Thursday, December 30, 2010


These last few days have been spent reflecting on the changes that I need and want to make in the upcoming year. The last two years have been a roller coaster full of up and downs. I have done things in my life that people only dream of doing and I am beyond grateful to have these experiences. Thank you everyone for supporting Dan and I on this journey. Looking forward 2011 and all the possibilities and opportunities on the horizon. God bless and HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!


Thursday, December 16, 2010

Pocheon, Blah!!!

One weekend Latanya and I finally got the courage to visit our good friend Adam. We met Adam in our first GEPIK orientation almost two years ago. We did not see Adam that often since our first meeting. The main reason for that was the fact that he lives so far away. But quite recently we have been making more of an effort to hang out with him.
Anyways since he normally meets us at our place about 2 hours each way, we decided to meet him, in the lovely area of Pocheon. He made sure to let us know before hand that his Dong (Korean for town) is nothing special. He even went as far to say that as soon as we got off the bus we would probably throw up.
We began our journey at midday on a Saturday. We knew it was going to take awhile to get there, at least 2 hours. We took two different trains and one long bus ride. After about 2 hours and fifteen minutes we finally arrived. We got off the bus and we did........not throw up, luckily. But we could see that his Dong was in fact pretty dismal. The perks however I think far exceeded the lack of other amenities though. For instance he had a brand new E-Mart!!! And he had a McDonald's complete with a drive-thru!!! You don't see too many of those in Korea. The rest of the area was very rural.
We walked a little ways from the bus stop and Adam met up with us. He showed us around the main area which took all but 2 minutes. Then he took us to his apartment. He lives on the first floor and outside of his building are some really noisy dogs. He made sure to tell us how they do not stop barking and how he despises them. He was busy cooking when we got settled in. He was cooking up a delicious batch of Étouffée. It was amazing.
After some good conversation and some wine we headed to the new E-Mart and picked up some more drinks and snacks. When we got back we had dinner and watched a little TV and then Adam and I played some Madden. Once the Madden marathon started Latanya decided to fall asleep. Perhaps because we were intensely playing the video game and left her to be the lone spectator. We played 9 games that night and it went to the wee hours. It had been so long since I played. But it sure was fun, even though he out matched me 5 games to 4. I blame the fact that it was a PlayStation and not an XBOX.

Anyways the next morning we all got up and headed to the other main attraction in Pocheon, the McDonald's. We had McDonald's breakfast for the first time in a real long time. It was so good. We just kept talking and before we realized it the lunch menu came around. We must have been sitting in there for at least a couple of hours. After our brunch we went back to Adam's place and chatted some more and then we decided to head back home. It was a great little visit and we sure always have a fun time with him.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Nami Island

Myung and her family invited Dan and I to Nami Island to get away from the city. Nami Island is a Korean island located about an hour an half from Seoul. A popular island amongst Koreans plays background to many Korean dramas where couples profusely confess their love for each other. We headed over to Myung's house at 11 and waited for her to get the kids dressed. We then packed up the SUV and were on our way. Waiting for the river of vehicles to wind its way ever so slowly onward we stopped at the "piano waterfall". A man made waterfall made famous for an enormous piano bathroom with steps leading up to the second floor bathrooms that played "chopsticks" with every step you took. After stretching our legs for a while we headed back into the sea of cars. We traveled along the country roads passing towns and villages with gorgeous views of rivers, forests, and vast amount of rice paddies fields protected by scarecrows. 3 hours later from our departure Nami island appeared on the horizon. We caught a 5 minute ferry ride to the island surrounded with nature we walked along the main strip of chest-nut, birch, ginko, and maples trees. We found a picnic area Myung prepared snacks for the day and spent the afternoon relaxing, talking, watching the kids play in the grass, and walking around the beautiful scenery. It was a nice little getaway. It was really nice of Myung and her family to take us.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Shanghai - Day 5

