Saturday, August 13, 2011

The End

Of quite a few things today.

Firstly, I hope it is the end of the spread of my fungus. I have launched a full on anti-fungal assault on my fingers and toes and some progress has been seen. Getting out of Kathmandu should also do wonders.

Which brings me to the next end. End of Nepal AND end of 9 weeks vacation. It's weird to think 9 weeks ago we were leaving Korea for good. In 9 weeks we have ridden camels, seen wonders of the world, trekked through monsoons, paddled by dead people, yoga-ed our way to health (who am I kidding?), and a ton of other totally incredible things. And we managed to come out of it still liking each other. More than that, there's a renewed confidence in Paul and I's ability to pretty much get through anything. Have any of you ever survived hungry Lauren in 40 degree weather sans shower?? I pray you'll never have to.

It also marks the end of cave man Paul. Yesterday we hit the barbershop and Paul had his 5 month grown out do chopped, 3 month beard straight razored, and even got some massage action from the Nepali barber. It's been a full day and I still don't recognize this person whom claims to be my fiancée.

Before I get to the last END, let me tell you a bit about today. Because it's been awesome!!!! We had a good breakfast, Paul surprised me with a beautiful silver bracelet, had an amazing Middle Eastern (hummus and babaganoush!) snack, then head for the airport with surprisingly little difficulty. We've flown some shit airlines in the past couple years (CHINA EASTERN!!!) and expected nothing less of Kingfisher, also of Kingfisher-formaldehyde-beer fame. We go to board the lovely plane, in a not so lovely Kathmandu airport, after 4+ pat downs. OK, I know the Maoists were here causing trouble, but do you need to feel me up every 10 feet to the plane?? Anyway, get through the gropes, and the plane is spotless and new. TVs for everyone! Then we take off, and after serving everyone a bottle of water, what do they bring out? Kingfisher beer for all!!! This is service! Who cares if it has formaldehyde? What's next? FOOD!? I haven't been on an airline with in flight food, and good food at that, in ages! I had a lovely paneer curry, and Paul had the chicken tikka, all served with salad and asa brownie. One more beer, an episode of Friends later and we're in Dehli. Dehli airport is clean, there's shopping, McDonald's!, and lounges. We buy 3 hours for all you can eat, drink and Internet "Green Lounge." Did I mention there's red and white wines!?? Doesn't take much to impress us these days.

So now sadly, I am getting to the main point of this altogether long and drawn out post. This is the last ever post of The Thirty Eight Parable. It has been an amazing 2+ years with the TEP. I've shared my ups, downs, loves, losses, and most importantly I can reference this forever on and know exactly what I was up to at any moment throughout my AMAZING journey through Korean life.

6,401 views of the TEP toral from the US to Canada to Korea to England and Australia. Apparently my most popular post was Taipei Day 4 with 117 views, followed by none other than my big turkey soup fail. Again, sorry Dave and Emily.

But don't shed any tears yet. The fun is not over. It's just time to put my Korea blog to rest and to bear a new blog. A hopefully more career fortuitous blog about not just me, but about Paul and I's journey into the unknown. Again and together this time. So please follow us and read along about the stupid crap we get into in HK.

Thank you for reading and we'll see you in Hong Kong!!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Vacation Is Trying To Kill Me

But, I shall win. A month or so ago I noticed my index fingers were both red and irritated, but it wasn't a big bother and I figured it was probably just the sun. My nose was also quite red. It kind of continued to bug me, but what can you do, just try to keep out of the sun. Not so easy in India. But at least it was dry, well when it wasn't raining ha. Flash forward to Nepal where it's moist and not deserty. We go trekking. Lots of water. No lotion. By the end my hands were raw. So I assume hurty, peely hands is from lack of moisture and care. When we get to town I buy the most concentrated aloe cream I can find. They start to get a bit better, but then just sort of start to peel off. Attractive, let me tell you, and still quite painful. This has been going on for weeks....After visiting numerous pharmacies, taking anti (sun) allergy pills, anti fungal cream, wrapping my hands in gauze when out in sunlight (I looked like I put both hands in a blender), my hands are still red, peeling and in pain. And now my toes are spotty and a bit sore. I have a renewed suspicion that it is a fungus (thanks webmd) so I am going to start putting the cream back on. Fingers crossed. Oh, if only I could....

Also, pretty sure the cheap booze we've been buying is slowly killing Paul and I. The past 2 days have been spent laying in our hotel watching TV because our tummys and heads hurt. I partly blame the booze and partly blame our new friends Ida and Karl. They're our Swiss/Norwegian friends who like to booze it as much as we do. We met them over raksi and beers 2 nights ago and then took them out to Korean last night. Well, you know how Koreans do, and the evening ended pretty tipsy. Today we left the room twice. Once for breakfast. Once for lunch. It's raining, and it's raining and we're having fun googling things to do in HK!!! Now that it's 4pm we're going to mix some sprite/clear un-named liquid booze and prepare to meet the Scandanavians! Skul!!

Monday, August 8, 2011


We have an address!!!!

Tower 8 Flat D, 19/F
The Latitude
No. 638 Prince Edward Road East
San Po Kong,

Paul seems to think 19th floor means we'll have an ocean view. I'm a bit skeptical. But look what we do have...

2 pools!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Hari Krishna, Hari Krishna

Yoga. "Yay," is the resounding response. We arrived, via taxi, to the Ananda Resident Yoga facility at 3:00pm. It was pretty desserted, quiet, and a little rough around the edges. Not quite what we had pictures. We "sign" in, fill out names and yoga experience (me: once and a while a few years ago; paul=0) and are told to help ourselves to tea and water and are shown our room/cell. 2 beds in a room, we've seen this before. Then the tour; a larg yoga room, the roof (which would have views of the Himalayas if it weren't so cloudy), kitchen, a squatter, 2 western style toilets with showers. Cold, cold, cold mountain water showers. Needless to say, we're a bit apprehensive at first.

4:30 rolls around, post milk tea (LOVE chai), and we have our first yoga session with Rajindra (King of Kings). He's this 30 year old, fit, cute, Nepali man who leads our 1 1/2+ hour first lesson. I'm nervous Paul's going to hate this and dread every moment of the next 2 days, and nervous as well because I haven't practiced yoga since my running days in DC. The class is awesome! We're rolling around, stretching, doing the moon salutations and the whole time Rajindra is really focusing on Paul and I because we're new and he knows we have limited experience. The other people in our class/residence include; a Californian, a Dutch woman, a French woman, a Spanish woman and Nepali dude who's been there a month (apparently detoxing or something). After the class Paul and I chat....he LOVES yoga. Yey!! And I have a renewed love of yoga, too! It was wonderful, until we went to try to take our first shower. Again, cold mountain water. I think I managed to wash my face.

Then it's dinner time. Yummy veg dinner in which we all sit around on the floor together sharing our travel, yoga, life experiences. There's definitely a yoga bond going on. 7:30 and it's chanting time. We all go up to the yoga room with our intructor and his family (it's a family run joint- there's like 20 of them), and the leader (forget his name now- Raj's dad) starts chanting, while someone plays the drums, and some others chime. Ganga, Raj's wife, has an amazing voice and we all sit trying to repeate the Nepali words of Hindi chants. "Hari Krishna, Hari Krishna, Hari, Hari, Krishna, Krishna." No joke most of the songs include 2-5 words and are repeated at different intervals for ~10 minute period. It's like hippies chanting...sans campfire and in Nepali. 9:00 rolls around and we're left to our own devices/time for bed. We stay up with the Californian and finally manage to get SOME sleep by 12.

5 am wake up for more chanting!! Followed by tea and a morning yoga session. Ganga approaches, "You're lucky you're here on Saturday. It's abdominal cleanse day." Sounds nice, I could use a good cleanse. Oh no, that's right, all of Nepal has been a "cleanse!" The cleanse includes:

Chug 2 glasses warm salt water
do 5 yoga poses 8x each
repeate 2 more times

At the end, well, you can probably guess, the bathrooms were full and your abdomen is empty. ha- can I have the opposite rememdy!? Then they bust out the neti pots where you pour water into one nostril (think tea pot for your nose) and it comes out the other. It's pretty cool and apparently all of these things are essential for a healthy life.

Breakfast- the food is awesome and all veg! Karma yoga (sweeping the common area), lots of free time to walk (or in our case nap), yogindra (lay on the floor, listen to a man telling you to relax your entire body and try not to sleep), lunch, meditation, more yoga, dinner, chanting...PS yoga with Ganga was WAY more strenuous than with her husband!! Ouchy- we're sore. Oh, speaking of Ganga, there were definitely pot plants all around the compound and apparently they will reach maturity in the next 2 months. haha Yoga potheads.

We had so much fun and I would have loved to stay longer had there been hot showers. But 3 days sans shower is a bit much for me, and the rest of camp was bailing on Sunday anyway. Paul and I definitely walked out of here, perhaps not with a new understading of life and peace, but certainly with a new shared hobby. We've even been practicing in our hotel in Kathmandu!!

Yesterday was Paul's 26th birthday. Happy Birthday, Paul! We toured Durbar Square, which is a beautiful area with tons of old temples (my camera battery died!!!!!), lazed around Thamel, then went out to another awesome Korean dinner. While at the Korean restaurant, the Californian from our yoga retreat came in at our suggestion. We finished dinner with him and, gasp, stayed out until 10:30 pm. We hadn't done this here yet and apparenty everything is closed and locked, including our hotel. After a few minutes of banging, someone finally let us in. We learned our lesson; 9pm is totally an appropriate end time. Only 5 more days in Nepal, and not going to lie, I am really, really, really, looking forward to some first world action. The dirt is getting to me.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Best Week Ever.

