Saturday, May 24, 2014

Malaysia!


On Sunday, we walked across the southern Thai border town of Su-Ngai Kolok into Rantau, Panjang, Malaysia! We've been here almost a week now and each day, I become more and more impressed with this lovely country. 

About once a day, Brad and I turn to each other and say, "We're in Malaysia?!" It seems like such a far away land that most Americans know little about. It's made up of a mixture of Malays, Chinese, and Indians, making it a really uniquely diverse place. And the scenery is gorgeous. From the clear blue waters of the Perhentian Islands to the luscious green jungle of Taman Negara to the futuristic, sparkly Petronas Towers in KL, there is so much beauty to see. 

More to come about Malaysia!

Friday, May 23, 2014

A (very quick and very simple) lesson in Thai


Before I arrived in Thailand, I remember reading the names of certain Thai phrases or cities and not even having the slightest clue of how they were actually pronounced. Some of the words we're so long, it seemed laughable to even try to pronounce them. For example, the name of our metro stop in Bangkok is Ratchadaphisek. Like, what?!?! If you asked me to pronounce that before being here, I wouldn't have had the slightest clue. Now, after hearing several Thais speak, I understand the tonal inclinations a bit better. For Ratchadaphisek, if you try to say it all in one tone, it is overwhelming. But if you break it up into three sections and give one of them (PHI, pronounced "PEE") a high tone, it is easier to say and easier to remember:

          Ratchada-PHI-sek

I don't plan to master the Thai language anytime soon, but after being in Thailand for a week, I did pick up a few key phrases that I thought may be helpful for anyone planning a visit to the country. Mostly you'll get by on broken English, but it helps to know a few simple phrases to show you've given an interest in Thai language and culture.

How to say...

HELLO:

          (If you're a man): Sawadee-KUP
          (if you're a woman): Sawadee-KA

YES:

          CHAI

NO:

          MAI Chai (literally translating to "not yes")

THANK YOU:

          (if you're a man): Cob-kun-KUP
          (if you're a woman): Cob-kun-KA

*The sounds in CAPS represent sounds that should be spoken with a high-pitched tone.
**I am not a linguist and the above does not represent any official spelling of these words. They are written phonetically how I perceive them to sound, based on my own personal experience of traveling to Thailand and listening to the locals as well as my Thai-speaking husband.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Road to Koh Ngai

I thought it'd be interesting to explain exactly how we got to the beautiful island of Koh Ngai. Lots of people dream of being on an isolated beach somewhere in the middle of nowhere but not a lot of people think about what it actually takes to get there.

Last Tuesday, we left our apartment in Bangkok and rode the subway, then the skytrain where we got off and walked to a friend's apartment to drop off the apartment key. Then we took a cab to the train station where we hoped to take a night train to Trang, the nearest big city to the islands we wanted to get to. Unfortunately, that train was sold out, so we jumped in another cab and went to the Bangkok bus station. Finally, we purchased tickets for an overnight bus out of Bangkok. 

The bus was a double-decker and we slept surprisingly well. In the morning, we arrived at the Trang bus station where we took a Tuk Tuk to the Trang train station. 

From there, we got information from a travel agency about a minibus that goes to the Pakmeng Pier. So we walked a few blocks to the minibus station and hopped on. 

Then, we boarded a ferry to get to Koh Ngai. (As I wrote about earlier, we ended up enjoying an all-day snorkeling excursion on this ferry which was awesome.) 

At the end of our snorkeling excursion, the ferry drove us to Koh Ngai, but since it was such a big boat, it couldn't make it all the way to shore, so we transferred to a longtail boat, which took us the last remaining kilometer or so to our final destination. 

We were finally there. Paradise at last. 

Monday, May 19, 2014

The Andaman Islands


After our hot stop in Bangkok, we headed south to check out the gorgeous, incredible, beautiful Andaman islands. What started out as a quick ferry ride to get to our desired island turned into an all day snorkeling/beach/island expedition. About 30 minutes into our boat ride to Koh Kradan, we realized we were on a 4-island day tour with about 40 other Thais so we just decided to stay along and it was great! Brad and I were the only non-Thais on the boat and I was the only non-Thai speaker.

We snorkeled at some great coral reefs and saw so many beautiful, neon-colored fish. SO many fish! I have never seen so many congregated in such a small area, just swimming all around me.

We also visited Emerald Cave on Koh Mook, which was an awesome experience. I don't have a waterproof camera, so words will have to suffice to tell the experience. Emerald Cave is a small beach in Koh Mook that is only accessible by swimming through a cave. To get there, everyone on our tour formed a human chain in the water with each person hanging on the the life jacket of the person in front of them, while a guide swam and pulled us through the ~500-foot tunnel. At some points it was really dark and kinda scary. Brad and I both felt like we were on some type of Disneyland ride. Eventually, we made it through to a small but beautiful beach with luscious green forestry all around. If you looked up, there was a complete circle all around you. Pretty freaking awesome. 

After our day tour, the ferry transferred us to a longtail boat which took us to Koh Ngai, where we would stay for the night. We arrived at low tide (about 3pm), hopped off the boat into about a foot of clear, blue water and waded about 100 yards to the shore with our backpacks in tow. What a dream! 