We checked out of our hostel in Xi'an and then went to the airport bus stop. The hostel staff gave us really easy directions. It was quite easy to find. We passed the bell tower and looked around the surrounding area as we walked to the stop. Xi'an seemed to have a lot to offer in historical sites however because of the horrible weather it was not doable.
We just missed the bus to the airport but did not have to wait long for the next one. We got on and headed to the airport. We got off at the wrong terminal but the other terminal was not too far of a walk away. The plan ride was not to long. We arrived back in Shanghai and made our way back to the first hostel we stayed in when were in Shanghai before.
We walked around the city some more just explore with no real destination. We got many more stares from people as well as some bad smells of the city. Shanghai was our least favorite destination ever. With the exception of the World Expo we would not really recommend it. We eventually made it to the other side of the river and had dinner at the same restaurant we ate at in the mall before. We filled up on some really good Chinese food again. After dinner we went back to our hostel and got our usual happy our beers. The next morning we woke up early and went to the airport to go back to Korea.
The highlights of this trip were by far the Expo and the Terracotta Warriors. All in all the rest of our time was not that pleasant on the streets. On the other hand our accommodations were quite wonderful for the price and we would be happy to recommend them. So for now back to Korea to await our next adventure.

Xi'an - Day 4

After a good night rest, surprisingly, we arrived in Xi'an. The train station in Xi'an was really overwhelming. There were people everywhere. Once we exited the station we noticed the weather was still crumby and much colder than Shanghai. The area outside of the station was unwelcoming and full of sketchy people. We had printed out directions to the hostel but we were turned around a bit. We walked to the bus stop area but could not find our bus number anywhere. We finally asked someone were our bus was and they pointed us in the right direction around the corner. The bus stop for our bus was so crowded. It was not only congested with people but also lots of traffic. They were doing quite a bit of construction around the train station and thus created a madhouse of people and vehicles. After waiting five to ten minutes our bus arrived. It was really difficult to get on. Imagine a heard of cattle trying to go through a small opening in a fence. On the bright side the bus fare was only 15 cents.
Anyways, we got on and then began to start counting the stops. We only needed to go five stops and then follow the rest of the directions. We got off at our stop and then attempted to make our way to the hostel. We got a little turned around again but eventually found the street we needed to. The area did not seem that nice, and this was in the day time. The reviews we read had warned us about that so we were ready for it anyways. The hostel itself was practically brand new so it made up for the surrounding area.
We checked in and laid our stuff down. The hostel had it's own restaurant so we ordered some breakfast and got acquainted with the city by looking at a local map. After a great breakfast we asked how to get to the Terracotta Army. They gave really easy directions and seeing that we needed to go back the way we just came we knew we could do it easily.
We hoped on the same bus we took to get to the hostel and headed back to the train station. The traffic was really congested at this point, even more so than earlier. We actually got off the bus prior to our stop because we were not going anywhere. We found the bus we needed to take to see the Army. At first we were a little confused because we did not know were to buy the bus ticket. The man on the bus just gestured to hop on and then I made the correct assumption that they would collect once we started our journey. We waited for about ten minutes for the bus to fill up. The bus ride was not bad. It was like a public bus so not that nice. We knew we had to take it to the last stop so no need to count stops this time. After about a little over an hour or so driving in the rain we made it to our destination.

We walked to the ticket both and bought two tickets to see the Terracotta Army. The walk to the entrance was quite long. It felt like we were walking forever. Once we went through the gate we had to walk even more to see the pits. There are three major excavation pits where they excavated several hundred Terracotta Warriors. The warriors were made for the first emperor's tomb to follow him into his afterlife. No two warriors looked alike and were all life size. We headed to the largest pit and I was speechless. I remember in sixth grade first learning about this excavation and was just flabbergasted. I knew I would see them one day, and here we were in the humongous covered pit looking at history straight in the eye. It just does not any better than this. This site blew me away and made the entire trip. We walked around the entire area and read all the plaques of information. After we walked the whole way around and took plenty of pictures we went to the next two pits.

The other pits were smaller but equally interesting. We also went to another building which housed the museum. In one pit we were able to see some warriors that were excavated and put on display for people to see up close. It was just so fascinating to see the warriors. I mean these warriors date back over 2000 years. This was the beginning of a united China. You could just feel the history. I was on a complete high of excitement. Latanya was very happy for me to be able to experience this.

