6 countries, 70 days, malaria pills, and traveling college girls (41 SE Asia, 29 Europe) out for an adventure of a lifetime. No one knows where life will take us, what could happen, or what we will end up eating… all we know is that our children and grandchildren will never hear the end of these stories. Kelsey and Sami will be posting about the first part of the trip in Southeast Asia and while Kelsey goes back to the States, Sami and Kayla continue the adventure in Europe.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

You Have To Leave in Order to Come Back

This morning was such a mix of emotions. We woke up early, packed up all of our things, and got breakfast with the girls. It was quiet for the most part because none of us wanted to bring up the fact that Sami and I were actually going back home today. Sami went to put her toes in the clear, warm water for the last time, and I went to join her. It was in that moment that we hugged on the beach and finally realized that we were actually in Thailand, having the time of our lives and didn’t want it to end. How could six weeks rush by so quickly? As we stood there, gazing out upon probably one of the most beautiful sites in the world, we cried, laughed, hugged, and reminisced about the incredible memories we had made. We couldn’t have survived this trip without each other and we honestly feel so blessed to have experienced every second of this wild journey hand in hand (literally). Even now, as we write this on the plane to Taiwan, we are trying not to tear up as we remember all of the good times we had for the past month and a half. Shout out to you Cal Poly kids. We said this the first day to the group and many of you looked at us like we were crazy, but we told you “we are going to be in each others weddings” and I’m sure you will all agree with us now… the bonds we made were once in a lifetime friendships and we experienced things together that many people don’t get to. We can’t wait to be reunited with you all back in SLO to make even more memories. Thank you for the stories, laughs, cries, jokes, memories, adventures, and friendships that are going to last forever. Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened :)

-Kelsey and Sami <3 

Go Pi Pi

On our last night of the program we had a family style dinner and snuggled together all night long reminiscing the greatest trip that has ever happened to us. After getting charged at from a screaming man (talk about a good story… ask us later) and sleeping for an hour, Kels and I (and 15 of our friends) were off to the Thai islands! Just the flight got us so excited because look at what we were seeing! 

We landed in Phuket then took a ferry to the island Ko Phi Phi. The ferry ride was so much fun. We dangled our feet off the edge and had the salt-water wind in our face as we were surrounded by beautiful islands and a vast clear blue sea.

Right after we checked in, we threw on our suits and ran to Ton Sai bay (literally 10 steps from our room). As the sun was setting we were in awe, snapping pictures right and left but nothing was doing it justice- being there felt so surreal and looked like we were in the middle of a magazine cover.
(This picture isn’t even edited… these sunsets were to die for)
Afterwards we took a quick dip into our hotels infinity pool, (spoiled I know… at least we are aware of how grateful we are for it) then grabbed a slice of pizza and stuck our toes in the water, ass in the sand, and not a worry in the world but a cold beer in our hands. Life was good. That night I was exhausted and had a stomach ache so went to bed early while the girls went out and explored the night life. They came back with stories I was not expecting to hear at all. There were about ten bars lined up on the beach, each blasting their own music and having a different attraction. Some had mechanical bulls while others had fire shows, jump rope on fire, fire limbo, and boxing matches for free drinks. Kelsey rode the mechanical bull for 49 seconds!
The next day I woke up early in the morning and headed out to kayak with the boys. They were so sweet that they let me struggle with the single kayak while they all rode in doubles… thanks boys. It was an amazing ride! We paddled out of the bay and veered right around the huge limestone cliffs. As we got out of the bay we were paddling in the open ocean and the current got really strong. At one point I panicked because I thought the waves were going to topple me over and push me into the rocks but I was a champ. As we were paddling in the girls were all on the beach! We relaxed all day swimming in the water and working on our tan. It was a much needed break after five weeks of go go go. That night we walked to the other side of the bay where there was a better view of the sunset. It was gorgeous.
We ate at a spot that was so casual and cheap with the best view on the whole island (which in the states would’ve been so fancy and expensive just because of the location). However it was very sad because the owner of the restaurant was telling us the names of two of the dishes were named after his wife and daughter that died during the Tsunami (in 2005? we don’t remember..) and it was his daughters birthday that day as well. (For those of you who don’t know, Ko Pi Pi was hit the hardest during the tsunami in number of casualties and damage… which we could totally still see because they were still rebuilding and some places just stayed damaged). Afterwards we all headed out for the night and it was so much fun! 

Jamie, Jake, Rachelle and I did fire limbo and fire jump rope!

Jamie got the jump rope hooked on her arm/hair at one point and it actually burnt her! But no major accidents.
The next day was one of our favorite days on the whole trip. All 17 of us (and 3 Irish boys that tagged along) rented a long tail boat to take us around the whole island and snorkeled and hung out from 11 am till sunset! We hit about ten famous beaches/spots, swam with fishies and sharks, witnessed the most beautifulest blue ocean, softest white sand beaches, and warmest water we have ever been in.

