Friday, November 30, 2012

Malaysia Part One: The Streets of Kuala Lumpur

 Hello from Sukothai.

We made it into Thailand last night and spent a truly beautiful day here in the country's ancient capital.  Tomorrow we are heading north for some time in Chiang Mai and we could not be more excited!  It's hard to believe that we've been traveling for two months already and that we're on the last leg of our trip.  One month to go!

Now here's an update on our time in Malaysia.


We took the latest bus we could from Singapore into Malaysia in an effort to save time and money on accommodation.  It departed at midnight and was advertised to take six to seven hours, meaning we'd arrive early the next morning.   

Oh, we arrived early.   
There we were dropped off at 4 am in Kuala Lumpur's main square, exhausted and disoriented from lack of sleep.  We watched as department store associates scrambled around to set up enormous Christmas trees and life-size nutracker statues and contemplated our next move.  We decided to make our way to the hotel we’d booked and see if they’d let us check in early.   

Ten hours early. 
One long wait, too much money for early check-in and a refreshing nap later we awoke and set out to explore.

First things first, a traditional Malaysian breakfast of toast sandwiches with sweet butter and coconut jam, soft boiled eggs (neither of us was a fan of these) and creamy coffee.

We walked through the markets of Little India and the busy streets of Chinatown where we tried to the local soup, laksa.  We didn't try controversial durian.

We strolled through the beautiful downtown and through the lovely Lake Gardens.

Then spent an evening atop the Menara Tower looking out on the KL skyline and its famous towers.

The Batu Caves made for a nice day trip. 
 Quite a few stairs (272 to be exact) later we made it to the cave.
Some monkey friends kept us entertained along the way.  Even more waited at the top.
In honor of Thanksgiving we enjoyed a dinner consisting of too much food and too much beer.  
{After all, we are still Americans.  :)}

We chose various skewers and had them cooked up and accompanied by sweet and spicy peanut chili sauce. 

Missing Malaysia and its delicious food already!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Snapshots from Singapore

Hello from Georgetown!  

This capital city of Penang is best known for its colonial architecture and diverse blend of cultures.  Indian and Chinese immigrants have blended with local Malays to create a mix of communities, which has created a variety of delicious and inexpensive street food available on nearly every corner.  Needless to say, Ryan and I have been loving the chance to sample all the culinary delights we can get our hands on!  I have been so busy deciding whether to eat Chinese noodles or curry with naan that I've been a little behind in our updates...


We had planned on three nights on the city-state-island of Singapore, and enjoyed it so much that we tacked on another night and full day to the trip.  We would have stayed even longer than that if time allowed, but there is still lots to see in Malaysia and Thailand!

Singapore’s clean and orderly streets were a stark contrast to where we came from on Lombok and Bali.  I’ve heard people describe the city as “sterile,” but we didn’t find the cleanliness to be a drawback.  It was nice not to worry about getting sick from food or water, things were organized and efficient, and everyone spoke English!  That coupled with Singapore's delicious food confirmed it: we were in love.

One of my college friends was sweet enough to put us in touch with her aunt who lives on the island.  She put us up in her home and spoiled us with delicious dinners and her wonderful company every evening.  It was so hard to leave when the time came.  Thanks again Aunt Teresa!

On our first day we chose to wander the neighborhood of Little India.  Deepavali decorations still lined the streets and scents of fresh fruit, flowers and incense mingled with Little India’s nearby hawker center.  We saw a quick downpour as our opportunity to try the local food.  
Curry, dahl and naan served alongside hot chai tea with milk was quite a treat. 

The Arab quarter was home to the first immigrants in Singapore.  Others settled in nearby Chinatown.

We ended the evening at a popular local hawker center with stalls of vendors pushing their delicacies on locals and tourists.  We tried Singapore’s famous chili crab along with an oyster omelette and ice cold Tiger beer.  The crab made for a messy (but delicious) meal!  
Another favorite food we discovered in Singapore was "carrot cake."  When my friend recommended it I envsioned, a slice of dessert.  
A Chinese concoction of radish, egg, breadcrumbs, green onions and sauce (spicy and light or dark soy).  
SO good!  
You'll have to trust me on this one.

{I could go on about the food in Singapore (and Malaysia) and I will later.}


On the weekend we strolled through a beautiful (and massive) botanical garden

There were too many gardens to count and large open spaces for parties, picnics and events.  There was even a group playing ultimate frisbee!

Later we headed to the Long Bar at the famous Raffles Hotel.   The Singapore Sling was invented there, so naturally we paid a ridiculous $30 each to have one too.  
One original and one "winter" sling.