After strolling around a little while longer we headed back out the front gate. We had a little lunch and then got on a bus back to Xi'an. The bus we got on this time was much nicer than the one we took out here. We arrived back in Xi'an and made our way back to the hostel. We had pretty much the same experience getting on the same bus once again. It was still raining and cold. We were not too eager to see much of the rest of the city. We already saw the city wall at the train station. The next day we were going to pass the bell tower.
When we got back to the hostel we showered up and then went down to the lobby. We watched a couple of movies, met some nice people, Latanya made dumplings with the staff and other guests and we had dinner. It was a great evening altogether. The next day we were on our way back to Shanghai, this time we were flying.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Shanghai - Day 3

By day 3 in Shanghai we realized that we had seen all the main sights in the city already. The only other sights we wanted to check out were the People's Square and Fuxing park. Once we got to the park the weather became really bad with the rain coming down hard at moments and then a steady drizzle. The park was nice and would have been much nicer had there not been such a horrible downpour. We decided to walk to the French Concession after the park. This area is supposed to have several French style buildings and cafes. We were struggling to find it exactly, because it is not listed on maps as a specific destination. But once I read the description in the guide book I found out that we were in fact already in the French Concession and had been for quite some time. The buildings did look nice and the streets were tree lined and all but it was nothing spectacular.
After the Concession we headed back towards our hostel with a walk through of People's Square. We saw the National Museum as well as the Municipal Government Headquarters. We had a rather long walk to Fuxing park and back to our hostel but it was not too bad. The rain had stopped at this point. We were just eager to get out of Shanghai. We saw all the main sights in the first two days really.

Before we headed to the train station we had some Carl's Jr. We were so surprised to see the restaurant in China. It was delicious. We eventually made our way to the train station without a hitch. It took us awhile to find our platform though. We had ordered our train tickets online and they were delivered to our hostel without any problems. Once we set our stuff down went back to the Bund area along the river. We found a local microbrewery. I had seen them advertised on our map. We walked in and no one was there. I guess they don't get too much of a lunch crowd. The beer was really good. It had been seven months since we had a micro-brew. The smell in the pub was so good. The aroma of hops was enchanting.

Once we found our platform, Latanya was starting to hyperventilate, do to the massive amount of people. They finally opened the gates to board and we headed to our car. Once we got on the train it seemed to be rather clean and relatively nice. There were not any private compartments. Just cabins divided by two walls. In each open faced cabins that had two sets of bunks three bunks high. Since we were the last to arrive in our cabin, we were dealt with the top two bunks. There was a nice family of four below us. We climbed to the top and tried to get comfortable. With the exception of little head room and the ceiling feeling as if it were right on top of us the space was not too bad. We had room to put our bags on the bunk with us and still had enough leg room. I could tell Latanya was trying to come to grips with the situation.

She was a trooper for sure. This was not her idea of traveling. But I told her it was just for one night only and that we would be flying back to Shanghai. She took a deep breathe and began to relax a little. Once the train got started we new there was no turning back. I was so excited, we were going to see the Terracotta Warriors!!!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Shanghai - Day 2

We woke up rather early and headed straight for the Expo. Once again we realized we did little to zero research for this trip. We had no idea how much tickets are, how long there good for, where we need to go as well as other questions? We tried to answer our questions one at a time and along the way. We made our way via the subway, we asked an employee and pointed to where we wanted to go and they showed us which ticket to get and where to get off.

When we arrived we followed the crowd, the best thing to do in this type of situation. And boy was the crowd flowing. We got to the ticket booths and asked what tickets were available. We chose a day pass and then walked over to the security check point. The security check point was a made house. It was kind of organized but had a lot of people. Instead of standing in a line, with maybe two people wide it was a line of fifteen people wide. We were shoved through the metal barriers like cattle. It was not a pleasant experience and it was Latanya's worst nightmare. But luckily we made it through alive and well.

