where i've been...

My travel map

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.

Sunday, June 14, 2009


Well, we got to Singapore about 7 hours ago, and I am already ready to leave! Sad to say...but this tiny place is super expensive. Well...food is cheap, but drinks can run up to $12 a beer. Yikes! Guess I will have a few dry days here. ;) We got in this afternoon, and have just had a bit of a look around, but we had been warned about Singapore by other travelers, so we only planned on spending two days here. I'll keep you posted.

As far as the end of our time in Thailand went, it was fantastic. We stayed on Ko Chang, a sizeable island on the east of Thailand. We spent a good mix of time doing a few touristy things (I got to swim with an elephant...awesome), scuba diving (saw some huge jellyfish that made me suck a lot more air than I usually do underwater...made me wonder how I will react when I actually see sharks swimming around for the first time!), and just lazing around on the beach. We also met some cool locals, one of whom invited us over for dinner one night, and let me come early to watch her cook. The cool thing about Thai food is that it is remarkably quick to make, and with relatively few ingredients...but it is absolutely delicious. Yum. :)

We are off to Bali in two days, and I am hoping to get a few minutes here or there before we go to actually put up some pictures. I had them up the other day, and just before posting the blog, the computer crashed. Sigh. Soon I'll get up the courage to try again!

Monday, June 8, 2009

biking in Cambodia (again)

Yes. Again.

Rahima got me on a bike. Again. This time we are in Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia. The historic Killing Fields are about 12 kms outside of the city, so instead of taking a tuk-tuk or motorbike, we ambitiously pedaled. Luckily, Cambodia is still flat, so after such a nice biking experience the other day in Angkor Wat, I had few reservations about this journey.

But I learned very quickly that biking in a city is very different than biking on nice, wide, empty country roads. Here, where luckily they at least drive on the right side of the road, they do not pay strict attention to dividing lines, sides of the road, or merging in or out of traffic. It is every man for himself, with the pecking order seemingly being bigger has the right of way...or faster has the right of way. So while I am trying to get the basket on my bike to balance correctly and not fall down so that my knee is hitting it on every rotation of the pedal, Rahima is feeling the adrenaline rush of biking with the possibility of death. The brakes on her bike worked fine, but screeched like the music from the shower scene in Psycho. No joke. She enjoyed that too, as she said it make everyone around her scared and pay attention. Who AM I traveling with?!?!

As for me, I was not enjoying the constant competition for road space with cars, trucks, motorbikes (which whiz in and out of everything stopped or moving at all times), other bikers, vendors with their carts, etc. The other thing was that as you are in the mix of the melee at any time any one of those vehicles can decide to come straight for you. Why? Usually because they realize crossing the road would be a death sentence, so just go against the flow of traffic, which is obviously safer. (read the last line with heavy sarcasm)

The good news is, I made it out there and back with no major or minor injuries. :)

On a much more somber note, the killing fields were intense for me. I took one look at the monument built amongst the mass graves which holds almost 9,000 skulls, many categorized by the age and gender, and just started to cry. Those skulls are under half of the 20,000 people (many children) who were beaten to death (to save bullets) and then thrown into mass graves. I'm glad I skipped S-21, the school in the city that was taken over by the Khmer Rouge and used as a place of torture and death. Never being good at history (and not ever having been one to really like things I am not good at) I am shocked as I learn about things like this as I continue on this trip. I feel like everyone should be as outraged and affected as I am learning about these atrocities, but then I remember how until I was actually here I remained ignorant to them. Guess it is just one more thing I will grapple with as I return home in a few months...trying to continue to find the beauty, tragedy, and comedy in life, and then figure out what to do with it.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

pop quiz

Annette is:
a)sitting on a beach, soaking up the sun
b)eating the best cambodian food of her life and washing it down with an ice-cold margartia
c)stuck in the sweltering heat on the side of the road because the bus broke down