Our favorite beach was Ma Ya Bay… it was encircled by huge limestone cliffs and the water looked like Listerine it was so blue and clear.

This is a really famous spot where The Beach (with Leonardo DiCaprio) was filmed, some James Bond scenes, and many many more. Words literally can’t describe this day, so I hope some of these pictures can do somewhat of a good job.

This picture is obviously from the web, but just to give a better perspective of how cool Maya bay was... it's literally surrounded by amazing cliffs.

That night we got our last slice of pizza, sat on the beach, and watched the waves. It finally dawned on us that that was our last day in Thailand and that we actually had to go home the next day... 

A Slice of Pai

Since we had a final exam due the day of the infamous full moon party down in the Islands (which meant we couldn't make it down there in time), our professor decided to take us on a two-night trip to the Northern Thailand Hippie Town called Pai to make up for it. After a 3 hour van ride and 762 (ish) turns later, our windy drive left us in probably the coolest little town I have ever seen. Everything was Rastafarian, small shops and restaurants lined the streets, and cool old Thai guys with dreadlocks and tattoos were everywhere. It was awesome! We stayed in these brightly colored bungalows that overlooked the Pai river. Sami and I loved to sit on our porch and relax.
Shortly after we arrived and had finished roaming the funky streets, a group of us decided to take a van to a nearby waterfall. It was pouring rain and our van driver was going extra slow on the muddy roads, but eventually we made it. Sam and I jumped in and had a quick swim and then headed back for dinner.
Exhausted and starving, a few of us decided to stop at a restaurant that served breakfast all day long. Except it took them an hour and a half to get out food…and we never even got it!!! And poor Sami had a really bad tummy ache which didn’t make matters any better. I cancelled my order and went for street food before we called it a night.
The next day, we ventured with a couple friends who rented motorbikes to a cool hangout spot called the Jungle Bar. This place was awesome! It was a couple bamboo huts with hammocks, drinks, and reggae music.

We hung out and enjoyed the scenery for a while and then decided to go innertubing down the Pai river.  For 150 baht, a group of 14 of us each got innertubes, a dry bag, and the experience of a lifetime. It was so surreal. I had to keep telling myself that I was floating down a river with great friends in the middle of THAILAND. It was gorgeous and way too much fun getting stuck on rocks and branches. After a much needed shower a few of us headed to a burger joint. I am proud to say that I ordered a crocodile burger… and it was one of the most delicious burgers I have ever had. I cant really explain the taste but I can easily say that grilled croc is absolutely amazing!
Afterward, Sami went with me hand in hand to do something crazy… get my nose pierced! (don’t worry these piercing places were top-notch and completely sanitary/sterile). I must say a little pain went a long way and I am loving my nose ring today!! Thanks for holding my hand Sam.

After that we gathered outside our bungalows for some great live music performed the cool old Thai men previously mentioned. They sang Bob Marley and the Eagles and were extremely talented! We met a group of Israeli soldiers who had just finished 3 years of duty and were celebrating in Thailand. At midnight when the bars opened (it was a Buddhist holiday and no alcohol was sold until midnight on the last day) we went out and had a ball! Before leaving, Sami and I got breakfast with our professor and her husband at a place called The Witching Well. It was so good!! We got toast with balsamic vinegrette, cheese, tomato, and basil and a side of scrambled eggs. Probably one of the best breakfasts we have had this whole trip. Finally, it was time to say goodbye to Pai. But not without homemade green tea gelato in a freshly made cone. – Kels

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Final Weekend in Chiang Mai

As mentioned in the last post, we are nearing our last week... which meant every second must be an adventure and no time can be wasted. Damn did we live it up. Our last weekend in Chiang Mai was one of my favorite weekends this whole trip.

One of the first mornings we actually got to sleep in and woke up around 11:00 am. We finally got sick of fried rice for breakfast and went in search for pancakes. Oh. My. Goodness. We found a place called Butter is Better which had the ambiance of an old-school American diner.
They had anything and everything any American would be craving. From pancakes to french toast to omelets to croissants to cinnamon rolls to bagels... we wanted everything. Kelsey and Lucia ordered the challah french toast with biscuits and gravy and a huge cup of coffee, while I got a huge stack of blueberry banana pancakes.

After we inhaled our food, we slouched in our chairs unable to move or talk we were so damn full. We finally got on with our day and met up with a group who needed a break from their finals. We headed to Doi Suthep, which was very crowded due to the Buddhist holiday. We passed the crowds by taking a hike following the waterfall. We found a spot these local Thai kids were hanging out at and swimming in. They showed us a spot to use as a slide into the pool! After watching them coming so close to hitting the rocks, we were all so nervous to try it out. I finally mustered up the balls and did it. Soooo much fun! I couldn't stop going. Eventually the other girls did it too but the boys refused.

