Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Toasting in Tiawan

The small version of the Lazy Susan
After a short two days back in the US I headed back to a different part of Asia Taiwan with my work colleagues to teach a short two day seminar in incorporating technology in the classroom. So after another day plane trip half way around the world I was back in Asia.  But what a different world Taiwan is from it's sister Southeast Asia.  They might as well be distant cousins twice removed who don't even recognize each other at reunions, because Taiwan is significantly different from southeast Asia.  Taiwan is not nearly as westernized as Singapore, which is really just like visiting the Epcot version of Asia.   Taiwan has all the charms of southeast Asia and all the comforts of the westernized world.   This is really highlighted in the public restrooms where you can choose from the squat toilet, the western toilet or the western toilet with a remote that has a heated seat and a bidet. 

My professors Norm and Judy a super celebrities in the Taiwan education world and everywhere we go they are greeted like royalty.  This results in about three hour lunches with a lazy Susan the size of a VW bug filled to the brim with every type of Taiwanese food imaginable.  If you just hint at the fact that you particularly enjoy a certain type of food you bet a NT that two more would appear on the table for the next meal.  During the meal you are served micro sized glasses of beer which you raise up with both hands and look another diner in the eye and say a personalized toast, it goes something like this . . .
Selina-  Judy thank you so much for taking me to Taiwan and for showing me the best shopping
Judy - you are most welcome
Taiwan Beer
Then we both raise our glasses, drink, look each other in the eyes again and toast again.  Then someone would promptly fill up your glass with beer, so you have no idea how much you have consumed.  To add a twist at dinner a bottle of Kaoliang (which is basically like rubbing alcohol) would be produced and you would drink that along side your small glass of beer.  I spent most of the meals trying not to make eye contact!!!!!  To even further complicate the toasting traditions.  After someone toasts you and you are getting ready to drink someone can shout out GAMBEE which means chug.  Then  you must drink your whole glass (which of course will be refilled immediately)!!!

After two hours of Gambeeing and being completely stuffed to the brim you have about an hour before dinner and the festivities begin again.  Stay thirsty my friends

Angkor What!!!

 Had talked up the border crossing so much I think Inhad built it up so much in Sankat's maybe scaring him out of him out of his mind. We packed up and started running errands before the border crossing grabbing Tylenol and changing money to US dollars. It was about 11:30 before we got on the bus headed to the border. Once we got to the border we got out and there was an "office" where some guys were trying to get us to go into. We avoided the office and walked straight for the border and bought our visas after we got our exit stamp from Thailand. On the Cambodian side we walked into the visa office and handed over $20 and $100 bhat (we weren't sure what the $100 baht was for but when I saw it disappear into the pocket of the officer).  Then we continued over the border. As we were walking a man was soliciting us to take a ride with him. We nogociated a ride price and then were corralled onto a bus, where a "greeting" officer wanted to school us in Cambodia way of life. After we grabbed another car to Siem Reap the greeting officer asked for tip, because he "rescued" us from the scam artist and the other guys would justb"sell" us to the tuk tuk drivers at the edge of Siem Reap, I replied that he didn't save us but took us to another cab. No tip for him!!!

We split a cab with a couple from the UK who did get caught by the fake visa "office" who charged them twice the amount of the visa. Two hours later we ended up just outside of Siem Reap
here we handed off to some tuk tuk drivers (of course exactly what our little friend who "rescued" us said wouldn't happen).  But we were able to strike up a deal with our tuk tuk driver to take us on an all day tour of the temples for $15!  Then we headed out to dinner, the food in Cambodia is divine because of the French influence and all of the downtown is set up much like New Orleans with the resturantnts as two floors with balcony dining everywhere where you can sit and look down on the sites and people below!

The next morning we headed off to the temples and saw five in one day. The temples were all built in different time periods so the architecture is unique with each one. We would pull up outside a temple  get out of our tuk tuk and weave through the vast amount of children selling everything from magnets to pieces of art. Once inside the temple you can walk around, climb up and make believe you are an in Tomb Raider!  The temples are massive in size and number you could be there for a week and still not see all the temples!  We met a young lady selling paintings and cold drinks outside one of the temples while we were sitting sipping our iced cafes we watched her work her magic, each group of tourists that would exit the temple she would look at and when they got within hearing distance she would greet them in their language and shout out the items she had for sale. She was brillant, "Bonjour," "Hola" and many more.  We asked her and she knows over eight languages and several sayings in each of them, I think Sankat wanted her to be on his sales team for the bank.

