Thursday, October 24, 2013


When we first landed in Siem Reap, I fell in love. I thought the place was beautiful, a nice man picked us up in a Tuk Tuk and everything seemed lovely and friendly (I still feel that way, just for the record, but I'll get into the details of that later).

We arrived at our hostel and I loved it there as well, although the top bunk of the bunk bed was VERY high off the ground. That was a little annoying but other than that it had a pool and fantastic happy hour. We arrived at about 1pm and at 2pm our Tuk Tuk driver was going to come get us from the hostel to take us on the big loop tour of the temples. He did just that and we saw quite a few temples before it started to DOWNPOUR. Our goal was to see 5 temples and then one more would be at sunset. Unfortunately, it started raining before we got to the 5th temple area so we had to call it quits. It had been raining before, but not down pouring. Then it started down pouring and we went home.

The first two temples we saw that day were pretty much the same. Ruins of temples remaining. The third one was the coolest for that day because it had been pretty overgrown by trees. The trees and the temple ruins were intertwined and it looked awesome. The last temple we saw that day was a quick visit and it was raining a lot. That was one that was surrounded by water, also pretty cool. We did quite enjoy our Tuk Tuk driver as well. Nice guy.

That night we made our way to Pub Street which is, as you could probably guess, a street lined with pubs and restaurants. It was fun to just walk around there. We had a drink and just relaxed a bit. We had to go to bed early though because we had to get to Angkor Wat for the sunrise which meant waking up at 4:45.

The next morning we did just that. On the way to the temple, our Tuk Tuk tire popped as we were rounding the corner to get to the temple. Fortunately, our drivers friend saw us and took us the last bit so we could make it for sunrise. Although it was a bit cloudy, it was gorgeous. What a sight to see. We spent some time wandering around the inside and enjoying the magnficantness that is Angkor Wat. After we finished there we went to a temple that had faces all over it. That was Brigitte's favorite temple (and it was quite cool looking). This was Angkor Thom, which was the thriving metropolis of it's time. Side note, let it be noted that you can ride elephants through Angkor Thom and it stops at many of the destinations for you. Also let it be noted that there are monkeys everywhere up in there. Anyways, we went to two other places, one was another temple with some pagoda of elephants or something and the other was a temple that they are currently working to rebuild. They've done a lot of reconstruction on it because the trees have torn it apart a bit (which we thought made it look cool) but they are working to rebuild the walls. I didn't really realize that meant they were going to do this by kind of tying rope around the structures.

By this time it was like 11am and we had been up for too long so we went home and took a nap. When that was finished, we went to the National Museum which told us a lot about the things we had just seen. Mostly it told us about the Hindu religion and Buddhism and how they are connected and not or how some formed off of others. We also learned about the rulers of Cambodia (kings) and what they accomplished for their people.

That night we went to Pub Street again for some traditional food and drinks. The traditional food of Cambodia seems to be almost exactly the same as Thailand, but less spicey and less spices (I hope no one takes offence to that as that was just my observation of the food). One really bizzare moment of that night was watching some local kids get caught for shop lifting. They were quite young, maybe 8 years old and they were sitting with wigs on by a band playing music. The guards walked by and then realized it was the kids and chased after them. Really a shocking moment as we watched the kids hand over what they had taken (not even really sure what it was) and the guards walked them away. Even more frightening was not knowing what happened to the kids for their crime.

We walked around the market a lot and quickly realized there were an INSANE amount of markets. I'm not sure how all those stalls stay in business as most of them sell the same things. But there were at least 5 different night markets filled with stalls selling things to people but there weren't nearly as many people at these markets as there were at the markets in Bangkok. At one point we also found an exceptionally cheap massage and pedicure place which I had been waiting for. We paid 3 dollars for a half hour foot massage and then I paid 3 more dollars for my pedicure. Along with that, got a free beer. That was quite awesome. When we got back to the hostel, we met a group of 3 travelers who were off to Phenom Phen that night and they happened to be staying in the same hostel as us we learned when we got there the next day.

Now Phenom Phen was where I started to fall out of love with Cambodia a little bit. NO offence to anyone, but it has been my least favorite city so far. It smelled like trash and felt very dangerous, moreso than I feel now in Ho Chi Mihn.

