Monday, December 15, 2008


pyramid tops

camels in the desert

the little photographer (that's Marcus)

"hot" shot

camel riders


Bedouin with my pen

Friday, November 14, 2008

Malaysia to Bali

pile on!

write your name on a tile for a $10 donation and it will be built into the temple

View of Kek Lok Si Temple grounds from its towering Pagoda

Main Temple

quiet calm

Our last stop in Malaysia was the Kek Lok Si Temple built into the side of the hill and overlooking the island of Penang.

Petrified Mollusks near Krabi, Thailand

King Cave, Phi Phi Islands Thailand

cave temple gateway near Krabi

caught in the act

buddhas glow under overhang of cave

donations to help build the largest buddha 40 meters tall overlooking Phuket

bronze monk

night in Phuket

pier at dusk

We ventured into Thailand to escape the challenges we faced in Malaysia spending our time at the beaches on boats and motorbikes before we parted Julia to Bangkok and me to Bali.



skilled craftsmen at Gaya Fusion Ceramic and Design turn ideas into reality overnight

Monkey Forest mystical creature offers itself as a bridge its visitors

I even got to teach an art class to first and second graders at the Green School

bamboo nautilus is just one example of the countless innovations in bamboo construction and design on display and in use at the Green School

I help Hillary put the finishing touches on her latest large scale vessel

A chance to slow down Bali is a paradise. Massive 3 story sculptures of intricate detail stand guard over every major intersection. Along smaller roads a temple of exquisite detail is home to a zoo of mystical concrete monsters coated in layers of neon moss. While celebrations are an elaborate affair, every day smaller offerings are ceremoniously placed in doorways, shelves, shrines, streets, and just a moment ago i watched as a beautifully dressed woman in her native kabaya rested an intimate basket of flowers and snacks on the seat of a motorbike waving incense and sprinkling water I imagine to provide its rider with a safe and profitable ride. It seems that every aspect of life is handled with dedication, skill, grace, and beauty. The tropical climate pushes greenery from the most unexpected nooks and crannies and explosions of flowers burst out of new hiding places daily.

You would all be bored if I continued to drone on about all I would love to share about Bali, but I will post photos as I am able to let you create your own picture. I don't want to spend all my time at the computer! Ciao!

Friday, October 31, 2008

First Days in Malaysia

The Petronas Towers, Kuala Lumpur

Merdeka Square

Hour of Prayer


Malaysia has been a completely new and exciting experience. We arrived at the airport and boarded a taxi for the 73 km drive into the city of Kuala Lumpur. Driving on the left side of the crisp highly developed multi-lane highways was quite a culture shock from the kamakazi style driving and narrow pot-holed construction roads we had just done our motorbike trip on in North Vietnam. We settled into a hostel in Chinatown whose accommodations were not unlike that of a prison cell then headed out to gather information for adventures to come.

Kuala Lumpur is a city of dynamic structures from the very contemporary high rise towers to timeless mosques with their enigmatic domes and passageways. The people are a blend of colorful fabrics, striking eyes, varieties of dress, religions, and cultures. Walking the street you are bombarded with smatterings of aromas; the spices of Indian cuisine, the smoky street barbecues firing up skewers of satay, and here and there rancid odors you couldn't imagine what! Markets abound and Merdeka Square proudly displays the Malaysian flag first raised here in 1957 as a demonstration of their independence from the British union. Do I sound like a tourism brochure or what!?
Island Ferry

Kecil Island Pier

lonely boat

abandoned beach days before the islands close for monsoons

We had a run in with an ATM machine in KL and had to spend an extra night. Changing our bus tickets and pulling ourselves together we chose to treat ourselves to a nice hotel complete with pool deck, buffet breakfast, and the luxury of crisp white sheets. We never did get Julia's debit card returned, but we couldn't stay in the city forever. .. paradise awaits!

The overnight bus let us out at 5am in the small fishing village of Kuala Besut. We listened to the echoes of morning prayers from the mosque next door while we waited to board the ferry to the small Perhentian island of Kecil. We checked in to the Lily Chalet and promptly joined a snorkeling group heading out for a day in the sun. Such an amazing little excursion, our trip included swimming with enourmous sea turtles, black tipped reef sharks, countless fish, giant clams, and what remained of the dying coral reef. Despite attempts to lube up with sunblock Julia and I both came home backs burnt to a crisp without a lick of sun on our fronts!

unforeseen events

feeble efforts

no one was hurt, but some lost everything

Due to unforeseen events we spent the following night at Moonlight Chalet with some new friends we made in the days excitement, then headed back to shore to see what else Malaysia had to offer. A day's break in Kota Bharu before another night bus led us to a corner cafe where we were met by the overwhelming kindness and hospitality of local Malays. The gentlemen running the cafe fed us well and shared stories about life and family, and the kind regulars let us use their computer buying us a meal and spending the afternoon deep in conversation before giving us a ride to our evening bus.