That night we went to the night market and shopped away, Sankat bartered away his best deal was getting a sale at 80% off the asking price while of course he's telling me all about how he learned these strategies at Booth, glad the moneys going towards something!  We also got some great foot massages in the market and looked at all the items you can make out of a rice bag (I got a great yoga bag).  The next day we lounged by the pool, drank on the balcony and pursued the night market again, gearing up for the reverse border crossing.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Passing through Bangkok

Airport Train
After saying goodbye to the Beaches of Bali we hopped a flight to Bangkok Thailand  We landed 4 hours later and were in the city of 12 million.  We grabbed an ice coffee and some noodles at the airport to gear us up for the trip into town.  We road the brand new sky train into the city and headed into the city for the neighborhood of Sukumvit which is the banking district and most poshy place in Bangkok.  After checking into our hotel which looked like a Asian Cartoon on Steroids but had a tremendous city view.  We then headed out to a non profit restaurant called Condoms and Cabbages (Jen and I went here when we were in Bangkok).  This restaurants’ proceeds go towards sex education in Thailand, which is a worthy cause in a country where the population is growing 3% every year.  The whole place is decked out in prophylactics everything from the entrance way to the light fixtures!!!!  Greeting you when you walk in the door is a sculpture of Tiger Woods made completely out of condoms and birth control pills (with a sign stating I hope you used these)!  After dining and drinking for the cause we strolled past 100s of street stalls selling everything from pants to CDs and bottle openers to J Lo T’shirts.  Every few feet a street bar was set one of them set up in a converted VW van with an entire bar set up inside.  Sankat then wanted to pay a visit to Soi Cowboy (Soi means streets, Cowboy American) this street was featured in Hangover II where he gets a tattoo and they visit a strip club.  This street was started by an American solider who frequented Bangkok on leave and wanted to set up some entertainment for him and his compadres.  This street is all that you imagine, strip club after another, each with a theme from cheetah print bathrobes to southern plaid theme.  In between the clubs are woman firing up woks to make fresh pad thai.  After seeing it all we grabbed a Tuk Tuk and headed back home. 

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Getting to the Balimoon is Half the Battle

Sankat enjoying a Sail
After a tear-full goodbye I sent Lindsey off in a cab towards the airport and I headed to Sanur to meet up with Sankat.  We had booked a sweet little boutique hotel close to the beach and I was hoping it would turn out better than my latest lodging debacles.  I grabbed a cab and headed off after much discussion about price (he wanted $15, I wanted him to run the meter) we settled on the meter and off we went.  20 minutes later he dropped off on the side of the highway in front of a highrise with a similar name as my hotel.   I knew from the internet pictures (which at times can be deceiving but not this deceiving) that we were not at the right place.  I walked in and the door guy looked at me like I was crazy, it was basically as if a dirty backpacker walked into a highrise in Chicago and asked the door guy for a room J.  We bantered back and forth me in English and him in Balinese and it was clear that I was not in the right place and we couldn’t communicate with each other.  Luckily there was a coffee shop next door that I wandered into where business people were having lunch, getting the same dirty backpacker look I asked for WiFi and a menu.  The server informed me that I would have to pay for WiFi and food to stay there I convinced her that I would and $7 later I had a latte, chocolate cake and internet.  I realized that the cab had taken me to a place about a half a mile from my hotel (easy I can totally walk there).  I finished up my goods and waited out almost all my internet time, didn’t want to waste any money, and headed off down the road.  About four minutes into walking down the side of the highway listening to cars honking and praying that no one would come onto the side of the road and hit me I flagged down a cab.  I had the usual banter of meter vs $10 settled on meter and off we went.  I was able to maintain internet signal and quickly realized this guy didn’t know where he was going, but through the miracle of  google maps and my demands we pulled up outside of the hotel resembling the one I booked on the internet.  Hooray they had my booking the room was amazing and I settled in next to the pool to wait for Sankat.  The hostess even brought me fresh sorbet while I lounged HEAVEN!!!!
Watching the Sunset
I had a glass of wine waited for Sankat and he arrived  So awesome to see him after 5 weeks of us traveling, we stayed up late exchanging stories about Singapore, London, Malaysia and Indonesia.    We spent the next four days living it up in Bali, snorkeling, catamaran cruises to other islands, lounging on the beach and eating brick oven pizza at the Italian ex pat;s place. 

