Thursday, August 9, 2012

Fast Track through Vietnam

After Cambodia, I made my way with the group to Southern Vietnam.  It was a cool place. I think I'd like to make my way up north and along the coast. We stayed in a small town near the Mekong Delta.  I got my first ride on a motorbike and couldn't be happier.  My driver was awesome.  He was half Vietnamese, half Chinese (yesss my half Chinese brother!). We raced up a hill in the area. Literally, we raced up the hill :)  I learned that his father fought in the Vietnam war and he had the opportunity to move to the US but his mother wanted to stay in Vietnam.  He still wants to move to the US one day.

She's working it on the water!

Yup, we will win this race!

We didn't stay in this area much.  We had a casual walk through the market.  It had a lot of dried fish. mmmMMmmm and some buns.  Oh, how I love the steamed buns filled with deliciousness.  (Side note: I tried to make these once at home.  They were ok. I gotta find out all the secrets from the street vendors)  We took a nice ride on a boat and visited the people living on the water.  They are mostly Muslim which I was very surprised by.

From this small town, we moved to Saigon.  I wasn't super enthused. I felt like people were very aggressive.  I was grabbed a number of times in the market.  I'm pretty sure I was cussed out. It was really busy.  I was almost hit by a motorbike or two.  Those were the downsides.  The upside: I was asked if I was Vietnamese (haha again with the ethnicity that no one can place).  The food was good.  I was glad to try the Pho in the area. MmmMMmm I had soursop for the first time too.  It was delightful.  I also got to learn a bit about the Vietnam war from the Vietnam perspective...well I guess there are two.  There are those people that fought with the US and feel resentful or grateful for them and then there was the current communist Vietnam side of the whole thing.

I got to see the tunnels that the soldiers lived in.

Children were even born in these tunnels.  I also got to shoot an AK47 - holla!

The end of my time in Vietnam left a sour taste in my mouth with a charge from the hotel and an argument that ensued. I'd like to go back and really appreciate Vietnam since so many people say they love it. Eh...

Oh ya, so while I was abroad, I tried to extend my trip.  The group was going through Northern Vietnam, Laos, and Northern Thailand. I had a wedding to attend (Wedding in the Woods - it was awesome!). So, while I was abroad, I was talked into going to Nepal.  You might think, ok Nepal in 2013 or later...well later was going to be the beginning of July. Shout out to Jackie from STA travel that was able to arrange everything so quickly. Ya, so I left Vietnam knowing I'd return to the area in 2 weeks. <---yes, sometimes I'm slightly crazy!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Beach Living in Cambodia

Everyone talks about the beauty of the Thai beaches but this Cambodia beach town rivals those Thai beaches.  The town of Sihanoukville is located on the Gulf of Thailand.  It was a nice reprieve from the heat and humidity.  Unfortunately, it's monsoon season, so the sun comes and go, along with the rain.

The town was quaint. It was geared towards tourists. I'm not a huge touristy person and set off for a beach about 20 minutes outside of the town. The water was the perfect temperature.  The waves and the force of the water was fierce.  Some of us frolicked and ordered some drinks to chill out.

The next day was another beach day.  I ordered breakfast and watched the waves and enjoyed the sun. Since this area is so touristy, a number of people try to sell you things.  It's also off season, so the bargains are better, right??  Haha - well, not for me!  The kids are pretty intense.  They really want to sell you bracelets. I didn't want any bracelets.  This one little girl was getting very comfortable.  She was sitting on the lounge and hugging, in an effort to sell a bracelet.  I even got a bracelet for free. Another kid came by, who had an amazing personality and I met the night before.  He called himself Beyonce. I started talking to him and the other girl got very very mad and left.

After she left another little boy approached. He took the knife off my plate and put it to his wrists.  He said he was going to kill himself.  I said no. He continued to his neck then his stomach.  Agh! Who is this kid?!  Why is this a selling tactic and who taught you this?! The icing on the cake?? He then went to grab my boob! AHHH! WHO ARE YOU!? Needless to say, I told him to move along and never come back.

The little girl came back.  She tried to sell to my friend.  I told her not to because she was cussing me out earlier.  As she walked away again, she went to swipe at my head!