As the rain subsided, so did our enthusiasm about the Jeep safari. We had been lazing around all day and suspected the tour wouldn't be very exciting. We were wrong. We boarded our bright green open backed Jeep, me with rain coat, Paul in a t-shirt, and headed for the jungle. So, OK, we didn't really see too many animals. Some deer here, some peacocks there. And the deer and chipmunks here all look eerily similar to those in NJ. But it was amazing to stand up on the back of a Jeep and search left and right hoping for a tiger....or bear...or rhino. And we were the only ones out in the park in the rain; I love experiences where you don't feel a part of a packaged tour. Then our guide, never actually caught his name, suggested we go to a local village, ya know, see how the people do in the jungle. "Much better than the village tour [we were supposed to do day 1, but arrived too late], this is jungle life." And he went on to explain how at least once a year, tigers get hungry, wander into a home and eat an entire family. Jungle life is badass. Then he talks about how the locals right malaria, with, get this, rice wine. Man does this guy know his audience. We LOVE rice wine (raksi). We pull up to this cute little mud hut. Tons of people standing around chilling. It's after 4pm so the work for the day is done. We go inside said hut. There's electricity, TV, pictures all over the wall and then this boardlike bed with a straw mat. Wasn't expecting TV in the jungle! We drink 2 pitchers of Raksi with our guide and they bring out Buff (waterbuffalow), meat that had be spiced and cooked as an accutrament, and also raw garlic grown out back. Cool! We pry and ask about annoying tourists and he tells us some amazing stories. One Israeli dude was relentless on a 5 day trek to see a tiger, so he made the guide, against lots of warning, keep going when it was getting dark. Well, it did get dark and they started hearing wild elephants and tigers in the dark and had to post up in a tree all night and keep watch that they didn't die. Tough times. He also shared that during the Maoist rebel days the tourists obviously stopped coming. No tourists, no need for a tour guide. So he got a loan from the bank, a work permit and worked 600 hours a week in Qatar. Tough. Came home and was arranged to be married, and now has a darling 2 year old.

We finished our Raksis and got back into the Jeep with a deeper understanding of the culture we've been looking at from afar. This guy does whatever he can (learn English with no education, flee the country, fight off sloth bears....) so he can provide for his family. On the way we pass an army post. The guards had just been given a python by some towns people it was bugging, to be released back into the jungle. Of course they wanted us to look. It was pretty cool, so there's my one jungle snake sighting- finishey! As we head out the sun is going down. It's just Paul and I on the back of this jeep with the HUGE sky darkening above us. We both sat in awe and just thinking this is the coolest thing. People are packing it in for the night and we're driving through some of the most beautiful countryside either of us had seen. Definitely a favorite moment (well 45 minutes I guess) of the trip!

I suppose our guide took a liking to us, or perhaps felt bad all we saw were some deer and a bagged snake, so he invited us to his apartment for some more raksi, and so we could meet his son, Rowan. It was so much fun!!! His apt was tiny, like a dorm room, and we sat on the floor with him, his wife, neighbor who made the raksi, and the cutest little boy!! They brought plently o booze and even some potato curry to snack on with our drink. I feel so blessed that he and his family invited us into their house to share their world with us. You don't get that staying at a hotel. Whenever the TV played a song (some sort of American Idol kind of show was on) Rowan would break out in the awesomest dance moves I have ever seen. I swear Indian and Nepalese are born with moves. Then it was time to say goodbye, so our guide walked us to the hotel, we gave him a fat tip (Rowan's got to be a Dr. some day!), and enjoyed a drunken dinner at our hotel.

Our final morning and thankfully, NO rain!! Woo. We board our elephant, with 3 other people, at 7am, and head for the jungle. Elephant riding, especially on streets, is not so comfortable. It's just you being pummeled against a wooded box repeatedly. Once you're off the street and into the mud it's a little better. We'd be in the jungle no less than 10 minutes when we hear another guide yell, head towards it, and who's waiting for us?? Mom and baby rhino!! Our elephant, along with 2 others, walked right up to them eating their breakfast. They didn't bat an eye as we all ooh and awed and took pictures, of which I have approximately 200 too many. Then head back into the jungley jungle (out of the grassy jungle) and saw some deer, crossed deep rivers, saw frogs, held on for dear life, and tried not to think about the massive chest bruises that were being beaten into us with every step. It was really cool, but even with the rhinos, paled in comparison to hanging out in the jungle and with our guide at his home. And it wasn't just the booze :)

Alas, after breaky (ha so many English people everywhere) we sadly/hungovery boarded our "4 hour" bus to Kathmandu. It was actually a really nice bus, big seats, no AC obvi, except the fact we were in the last row. Which was bumpy. And the seats were raised above the windows. Awesome, so bumpy I may lose breakdfast, I can't read, write or see anything, and it took no less than 7 hours. Asa. LOVE buses! But guess what, IT'S THE LAST ONE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! We may do a few short excursions from Kathmandu, but NO MORE 5+ hour rides.

We got of the bus, got a free ride to a cheap, large hotel room (with TV and wifi!), and we LOVE Kathmandu. I wasn't expecting much, just another city, but there's flavor here. Shopping. Foreigners. Temples. People, people, people. Tos of restaurants and bars. My first tofu since Korea (that's over 2 months my friend). LOVE. Yoga will wait a day, we need to marinate in some Kathmandu tomorrow.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Welcome to the Jungle

Sadly, the day arrived that we had to leave Pokhara. We loved Pokhara. Beautiful, relaxed, and comfortable, but alas, there is more to Nepal!

After a 6am wake up, we took a 2+ hour bus ride, to somewhere on the Thusali River and boarded our raft. They said the rafting would be about 3 hours, and I guess if you count all of the waiting around, it was. The actual rafting was only an hour and a half, but the water was strong and fast and the scenery was unreal! It was so magical to float through these huge beautiful mountains, and luckily the weather was perfect. We had 4 others on our boat, 3 French people and 1 English woman. Oh and our guide, who wasn't so interested in us, but got us through without anyone falling out (accidentally). It was by far the best rafting I've seen so far, and apparently by Nepal standards, not overly impressive- woah!

Rafting was followed by a typical Nepalese lunch, Dahl Baaht. Rice, a papadad, dahl (lentil curry soup), and 2 veg curries. Good and the first non western food we'd had ina while. Then we waited, and waited, and waited, and finally a bus came to bring us all to Chitwan National Park. The supposed 45 min bus ride was actually closer to 2 hours; funny how the fun stuff is way over estimated and not so fun stuff way underestimated. And the bus couldnt have been more full...typical!

We arrive at beautiful Gorkha Hamlet "Resort." Its super cute and we have our own green bungalow!! Well actually we have the whole place to ourselves!! The Englishwoman from rafting is staying next door and she said her hotel is full of Chinese tourists...I prefer the solitude! We had a yummy dinner here then wandered down the street to a cultural show. Thing small town local Nepalese meets Stomp. It was awesome! The it was back for an early bed time.

This am- another 6am start, we had a yum breakfast then head to an elephant breeding center where there were tons of baby elephants!!! Even 1 that was 3 months old. SOooo cute!! Then we went on a jungle hike. Barefoot. It was so muddy you couldn't wear shoes, so we hiked through the rough jungle shoeless. Paul caught some leeches, but somehow I came out unscathed. Apparently during monsoon it's rare to see many animals; especially the sloth bears, rhinos and tigers which Chitwan is famous. Since there's water abound, the animals stay hidden. We did see monkeys, birds, a deer and rhino tracks. It was really cool to hike through the jungle with 2 guides and all our protection was their 2 sticks. The one guide had a group of Japanese tourists 5 years ago when a Sloth Bear attacked. they all ran leaving him defenseless against this bear, and he spent the next 15 days in the hospital recovering frm his head injury. Serious business here!!!

Now of course, it's raining, so no elephant bathe (they don't bathe in the muddy river). We're going on a jeep safari at 330 where hopefully we will spot some more wildlife! And so far so good, no SNAKES!!!

Saturday, July 30, 2011


We sure can't escape em. Miss you, Krissy!! So last night we met up with our brother sister friends, Steve and Bethanny. They're from Edmonton, Canada, somewhere in the West, I'm told. They had some other friends with them, but for whatever reason when we showed up they bailed...hmmm. :) But we went out, had happy hour pizzas and beer. Upon reflection, this is only the 3rd time in 7 weeks we've gone out with other people. 1. Carl in Mumbai 2. Jaan in Varanassi and now Steve and Bethanny. I'm excited to move to Hong Kong and meet some friends!!!

Oh also exciting yesterday, I found real stinky cow cheese!!! So obviously picked up a bottle of wine. There seems to be an inverse relationship between wine and cheese on this trip. India = good wine, bad cheese (well just not REAL cheese),Nepal = great cheese, horrible wine. Here's hoping for HK.

Today we may go for a walk up to the World Peace Pagoda with Steve and Bethanny, then it's packing because 7am tomorrow is white water rafting!! Wooooohooooo!!!

Friday, July 29, 2011


Since trekking we've just been taking it slow and kicking it in Pokhara. We're still waiting to hear when we're going rafting; I guess tomorrow or the 1st. But who knows? No one tells us anything! It's gorgeous here with lots of Western/international food options and happy hours. Yes, happy hour. Oh how I've missed you. We found one happy hour at T'Hic T'Tak where it's 2 for 1 cocktails with imported salami and popcorn! These things haven't existed in my life in 2+ years! We went back for dinner last night and got this delicious fish/potato stone pot meal that was to die for. Definitely the best meal of the trip. I'm just excited I can eat again without being sick!

It wasn't sunny enough for paragliding so yesterday we rented bikes for the day and pedaled out to a cave and Devi's Falls. Of course the second we get there it starts to rain. Hard. The cave was pretty lame and 80% of it was closed due to monsoon, story of our trip. You walk down a few stairs to this plaster looking little cave, dripping water, to see a cow statue. Hmmm, then keep going down the real cave and see a temple. No offense to Hinduism, but been there, seen that like 500 times over in India. Next. We crossed the street in the pouring rain and went over to Devi's Falls. Apparently back in the day David (Devi in Nepali) fell into the falls and brought his girlfriend with him, never to be seen again. And you can tell why! This is a massive rush of water that pours over a cliff straight down into the Earth and disappears. I suppose it flows into an underground river. It was pretty impressive and we felt a part of it on account we were so wet.

We ran into this brother sister team the other day. They were the ones who suggested we go hiking sans guide, and we suggested they stay at our lovely hotel. When we ran into them again they had just returned from a yoga ashram. This is something I had wanted to do in India, but we never quite got around to it. They said it was phenomenal. This is embarrassing to say, but I haven't done yoga since I've been in Asia. There's something wrong with this; I used to do it all the time in DC. So, talking to Bethanny and Steve (he enjoyed it!) got me excited, and the fact that Paul is horrified at spending a whole day at a yoga ashram just adds to the excitement. We don't have time to do it here in Pokhara as we may have to leave for rafting at any moment, but I have emailed some places in Kathmandu and they've been most accommodating. Ideally we'll got for 2 days, Paul's pushing for 1, but he's being a good sport. I can't wait to see him try to sit cross legged for more than 2 minutes. You should see the poor guy at Korean restaurants when we have to sit on the floor- ha.