The next stop was getting on a special subway line that lead to the Expo. This was once again another shove match. So many people not enough space. After the cramped quarters and a rather short ride, only two stops, we finally arrived. Yeah!!!
We got there the weather was overcast but we knew it would start raining soon. The weather was completely different than the day before. Yesterday it was really warm with hardly a cloud in the sky. Today it was about to pour and it was chilly.
We had our map of the Expo and headed toward the USA exhibit. The grounds were huge. It made Disneyland look tiny. As we walked we saw many different countires. Every country had it's own exhibit. Many were made up of large buildings that were specially designed to represent themselves. Small countries were put into large warehouse buildings together. For example the many of the Caribbean countries were put together, and many South American and Latin American countries were put together and so on. The larger ones had huge buildings to themselves and put on a wonderful display. The lines were extremely long for the popular countries. If you think about it, most of the tourists there were Chinese. Many of them would never go to these countries. They had souvenir passports were you could get a stamp from the different exhibits.

We arrived at the USA exhibit and the line was extremely long. We did not wait too long though, about an hour. When we went inside they filled a large room with about 300 people. There were large screens that showed a short film and introduction to the exhibit. We were then moved to an adjacent room with benches and watched another film about the future of the USA in respect to innovative thinking in relationship with our youth. It was cute. We were then moved to another room for another film and then one more after that. The concept was future planning and making a better community. While doing this help mold our children to help brainstorm and eventually help lead the cause. It was a great concept but a little bit of a let down as far as entertaining. The last room at the end was filled with merchandise of course with all of the corporate sponsors. Very American. It was great to see home even for a little bit.
Next we began to head to other exhibits. The short list of countries we saw were, Cuba, North Korea, Cambodia, Caribbean Nations and the African Nations. We could have spent several days there and checked out them all but that was not going to happen. The place was too big. We spent most of our time just walking around. It took forever to walk from one end of the grounds to the other. We did see a lot of golf carts that drove around like buses on a bus route. We opted out of this because we wanted to stop as we pleased when we saw an interesting area.

The highlight for Latanya was of course the Guyana booth. She felt proud of her heritage. She was also very interested in the displays. She took me on a tour and taught me a lot. She felt closer to home when we saw the booth.
After several hours of walking and by now the rain was really coming down and our feet were really hurting, we decided to leave and head to the downtown financial center. We got to the ultra modern high rises and the rain had subsided. We walked around a mall for awhile and then found a delicious restaurant. We stuffed ourselves with fried rice, dumplings and wantons, mmm.
After dinner we walked along the river bank. We stopped at a Paulaner brew house. Apparently they have a lot of them in Shanghai. It was nice to have a good beer on draft, something hard to find in Korea,unless you want to travel a long ways. After our happy hour beer we headed back to the hostel to get a happy hour beer at our hostel bar. All in all it was a full day. We did lots on foot. The next day we had no more sights on our list in Shanghai, so it was really all up in the air. One important event on our schedule was to catch a train tomorrow evening, an overnight train to Xi'an.

For more pics here is the link just highlight the web address and put into your web browser Enjoy!:

Shanghai - Day 1

After our trip to Hong Kong and Bali we had about back at school before we headed back to China. This trip was anticipated more by me than Latanya. On the to do list was to visit Shanghai a modern metropolis and Xi'an the beginning of a unified China.
We left in the morning from Korea. We arrived by midday. It was really easy to find our way to the subway that led to the city. We quickly found out that we did not do too much research this time around on our itinerary. We decided that we would take our time see the top sites and go from there. The subway was nice and efficient. We started to notice a little more stares than we were used to. In Hong Kong we were never stared at. It makes sense seeing as it is only recently removed from British rule. In Beijing the stares were only in the touristy areas where there were more Chinese tourist from elsewhere in the country than locals. But here in Shanghai we had literally just stepped on the subway in the station at the airport, completely unexpected. We would later find this the theme of our trip.
After a couple of transfers we finally arrived at our stop. We made our way to our hostel. Because I am amazing at finding my way anywhere, it was rather easy making it to our place. The hostel is situated down a smallish street that smelled really bad. I think there is a fish market right next store. We would also discover there was a weird smell that was present wherever we were in the city. Back to the hostel. It was just fine. Big enough rooms. The cleanliness was almost up to Latanya's standards but not quite. There was also a restaurant and bar on our floor. WiFi was free and what more do you need.