It was a nice place, but the kids were out of control.  I was glad to move on and did not get the best impression of Cambodia from this area. 

The Killing Fields

I knew today was going to be a very tough day.  I didn't know much about the killing fields and the prisons.  I didn't know the reasons and how many were affected, but I knew a lot of innocent people were murdered.

Our guide was fantastic. He was passionate about the telling the stories of those that had passed. We visited S-21 (below).  It was once a high school in the heart of Phnom Penh, Cambodia.  The high school was once the place for learning and development and was abruptly changed into a torture facility.  

A holding cell for prisoners.  They were chained to the floor. 

A torture room.  The floor is brown. It was stained from the all the blood of its victims. 

Pol Pot murdered all the educated people and their families.  He didn't even want a genetic line to survive if someone within that family was an engineer, teacher or doctor.  The result of this focused execution is an uneducated country today.  No one was safe.  It was also so disturbing to find out that he brainwashed the youth of the country to become the executioners. Our guide told us a story of a female solider.  She was forced to kill. Her first kill was placed in front of her.  She had to bludgeon the person over the head.  The face was covered.  As soon as the kill was complete the cover was removed.  She had just killed her mother.

Most of the child soldiers were not held responsible for their actions.  They all claimed to be brainwashed. They live among the people today, sometimes 1 or 2 will revisit the prison to talk and his/her experiences. The only people that were prosecuted were the people at the top and even then, it's been difficult to do. 

The soldiers didn't use guns.  The guns would make too much noise.  Instead, they used to the serrated side of this plant (see below) or a metal object.  Most of the skulls recovered have a skull depression caused by the bludgeoning.  All bodies were covered with chemicals so the surrounding communities couldn't smell the dead and it wouldn't raise suspicions. 

Used as a killing tool. 

Skulls placed in a monument to the dead.

Pol Pot killed everyone. He even killed foreign diplomats and babies. The terror didn't come to a close until the Vietnamese liberated Cambodia.  The Vietnamese ruled Cambodia for 10 years after liberation. There was no currency, no calendars.  People didn't know if family were dead or alive.  My guide was a product on forced marriage and he doesn't even know exactly how old he is today.  He picked his birthday.  He only knows he was born in the winter months. 

While I was visiting S-21, I was fortunate enough to meet 2 of the 7 survivors.  One was a mechanic and the other was an artist. They have no finger prints and are practically deaf due to electric shock to the ears.  I seriously don't know how they can return to such a horrible place. 

The surviving artist

The surviving mechanic

The Cambodian people have come a long way.  Within the last couple of years, the country has gotten paved roads and air con in the buses.  Even with such a recent tragedy, the people are always smiling. I really appreciated my time learning about their past and really trying to educate myself on things that happen outside the US bubble.  

Saturday, August 4, 2012

same same but different

Sorry for the delay. I had some last minute travel adventures that will eventually surface on this blog...

Cambodian highlights... Angkor Wat or was it Angkor What?!

Angkor Wat is an engineering marvel. I really have to say that I went into Cambodia ignorant.  I didn't know a lot about the culture or the history.  It's history is extremely rich and, at one point, it was the biggest empire in the world before the Industrial revolution.  The Khmer empire was amazing and Angkor Wat is a testament to it's glory.  The marvel that is Angkor Wat and one of the largest temples in the world. It is built on sand....that's right sand! For those that know, sand expands and contracts with water.  Cambodia has 2 main seasons, monsoon (or rainy) and dry (very very dry). It's amazing that it was able to be used as the foundation of such a large structure.  To compensate for the expansion and contraction of the sand, the Khmer engineers utilized a moat. The moat circumference is about 5k. The moat keeps the sand with a constant amount of moisture and the structure won't buckle with the changing moisture.

Another interesting fact, is the king at the time was only 14 years old.  It is the Khmer belief that the structure has to be finished before the king dies or it will be bad luck.  The building will stop. This huge structure was built in 37 years. If you consider the technology at the time and the grandeur of the structure, the feat is incredible. There are comparable structures in Europe around that same time that took 200-400 years. Amazing. I'm amazed.