Even later we wandered Boat Quay and its posh bars and restaurants and took in the nightlife scene at Clarke Quay

The Christmas decor on the famed Orchard Road put us right in the Christmas spirit.
 To cap off the weekend we spent a full afternoon and evening at the Singapore Zoo and Night Safari.  The zoo had white tigers, proboscis monkeys, a pigmy hippo and a section for Australian animals.  We couldn’t take our eyes off a large orangutan that was eerily human and oh so sweet.

After the zoo closed we made our way to the night safari, where we hopped on a tram to ride past the habitats of tigers, deer and rhinos.  Later we took a walk through areas containing huge bats, adorable mouse deer and flying squirrels (below).  
The slow loris was my favorite.

On our last afternoon in Singapore we wandered the Colonial district, with its history and classic architecture. 
Huge hotels, fancy museums and business offices are clustered around the river.

Of course we couldn't miss a photo opp with Singapore's odd mascot the Merlion.  
The creature is half mermaid, half lion, all strange. 

What a breath of fresh air it was to be in a big city with a subway, shopping malls and so many American amenities.  While I love deserted islands with nothing to do but watch the ocean, I am definitely a city girl at heart.  

Hope to see you again, Singapore! 

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thankful, Grateful

So it's a holiday and I'm feeling sentimental. 

It didn't really feel like Thanksgiving when we woke up this morning.  

Could have had something to do with the fact that it was 90 degrees, sunny, and so humid that my hair was a frizzball before we even left our hotel.  Dare I say I am getting tired of warm weather and am ready to put on my Ugg boots and a sweater?  I am sure that two days of Portland rain will cure me of this.  

Speaking of.... 
This is the third Thanksgiving in a row that we haven't been home in Oregon.  Again this year we'll be missing the drive from Portland to Eugene, the appetizers and first dinner with Ryan's family, followed by wine and dinner #2 with mine.  

There won't be pumpkin pie, cranberry sauce or turkey.  We won't be catching up with relatives, watching football on TV or shedding fall boots and scarves at the front door on the way into a bustling house.  This year is even different than the last, or the one before where we've celebrated at "home" in two Busan apartments.

Ok so now I'm tearing up.  It's hard to be away from home, especially during the holidays.

We're sad that we're away from home this Thanksgiving, but we're also thankful.  
So thankful.   
Thankful for the family who love and support us always, for the friends who make time to stay in touch with us from across the world, for the health, the love, and the adventures and opportunities that we have in our lives.

Please eat lots for us today and enjoy the time with your family and/or friends and don't take it for granted.
Happy Thanksgiving from our little family to yours.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Adventures in Lombok Part Two: Gili Meno

Hello from Singapore!

I love this country, and I'm not just saying that because I was able to upload photos in 1/72 of the time it took me to do the same in anywhere in Bali or Lombok...

We've spent four nights here and feel right at home being back in a big city.  It has been so much fun to see the sights, eat the local food, and visit with a college friend's aunt who has been sweet enough to host us during our time here.

Today we are heading to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia!  

Updates on Singapore soon, but first back to the two weeks spent on our tiny island...


On Halloween Day we took a glass bottom boat across the ocean to the tiny island of Gili Meno.  

“The Gilis” as they are known, are a group of three small islands west of mainland Lombok.  GiliTrawangan is the “party” island, Gili Meno is the quiet island, and Gili Air is somewhere in the middle.  We settled on Gili Meno, popular with couples and honeymooners due to the non-existence of nightlife and its reputation of having the best beaches.  On the recommendation of a former co-worker we found the perfect guesthouse and settled into vacation.  We wanted time to relax midway through our three month trip and take some time to unpack somewhere for longer than three or four days.  Gili Meno was the perfect place.  

We swam, snorkeled, lounged, read, took walks, ate delicious food (I think we tried the tofu curry at every restaurant on the island), watched the sun rise and set, and gazed at stars that we haven’t seen since moving to Korea last summer.  We also noted the nocturnal wildlife: crabs of all shapes and sizes that scurried across our path as we returned home from dinners out.  On Sunday mornings we logged in to Ryan’s dad’s slingbox  (thank you!) and watched our Ducks defeat USC and California.
{I wrote this pre-Stanford loss and no, I don't want to talk about it.}
  Ryan tried his hand at spear fishing.  We ate shrimp and triggerfish that night.

There are no motorized vehicles on any of the Gilis, just cidomos (horse drawn carriages).  
Power on the island is supplied by generators and fresh water is brought in by boat.   Our bathroom had only cool salt water, but we didn’t mind.  We saved $2.50 each night by not requesting fresh water showers.  We spent that money on chocolate milkshakes.  And sometimes on beer.
Aside from hearing the parties on Gili Trawangan and Gili Air across the water some nights, very salty hair, a jellyfish sting and a fish bite, it was a perfect trip.  We had a hard time leaving that last day, after twelve before it.  
Ice cream pancakes for breakfast helped to soften the blow.

We already miss Gili Meno but can't wait to see what adventures Malaysia holds.