We dropped off our bags at our hotel and immediately took a walk along the water to explore the beach. The Thai islands are uniquely beautiful with their massive clifflike geography, making them jut up out of the water, unlike anything I've ever seen before. It makes the whole scenery feel magical and dreamy. 













Friday, May 16, 2014

Snapshots of Bangkok

On our first full day in Bangkok, we decided to do a walking tour of several temples and sites in the old district. Due to a needed trip to the Thai Travel Clinic, we got a late start. After some amazing street food at Victory Monument and a crazy scooter taxi ride winding through Bangkok traffic, we found ourselves on top of the Golden Mount (which is beautiful) right in the middle of the day. And that's when the battle with the heat began.  

Brad and I have developed a saying throughout our marriage called "Buck up." We pride ourselves on being able to endure challenging things to seek great rewards. 

We continued on to a few more temples, all of which had such stunning architecture and peaceful ambiances, until we found ourselves on Khao San Road (also known as backpacker central). After walking through sun-soaked alleys of cut-out tank tops and dreadlock hair extensions, we ducked into a shaded street vendor and stopped. We both tried our best to communicate and figure out our plan for the rest of the day but due to the pounding heat that had made our bodies sweaty and our minds exhausted, we just couldn't. It was all I could do to hold my glistening, sweat-dripped hand in front of Brad's face to show him just how hot I was. Luckily, he got the picture and after a quick stop for 80-cent Pad Thai, we made our way back to our air-conditioned apartment.

Luckily, our plan was to get down to the southern islands as soon as possible and we were headed there the following day. We'd get back to Bangkok in a couple months and would finish the sight-seeing then (in cooler temperatures).



{Notice, the nice glisten coming out of every pore of my body...trying hard to crack a genuine smile for the camera.}

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Barcelona

I know I'm a little late in posting this, but just two weeks before we left for Thailand, I went on a work trip to Barcelona (we shot a Gatorade commercial). I had been to Barcelona for a weekend while I was studying abroad in Madrid during my sophomore year (2005), but it was great to be able to see it again with fresher, more mature eyes. Barcelona is a really great city. We were blessed with perfect spring weather and it was so nice to enjoy the beaches, the food, (some of) the sights, all while getting some work done too!

I've been so lucky to have such a great job for the last six years that has let me travel, grow, and work with some incredibly fun and talented people. 


And here are some pictures of some of the great locations we shot at (including Olympic Stadium and FC Barcelona practice facility!) 






Monday, May 12, 2014

The Journey Begins!

On Friday we departed LAX and began our journey to Southeast Asia! There was A LOT to get done before we left and at times, it felt like we weren't gonna make it. I totally underestimated the amount of stuff we had to do, mainly packing up and organizing ALL our possessions. Man, you don't realize how much you have until you have to move it. It was like a huge iceberg that we slowly chipped away at each day for about three weeks, until it was gone. And then there was all the little stuff we had to do: wrap up doctor's appointments, update business details, close bank accounts, purchase items for the trip, organize and transfer important files. We did NOT sleep much the week before we left. We never complained because we knew there was a huge light at the end of the tunnel, but it did make me reflect about all the obstacles that can present themselves when we do something adventurous, different, or risky.

There's a reason most people don't up and leave their jobs/lives/houses at the age of 28 to travel around for six months--there are challenges and there are moments of doubt! I learned the value of travel early on in life through the influence of key family members as well as travel experiences to Spain and Jerusalem and that is what has pushed me through the moments of doubt and kept me excited, happy, and motivated to endure the challenges that come with travel.

It took us a total of 35 hours to get to Bangkok, including a refueling pit stop in Guam and an overnight layover in Manila, but we've finally made it. I still can't really believe I'm here. There is A LOT about this place that is different -- the language is completely foreign to me, the people look completely different from myself, and it is really, really hot. But it's the start of a great journey and I'm so glad I'm here.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Bye Bye, Beach Bungalow




Last week, we moved out of our beach bungalow in Hermosa. Our little apartment above the garage has been such a great home and we've made so many great memories there. I've absolutely loved living so close to the beach. There was nothing better than enjoying a Saturday at the beach, followed by an outdoor shower, and a BBQ with friends on our patio. We didn't do it as often as we should have, but there were several nights when Brad and I would walk on to the Strand and watch a beautiful sunset over the Pacific Ocean. Now we'll be watching sunsets on the other side of that massive ocean.

Big News!

On Friday, Bradford and I are boarding a plane bound for Bangkok, Thailand! We're planning to spend the next 6-7 months traveling throughout the Southeast Asia region and we couldn't be more excited. I've quit my job and Bradford will maintain Fishback Tax via the interwebs. We have a rough idea of where we want to go, but will be finalizing plans as we go. This is something we've dreamed about and talked about since we've known each other and it all seems a bit surreal that we're actually making it happen. It'll be a busy week tying up all our loose ends before we leave. I'm planning to keep this blog updated with all our adventures, thoughts, and happenings as we travel, so I hope you'll follow along on our journey! Yay!

I also have a new Instagram and Twitter feed which I'll be updating more regularly while we travel. Find me at @thefestblog.

Photo via.