It's worth it to wake up early and see sunrise at Angkor Wat. I got a good spot next to the lake where you can take pictures of the Wat and its reflection in the lake. I woke up at 4am.  We were at the gates by 5am. The sunrise was around 6am. It was worth it.  It seemed like a small city.  It was so vast and everything was so intricate.  Our guide was soft spoken and unfortunately for him, it was hot and it was early.   The carving was amazing and it was once all painted in gold.

It would have been amazing to be here when it was first constructed and to see the light hit the gold painted on the walls.  We had to wait until 7:30am to actually go to the temple, so we took some pictures and had some fun.

(Just a note: wear a t-shirt - a scarf covering your shoulders won't cover it)

Angkor Wat was definitely the highlight of the day.  Later we visited a number of other temples, including one that was used to film Laura Croft TombRaider.  The day ended as early as it began.  It was so hot we didn't do much after all the touring in the morning and tomorrow we were off to the capital of Cambodia. 

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Coconut Shake

The fresh fruit juices and shakes of SE Asia are so refreshing and so very tasty.

I happened upon a stall in Vietnam that was making a coconut shake (ordered by Jenny) and learned how to recreate the deliciousness.

1 young coconut (important for it to be a young coconut versus a brown older coconut - the meat isn't as soft)
Condensed milk


1. Create opening to drain the coconut water into cup to be used later
2. Place 2 cups ice into a blender
3. Place 1 cup coconut water into blender
4. Open the coconut (use a sharp knife or wrap the coconut in a bag and hit with a weight)
5. Scrap the coconut meat into the blender
6. Add 3-4 tablespoons of condensed milk
7. Add 1-2 tablespoons of sugar
8. Blend

ENJOY!! (for a kick, add some rum)

Hello Cambodia!

The journey from Thailand to Cambodia started early. We took a bus to a gas station.  At the gas station a number of the travelers I was with applied for their Cambodia Visa.  I kind of wish I had done this at the border, too.  I purchased an E-Visa.  It was $25 online through the Cambodia website and only took 3-4 days to get the appropriate print out to stick in my passport.  However, it doesn't LOOK awesome. The normal Visa they will place in your passport and it looks all official and has all the nice stamps on it. It is also permanent.  Mine is just stapled into the passport. Boo.

Welcome to Cambodia!

We crossed the border on foot.  There is a market on the Thai side where people sell used clothing. The Cambodian side; however, has a huge CASINO!  Woo for gambling.  We also saw these baskets piled higher than the building being pushing through the border by 10 men.  It was quite a site, and something that a picture really can't capture. After going through border patrol, we hopped on a bus and to Siem Reap we traveled.

It's truly amazing what they can fit on things!

For lunch, I had my first taste of Cambodian delight.  It was a fish amok and it was delicious.  It was just too bad that it was soooo hot and humid and I was eating something soooo hot. Delicious but I think I could have also gone for an ice cream.  We arrived in Siem Reap.  It was really interesting seeing the dirt roads in the city...after all, it was a city and one of the largest in Cambodia. The accommodation were much nicer than I was expecting.  Shortly after arriving, I definitely needed a shower. Oh how I love you shower.

Fish Amok Mmmm

That night we headed to an organization that raises money to send kids to school. It costs $0.75 a day to send a kid to school.  It's a lot for parents in the area so a lot of children sell postcards or other nick knacks on the side of the road instead.  We got a tour of the rice patties and surrounding area.  The cutest kids joined us for the tour.  They were also such hams, posing for pictures and just being plain cute. The lady that ran the organization treated us to a traditional Cambodian style meal.  It was so delicious. I could have licked the plates. I really really wanted to lick the plates.  We then got about an hour to talk to the children.  It was the best.  Their English was so good and I was very impressed. I wanted to stay longer and talk to the kids but we had to head back because the next day we were going to be up at 4am to see the sunrise over Angkor Wat.

Cutest kids in the rice fields

But!! Before that, Jenny, Laura, Anne and I decided to get a food massage :) The heat and humidity and travel really did a number on our feet.  My feet were pretty swollen and it was nice to get a good foot massage in the comfort of my own room with some really wonderful people.  We also knew that the next day was going to be extremely long and wanted to "prepare" ourselves :)  The foot massages were awesome and the hotel was so awesome for scheduling last, 1 hr was only $6!! Man! Can't beat that! Can I have a massage twice a day please?!

