A Travellerspoint blog

Iced Tea and Warm Tides

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Hello from sunny Thailand! We have gone from leeches to beaches and it feels quite nice. We spent almost two weeks moving from beach to beach, island to island, and have had our fill of sunsets, pina coladas, and white sands.

We started in Phuket, which is actually like Vegas meets southern California. It was weird to go from Malaysia where we barely saw any tourists to Phuket where we had to fight our way through the fair skinned crowds. We've decided Phuket should be pronounced "fuuuckkitt." None-the-less we did see some nice sunsets and increased our luck by releasing a balloon on the beach.
IMG_2700.jpg Kata Beach, Phuket
IMG_2713.jpg Lucky Balloon

We then headed to the beautiful Krabi province. We kayaked through emerald green waters, and enjoyed lazing on the beaches surrounded by limestone mountains.
IMG_2768.jpg Railay Beach

To escape the crowds we went to Koh Lanta, a laid-back island with beautiful beaches perfect for swimming, and lots of seaside bars and restaurants to check out. The sunsets here were spectacular.
IMG_2807.jpg Koh Lanta
IMG_2866.jpg Sunset, Koh Lanta

We finally went to Koh Phangan on the eastern coast in the Gulf of Thailand. The island is known for its backpacker scene and cheap bungalows. We took a snorkelling boat tour around the island, but mostly just read and relaxed in hammocks. Life had been tough.
IMG_2921.jpg Our beautiful bungalow
IMG_2934.jpg Paradise
IMG_2951.jpg Tan at last!

We decided that it was finally time to experience some real Thai culture, so we headed to Nakhon Si Thammarat, a small city that is known for a temple, its famous shadow puppetry, and lack of tourists. We knew we had gotten off of the tourist trail when we could read no signs, and no one spoke a word of English. We really enjoyed our time there, we were befriended by an English teacher, Terry, who took us to his school where the kids all practiced their English by yelling "I love you." We also practiced our Thai while waiting for a train and ended up drawing a crowd. Pretty hilarious. We visited Thailand's most famous shadow puppet maker, and he gave us a private show that was a mix of old stories and modern culture (ie cell phones). We were happy we made the trek.
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We are currently in Bangkok, resting up after a 15 hour overnight train ride. We're excited to continue northwards and to experience more of real Thailand.

We hope that all is well at home. We are very excited about the inaugeration and wish we could be home to celebrate with everyone and witness such a historic moment!

Love,

Matt & Erin

Posted by matterin 22:24 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Jungle Fever

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Happy New Year!! We hope that everyone celebrated in style, and that 2009 is a prosperous year!

After leaving our tropical paradise, we headed to the island of Penang to explore for a couple of days. We wandered through the spice markets of little India, the golden streets of Chinatown, and tasted the street food it's famous for.
IMG_2422.jpg Little India
IMG_2428.jpg Yummy satay
IMG_2433.jpg Yes, this is a bag of fresh juice! Cheers!
IMG_2443.jpg Chinatown

We spent our last days in Kuala Lumpur, catching up on rest and getting ready for Borneo, round two! This time we headed to Sabah, a state famous for its lowland rainforests, Mt. Kinabalu (the highest peak in SE Asia), and it's wildlife.

We rang in the New Year in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah's capital. There was a huge city-wide celebration that included a lot of Karaoke (particularly to Prince and Celine Dion), street markets, a fun fair with cotton candy and oversized stuffed animals, mullets galore, and very few tourists. It was fun to see how the locals celebrated, and the night even ended with fireworks, though there was no grand finale like back home.
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The next day we took a cramped minibus to Kinabalu National Park, to do some hiking around the headquarters. The lodge we stayed at was surrounded by lush cloud forest, and at night we were bombarded by gigantic insects of all kinds...it was unlike anything we've ever seen!
IMG_2495.jpg Hiking in to the guest house
IMG_2546.jpg Largest Butterfly EVER...do you see the snake face?
IMG_2565.jpg Gigantor beetle- not to be messed with

Our next stop was the lowland rainforest surrounded the Kinabatangan River in eastern Sabah. Much of the rainforest has been cut down for palm oil plantations (try not to use palm oil!), but there is still a tiny fraction of the rainforest left surrounding the river. It's a very sad situation, as is so much wildlife that is endemic to the area. Since ecotourism has ballooned here, they are starting to realize the value of the remaining forests, and are working to conserve what is left.

