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TwoSouls


33 Blog Entries
9 Trips
834 Photos

Trips:

Evolution: Additional visa pages & other prepatory adventures
Exit Stage Left: Saying Goodbye
Indonesia: So many islands, so little time
Malaysia: Historic Ports and Jungle Forts
Thailand: You Want Massage Mista?
Cambodia: Light, Shadows and a Layer of Smog
Ya Ready to Go Home? Yeah, Me Too...
New Zealand: Santa Wears Burmudas
Australia: Hot Days and Cool Reefs

Shorthand link:

http://blogabond.com/TwoSouls


We are going to explore the unknown and there's no turning back now. Why explore? Here are a few reasons why we start on this journey...

- To breathe deeply, appreciate the moment and SLOW DOWN
- To let go of our fears
- To rebel… prove that we can live outside the system
- To challenge ourselves mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually
- To stretch our wings and do things we’ve - never done before
- To share stories and inspire others to take risks
- To send silly postcards to our loved ones
- To make lifelong friends across the globe
- To embrace diversity, open our minds and find ourselves
- To take advantage of having no ties (kids, mortgage, debt, etc.)
- To strengthen our marriage
- To gain insight & beauty by seeing the world
- To meet and learn about different people & cultures
- To live simply – understand core needs vs. learned desires
- To learn about political & social situations around the world (NPR is good, but this is better)
- To re-set and reconsider the rat race

So please follow us as we set out to see the world and gain insight into who we are, individually and as a couple.

If you friends or family abroad that you'd like us to say hi to, send along their info. If you have good stories or advice to share, we are all ears. If you are thinking about a vacation abroad, find out where we'll be and meet up with us! And if you can't, just remember that there is beauty right there in your backyard... all you have to do is take a deep breath and open your eyes.

Lots of love,
The Hulls
hullacoasters@hotmail.com



So Long Sweaty Shirts... Hello Hugs from Mom

Los Angeles, United States


Greetings from Northern California. Yep, we decided to shorten our trip and head home after 5 months on the road. There are many reasons that led us to this decision - one not to ignore was our ever-so-quickly dwindling travel funds. We wanted to have a little stash of cash to help us settle back into home life again and when we found ourselves inching towards that Golden stash, we decided to save the second half of the trip for another time and hop on a flight home.

Life on the road can be tough. While we had the time of our lives, met some amazing people (yes, that's you) and created memories that will last a lifetime, we were also tired of the backpacker circuit and all the decision making we faced day in and day out. We missed our family and friends more that we imagined and we ached to get back to some of the structure that we had created at home. I can't believe that I am admitting to missing "structure", but I guess it's engrained in me and it's something that I depend on in my comfort zone.

But the whole idea of the trip was to experience life outside our comfort zones, and that we certainly did. In flipping through the heaps of photos we took over the last months, we are flooded with all kinds of stories - good, bad and ugly with laughter strewn throughout. We haven't yet taken the time to sit down and really discuss what we felt we accomplished over the past 5 months, but it's something that we would like to do soon. We both feel that our travels, as well as all that led up to this point in time has changed us for the better.

More to follow... with love.
Jen



permalink written by  TwoSouls on May 29, 2008 from Los Angeles, United States
from the travel blog: Ya Ready to Go Home? Yeah, Me Too...
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The Temples of Angkor and The Killing Fields

Phnom Penh, Cambodia


Based on the word from the backpacker streets, visiting Cambodia is something that you either love or hate. After spending 5 days there, we can see why so many people fall into that category... there is much to love if you can overlook the tough realities of this country. In one city, you've got the amazing temples of Angkor and in another, there are numerous monuments honoring the million of people killed by the Khmer Rouge in the 1970's. All around and in between is a struggle with poverty, pollution, and public health. A wave of emotions...

The ride to Siem Reap was bumpy. Like REALLY bumpy. This is the main road into the country mind you and it was a mess. We made a bit of a stink at the border trying to find an affordable option into Siem Reap - an employee at the travel agency and a police officer ended up following us up the road as we made our way to the REAL bus station to find a cheap taxi. After a debate on the rules put in place by the Tourist Department, we were able to get a taxi for $30 (down from a ridiculous $60 that we would have had to pay at the travel agency), but were forced to have an escort... beyond the whole money scam, they ended up doing what they could to make sure we were safely deliverd to Siem Reap, so it all worked out well. Phew.


Siem Reap is home to the Temples of Angkor, over one thousand structures build from the 9th to the 15th century A.D. It is impossible to see all of these in 1 day, but we decided to hit the highlights with a tour guide from the guesthouse. We were templed-out and dripping with sweat by late afternoon, so we hiked to the top of one last temple to enjoy the setting sun before calling it a day. These temples are amazing - most impressive being Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom, Bayon, Preah Khan and Phnom Bakheng - and it is easy to see why this is ranked as one of the marvels of the Middle Age. Just as with Borobudor, it is hard to describe the feeling that fills you when amist these ancient temples. A stillness follows you through the windy hallways and up and down the steep, crumbling steps. The smell of the stone and dust provoke images of those that carved each stone by hand so long ago. To me, these temples are a place for renewal... a place for forgiveness... and a reminder that there is much to have faith in.