Now we are headed off for one night in Bangkok.  

Beachin Part Duex

After reluctantly leaving Ubud Lindsey and I ventured to spend our last two days on the south coast beaches. We wanted to find the perfect place to eat, drink, and relax on the beach.  We spent hours scouring the internet to find the perfect guest house.  The only affordable hotel we could find on the beach was in a shopping mall which we quickly discarded So we booked this sweet little guest house just north of the beach and grabbed a cab and headed there.  The cab just kept driving up and down the road and could not find the small guest house.  He ended up dumping us at a small restaurant where we consumed another plate of fried noodles in exchange for internet.  Not wanting to back down and book the mall hotel we settled on another hotel across from the mall and the beach.  We hailed a cab and off we went again. When the cab pulled up outside the hotel it was on a busy highway with the nearest restaurant a pizza hut.  When we went to the check in we asked where the beach was and she looked at us very confused, as it turns out we were nowhere near the beach and basically staying at a hotel on a highway that looked like Orlando minus Disney.  On the positive side it was super clean place with movie channels and an awesome shower.  So we settled in and spent the evening watching reality dog grooming show on Animal Planet and getting caught up on BBC news.  We ordered some crummy room service Indonesian pizza and when we were able to tear ourselves away from the final sheering and poodle fashion show we went to turn off the lights where of course we couldn’t figure out.  We had to call the front desk at midnight with three men who came up (hotel worker, repair man, and security) after removing the light plate and determining it broken we were moved to another room.  Which was great because I split hot sauce all over my pillow J
The morning we decided to try to find the beach one last time we surrendered our pride and booked the mall hotel and off we went.  We spent the rest of the day lounging by the ocean and watching the sun set with cocktails.  It was a nice way to end the trip even if there was a Starbucks, Burger King, Pizza Hut and a Nike Town in our hotel.  

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Eat Shop Yoga

I guess Julia (Roberts that is) did know something when she took up residence for her last place in Ubud, Bali This is the setting for the Love portion of Eat Pray Love.  Although we didn't find love here in Ubud we did fall in love with Ubud.  Upon arrival I though I had died and went to yuppie girl heaven.  After an hour ride through the country side on windy roads through rice fields we ended up in the city of Ubud, to take a break from our beach vaca.
Before searching for a place to stay we stopped at a cafe to grab a latte and discuss our game plan.  Finding a cafe in Ubud is not hard there is one about every 50 meters with many of them overlooking rice paddies.  After re caffeinating we put our backpacks back on and headed down the streets. Walking the Bali sidewalks is a risky endeavor where several of the panels could shatter sending you into the sewer systems below, so walking around is much like an Indiana Jones obstacle trying to stay on the firm panels and only hop out on the street when a scooter won't come bolting out.
We found a small homestay in a clean guest house where our host had her four month old gorgeous little baby on her hip.  The hotels and guesthouses in Ubud are though little temple entrances where various gods welcome you with the scent of incense fills your nose as you wander up the stairs where every little nook could reveal children playing, a small temple, laundry, a dog sleeping or some grandpas engaged in an intense game of chess.
We then set out to visit the shopping.  The shopping there was yoga stores, handicrafts, clothing, markets, music stores and on and on.  We learned to play the Tibetan singing bowls and many other instruments where the proprietors took the time out to play with us and for us.
We went to this incredible coffee shop where each drink is prepared individually for you served on a paddle with a glass of water and a small pastry.  The array of contraptions to brew coffee was mind boggling.  Each cup was meticulously brewed that even my dad would've been shocked.
We visited the Monkey Sanctuary, now when I read about the Monkey Sanctuary I guess I thought there would be a few monkeys living in a nice preserved area but OMG it was a Monkey Commune.  This place had over 600 monkeys roaming around freely interacting with the human visitors.  These monkeys are of the species where they look like they have a faux hawk soooooooo cute.  And they are everywhere behind tombstones in the graveyard, gallivanting through the temples, running through the crematorium, and swinging from vines. If someone sat down to drink water or tie their shoe a monkey would sneak up behind them an try to climb into their lap, it was unreal and Lindsey and I seemed to be the only ones who thought this super close interaction with wildlife was ill advised.  Although we did try to get our pictures with a monkey which resulted in me snapping a photo of Lindsey running away as a monkey hissed at her:)
After we had bought, ate, drank and yogaed all we could we had to head to the beach again for our final R and R.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Life's a Beach