We then headed to the other side of town on the river and had burgers on the river! After a very rude waitress, meatloaf for the beef burgers and bones in my chicken burger, we ran out. We walked across the bridge that was all lit up and so gorgeous and ended up at the night bizarre. We got some rotees, ice cream, and put on a line dancing show for the Thai's who started to film us. It was a really fun day.

Woke up bright and early for my favorite day of the whole trip. The boys, three other girls and I rented motorbikes and headed to the Chiang Dao caves. It was an hour and a half ride out of the city and through the jungle. I can't even begin to describe to you guys how amazing the ride was. After we got out of the hectic city and off of the highway, we were on a one lane road that had twists and curves that overlooked a river and passed villages. It was the biggest thrill, adrenaline rush, and euphoric that lasted hours. We made it to the amazing Chiang Dao caves and took a hike through them. Bats were flying around our heads, we were crawling through the smallest tunnels, and climbing on the stalagmites and stalactites.

We headed back on our bikes and since the beauty on the way up was so breathtaking I shortened the straps on my camera, wrapped it around my neck, and had a camera as a third boob. I got some footage and some photos. Video soon to be uploaded...stay tuned!

 On the ride back we hit a little bit of rain which made it so much more fun. We had more time to kill before we needed to return them so we went off roading down dirt roads literally into the jungle... we ended up in some rice patties, took a moment to breathe and just listen to nature around us, then we heard a gun shot and a lot of feathers ruffle and decided to gtfo. Kelsey visited Doi Suthep which is a temple on top of a mountain. She went to the top (tallest peak in Chiang Mai) and got to see all of the city, she said it was just amazing. We went to bed somewhat early because we were off to Pai the next morning!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Golden Triangle

Reality set in this week when we realized we are nearing the end of our adventure in Thailand :( only two weeks left. But good news came with it! For one of our classes, we took the midterm in groups and our professor told us the group with the highest grade didn't have to take the final... ohhh, it was on.  After a week of hard work with multiple choice questions and composing an essay, the work finally paid off because our group got the highest grade!! Soo excited because this meant more time for adventure and less time worrying about our grades. 

Last Thursday and Friday we traveled far North to the Golden Triangle. The golden triangle was known for their mass production of Opium, but don't worry Opium is now illegal in Thailand. On the way up we stopped at a natural hot spring which looked like any other typical tourist spot. 
It was funny though because people were selling raw eggs on the side of the street and we found egg shells all over the ground with a very strong, gross egg-y smell. We finally figured it out. People were boiling their eggs in the springs and eating hard boiled eggs as a snack while they soaked their feet! Very interesting. 

After driving down more we made it to Chiang Sean. This town was on the border of Thailand on the Mekong river and mostly consisted of a couple hotels, some small markets, and the opium museum. The museum was the main attraction and the main reason why we were there. Hearing that it was an interactive museum that takes two hours got us very curious because from the outside it didn't look like anything special. Once we got in it literally felt like we were on opium. Don't mean to give it away and spoil it for the rest of you, but oh well. The entrance was the best part. We entered the museum through this 200 foot tunnel that only had purple and black lights which lit up the base of the walls. The walls looked like they were melting and had warped faces carved into them. Afterwards we watched a short film about the history of Opium trade and wars. Then the rest of the museum was so interesting. Certain exhibits would light up and talk when someone walked into the room while others contained very realistic scary waxed people that over dosed. There were so many more interesting exhibits and displays that will not make any sense if I type it out, you must go there to see it for yourself. But let me say I'm glad I didn't grow up in those days... opium was a common medicine for everything and in everything... even used to help menstrual cramps, which many women easily overdosed on... I definitely would've been one of those girls. (We weren't allowed to take any photos in the museum)

Off to the hotel we went. The hotel was of course, very nice. Thank you Cal Poly. What was so cool was that we could stand on our balcony and look out at the Mekong river and be in Thailand... but if we looked to the left of the river we saw Burma (Myanmar) and to the right of the river we got to see Laos... literally what is life. This was just the coolest. 
Unfortunately we didn't get to take a boat across the river to go to Laos or Burma because Cal Poly considered it a "high risk area". However we did get to take a boat ride on the Mekong River and travel up and down it. This was pretty funny and thrilling because on the bus ride up, we watched Rambo 4 which was filmed in the golden triangle... so we were expecting Burmese pirates to start blowing our heads off. After a long day we hung out at the hotel for a bit but with nothing much to do we all headed to bed. 