Laura (left) and Jenny (right) getting amazing foot massages!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Elephants in Thailand

This morning I woke up happy.  I was going to see elephants today! Yay!

We left in the morning after breakfast.  On the way to the old capital, we saw the King's motorcade. It was crazy.  They basically blocked off the entire freeway and then there was a procession of BMWs and Mercedes. It seemed to go on forever and there were police at every on ramp making sure cars couldn't get on the freeway.  Apparently, this happens often and it can create quite the traffic jam.

We headed to the old capital (Ayutthaya).  This city has lots of old ruins.  The Burmese destroyed the city and so most of the temples have fallen apart.  I went for an elephant ride around the wats.  It was an interesting site seeing elephants crossing the street with motorbikes and cars zooming past. The ride was ok.  The guy that was steering the elephant used a kicking motion behind the ears of the elephant to get it to turn.  He had another guide take a picture of me on the elephant.  It was grateful but didn't really have a choice.  He made me tip the guy that took the picture which I was ok with...then he had me tip him, which I was confused about.  At the end, I think he stopped to have me tip him again, but I didn't.  Was that bad form? I'm not sure. I tipped him pretty substantially the first time because I didn't have small bills.

After the elephant experience, we drove around the other parts of the city.  Most of it was being restored and Aunt and Uncle couldn't get around that easily.  They started getting hungry and wanted to go back to the city to eat.  We drove back to Bangkok and had lunch at a Japanese restaurant that was known for their noodles.  It was very good.

I wanted to explore the surrounding area and do some shopping since that's where people from all over asia go to shop.  I went to the huge mall MBK.  I spent hours in it because it was 7 stories. I wasn't sure if I should haggle there.  Maybe I could have? I'm not sure. I didn't. I definitely could haggle on the streets but by the time I was done with MBK I was all shopped out and just wanted to walk around before the daily raining session.

Later that night, we went to this famous restaurant for curry crab.  It did not disappoint.  It was delicious.  We also had fish stomach soup, eggplant, whole fish deep fried with basil, tofu and a variety of other dishes.  Uncle likes his whiskey so we had that too.  It was actually quite good.

We headed home and I went to bed.  I had to be up early the next morning for my journey to the famed floating market.

I dreamed of elephants of delicious food. Life was good.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

A Journey Through South East Asia - Thailand

This year has been interesting for me.  It's definitely a year dedicated to myself and what I want to do with my life.  It started out rocky. I had some personal stuff going on compounded with the loathing I had for my job. It took a lot of courage and some split decisions to decide to leave my job in May.  I had the support of my friends and family...and another job lined up.  The stars just weren't aligning with the job in another state, and so I decided to stay in Southern California, decline the job and am currently a free spirit.  I also decided that I needed to go on a trip.  I think that was the best decision, aside from quitting my job, I've made this year.

I arbitrarily decided on South East Asia.  I had family in Bangkok and I've heard amazing things about Thailand.  I started researching and tend to like the places less traveled and decided on a trip that was centered around Cambodia.

My journey started on a Monday.  I flew Korean Air.  It was a great airline, good food and excellent service. I had a stop over in Japan and then a layover in Korea. I seriously don't understand the deal with going through security after getting off the plane again and again.  I got into Bangkok around 12am.  My Auntie and Uncle so kindly picked me up and fed me once again. :)  So much food!  Then I took a shower and headed to bed.

Buddha Worship on the Corner - you could even buy and release sparrows for 400 baht!

I don't feel like the jet lag really hit me.  I was out and about the next day, admiring the places of worship and heading to one of the many many malls.  There are so many malls in Bangkok.  My Auntie said that people from Hong Kong come down to just go shopping.  After Uncle came home, we went to see the Reclining Buddha.  The Buddha was crazy big.  The entire compound was amazing! The golds, the blues and the reds were all spectacular.

I'm in love with color!


Hello! Reclining Buddah!