In between visits to the temples, we had the pleasure of visiting with the local children while they hung on our pant legs and tried to sell books and trinkets. In the photo above, I got caught having to buy one thing from each little girl - they are all so precious and well-rehearsed (they will recite the basic US political statistics for you if you promise to buy a bracelet). By the last round of temple stops, the newness of the children's pleas had worn off and it became somewhat sad to see these kids begging for an American $1... how much of it is an act, we'll never know, but it can't be easy for them at 4 years old. So we bought a few little souvenirs and hoped that it would help.

After a few days in Siem Reap, we headed to the capital, Phnom Phen. It was there that we visited The Killing Fields and Tuol Sleng Museum, stationed at the infamous Security Prison 21. There are no words to describe the atrocities that occured at these locations and how they have shaped the environment in Cambodia today. When we arrived at the Killing Fields, there wasn't much to see initially, but in reading each sign erected in a specific spot beyond the gate, we learned where the prisoners arrived, where they were sorted and where they were executed and buried in mass graves. I don't want to go into too much dark detail and I doubt the photos can do any justice, but it was an experience that brought up much sadness and prayer for both of us. I prayed for their souls, that they be set free. I prayed for those that survived, that their wounds are healed and their futures bright. I prayed for the lessons learned, that history never repeat itself. Finally, I prayed for compassion, that people treat others with love and respect.

We hit the National Museum for a couple of hours and made many loops around Phnom Phen to try to capture the sights. The poverty is tough to swallow, as there are many mothers with newborns on the streets and a lot of handicap men and women hoping to make a life for themselves. But there is also beauty and a sense of pride that outdoes most nations to the west. There is hope in the hundreds of young monks collecting alms on the streets. There is hope in the numerous social programs set up to help educate the locals, create sustainable resources and get help for those that need it most. There is hope. We left Cambodia with a sense of awe and a slight sense of relief. It's not an easy stop... it forces you to think about your luxuries and your faith. We feel fortunate that we made the effort to get there and will look for ways that we might be able to help the underpriviledged there from afar.

Humble thoughts...
Jen

permalink written by  TwoSouls on May 10, 2008 from Phnom Penh, Cambodia
from the travel blog: Cambodia: Light, Shadows and a Layer of Smog
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Binge Drinkers and Bloated Bellies in Bangkok

Bangkok, Thailand


Please don't let me lead you astray... WE ARE NOT binge drinking in Bangkok, or any other city for that matter, but it seems that the majority of our fellow travelers, as well as the locals like to "get their drink on" regularly. It's a great spot to stupify oneself, with many hip bars and alley-style cocktail stands to choose from, but it also leaves a certain residue on everything and, as we've found on more than one occasion in Thailand, makes it tough to get a good night sleep.

This is definitley a 24-hour city. You've got the bar patrons stumbling back to their rooms next door until the wee hours of the morning. You've got those catching an early flight banging around as they pack up and head out before breakfast is served. Then you've got the weary ones that are just stepping off a bus to find a cheap room to drop their stuff and start it all over again. We've found ourselves in the last two scenarios more than once and have as much patience as we can for those in that situation, but we seem to have less and less patience for the late night stream of drunken backpackers. We even had one girl try to open our door at 2:00 in the morning thinking that our room was hers...

It's not hard to spot these hardy partiers during the breakfast people-watching session. The younger guys can usually get away with a hangover a day over the course of a few weeks on the road, but some show their post-party fatigue like a badge of honor. We don't envy them, and while we do complain from time to time about the disruption they cause throughout the night, we are glad top be on the other side. We've slowed down and prefer snuggling to singapore slings... and to be honest, this makes the whole travel scene a bit difficult. I guess we are just getting a little older - there, I said it.

As for the bloated bellies, there are a few different kinds.

There is what I call the "Fried Rice 15" (as opposed to the "Freshman 15") and I would have to admit that I fall into that category. I thought I would lose weight with the lack of western fast-food and the abundance of rice (coupled with walking tours and the absense of red wine), but I was wrong. 70% of the menu falls under fried foods - fried rice, fried noodles, fried ginger, fried snails. 20% falls under curry - delicious, coconut-milk laden heaven, with heaps of calories. The other 10% falls under western food - eggs, bacon, hamburgers, club sandwiches, french fried (not an error -that's how they say it) and pancakes. And if none of that suits you, there is a 7-11 on every other corner... not a nutritious item on the shelves. So I'm feeling the bloated belly, but will likely continue to eat yummy curry and pad-thai - I'm looking forward to a proper ceasar salad when I get home, but I know I'll miss REAL thai food.