Riding in the van from Siem Reap to Phenom Phen was great because we got to see a lot of the country side. Cambodia is very flooded right now because of the rain and we saw that to be true. Also, they have a lot of dirt roads still which makes it a bit difficult to drive sometimes. The funny thing about the country side that has dirt roads and no running water is the fact that every little restaurant or gathering place has a sign that says "free wifi." Someone explain to me how all these little places in the middle of no where surrounded by water fields has the capability to have free wifi.

When we got to Phenom Phen, I was a little frightened. I literally thought I had stepped into a different country. It smelled like poop and garbage rotting in the sun everywhere and I was constantly afraid my stuff was going to get stolen. In fact, one night we were driving from one place to another in a Tuk Tuk and a girl we were with who lives there almost had her purse snatched right out of the Tuk Tuk. The motor bike came up right next to us and tried to grab her bag. Fortunately she had it tightly around her wrist and he couldn't get away with it. We had been warned of this and were therefore carrying no bags, but that was shocking and surprising to see.

Our first day in Phenom Phen, we arrived in the afternoon. We decided to wander around a bit and try and see some of the sights. However everything closes at 5 pm there from the monuments and museums to the street markets. After exploring the city a bit, we decided to go back to the hostel where we found our friends we had met in Siem Reap. We decided to kick it by the pool and drink at the hostel bar and just relax for the night.

The second day we knew was going to be a slightly depressing one as we had plan to go to S21 and the Killing Fields. We split a Tuk Tuk with our new English friends (I now often decide to say words in a British accent because of them) and headed to S21.

For those of you who don't know (I had no idea this even happened) this was the place that the Khmer Rouge tortured and killed people to find out information. Essentially it was like a concentration camp for people and once they got the information they wanted (even though there was often no information to be given), they would kill the person. Walking through this place which was originally a High School turned imprisonment camp turned museum, I was learning a lot about Cambodian people and the suppression they felt and received from their own people. There were prison cells the size just big enough for a person to lay in. The strangest part was that this wasn't happening too long ago and the trial is still going on to this day to deal with the people who were running the Khmer Rouge.

After wandering around these buildings for a few hours, we headed out the dusty dirty Tuk Tuk ride to the killing fields. This was a more informative experience even still because we had an audio track to help us along the way. As we walked from stop to stop, we learned and saw the places where people had been killed by whatever form the killers found most convenient. Often time it was just gardening tools because those were the cheapest option. They killed the people and just put them in a ditch. Sometimes the people weren't dead so they put some chemicals over the top of them to finish the job and keep the stench from being too bad. We also saw things like the tree where the would beat the babies against until they were dead. We even saw bones, clothes and teeth that are still surfacing to this day from the people buried under there. This surprised me a bit because these things are literally on the path. The groundskeepers come through every couple of months and collect whatever the rain water has uncovered. The last thing you see as we leave is a monument built in remembrance of the people who were killed there.

It was a pretty solemn day but fortunately, we were in good company. I have learned a lot about other countries on this trip and what they have been through. This was just one of them.

That evening we went for a swim, cleaned ourselves up and went out in the area with a girl who lives there and works in a bar. That was a fun night, saw some cool bars and some not so cool bars, almost had a purse snatched and experienced a very interesting club. I'm still quite confused about the people who were there, young and old, international students, travelers, expats, Cambodians, all there dancing away to some house music. Strangest mix I've ever seen.

The next day we relaxed a bit more, eating a nice breakfast and then packing up to head to Vietnam. Our trip to Cambodia felt very short, as will our entire trip! I'm not ready to say goodbye to Ho Chi Mihn yet but it's about to happen tomorrow :(

A few fun side notes about cambodia:

  • Cambodian kids are absolutely adorable. I want to take them all! (Korean kids still win, but Cambodian kids are in second place now)
  • They use American money in Cambodia. It's confusing because the bigger bills are American money but then the smaller "change" is given to you in Cambodian bills. I found this a bit hard to manage, but I got it eventually. 
  • We learned that if you rub dry soap on your mosquito bites, they stop itching. 
  • Cambodians as well as Vietnamese drive a bit crazier than I'm used to. They kinda just keep going. Don't really stop.
  • Everything costs money. We prayed with a monk in a temple with some incense and then he was like ok now donate money for good luck. 
That was our Cambodian experience. Good times were had. I feel like someday I want to go back there and work with the kids. Brigitte didn't want to go volunteer at any point so that was kinda sad for me, but I will make it a goal to go back and do that some day. 