So after leaving the island of Java we traveled overnight by train to the edge of the island to the ferry for Bali.  We arrived just before dawn and as the ferry traveled towards Bali we watched the sun rise over Bali.  We pre booked a last minute deal on Hotels.com for a resort in Candidassa where we spent a few blissed out days laying by the pool and reading.
The Hotdog Stand
When our two nights at the resort ended we weren't ready to leave this sweet little town so we found a sweet homestay where a Java woman was married to an Aussie man (who shall remain annonomous for tax purposes).  They had opened a clean place across from the beach complete with a hot dog stand.  Where they served AMAZING burgers with proper buns and chips (french fries)  These suckers were $2.60 a steal we ate lunch and dinner there!!!  As the day passed other ex pats gathered in the garage and bull shitted the day away over cold Bin Tangs and burgers.  The next day we headed off after a proper Aussie breakfast and  a sad goodbye to our hosts.
We headed out on the local ferry (which was supposed to take 4 hours but really took 6 when all was said and done).  We then meet a German family whose dad was oringally from Lombock (the island we were on) and shared a cab with them the remainder of our two hour travel.  We were then in the beach town of Sengigi which must've had its hey day in the 60s.  The next morning we got out of dodge and headed to the Gili Islands.  We selected Gili Air because the vibe was supposed to be half way between the party island and the deserted island.
We arrived there after another mini bus ride and a very jam packed ferry ride where we were sitting between about a month's worth of produce and chickens wedged inbetween back packers and breast feeding mothers.  After wading ashore we finally made it!!!! And boy was it worth the journey this island was a slice of paradise.  It looked out over the volcanic range of Lombock and was surrounded by the bluest water I've seen since the Maldives.
The View at Low Tide
We circumnavigated the island seeing all the guest houses and looking for good eats.  Every resturant looks out over the ocean with lounge tables.  Where every bar seves popcorn popped on the stove and happy hours run till 8 pm.  We found some Italian ex pats who made us fresh gnoochi and wood fired pizzas.  IN the center of Gili Air is an open air Yoga studio where we practiced each morning a whole new experience to hear roosters crowing while doing our sun salutations.  We booked one night at a scuba hotel which gave us free snorkeling.  And the snorkeling was AMAZING we swam with at least 4 sea turtles.  And our scuba joint rocked, each bungulow looked like a Dutch barn that was spotless inside and had UNREAL outdoor bathrooms where when the light was just right in the morning rainbows shown through the water.
Bungalow at the Dive Hotel
On the way back to Bali we took the fast boat which only took us 1.5 hours to get back as opposed to the 6 of the public boat (although it was 10x the price).  Now we are in the cute town of Ubud in the center of Bali.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Ballet, Temples and Volcaneos

On our last night in Yogyarta we traveled out to the ancient Hindu temple of Prambanan we watched the Ramayana Ballet with the temple lite up at night as the background.  The ballet tells the story of the carved panels of the temple.  The ballet told the story of Rama and his epic ballet to get his princess, there was even fire dancing and battling monkeys.

The Backdrop for the Ballet
Our Ride to Bromo
That's Bromo behind us on the right
After the ballet we took the night train to Probolingo and then grabbed a minibus heading up into the volcanic mountians to vist Bromo.  The next day instead of making the epic pilgrimage up to see Bromo at sunrise with a 1000 other tourists we waited till the crowds died down and grabbed two horses and headed through the volcanic ash to Bromo.  We climbed the 250 stairs to stare down into the gaping sulfuric mist of Bromo.  Thinking that potentially it could erupt and then what??? (Just kidding we knew it wouldn't erupt).  After we peered in the volcano we climbed down the stairs and across the ash to look at the small Hindu temple.

We climbed back up to the village and grabbed a mini bus and headed back to Probolingo.  Once we got to the Probolingo we found out that the evening bus to Bali was sold out so we grabbed a local oplet (remember the truck with benches) in the bus jumped about 10 hijab wearing school girls with their super cute school uniforms (which looked like scouting uniforms with skirts) they were in about the 4th-7th grade and could not stop laughing at us and trying out their English.

