, I found myself befriending the eldest son of one of those families. (Truth: He was my high school sweetheart. Shocking, right? You didn't think I had a life before Mr. Tom?) He and his family were from Cambodia (his parents, his younger brother, and 2 younger sisters), and I instantly became fascinated with their country and culture. On top of that, I fell in love with his family and they are all still important to me. (We even got to see them on our cross-country road trip before we left for India, and Tom finally got to meet them!)

But that's just the beginning of the explanation as to why visiting Cambodia was so satisfying for me. Back then, I never imagined I would be traveling the world. I'd never been on an airplane. I'd never seen the ocean (with the exception of a trip to Florida when I was 2 and didn't remember). I'd never thought much about life outside of my home town. By becoming close to this family, my world expanded. For the first time in my life, I considered someplace other than Missouri. And so, for the past 15 years, I've been anticipating a visit to Cambodia. After we finished our fantastic week of diving the Surin and Similan Islands (read here), we made our way to Siem Reap on an overnight bus from Bangkok, and my 15 year-long dream finally came true. (Side note: Crossing the border on an 11-hour bus ride from Bangkok was less-than-fun. The Thai border patrol are crazy corrupt. They created their own "Border Patrol" office with a hand-written sign that says "Cambodia Border" so that you'll use them to process your visa at an inflated price. Luckily, we are super savvy travelers and didn't fall for that bull crap.)

Angkor Wat Sneak Peek

April 29, 2013

Best Week Ever! (Surin & Similan Islands, Thailand)

My favorite part of a dive is when the descent is over, I'm perfectly buoyant and I take my first calm breath 20 meters down and look around at my underwater world for the next hour. For me, there's nothing else like it. Tom's favorite moment is when we're at the surface, excitement and expectation running high for the dive about to come. We look around, regulators in place, making eye contact with our group. "Is everyone ready?" we mentally ask. 'OK' signal is given by all, followed by a down-pointing thumb. And then the real fun begins. From the moment we got our PADI Open Water certification in November, 2010, I've been hooked. At least once a week, I dream about diving, and sometimes I'm even swimming along side whales. Tom had the genius idea for us to board a dive boat to explore Thailand's Surin and Similan Islands and - no surprise here - it turned out to be one of the best weeks of my life. We booked our trip with Similan Diving Safaris and, after our time in Koh Lanta (read here), we took a bus up to Khao Lak, boarded the Similan Explorer, and set sail!

Scuba Swains - Photo by Greg Stirton

April 27, 2013

Getting Our (Diving) Groove Back (Koh Lanta, Thailand)

One of the strange things about traveling for such a long time is that we come across certain places to where one nationality flocks. There is usually no known reason why this happens, it just does. There were the scantily-clad Russians in Goa, the hash-smoking, guitar-playing Israelis in Hampi and, when we visited Koh Lanta, Thailand, after our 3.5 weeks in Burma (wrap-up coming soon), we were surrounded by over-tanned, blonde-haired Swedes. The main reason we went to Koh Lanta was to brush up on our diving skills before we set out on a dive boat for 5 days. Koh Lanta is a very long island so while there may be a lot of people on the island, there are so many beaches that it never gets too crowded. We stayed on a quiet stretch of Koh Lanta's Long Beach at Palm Beach Bungalows and our hut was only 50 meters from the sea.

Long Beach, Koh Lanta, Thailand

April 19, 2013

Stephanie Wears Silly Hats (in Inle Lake, Burma)

Sometimes, a place just isn't as impressive in real life as it is on paper. For us, Inle Lake in Burma was one of those places. You have to hear that with a few things in mind: 
  1. We're just 2 people with opinions.
  2. We had some overcast weather while we were there, so we didn't really get the views we wanted.
  3. We didn't do our homework in reserving a boat and guide for the day and I think we could have done a lot better.
  4. No matter what we say, you have to visit Inle Lake when you go to Burma.

Before we went to Inle Lake, I was expecting to get lots of shots like this:

Beautiful Bagan, Burma

Note: This is the first batch of photos we've edited with Adobe Photoshop Lightroom. We hope you like them! (The shots were taken on our old camera, the Canon G10, and, occasionally, our Lumix TS-20 Tough.)

