Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Our main destinations on this trip were Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, but it ended up costing less to fly in and out of KL via Eva Airways so that's what we did! We've been wanting to visit KL for a while, and this would be a great opportunity.. The best part- we happened to book the Hello Kitty Jet route!!! If y'all know me, you know I was totally freaking out!!!
Everything was Hello Kitty from the pillows to the toilet paper.. They even cut a carot into the shape of her bow on our food! I was in heaven! And Joshua loved it too.. Don't let him fool ya! ;)
We checked into the Traders Hotel which supposedly has the best view in the city of the Patronas Towers.. I was sure to book a tower view room for us since Joshua has a fascination with extremely tall buildings.. They used to be the tallest in the world from 1998-2004.. Our room view was amazing! 
We arrived in the early afternoon so we walked around the city a bit (nothing too exhausting after a 27 hour trip) then met our friend, Masa, back at our hotel for dinner and drinks at the Skybar.. Masa lives in DFW and is a big time world traveller.. We met him in Bangkok for dinner once and had so much fun, and he was nice enough to swing by KL to hang out for a night in Asia again.. 
The Skybar is on the 33rd floor of the Traders Hotel and is a semi-enclosed area around a swimming pool.. It has an amazing view of the towers which made our dinner all the more beautiful!
The next morning we left for our Southeast Asia adventure, and after a couple weeks, came back to KL since it was our exit point too.. Luckily, Americans don't need visas to visit KL! This time we had a couple days to spend and covered good area.. We had some amazing middle eastern food- KL is a melting pot of cultures.. We went to Bukit Bintang, Central Market, Chinatown and through the super fancy mall.. KL may have one of the nicest, most high end malls we've ever seen.. That last evening we hit up another really high up bar, this time on the 57th floor.. It was a neat place that also overlooked the towers, but the view just had nothing on the Skybar at Traders.. So back to Skybar we went to end our last night and to recap all the wonderful things we were able to see and do together.. I worked so hard on planning and researching this trip so I was satisfied and felt like all the time spent was worth it when Joshua told me how much he enjoyed it.. He works so hard for us, and planning time for these experiences together means the world to me.. There's no one else I'd rather explore our world with.. 
Now back onto that Hello Kitty Jet to head home to Texas.. Cheers, y'all!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Siem Reap, Cambodia

Siem Reap... Home of Angkor Wat $4 thirty minute foot massages and fine dining on tarantula and crickets!
I arranged a tuk tuk driver, Heng, beforehand to take us on our temple tours since we were short on time, and he picked us up from the airport too.. Going from an airport to a hotel in a tuk tuk was a first for us, but it was kind of fun! Most southeast Asian cities have tuk tuks which vary in shape.. Siem Reap tuk tuks are motorbikes with a wagon/cart attached with a rooftop for shade.. It was pretty nice traveling from temple to temple in a tuk tuk because it gave a nice  breeze from the extreme heat.. 
We, of course, saw Angkor Wat and both recieved a good luck blessing inside, but we saw 4 other temples too.. Our favorite was Banyon! It's not near the size of Angkor Wat, but it's beautiful!!!! It was truly amazing to see so many temples in such close range from eachother.. 
Pub Street is also a hot spot.. It was neat to walk through, but we preferred the side streets.. Call us old and lame, but Pub Street was too loud for us.. But the side streets were very nice, quaint, and had much better food and drinks!  And after so much walking on uneven stone at the temples, the $4 foot massages on and off Pub Street were heavenly! The towels may or may not have been clean, but surely they washed their hands, right? Clean enough for us after a long day of walking in the heat! 
On a sad note, which I was somewhat prepared to see, Siem Reap has been the wurst place we've been as far as begging and haggling.. The worst is that kids are put up to selling souvineers and scamming for money.. We even saw two men dressed as monks that came up to us at dinner to ask for money.. Luckily, we were prepared for a lot of the scams so we didn't let it get to us too much.. I didn't want to raise my voice to some of the vendors that followed us trying to sell things.. It really tested my patience, but it was also a big culture shock and made us more grateful for our opportunities we have.. From what I've read, Siem Reap hasn't always been that way.. We would both recommend going to anyone, and not everyone there is trying to scam.. Our tuk tuk driver was very kind and really wanted us to enjoy our day.. He helped us plan our route so we would run into the least tourists as possible as each place.. Let us know if you're looking to go, and we'll give you Heng's info! 
Overall, it was very much worth it- Even if the next highlight to Angor Wat and Banyon was to watch Joshua eat crickets.. 