After saying goodbye to our new friends we arrived at the train station where we got night train tickets for Bali tonight, so off we will go again.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

A City and a Bunch of Buddhas

After our travel experience we finally arrived at Borobudur looking only a little worse for wear.  We grabbed a hotel on the actual grounds of the temple so that we could go up and see the sun set that day.  We made the pilgrimage to the temple and is was amazing. Standing at the top of the temple looking at the lush rain forest around us watching the sun set thinking about the people who designed, built, worshiped in this holy place in 800 AD is a humbling experience.  There are over 400 Buddhas in the temple facing east, west, north and south with five different hand expressions. There are people from all over the world sitting at the top of the temple as the sun is disappearing over the horizon it is fascinating to be in a place that brings so many cultures of people together I think it is truly what Buddha was trying to achieve.  Many of the people were Indonesians on holiday who all wanted to take pictures with the Westerners.  After the sun rose on the way back to the hotel an grandmotherly hijab wearing woman grabbed my hand and danced with me.

That evening we were entertained by a traditional puppet show, music and dancing.  The instruments were spectacular looking, like beautiful cooking devices of various sizes, but the sounds that came out were beautiful. The next morning I visited the temple again there were much less people and it was peaceful to look at the images that told a story carved into each layer of the temple.

Lindsey Cutting a Rug
Her Admirers

We then traveled by bus back to Yogyakarta and grabbed a guest house in a cute little section of town that is lined with great coffee shops and restaurants.  We lounged by the pool, read, got dinner and began to feel like we were on a proper vacation!!!!  The next day we set out to explore Yogyakarta we roamed through the Batak stores and bought items from the street vendors.  Lindsey rocked out with the street band as a group of giggling students video taped her.  Last night we enjoyed some wine, western dinner and some local cover band.  All in all a pleasant stay in this neck of Sumatra.

Take that Planes, Trains and Automobiles!

So after leaving beautiful Lake Toba on the island of Sumatra we grabbed a ferry back to the mainland.  The ferry dropped us off in a different place than we took off from so we had to grab a local oplet (basically a truck with benches) to take us to the transport office.  So us four girls flagged one down dove in with our giant backpacks scarring the bejesus out of a woman on her way to work, I'm sure when she got to work she said "OMG four white girls dove into my oplet spilling my F'ing coffee."

Any who from the oplet we got into a SUV to go to the Medan airport. where we waited around for our plane to leave while pursuing the beer vending machines.  Our flight crossed the equator to the city of Jakarta.  Where we took a taxi to the train city.  Driving through the city of 10 million at night was beautiful so many high rises with super colorful neon lights.  We said a sad goodbye to our new friend Sara #2 who was a teacher from Ireland that had been traveling with us since Bukit Lawang.  From there we grabbed a night train to Yogyakarta where we arrived in the morning around 5:20 just in time for sunrise.  Then we hopped on a rickshaw to grab a bus.  Things were going far too smoothly for us in our just under 24 hour travel that of course something had to go wrong.  I read the Lonely Planet wrong and led us on a wild goose chase looking for a bus station that wasn't there.  Then in our udder exhaustion we went to a luxury hotel for a breakfast buffet.  Feeling rejuvenated we grabbed a local city bus (after tucking my tail between my legs we visited the tourist information center) to the real bus terminal.  From there we tried to grab a bus to Borobudur, the bus manager kicked off like ten locals so we could get a seat and then we refused to get on the bus because of principal and the half empty bus rambled off.  We then grabbed the next bus and an hour later we were in the town of Borobudur, we then took a horse drawn carriage to our hotel.


So let's recap the transportation situation.
1. Ferry
2. Oplet
3. SUV
4. Plane
5. Taxi
6. Train
7. Rickshaw
8. Public Bus
9. Bus

$178 dollars the experience and a sore behind Priceless

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Organge Haired Cousins and a Big Lake

After we bought our visa on arrival for $25 which you will have to do once you get to Medan we grabbed a taxi to a "bus station" which was a bunch of super old mini buses on the side of the road.  After a squished two hours with no AC and 20 of our closest friends we arrived in a village on the side of a river.  From there we had to hike along a path from guest house to guest house looking for accommodation.  We did find something that was pretty pimp but no AC or hot water to be found.
The next morning we woke up to monkeys jumping on our roof.  We headed out on our jungle trek walking up hill in the rain forest till we spotted some orange haired orangutans we stopped and watched for a while and then moved on and found a mother hanging out with her baby which we stayed and watched for a while as the baby tucked and rolled down the hill and the mother built her nest.  After the veiwing we made a long trek back stopping for a lunch along the river where we ate banana leaf wrapped (that was the tupperware of Sumatra) rice, beans and veggies with a delightful coconut sauce.