Bagan, an ancient city located on the Irrawaddy River, is the "must see" place in Burma for a very good reason. It's red sandstone landscape is dotted with thousands of stupas built in the 9th to 13th centuries. These stupas were built by generations of Burmese kings. If ever in Burma, you have to go there, but be aware there will probably be lots of tourists in the town and you may have to plan ahead to find good lodging at a decent price. We had a really hard time finding a place to stay and were a bit dismayed when we showed up at 8pm (after the bumpiest 6 hour bus ride ever) and were told that our hotel had lost our reservation. We tracked down an available room (a family room with 3 beds) at Eden Motel in Nyaung U (one of the 3 towns you can stay in around Bagan), but after 2 separate 6 hour bus journeys we overpaid willingly. The next few days were spent biking around the stupas, taking long lunches to avoid the blazing sun, and meeting up with Dave and Kate for dinner. While parts of the town felt crowded with tourists, the surrounding area of Bagan is so large that when you are touring the stupas for the day it can feel very quiet, and most places you can have to yourself. Steph was really excited to go to Bagan (after hearing me talk about it for 10 years) and she thinks it's just as impressive as Angkor Wat. 

April 10, 2013

We Can't Say (Pyin Oo Lwin, Burma)

After our trekking in Kyaukme, we were exhausted. (Read about it here.) We had been hiking over 6 hours a day in hot weather and had restless nights sleeping in the smokey houses of the villagers so we wanted a relaxing place to visit. We decided to go to Pyin Oo Lwin, which used to be a British hill station. They call these places "Hill Stations" because they are at higher elevations and have cooler climates. In colonial times, the Brits would spend time here when it was very hot in the rest of Burma. It turned out to be a nice, cool break for us as well. 

April 3, 2013

India: The Good, The Bad, The "Are You Effing Kidding Me?!?!"

Have you read my final thoughts on India? They're here.

And, as promised, here's our first official country wrap-up, where we'll share the best of the best, the worst of the worst, and the things we still can't reconcile in our heads. We're calling this, 'The Good, The Bad, The "Are You Effing Kidding Me?!?!" But, we'll start with "The Bad," then move on to "The 'Are You Effing Kidding Me?!?!'" and end with "The Good." You should always end things on a high note, right?

April 1, 2013

India, Revisited

When we first left India, I was in a hurry to write our wrap-up post and I've been kicking myself for not getting it done sooner. But, in hindsight, I think it was good to wait awhile to write it. The truth is that, for a month after we left Incredible India, I couldn't quite wrap my head around it. It all felt so surreal and we both struggled to decide how we felt about the vast and confusing country. 

March 30, 2013

Fancy Toys

A few weeks ago, I was riding a bicycle in Bagan, Burma, and holding our trusty Canon G10 camera (which we've had for over 4 years). A tourist man in a horse buggy was coming the opposite direction and his cane fell through the carriage to the street. He was panicked about it and, as the driver struggled to get the horses stopped, I noticed cars coming towards his cane in the street. So, I jumped off my bike to retrieve his cane. That was nice of me, right? But then I tripped over my bike and landed face down in the street, tangled in the bars and wheels of the bicycle. As I crashed down, so did our camera and the LCD screen shattered. Oops.

Back in Bangkok, we took it to a Canon store and they said it could be fixed, but that it would take FOUR WEEKS! We don't have that kind of time so, because we had been thinking about upgrading our photography equipment for quite some time, we pulled the trigger and started looking for a new toy.
Don't worry - we'll get the G10 fixed when we're back home. The camera still works.
It's just the back panel that needs replaced.
Lucky for us, our local mall in Bangkok (our friend, Jerome's, apartment sort of felt like home to us) was having a huge photography event, so we were able to try out all the newest cameras and technology from Canon, Panasonic, Sony, Polaroid, Olympus, etc... After doing research and playing around for a few days, we decided to stick with Canon and get the new Canon Rebel T3i (600D) with a 135mm lens.