The other type of bloated belly is that which belongs to the MANY, MANY western men that come here looking for that "special massage". I don't mean to be rude and I try not to judge, but I have to say that this phenomenon, which has been going on for decades, is hard to swallow for both Tim and I. We come across endless couples walking hand in hand - the oversized, older white men with the young, petite and usually "out-of-their-league" beautiful girls. It's disturbing and confusing. And because it's a major part of Thailand's economy, it's something that I'd like to understand better. Do these men pay for all her food and buy her gifts for his entire stay? Do they summon the same girl on subsequent trips? Is there some level of "faithfullness" that occurs between these two? Did he find her in a massage parlor or was it a buddy that gave a referral? It feels like it unbalances the world, but perhaps I am just naive. We all need a little love and affection, so maybe it's perfectly harmless? The feminist in me thinks not, and I suspect that I'm not the only one who feels this way.

So Bangkok... sassy and convenient. loud and tough to cross the street. yummy smells waffing from one corner and sewage under your feet on the next. a strong sense of pride and a great place to buy a custom suit. a mixed bag.

Mmm... ceasar salad sounds good.
Peace out - Jen

permalink written by  TwoSouls on May 7, 2008 from Bangkok, Thailand
from the travel blog: Thailand: You Want Massage Mista?
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A Real Hotel and Shop-Till-You-Drop!

Chiang Mai, Thailand


The getaway from Koh Phangan was not that easy...

After a recovery day from the Full Moon Party, we were booked (I should say over-booked) on ferry to Koh Tao, a smaller island close by known for it's diving. Unfortunately we were turned away and had to spend one more night on Koh Phangan. The following day was much the same, but we showed up early and managed to secure a spot.


Koh Tao is a diving mecca with wall to wall dive resorts (some nice, some not so nice), and heaps of dive boats side-by-side near the jetty's. We had pre-booked at Black Tip Resort per suggestion and were met at the dock on arrival. (It sure is cool to have someone waiting for you with a sign!)

Black Tip was unfortunately 4km from town, isolating Jen from nightlife and shopping. The weather wasn't cooperating either, so swimming in the pool was out as well. For me, even though the dives I had booked were cancelled- I managed to talk the dive master into going out (just the two of us). We went out at 7am and had two pretty good dives of 60 minutes each. There really wasn't much reef to see, but the marine life was fantastic. We were chased around a few times by some large, very territorial triggerfish. The dive master (who goes by Boy) had warned me that this would happen and seemed convinced that it was just him that they were after. Funny, huh?

After just two nights on Koh Tao, we were prepared for a long day's travel to Bangkok. We took a taxi to the pier to meet a high-speed catamaran that was to transfer us to Chumphon, on the mainland. Just before we were allowed to board, a storm blew in quickly and with it...torrential downpour. Everyone was soaked just getting down the dock to the boat. Again, the boat seemed way overbooked and a few upset passengers were made to sit in the aisles or stand along the side. The passage was very nerve-racking as the overloaded/overcrowded cat listed from port to starboard in the heavy seas. Even 'I' was worried! Catamarans are usually quite stable! We did make it out ok, but there were many seasick backpackers that day. (and it was mayhem trying to get our bags from the bottom of the pile and onto the dock)


Once we reached Chumphon, our connection to Bangkok was aboard a comfortable new dbl-decker bus. We arrived in the BIG CITY tired from the day of travel, but relieved it was over and we were safe. Our stay in Bangkok was just for one night and we caught a quick flight to Chiang Mai (in Northern Thailand) the next day. The plan for Chiang Mai - relax and stay in one spot for 5 days, shop in the markets, get massage, and swim in the hotel pool. Wow! Did I just type HOTEL? Yes, we finally decided to splurge and get a real room. It was soooo nice to have a cozy bed, hot shower, cable t.v., a bellhop, and of course - the pool!

Many people recommended Chiang Mai to us- and rightfully so. What a great city! Jen and I shopped (together o.m.g.) at the night markets and the Sunday market. We tried the Thai massage and were delighted that it wasn't as painful as we thought it would be (if you don't mind being twisted into a pretzel). We were given the massages side-by-side so I got to see just how flexible Jen really is...didn't know she could bend like that!

At one point Jen pulled the "need-a-day-by-the-pool" card so I took the opportunity to get out for a tour to the Golden Triangle. The tour included a stop off at a really old Wat (13th century), a stop in a border town to Myanmar (Burma), views across the Mekong River to Laos and Myanmar, and visits to 2 Thai hill people villages.
When I returned to the hotel, Jen surprised me with the gift of a beautiful hammock and tickets for 2 to the Thai boxing match at 8pm. What a day! God, I Love this woman!!