After we got settled we headed out to see a little of the city. We knew that today would be the best day to get out and see the city seeing as it was going to be the best weather of the week. Rain was on the way. We walked down to an older renovated part of the city. The architecture was nice, the people not so much. The stares were continuing. It really gave us a bad vibe from the start. In Beijing the stares felt almost celebrity but here in Shanghai it's like we are zoo animals. We walked along the Bund which sits along the river. We were able to see the picturesque downtown skyline. At this point the weather was quite warm and the sun was really draining.

From the Bund we decided to go inside and checkout a museum. Shanghai is well known for its museum and one on my list was the Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Center. The center is several stories of urban planning. I was in heaven. I really enjoy urban planning a lot. I am interested in how huge cities are developed and the future of their development. On the top floor they had a model of the entire city of Shanghai in a room that took up huge amount of space. It was great just to walk around and read about all their displays.

After the museum we tried to find some local food but unfortunately did not see anything appetizing. I think the smell of the city prevented us from find anything that we would want to eat. Sometimes we forget that we eat with all our senses. Smell is a big factor. So we decided to have some Subway and then head back to the hostel. After a few happy hour beers at the bar we called it a night. The next day was going to be a marathon. We were going to the World Expo 2010!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Hong Kong - Day 10

We tried to sleep as much as we could on the plane. It was a flight of about 4 hours. We arrived in Hong Kong in the morning this time, rather than the evening, so no sleeping in the airport. We had accomplished a lot on our first day in Hong Kong so this day we wanted to take it nice and easy. We were able to use the lockers this time around and then dropped of our stuff and headed out. Instead of going straight to the city we took a bus to the Big Buddha. The bus ride was not too long and before we knew it we were at the cable car station to go to the Big Buddha. The cable car extended over the highway, across a bay and then up and over mountains. It was a long ride, maybe about 45 minutes or so. As we got to the area of the Big Buddha we noticed a small village built up brand new. The village was a sort of Disney downtown. Latanya and I called it Buddha Land. There were multiple souvenir shops and little restaurants.

It was a nice walk towards the Big Buddha. Even from the cable car we could see the Big Buddha, the statue certainly lived up to the name. We walked to the base and took quite a few pictures. It was really picturesque with the surrounding mountains so green and lush. Latanya was pretty tired at this point so she sat down and I took a small trail and walked around for a bit. It was overcast at this point with some sprinkles of rain. After a little while we went back to the cable car and made the decent down to the bottom and then eventually to the city.

Once back in the city we made our way to a temple and checked out a really nice park. The heat was definitely getting to us now. It was midday at this point and maybe the heat was not the problem but the humidity sure was. It was ridiculous. By now the clouds had left and the sun was pounding on us. The park was really nice even in those weather conditions. Every piece of shrub, plant, tree, building or anything else for that matter was built or shaped with a purpose. You know to keep the feng shui of the place. It was all really impressive to know that every blade of grass was clipped a certain way to make it all come together.

After the park we headed to the harbor. We walked around the harbor front where they had the Chinese Hollywood stars. Just like Hollywood they had stars along the sidewalk. We made sure to find the best ones, like Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee. Most of the other ones we had no idea who they were. We also got the end of the walk and found the Bruce Lee statue which was really cool. Boy was it a tourist attraction. After that we walked around the surrounding neighborhoods and took in the city. We really liked Hong Kong. It was so inviting and foreigner friendly.

We then sat in a coffee shop for a bit waiting for the evening to come. We were anticipating the downtown light show that was going to happen in about a half hour. The premise of the light show is for the downtown skyline to light up and produce lasers that go along to music. Because we were on the other side of the harbor we had the best view. So when the light show began we were taken back. Taken back in the sense that this was it. Though it looked like it was hard work producing the show it was sure a let down. The lasers were not on every building and we felt that the sequences were a little lame. But we set out to see it and we accomplished that. Just before the show ended we sneaked out and headed for the airport.