We are now in Penang in the northwest of penninsular Malaysia. There is much to see here, but today we will relax since the wild bus ride resulted in a sleepless night!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Motorbike days

Motorcycle GangSmiles on a bridge
Water buffalo and rice harvest.
Taking a break from the work of the day
Chinese Checkers

Red Zou women

My rear end is relieved to be back in the city! As for the rest of me? Well the 6 day journey through mountainous terrain was by far the highlight of this trip. We exited the overnight train into the cool misty morning of Lau Cai just a stone's throw from the Chinese border. After filling our tanks and our stomachs we headed straight to a local Red Zou village surprised to find the young women running to greet us. Denis and Gordon were here to deliver donated reading glasses to the older women so they could continue the delicate work of their handicrafts.

Dressed in deep blue garments with bands of detailed embroidery the women were eager to answer our questions and guide us in their town in hopes of selling some of their treasures. Of all the urban locations where we had run into language difficulties time and again it was quite a shock to find the teenage girls of this remote hill tribe answering every one of our questions in well versed English. I was adopted by four young girls one by the name of May Trang who pulled up the green leaves of the indigo plant and showed me how balling it up and rubbing it in the palm of your hand created the blue color predominant in the clothing of many of the hill tribe people. She described some of her experiences as we walked the dirt roads past wooden homes and terraces of rice. All young girls begin embroidery at the age of 8 and spend any spare time working in the craft when they are not in school. May hopes to someday continue her education through college and travel her home country before venturing into the rest of the world. No boyfriend yet at the age of 15 as the marrying age continues to increase and most women now marry between 18 and 25.

Back at our bikes "you buy from me," and "you buy from me next?" echoed through the crowd that had followed us through the town. Sad to leave these beautiful women I picked out a little bag made by May Trang and headed back on the road to Sapa.

We settled into our hostel and lunched on pho in a market filled with women of the Black Hmong tribe. Everywhere in town we saw representations of various hill tribes, most only identifiable by their traditional dress. We ventured through the town running various errands preparing for the longer days ahead and finished our night with a fantastic feast. With our beret topped host we learned to play chinese checkers and repeatedly made toasts with his homemade rice wine before stumbling into a small karaoke cafe where we humiliated ourselves (and by we I mean me) with painful renditions of ABBA and Flashdance!

Everyday we woke early and traveled long and far with new and more beautiful experiences around every turn. Vendors on the side of the road offered fruits and skewered snacks. The dwindling village of Old Lau Chau will soon be under water with the building of a new dam. The bizarre relocation projects strangely echo western suburban developments filling construction sites with a smattering of fairly traditional looking stilt houses.

We played copycat with children in the street and repeated "hellos" back to every person that recognized our foreign appearance. Rice workers in the fields invited us out to help with the harvest, people came out to meet us when we stopped near their path, and our last night was a home stay with a White Tai family in their beautiful stilt home. For the most part the road was paved and fairly easy, but large stretches of construction, dirt road, rains, mud, gravel, drastic changes in altitude, and finally big city traffic have all taken their toll, and it is very good to be back on my feet again. Tonight we will have one last traditional Vietnamese dinner with Huong's family before heading to Malaysia tomorrow. Kuala Lumpur awaits!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Hanoi and Halong Bay

Tour boats crowd a bay harbor.
Floating villages hide in among the thousands of limestone rocks.
Israel, Spain, Sweden, Englad, America, Canada have all made it to the top!
The dead animals fermenting in the wine are supposed to strengthen the libido.
Dragon Kiln steps.
Hoan Kiem Lake at night.
Herbs and noodles.

Hoi An turned out to be our Sin City as we indulged in the tailor shops before departing in shame with our overstuffed packs. Meandering alleyways dotted with oversized trees and ancient buildings in the Old Quarter surround our home in the city of Hanoi. Though overwhelmed with tourist agencies and souvenier shops we have found many charming hideaways for coffee and delicious dining experiences. Rice and rice noodles have taken a back seat to the varieties of world cuisine offered near where we stay.

We joined a 3 day tour to Halong Bay where we met a smattering of travelers from around the world all looking to enjoy the tranquil beauty of the limestone mammoths that rise straight up out of the north China Sea. We visited a cave, took a hike to the top of Cat Ba Island, played beach volleyball, and searched in vain for a karaoke bar.

Again back in Hanoi we are enjoying the comforts of Air Conditioned rooms, larger meals, and all the sights there are to see. Julia has even reconnected with a college roommate who calls Hanoi home. Huong has been a gracious host introducing us to a spread of local foods and a coffee shop hideaway where we enjoyed egg coffee on a rooftop overlooking the city!

Tomorrow we leave by overnight train to Sapa. We'll be motorbiking it all the way back to Hanoi visiting minority villages along the way!