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