where i've been...

My travel map

Sunday, July 26, 2009

scuba diving with manta rays...

is most definitely one of the absolutely most incredible and surreal experiences of my life. I cannot believe that I almost didn't come over to the big island to do this dive. It is rated one of the 10 best dives in the world, and I cannot imagine something more impressive and awe-inspiring. It has been two days since the dive, and I am still mesmerized when I even begin to think about it.

We did a dive in the late afternoon, before the sunset, and saw two mantas then. I cannot fully describe how incredibly peaceful and graceful and huge they are. The two we saw then were about 10 feet in diameter, or wingspan. They just effortlessly glide along, flapping their wings as if they are flying. They are filter feeders that eat plankton and I think I probably almost forgot to breathe for a second or two when I saw the first one. Then we came up to the boat, munched on some food and waited for the sun to set before gearing up again and jumping back into the dark water. One of the most amazing things was that because there were so many divers in the water (about 50, all with a light of his/her own) it was really like stepping into a sci-fi movie...kind of like the abyss. The thing is, each diver has a light and you go down about 10 meters and sit on the bottom and shine your light up, while any snorkelers (about 30 of them) all float on the surface and shine their lights down. These powerful LED lights illuminate the plankton that the mantas feed on. So you go down, get settled and suddenly just inches above your head are these massive mantas, feeding, swimming turning, doing backflips, all in what seems like slow motion and right in front of you. We saw 5 mantas, although I would have counted about 15 if it had been up to me! They were all males and the biggest one we saw had about a 15 foot wingspan. All swirling just above my head. Apparently the females can be much bigger and one night last summer there were a total of 36 mantas that showed up one night. I can't even imagine what that would have been like. Since the divers are all in a circle with a box of lights in the middle, the mantas swim in and out and around of the circle the whole time, putting on quite a show. All I could think about was how incredibly lucky I am. Undoubtedly, it was one of the most magnificent experiences of my life. It was absolute beauty, in front of my eyes, for 45 minutes.

So I continue to be amazed by this little planet. If you want to check out a bit of what I saw you can do a search on youtube for "manta night dive hawaii" and you'll get a little bit of an idea. :) Then you should definitely book a ticket to the big island and do the dive or snorkel trip yourself. Just do it. I promise you will not regret it.

Monday, July 20, 2009


So sorry I have not posted for such a long time. I am now in Hawaii, and have been since the 4th of July. Rahima and I were looking forward to seeing the fireworks here in Hawaii, and headed down to the beach in Waikiki to watch the show. We joined the throngs of people on the beach, in anticipation for the show to start, and when it did it sadly was on the OTHER side of one of the huge resort hotels, so the entire crown groaned in disappointment as we hurriedly attempted to walk through the downtown streets to get an actual view. 20 minutes of walking later, we could clearly see the fireworks show, and caught the last 2 minutes or so. Sigh. Welcome home.

Rahima's good friend Bridget came to Hawaii for two weeks and we spent a week on Oahu and then headed to Kauai (which is AMAZINGLY beautiful) for a week of hiking, surfing lessons, beach time, and just plain fun. Then we headed back to Oahu, were Bridget (after breaking her to and crutching it to the airport) headed home, and Rahima and I spent a few great days in Oahu with my good friend Emory.

Rahima headed home yesterday (Sunday) and I just took a quick flight over to the big island to hang out here for a week or so. I will be doing a night dive with manta rays out here, which I could not be more excited about. I have already met some great people through couchsurfing (still amazing) and am staying with a guy for the week who is already proving to be incredibly generous and like-minded. We are heading out to volcanoes national park for some camping the next few days, which I am REALLY looking forward to. I will be headed to LA in about a week or so, and then finally back up to the bay. I still cannot believe this adventure is almost over, but continue to be blessed by meeting amazing people and sharing such great adventures.

Hopefully I'll share some more funny stories in the next few days. Sorry again I haven't written for so long, I guess I just forget that people actually read my random thoughts! ;)


Friday, July 3, 2009

Lessons learned...

Okay, so I have only been in Japan for about 22 hours, but I have already learned a LOT. Here are a few of the highlights.

1-Toyito is NOT Tokyo in Japanaese. We are in a suburb of Tokyo.