We stayed in a little chalet in the forest for two nights doing hikes (day and night), and floating on the river. We were able to see a crocodile, 4 species of monkeys (including a wild Orang-utan!), a river snake, and many tropical birds. The only thing we didn't see were Pygmy elephants...but we did hike through a lot of their dung. We also had the opportunity to experience leeches in all their glory...they are nasty creatures! Our group developed such a fear of them that we almost missed the wildlife! Matt was the only guy, so he was deemed leech-master, responsible for leech removal. We made some great friends and overall had an amazing time...we feel lucky to see it all before it's too late!
IMG_2675.jpg Cruising the Kinabatangan
IMG_2662.jpg Monkey
IMG_2688.jpg Frog on night hike
IMG_2626.jpg Hiking with our guide Kai
IMG_2599.jpg Sleeping birds
IMG_2585.jpg Floating down the Kinabatangan
IMG_2619.jpg Blood sucking leeches!

We've made it out of the jungle, and flew today from Borneo to Phuket, Thailand. What a change! It's absolute insanity here, but we've already had some incredible food and are hoping to escape the crowds and explore more of southern Thailand's beaches. Malaysia will be missed, but there is so much more to do and see. Wish us luck!

Posted by matterin 02:38 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

Happy Holidays!!

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We hope that you are all enjoying time with family and friends, and lots of scrumptous food! Our thoughts have been with you all!

We celebrated Christmas from the island of Langkawi...aka tropical paradise. It's been nice dividing our time between reading, lying on the beach, swimming, watching malaysian soap operas (and random christmas movies), and eating fresh seafood! Even with all of this we still wish we could be two places at once and share the holidays with our families.
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We hope that everyone has a very happy new year!

Love,
Us

Posted by matterin 20:31 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

It's Official...

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We're engaged!! After 6 years of being together, Matt proposed and of course the answer was yes. We were in a luxury treehouse on the coast of Borneo, and had just enjoyed a romantic meal...really it can't get more perfect. We are both very happy to continue sharing our lives together. We aren't sure when the big day will be, but we can guarantee it'll be a great party! IMG_2113.jpg Happy coupleIMG_2116.jpg The ring, made in borneo
IMG_2106.jpg Fresh juice with our dinner
IMG_2093.jpg The treehouse!
IMG_2088.jpg View from the treehouse
IMG_2099.jpg Storm brewing from the beach

Aside from the big news, we have been busy and Borneo has treated us very well. We have met so many nice people and really got a taste of true Sarawak living.

First, we went to Bako National Park on the coast, which is known for its wildlife viewing and endemic pitcher plants. We had to take a boat ride to the park, in a crocodile infested river, and it was bumpy! We survived and spent one night in the park enjoying its great trails and amazing scenery.
IMG_1769.jpg Boat ride to Bako
IMG_1792.jpg Proboscis Monkey
IMG_1890.jpg Pit Viper
IMG_1888.jpg Bearded Pig
IMG_1809.jpg Pitcher Plant

We then visited the family of our hostel owner in their Iban Longhouse for two nights. Many of the native peoples here lived traditionally in extremely long houses (hence the name) essentially under one roof. A lot of times these houses are only reachable by boat, however ours was a little more modern and we were able to drive to it. The sense of community within the longhouse is strong, and at all of them that we visited we were invited to spend the night, drink lots of rice wine, and basically have a party.