After 5 days we were pretty "shopped out" and relaxed...ready to fly back to Bangkok to explore some more. We went back down to the "backpackers strip" (the infamous Th Khao San) where we had stayed previously, and found another quality budget guesthouse. I call this the "strip" because it is chocked full of backpackers from all over. One end of this curvy road is loaded with bars and nightlife, the other with guesthouses (many with their own restaurant), internet cafes, street vendors, and travel offices. It's really the optimal place to be if you're a backpacker in Bangkok. We managed to connect again with our friends Sarah and Kevin from England who we'd met on Gili T. After sharing some cocktails and a tower of Sing-Ha over dinner, we bid our farewells once again. These two are a wonderful couple and inspire us a great deal! "Dreaming of Gili T!"

From here were are heading into Cambodia to see Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, and Phnom Penh. More on this in our next blog...
Our thoughts and love go out to you all!
Tim


permalink written by  TwoSouls on May 5, 2008 from Chiang Mai, Thailand
from the travel blog: Thailand: You Want Massage Mista?
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The Beach

Ko Phangan, Thailand


So I got what I wanted... well almost. Since our arrival in Thailand on the 10th, we've found ourselves on the beach almost every day. But with the beaches there are tourists. And tourists can be pretty obnoxious in large quantities. Nevertheless, we are enjoying ourselves and are currently in a little pocket of heaven on the North end of Koh Phangan.

Phuket: Two words. Hotel Envy. Just like that dang Lonely Planet guide

warned us about. While every one and their brother in amidst a swanky two-week vacation, spending their mornings in the massage parlor, their lunch hour at the poolside bar and their nights eating fresh seafood at top-notch restaurants, we are trudging around with our humongous backpacks trying to find the cheapest hotel possible. Not fun. It's not that the budget hotels are total sh-t holes, but it just isn't as romantic as one might first imagine. Toilets that flush are always nice, but it's rare in the backpacker hotels. If you get two ratty towels and a roll of toilet paper, you are doing the victory dance. With all that said, we enjoyed our time there and did get to relax on the beach. Amen.

Ao Nang: A nice little spot outside of Krabi, this was a little more to our liking, as the pace was a bit slower and we seemed to have more in common with the average traveler here. Unfortunately, Tim was sick the first two days of our stay and we didn't get to explore Railay and the islands beyond. When he was revving at full speed again, we finally found our courage and ate at one of the local food carts. The whole experience was pretty classic - the "chef" was a pregnant woman propped up sideways on a motorbike over a pot full of steaming curry. To ensure it's perfect spiciness, she'd take numerous sips right from the pot before throwing it in a bowl and serving it up. Top notch food for under $2... and no belly aches.

Crowded Bus Ride #26: When we started on this trip, one of our intentions was to see the country by land - many, many trains, buses, taxis and vans. Again, it all sounds very romantic when flipping through a travel guide in the comfort of you own air-conditioned home... but not so much when you are stuck in the middle of it. We've certainly done our best to save money on transportation and be sensible about our options, and we are now pretty much over it. Get me on an plane... and I'd like some peanuts and a pillow please. We inevitabley have more long, uncomfortable journeys in front of us... and numerous stinky travelers will burst our personal space bubbles. Even I, as petite and slight-footed as I am (we are all laughing now, right?), have been known to wander into other people's personal bubble... oopsie.

Ko Phangan: Ah... this is the good island life. We picked a bungalow on the entirely opposite side of the island from the Infamous Full Moon Party. Our days are filled with hammock dwelling, dusty scooter rides around town, sunbathing, snorkeling and yummy grubbing at our host's beachfront restaurant. We managed to make our way to the Party last night, arriving just after 11:00 pm. Some party-goers had obviously gotten an early start... a shame really, but probably best for them to nap on the beach, even if face down in the sand under the feet of 6,000 people.

We managed to stay pretty tame, despite the pandamoniom thumping around us. We connected with a couple of Canadian gals we'd met in Phuket and wandered up and down the beach for a few hours. When it was apparent that the vibe wasn't getting any better, we decided to make our way through "broken bottle /broken spirit" alley to our scooter (pictures don't do this mess any justice). We certainly appreciate a good party, but we seem to shy away from it a bit more than we used to. Out hearts are drifting towards home and we think often about the excitement and anxiety of settling back in amoungst our family and friends. We are plotting our departure as we continue to embrace each moment and enjoy the journey at hand. We also see the journey home as an equally important part of this entire process, so it deserves our attention as well.

After we returned from the party last night, I made my way down to the beach and swung from the treeswing... listening to the sound of the waves lapping against the shore... realizing how small our part is in this big world, yet knowing that our impact is considerable. I made a promise to myself as I stared up at the glowing moon - I promised to love myself no matter what. That has been pretty hard some days over the last few months, but it is the biggest step in my contribution back to this world...