The Rebel T3i is a significan jump for us in terms of price, capabilities and quality of photograph. And we're just now starting to learn the tiniest bit about photography, so bear with us. For the most part, we have no idea what we're doing and we just turn things and push buttons until we end up with a photo that doesn't burn our eyes and, hopefully, gives you a good idea of where we are and what we're seeing. So far, we're loving the camera and having a blast taking photos. It takes some work but, when we get it right, it's SO worth it!

We're hoping you see an improvement in our photos - we even picked up an additional lens (a 50mm for portraits and landscapes) and bought the Photoshop Lightroom software to start doing some photo editing. (Note: We didn't start using this camera until we arrived in Koh Lanta, Thailand, so you should hopefully see an upgrade beginning with that post and those pictures.) We also still have our Panasonic Lumix TS-20 Tough (which we LOVE) and our GoPro Hero HD2 (which we like).

So, talented friends and family (especially those of you whose photography skills make us swoon), if you have any suggestions, send them our way!

March 27, 2013

I Almost Kidnapped Several Burmese Children. But In A Nice Way. (Kyaukme, Burma)

True story.

Adorable children is one of the many reasons why our time in Kyaukme was the highlight of our time in Burma. The other reasons? Read on, Reader Friend.

We knew we wanted to spend a few days trekking while we were in Burma, but we wanted to avoid Kalaw and Hsipaw, popular backpacking routes that we've heard are crowded with hundreds of other trekkers. (Side note: When Tom was in Burma  10 years ago, he got super sick in Kalaw and couldn't go on the trek he had planned, so we were hoping to avoid a repeat of that experience.) Luckily, our friend, Karen from San Francisco, had just visited Burma a few months before us and had highly recommended Kyaukme (pronounced Chow-may), just south of Hsipaw, and a trekking guide, Moe Set. Her email about Moe Set was absolutely glowing and talked about how people like Moe Set are going to change Burma. So, with that kind of recommendation, our plans were set and we hopped a bus from Mandalay (read about our time in Mandalay here) to Kyaukme. 
Some adorable Burmese kids...you're intrigued now, aren't you? You're going to read the rest of the post, right?

Chuck Norris Dim Sum (in Phnom Penh, Cambodia)

We've been saving pics of funny signs and tshirts and menu items since we've been traveling and our plan is to put together a fun video or slideshow at some point. However, I just couldn't keep this from you for even 24 hours.

Why yes! That is Chuck Norris Dim Sum!
Phnom Penh, Cambodia

March 23, 2013

A Quick Stop in Mandalay, Burma

After Yangon (read here), we decided to head to Mandalay and booked a VIP bus to get there. Lucky for us, it was one of the nicest bus journeys of the entire trip (cold towels, a hostess, and free water and snacks). We didn't want to get off!
U Bein's Bridge Sneak Peek
In Mandalay, we met two motorcycle taxi drivers at the bus station who were really funny and charming and who managed to convince Steph, despite her previous rule of "no motorbikes," that we should go with them. They took us to our hotel, Mother's World, and turned out to be really nice. On the 20 minute ride, Steph and her driver, Cinco, bonded so we booked them to take us around the sights of Mandalay the following day.

March 19, 2013

Beach Porn

Just a little eye candy for you today! This pic was taken on an uninhabited beach in the Similan Islands off Thailand. The sand on these islands is so fine it feels like baking flour. Unbelievable! (Spoiler Alert: We just spent 5 fantastic days and nights on a liveaboard SCUBA dive boat! Update coming soon!)

Photo by Adam Slater

March 17, 2013

Happy Birthday Lauren!

Remember back in January when it was my BFF's birthday and I made her that really sweet video? (Read here.) Well, I'm a lucky gal because I actually have lots of fantastic friends and, in particular, two amazing BFFs - BFF Ashley of the January video, and BFF Lauren - and we're all turning 30 this year. To be honest, I've been absolutely wrecked that I'm missing all the celebrations and won't be spending my own 30th with my leading ladies (coming up on April 8...mark your calendars).

