Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Back, by Popular Demand

I apologize!! I did get back to SD on Sunday morning. Things have been crazy and I haven't gotten the last info posted. After getting comments from some of the followers, here is my last post on Ireland:

We had our final adventure in Dingle on Wednesday, horseback riding. We were issued the horses for those that are not experienced in English saddle riding. Basically, these horses could have done this trail with their eyes closed!! They were also willing to stop periodically to graze, I guess we were not supposed to let them do that! But they looked hungry...is that a good excuse? Below you can see Jennifer (the one in black) and her horse, Ivy.

We then moved on to the elusive, Ring of Kerry! This is a road that follows the coast through county Kerry. Supposed to be very scenic. Well, if you can tell from the picture above, it was foggy/cloudy all day. Scenic was not the way we would have summarized the day. The photo below is of a mountain/hill, ...enough said. This is a great time to talk about the weather in Ireland. Everyday could be a combination of rain, sun, fog, and clouds. That cycle could also be gone through numerous times throughout the day. There was no telling how to dress and you always had to be prepared for rain.

The following day we headed to Kilarney (through a gorgeous national park). The Muckross House (see below) was amazing. All of the original furniture from the 1800's, beautiful grounds, and stories of Queen Victoria's visit (prior to the death of Prince Albert).
Finally, we ended our trip with with the age old Irish tradition...kissing the Blarney Stone. I was surprised by how this was somewhat scary (sorry, this is the only photo Jennifer got for me). You have to bend over backwards and dangle your head over this hole in the top floor of the castle (I am going to estimate 60-70 feet up). I can say I did it (you are all going to be amazed by my now present gift of gab due to this visit!!). The flight home is a whole story I don't want to go into (still bitter about 8.5 hours on a plane that flew for 2.5). Another time...maybe!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The road less traveled

Yesterday we made it to Dingle!! This is a small community on the western coast of Ireland. A hike at a nearby lake was suggested by the hostel manager. We made our way up the hillside and the scenery was majestic. (see pictures , yes...those are my legs exposed. They haven't seen sunlight in a week!) The sun was out! Aside from the scenic landscape, we also had to dodge sheep scat and the water. It seemed to be abundant along, aside and on the trail. Jennifer's tennis shoes may not make it back home because of how wet and dirty they got!

This morning we decided to brave the seas and head out into Dingle bay and the Atlantic Ocean. It was raining/drizzling the entire time. Thankfully, we were working hard to get out of the bay...against the wind! I am in the background of the picture of Jeff above with the orange hat. (sorry, the pictures of just me were blurry and I thought that I should include Jeff in at least one photo since you got to see Jennifer's shoes!) We also got to be in the presence of a local celebrity, Fungi (pronounced Fun-gee) the dolphin. He has been in Dingle bay for 26 years now and likes to grace visitors to the bay with his presence. It was amazing to have him come within 4 feet of our boats!

So, tomorrow brings horseback riding (ye-haw) and driving the Ring of Kerry (it is a road around the Kerry Peninsula that takes 8 hours to drive).

PS-lots of pictures this time...enjoy!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Fields of Green

These past couple of days have been jam packed. We made our way west from Dublin to the area of Galway. We drove out along the coast line...beautiful country. Then, yesterday we headed south from Galway to see the Burren. This is a dessolate area with little soil and many rocks. This was also where we saw some of the most amazing pieces of archeology. There are stone tombs that are older than the Egyptian pyramids. The remains of a circular stone fort were equally interesting. We then headed the the notorious Cliffs of Moher. They are 700+ feet tall!! We were told we were lucky because it wasn't raining or foggy. (Sunshine is hard to come by in these parts.) We are heading today to Dingle, which is supposed to get quite the small town.

So far, what has amazed me the most is the stone walls. They are EVERYWHERE! Some of them have been there for thousands of years. It is said that farmers used to take the wall apart to pass their sheep through, then rebuild it. I can hardly pick apples at the grocery store without toppling them all down (I have found that buying them by the prepackaged bag is better for me).