Teaching in my blood

Yup...seems like even here, in the villages of Cambodia, I can find a way to end up teaching a classroom full of 5 to 12 year-olds for an hour. :) How fun!
Yesterday was an activity day. I started off the morning by taking a Cambodian cooking class, which was very interesting and yummy. We went to the local market to get the ingredients. It is funny how local markets don't phase me in the slightest anymore. There was once a time when lumps of meat covered in flies (with the minimal attempt by the vendors to get them off of the meat), baskets of fruits and vegetables, people killing and chopping up fish right there in front of you, etc. had me a bit stunned. These days, I absolutely love the whole market culture. Depending on the country I am in, I recognize maybe half of all the food items that are being sold. The rest fall into one of three categories.
1-meat (or animal byproduct, such as intestines or fishpaste or insects)
3-absolute unknown substance
Luckily, the ingredients we bought fell into the first two categories. :)

So we made three Cambodian dishes, amok (very similar to a thai massaman curry) was my favorite. The other one was a lemongrass/chicken soup and finally a really spicy chicken curry. I only put two chillis in that dish, but found out quickly that two chillis is a bit much for me. Those little suckers sure do pack a punch!

Before class in the morning, I met a tuk-tuk driver who is from the countryside just on the outskirts of Battambang who has started an NGO to teach children from the countryside English. He relies heavily on tourist volunteers to come in a teach classes for an hour a day so that the kids can be exposed to many different types of English accents. So he arranged to pick Rahima, me, and Sarah (an Australian woman who took the cooking class with me) up later that afternoon and take us to the school.
No lesson plans, no idea what their level of English was, no idea on the age range, but they just gave us each a classroom of about 30 students (ranging from 5 to 25) and let us go. Rahima and Sarah both had classes that were a bit older, with some formal English and who were die-hard to continue to work out of the book they had. The class I had, in contrast, were a bunch of the cutest little kiddos ever, who had a great capacity to mimic back what I said with almost no comprehension. So, it only took a few minutes before I had them copying me, jumping up and down (lots of verbs and adjectives and emotions) saying things like, I am big (and making themselves as big as they could) followed by I am small (getting as small as they could). It was hilarious. They must have thought I was a trip...and I forgot how much I love that look when students realize a)I can teach them a lot and b)I am borderline insane.
I think what this man is doing is really impressive and ambitious. He is in serious need of more funding (I saw his business plan and for only $12,000 USD a year they could do some amazing things for 100 kids. Currently he is attempting to run it on about $200 USD a year. Yikes!) But more than money, he is extremely dedicated to getting volunteers into the school. So here is the plea...if anyone out there wants to do something extremely rewarding for a week, or a few weeks (or longer) and can commit to teaching in the school, 1 hour a day, I know a guy in Battambang, Cambodia who wants your help. :)
Today we hopped on the back of motorbikes to be taken around through the countryside and to the killing caves of the Khmer Rouge, as well as a few temples in the area. Cambodia really has so much beauty, and such a violent and tragic past. The things that the Khmer Rouge did, just 30 years ago, are so haunting. How people can be so violent and cruel to one another is just beyond me. Tomorrow we are off to Pnohm Penh, the killing fields. Considering I couldn't face the concentration camps, I am not sure how well I will fare, but I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Angkor Wat

Angkor What? Angkor Wat. For those of you unfamiliar with the incredible temples in Cambodia, just think "Angelina Jolie in Tomb Raider" and you'll get an idea. :)

We spent the last two days visiting the immense area of incredible temples in northern Cambodia. They are an interesting combination of being restored and preserved while the jungle silently continues to reclaim them. I wish I had my camera here to post a few pictures of these massive temples with huge trees grasping at the walls and slowly crumbling some of the structures as they grow around them. There are so many temples, and they are spread over quite a large area. The first day we got up at 5am and headed out with a tuk-tuk driver to see the sunrise over Angkor Wat, probably the most famous of the temples. Then we spent the rest of the morning and early afternoon driving between some of the more famous temples and then getting out and climbing in and around them.