BFF Lauren's birthday is March 17 - St. Patrick's Day - and this girl LOVES a good party, so it's always been a big deal. In fact, we've always made any birthday a big celebration - coming up with fun plans, giving great gifts, visiting new places. In college, we would dress up in matching outfits or costumes and act even more ridiculous than on a normal night. After college, we've visited Chicago, she's flown out to San Francisco to surprise me, and we've scoured Etsy/CraftBlogs for the perfect gift to exchange. The fact is that, while Tom is wonderful and Lauren's boyfriend John is equally amazing - they aren't quite as in to birthdays as we are, so we look to each other to give us the birthday boost we need. All of our friends make birthdays a big deal, and it's been KILLING me to not be there for her's.

A few days ago, our friends, her family, and her boyfriend threw her a surprise party (she wasn't expecting her party for several days) with a Dynasty theme, and they surprised her with this video from me.

My awesome friend, Amy, took a video of Lauren watching the video I made her (confused yet?) and I could tell that she loved it! I have to admit that I'm super sad that I missed her party, and I cried watching the video of her watching the video because she (of the underactive tear ducts) actually cried watching it! Lauren is just one of those people who words doesn't do justice. You have to know her and to be the lucky recipient of her friendship to understand what a gift it is.

I never want to know what life is like without her - so I'll always value her friendship.

Note: She's also funnier than anyone I've ever met (even you).


March 16, 2013

Blogabond Travel Map

As the list of the places we've visited on this trip gets longer and longer, we've been looking for a way to share our route with you in an easy way. I found Blogabond and gave it a go and you can now see the travel map on the "Where in the World" tab on the blog. 

It's not perfect and I'm not sure I like it yet. Ideally, each stop would list the place's name, and it would be nice if the route line could be different depending on the mode of transportation used to get there. (Dashed for flying, Dotted for bus, etc...) If you find another travel map widget that can be added to a Blogger blog, let me know!

In the meantime, click on the map to zoom in, or click on "more" in the bottom left-hand corner to be taken directly to our Blogabond page.

Loose Of Limits Reviews

Maybe you noticed a little change on the blog recently (but you probably didn't). Loose Of Limits has created a Reviews page! Woot!

Over the course of a year, we are going to visit a lot of hotelsrestaurants, and tourist attractions. Some are good, some are not so good, and some are downright ugly. This is our attempt at sharing our reviews.

March 15, 2013

A Shweddy-gon Time in Yangon (Yangon, Burma)

When I first met Tom (NINE YEARS AGO THIS WEEK!), I was amazed by how much of the world he had seen. I'd never known anyone who had traveled as much as he, and it was a dizzying prospect. (Read about some of his past travels here.) So I took notice when he told me that, of all the places he had traveled to, Burma was at the top of the list. He said that Burma was the most interesting place he had ever visited - that the contradiction of the Buddhist community ruled by the military police provided a fascinating culture. Since then, I've been devouring any information that came my way about Burma (or Myanmar, as it's officially known) and hoping I would make my way there some day. Because Tom loved it so much around the first time, and because I have been so eager to experience it for myself, we knew Burma was on our must-do list for The Trip.

In case you're wondering, Tom and I choose to call the country Burma, though you'll find it on maps and officially listed as Myanmar. Most of the people want the country to be called 'Burma,' so we defer to the wish of the wonderful Burmese people. If you're unfamiliar with the recent political history of Burma, read here.
Novice nuns outside Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon

A Koh Samed Refresh (Koh Samed, Thailand...and a bit of Bangkok)

After 3.5 months in India (India Wrap-Up post coming soon), we were in serious need of some wind-down time. Our biggest goal was to do nothing and to do it in the sun, on the beach, with a cocktail in-hand. So, on January 26, we flew to Bangkok, where we spent a few days in Bangkok with our friend, Jerome, who's British but has lived there for several years. He lives in a great corporate apartment in Sukhomvit neighborhood and we LOVED having our own room, a kitchen, air conditioning, a pool on the roof for a few days of R&R, and Hangover 2 jokes. While in Bangkok, we ran several errands and ate super tasty food, slept in, and arranged for our Burmese visa. Near Jerome's apartment, there's a shopping center where each floor is based on a famous world city. There are 2 San Francisco floors, and it nearly broke my heart in half to see the Golden Gate Bridge and the cable cars. 
Jerome and me

The Swains at the GGB