(Sorry, no pictures today. Technical difficulties...maybe later.)

Friday, August 14, 2009

We arrived yesterday morning. We had some time to blow before we could get into the hotel, so we wondered around the city (see above). It is gorgious! There are so many things to see (i.e. parks, pubs, cathedrals, tours). There are cathedrals around every corner. They are like Starbucks!
During our search for things to do, we realized that the Guinness Storehouse did tours until 9pm! We thought that would be a good way to end the day. I will have to say the tour was nice, but the best part was the view from the 9th floor of the storehouse. It was amazing!! You could see all of the city AND the country side that lies beyond it! We ended the day at an Irish pub. I got Irish Stew...which was like a soup and it contained Rudabega!! Which has always been a family tradition, but I have NEVER seen it in actual cooking beyond my/my mother's kitchen.

Today, we headed out to check out more of the area we are staying. The Temple Bar area is very popular (by the way, here "Bar" means area near the river). We also went to Trinity College and saw the Book of Kells (a book of gospels from 300 A.D.). We did quite a bit of walking, but it is enjoyable. The temps are cool (50-60 degrees), so that makes it easier. I am pretty sure that Jennifer pulled off a sunburn with the overcase skies...I will offer her SPF 55 tomorrow!

Speaking of tomorrow...we are going to head off to the West Coast. That seems to be where all of the action is! Until then...

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Ireland, Here I Come!!

I leave in less than 21 hours for Ireland. I plan on printing off my boarding passes so I don't get a lecture from the guy at the check in counter about how you need to arrive at the airport at least 1 hour prior to international flights. REALLY?!? This is Rapid City and I am NOT checking any bags! I feel that bi-passing that encounter might make a better start to my trip.

I am really going to miss Mike on this trip. :( Who am I going to talk to in the airports during layovers? Who is going to watch my baggage while I go to the bathroom so I don't need to navigate 2 bags in the bathroom stall? Who is going to handle all of the money because I don't want to carry my wallet around everywhere? These are just a few of the issues I will have because I am traveling without my best friend (no offense Jeff or Jennifer)!

Oh, I included the photo above (from the internet) to excite you (and myself) about the majesty of Ireland.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

We're Back!!

We have now had one complete day back in SD. We are staying in Custer while we wait for our rally renters to leave tomorrow. We thank those of you that have been following the blog (both publicly and privately). This is going to be the same blog that I use for my trip to Ireland. I leave next Wednesday. Mike will be staying home to work, he doesn't have the time off.

In Ireland, I am going to be accompanying Jeff, Mike's brother, and Jennifer, whom you might remember from my trip to Chile. Jeff is returning from 8 months of active duty (6 mos. in Afghanistan) and he wanted to go to Ireland when he returned. I have the time off (glory of teaching), so I thought I would take advantage of the opportunity.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

This will be our last post from Thailand. So, we put together some various pictures that we didn't attach before (mainly due to time, which of course is money when you are on the Internet in another country).
Last night, we had a late night (after midnight) watching Muay Thai boxing (see above). They start the evening at 9pm with kids (I would guess 9 or 10 year-olds) and progressively each match the kids got older. We left before the last match was over, it was getting too late and we still had to walk back to the hotel. Plus, by that time we had already seen over 3 hours of beatings! This style of fighting has a beginning ritual which includes a ceremonious dance each fighter does prior to the match.
We took this photo at the plaza (HUGE shopping mall). No, your eyes are not playing tricks on you, that is a small blizzard. Unlike the US where they have a 12oz. "kiddie" blizzard and the small is actually 16oz. This Thai small blizzard only cost $0.85 and was probably 6oz. By the way, I didn't even finish it. It was green tea almond, which was not my thing.
Here you can see the meat purchasing counter at one of the markets. This would be an example of where locals would purchase their meat products. This was a common site at the markets. There were usually fans above the meat to attempt to keep the flies off. I know what you are thinking, there is NO form of refrigeration being used.