2-The Giant Panda that I went to the zoo to see died in April 2008.

3-Tokyo, and probably Japan in general, would be an amazing place to visit if I had money. Everything here is ridiculously overpriced.

Honestly, if I ever win the lottery I might consider coming back here. Short of that, I am confounded at how people actually live here. We went on a sushi search last night (wouldnt thing that would be so hard in Tokyo, right) and of what we found it is average about $40-80 a person EASILY to eat here. Average price for a two pieces of sashimi is about $8. No cheap rolls...or if there are, there are no English menus, so we cant really tell! We even saw a Chinese Dim Sum place that had plates up to $30...for one thing!

The weirdest/coolest/silliest thing that this overnight has included is our hotel room. Even hostels run $20-30 a person a night. And that is if you can find room in a cheap place. So, not having planned again yet again, we ended up (luckily) getting capsules. What is a capsule you ask? Well my friends, it is litterally a little hole in a wall...imagine a nice mausoleum with sheets and a pillow. It is a hallway/room with about 30 of them, two high, built into the walls...and for $30, you can sleep in a little space, equipped fully with japanese radio, an alarm, and even a tv for your viewing pleasure (once again, much nicer if you speak Japanese). Pretty funny. The trains here are great, but once again, very expensive. We leave tonight, so hopefully I have enough cash to last me until then! I will officially be on US soil in less than 24 hours. Weird!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

haircuts and allergies

We have spent the last few days in Bali split between Ubud, in the center of the island, and back to Kuta, the party beach town just south of the airport. Ubud was great for shopping and eating. We indulged in the latter and were able to visit the restaurant of a former student's father there, which was DELICIOUS. We rented bikes one day and got a little outside of town, up into the countryside a bit and saw the beautiful rice paddies. We visited the "monkey forest" where the tourists feed the monkeys so much that there are hoards of monkeys that hang around. It's worth a small bit of time, but then feels a bit sad as these cheeky monkeys run around fighting each other for their own greed. Amazing what humans can ruin sometimes.

So during my time in Ubud I realized that a)I do love scuba diving and b) it RUINS my hair. The salt water has just fried it and the rubber straps on the mask have ripped and broken so much hair I don't even want to talk about it. So what do I do? What Annette usually does when she's made up her impatient mind. I started to cut it. :) A few inches later, I decided it was kind of good enough, and would wait for a "professional" to finish the job...or at least give in a semblance of style.

So when we got to Kuta we started looking for places (haphazardly to be honest) to cut hair. My requirement...cheap. They say you get what you pay for. I found a place to cut my hair for $2.50. Should I really be shocked that they didn't cut it straight? Of course not. Rahima just stood by and patiently rolled her eyes at me. Then later that night she evened it out for me. So, now I have healthier hair...which feels short to me because it sits just on my shoulders. Rahima says you can barely tell I cut it at all. I say she's crazy. When I get some time I'll upload some pics.

Also, I have spent the last few days here in Bali not feeling so great. Yesterday was the worst, and I actually spent the entire day in bed. Sleeping. So, I have gone basically 9 entire months without being sick, and now, about 2 days before being back on US soil, I get sick again. Hmmmm....anyone else think I'm allergic to the US? I love you all back home, but I just might have to take this as a sign. So consider this fair warning. If after a year at home I bolt off again you'll know it's nothing personal, it's just that my body is rejecting our country. I can't control it. :)

Sunday, June 28, 2009

this internet cafe wants me to die...seriously

I have been here for about 2 hours. Uploaded some great pics. Attempted to put them on the blog. Then the computer turned on me. Honestly, if I recount the story now, I might go mad. Luckily, I managed to swipe a few of Rahima's pics for your entertainment. Hope you enjoy them!

So the other day on the Gili Islands, there was a makeshift outdoor movie theatre that would play bootlegged DVDs each night. I got to see "Coraline" the Tim Burton flick that you all probably have heard about for ages. Well, it was new to me, and I thought it was really well done. Would have been amazing in 3D, but you take what you can get I guess.

Here is a picture of Coraline's "other mother".

Then I ate some oreos...and here I am.

Geez...is this what they mean by island fever? I think I'm losing it people...