Thai Cooking Class

First I must fill you in on our cooking class. We found the place a bit early so did some wandering around. Once we had wandered for a while, we waited for the lady to come and meet us for the class. First we took our baskets, umbrellas and water to the market. Our instructor told us about some of the different vegetables they use in Thailand. Some of the exciting ones I remember were different kinds of ginger roots, different smaller garlic, many different kinds of basil. That was the gist of our time in the market. She filled up our baskets with the things we needed for the class and we headed back to the school.

The way it was set up was very well organized. First we would sit in a group in one room and put all the ingredients together. She would tell us information about the food we were making and how to make it, let us participate and then we would bring it out to the wok and fry it up. Once we completed making our meal, we were off to the air conditioned room to enjoy it. As we were eating, our instructor and her partner were setting up for us to come in to the next one. Like I said, very well organized.

We made a total of 5 meals. I was stuffed to the brim, like I literally thought I was going to explode. No joke. First we made a hot and sour soup. We were allowed to choose chicken or prawns to put in, I chose chicken (surprise surprise) but I did try Brigittes with prawn and it was very good. This soup was delicious. Let me just say that EVERYTHING we ate was beyond delicious. There are no words. The second thing we ate was phad thai. Going into the cooking class, we didn't think we were going to get to make phad thai. But we made it and it was the best phad thai I've ever eaten in my life. Not because I cooked it, but because it was well. I can't explain. Our next meal was what Brigitte and I refer to as a chicken salad. It was served in a soup spoon and you were supposed to eat it with your fingers with some sticky rice. Also very very good. Our next meal was a green chicken curry. At this point, I was getting to be quite stuffed. But I forced myself to eat it and, you guessed it, SO YUMMY! The other nice thing about cooking the food yourself is you can decide how spicy you want things to be. Being in Korea has made my affinity for spicy food rise so I can now handle much more than I could before I went to Korea. Anyways, it was DELICIOUS. The last meal, which unfortunately I literally felt if I ate anymore food I would be sick, but it was a coconut milk banana dessert. I thought I didn't like coconut, but it literally tasted like banana pudding. It saddened my heart that I couldn't finish it in order to keep myself from vomiting but it was SO GOOD as well.

Our instructor was very nice, quite funny. Our class was composed of 10 women (the other two classes going on at the same time had men and such in them but ours was coincidence) and most of them were from Michigan doing a nursing clinical somewhere in Thailand. Lucky them.

Anyways, if you ask me to choose a favorite dish, there's no way I could, it would be a tie between phad thai, green curry, and the coconut banana dessert. I'll post pictures of all of these adventures very soon, but I needed to catch up on the blog part first :)

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Adventures of Pattaya

So I know you were all wondering about how our trip to Pattaya went. Let me say that we got there fairly seamlessly. We purchased panchos from the front desk at our hostel, put them on over our packs and trekked it to the subway station. People starred since we were wearing them on the subway because they were too hard to take off, but we made it just fine and dandy. The only downside to our trip there was that the 2 hour bus ride turned into a 4 hour bus ride because all the roads were flooded due to the insane amount of rain. I'll post pictures on FB of that later cuz that was just cray. I was really worried for the cars and everything that were driving down rivers where there used to be streets. Apparently no one else was too worried though because as I've learned, this happens all the time. Who knew.

We made it to our hotel in Pattaya riding the Songtaews (which were quite fun) and then decided to go and try some food. Pretty typical along the beach (although no one was on it cuz of the rain) there were lots of shops and bars and restaurants. Everything was kinda covered with tarps because of all the rain.