Lots of love,
Jen

P.S. Thanks for letting me vent a bit...

permalink written by  TwoSouls on April 21, 2008 from Ko Phangan, Thailand
from the travel blog: Thailand: You Want Massage Mista?
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Spoiled in Kuala Lumpur: a special treat for our weary feet

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia


We just spent a week in the great city of Kuala Lumpur, a melting pot of Malay, Chinese and Indian culture, religion and politics. We flew to KL on the 1st of the month with plans to meet up with an American family that has been living and working here for the past couple of years. We met Karen 4 months ago in LAX just an hour before we flew to Auckland - over a cocktail in the airport lounge, we briefly exchanged our stories and was offered a place to stay when we came through Malaysia. Tim and I were pleased, but both initially blew it off, fully understanding that we were strangers and that these types of offers usually go unexplored. Little did we know that Karen and Jack would come to follow our blog regularly, give us many helpful local tips via e-mail (and mid-meeting text messages!) and provide us with a REALLY NICE place to relax and explore during our time in Malaysia.

Between a lot of buses up and down the southern portion of Malaysia, we found ourselves in Melaka for a couple of days and in what was supposed to be a "resort" beach for an overnight stay before throwing in the towel and heading to KL early. Melaka was not the small and quaint port town that we were expecting, and while interesting, not a place we wanted to try to burn 3 - 4 days, so we asked around a bit and decided to head to Pengkalan Balak, a beach community about an hour northwest. We were initially excited about our beachfront chalet and managed a decent night sleep, but after we realized there wasn't any "resort", no one spoke English and it started pouring rain, we through a tandum temper tantrum and hitched a ride to the bus station to head back to KL.

We had one night to chill on our own before heading to Karen and Jack's on the 4th. We found a cool backpacker's in Chinatown and gravitated to the infamous Reggae bar across the street for dinner. Part of the mystery was trying to decide if your waitstaff was a girl or a boy - an added bonus to an already hip spot to hang (assuming you had a couple hundred ringgit to spend on cocktails, which we didn't). We wandered the night market and after breakfast with some friends we'd met in Gili T., we spent the day shooting around town, browsing the mall (indoor rollercoaster included), catching an IMAX movie and dodging the rain. We landed on K & J's doorstep about 8:30 pm dripping wet and probably a little cross-eyed.. still they welcomed us in.

Oh what a delight is was to have a place to refresh ourselves and get off the backpacker track for a while. We were also happily surprised that Jack was able to spend a lot of time with us over the next few days showing us the sights. We spent plenty of time at the house getting caught up on laundry and e-mail, organizing photos, taking care of left-over issues with "The Man" (Quantas and Telestial), shipping a few things home and just relaxing in general. We had a home cooked meal every night and access to western style food without a pricetag - I never thought we'd be so excited to see a box of Cheerios. We also had some wonderful pockets of time just exchanging stories and histories with Jack and Karen... they are not only very down to earth and generous people, but they are wonderful parents to their 3 kids and very well-traveled and active in their community here, as well as when they are at home in the Twin Cities. We REALLY enjoyed getting to know them better and can't thank them enough for opening their home and their hearts to us!

Below I have included some photos of our numerous outings while in KL - a big thanks to our Tour Director, Mr. Jack.

Saturday morning was the wet market with Karen and Jack - apparently it's called the wet market because it's where the animals meet their end and the floors tend to get a little slippery - too much information perhaps? Regardless, it was very interesting
and the best place to get produce. Then it was to KL Towers for a view of the entire city... After that, we went to the Butterfly Garden and to an Elephant Orphanage - I don't have the name of the reserve with me, but it was impressive. The following day we took a rest, as I was suffering from a low-level sinus infection and sore throat.

On our last full day in KL, Jack took us along on his weekly visit to the Chin refugee kids - from Borneo. He and some friends bring snacks and spend a couple hours with the children teaching them English. What a unique and wonderful experience it was to spend a little time with these children, who are basically waiting to be assigned a home in the US. I could of scooped them all up in my arms and taken them home with us, but obviously that is not the reality of the situation. Luckily, these kids have family, but they are living in limbo for now and the weekly visits they have with Jack and the others seem to mean a great deal.

I am short on time trying to wrap this up, but our time with Karen and Jack in KL was a highlight and something we will carry in our hearts for years to come. Thank you, thank you, thank you and we promised we'd continue to "pay it forward".

We are a few days into our time in Phuket, Thailand and will write more about that soon. Kisses from a milion miles away. We love you and miss you!

Jen and Tim


permalink written by  TwoSouls on April 10, 2008 from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
from the travel blog: Malaysia: Historic Ports and Jungle Forts
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Borobudor and Beyond: Our final days in Indo

Yogyakarta, Indonesia


Greetings. We are TRYING to get caught up on the blog scene, so I will attempt to fill you in on our experience at Borobudor in Java and the few days that followed.