The schedule is pretty intense. You wake up at 5am for morning yoga/meditation. Then have breakfast,all vegan of course, do some Karma yoga which includes farming or picking rice or something- ha, and it goes on like this through the day when you finally retire at 8pm. I can't wait. Soul and body cleansing!

So today is a lazy day. We're on a quest for new books, so we're going to hit up as many hotels as we can to try to find some good ones. Then probably hit up the salami happy hour and call it a night. I don't think we've stayed up past 11 on this entire trip. I suppose good preparation for real life in HK, which begins 2 weeks to the day!!! Doesn't feel like we've been here for 7 weeks, although doesn't seem like I've been in Korea forever either...

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Here's Hoping for Sun Tomorrow

"I want to fly like an eagle....this song was written about me." -Paul on paragliding. If it's sunny tomrrow we're jumping off a mountain with parachutes!!

If not so sunny, renting bikes and having a Nepalese Wish a Fish pot for lunch. Asa. Today we're finally back on the track to health. Apparently everyone that goes trekking ends up sick after; me with stomach, Paul with fevers and throat. In order to celebrate renewed health, and to promote it, because kimchi fixes everything, we went out for our Korean bbq lunch. IT WAS LEGIT!! Real Korean food in Nepal, who knew!? And the owner lives in Hannam, which is a 30 minute walk from my old (tear) apartment in Haebongcheon. Small world it tis.

Now it's happy hour. 2 for 1 cocktails, sausage, popcorn and wifi. Life is Good.

Monday, July 25, 2011

A Walk Up The Woods

So as I mentioned in the previous post, Paul and I decided to do a 4-5day trek without a guide. The guides, you see, are quite expensive, and we thought it might be kind of awkward walking with some stranger for 4 days. In preparation for our trip we got all of our hiking permits (which took like 2 hours!) and then we hit the grocery. We got peanut butter, bread, granola bars, nuts, chocolate, all of the essentials for hiking. After this arduous process we were tired, so went back to the hotel to relax and shower. Well, evening rolled around and it began to rain. We didn't feel like venturing out to get maps and hit the ATM and figured we would do it in the morning in the town where the hike begins. There's got to be an ATM and hiking supply stores at the beginning of the trail, right?

The answer is no, there is nothing in Nayapul. You can buy duck eggs and a bottle of Jack, but no maps, no ATM. We assess our situation; 4,500 Rs. We were told you need about 1,000 Rs per day on the mountain. We thought that meant for both of us, turns out that's per person. Hm, so a 4 day trek would only leave us 500 Rs allowance, not a good situation to be in. What if it rains and we get stuck and need to stay extra days? We are also hugely underprepared. We didn't have backpacks (our hotel graciously held our packs while we were gone) we had our purses. We packed a long sleeve, some socks, food, and that was about it. What if we needed additionaly supplies at the top? Well the answer is go without, because we don't have enough money.

Day 1 start. It's absolutely gorgeous out. Sun is shining and the walk is beautiful. Our first obstacle, only 20 metres into the path and there's a river flowing through it. Hm, not to be detered we take off our shoes and walk through. As Im taking pictures of Paul wading the river we notice the bridge behind us. Oops. Two idiots go for a hike. Anyway, finally get going and it's a flat wide road that passes through charming villages where you can buy waters or have lunch. It goes for miles just through the valley, we're thinking "This is great, no mountain climbing."

I should back up. As we're signing in with the Ranger we ask about how far we can expect to go in a day (again 2 idiots go hiking). The ranger says to xxxx about a 4 hour hike. Hmm 4 hours, it's only 10 am what do we do the rest of the day? We ask if we can make it to the stop for day 2 in just one day, to which he replies, no impossible. But there's a guide behind us, for a Korean couple, and he says, "You're young and's 10am....1 hour for make it by 6pm to Ghorapani." Asa, we have ourselvesa challenge.

We arrive at the day 1 stop right at 12:30, have a peanut butter sandwich and continue on. This is where it starts to climb. Not only are you climbing up the mountain, you're walking up stairs. Millions and billions of stairs. I have never seen this many stairs in my whole life! We walked what must have been 4 million stairs when we passed someone and they assured us, the stairs continue all the way to Ghorapani. So 5 more hours of stairs?? YES. We stopped at a few guesthouses along the way for some water, which has a 9x mark up in the mountains, and who can blame them. This is totally unchartered territory. There is no way to get here but hike. I can't even imagine stocking these places, it's hard enough walking with my purse! Every place we stopped we told the owners that we were going to Ghorapani and we got the exact same response from each, "Oh, no, not today! You won't make it." Oh yes we will!

So climb on we did. Around 2pm it started raining. It rained and rained and you know what rain brings in the mountains in July? LEECHES!! No joke. I always thought they were kind of an urban legend. You can't go swimming there, you'll get leeches. Nope, they really do exist and Paul and I have at least 10 leech hickeys between us as proof. Walk, stop, pick off leeches, flick them from your shoes, walk. This went on for hours. 9 hours day 1. 18km, 16 of which were vertical up. But we made it to Ghorapani, right at 6 as the man predicted. We had the cutest little guest house, just us and old man, his wife and 2 grandkids. We got in took off all of our wet clothing, hung it by the oil can fire place, took a luke warm shower and put on fuzzy socks and long sleeves. It's cold 2km up in the mountains!!! We sat eating our noodles by the fire and then enjoyed some homemade Raksi- a clear booze made from millet. One night with dinner and breakfast (only Paul) cost over 1,000Rs. Hmm we're not going to make it 4 days. At this point it's raining and only getting wetter so we decide we want to book it off these mountains as soon as possible. You thought day 1 was impossible, well bring on day 2.

We awake after a pretty miserable night's sleep, totally sore, put on our semi-dry shoes and gear, and start out for Ghandruk. Again we're told this is not to be done in 1 day, but hey, we like a challenge. We took a brief detour in the morning. I should mention, the trail day 1 was in no way marked. I mean there's really no where to go but the follow the path in front of you, but if you happen to veer off, you're screwed. Day 2 there were flags spread intermittently throughout the path, but you could go hours without seeing a flag, person or guesthouse. What if you got hurt? I suppose this is why you bring a guide! Anyway, the scenery day 2 was beautiful. Youre on the top of these mountains in this thick mist. I'm sure it would be totally breathtaking if you could actually see out into the mountains you're there to see. But no, this is monsoon, so you can see about 15 ft in front of you. Periodically you'd hear a bell, then out of the mist antlers would appear and there'd be a pack of cows or ponies. That was kind of cool. Then you're out of the meadows and into the forest! It is by far the most beautiful place I have ever seen. The vegetation changes every hour or so; I felt like we hiked in 4 different countries! Meadows, to forest, to jungle, to white water waterfalls, ahh! And best of all, NO snakes!! Day 2 treking was much easier, mostly downhill. At one point we came accross a group of Koreans. We followed them for a few hours, stopped for lunch, then caught them again. The one girl in the back was SOOOO Korean. I guess she had just bought new Nikes and didn't want to get them muddy (ummm hello mountains in monsoon, everything's muddy) so every time she'd step in mud she'd give a little scream and wave her arms. haha Paul and I had a good time laughing at her, but at some point enough is enough and we left her in the dust.

6:30pm, another 9 hour day, and we arrived in Ghandruk! Hurrah!! Again found a sweet little guesthouse, the Shangri-la. Stripped down, had a HOT shower!! and had more noodles. The servings at these places are nuts, enough for 3 people. So we ordered one, I had a bit, but Paul mauled most of it. This kid eats more than anyone I have ever seen and with minimal exercise can't gain a pound. He lost a bunch of weight in Korea, and since we've been walking on this trip, despite the copious amounts of chowmein, he's still losing weight!! We finished the meal with a couple glasses of Raksi and called it a night.

Day 3 was the easy part. Down hill for 4 hours. Well you know what, downhill, down STAIRS, is tough. Our bodies were already in full on sore mode, and walking down 100s of stairs just added to the burn in our quads. But we kept on keeping on. And the last day, as we were out of the clouds, was breathtaking. The scenery was so beautiful and the sun was on full blast. 2pm and we finished the 4-5 day trek in 2.5 days. Go Team Under financed, Under prepared, but totally spandexed out!

Today we are more sore than ever but uber proud of ourselves! Just when we thought our bodies couldn't go any further, they did. We walked, climbed, jumped, fought leeches, and we're all the better for it! As for today we plan to eat and sit. There is a Korean restaurant in town so we're treating our selves to samgapsol (korean bbq!) for dinner.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Trek decided-y

After some research today, Paul and I have decided to do the Poon Hill trek sans guide. It's a 4 to 5 day hike, we can leave our packs at our hotel, and there are guest houses and restaurants along the way!! Keep you fingers crossed no rain! We leave saturday am!!!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


First off, India wouldn't let me leave that easy. After the nightmare million degree bus rides, I got sick. Dehli Belly finally caught me. As if that weren't enough we had a 5(turned out to be 6) hour bumpy bus ride in the morning after I'd been up sick all night. Fun times let me tell you. I am finally feeling better and don't get totally nausous every time I smell food. I was even able to get some pizza down for dinner last night!

Anyway, the ride, despite the stomach issues, was amazing! It had been raining the entire night, which, let's be honest, scared the crap out of us that our bus would be washed down the side of a mountain, but it wasn't. The rain caused hundreds and hundreds of waterfalls! We drove through the clouds through what looked to be how the world was before we settle it. When there were houses, they were all straw thatched with bamboo fences, kind of reminds you of ancient Ireland (on account that it's so green). It was really spectacular and we got our first glimpse at some of the rivers we could go rafting down; and boy water was moving!

Pokhara tunrs out to be totally different that I imagined it. It's a small city at the base of several mountains with a lake in the middle. It's hugely touristy though. If you go trekking in Nepal, this is where you start, so there are travel agencies, shops, hotels and foreign restaurants galore. And it's expensive. I'm talking 3-4x pricier than Tansen. We went out for pizzas and beers last night; 1 pizza, 3 beers, and it was $10!! We're used to $2 meals haha. My, how quickly your idea of expensive changes.

Tis a bit overcast now (it's only 8 am) and was raining most of the day yesterday, if this keeps up we're not sure if we'll go trekking. Trekking is difficult logistically too. Today we'll find out more, but from what we gather you need to hire a porter to carry your stuff (I'm not carrying my 14kg pack for miles!), or send your stuff via truck to your end destination, hmm, then what do we carry?? A purse? Then you need to hire a guide, pay for guesthouses and food along the way. Apparently this can get quite pricey. So we'll see. I feel like you can't go to Nepal and not do a trek though!