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Luang Prabang, Laos

We fell in love with this town.
We landed at the airport which had about 3 or 4 gates, went through standard immigration, changed our usd to kip and found a taxi.. Our driver let us know they drive slowly there because their 'city roads' are more like our country roads back home.. Kids or any sort of farm animal may dart out, and there is nothing to protect the driver if he hits something.. If he hits an animal, he must pay for it.. 
Then we get to our hotel, Burasari Heritage.. Lao decor looks most similar to a Restoration Hardware store.. Our hotel was one of the most uniquely designed we've ever seen!  The adorable restaurant was a walk across the street overlooking the Nam Khan river where the occasional traditional long tail boat passed by and maybe even a swimmer or two.. 
The main street was full of open-air restaurants with lazy locals hanging out waiting for customers.. At the end of the street, at about 5pm, a night market started.. This night market was supposed to be the 'best in Southeast Asia' and totally met our high expectations! No begging!!! Typically, Asian markets are full of vendors telling you to come buy something from them as you walk by, but not in Luang Prabang.. The kind 'sabaidee' (hello) is stated, and if you want something, you just ask, haggle by showing eachother prices on a calculator, score something super cheap then move on to the next.. 
Luang Prabang has a strong Buddhist culture and has about 35 wats (temples). Every morning is an alms giving ceremony.. Locals set down a bamboo mat on the side of the road and sit on their knees with their prepared sticky rice.. All monks, about 200, in the town line up in their saffron robes and proceed to walk down the main street carrying bowls to collect a small hand scoop of rice from each local.. It's truly amazing to see..
Laos is also known as the land of a million elephants.. Obviously, there aren't near as many as there once were due mainly to the stresses of the logging industry.. Luckily, a lot of great rescues have and are still saving elephants from the horrid working environment.. I searched and searched and found a reputable sanctuary that we paid a visit to.. We were picked up from our hotel and taken to meet the majestic creatures.. We learned a little about them at first then got to feed them bananas while their mahouts finished their own breakfast.. A mahout is a person that stays with an elephant their whole life from about the age of 3 or 4.. They are together everyday, and the mahout trains the elephant, then they are bonded for life.. We sat on the seat on our elephants back while our mahout rode her neck, and we set out for the river.. Once we got there, the mahout let Joshua have his seat on our elephant's neck, and he got down to take pictures of us.. Later into trekking, the mahout asked if we wanted to trade spots so I could sit on her neck.. We walked through a village, and our mahout picked limes and handed them to me to feed our girl as we trekked.. It was seriously an experience of a lifetime and a moment we will never forget.. 
We could've stayed in Luang Prabang a couple more nights, but we had to head to Cambodia.. We will for sure be back to visit this lazy, tranquil town that stole our hearts!

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Hanoi, Vietnam

We thought Dubai was the hottest city, but Hanoi takes the win.. That place is HOT!!!! Other than that, it's really a beautiful city with friendly, beautiful people! 
We mainly went through Hanoi as a gateway to get to Sa Pa and Halong Bay but got plenty of time to explore Hanoi.. It's full of culture and history from the war.. We went to the Hanoi Hilton which was waaaaay more creepy than Alcatraz! There were rooms I didn't even want to go into.. We also went to a women's museum to learn about Vietnamese women's history and also a museum about all the tribes of Vietnam which was really interesting.. They had tribal houses we could go into which was pretty cool to see how different tribes and regions built their houses.. We also went to a water puppet show that dates back about 1000 years, a night market, and beer street where the locals sit on teeny tiny plastic stools on the sidewalk and drink beer.. 
The city is full of incredible foliage and incredible traffic! There are really no traffic laws from the way it looks.. Tons of cars and motorcycles pack the streets, and you just walk slowly and pray they dodge you.. 
All in all, we're happy we saw Hanoi.. It's beautiful, and the people there are so kind! 

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Halong Bay, Vietnam

After an overnight train from Sa Pa, a bus picked us up from Hanoi to take us on a 3.5hr ride to Halong Bay.. Halong Bay is the largest bay in Vietnam made up of 2000 limestone mountains standing tall above the waters.. There are around 30 floating fishing villages throughout the bay, and many of the people there never live on land their whole lives.. They have floating schools for ages 5-15 to mainly teach reading and writing.. 
First, we are not the cruising type, but we are in Halong Bay.. There were maybe 10 cabins on our boat with a dining room and a sun deck.. On our first day of our one night/two day adventure, we left the harbor and headed to the karsts.. We got to go inside a huge cave and kayak around the mountains.. They had a sunset wine party on deck and a huge dinner for us.. The second day was a bit shorter, and we just sailed around to bask in the beauty.. 
We sat together on the sun deck amazed at creation and thankful for our experience to see the world. 

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