We had the honor of spending a few hours roaming around Borobudor, the largest Buddhist temple in the world. Thankfully, we decided to chip in for a local guide and it was well worth it - we learned about the discovery and restoration of the temple, as well as the stories that are depicted through the detailed carvings on each level and what the traditional Buddha positions mean. It was fascinating, and despite the extremely warm weather, we wished we could have lingered for a while (one of the the downsides of a tour). If you are interested in the history of Borobudor, I have provided a link with some details below... it's quite fascinating.

http://www.pbs.org/treasuresoftheworld/a_nav/boro_nav/main_borofrm.html

I have to admit that it's always been a little tough for me to grasp the true historical value of such sites... I was often in la-la-land during my history classes in highschool and college and I don't often find myself researching old events or stopping into museums. But this was a special place. The workmanship was palpable and the spiritual vibrations were strong. I separated myself from the group many times to stop and breathe in deeply... to reflect on the mindset of those who build the structure... to give thanks and acknowledge the greatness and mystery around me... it helps me embrace humility.

I'm having some difficulty expressing my thoughts on the experience, as it is not something that is easily described in words. So I will include a few of my favorite photos that helped capture the experience. I hope you enjoy.

We enjoyed the rest of our stay in Yogyakarta, and then hopped on a bus to the southern coast of Java to a place called Pangandaran. Even though you couldn't initially see much damage, this was one of the cities hit by the tsunami in 2006. We were lucky enough to hear about it from Lee, one of the survirors that chose to stay in the city afterward - she still has nightmares from time to time, but says her decision to stay and rebuild her home and business was the right thing to do. Pangandaran was quaint and the water warm. We spent some time playing in the surf together, took a walk in the near by National Park, ate some delicious hand-picked seafood and relaxed under the guidance of a local masseuse. It was a relaxing last stop before heading out of Indonesia. After an overnight bus to Jakarta and a few more transfers, we flew to Malaysia and said hello to our second country in Asia.

We hope to return to Indonesia soon - one month is not enough to see all that these islands have to offer and we left many stones unturned. We made many, many friends here and even offered to sponsor our masseuse from Pandangaran if he would like to come to the US to teach his trade and save money to build a home for his family. We would feel honored if we had the opportunity to host any of the people we've met on our journey and certainly feel blessed for those that have shared so much with us.

So we keep moving along...
Jen

permalink written by  TwoSouls on April 7, 2008 from Yogyakarta, Indonesia
from the travel blog: Indonesia: So many islands, so little time
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Lombok to Java: Patience is a virtue

Yogyakarta, Indonesia


Our island magic is now just a memory and we are abruptly thrown back into the madness of the mainland. A little under the weather (both physically and spiritually), we took a ferry to Lombok and were greeted by a plethera of touts trying to pry the money from our wallets. They are friendly enough, but very sly... if they even touch your backpack, they demand a small donation. We managed to brush them off, only to step into another group of them while we waited for the bus to our destination.

Sengiggi is certainly nothing to write home about. Outside of some entertaining bartering during our beach front breakfast and a very friendly local that helped us get to the airport, it was really just a place to nurse Tim back to health and rest of weary heads. We made our way to Mataram the next day in hopes of catching a flight to Java, but after loitering around the ticket window for a couple hours, it was clear that we were stuck in Lombok for one more night. Mataram felt a bit like the Twilight Zone, perhaps only compared to the backpacker friendly Gili T... we ventured out to find a bite for dinner and found ourselves lost in a web of commercial buildings, army barracks, dingy back alley flats and rustic food carts on every corner. No one spoke more than one or two words of English and the locals seemed to find us rather odd. They either ignored us, tried to run us down with their motorbike (I exaggerate here a little) or sent their children running to the streets to wave and practice their English - "good morning" they all say, no matter what time of day it is. We managed to find the "mall" and chowed down on McDonalds before heading back to the hotel for another so-so night of sleep. Any town that forces you to eat at McDonalds is not one that we will see again.

The flight to Surabaya in Java was delayed, the airport was bland and we were both annoyed and ready to leave Lombok. Unfortunately, Surabaya was more of the same. The second biggest city in Java, it was hustle and bustle with no real place to comfortably drop our bags. We hopped on a bus to the transit station, ran to the (leaky) city bus in the middle of a heavy thunderstorm and arrived to the hotel drenched from head to toe. The hotel was empty, over-priced and shared a wall with the night club around the corner... you can tell how happy Jen was, no? We put in our ear plugs, got a little shut eye and found our way to Mt. Bromo the next day.


Ahh, happiness again in Cemoro Lewang, a little town on the rim of Mt. Bromo, one of Java's most impressive volcanoes. The bus ride up the steep and winding hill was, well... something we continue to laugh about. To save money, we took a public mini-bus and found that what appeared to be a 12-seater was slowly, but surely filled with 22 people... and there may have been one or two dudes riding on the roof as well. Classic. We arrived at Cafe Lava with battered knees, but in good spirits. After a well-deserved night of rest, we skipped the recommended sunrise walk to the summit of Mt. Bromo and opted for a late breakfast and a stroll along the outer rim. That afternoon, Tim was caught in a serious storm and flash flood - I was in the middle of a nap and awoke to the crack of thunder, so it was a bit of a worry session for me (Tim was fine outside of some seriously wet boots). It was this storm that delayed our trip down the hill the next day... the bus couldn't get more than a few miles our of town due to the landslides, so we put our backpacks on and walked down the hill, which ended up being a really nice way to see the landscape.
After the final decent down the hill on the bus, we transferred to a van with 4 folks from Spain and made the 9 hour trip to Solo... a 12 hour day of travel total. We've found that travel days are some of the toughest times for us. One or the other of us is usually hot, tired, bloated, cramped, smelly or all of the above. It's also a crux which demands decision making - in a quick and confident fashion as to avoid the dozens of transportation and hotel operators ready to intercept us as we de-board the train, bus, boat, etc. We are not particulary good at decision making, so our relationship has been tested in these situations time and again...

