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Katie and Michael's Travel Blog

a travel blog by katieandmichael

After saving money, tweaking plans and dreaming for more than two years, Michael and I are now undertaking the trip of our lifetime: six months across Hong Kong, Thailand, Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Indonesia and the Philippines. We hope this journal will be a way to stay in touch and record and share our experiences with all the people we'll be thinking of along the way.

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Oklahoma City, United States

permalink written by  katieandmichael on March 15, 2009 from Oklahoma City, United States
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Arp, United States

permalink written by  katieandmichael on March 16, 2009 from Arp, United States
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Grapevine, United States

permalink written by  katieandmichael on March 18, 2009 from Grapevine, United States
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Hong Kong

Hong Kong, Hong Kong

We made it to Hong Kong! Yay! And now we're about to leave for Bangkok! Double yay!!

Sorry I haven't written sooner, but the last couple of days have kind-of been a bit of a blur. Our flight was a bit of a mess, but then I've come to accept that they usually are, really, and that's just a part of the whole traveling experience. Anyway, if I may offer a tip, don't book a flight with a one-hour international layover against your better judgment just because Orbitz says it's okay.

But, we made it here! Hong Kong has been good, and we stayed at a wonderful guesthouse run by a sweet Indian family in a 17-story block of hostels, shops and cheap food stalls ironically named Chungking Mansions. We arrived very late Wednesday night and slept most of the day Thursday, then set out yesterday (Friday) to see the city.

I have to run right now as I'm borrowing the guesthouse's computer to write this, but I promise I (or Michael) will write again as soon as possible after we get to Bangkok to post pictures and write more about Hong Kong.

permalink written by  katieandmichael on March 28, 2009 from Hong Kong, Hong Kong
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Bangkok, Thailand

Hello Family and Friends,

Well this is Michael, coming to you from the sunny, really hot, and amazing capitol city of Thailand. Peace can be found, even in the most hectic city i've ever been. People are always talking and quite often they're talking to us. The "Backpackers Mecca" as it's been so aptly named has something for everyone. People from all over the world are coming and going. Many, I imagine, are here for the same reason we are. It's been the perfect jumping off point for our trip. We have found everything we (or anyone else in the world) might need here and we're ready for battle in just about any place we go. While doing that, we've managed to eat some crazy amazing food and venture away from our buzzing home for the moment, Khoa San Road.

This afternoon, we took a series of public ferries that taxi people of all ages down the river that cuts through Bangkok.

Down the river we saw some of real Bangkok and some of really rich Bangkok. We saw The Oriental Hotel, wich looked amazing, but we were not allowed to enter, because we didn't comply with the dresscode. Ready to move on down through the niehgborhoods in search of the ferry pier, we walked right through a movie set. Yes, a full on movie set. We thought, "hey, let's walk through this little market". Not even when i bumped into a changing curtain, with a lady having make up applied to her in a really fancy dress, did i realize that this market was a set and everyone around was either an actor or a crew member. There was even a director who as we were walking away yelled a lot before exclaiming, "Action!".

Tonight we're going to take it easy, because in the morning we leave for the island of Ko Chang. On Ko Chang we will stay in a place called the tree house, on lonely beach. It sounds like a great place to be, but not a good place to use the internet. So, you may not here from us for a while. Each of you are in our thoughts and we hope that all is well. As for us, we couldn't possibly be better. Katie sends lots of love and we hope to post more really soon, including some pictures.

permalink written by  katieandmichael on March 30, 2009 from Bangkok, Thailand
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Elephant Island

Trat, Thailand

(by Katie)

We're back in Bangkok again, after an amazing week on an island paradise spent fine-tuning our travel plans and unwinding from the craziness that is huge Asian cities. Ko Chang is a relatively large island off the south coast of Thailand, and its name means (as you may have guessed from the blog title) Elephant Island. Michael and I arrived the Tuesday before last, and stayed on the west coast at a place recommended by some friends and the Lonely Planet for the first night.

Well, I should say, we stayed next door. We realized shortly after our taxi driver dropped us at our requested location that it no longer offered any accomodation. Actually, it didn't seem it ever had. This would have been less confusing if we hadn't been referred to this place by multiple friends and our guidebook. Turns out, the owners decided about 6 months ago to pluck up all the bungalows and move them to Long Beach, on the opposite coast. Anyway, it all worked out for the best because, in our quest to solve this little mystery, we rented a motorbike and drove almost the whole 45 mile circumference of the island looking for the Treehouse's new location. It's a beautiful place, with dense rainforest in the middle, and, yes, elephants. There's even an elephant training center that aims to (and I love this) give the elephants skills to help them contribute to society.

So, once we found the new Treehouse and made our way back with our backpacks, we weren't in any hurry to leave.

The place is breathtaking: a deserted, huge white sand beach, bathtub-warm water, absolutely no pollution of any kind (light, noise, air), and individual little thatched-roof bungalows on stilts up in the trees. Even better, it was only $7 a night for both of us. We met some interesting travelers who gave us some tips about places they'd been, and other than that, we just ate yummy food and soaked up the sun and the bliss.

