Category Archives: Cities and Sites

We’re in Africa

Nairobi, Kenya.

So far, our exorbitantly-priced “official” taxi ran out of gas in the rush-hour-packed streets of Nairobi on the way to the hotel from the airport. (So, we waited anxiously in a cab with all our belongings while being assured that God is Great and that all these people are Christians and that no one will touch us, but just to help God out, we were locked into the vehicle with all the windows rolled up while our taxi driver worked with a motorcyclist to get us some gas.) And a man on the streets (which are actually packed with incredibly friendly people who have offered us help and directions and even walked us all the way to the restaurant we were looking for) asked Dan if Dan would give me to him. (Dan’s first thought was, “she’s not mine to give,” and his second thought was that given my expensive tastes, Dan didn’t have enough cattle to actually make that trade.) And all we’ve gotten are these awesome pictures.

The elephants are from the Sheldrick Trust Orphans Project, which takes care of elephants orphaned due to poaching, starvation, or other “human-wildlife conflict.” The elephants are taken care of at the orphanage for about three years before beginning a 5-10 year process of being re-introduced to the wild through making friends with wild elephants. The folks at the orphanage told us that female graduates of the program often return to show off their wild-born babies to the folks working to reintroduce new elephants into the natural parks — elephants really do never forget. The giraffes are from the Giraffe Center, where 9 giraffes (2 males and 7 females) are part of a breeding program to increase the numbers of this endangered subspecies of giraffe. Before today, my favorite giraffe fact was that giraffe babies fall at least four feet to the ground when they are born. Today, that fact was enhanced by new knowledge that giraffes can actually sit down (though they generally must keep their head elevated to regulate their blood pressure), but they just don’t sit while they are giving birth, and that they have a 15-month gestation period.

Tomorrow is day one of our 24-day participatory camping safari, which will be spent in Nairobi, and then the “real” adventure begins, taking us through Uganda and Tanzania.

Diving in Koh Samui

We got some scuba diving in during our Thailand visit. We are diving on the island of Ko Samui, which has been lovely. We chose to dive with Discovery Dive Center. It included “free” photos with your diving… IE you get photos for free but they aren’t the cheapest dive operators on the island, not that I ever look for “cheapest” when diving 😉

The water was pretty dang warm, but visibility doesn’t match Caribbean / Mexico. The reef and fish are in much better shape though, which is nice. Hadn’t seen schools of fish this large for a long time.  Saw a school so large and dense that for about 30 seconds I thought a whale shark was coming into view, but it just turned out to be a massive school of fish coming in from the distance. Sadly, no whale sharks on our dives. Can’t complain we beat the bad weather (monsoon) to the best dive site on these small islands.

 

A quick taste of Malacca

Our last stop in Malaysia was Malacca, so we could see something outside of the big city. We had delicious food for next to nothing, and learned some history. The port at Malacca was so important to early trade that it was considered the capital of the world. It lead to some of the first maritime laws, harbor masters, and usages of multiple currencies. The strait of Malacca, now often called the strait of Malaysia, still sees 120,000 ships pass by. No ships really doc with Malacca anymore as Penang and Singapore have long since surpassed this old port town. Now the river leading to the ocean has tour boats and is surrounded by lovely restaurants for tourists, both local and foreign alike.

The Malacca church needs to be straightened out a bit (picture doesn’t show it too well, but it is like the leaning tower of Pisa).

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The once famous river that had the largest market in the world, now home of cute cafes, and good Indian food.

Erin tries a mystery egg and sausage stick, got to eat something odd at the night market. The melting honey pastries were the best.

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The most delicious food in Malacca, red pork noodles… The locals wait in lines for over an hour to eat these $1.50 noodles… apparently no one has thought to just raise the price 😉

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Food is very popular here both locals and tourists line up for hours at the favorite spots. Both the famous chicken rice balls and city satay had over hour long waits… Sadly neither of those was worth the wait, but the red pork noodles mentioned above was easily worth the wait. Duck noodles below had no wait at all and were pretty outstanding as well.

We’re on a Roof in Malaysia

On a helipad converted into a bar, to be precise.

As a side note, there is something awesome about a place where the evening Azan (Islamic call to prayer) is immediately followed by fireworks in celebration of the Hindu Autumn Festival of Deepvali.

We also explored the Batu caves.

And, yes, while I was taking these pictures I did feel just like the tourists who visit DC and then ask me for their help getting their picture with the squirrels, but just as those tourists maintain that squirrels are cute, I say that so are these monkeys.

Kampot, Cambodia

Slept under a mosquito net and through blackouts and woke up to the rooster under our bungalow. Learned a new sport (paddleboarding) and a new drink (a Ricard).

Really enjoyed our time at GreenHouse. I once heard it described as “just like a bungalow over the sea on an island, without the sea or the island.” Couldn’t agree more. But, great river views and breezes, and better French food and cappuccinos than most islands I’ve been to.

Invariably

“Ankor What? Pub Street. [Siem Reap, Cambodia] The backpackers’ favourite where you invariably end up dancing on the tables till the small hours…” — The Rough Guide to Southeast Asia on a Budget

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In related news, a frequent question during our trip has been, “What day is it?” Not, mind you, asking for the date, but for the day of the week.

 

Erin doing the macarena in the street.
Erin doing the macarena in the street.

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Some more quick thoughts on Vietnam

We are finishing up our week volunteering teaching English in the industrial zone outside of Hanoi with CVTD, and I am thankful for the greater depth of understanding of the Vietnamese way of life and culture that the experience has given me (not to mention all of the delicious food). I hope our students had as much fun as we did. Tomorrow morning we are jumping on a ($30) flight to Hoi An, to spend some time chilling on beaches and exploring the town. Here are some last quick thoughts before heading down to the central coast.

1) It is awesome to be in a place where the late-night street food includes piles of fresh Vietnamese lettuce, herbs, and vegetables (our GI tracks thank us when they have been at least briefly rinsed in potable water). The pork belly isn’t bad either. We did our best to work our way through the Old Town Restaurant Tour provided by our friends at ZINK year and agree with all of their choices.

2) After just a few days in our volunteer house, I developed callouses on my fingers from using chopsticks to stir fry peanuts, vegetables, and meats over the high heat used in Vietnamese cooking.

3) Check out this electrical wiring. The power is incredibly reliable.

Electrical wiring in Hanoi.
Electrical wiring in Hanoi.

4) Urban chickens.

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Teaching English outside of Hanoi

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Our high school class. For the first time in our adult lives, we should've stood in the back of this picture.

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We arrived at our volunteer week with CVTD outside of Hanoi. We are learning a bit about how to teach English. We have students of various ages from kindergarten, highschool age, and adults learning English to improve their careers.

We have had to put together some lesson plans, and given some resources and guidance. We think our classes have gone OK.

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We are staying with some women who work at CVTD, along with other volunteers in a hostel or group dorm room like apartment. Chores are shared and assigned on a schedule and Vietnamese lunches and dinners are cooked together as a group lead by our house hosts.

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It has been interesting to get out of the city a bit and see a more calm and more rural Vietnam, where you can watch the rice harvest out the apartment window progress through out the day.

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