Getting to and from the airport at this point was second nature to us now. We then picked our bags up from the lockers, so much cheaper than the left luggage. We grabbed I bite to eat and then caught our flight back to Korea. We knew it wasn't going to be to long until we were back on another vacation. Next on our list was back to China for one last Chinese experience.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Bali - Day 9

It was our last day in Bali :( At least it was not our last day of vacation. But though we were going to soon say good bye to Bali it just so happened to be one of the best days yet.
We woke up and checked out. The family that owned the place were so friendly and kind. We found that about most Balinese people. Once we checked out we made our way to our spa appointment. The spa was grand and beautiful. It was set on one of the bigger resorts along the beach front. We gladly took off our bags and stepped into our private couple room. The room was fitted with two massage tables, an opening to an outside garden wall, a bathtub filled with rose pedals, an outdoor shower, a running water fall, a closet for our clothes and sink to wash up. It was gorgeous and stunning. We just walked into a two hour heaven. The masseuses were really great. We were immediately put into a trance as soon as they began the massage. For two hours we were pampered. After the massage itself we were able to bathe in the bath full of rose pedals, how romantic. It was so invigorating. This was the life. We could totally get used to this. At the end of our two hour awesomeness we grabbed our bags and made our way for one last walk along the boardwalk. We took in some final beach time and then called for a taxi bound for Ubud one more time.

We had to meet up with Jess and Fran one last time. Jess and Fran got us tickets for a traditional Balinese Kecak dance. The dance was done at night. It was performed under a small roofed stage. A temple area if you will. When we arrived it had just began. It was a real intimate setting about 30 people in total were in attendance. There was a circle of Balinese men sitting on the ground in a circle chanting all while two beautifully dressed Balinese woman danced around a tree made of lit candles. The intricate moves were elegant and precise. It looked like it took years of practice. The dance continued and the story began to unfold. A man dressed like a king came out and chased them around the center for awhile as well as a man dressed as a monkey. Fitting seeing that the monkey forest was not too far away. The dance soon ended and another began.

The second dance was equally entertaining. The men put dried coconut husks in the middle of the dance floor and then lit it on fire. They were a blaze quite quickly. A man came out shortly and was wearing a wooden horse around him. He pranced around and then all of a sudden he ran straight up to the blazing pile of coconut husks and kicked them. Not only did he power through the flames but kicked them so hard that it flung flying projectiles at the crowd. The entertainment level went from great to super amazing. They proceeded to re-pile the ablaze coconut husks and then he kicked them once more. They actually did this several more times until the flames were out and the man on the horse was taken away. The dances were so wonderful, it was a great way to end our Balinese experience.

But we weren't done just yet. We all went out to dinner to an upscale Balinese restaurant. Upscale meaning not a street stall. The food was great I had the Nasi Campur. It's a popular dish served with meat kabobs, rice, veggies and prawns. It was really good. It was great to chat with Jess and Fran. We really had a wonderful time with them. They made our Bali trip so much more special. We were sad to leave them for sure. After some nice desert (the Klappertart, inside joke) we made our way to the main street to hire a car for the airport. We negotiated a fair price and said our good byes. Jess and Fran were staying in Bali for a little longer and then would see more of Indonesia as well as some other places before they went home. There are still some talks about them working in Costa Rica in the future, if that ever becomes a reality we will be on plane to see them as soon as we can.

So we drove away not knowing when we would meet again, but knowing that we would one day. The ride to the airport was just fine. Our driver was great as they all were. The airport was quite crowded for so late at night. We waited a little while for our plane and then began our journey back to Korea. Of course we had another stop over in Hong Kong before we got back, vacation was not over just yet.

Bali - Day 8

The next morning Latanya had one more thing to accomplish. She wanted to do a yoga class in Bali. She had signed up for it the day before and she took off as I stayed in bed. As she left I spent my morning watching cartoons in Indonesian. It was actually really entertaining. Latanya and I were going to meet at the same cafe we were supposed to meet Jess and Fran at when we first arrived in Sanur. But as I got ready it appeared that I would make it there in time to meet here right after her class. So I headed to the yoga studio.