The following day, Rahima coaxed me back onto a bicycle. Thank God, Cambodia is NO Easter Island. Cambodia is FLAT. :) Happy biking for Annette. We did about 35km, but seeing as how it was literally all flat, it made for a great biking day (for me). We got off of the beaten track much more than the previous day and got caught in a few torrential rainstorms. It was really, really fun. I played tic-tac-toe with a few Cambodian kids peddling things outside of some of the temples, and of course, I lost. Tic-tac-toe has never been my strong point.

I am slowly getting used to seeing the fried or roasted insects and larva in huge piles being sold as snacks on the sides of the street. I only wish I could have caught my cockroach and sold it. That sucker could have been a proper meal for someone!

Today we took a bus to Battambang, a little town and supposedly there is some great countryside around this area that we will explore in the next few days. It is a little eerie to keep reading in the tourbooks not to "stray off the beaten path" in certain places due to the high density of land mines still in the area, and to see so many land mine victims as well. Incredible, once again, the things we take for granted back at home. Like walking a few feet off of a major road.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Goodbye Thailand, Hello Cambodia

Yesterday we arrived in Cambodia, after a little over 26 hours of transit. I quickly fell asleep and enjoyed about 14 hours of it...straight. Yummy. ;)
Kevin and David left a few hours after we did, they flew back to Bangkok and then flew home. It was great to see them, and tough to adjust to being a "tourist" for me. It is amazing how much we haven't really been proper tourists for quite some time now, and it was surprisingly hard for me to be surrounded by more vacationers than backpackers. I guess this is where I reflect on who I am and what drives me as a person, right? We had a lot of great laughs and stories from day 1 which we kept reminiscing about for the rest of our time together. Thanks Kev and Dave for coming halfway around the world and spending your vacation time with us. You are the best.
So, upon leaving Ko Samui, Rahima and I jumped on a ferry boat back to the mainland. I had to use the bathroom at one point (a squat toilet of course) and had to grip the sides of the bathroom for support from the rocking boat. Lo and behold, I came out of the bathroom with loads of little, tiny ants running up and down my arms, my shirt, and of course, my pants. Pretty sure I had ants in my pants for a bit there.
Then, a few hours later, when we had reached the mainland and completed our overnight busride to Bangkok, we stopped in to grab something to eat and figure out how to get to Cambodia. We took a taxi to the right bus station and bought our tickets. Luckily the bus we needed left in just ten minutes so we headed to the platform to wait for the bus. While we were waiting, I felt something tickle my leg, just below the knee. I gave my leg a quick shake, thinking nothing of it. A few seconds later, I felt it again. Still not alarmed, and thinking it was the straps that I use to turn the pants into capris, I gave my leg another good shake. Then I looked down. BIG mistake. I looked down in time to watch a TWO INCH COCKROACH run out of the leg of my pants, see daylight and hurridly run towards a patch of dark garbage in a corner. EWWWWWWWWW!!!!!!!!!!! Disgusting. I totally freaked out. How long was it in there??? What was it doing? Better not to think about the answers I guess. Ants and now cockroaches? I was ready to fall asleep on the bus and wake up in Cambodia.
So, like I said, we are here now and it is HOT. I have already been told that clothes will probably not fit "big europeans" like me, and when I stepped in some mud/sand mixture after the mini-monsoon this morning the guy at the hotel laughed as I sank in about a half an inch and said, "maybe because you are too big". Wow. Talk about getting a complex! So today is errand day seeking out things like internet, toothpaste, shampoo and conditioner. Tomorrow and the next few days I will try my best not to melt completely in this heat as we head to explore Angkor Wat in all of its glory.
Tomorrow marks our 8 month anniversary of being on the road, and I can't believe how quickly it has gone by. Sadly, somehow I misplaced my camera cord when we left Thailand (Dave or Kev, did you pick it up?) so I can't upload any pictures until I find a new one. :(
Just know I am still alive and kicking...ants, cockroaches and all.