Quickly did we learn the makeup of this city. Let me break it down for you:
1. White old men. Seriously, I've never seen a greater population of white old men in one place. I can't even describe.
2. Thai women to hit on said old men and keep them company, mostly only flirting.
3. Thai transgenders. They are women, but they have a penis. Don't judge, people, it happens. Some of them were very pretty. Some of them you could easily tell they were men. Some of them were about half way through their process change.
4. Gay men. There was an area called "boyz town" in which this was a place for many gay men to go.
5. Straight guys who wanted to watch go go dancers. There's an area called "walking street" (because no cars are allowed there) and it's just filled with clubs with go go dancers.
6. Couples...not sure why. But this happened as well.

That being said, you can see how Brigitte and I were a bit out of place in Pattaya.

Our personal escapade consisted of going to our hotel, getting dinner, going to a bar where there were old men with trannys hitting on them (unbeknownst to them) and enjoying ourselves watching the situation, going back to the hotel, trying a different road in the area, finding pretty much the same kind of bar but it had a live band and soccer, going to get food, then going home and going to bed.

The forecast said it was supposed to stop raining for a few hours in the morning so at 8 am when we saw the sun, we booked it to the beach. We sat in a nice lounging chair for a solid 2 hours then the rain rolled in. That's when we decided to check out and catch the bus home. Unfortunately, the next bus wasn't available for 2 hours so we waited at the bus station playing hangman for 2 hours (hangman really does make the time fly!) This time our bus ride home was only 2 hours, as it was supposed to be, and we arrived at our new hostel in time for dinner.

We walked along one side of the street which was very crowded with food vendors and shopping. Then we thought we'd cross to the other side and all those vendors were just setting up. We came back to the hostel because we weren't hungry, then we tried again and found that the side that was super busy before was now taking down all their stuff and the side that wasn't busy before was now super busy. We found some food, walked through another outdoor shopping area (we're trying REALLY hard not to buy stuff......until we get to Cambodia where I've heard it's cheaper...) and had a drink watching essentially the same exact thing that was occurring in Pattaya happen in Bangkok. The only difference this time was that all the shows these men were trying to get you to come see were "____ ping pong." Don't let your virgin eyes figure out what that is. I was just told and I don't ever wanna know.

Aaaaaanyways, we enjoyed that adventure and we're now sitting in our new hostel, meeting people, figuring things out and relaxing. It's a crazy world out there!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Bangkok Part 2

Yesterday was Tuesday. The night before, people had told us about some places to go shopping so we decided to journey into shopping land. First we found the expensive shopping which wasn't what we were looking for. Then we found this magical place called MBK. I think the best way to describe MBK is that it's the biggest indoor, outdoor market you can imagine. It's kind of like a mall. 5 stories, and huge down and back. But it's like street vendors trying to sell you things. The best part about it is that it's air conditioned. That means we could pretty much do all the street shopping we wanted, but in an giant, air con facility.

The other really cool thing about MBK was the food. They had a huge variety of food (a little pricier than you might find on the street) but the food covered a huge span of countries. you could pretty much pick any "fancy food stall" (that's what I'm calling it) and get that countries food made for your right then and there. So we ate some delicious Indonesian food, and topped it off with Dairy Queen! That's right. I had a blizzard, which I haven't had since December. However this country still doesn't believe in cookie dough. That will be the greatest joy of going home still.

Once we were finished shopping at MBK (Brigitte and I made a few wonderful purchases) we headed back to the hostel to figure out our next step for the day and our next step for the next two days because we had nothing planned except that we maybe wanted to get out of town and go to a beach. But I'll come back to that.

We then went to Chinatown for dinner and more shopping. However when we got there, it was not at all what I had expected. I expected something similar to the Chinatown Ellen and I experienced in Malaysia. This was not the case. There were probably 2 dozen shark fin street stalls. At this point, Brigitte and I were starving and we thought we'd be able to eat when we got there. However the ONLY thing to eat apparently in Chinatown is shark fin or some other version of seafood. We did finally find a tiny restaurant on a side street that had other food, and it was quite good. However this is also where we saw our first rat and I'm still a little freaked out by that. But I'm trying to look past that and let it go because people eat around rats all the time, right? It's not like it was in our food or in the kitchen. And it's outdoors. There's bound to be some kind of wildlife.