When I arrived I sat down and waited for a little bit. Latanya came out a few minutes later. She had a great session, it was only her, the instructor and one other person. Her yoga room was a second story hut. It had a big glass window over looking the swaying trees in the distance. The walls were completely covered in mirrors. She did some basic yoga posses, you know nothing too hard. She found her ability was perfect for the posses they did. To end the class they did a meditation for five minutes to try and feed the energy from the room. It was a great experience for her. She looked so relaxed and centered afterwards.

We then headed to the cafe and grabbed some lunch before heading back to the beach. Once again we did some more lounging and relaxing. Latanya passed by a spa that looked inviting. It turns out that they had a special for the next day for a couple combo massage for a happy hour price. It was buy one get one free for two hours. So Latanya made an appointment for the following day. Tomorrow was going to be our last day in Bali what better than to get a two hour rub down.

We finished our beach day with a nice leisure walk. We hunted down some more corn. Check, still delicious. We picked up a couple beers for the room and said good night to Bali one last time. Though we were going to leave tomorrow night we had a lot to accomplish the next day, including, checking out, getting a massage and still meeting up with Jess and Fran, plus experience one last impromptu Balinese tradition.

Bali - Day 7

Have no worry we found a place! We actually booked the guest house that Fran and Jess stayed at when they first arrived in Sanur. It turned out though the part they stayed in was really run down and dirty, our experience was quite different. They actually just opened a brand new part to their facilities. Brand new, as in yesterday brand new. We were the first guests in our room ever to stay there. They actually were just putting the last finishing touches on the rooms.

So in the morning we headed over to our new place. It was only a five minute walk away. It was a little closer to the beach too. It was set off the main road down a driveway. The place was quaint and quiet. The room was absolutely huge and clean. The bathroom was very spacious with a giant tub.

Once we were settled we made our way towards the beach. We found a nice resort which looked nice and decided to rent a couple of beach chairs for really cheap. Along with the chairs we were able to use their pool and swim up bar. We had lunch in our chairs and enjoyed the beautiful water. The water was great to just relax in. After awhile we headed up to the pool and relaxed some more. After a long extensive time lounging we decided to pack up and walk along the boardwalk for an early evening stroll.

I saw some great food stalls near the end of our walk. I was just dying to get my hands on some grilled corn on the cob. It looked so delicious. We stopped and ordered a couple along with a coconut to share. You should know how we love our coconuts, mmm. We asked for the spicy sauce they spread on it and were in heaven. There were a few younger Balinese couples that seemed to be on a date and were having the same snack. I guess we picked a hot spot.

After our quick snack we walked back toward the main area and had a little dinner and a few drinks. All in all it was a great day for doing nothing. The next day was going to be much of the same with the exception that Latanya had one more Bali activity on her wish list.

Bali - Day 6

Latanya and I woke up at 3:30am. Geday had planned to pick us up at 4:30am and then we were going to be picking up Jess and Fran for our tour of Bali. Geday arrived promptly and we made our way to Jess and Fran's guest house. They were waiting on the curb when we arrived and so they jumped in and we headed toward Mt. Batur. Mt. Batur is a volcano on the northeast side of the island. The sunrise at Mt. Batur is claimed to be breathe taking. I guess since we saw the sunset on the west it was fitting to try and see the sunrise on the east, key word try.

As we made our way, once we began to gain altitude we noticed a think layer of fog surrounding us. After a long drive, two hours worth we finally stopped at a potential great view point. We all got out walked over to an early morning food market. It was pitch black still and everyone had been there and set up for awhile. Most every vendor looked at us in a surprised manner. Either they could not believe us foreigners were up this early or up this early and at their morning market. Anyways, after a quick look through we head back to the van to wait for the fog to clear.

While in the car Geday stood outside for some reason, Fran accidentally sat on a pastry in a plastic bag in the front passenger seat. It turns out that the pastry just so happened to be Geday's breakfast. Fran felt so bad. He would make it up to him later though, by buying him lunch on our drive home. So more time past by and the fog had still yet to clear. We knew it was getting to be that time for the sunrise now. We got out of the car and walked to the view point. The viewpoint was still covered with fog. We waited some more. Finally after some more waiting we began to see a little shimmer of light. It was below our vantage point, we of course thought it was the sunrise. It turns out the shimmer was not the sunrise but in fact the reflection of the sun already risen shining off the lake below. Though we did not see the actual act of the sunrising near Mt. Batur we still got to see an amazing sight. After more of the clouds lifted and burned off we were able to take in an amazing panoramic view of Mt. Batur and the surrounding valley.