We first visited a few different longhouses to get to know the locals. We were greeted warmly, though most of the elders who are there during the day only speak Iban, so we had to rely on our guide and our drama skills. The first house we visited had 100 year old human skulls from the headhunters who were celebrated in the area
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After loads of rice wine and cigarette offerings, we stopped by a fish pond to catch dinner for the night. IMG_1952.jpg

At our longhouse, we quickly suited up in river clothes to go fishing, what we didn't know was that we would be fishing IN the river, sometimes swimming to put the poles into the river bank. We were assured that there were no crocs or snakes in the river, but later our guide Alesia told us she was "scared of the snakes"...whoops.IMG_1973.jpg Gathering worms for fishing
IMG_1983.jpg Fishing IN the river

Later that night after dark we had to head back out and get into the river! Little fish were nibbling at our toes as we checked our lines and found we had caught 3 fish! A thunder storm quickly came in, and it was basically flooding by the time we got out, quite an experience.
IMG_2012.jpg Our catch

At the longhouse we ate all food that had come from the farm or the river. It was nice to eat straight from the land. Erin was taught to be an Iban woman by cooking while Matt got to play with their adorable little girl Julia.
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The next day we learned how exhausting Iban life is. We went to help in the farm where we were dealing with hordes of mosquitos, ants in our pants, and 90 degree heat. Luckily the river is nearby to cool off in. We gathered corn, bamboo shoots, pumpkin, greens and combined them with our fish caught the night (cooked in bamboo) before to have a great feast cooked fresh over the fire in a little hut. It was much needed!IMG_2019.jpgIMG_2041.jpgIMG_2054.jpg

We were wandering through the jungle when Alesia took us down a little path to show us the blacksmiths who made the machetes we had been using. They were in the middle of nowhere, and apparently it takes one week to make one machete!IMG_2021.jpg

The last night, exhausted, the ladies dressed us up in the traditional Iban wedding attire...who knew we'd be engaged the next day! Traditionally there's a dance that goes with the outfits, but we mostly just posed for photos. IMG_2057.jpgIMG_2062.jpg

We're back in Peninsular Malaysia getting ready to head into some tea plantations then to a beach for Christmas. We hope everyone is surviving the snow at home, hopefully you'll have a white Christmas.

Posted by matterin 21:28 Archived in Malaysia Comments (3)

Malaysia Madness

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Hello from the land of sultans, humidity, rainforest, cell phones, motorbikes, cheap-eats, smiles, and make-shift sidewalks. We have been in Malaysia for a week, and it seems like an eternity! It was a tough transition at first, especially after an extremely long travel day IMG_1600.jpg
but we have come to appreciate the charming yet chaotic things that make this country amazing.

We spent a few days in Kuala Lumpur, a bustling city that never sleeps and never stops shopping! The economy here looks good! We wandered Chinatown where you can buy fake handbags, watches, and movies that haven't even hit the screens. We've gotten lost in malls, eaten things we don't know the contents of (delicious though!), learned how to step out into traffic without flinching, and managed to make a base in the big city.
IMG_1608.jpg Orange Christmas trees are so hot right now
IMG_1625.jpg Petronas Towers
IMG_1615.jpg Monorail, KL

We wanted to get out of the craziness to see what the rest of Malaysia was like so we headed for Melaka, a town on the coast that has a rich history from the spice trade. We loved Melaka, the streets are filled with colorful trishaws that take you to the major sights...some even blast Malaysian rap while doing so IMG_1652.jpg
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We lucked out by being there for the Chinatown Saturday night market. There was a beauty contest going on, and we watched as a bunch of 8 year old girls yoddled in cowboy clothes and danced as telletubbies...classic. We tasted food from different stalls and even got a chopsticks lesson from a Chinese woman who obviously pittied our skills.

We are currently in Sarawak, Borneo where we hope to explore the world's oldest rainforest, do some caving, and chill out in sleepy villages. We are already enjoying the slow-paced island lifestyle here. Kuching has a beautiful waterfront to wander, and lots of good seafood to sample.
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Today we were lucky to see the worlds largest flower, Rafflesia, in bloom. It only blooms for 5-7 days every 7 months, and many come all the way here to see it and go home disapointed. Needless to say, we were very excited, and it was great to explore the steamy rainforest.
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Tomorrow we head to the Bako National Park where we'll be spending two nights and hopefully enjoying the beaches and seeing some wildlife like Proboscis Monkeys and Bearded Pigs. Looking forward to it!

We hope everyone's getting into the holiday spirit back home, we're going to miss it! Until next time...

Posted by matterin 01:51 Archived in Malaysia Comments (1)

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