After the Reclining Buddha, we were stuck in Bangkok traffic for 4 hours! Yes, 4 hours!! It was crazy.  We only had time for dinner at that point.  Uncle and Auntie ordered everything under the sun and I enjoyed it all.  There was this great chicken in banana leaves. It was my favorite thing in Thailand. Mmmm my mouth is watering just thinking about it. Mmm and all the lovely fruit! 

I tried Durian! It was durian from an ancient tree. It was smelly and the flesh was musky.  It was a sweet musky taste.  It wasn't what I was expecting.  I felt like a monkey when I was eating it.  I probably would have started acting like a monkey if my family didn't think I was weird.  Apparently, you are supposed to eat Durian followed by a "cool" fruit like the mangosteen.


Purple Mangosteen

So far, so good. Tomorrow - ELEPHANTS!!  And Curry Crab!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Ragnar Relays SoCal 2012 - There's Something Strange in the Ragnar Hood

It started April 20th at 5:30am. I woke up, got dressed, and was out the door by 5:50am. I arrived at our meeting point, loaded the cars and we were off. It was 6am on a Friday morning.  The day before, the team got together for dinner and to decorate the vans, and today, it was judgement day.  Our 12 member team was dressed in our costumes and ready to wow the judges and begin our 2 day journey for the Ragnar Relays.

You may be asking yourself, what is this thing you call the Ragnar Relays?!?!  Let me explain.  Ragnar Relays SoCal is a running relay race from Huntington Beach (woo Surf City) to Coronado (woo San Diego).  Each team consists of 12 members and 2 vans. Each van has 6 people in it. Each runner is essentially numbered 1 through 12.  There are 36 legs to the race, so each runner is responsible for completing 3 legs.  There is also another, more entertaining component to the race - costumes! Each team is themed.  Our team: The GHOSTBUSTERS!

The costume crew (Jo and Jemie!) did a great job with everything! We had proton packs, slimers, stay pufts...and silly string!! We were asked for so many pictures, it was like being a celebrity. There is a costume contest and the winner gets free entry into next years race.  The way to win is for people to vote and they can do that through text message.  Unfortunately, we didn't win :(  It was kind of a kick in the face because we thought everyone loved the costumes.  Groups of people would stop what they were doing and walk us walk into the waiting areas and whatnot.  We just didn't capture enough votes! Bummer.

My journey didn't start until about 2pm on Friday.  SoCal is hot but man it was a doozy on Friday afternoon.  The race goes from HB and heads inland and then heads back out to the coast.  This is so that we get the 203 miles.  My run was through Corona and it must have been over 100F.  It was so hot.  People had stopped running and started walking.  If someone gave me ice, I'd shove it down my sports bra to cool myself off.  I had to walk a good mile of the course because my heart rate was sky high.  I ended up really pushing myself the last mile to do a continuous run.  The key to that Friday afternoon was hydrating. We saw plenty of ambulances putting IVs in runners arms. After our 6 legs, we headed to the next major check point.  Here we could catch some ZZzzs on a golf course. It was only about 7pm at that point.  I wasn't really tired but really tired to rest.

Our next legs were to begin in the early morning. I think our first leg got started a little after midnight. My leg was about 4 miles and started around 2am.  It was fantastic. I loved it. It was the best leg of the race. It was a good 50F cooler than earlier in the day and I was flying. It was 2am so no one was out except for the awesome volunteers! I particularly appreciated the guy dresses as a T-bone steak.  At around 4am, I got to sleep again.  This time I slept in the van. By that time the van was not super pleasant and everything was damp. Gross.  Our legs started again around 730am. I didn't have to run until the early afternoon.  It was heating up and I wasn't looking forward to it. Jo got the majority of the heat and it started to turn overcast.  My last leg, oh my last leg! I got lost. I wasn't the only one, but I got lost.  I ran about 4 miles off course. Luckily, we were able to catch a ride back to the course. Man, it sucked though. 

For the finish, our team has to run across the finish line together.  Our last leg was slimer.  We had him, the other slimer and the 2 stay pufts run ahead of us.  The ghostbusters were chasing them across the line and right when we get to the line the "bad guys" turn around and silly string us.  It was a blast! We were supposed to have the theme song play but there were technical difficulties.  I'm really looking forward to our official team picture at the end, although, I'm sure I look like crap.  