Anyways, yesterday we booked our hotel for Pattaya, which is a beach town about 2 hours from Bangkok. We were all stoked to get to the beach instead of just hanging out around here. Then in the middle of the night, it started thundering like no one's business. Literally shook my bed. And it hasn't stopped pouring since. So we've decided to still go, hoping and praying that it lets up tomorrow a bit. Or today a bit would be even better but I'm not holding my breath. So our current journey to this place, in a monsoon includes the following:
Walk to subway station (5 minutes outside)
Ride subway to skytrain station.
Walk to transfer from subway to skytrain (it's quite annoying that the forms of transportation are in very different ground levels)
Ride the skytrain to the bus terminal.
Walk to bus terminal (don't know how long and if it will be covered or not, I'm guessing not)
Ride 2 hour bus to Pattaya
Hop on a songtaew which is the back of a truck used to transport you around the area (may or may not be covered, we're thinking yes because it rains so much here, we're learning)
Have it drop us of (no idea how) at our hotel or close to it (no idea where that is either)
Walk to hotel (dunno how long that'll be outside)

So that's what our adventure is today, I'll let ya know how it goes! Hope for the rain to stop, because I know I am!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Bangkok So Far

First we need to take a moment to talk about our taxi driver our first night from the airport to the hostel. Many was bat shit cray. Not sure what he was high on, but boy did he put on a show for us. He really wanted us to listen and dance with him to American music as he was driving us here. He put on his Harley Davidson hat and bumped the jams. Oh, and he was like 60 something. Also, he asked us our names and where we were from multiple times but by the time we left him, he was convinced that I was Mona Lisa and Brigitte was Whitney which then transferred to Whitney Houston.

Our hostel is pretty decent, not too much foreigner interaction, which is a bit sad for me. However last night we met some fascinating foreigners and I think I got my fill for a little while. Man some people are crazy.

Yesterday we visited the Grand Palace and another temple...Wat Pom maybe? Thailand likes really shiny things. That's the coolest part about the temples and palaces. They're sooooo shiny and interestingly put together. You can check out pictures on Facebook.

We learn something new every time we go somewhere. We're trying reaaaaaally hard not to get ripped off. We kinda did once, we paid 40 bhat for a boat ride to the palace instead of 15. But once we figured out which boat we were supposed to be on we were pretty solid from there on out. Except for the one time when we got off a boat at the wrong time. Good thing we're never really in a hurry for the next 6 weeks. Also figured out the subway so that's good too. Like I said, each time we figure out more and more about where we're going and how to get there. Which exits and stuff like that.

Yesterday was a very touristy day. Literally tourists everywhere (which is fine and what we completely expected). Today we want to go SHOPPING! So that's totally happening!

One last cultural note. If you are an older white male and you want a hot young wife, come to Thailand. I can't tell you how many adorable young Thai women I've seen with white older men. It's really blowing my mind a little and kinda grosses me out.

That's all. No pictures. Takes tooooo long on these slow computers. LOVE YOU ALL bye!

Friday, October 11, 2013

One Year Koreaversary

The past week or so has been quite the emotional roller coaster of my love/hate relationship with Korea. Even just today, one second I was hating the 3 women in the line in front of me in the grocery store because they were still shopping and checking out and trying to find their point card while a huge line formed behind them but they didn't care at all, and the next second the lady behind me tapped me on the shoulder to inform me that the other cash register was now open (when usually a Korean would probably just snag the spot in line for themselves).

I'm even conflicted if I think I'd call myself a sentimental person or not. Part of me says no because I don't usually cry or get too upset about leaving things/people, but at the same time, those of you that know me really well know that I can't throw ANYTHING away...I often keep things "just in case" or because it has some sort of "sentimental value."

Regardless of this, I've been feeling quite nostalgic lately. I've been constantly thinking of all my "lasts"
The last time I'll be in Seohyeon
The last time I'll ride the school bus
The last time I'll eat (fill in the blank)
The list goes on...
And then there are the more important nostalgic/sentimental moments like the last time I'll see people such as my students or friends.