We're back in the chaotic, past-meets-urban-progress juxtaposition that is Bangkok now, but we haven't done much in terms of touristy stuff here. Mostly, we've been taking care of things like making future travel arrangements. Next week is one of the biggest holidays of the year in Thailand: Songkran, or Thai New Year. It involves spraying people with water guns, so I'm really excited. Apparently the place to be for the celebration is a city in the north called Chiang Mai, so we booked what could very likely be some of the last tickets to get there. It's going to be a (gulp) 10+ hour sleeper bus ride that we had planned to break up a bit by stopping in some different cities. However, due to all the holiday traffic we were lucky to get any space on a bus (all the trains are booked) out of town at all.

Anyway, my time is about to expire and I'm all out of the correct coins to feed the machine to keep the internet going, so I'd better run. Michael is here too, having a great time also, and sends his best.

permalink written by  katieandmichael on April 9, 2009 from Trat, Thailand
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A few more Bangkok photos, just cause we have them

Bangkok, Thailand

permalink written by  katieandmichael on April 11, 2009 from Bangkok, Thailand
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Happy Songkran!

Chiang Mai, Thailand


Or, in English, Happy New Year!

Yes, that's right, it's here again already!

If you've ever had trouble keeping your resolutions and wished for another, mid-year chance to scrap them and start over, the Thais have you covered. They like New Years festivities so much, they celebrate it three times a year. They've adopted partying on Jan. 1 from the western calendar, Lunar New Year from China, and, most importantly for Thais, Songkran from India. Basically, they've never heard of a holiday they didn't like. That makes them my kind of people.

Songkran means "passing into", and it's celebrated in Laos, Myanmar and Cambodia under different names. Here, it occurs at the end of the dry season, and it's a massive water party in the hopes that all that good-spirited water warfare will bring blessings of lots of rain during the rainy season. It's also a religious holiday, when the monks bless the statues of Buddha. Mostly, though, it's an all-out sopping wet party in the streets throughout the country, and nowhere is the party more rockin' than in Chiang Mai.

Officially, Songkran occurs on April 13, 14 and 15, although in Chiang Mai it starts and ends a day earlier and later. People grab water guns, buckets, hoses, or whatever else they can think of to drench their fellow revelors. They shut down all the major roads in the city center and people line the streets, while others jump into open-topped vehicles of all sorts. Then, they basically splash the be-jeebus out of each other from mid-morning until sundown. There's never any animosity to it, and (usually) if you've had enough water in the face and let them know, they'll refrain from throwing more at you.

I can't remember when I've had more silly, ridiculous fun. My favorite part was watching the children get so excited about chasing people down with buckets that were almost too heavy for them to carry.

Well, that, and all of the amazing fair food. Everyone dresses in brightly colored Hawaiian-style shirts and wears chains of flowers, and wherever you look, everyone is smiling their widest smiles, waiting to hurl massive volumes of water at you. Michael and I played like kids in it for four days, taking a one-day break in the middle to zip through the top of the rainforest at The Gibbon Experience; see his entry for more about that. Great, great fun.

Oh, and the best part: you get to make resolutions again! So, it doesn't even matter that mine (staying better in touch) never really got off the ground in January. World, get ready for a whole new, e-mail-whipping-out Katie! But, world, please don't set your expectations too high. I'm still drying off.

permalink written by  katieandmichael on April 13, 2009 from Chiang Mai, Thailand
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Happy Easter!

Chiang Mai, Thailand

(by Katie)

Greetings from the peaceful north!

Not sure if you've been watching the news, but in case you haven't, there's been a little unrest in Bangkok recently and we're not anywhere near it. To briefly explain what I've surmised, in 2006 the elected president, Thaksin, was kicked out by the military, which has a habit of kicking out presidents and taking back control of the government, on all sorts of charges that it never bothered to try to prove. So, Thaksin's had some time to gather support, and now his supporters want him back in office. We left Bangkok before the protests really picked up, and, both geographically and politically, it seems the north is worlds away from anything that's going on down there.

We've been having a ridiculously great time up here, and we were laughing so hard during all the Songkran festivities my stomach was aching. We'll write more and post pictures very soon, but right now we're going to go catch a bus to an artsy little town called Pai, northwest of Chiang Mai.

We hope you all had a wonderful Easter and got lots of egg-shaped chocolatey deliciousness!

permalink written by  katieandmichael on April 15, 2009 from Chiang Mai, Thailand
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Flight of the Gibbon

Chiang Mai, Thailand


Greetings all again from the wonderful north of Thailand. Alright guys, I'm going straight to the point. Imagine, if you will, zipping along through the jungle canopy, far above the floor below. You're flying from tree to tree, hooked into a harness, using a network of cables that stretch over 2 km in the rainforest. Well, that was the vision of the brilliant designers of The Flight of the Gibbon. Once only for scientists studying the eco-systems of the rain forest canopy, this must-do attraction is open to the likes of travellers and thrill seekers. (If all this sounds like a travel brochure, it's because I read way too many of them.)

Starting off not too high off the ground, the first leap is a cinch. From there, each trip you take is higher and higher until the forest floor becomes a frightening distance away. For us, it was a thrill and a chance to see parts of the rainforest that would be imposible to see otherwise.

The most impressive part for me was seeing how big some of these trees really are.

We have some videos that are worth a look, but we can't upload them here. As for now, I hope the pictures will do.

permalink written by  katieandmichael on April 20, 2009 from Chiang Mai, Thailand
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