The medals we got were awesome. The shirts were awesome (I've already worn mine 3 times). I ran a total of about 16 miles. It doesn't sound like a lot but after the start and stop, start and stop, it takes its toll on the body. I'd love to do another Ragnar, probably in a different location.  I loved the people I met and the friends I made along the way.  It was an amazing experience.  A special thanks to the volunteers! Especially the ones that were along the course in the wee morning hours. 

Also, a special shout out to van #2 aka Spicy Vanilla with a Splash of Soy Sauce!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Journey to Escazu and then Journey to the OC

The next morning I have some more "world famous pancakes"!  And start talking to some Americans.  These guys are from New York.  We haven't met any New Yorkers on the trip, which we both thought was odd but just figured they like their urban jungle more than the actual jungle. One of the guys looked like he was a cartoon character - for real! His hair was so gelled that is was ridic.

Our ride picked us up and we were off.  I knew it was the last time I'd get to see the parts of Costa Rica that were interesting and beautiful.  I could only imagine San Jose to be dirty and city-like.  I haven't heard good things about San Jose but oh well.  We had to get there somehow to get to the airport the day after. The ride was uneventful except for this amazing full double rainbow. I love rainbows. I love color.  I got a double dose with this perfect double rainbow.

Our final destination was this wonderful little bed and breakfast in Escazu.  The owner used to live in the United States and work in real estate before the market went sour.  She has an adorable 2 year old daughter that can speak Spanish and English.  The day we arrived, we walked around Escazu.  Escazu is made up of 70% ex-Pats and Europeans.  It had a lot of resorts and country clubs, not unlike Orange County.

We headed down to San Jose later that night.  It was pretty uneventful.  There were a lot of illegal vendors on the streets who all seemed to be extremely interested in selling Smurf memorabilia.  The Smurfs were everywhere.  We needed into a church in the middle of the city.  Neither of us are religious but decided to walk in and marvel at the beautiful details.  I also took a moment to reflect on my dear friend Neil Saigal.  He was a really great friend.  He was my first friend at UC, Irvine.  The world lost a magical person (Jan 1985 - September 2011) and I will always miss him.  His birthday was the day before and he would have been 27 years old.  I miss him.

 Outside of Church                           Inside of Church

The night progressed.  It had to end pretty early because it's not safe to be in downtown San Jose as only 2 females. We caught a taxi after dinner.  The cab driver didn't know where we were going...the kicker...the cab driver was listening to Spanish radio porn.  It was ridiculous. We had an early evening and there was a blackout.  It was pretty tame.

The next day, it was time to travel home.  After a lovely breakfast, we went for a walk.  We saw this awesome tree that seemed to peel from orange to green.

We got to the airport early - don't forget to pay the tax at the airport - and headed home.  I had to go to Panama City first.  I was frisked a number of  times but everything went well.  It was a little tricky at the airport because I broke my phone - yay! and I was sick yet again.  I've been sick so many times in the last 4 months, I can't even count.  One sickness rolls into the next.  I'm still fighting to kick it.

Overall, it was a great great trip! I think everyone is jealous. :)

XOXO Rachel

Monday, January 16, 2012

Wooooosh! Zip Line!

Rebecca and I woke up bright and early to eat! And trek back to the bank at the top of the hill.  We had zip line today.  I knew I'd be a little nervous since this particular zip line company had the Tarzan swing at the end.  I don't like roller coasters so the feeling of my stomach in my throat is never my favorite.

We headed to the company headquarters (Adventura). I got all strapped in and looked really good all outfitted in my new gear.  There were quite a few people from Seattle on this particular part of the adventure (probably 6).  I befriended two - Mark and Derek.  Derek seemed high the entire time and Mark was cool.  They ended up taking video off the superman zipline.  The superman is where they attach the zipline to your back and let you fly through the air like superman!

Before I'm off


I really loved zip lining.  It was really easy and fast.  I think I could have gone faster.  There was one zip line segment that Rebecca couldn't stop and actually ran into part of the tree - eeek! I watched it all from behind.  Don't worry, she's OK.