There are a ton of Korean restaurants here!!! Now that my stomach is better I think it's galbi tonight!!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

India By The Numbers

52 hours spent on the train
5 states visited
2 World Heritage sights (Elephanta Island and the Taj Mahal)
780 photos taken
1 injury warrenting a hospital visit (don't cut avocados at 3am), but didnt
30+ hours spent on the bus
2 bottles of wine
2 pees on average per day...countless trips to the bathroom, however
3 nights spent in the bathroom
4.25 books finished (Lauren)
3 books (Paul)
2 shirts given away, ya know, to lighten the load
1 birthday celebrated
2 flights taken
1 anniversary celebrated (only fancy pants meal)
15 hotels stayed in
6 afternoons spent at pools
1 waterfall jumped off
1 hummus pita
5 pizzas, 2 of which were edible
4 = average days wearing the same outfit

Most Expensive/Shittiest Hotel = Hotel City Palace, Mumbai
Cheapest/Nicest (with a pool!) = Hotel Shree Palace, Pushkar
Best Meal = tie, hummus pita and fancy pants meal in Jodhpur
Best Indian Meal = Veg Jal Frizy in Calagute, Goa
Most Enjoyable City = Udaipur, Rajasthan
Coolest Fort = tie, Amer Fort, Jaipur, and Jodhpur Fort
Best Sight = Taj Mahal at sunrise
Most Dead People = Varanassi
Best Picture = Paul charming a cobra
Worst Walk = Seeing a cobra, Bundi Fort
Most Monkeys = Monkey Temple, Jaipur, Rajasthan
Best Travel Companion = Harry Potter on ipod....and Paul
Most Rain = Kerala

We finally made it to Nepal! 13 year old girl moment: OMG!! I LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE Nepal. Ok. But really, Nepal is beautiful! After 2 hellacious bus rides yesterday, we are in Tansen. Tansen is a mountain top village, pretty untainted by tourists. We have a lovely hotel, with a lovely balcony and unlike India, there's booze on every corner! ha. The temperature is just perfect, probably mid to high 70s, and the mountains are GREEN.

Flashback to the bus. Bus 1 to the border was supposed to take 2.5 hours; it took 5. And it was approximately 3 billion degrees, no AC of course. Then from the border, which is super lax, we took a bus another 2 hours to go about 1km. We went, stopped for 30 mintutes, moved 2 feet and stopped for 30 minutes. Again, this is super fun and added bonus, heat stroke. Little did we know, we had the most perilous/extradinarily beautiful ride ahead of us. The last 2 hours and we were in another world. Our minu bus drove through windy mountain roads, no guardrails, and surrounded by waterfalls, rivers and the most lush greenery! It was worth the wait.

Tomorrow we're taking a 5 (hopefully) hour bus on the same amazing "highway" up to Pokara, where we plan to spend 1 week trekking and 1 week relaxing by the lake.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Happy Birthday To Me!

Ew, today I'm 27. No longer in the mid-20s, now in the late-20s. Hm. And what's really annoying is every time we go to book a train ticket they ask our ages (why they require it I don't know) and now it says:

Paul Fiehler 25
Lauren McPhate 27

No bueno.

Ok, I'm over it. We arrived in HOT HOT HOT Varanassi after a wonderful overnight train. We met a new German friend, Yen, and played cards on the train until we all fell blissfully asleep. We all decided on the same hostel and we've been doing some boat trips with him.

Yesterday, Paul and I walked all over Varanassi. This place is India full-on. Exactly how you picture India to be; hot, crowded, pushy, shops, and yes, dead bodies. As we're walking through the maze of streets [Did you know Varanassi is one of the oldest cities in the world?] we decide to go take a peek at the Ganges. We see stacks of wood in the streets, thought nothing of it, approached the river and saw fires on the banks, thought nothing of it, then heard a woman grieving. Like hysterical on her knees grieving. It clicked. We stumbled upon the cremation ghat. There were probably 4 or 5 bodies being burned and one stack of wood with a man being prepared to burn; the one the woman was grieving. A man approached us and gave us a quick run down. White burial cloth = young man or young woman. Orange indicates old man/woman. Pregnant woman, cows, unmarried people, children under 10, and poor people don't get cremated, they are brought to the middle of the river and tossed in. Cremations don't come cheap. You need to buy 300kgs worth of wood per person and we were told that's about 20,000Rs (~$450). The burning takes between 3 and 4 hours, then the family all goes home. The men in the family have to shave their heads, although Ive seen some bald women too, so maybe they do too. The family all eat one meal a day for 13 days, and only after dark. Then they have a huge celebration.

It felt totally invasive to stand there and watch while this woman unravelled. This morning we took a 5:30am boat ride up the Ganges where thousands of Hindus are bathing in the holy waters. Again, this seems like a total intrusion, but most smiled and posed for the cameras. Also on this boat ride we saw 3 floating bodies. Our boat guide told us they had washed down in the current and often times get stuck in docked boats. We saw a floating cow too. Can you imagine going for your morning boat ride and finding 2 people stuck on your anchor line?? I guess living here you expect it!

The city itself is just bubbling with excitement and life. There are thousands and thousands of shops, selling everything from jewelry, to clothes, to chickens (which is weird because Hindus are supposed to be vegetarians). Less cows than other places, but more flies for sure! And the heat. This is by far the hottest place we've been. Because of the heat and amount of people, the elctricity often goes out! We were tryng to cool off in the room yesterday afternoon and read, when it shut off for like 3 hours. Everyone just goes up to the roof and hangs.

As we walked through one of many markets yesterday we found a man selling paneer (uncurdled cheese- kind of like tofu) on the street. It's my birthday and I want cheese. So street cheese it was! Street cheese and Indian wine, which was really good, on the roof at sunset. Was quite lovely. Then we were joined by Yen who had spent the afternoon lost. ha poor guy took rickshaw after rickshaw trying to find our hotel, which incidentally doesn't have AC! It's a waste of money for AC as the power goes out so often. But,yeah, this place is a maze!!

Today was the morning boat ride and we'll do one at sunset today when there's a huge Hindu ceremony going on. Tomorrow we're doing a 4 hour tour of temples around the city and then Sunday we're off to Nepal. Well en route. We just started looking at Nepal and WOW!!! we have so much to look forward to! Tentative plan as of breakfast today (which was awesome; eggplant, egg, potato and tomato salad!):

Bus to Tansen from India. Tansen is supposed to be a tourist free lovely little spot.

Bus to Pokara where there's a beautiful lake. From here we'd like to do a week trekking through the mountains, but we're unsure if we'll be able to due to the monsoon.

Then bus to Mugling where we're going to white water raft for 3 days to the Chitwan National Park.

At Chitawan Park we'll ride elephants through the park to see rhinos and sloth bears!

Then it's off to Kathmandu!

Yey sloth bears!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Snakes and Waterfalls

But luckily not together.

After Paul started feeling better we walked up to the old city wall and bought tickets to the fort. We we instructed to walk past the palace up a meandering, overgrown, rock path until we stumble upon it. Stumble I did. Just walking along the scenic path, minding my own business, observing the beauty of the unkempt 14th century wall to my right, when what did I see that ruined the whole trip? A huge, black, slithering beast! I immediately turn around, "Snake, snake snake snake, huge black, snake." I get a ssafe distance back and Paul wants to investigate. I'm shaking uncontrollable wondering where his little (or not so little) friends are hiding. Alas, I think I scared it away and Paul was left sans snake sighting. Obviously we ain't going to the fort now, so we turn back to the palace. I explain the the ticket man what we just saw and his response, "How big? Black? Oh, very bad. Bad, yes. Cobra." Cobra!! And it's not in a basket, ahhhhhh. The he explained, "Sometimes 1,000 years old. That big, only 500. Very poisonous. Danger, yes." It was for sure the biggest snake I have ever seen without a glass partition or carnival man holding it. Blehhhhhhh. Cobra, you just ruined nature for me. The man saw our predicament and let us into the palace for free where we enjoyed a nice, snake free, tour. I don't think they get many visitors. At dinner, which again, wasn't very good, the chef/owner/bus ticket/stoned man informed us that seeing a cobra was good luck. Well, I'm still alive so I suppose that's lucky. Paul saw a scorpion shell in the bathroom, so we're calling that luck too, oh and when I picked up my computer from charging there was bird poop on it. We're up to here with luck!

This morning we woke up, had our first good meal (hummus!!) and took an hour long auto out to a waterfall. Along the way we passed through beautiful stone/sod villages, farms and stopped at a small home for a chai. Then we arrive at the falls. As we're walking to the descent a family offered us fried banana fritters and of course everyone wanted their photo taken. We went into the temple, offered up some flowers, got some candies, then hit the water. Our auto driver and his son were amazing. They tried to tell us all about where we were and themselves and then showed us how where to go, watched our stuff, and the 16 year old played photographer for Paul and I as we swmm and cliff jumped. All this after they fed us a samosa. They work hard for that tip here. As we're leaving the water a group of men approach and want their picture taken. And again. And again. And all of the suddent there's a hand on my leg, my arm, my butt!! So Paul grabbed me and we shooed out of that mess. They followed us the whole way out, "Just one more picture, please." NOOOOOOOO. You touchy the hiney.

It was really beautiful and amazing to jump out of a waterfall! Now we're heading out to the train station for our 12 hour over night ride to Agra!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

No doubt....

...the monsoon has found us again!! It's 2 weeks early and we're still getting rained on. We checked out of our hotel, had breakfast, walked, finally found a pool, swam for 30 minutes and then it struck. Buckets of rain, thunder, lightening, the whole deal. It finally ended, we had our favorite Paneer Kebab with a game of Uno and were on our merry little way to Bundi.

The bus was amazing. Got on, had what's essentially a large coffin of a seat, laid down with Harry Potter on the ipod and were out! No sooner had we closed our eyes than someone was banging on our coffin door telling us we 5:30am.

Bundi's been quite nice. Small, and still pre-tourist season so it's pretty abandoned. We rented bikes yesterday which was awesome. I hadn't been biking in ages, and my butt can vouch for that today. For dinner we hit up Tom & Jerry's which promised WiFi. They didn't have it. Tried to get a veg burger. Didn't have it. Mixed curry. Nope. Cream pasta. Uh nah. Finally the owner confessed they had just opened the restaurant the day before for the season and all they had were pizza and tomato pasta. Fine, one of each. Bad idea. They were clearly both made with processed canned crap, didn't taste good, and as it turns out, induced Paul's first Indian illness. He spent the night in the bathroom. I spent the night under the mosquito net.