Lake Toba
Grind Lindsey Grind
The next day we took a "toursit" bus from Bukit Lawang through Medan to the town of Parapat where we got the ferry to an island in the middle of Lake Toba where we stayed in the town of Tuk Tuk.  Lake Toba is a volcanic lake with an island the size of Singapore in it we stayed on the island in the town of Tuk Tuk.  The next day we walked all through  Tuk Tuk looking at the sights of chickens crossing the road, little children calling out "hello", dodging motor bikes and the unbelieveable lake views.  Today (saturday) we took at three hour Indonesian cooking class in Hedi's kitchen.  She was a 50 something woman who showed us the art of cooking over kerosne stoves.  We made a vegetable, chicken and fish dish (the fish was whole with the head on!!!).  It was pretty amazing to cut up the vegetables from her garden (that a ton of chickens were roaming in) and wrap up the fish in banana leaves to steam.  Tonight we are staying here in Tuk Tuk and tomorrow we head out to the Jakarta by plane to explore the island of Java.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Two Maylaysian Cities

After a five hour bus ride we rolled into the city of Melaka around 11 pm.  We grabbed a ubber clean guest house about two blocks from the weekend night market which sold everything you could imagine on folding tables for as far as the eye can see.  We grabbed a table at a bar and got some cold beers, satay and fresh spring rolls. The bar atmosphere was complete with a guitar player singing Eric Clapton with the drunk patrons singing along.   After the bar closed we took a very bedazzled trishaw home.  Each trishaw is brightly colored cart with fake flowers shaped like a hear with lights and a boom box blasting American music.  A bike and a rider sits alongside the crazy contraption.

At the Buddhist Temple
We had picked up a traveling friend in Tioman named Sara who is an English girl teaching English in Indonesia.  The next morning we woke up and had breakfast with her before she departed back to Indo.   We then began exploring the city we visited the oldest Buddhist temple in Malaysia built in the 1700s and continued on to the Dutch and Portuguese square to see the still functioning Anglican church built in 1800 and marched up a hill to see the ruins of a Jesuit church from the 1500s.  After all that traipsing about we stopped by a massage parlor to experience foot reflexology.  We then joined the enormous line to eat the Maylay version of fondue, mystery food on a stick cooked in large vats of peanut sauce.  After trying some standbys of broccoli and chicken we delved into the mystery items which were all variations on a seafood theme.  After dinner we returned to the night market where I got a spiraled cut potato that was fried and salted. 
Cookin up some Satay
The next morning we grabbed a super luxury bus to head up to the island of Penang on the northwest side of Malaysia.  7 hours later we hopped on a ferry and arrived in the town of Georgetown.  That night we ate some street food of noodles, with wantons that are served with soup or without.  We tried both.  The operators of the food cart were really ancient and cooked up a storm the man boiled the noodles while the wife sliced the meat and added the spices.  There were tables on the sidewalks to eat at and watch as scooters rolled up to get takeaway and others came to eat. 
Grandma and Grandpa cooking it up (check out the dishwash set up in the lower right)
In the middle of the night Lindsey and Kate got up to watch the Euro cup and cheer on Spain's domination.  The next day we tried to grab tickets for a ferry to Medan Indonesia only to find out that the ferry had stopped running due to low cost airlines so we booked a plane ticket to Medan for July 3rd.  We continued to explore the city where Little India puts Devon street to shame.  We ducked inside a Veg Gujarat restaurant right as the rain began to pour.  