The next morning we were happily awoken to another amazing breakfast buffet. Yesterday Kelsey and I were dreaming and drooling about all the food we were going to eat when we got back to the states and the one that made us groan the most... french toast. And the God's answered our prayers because we were given french toast at the buffet. Afterwards we headed over to the food market! This was a hoot. Tables were draped with raw meat, buckets were splashing with eels and catfish, and the Thai's were laughing at all of our reactions. 
The FDA would've had a hay day. I didn't understand and still don't understand how we are told to not leave raw meat out for more than two hours or bacteria will start to grow but these people leave raw meat out all day and never refrigerate their eggs and everything is fine. I envy how they have no fear. 

We then walked down the town and came across a beautiful temple. This one has been my favorite so far. There wasn't anything special or fancy about it, but it was surrounded by Banyan trees which made it so peaceful. 
There were Thai students listening to a monk teaching them about buddhism and helping them with their meditation. After they were done, the monk blessed some of us. We received another bracelet that symbolized a bond to our wish. Then we were blessed with holy water and he chanted a beautiful prayer. We then were directed towards a Buddha statue and told to place a golden leaf on him for good luck. 

Afterwards we got on the bus and were off to the next temple. We stopped at the White Temple which was unbelievable! It was purely white and silver and sparkled in the sunlight. 

Unfortunately, we couldn't go in because a Thai movie was being filmed... Surrounding the temple were these towers of ornament-type things which people wrote blessings or wishes on and it was supposed to bring those mentioned good luck and happiness or for your wish to come true.

We made it back to Chiang Mai absolutely exhausted, but rallied and ended up going out to our fave Zoe's bar for the night. 

Monday, July 15, 2013

Holiday In Cambodia

This last weekend, we went to Cambodia! We left early on Friday morning at 5 am. We arrived in Siem Reap early in the afternoon at a 4 star hotel. It was incredible! There was a huge pool with a swim-up bar and all the amenities we could imagine. Sami and I were so excited! The one downside: my wisdom teeth are starting to come up through the gums (extremely painful) and it all started on Friday. We dipped in the pool and had big coconuts to drink before we headed out to our first adventure.

We went on a tuk-tuk tour of the town and stopped to watch some local artists make a multitude of beautiful artworks that included sculpting, metalworking, painting, and much more.

We then hiked up to the top of a small temple (just a small part of the entirety of Angkor Wat) to watch the sunset.  It was so beautiful… and my mouth was in increasing in amounts of pain.

We had a huge buffet style dinner and watched a Cambodian traditional dance show before heading home completely exhausted by our long day of travelling. Not feeling too well, I iced my cheeks and watched American television in the hotel room while Sami played games with our friends in the lobby.
Saturday was going to be an incredible adventure at Angkor Thom, Ta Prahm, and Angkor Wat, which we were so excited to see!! Angkor Wat is one of the seven wonders of the world... couldn’t believe we could cross this one off our list! The pictures we took and the words I use to describe how incredible the buildings and scenery were just do not do it justice at all! It must be seen to be believed!! How they built such incredible stone structures with no modern machinery in the 12th century blows my mind. We also saw monkeys who took a liking to a few of our friends in the group, especially Grayson who had his little monkey buddy perched on his shoulder.
(above: Angkor Thom)

(above: Ta Prahm... look familiar? Yeah, this is where Tomb Raider was filmed)

(above: Angkor Wat)

After exploring the temples in the intense Cambodian heat all day, it was time to go back to the hotel for an energizing nap and swim! We had a taste of living the lifestyle of the rich and the famous... Got in my robe and Sami and I ordered room service while laying in our huge beds and a beautiful sun was setting from our balcony.
(this sunset isn't edited or filtered... this was the real deal)
That night we hit up the tourist friendly Pub Street, where live bands played great songs and Sami got mistaken for Brittany Spears at the Temple Club. We sat rooftop at the X bar, atop a skateboard ramp and saw the beautiful neon signs light up the dark streets. So much fun.
(view from the top of the X bar)
I went to bed early because my dang teeth were killing me, and prepared for the journey back to Chiang Mai in the morning. But not without a little shopping at a street market before we left! We both got north face backpacks (knock-offs) for 6 bucks (score). We even did fish foot spa therapy which tickled like crazy. Basically you pay $1 to stick your feet in a tub filled with baby piranhas and let them feed off the dead skin, leaving our feet so soft! Sami described the feeling perfectly… its like a thousand little kittens licking your feet.. so weird.
All in all, Cambodia was a beautiful place with a lot to offer, but I couldn’t help feeling that the experience was kind of off for me. Knowing that the country only recently ended a long struggle with communism and genocide (1993), and that all of the people alive there today have been directly affected by the political, social, and economic turmoil of the country, I felt a strange disconnect living in a four star hotel when the exchange rate is $1 for 4,045 Cambodian Riel. The country is poverty stricken and although they have struggled a great deal, tourism is helping the economy rise, and I guess that is a good contribution we made. You puzzle me Cambodia, but you are a beautiful country with kind people. Thank you for sharing your wonders with us! <3 Kels