After some dry chapati and bananas for breakfast (I went on a breakfast bike ride for ingredients!) he's on the way to recovery. But yeah, this whole lack of tourist thing is tough on our stomachs. Tried to get muselli curd w/ fruit for lunch. Muselli=300 year old cornflakes. Paul got veg noodles=rameyon with some potato. Hopefully dinner pans out better.

Today we'll hit the fort here, did I mention it rained all morning? Sunny now, then tomorrow a local waterfall we can swim under then it's a 5pm 12 hour train ride to Agra!

Agra, although we've heard shady, has several restaurants where we believe we can find sushi and Korean. God willing.

PS my birthday is in less than a week. Hold on to your diamonds and chocolate...forecasted location; Varanassi.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

No chicken pizza, but....

...the chicken and veg sandwiches were quite tasty. Octopussy was mildly entertaining, but the best part of it was seeing the changes between 1970 Udaipur and 2011 Udaipur. In one word, none. haha It looked exactly the same even down to the auto rickshaws.

Our cooking class was funny. The guy was actually around at 10 am (ish) and we went up to the kitchen and cooked our little hearts out. His English was pretty minimal but he was a funny guy; always dancing and saying who knows what in Hindi. We made Chicken Masala, Aubengine Alloo (eggplant and potato curry), Dhal Fry (lentils), Chapati (wheat tortilla), and rice. It was quite good and a nice way to spend the morning.

We love Udaipur. There's no pressure to do anything, so we kind of lull around and just relax. After the cooking class we went to out airy room and just read for a few hours. Then felt lazy so head out and toured to the City Palace, which was beautiful, followed by our afternoon ice cream. Then came the shadiness. We've been walking to this far away Wine Shop to pick up beers. It's a nice walk and it's near our ice cream guy. BUT NO MORE!! Firstly, we found one like 2 blocks from our hotel, but more importantly I'm pretty sure they stole $40 from us. The 2 times we went there, they'd quote a price, we'd hand over a 500 Rs bill, and they'd stand there saying, "No we said 300 Rs, 300 Rs!" No understanding we look and they're holding a 100 RS note. Us not really paying attention figured we handed over the wrong bill and appologize and give over more money. The second time, when I paid, I knew I had a 500 note in my wallet. I keep searching and searching after this happened and couldnt find it. Finally today we pieced the whole thing together. They were counting on our befuddlement and took advantage. Those bastards! 500Rs is like $10. And they did it twice and charged us on top of it. We've been had.

In a happier story, we haven't been hassled here and are still really enjoying Udaipur. Tomorrow at 10 pm we're taking a 7 hour overnight bus (what are we masochists?) to Bhundi. We have a double sleeper, so hopefully we'll sleep the entire way...and not puke :) Since the bus isn't until 10 pm, we'll check out of out hotel (if we can ever find management. We haven't seen them since we checked in really) and spend the afternoon at a hotel pool.

Bhundi is supposed to be a lovely town and it happens to fall exactly 1/2 between here and Agra (Taj Mahal town). There's a lake with crocodiles and other random stuff. We need to consult LP again for more details.

But, yeah, life's good. We had lunch at a restaurant today that serves Korean food! I miss Korea already. It's definitely weird to think we're not going back.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Udaipur love

We set out of Puskhar on a long, hot, bumpy 5 hour bus ride to Jodhpur. Arrived tired, took an auto to a hotel we found in LP. Wow. This rickshaw went up these tiny narrow streets where we;'re fighting pedestrians, motorbikes, other autos, small cars, dogs and a shit ton of cows. I have never seen so many in my life! The Cosy Guest House was super cute and had wifi!

Jodhpur was a beautiful city; all the buildings are painted indigo (The Blue City) because, we learned on our audio tour of the fort, it keeps the buildings cool and deters mosquitoes. The fort was breathtaking. It's a huge structure on the top of a mountain over looking the entire city. The tour was amazing; lots of swords, cool rooms, even a live musical performance. For our one year anniversary we went to a wonderful, expensive (~$20!! That's 3 nights in a hotel! ha) rooftop dinner at Indique. It definitely had the best views of the city; you could see the fort, the clock tower, the palace and a ghat. After dinner and we bought wine!!!! I had't had wine since Korea! We chilled it and enjoyed it with a Cadbury chocolate on the roof of our hotel. Bliss. But, alas, the city was crowded. And narrow. And really really hilly. After 2 days we figured we had seen enough.

Sunday at 7:30 am we boarded a "deluxe" bus. Don't be fooled, there is nothing spectacular about this bus except the fact we had our own seats. And above the seats were sleeper seats; think luggage racks made for people. No AC, only open windows. Oh let me share something fun about open windows on old run down buses that drive down bumpy countryside roads; they let puke in. I'm not joking, no less than 4 people puked out the bus windows mid-trip. 2 of which splattered onto my face. Seriously. EW! Half way through this and I thought I was going to lose it. 7 hours later and we arrived, thank god, in Udaipur.

So I said before Pushkar was our favorite, well, Udaipur pushes it to second. This place is magical! Super beautiful, no annoyances, and Western/Indian fusion. We've even seen a few places that have Korean food ("No kimchi now, wait til season starts.").

Last night we sat atop our rooftop, over looking the lake. Spectacular at sunset! Then right around dusk the bats came. I'm talking hundreds of thousands of giant bats! Paul and I sat awestruck for an hour as the bats came rushing by! They leave from the South and fly into the mountains for the night! I can't wait to watch and take pictures tonight. Not too long after and the fireworks show began! Apparently it's every night and in high season goes on for an hour!

Our hotel owner somehow talked us into cooking lessons at our hotel, "You cook and then eat it." We agreed last night for today at 2:30. Saw the owner this morning and confirmed. Come 2:30 and the cook is passed out in his room. Another manager wakes him up, "Now, not a good time. 7 a good time. 10am tomorrow a good time." Wait we didn't even want to do this class and now you're bailing on us!? WTF! Tomorrow at 10am it is. Oh and we went in the kitchen to look for him and saw the raw chicken, in a plastic bag, on the counter. It's 35 degrees here! So if you don't hear from me for a few days, blame salmonella.

Tonight we're heading over to the Namaste hotel for a free showing of Octopussy. Apparently it was filmed right here on the lake, so almost all of the hotels have a show. Movie and chicken pizza, Asa! We're not leaving this place!!

Happy 4th of July. America!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

1 year...

...ago today, I met Paul Fiehler. Happy 1 year, babyface.


In Pushkar (our favorite yet) we swam in the pool, ate hummus and pizza, lounged and life was good. And then it got great. We were beckoned off the street by Kalu, "Camel safari?" Why, yes, certainly. After looking through his pictures and guest comments we decided this was the trip for us. Flash forward to the next day 4 pm, and we meet our trek associate, Arian from Australia. Super nice guy, 23, here for a school/work assignment orignially and was now traveling by himself. We walk with our 2 guides to our three camels down the street. Camels are big! Paul takes the camel with no guide and Arian and I both mount our camels and are hoisted 6 feet in the air. If youve never seen a camel get up or down, youtube it, it's quite the scene. We walked for 1.5 hours through desert, mountains and groves, then took a respite in the desert sands. The locals came out and played a who-knows-what while his daughters danced. It was truely a magical experience to watch. The we rode another 1/5 horus to Kalu's house. On the way we passed wild peacocks, the usual goats/cows/dogs, small villages ("ello!"), and finally rode into his drive way where we're greated by his entire family with a hot chai with fresh goat's milk. We actually saw them milk the goat and put it in the chai, delish!

An hour or so later 2 Israeli guests joined us. The men sat outside and chatted and the girls got to look upon the kitchen while Kalu's wife (of 5 months!) and mother cooked up an amazing homemade dinner. They made chapati (kind of a wheat tortilla), aloo (potato curry), rice, and dhal (lentil curry). We all ate together in the darkness with our hands...let me be specific, our right hands. I'm still trying to get the hang of this; it's usually 2 parts mouth, 1 part ground. Then after we washed up we head up to the roof where the camel trekers slept under the stars. Kalu came up with his 2 brothers and a drum and serenaded us to sleep. Well most of us. I was up listening to the neighbors bollywood soundracks and barking dogs, but regardless was a totally magical evening. The next am, we wake up, drink some chai, have bananas and sweet parantha (chapati fried in ghee/butter) and rode our camels back to town.

It was truely the best best best thing we've done so far. We met an amazing family, new friends, and had an unforgettable experience. We hopped on a 5 hour bus the next day to Jodhpur. More on that later...

Wednesday, June 29, 2011


This is by far the most beautiful and tourist centric place we have been! Took a quick 4 hour bus and were solicited for a hotel room right on the bus. We go, there's a pool, AC and it's the cheapest room yet. And there are other foreigners at our hotel! Asa.

This is a beautiful little holy city completely covered in temples. It is totally religious (read no booze) and colorful and get this, full of camels!! Tonight we downgraded our room as we don't need AC and it's costing 200 Rs. That's < $5. And the food!! We've had pizza, hummus, olives. Ahhhh things we've missed. I <3 Indian food, but the oil was wearing on me.

Tomorrow at 4pm we head out for an overnight camel trek. We camel ride through the desert for 3 hours to Kaju's house where his mom teaches us to cook Indian food, he plays guitar, we camp on his roof or in the dessert, then in the AM have tea and milk a goat! Could this be anymore fun! We met some cool foreigners today who were going o nthe same trek and we tried to get in, but alas, not enough camels. So tomorrow it's just the two of us. Can't wait!

Ice cream time.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Jaipur, Rajasthan

Like most of India, Jaipur is a juxtaposition between absolutely beauty and squalor; unrelentless begging, and totally selfless help. It's known as the pink city and the walls are literally lined with pink buildings and gates. Its really beautiful, and you can tell really unmaintained. You know if it were in America it would look like Disney.

Upon arrival we had a super helpful taxi who led us to a really nice, although a bit out of our budget, hotel. He clearly got a commission for bringing us there, but it was clean and had AC. He also gave me his number (Call me Jay for Jaipur) and said if we ever needed anything, he's our man. That truely is the Indian way. We swicthed to a slightly cheaper(with wifi!) room for the next two nights.