After about 12 runs, we go to the Tarzan swing.  The swing is a 147ft drop and then you swing.  I was all hooked up and ready to go.  Mark was going to go before me.  Except! He chickened out!  And I walked to the end of the swaying platform to feel out the height and drop.  The guys at the company immediately hook me.  I tell them I'm scared and they just laugh at me and continue to hook me.  I protested one last time.  I wish they had just pushed me over but the whole thing got the better of me.  Unfortunately, I have to say that I didn't do it.  Do I regret it? Maybe a little.  I mean, in the grand scheme of things, it's so short I should have just done it. Oh well...and then the day went on!

Me and the Seattlites

We had the best casada of the trip at the place right next to the hostel!  We even took a picture with the owner.  Loved it!

The rest of the day was left to finding the climbing tree!  Yesss a climbing tree.  I didn't know what to expect from the climbing tree but it was way better than I ever could have expected!  It's like tiny trees growing together, creating a ladder to the top of the tree.  It was completely hollow inside. Each branch was intertwined, almost like each branch was a step.  The tree was huge.  It was probably over 100m tall.  I could only go to where the two tree converged, since my track record with accidents is shaky. Rebecca and I decided it was best to stop at about 75ft up.

The Climbing Tree

On the walk back we were greeted with another beautiful view, with the sun illuminating the wet pavement with a now blue sky.  We saw a rainbow.  I just love rainbows.  Rainbows make me smile and smiling makes me happy!  Oh yeah! And I saw WONG RESTAURANT!! LOVE IT!! All-in-all, it was cold and great.  I was soaking from the whole day, so we changed and headed to dinner.  The rest of the night was pretty uneventful and we were heading to the city the next day.  I wasn't without my headlight again and we just explored the small town, running into people from the day!

Great end to the day!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

On the Move to the Windy town of Monteverde

We are on the move the next day and take the taxi (van) - boat - taxi (van).  It's a bumpy road after crossing the lake, so it took forever.  We got in around 12pm and noticed right away that it was super windy.  I mean, the wind was going to push me over windy.  It was also cold. I was just thinking - thank goodness I brought layers.

Tina's Casita

Right away we were greeted by Andres.  He was super happy and proceeded to sign us up for tours. Our first tour was to the Monteverde coffee farm.  It's a free trade coop of sorts.  Our tour guide was Joyce.  She was half Costa Rican and half American.  She looked very fair and we went to her father's farm.  We met some more Seattlites on the tour (I swear, they were everywhere). The tour was great.  I learned all about the new and old ways of preparing the coffee beans before roasting.  I also learned about how the farmers plant other trees and plants, like bananas to introduce different nutrients into the soil.  We got to taste the fruits of the farm as well as the roasted coffee -- IT WAS SOO GOOD!

Dried coffee beans

Brewed coffee and really really good pancake-type bread!

I definitely bought coffee and some sweet coffee candles.  The candles smells so good.  If computers were scratch and sniff then I'd include a sample here. The rest of the day was ours and we walked around the town.  The town is tiny so it didn't take long.  We also needed to find a bank with American dollars and dinner.  Along the way, we ran into a Canadian and an American.  I also found out a sloth reserve in Costa Rica.  I'll have to go there next time!

We found a cute place covered in butterflies! I also discovered my favorite dish of Costa Rica - casada vegetariano!  It had rice and beans, a plantain, avocado, cheese, salad.  It was perfect. I finished it off with some hot mint tea, since it was windy and rainy.  Hot mint tea is delicious.  It's definitely one of my favorite teas.  I think I had 5 cups that night since it was so chilly. We headed back to the hotel.  It was really dark, so I'm glad I brought my headlight - yes my headlight! (The new running joke is my wedding registry will be at REI - soooo true, although, I'll take REI gifts any time of year ;) )

Casada! and Headlight love (the headlight wasn't on, so I'm sad the picture is so bright)!

The wind was so intense that it drove us inside.  We met some people from North Carolina and San Diego.  We talked for a good 1-2 hours before we retired to the room.  The room had a queen bed and a bunk bed.  Rebecca really wanted the bunk bed and I love a big bed so it all worked out.  The wind was so intense that it made it hard to sleep but eventually I dozed off! I had to be ready for zip lining the next day!