After we took it all in enough we climbed back in the car and drove to Lovina. Lovina is at the north of Bali. It's home to chilled out beach lounging with black sand. Latanya really wanted to see the black sand and so did I, we had never seen it before. Black was not the exact color however. It was more of a charcoal color. Anyways the dark color is due to the volcanic nature of the area. It was pretty neat and interesting.

We all got a little breakfast and walked around for a little bit. At this point it was getting to midday and we knew we had to be back in the early evening. It was a heck of a long drive to make it there but well worth it. The windy trip back was exhausting but some of the scenery was just amazing. We stopped on the side of a cliff at a turnout and took in the beautiful tiered rice terraces. Absolutely gorgeous! We stopped again as mentioned before to have lunch. Fran and Geday had two full plates of Balinese dishes. It looked pretty darn good. It was suckling pig with an array of goodies. Everyone else were not hungry. The best part, apart from the great food was the price. I think Fran bought Geday's meal for like a dollar.

We all pilled back into the car and made our way back to Ubud. We dropped Jess and Fran off at their place. We were going to part with them for a little while. We weren't leaving them for good though. We had talked about meeting them once more before we left. Geday, again dropped us off. He was such a nice driver and very kind. We lucked out having him. We crashed out for sure after the long trip. The next day we were definitely taking advantage of the beach, all day. Oh, and we had to find another place to stay. Oh, boy what were we going to do!!! AHHHH!!!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Bali - Day 5

The next day Latanya and I woke to a beautiful morning. We had breakfast on the veranda again. How pleasant. We took a dip in the pool. Jess and Fran were now at our hotel and Fran jumped in with us. It was so refreshing just what we needed to start the day off right. Instead of a lazy beach day we decided to head back to the Ubud area and check out the town itself. We split a cab to Ubud with Jess and Fran. They were packing up and leaving Sanur to stay in Ubud. They had a place set up in the center of the town for a few days.

Ubud was by far Latanya's favorite place, it is one of those places that books will never do it justice. You need to live, breath, absorb the culture, nature, and inspiration of the city. Ubud is surrounded by scenic rice fields(terraces), organic Bali spirit, small villages, art and craft communities, ancient temples, palaces, rivers, and cheap accommodation. When we arrived the town was bustling with backpackers tourists and locals. There were several stores selling you name it. Plenty of places had souvenirs. There were also plenty of art, furniture, flowers, yoga studios, organic soaps, and clothes shops. Jess and Fran headed to there place and we strolled around on our own. We checked out the local market filled with lots of vendors. It was a great walk peaking in the different shops.

Latanya wanted to stop by Wayan's shop from Eat Pray Love which happened to be four blocks from where we were dropped off. We walked four blocks away from the main strip down an alley and walked passed Wayan's shop. It was unnoticeable, the shop was covered with plants and a sign that says Traditional Balinese Medicine and restaurant (there are one of these shops on every corner). Latanya didn't want to go inside and after hearing the bad reviews from TripAdvisor she settled for a picture.

It began to pour, the rain momentarily halted our sightseeing. We headed to a local bar, Buddy's Belly, to cool off and wait out the rain with a fabulous Indonesian micro brewed beer, called Storm. The rain stopped and we went by the monkey forest. Which is completely filled to the brim of monkeys. Knowing Latanya as I do I knew we were not going to even think about going in. The outside was good enough. We saw lots of monkeys, who were friendly and cute at a far. The name really does describe exactly what it is, a monkey forest. We moved on from the forest to check out some beautiful rice terraces. Because the sun was beginning to set and the light reflected off the terraces so elegantly. Stunning views for sure. After our nice day in Ubud we took a taxi back to our hotel to plan the next day. Tomorrow we wanted to take full day trip across the island. We called up Geday to drive. We had to get up really early the next day because we wanted to the sunrise at the Batur Volcano, and I mean early.