It's desert hot here!! Day one we went into the old city and walked around. It's clearly a tourist sight and the vendors won't let you forget it. They are on your tail the entire time. "Peacock feathers? Chess game? Taxi?" It doesn't end. As you walk through the city it's bustling with activity. People running shops, selling stuff on the streets, shoe cleaners, begging children (theyre vicious) and elephants horse and camels just pulling stuff down the street. You get the feeling you're in Aladdin. We saw Old City and took a bus up to the Amber Fort. It was definitely the most breath-taking, coolesst thing we saw here. You hike up stairs to this massive fortress and climb through the secret pathways. There were no shortage of people, but it was kind of refreshing to see it in it's natural state. You can tell no one came in and repainted in the past 300 years. And there were snake charmers and elephant rides. haha Go India.

Day 2 was pretty rainy in the am, but cleared in the afternoon. We took an autorickshaw to Monkey Temple. Its a run down temple (read stone box) with thousands of monkeys. Th monkeys know the tourists all have peanuts in their pockets so they swarm you. It was pretty ridiculous. Then these little (maybe 8 eyars old?) kids come and say they'll be your "monkey protector." ha anything to make a buck. It's really sad to see how many children are put to work on their starving families behalves, but there's just so many, and once you pay one they literally swarm and pull and poke at you. So you just have to ignore it. Post Temple we were a little touristed out, so we went to the theater in town for a Bollywood show. They have 4 showings a day, all of the same movie. And man is this the place to be!! It's a Monday afternoon at 3:30 and theater was packed! Teh movie was absolutely amazing. Ready was all in Hindi, but Paul and I think we got the gist of it. And every hour or so they break out into the crazy Bollywood dance scenes. Paul and I have been dancing ever since.

Today's another overcast day. Were going to bus it over to Puskar, South West of here. They have an annual camel festival in March, but were going for the lake. Hopefully swimming will be involved!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Mumbai and Beyond

Mumbai was a blast. This trip keeps getting better and better. Goa was nice and quiet, but Mumbai was an absolute party. We got in in the evening and wandered the streets looking for a hotel. Everything was full so we pulled out our trusty Lonely Planet and found the closest hotel to us....without reading the description. (sidenote: how did people ever travel before LP? We'd be lost without a clue). We walk into this beautiful, new, modern lobby and inquire about rooms. Find out that they have one, but it's expensive; roughly $30 a night. This is by far the most expensive room we've had. Then we get to see it. WOW. It's not even on a floor. It's on a sub floor between the first and ground, eloquently referred to as the "mezzanine." This 5'x5' box has 1 tiny bed on eachside, you can't stand without hitting your head on the ceiling, and the ac is shared with the room through your wall; which isn't really a wall as much as a peice of plywood. No windows, no priavcy, oh and a shared toilet and shower. The shower you can see from one into the other. Nice-uh.

We made it through one night there- gotta love Discovery Channel, then met Carl (friend from high school) the next day for lunch. He took up to Leopold's. If you've read Shantaram you know what I'm talking about. If you havent, you should! Carl was suffering through a breakup, so it turned into a boozy lunch, followed by a boozy walking tour of downtown, followed by a boozy evening at Carl's apartment 40km outside the city. Beautiful apartment, with Turkish roommmates who cooked us dinner (with cheese!!), and best yet, a free place to crash for 2 nights! No more 1/2 floors for these kids!

We had such a blast with Carl. The next day he decided to go to work, so Paul and I took a boat to Elephanta Island. You leave from the Gateway to India, boat for an hour, then arrive at this little island (7km of coastline) to look at some ancient Buddhist/Hindu caves. After the Batu caves in KL, this looked like a pile of rocks. Not so interesting. The highlightwas definitly watching a monkey grab a water out of this guys hands, unscrew it, and drink it, all the while the guy just looks at his empty hands in disbelief. The boat was fun too.

That evening we met up with Carl's friends and went out on the town. Decided town was not in our backpacker budget, so we hit the wine shop and drank in the street, then hit the club, then went back to Carl's friend' Jay's apartment, where we made 3am sandwiches and chatted until 5. I havent been up that late in months! It was ana amzing time and Carl was so sweet to post up our poor asses for 2 nights!

The next day we said goodbye and flew to Jaipur, capital of Rajasthan....

Ground Covered So Far

1 day Bangalore (sucks)
1 day Kerala (beautiful but rainy/flooded)
7 days Goa (fun but dirty and quiet)
3 days Mumbai (total blast/wonderful city!)
So far 2 days in Jaipur, Rajasthan, The Pink City (lots to see! and lots of animals)

It's only getting better!

We've ridden planes, trains, automobiles, auto-rickshaws, motorcycles, boats, buses, and hopefully camels and elephants soon!

This is One Week Stale....

and the recent update will come tomorrow.

Two weeks in and we already look and smell like backpackers.

Of course the day we are leaving Kerala (Kochi), it is absolutely sunny and warm. Not a rain cloud in the sky. We got booted from out hotel at 6am, so we had some chai and breakfast at our favorite (read: only place we ate at) restaurant and walked around town. It was so beautiful, and had we been less impulsive, would have stayed longer. But we had a monsoon to beat. Since we hastily bought tickets for the train, we got general class. We didn't know what this meant, but we had sleeper the time before, and that was kind of roughing it. We couldn't find a "general" section so we just sat in sleeper, would wait a stop or 2 when someone would come claim their seat and kick us out, and find new seats. This went on for 4 or so hours when we thought we had a winner. Two men across from us got up and left for quite some time. After walking the train several times, I can tell you, there's no where to go. There's a toilet and there's train cars. That's it. When they finally came back they were clearly out of their minds messed up. On what? Who knows. One kept passing out and mumbling to Paul, "Where are you from?" and the other just sat there all mean looking. Then they started whispering to eachother and looking and pointing at Paul and I. Hmmm. I'm not one to be paranoid, but i'm pretty sure they were plotting our murders. Or perhaps just rob us, but so as not to take a chance we wandered on. Only this time there are no seats to be had. Im talking people hanging out of the rafters. We even tried to upgrade our ticket only to be told no, and the train conducter pointed forward.

So now we have train conductors and 2 scheming killers after us and 11 hours to go. We sat in the vestibule for a while, then saw one open seat. I asked to sit and the man graciously obliged and when he saw that Paul had no seat shared his tiny seat with him! This man was clearly educated, I think he said he was heading to Dehli (24 hour ride, ouch!) to attend law school. He was super sweet and chatted us up until the next stop when we were booted again.

The scenery on this train was amazing. We left at 11am, so we could see everything on this beautiful sunny day. It went from country-side with rice paddies and cows to jungle! I even saw an elephant in the woods! The first and only so far. Then right at dusk we got to the coast where you could see the Indian ocean breaking on the beaches. Aside from moving ever hour, Paul and I rarely even talked on the ride as we were too mesmerized by the sights. Paul even got a nice little sun burn on his right arm.

Back to moving. Literally 5 or 6 hours into this and someone kindly asked to help us. I guess we were looking pretty desperate at this point, and she told us, after NO ONE else had told us, that the first car of the train is general class. To avoid our potential killers and being harrassed by the train conductors, we ran up to the first car at the next stop. You can't even get to this car from the main train, you have to get off and get in it. No joke it was like walking into an animal cage. Talk about people hanging from the rafters. When we got on there were 6-7 people per 4 person bench, people sitting in the luggage racks and people standing in the aisles (as were Paul and I). After a short while someone offered me a seat, then Paul, and then we got the 2 money seats at the window. So for the next 9-10 hours we sat. We didn't want to get up to pee because we didn't want the other person to watch all of the stuff, so we didn't . For 10 hours. Or eat. Or do anything but read our books in the dark. Most people in the car were workers. They all got on with big bags of coconuts and promtly fell asleep. I wish I had a picture of how many people were able to sleep in the car. Fact from Lonely Planet: During rush hour in Mumbai a 1400person train holds 7,000. Yeah, so it was kind of like that. But, as with most of our experiences here, the people were so out of the way generous and polite and helpful; something y9ou would never encounter in NYC.

Wearily (up at 5:30 am) we arrived in Goa at 2am. All in all an interesting trip, but definitely no more general class for these kids. We got an awesome hotel in Colva and passed out only to be awoken by what? The monsoon! It found us all the way up in Goa. The entire, Im talking entire, next day was spent on our balcony sipping cocktails, watching the pond in the back turn into a lake. It was really peaceful and relaxing though. The next morning we bused it up to Candolim (<1 hour). During high season these beaches must be amazing, during monsoon, roughly 90% of everything is closed. We did get some great deals on rooms (~$10/night) but there was little to do at night, so we'd buy our Kingfisher Strongs and watch HBO in the room. It was safe, non threatening, and peaceful. And the beers be strong!

We stayed in Candolim 2 nights then moved up in Calagute (much more happening) for 3 nights. We spent the days walking the beaches, going to resort pools, and eating copious amounts of curries and breads! My favorite meal so far has been mixed veg. jal frizy. Yum! I thought India would make me skinny, tis quite the opposite my friend. Oils and fried stuff at every meal!

Beaches in Goa are interesting. The current is so strong you can't swim, so people literally just roll around in the sand at the water's edge. It was all Indians because it's off season, so if women went in the water, it was in their full outfit. I was able to get away with shorts, but Paul and I finally found Fabindia and both bought some tunics. The beaches during high season are littered with shacks, not trash like they are not. We could see the shacks roofs, but the actual shack, obsayeo. This is where everyone gets great cheap food and drinks. During low season, you go to the wine store or little restaurant and try to fend off flies. I would love to go back and see it in it's full glory. We totally lucked out on weather once there. We had beautiful sunny days the entire time with just 20 min bouts of rain. We even got some sweet tshirt tans!

Way too many other stories to include, but this is getting long. Since it's been raining so hard, the train tracks up to Mumbai have been washed out, so we bought cheap plane tickets. We are currently sitting at the Goa airport awaiting our flight. I'm so exicted to see monkeys, temples, and elephants in Mumbai!!!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Coming Soon....

A real post about India.

Now just a quick note. We're in beautiful, hot Mumbai and totally loving it. Its not at all the dirty clust-f we thought it would be! Although it is a lot more expensive. We stayed in a box last night. It was the most expensive hotel yet, with shaared bathroom, and half ceilings. We couldn't stand up int he room without hitting our heads on the ceiling and the AC in the room was shared with the room next to us!!