Solo is a cute town in Central Java and we decided to spend a couple of days here to accomplish a few errands - you have no idea how bad it can get after wearing the same few outfits for 3 weeks in this humidity! Laundry, another package sent home and plenty of walking through back alleys that have much more to offer than one would think. I took a half day batik course while Tim worked away on the computer. We had good food and our hosts at the Istaya Guaya Hotel were wonderful. We boarded the local train on Thursday and headed to Yogjakarta, the cultural capital of Java.

Since Tim is waiting for me to finish up and we are having little luck uploading photos from here, I will say goodbye for now. We have a 7 hour journey to Pandangaran tomorrow where we will relax on the beach for a couple days before heading to Jakarta and then into Malaysia. Once we get to Kuala Lumpur, I will share our photos from our visit to Borobudor today - it is a blog topic of it's own, so maybe Tim will volunteer (despite the time it takes him to blog, he gets more excited about it every time).

A belated Happy Easter to you and warm thoughts from a far...

Selamat Malam,
Jen

permalink written by  TwoSouls on March 28, 2008 from Yogyakarta, Indonesia
from the travel blog: Indonesia: So many islands, so little time
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Gili Trawangan: Tim's Version

Lombok, Indonesia


Forward with pictures first...

I started this blog by just showing photos, which I think I'll leave in place and add even more. We have so many pix of this gorgeous little island, I'd rather see them in a blog than in the storage bin.

Really...Jen did a wonderful blog on Gili Trawangan already, but I feel it's necessary to share my side as well.

Despite the fact that Jen and I got along marvelously during our stay here, we spent alot of time apart doing our own things. (Maybe this is why we got along so well...lol) I regularly took off to go scuba diving or snorkeling and hang out with the locals. Jen was quite happy just relaxing, walking, reading, shopping, and exploring the island.

From the beginning-

The boat we took from Bali to Gili T was a rustic but well maintained little ferry operated by Perama. The journey took about 4 hours but was very enjoyable. We spotted dolphins and flying fish en route, and the views back toward Bali were stunning.

Rounding Gili Trawangan the jetty and main strip came into view, looking like something right out of National Geographic. The color of the water was a brilliant clear turquoise, colorful fishing boats and dive boats lined up along the shore, horse-drawn carts and locals selling their wares were moving about on the street. It was (is) perfect!

Once ashore, we scurried off in small groups to try and find the best and cheapest place to stay before the next guy...and lucky for us, a guy named Jackson came along and led us to Sama Sama restaurant and bungaloos- very close to the center of town. Ironically, this is also the reggae bar on the island and comes with a live band (the only band on Gili). I knew I was home!

We were shown around back and down an alleyway to Coconut Dream, a sister bungaloo that was built just last year. Very posh on our backpackers scale and with air-con a reasonable Rp 150,000. We'll take it!

By the time we settled in, it was dark. Really craving a swim, we walked up the main road about 10 minutes and found a beach with a spotlight. Once in the water, which is the perfect temp, we embraced and decided that 4 days would not be enough. Let's stay a week or more. Brilliant!

To be continued.....

We are catching a train in an hour...gotta pack!

Peace and Love!
Tim




permalink written by  TwoSouls on March 26, 2008 from Lombok, Indonesia
from the travel blog: Indonesia: So many islands, so little time
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Two Tickets to Paradise

Lombok, Indonesia


We are digging out toes into the sands of Gili Trawangan, a small island off the coast of Lombok (Indonesia). This place has by far exceeded our expections and landed on the top of our "Holy Shit, This is Amazing" List. You'll have to excuse my language, as I've been hanging around backpackers for over 3 months now. Oh, and there are no police on this island, so there is a sense of freedom that slightly outweighs my desire to be politically correct. Isn't it marvelous?

So what is it that qualifies this place as Paradise? It seems it would be a magical blend of ingrediants that can only come together under special circumstances. For instance, I'm sure Gili T. would be near perfection without considering our fellow travellers, but because the stars lined up just right, we managed to find this place alongside a group of very, very cool people. They know who they are, and fortunately for us, they find us to be quite brilliant as well. Not brilliant like Einstein, but like... well, like London. Whatever the case, it's quite nice being seen as briliant and I might just have to incorporate the word into my daily jargon.