I had to say goodbye to my students on Tuesday and it, surprising, wasn't as hard as I thought it would be. Maybe I'm used to it as a teacher, or maybe I'm just not a dweller on things I can't control. Now don't get me wrong, there are a few students I can't BELIEVE I'm never going to see again and they may very well forget about me, but they won my heart in this country and it makes me very sad to know that I won't see their adorable little faces every single day, even if they are being a pain in my rear half the time. I'm also going to miss my third graders. They had a hard time understanding why I would leave them and I didn't really know what to say. Now THAT'S a hand-full of 5 students, good Lord, but I'll still miss the joy and humor they brought to me on their good days.
My one dearest and truest love, Ian. 

Iguanas (3rd Graders) not in their normal habitat. 

This is how they usually behave and you can see my reaction quite clearly. 

My baby 5's. Click on their picture to see them sing all adorable like. 

Saying goodbye to one of my 7's class. They thought it was hilarious to sing me happy birthday in the way we usually sing to them so that's whats happening. Click on the picture to see them attack me as I'm trying to leave the classroom. Also, here is the link to this group of kids singing and dancing their rendition of a youtube song:

One of the darling girls I've had for the entire year, even when she was a 6 year old. 

My other 7's class of goofballs. 

My immersion class that I will miss EVER so much!

All of theses students in all of these classes and working at this school is a huge accomplishment, I think, to have in my belt as a teacher. I've learned a lot about teaching, I've learned a lot about students, and I've learned the most about patience. Hopefully never again will I have to be that random English Teacher who comes into a classroom for 30 minutes to sing songs, teach some words, do an activity and leave, with the most little respect possible. But did I learn from this experience? Yes I did. I learned that I REALLY want to be in my own classroom with my own students for the whole day. I learned that teaching is my passion and for all the reasons that teaching in America has to offer. I want to get to know a group of students, call them my own, help them learn things, and form bonds with them. Shoot I'll even take a class of 30+ kids on my own because there's no way they can be as challenging as what I've come across in this country.

On the other hand, I'm also feeling very nostalgic about being back in the good ole PNW. The other day I was sitting in Starbucks and I was like "man, this is some Seattle type music, drinking my warm coffee on this fall day" and I realized how badly I can't wait to be back in America. I'll be able to see my friends and family, eat many kinds of delicious food (I've had at least 5 food dreams that I can remember), and do cool typical "American" things like eat thanksgiving dinner, watch sports, and have people understand what I'm saying and what I want.

That being said, I'm also scared out of my MIND to go back to America. A year isn't that long, but a lot can, and has changed in the past year. Almost every single one of my friends (if not all) have some pretty intense professional jobs. And every single one of them is spread either across the state or across the country. When I left, we were all in the same little town hanging out at each others houses 5 minutes apart. That's not the life anymore and it's scary. I also will be living at home (love my mom and dad but that doesn't mean it'll be easy after living on my own for the last 6 years). I also will be living in Spokane (not my number one place of choice to reside). And the real kicker is I'll have to find a job! YAY! One of the huge perks of going to Korea was that a job was just handed to I'll have to seek one out in a really intense manner.

I guess overall what I'm trying to say is I'm very grateful for my experience in Korea. I've learned a lot, I've seen a lot, I've done a lot. I now appreciate other cultures but I also appreciate my culture a lot more as well. I've experienced love, heartbreak, and the ever revolving "wheel" that is Korean expat life (one of the biggest downsides of this country, if you ask me). I've tried so many new things, from food to activities, and I've grown a lot as a person (I hope). I also now have a strange accent according to my sister although I strongly disagree. Number one phrase I use in this country..."Oh Korea...."

Anyways, those are my current thoughts. I have a lot running through my mind about what will happen when I get home, but in the meantime I'm about to go on a 6 week long adventure to Southeast Asia! That itinerary includes the following:
Bangkok, Cambodia (Siem Reap and Phenom Phen), Vietnam (Ho Chi Mihn, Hanoi, Halong Bay), Laos (Luang Prabang), back to Thailand (Chaing Mai, Ko Tao, Krabi, Ko Phi Phi, Phuket) and finally down to Bali.
Pretty FREAKING excited for that, so I'm going to go ahead and let my thoughts be consumed by that instead of the stress/joy that awaits for me at home.