Pictures soon! Just booked Rajasthan for Saturday- time to meet a high school friend for lunch and go see some monkeys!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


We arrived at a hotel we found in Lonely Planet after a death defying cab ride from the Bangalore airport. The hotel was nice enough, more than we wanted to pay ($20!), and as we checked in the receptionist guy told us "great night life. Down the street to the left. 10 minutes." At this point it was dark, and we're in India!!, but not to be deterred decided to take the walk. It's totally dark, loud (you don't drive without beeping 3 times a second), dirty, and empty. We passed a few people, but nothing, I mean nothing was open. This is 7:30 pm. We go back to the hotel, decide Bangalore sucks, and we're bailing the next day. Had a lovely dinner at the hotel, watched National Geographic and called it a day.

Day 2 India. We start walking thinking we'll explore a little and hit the train station later on to find out about leaving. After a 15 minute walk decide we don't want to give Bangalore another 2 seconds thought and tuk tuked it to the station. (Maria- how did you do it for 5 weeks!??) Indian train stations are fun. There are 8 million people running around all trying to get to the front of the "line." More of a cluster around the window. We finally push in, are told to go upstairs, go upstairs to get the train #. go downstairs to ticket window 14 labeled "Seniors and Foreigners." Old Indian men are a lot like old Korean men. They feel entitled and they push. We patiently wait and get a ticket for that evening to Kerala (South Western Indian Coast. Supposed to be less touristy than Goa) via sleeper car. Sleeper car to Paul and I sounds fancy. It's not. We meet 2 super sweet Indian dudes, both under 20, who chat us up and help us find out train. And thank god becasue we would have had trouble with that! We get there and words can't describe the spartan condition. Each cube, as I will call it, consists of 8 beds. 3 on one wall, 3 on the opposing wall, and two across the aisle perpendicular to the other 6. Somehow our cube sat no less than 12 for the first hour. I went to the bathroom at one point (literally ahole onto the tracks) and can't help but notice we have the most popular cube in our car.

It's all men except me and the girl across from me. She starts chatting me up, I have a really difficult time undertsanding her, not only is her accent thick, but the windows of the cars are just bars, so the whooshing of the Indian countryside is quite defeaning. Anyway, she asks about Paul and I, and I tell her all about our marriage on June 3rd (Mom not really, this is just our story), and how this is our honeymoon. Then I start talking to Paul and i guess we kissed or held hands or something because she beckons me over and whispers, "Sister, you cannot kiss you husband. You're in front of Indians." Oops!! All PDA is officially off. Then she asks more about us and finds out that Paul is a year younger than me. This is shocking ot her as only high leaders in India can marry an older woman. Ghandi married a woman 13 years his senior. She suggests next time we get 1st class (hey we thought we did), notes how strange my life is compared to hers, then kisses me on both cheeks and she and her posse depart.

Paul and I had the 6 beds then to ourselves and I managed to sleep ~6 of the 11 hour ride. I totally love Indian trains, I thnk Paul is less enthusiastic, but at least we got to use our locks!

We arrive in Kerala at 4:15 am and wander the streets looking for a hotel. Find one and sleep only to be awoken by banging on tin. WHy, what could that be in June in Southern India? MONSOON!! You hear about it, and read about it, but without seeing it, you can't quite grasp what monsoon season in India is truely like. We go out this morning to find the streets completely flooded, even the path to our hotel is submerged and we have to wade our way out. After a brief convo with the desk man we decide this ain't stoppin anytime soon so we best head out. Go to the train station and book a 16 hour general class (not even sleeper, oh my!) ticket for Goa tomorrow am. Hopefully the monsoon hasn't hit there.

I must say, Paul and I way prefer Kerala in the monsoon to Bangalore anytime (the weather there was awesome, high 20s and cool in the evenings).

Killing time at a ghetto Internet Cafe after havng an amazing lunch. Indian food is amaaaaaazing!! We haven't had a bad meal yet!

Off to see if we can find a beer. We haven't drank since we got here, and apparently the only place you can find booze is at a bar. So here's hoping. Hopefully sunnier news from Goa!!

We'll see India in a week at this pace!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Lessons learned so far

1. Packs are heavy. When packing for 9 weeks (especially when you're a girl), shit gets heavy. And you know who has to carry it? Me!!! Will be slowly shedding clothing and product.

2. If you're in a cafe at the airport fb chatting with your mom while you should be boarding your plane, the flight attendant will come and get you. And make you run to said plane. Go Air Asia.

3. Although it may look like another plane taking off next to you, it's not. It's just the wing of your plane. Thankfully I have a nice, observant boyfriend to remind me of such things.

4. AC is necessary. I will pay extra. In India I don't know if this is a choice. Hmmm.

5. Wet wipes are essential in humid monsoony countries.

More on what we've actually been doing coming soon.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011


Is my final day in Korea!! I just finished my last class and am off to a final dinner with Ms. Han. Last night BHive had a dinner for Krissy and I which was awesome. My boss is super hooked up and knows everyone who's everyone in Seoul, so he took us to am amazing Japanese fusion place with some awesome wine.

Yesterday and today Paul and I shipped everything to Hong Kong and the US. What a pain in the ass that was. We show up to the post office with 4 suitcases. "Oh, no, don't ship suitcase." Well, I'm not leaving it behind so do it. Then, "20kg weight limit." Im shipping this by boat, why is there a weight limit!!!!! So we repack some boxes, had to come home and repack more boxes, went back this morning only to be told, oh USA can't use size 6 box (which is perfectly OK for Hong Kong), must use 5 size box. So I repack that into 2 suitcases and finally we're finished!!!! 400,000 won and 10 boxes later. 8 boxes to Hong Kong, oops. Hopefully they take a while because I'm guessing Paul's school will be less than thrilled to hang on to those for 2+ months.

Anyway, packs are packed and I'm about to be homeless....again. I packed a few t-shirts, a couple light pants and thats about it. I think some saris will be in order ASAP.

Off to dinner, drinks with friends, closing bank accounts in am and one final galbi dinner before we flee for Malaysia. Late.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

CFA strikes again

Yesterday I had been feeling a little off. Kind of nauseous, and just kind of icky. I've been fighting my sinuses and had a spicy lunch, so blamed that. Came home, chatted with Mom, had a glass of wine and started feeling really bad. Maybe milk will settle my stomach. Wrong. But it did help me to puke for no less than 10 minutes. Was up tossing (ha get it) and turning all night, went to the doctor this morning and she says I have a fever and a virus. This is great timing. Let's get violently ill 3 days before the biggest test of my life. I have vague recollections of going to the doctor before the last CFA convinced I was dying. Stress seems to manifest itself in some sneaky ass ways with me. Oh and I have I mentioned I start malaria pills next week. Those should be a treat.

So moral of the story. Don't try to take the hugest test of your life, say goodbye to some of your best friends, pack, move and mentally prepare for the experience that will be India, all within a week of each other. Today is my last full on study day. Hopefully I can drink my Powerade and practice test my way to a pass.

Dear Korea,

It's been the best of times and the worst of times. We have had our highs; our lows; our extraordinary extraordinariness; our boring boringness.

But, you know what Korea? I'm going to miss you.

You have been my home. You have sheltered me from harm and provided me a wonderful jump off point to travel. You have introduced me to my future husband. You may have even impacted my child bearing decisions. And introduced me to some of the most interesting people in the world. I have met your children (pause, reflect, sensor), and although in bulk they are "challenging" they sure are cute. I have met your job recruiters; good luck with that.

You have showed me it's OK to eat bugs. It's OK to pass out in public. And it's damn certainly OK to push people when they're in your way.

Although, you have made me sick, and potentially ruined my lungs forever from all of your pollution, you have provided me cheap quality healthcare. And new teeth. And glasses.

You have showed me some of the most wonderful food in the world. And beers. And that you really don't understand sarcasm.

Korea, I love you. You will always have a huge place in my heart. I hope my small existence here has left a little with you as well. Best wishes in your future endeavors.

Much Love,


Sunday, May 29, 2011

Playing Tourist With My Korean Mom

After a fun night at the food stall, Saturday was time to study. Took 1/2 a practice test, 66%, then met Paul and hit the Seoul Pride Parade. It's surprising Seoul even has a pride parade given that there are no gays in Korea. We at least according to Koreans. There was a pretty good turn out, and fun was had by all.

Following the parade was Krissy, Paul and I's going away party at Zelen. It was such a nice night with great friends, food and weather. Summer is here.

Today was amazing. Ms. Han calls me at 10am and asks if I'm free this afternoon for a Seoul bus tour. Of course I am!! Paul and I met her and her family in Gwanghamun, took a bus around upper Seoul and stopped at a palace. In my almost 2 years here I have been to only one of the many palaces, so it was great to go and see with a Korean family who could help me understand the history a little more. We fed fish, took pictures, explored a bonsai arboretum and played with her kids. She is always so supportive and proud of Korea, and we always have such a blast. After the tour we go out for samgyetong. I had never had it before, so again, a new experience. It's chicken ginseng soup- good for health. We ate, walked, and parted ways. I'm going to miss my Ms. Han :(

Friday, May 27, 2011

What is this, JMU?

I wake up this morning at 9 and reach over to the nightstand for a glug of water. What is my mouth greeted with? SOJU. yes, 9 am soju. This is something no one should endure. And then comes the question, why is there a water bottle filled with soju on my nightstand? I have a few guesses....ahem Paul.

I also woke up this morning with a fuzzy pink eye mask and earplugs. Again, soju. Paul says soju gremlins. I say it's Paul. We went out last night, at Dave's suggestion, to Jongno Oh-ga. Oh means 5.

Learn Korean:

Anyway, went out to Jongno and found this lovely strip of pojanmacha (food tents), although they weren't really tents as much as stalls. We wandered around a minute and are beckoned by a group of ajusis. We joined them and enjoyed a large assortment of raw fish, soju and magkeolli. Come 1 am and it's way past my bedtime and soju limit. Flashforward 8 hours and we arrive back at the beginning.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Thanks Recession

July 3rd, 2010, I met Paul Fiehler. Although our hometowns are only a state away, it took us 7,000 miles across the world to meet. We met, a little less than sober, at Sam Ryan's in Itaewon and decided instantly we liked one another and we should meet up the next day to celebrate July 4th. We had fun the 4th and decided we should meet the next evening, and then the next, and the next. This continued on everyday until now, 11 months later...except for that month I went home, but we just further proved how much we liked one another.

Sunday Paul and I walked up to the top of Namsan. As we stood at the top looking onto the city we've called home for the past year, Paul asked if I would be his India wife and pulled a ring out of his pocket.