Paradise... ingrediants include:

1. Water. On all sides if possible. You surf there. Snorkeling is best over there. Swim just across from the guy that sells the woven bracelets. Diving is just a boat ride away. And it sparkles, no matter where you stand. A brilliant blue with hints of the reef below. A jellyfish sting isn't particularly fun, but the waters are sheltered and warm with a whole other world to discover just below.

2. Locals. These guys are textbook friendly and the bartering can be a whole experience in itself. Full of smiles, history and good recommendations, they are intoxicating. And they don't at all seem the type to steal your sunglasses while you take a swim. According to Rafael, there isn't much theft here because any such incident would be reported to their president and they would be promptly asked to leave the island. Maybe he'd like to run for president of the USA?
3. Nightlife. The restaurants and bars have agreed to take turns hosting a late night party a few times a week. We happened upon the dual-DJ party at the Irish pub earlier this week and only returned to our room once to get more storage for photos and again after watching the sunrise over a chain of volcanoes in Lombok. We drank and danced and laughed and met fellow partiers from across Europe and beyond. We saw at least 3 people fall off the bar and boogied down as our friend Joe took a go at the turntable... and to think that I almost didn't rally for this one. Tonight, the party moves to Rudy's, known for it's killer pizza and mushroom shakes. Will I be able to pull another all-nighter? Probably not, but one can try.
4. Cheap digs. We did not go for the $6 rooms, cuz for less than twice that, our room is generous for the price, with air con, a patio and hammock, a table for letter writing and a king size fanned lounge bed. We shoo away mosquitos in our outdoor shower, but it's absolutely a perfect place to lay our heads after a long day of doing close to nothing. And breakfast is included with oh so strong Bali coffee. Yes, paradise. And for those that want to really do it up, there are 5 star accommodations up and down the main drag for $45 - $100 US a night... something for everyone.
5. Yummy food. It's cheap, well-cooked and available until after midnight. They have huts set up right on the beach with lounge pillows and romantic lighting - just the two of us or smoosh in with friends, they are lovely. You can get a banana split for $1.80 and there are no lack of funny waiters... we've found the shorter the better for some reason. And just in case we need a break from the curry and fried noodles, we've got a can of pringles, a pack of oreos and 4 large bottles of water in our room. Lots of cold water for sale, so we are careful to hydrate in the humid heat.
6. Sun. Up in the sky with a place to escape it if necessary - a hut, a fresh water pool in the fancy hotels, floating under the pier a few feet off the beach, swinging in a hammock, in your air conditioned room. And cold beer helps too... friends, meet Bingtang. Bingtang, meet friends.
7. Shopping. Enough shopping to pass the heat of the day, but not so much that it's distracting. Cheap sarongs, surf shorts, hand-made art and jewelry.
8. Quiet. There are no motorbikes here like the mainland. You can walk, rent a bicycle or hire a horsedrawn thinga-ma-gig. The air and sea are clean, except for your occasional horse pooh and empty beer bottle. You can easily escape the bartering and drinking scene by walking in any direction... or simply lounging in front of your room. You can also pick from shelves of movies to watch in the comfort of your own cozy hut on the beach. While Tim often likes to be in the middle of the party, I sometimes prefer to listen to it's echos from afar... we can both have our way and our comfort here. And watching the sunrise on the beach - nothing but the sound of the waves and the jingle of the boat lines. Priceless.
9. No bonehead tourists. This place is just a tad off the track, and the tourists, therefore, are perfectly laid back, friendly and not in a hurry to go anywhere. I wouldn't describe it as hedonistic, but perhaps in the way that you are highly encouraged to do whatever it is you please. If you love sun and surf, you hit the beach. If you want to explore the reef, take an intro dive course and have a gander down below. If you are trying to escape the job, the divorce, the family obligations or stress of the city, grab a book and chill by yourself in your room or by the pool. And when you are feeling satiated with whatever it is you seek, you shower, shave, prop a flower behind your ear and wander the strip for a meal at dusk. There is a soft buzz in the air and everyone is happy to see you. One Love.
10. My best friend. I get to experience this magical place with my best friend Tim. How frigging cool is that? We gush over each other to friends we've met or simply gaze into each other's eyes before sleepy time. We wake up intertwinded and excited for a new day of exploration together. Love feels stronger here and closer to our fingertips with a multitude of reminders around us. And I am hopeful that I will be able to feel this long after we've left.

Now don't you all rush off at once to find the next boat to Gili T... there are pockets of paradise in our own backyards. I would certainly recommend a trip to Indonesia, if not just to stand at the shore with your toes dug in the sand. Dyann - you would love this place... and if we call you from Rudy's at 3 o-clock in the morning, it will be noon in Santa cruz and you will know exactly how we are feeling - blessed to be right here, but missing you all Very, Very Much.

Peace,
Jen



permalink written by  TwoSouls on March 14, 2008 from Lombok, Indonesia
from the travel blog: Indonesia: So many islands, so little time
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