Here I am with Gnomey. We found appropriately sized boxes of Pocky sticks in the Tokyo airport. Look how happy we are. :) (Rahima was pretty mortified to take this picture, which makes it all the more precious to me)

Me, quite possibly, at my happiest. A glass of red wine in one hand, a bowl of cereal with fresh milk in the other. Ahhh...who says I have no class???

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


Yup. I got to see sharks. And this time, I was not in a cage. :)

So we came to Bali and spent a few days getting our bearings in Kuta, which is super touristy. We decided to come all the way out to the Gili Islands, which are on the east coast of Lombok, the island directly east of Bali. We have been here for the past few days, soaking up the sun, enjoying the relaxing nature of being on an island, and enjoying the company of a lively crew of hodgepodge travelers we met on the boat out here. We did a couple of dives yesterday, and I got to see black tip reef sharks, probably about 2.5 meters long. They are SO graceful. I was in awe. I was absolutely mesmerized. We also say 4 huge turtles, just munching on coral and swimming around. There were some other really fun big fish, like batfish (they look a lot like butterfly fish) but they are about 2 feet long. They are really cool. And the best part about all of this diving is that when you are underwater, none of these animals even care that you are there. It was great. ;)

The food here is amazing, considering they pull most of it right out of the sea in front of you, so you couldn't get it any fresher. Yummy.

Okay, one really weird thing that I will share about Indonesia is that there are a ton of cats here. And most of them have short, stubby little tails. So we asked around to find out why this was. Apparently when a street cat is "adopted" by someone, they chop off about half of it's tail to let other people know that that cat is being taken care of. Weird way to show love and ownership, huh? This disturbs me a bit, so I have decided that they also need a carefully worded letter. in regards to this particular matter.

Dear Indonesia,
Try collars.

Let's see if that helps...

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

the longest re-route ever...

Well, when we first bought our "around the world" ticket, we had to stipulate our route, including all flight destinations, abiding by many rules and regulations all administered by the partnering airlines in the OneWorld alliance. Since we bought our tickets in May 2008, we would have one year to complete travel from our start date of October 2, 2008. I asked before purchasing our tickets, "What if one of the airlines either a)goes out of business or b)changes their flight routes before we take one of our scheduled flights?" I was assured that if either of those things happened, it was OneWorld's responsibility to re-route us, charge free.

Well, since May 2008, Qantas has discontinued their quick 3 hour flight from Singapore to Bali. After many phone conversations (thanks to my mom and dad in the US who are communicating with AA on our behalf because MANY of the international representatives don't seem to have the authority to authorize anything) and a few visits to local offices, AA graciously re-routed us, free of charge, to Bali from Sinapore. Through Tokyo.

Yes. You read that correctly. Our 3 hour trip to Bali became an adventure of 24 hours of travel, all the way to Tokyo and back. He he. I have to say though, it was kind of fun. I watched a total of 5 movies, many of which are old to all of you back home, but movies I have heard a bit about through the grapevine and have been dying to see. Any of you who know me well know I LOVE the movies. TV, well, I could take it or leave it on most days. But movies I LOVE. :) I got to see MILK (amazing), Gran Torino (fantastic), He's Just Not That Into You (fun), The International (not fantastic, but good) and I re-watched Good Will Hunting (one of my favorites).

In between my movie watching, we had about 8 hours to explore a bit of Narita, the city around the airport. Going on no sleep and either sake (me) or red wine (Rahima) from the flight (we realized a bit too late that no sleep, free alcohol and 8 hours to kill before the next flight is not always the best combination) we headed into Narita. We got ate udon, saw a great temple complex, got to watch a buddhist prayer ceremony, and see some wonderful Japanese gardens. I caught a quick 30 minute nap in the gardens (where a vampire mosquito bit my neck) before heading back to the airport.

I am looking forward to going back to Japan in a few weeks, but I have to tell you one of the funniest things that I saw there. The toilet in the airport bathroom. It had a whole electronic console. One of the options was "flushing music" with adjustable volume so that you could play the sounds of a toilet flushing while you emptied your bowels to cover up the actual sounds of emptying your bowels. Although I only had to pee, of course I pushed the button. ;)

So at this point I have officially visited all of the countries I will eventually visit on this trip of mine. Wow. I just crossed over into visiting 20% of this little planet. I know it's not over yet, but all I have to say is...

80% to go.