We'd already decided we would have to pretend to be married in India/Nepal, for they don't rent hotels to those living in sin. But this is more than that. It's a sign of total commitment (as if moving to a foreign country together isn't?). We've been inviting people to our hypothetical wedding in Bali for weeks, but now I suppose it's a little less hypothetical :)

More on Paul. He's from Pittsburgh (eh, I know. He seems to like it though....), has a younger brother and sister and has been in Korea just about a year. We met after he'd only been here two weeks. He actually arrived the same day my parent's did. WOuldn't it be weird if they were on the same flight? (They weren't). He graduated U Michigan with double majors in English and Poly Sci with the ambition of going to law school. Worked a bit, nothing he loved, so decided to take a year off and come to Korea.

Enter me. Paul's the patient one, I'm the proactive one. After I decided I hate teaching (oh that took all of 3 minutes) and failing at finding a job here, Paul and I compromised on moving to Hong Kong. He really loves teaching and wants to make a career of it, and I decided I'll stay home and play housewife, I mean job hunt.

So yeah, that's where things stand now. Tots in Love.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Korea doesn't have mini golf

But the American base does!! I hadn't been in years, and I totally sucked. Yet somehow, I was the only one to get a hole in one. Woo!

This weekend is HBC Fest. It's a festival where all the restaurants and bars on my street participate in music and food and drink specials. It's always a blast and everyone from the community (and well, basically the whole teaching community) comes out. Dave and I live prime location in HBC, so we're hosting a little pre-party; full on with soju jello shots. And I will also have out a lot of crap I am trying to get rid of. Ski equipment, boas, hats, purses, comforters; all stuff that didn't make the HK cut. Hopefully it all goes so I don't have to throw it out!

Practice test review day. I'm already 2 deep!

I Can See!

Today I head over to Namdaemun market which is just a cluster-fuck (for lack of better words) of crap. There's cheap clothes, fake anything you could ever want, foreign food, Oriental medicine, whatever random thing you want, Namdaemun's got it. So on my rommate Dave's recommendation I head over in search for glasses. Somewhere between graduating college and now I have become blind. I blame computers and the CFA program. I can see close up just fine, but as soon as I'm 10 ft away from something, it blurs.

So I push through the 8 billion people in the market on a Tuesday afternoon, do we not have jobs people?, and walked into the first glasses store I see...blurrily. I ask for an eye exam and the guy points to a seat. Maybe this is common knowledge, but I haven't been to an optician in years, maybe 15, man has technology changed! I put my eyes up to this machine, in the left eye I see a little house. It gets blurry, then clear, blurry, clear, then switches to the other eye. This all takes place within seconds, and then a receipt is printed from the machine with my diagnosis! Amazeballs!! Then it comes down to it. How much? He walks me across the store to a whole case of glasses, says "here's the cheap ones. 30,000." Each!??? Each. So I got 2, only had 53,000 won in my pocket, so he said deal! 30 minutes later I wore them out of the store. Beat that America.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

India's Comin Along

Looks like we're almost set for the big 10 week trip across India/Nepal. Our visas are being processed, we're going for our final two shots tomorrow, we're getting a mosquito net from base, and we've pretty much bought everything we need except toiletries, which Paul and I intend to do this Sunday. I just want to pack and put it aside and not worry about it until we leave! Everything going into that bag will certainly not be worn here, and it will certainly not make it out of Nepal. I figure after 2 months in the same 3 outfits, I'll probably be ready to burn it all.

Less than a month until my India diet begins! I have this suspicion that Paul and I are going to walk out of this trip looking like starving, well, Indians. It's going to be hot, we're walking with heavy packs, and most of all we'll probably be doing a whole lot o' poopin. Everyone I have ever talked to about India talks about how sick they got there. Dehli-belly if you will. Joy. One piece of advice I received was not to eat anything but bananas before a bus/train trip. Thus bus/train trips are what scares me most. I picture you and 500,000 other people crammed into an aircon-less box with no room to move or breathe. Won't that be fun when the curry sets in?

Enough about that. CFA curriculum finishy! Review mode on- and I have know officially quit 3 of 4 jobs. After I get paid on Friday I'll put in my 2/3 weeks notice for the last guy. I feel kind of bad about this one. It's my business class and it's only 2 hours a week, and when I signed the contract (which expires one class after I leave- oops!) my recruiter asked for my Alien card. I told him I didn't have it and I was now a tourist here. He clearly was not pleased by this, but was in a tight position, so after he begged me not to break the contract, let me have the job anyway. At this point I hadn't booked my ticket out, so in theory I could have fulfilled my contract. But, it didn't work out that way. So, yeah a little guilt, but mostly just nerves that they won't pay me what's due. We'll see what they say when I quit :0

This weekend looks to be a fun one. Shots and work followed by galbi dinner tomorrow. Studying and an LG Twins (baseball) game on Saturday evening, studying and "Bloody Bloody Mary" party Sunday afternoon. My friend Brian is hosting brunch with bloody mary's (real one's I presume!) while we watch the first season of True Blood. Same for next Sunday (well Season 2) and then the following Sunday is the premiere. DOn't think I'll make it to that one!!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Things to Do In Korea Before You Die

Or before your one year contract expires:)

Go to the top of Seoul Tower (check)

Have an over the top seafood extravaganza at the Norianjin Fish Market (check check check check check)

Visit Jeju (check)

Visit Busan (check check)

Visit Sokcho (check check)

Have a beach party at Muido

Tour the DMZ (check)

Have a home cooked Korean meal (check check)

Do a templestay

Have a soju story (too many checks to list)

Visit a cat cafe

Go to a "Multi-room"

Noraebong (you heard my sad story)

Go to the Hamilton Hotel on a sunny Saturday/Sunday (uhhh check)

Get kicked out of Seoul Pub

Do a Han River Boat cruise (quite a few checks here)

Go to a baseball game (check)

Go to the Intercontinental Wine Buffet (ohh you know it)

Go to LotteWorld/Everland/Caribbean Bay/Seoulland

Watch bboys perform (check check)

Spend (insert holiday here) at the Wolfhound (yup)

Eat and drink in Jeonju (yumm!)

Shop in Dongdaemun (always followed with a visit to Everest!)

Drink with the ajusis in a soju tent (a favorite)

Puke somewhere very public (if you've had soju, this is a check)

Buy jewelry in Jongno

Visit the temples/palaces in City Hall (I think I did once)

Dr. Fish (too many times to count)

Go to the top of Building 63 (check)

Pass out somewhere public (guilty: bar)

Monday, May 9, 2011

One Month

from today and Paul and I are leaving Seoul. That's right, just one month til Malaysia, India, Nepal....and eventually Hong Kong! Woohoo! Just heard from Paul's school that they want him to come a little early for training (school starts September 1st) so we booked our tickets last night to Hong Kong. Nepal---->HK August 14th!

It's been a lovely few days in the hood, that is, until today! It's pouring out! Last weekend was World DJ fest which was being hosted about an hour outside Seoul, so a bunch of our buddies booked it over there for the weekend, leaving Paul and I pretty much deserted in Seoul. Apparently not completely because we stumbled upon a lovely International Festival up near City Hall and went both days! They had some tents set up to promote various countries, and some live performances (most of which were too loud to get even close to) but the best part was the food tents. I think they had tents for over 100 different countries; Afghanistan to Zambia. The best food Paul and I got were salmon sandwiches from Norway, Austrian beers, Greek Ouzo (for a dollar!) and pitas/chicken kabobs. There was all sorts of stuff there. Really, twas quite interesting.

Paul thinks he got food poisoning from going out to eat with his teachers Friday night, so he wasn't feeling great all day. Saturday night was amazing. We went home, had a couple glasses of wine and watched No Strings Attached, which for the record, is pretty cute. No bars, no hangover, nice-uh!

I am almost finished studying!! Well doing my once through. This week I will finish all my class videos, going through the study books and their problems, then it's full on into review mode. Bring on the practice tests.

Just a random tidbit. I happened to notice my first blog post for The Thirty Eighth Parable was June 12, 2009. In a weird twist of life, June 12th, 2011, is the day that Paul and I fly into Bangalore. Weird how much different my life is now from 2 years ago! In light of moving countries, I have decided once I leave Korea, I will put TEP to bed. Don't worry, the blogging fun wont end there, I will create a new blog for my new life in Hong Kong.


I want it to have something to do with HK, something to do with the fact it's about stories from my life, or just sound cool. Please let me know any suggestions you may have. All 4 of you who read this blog. :) xoxo

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

I'm on Vacation...

Only no one told me til it's too late! Yesterday I had my one business class cancel on me, so I decided to head up the KINTEX, the location of my CFA test, to look for a hotel. Apparently, thousands of Koreans take the CFA. According to 2007 stats, 4,500 applicants took it in Korea, and guess what, they all take it at the same place. This year they decided to move the location from outside Seoul to stupid Ilsan. I took the subway to the end of the line (~1/5 hours) and looked for a hotel, because god knows I'm not doing this 6am on test day. I must have gone into 10 different hotels, all quite a walk from the site, and not one would reserve me a room. They'd hand me a business card and said to call. WTF!?

Whatever, booked it out of there ASAP. This morning I take my usual hour commute out to my morning kindy only to be told upon arrival, "Special day, no class. No one tell you?!" No, no one tell me!!! I made the best of it and took an hour walk and toured the Olympic Park which I had never seen. Text:" No class today, see you next week." Ms. Han cancely. I found out yesterday that I wouldn't have my 1:30-3:30 class because Lucy is out of town. So I get to BHive at 3:30 (an hour early) to study and prepare. Text to Jay boss: "My teacher suddenly died, I have to go to the funneral." ~Jessie, my only class of the day. Did I mention tomorrow's Children's Day, so no school! That's a 3 day holiday. I could have been in Japan. Or Taiwan, Or the Philippines....

Although I have been busy getting some things checked off my "Shit ton of stuff to do list"

Rain covers for packs.
Passport photos (only after I spent $7 to get the wrong size)
Shots (and appointment for typhoid and yellow fever next Friday)
Hotel for CFA booked (had J boss call and reserve the room...for 77,000 won! geeze)
Quit 2 of 4 jobs

To do:

India Embassy (Friday)
Nepal Embassy (whenever we get our passports back)
ship winter stuff home
ship everything else to HK (which our apt. looks sweet according to the website....if only websites could be trusted)
Take CFA exam and pass
Find a job

My eye's on the prize....slowly closin 'er down....