Friday, June 29, 2012

Three Temples and a Beach

Landed in Singapore after a 24 hour delay in Chicago (did make Silver status though Hooray!!!!) Headed to an extremely clean hostel just outside of Chinatown. After a semi cold beer hit the hay and awoke the next morning to explore.  Singapore is a very clean city with no street people.  We ate lunch at the "hawker stands" which are endless rows of outdoor eateries each of them specializing in various genres of Asian cuisine.  We then went to the Buddha's tooth temple to view not only his tooth but 10,000 other Buddha's fashioned after his likeness right after enlightenment.  It also houses the only underground parking lot of any temple in Asia :)  We then headed to see the Sri Mariamman Temple with 100s of life size cows and Krishnas not only inside but sitting on the fences surrounding the temple for all to enjoy. 
Enjoying some Thai food at the hawker stall
That evening we met up with Lindsey's college friend who is living in Singapore where we indulged in some local cuisine of chili crab.  Then because the tax on alcohol is so high we grabbed a six pack of beer to drink on the bridge where it is legal to drink but not chew gum. 
The next day we woke up early  to grab a long distance bus to Malaysia when we arrived at the terminal they had all left for the day so we decided to grab a local bus to the border.   On our trek to the other bus stand we meandered through the Arab Quarter and visited a Mosque.  It was a beautiful structure we got to go inside and wander around.  Then finally began our journey to Malaysia. 
Inside the Mosque
After we crossed the border we had a few hours to kill in a bus station in Johor Bahru (JB)  the entire top of the station was a shopping market filled with many faux sneakers and all the different types of burkas you could buy. We had an AWESOME lunch roti filled with onions, egg and meat that was rolled, filled and cooked before our very eyes.    
That evening we ended up in the fishing port of Mersing where we were serenaded by a woman with very few teeth (and even less marbles) as we looked for accommodation.  Her tunes ranged from variations on a theme of Righteous Brothers, Ace of Base and Whitney.    We woke up the next morning for a ferry to a village (loose word two beach shacks) Nipah on the island of Tioman.  It was a peaceful place where we spent our days lounging in the sun and snorkeling with barracudas and our nights drinking beer and eating delightful Maylay food.  

Soaking up some rays outside our digs
We are now awaiting a bus to take us to Melaka on the western side of Malaysia.    

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Rice rice baby

As a PhD student I sometimes have evening seminars that I have to attend.  As a "good" wife I make sure I leave my husband a meal in the fridge so that he can cook it when he gets home and doesn't go hungry.  These meals keep in mind have the meat, seasoning, sides, cooking instructions, all put together in a single zip lock bag.  All my husband has to do is open, read, prepare, and eat.  The meal for the evening was BBQ chicken with a side of sweet potato fries.
My darling husband gets home, looks at the bag and determines this meal would not be balanced without rice (as a true Indian I should've known he would want rice).  Instead of texting me (he didn't want to interrupt my super "important" PhD seminar) or use that new fangled thing called google, he elected to call the Patel family house.  His father answered the phone the conversation went something like this. . .
Sankat- Hi Dad, what is the ratio of water to rice
Dad- well first you take out the pressure cooker
Sankat- we don't have one, but the question is what is the ratio
Dad- we have an extra one at the house
Sankat- no dad we don't want one, what is the ratio
Dad- ok, take out the rice maker
Sankat- we don't have one, ratio dad
Dad- we have an extra one at the house we can bring to you
Sankat- we don't want one dad I just want to cook the rice on the stove, ratio please
Dad- where's Selina
Sankat- school dad
Dad- well your mom always cooks the rice, call her

Not part of this story but there is a small skirmish about Sankat's mom driving while talking on the phone

Sankat- hi mom, how are you.. .
Mom- Great Beta
Sankat- Mom I'm making rice what is the ratio of water to rice?
Mom- well first you take out the pressure cooker
Sankat- no mom we don't have one, what is the ratio
Mom- we have an extra one at the house
Sankat- no mom we don't want one, what is the ratio
Mom- ok, take out the rice maker
Sankat- we don't have one, ratio mom
Mom- we have an extra one at the house we can bring to you
NOTICE the Pattern here
Sankat- WE DON'T WANT ONE, I just want to make rice on the stove
Mom- Where's Selina?
Sankat- school
Mom- You know you can make premade rice
Sankat- MOM
Mom- well first you must soak the rice for 20 min
Sankat- I Don't have time
Mom- 2 to 1

Now I can just picture my loving mother in law getting off the phone and looking at her husband shaking her head and saying, "You know, he has a LOVE marriage and look what happens, NObody know how to make rice."

How will I ever make this up to my mother in-law to prove that even white women can cook rice and get their PhD at the same time.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

So I married an Indian. . .

and along with the Catholics and the Jews they too have mastered the guilt complex.  Sankat wants me to write a book, but on top of those pesky things called qualifying exams I really shouldn't be focusing my energy on writing the true story of my adventures in the Indian world (and other cultures that I visit).  So I decided to keep a blog. If some day it turns into a book so be it, as long as a sexy young thing plays me in the movie that is really all I care about.  I'm going to try and use this space to talk about my adventures leading up to my marriage and the events of the weddings (the s is not a typo) themselves.  So feel free to read and comment as you see fit.  I'm also going to use this space to talk about my current adventures as they happen and will send the blog link in my email updates.