This photo was taken on our way to the rafting "put in" site. The road was so rough, at one point we heard a dragging noise...NOT good!! Luckily it was only the spare tire being drug. The rafting guide that was with us had to sit for the remainder of the drive (which was rather rough) on the top of the van.
Also on the ride for rafting, this was a common site for the area. This is a very popular Thailand attraction for visitors, riding elephants. The sole purpose is to ride the elephant on a jungle trail. You end up right back where you started and the people on the ride really didn't look that enthusiastic about it. I am sure it was fun for the first few minutes...maybe!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Wondering Around

Above, is the view from our room at the Galare Guest House. It is a cute place off the beaten path, but very close to all of the markets and bazaars.
This morning we decided to get tailored suits & shirts. The turn around is less than 24 hours!! It has been an fun experience. We also went to the day market, which is a combination of a flower market and a locals' market. We have been on a quest to find a cooking utensil for Suzy, Mike's sister, during our time here. We finally found it at the locals' market, YES! After our shirt fitting this afternoon, we decided to check out the Central Plaza (it's a HUGE mall). We took a tuk tuk (see picture below) and enjoyed the AC in the Plaza. The tuk tuks are a fun, inexpensive way to get around the city (unless you leave your beloved Prana hat in one...not so fun-ask Mike).
We had to leave the movie at the plaza early to get back for our jacket and pants fitting this evening. We are now heading off to Muay Thai boxing/fighting (they do more than just punch eachother).

Monday, August 3, 2009

River Rafting-class 4

Today we rafted the Mia Taeng River, near Chaing Mia. It was the best rafting we have ever done together. The class 4 rapids were exciting! Our guide (with Siam River Guides), Jay Won, was great!! We are sorry for the lack of pictures, we didn't want to buy the CD of pic's and didn't bring our camera for obvious reasons (i.e. we were holding on to paddles)! They also have bamboo rafting, we only saw them in the calm waters. I don't know how well they would handle the rough rapids! Some of them were not floating completly in the calm water!!!

During the drive up, we got to see lots of elephants and elephant rides. I found them to be a little depressing...it was more for the glory of riding an elephant than to use as a mode of transportation.

We did a little shopping at the famous Chaing Mia Night Bazaar. It was not as great, to our standards, as the Sunday night street market. We only got a few things. Tomorrow we are going to venture out into the city more and figure out how the heck we are going to pack all of this stuff to get it back to Bangkok, then to the US!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Chiang Mai Sunday Night Market

We arrived in Chiang Mai early this afternoon. We were told that we had to go to the Sunday night market. We did not know what to expect, but it was supposedly the place to be. So true!! The streets were packed and it seemed never ending. The market probably covers 12 blocks on the main street and then 1-2 blocks on each of the side streets. It was amazing!! There were various goods, foods (see picture below (grass hoppers, bamboo worms, crickets...but only at one stand) and services. We took advantage of the foot massages after we were done. We spent a total of 7 hours exploring...we are tired. We are heading off to the room to prepare for river rafting tomorrow.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Last day in Paradise

Our final day in paradise started off slowly. We slept in, ate a late breakfast, and went for a short walk. We then went to Diamond Cave, which cost us a whole $1.20 to tour! The cave was beautiful (see the picture above...Nicole is NOT touching the cave..that would be B-A-D!)

We then picked up the rope for a hot afternoon of climbing. The goal was to get Mike totally pumped out (we weren't worried about Nicole...that usually took 1 climb). Getting pumped out comes with consequences (see below). These scrapes match the gouges and nicks on the other hand. It was a great day and we followed it with Thai massages. What a better way to end our time here!

Friday, July 31, 2009

Rest Day...Not so much Rest!

We started out planning to go Sea Kayaking...the size of the waves changed our minds. Instead we made our way to the viewpoint and the lagoon. We knew this would be a strenuous hike, but nothing prepared us for the nightmare of how committing the hike was. For only be 300m (less than 1/4mi.) from the start, we thought it couldn't be THAT bad. We were wrong. There were parts that were 5th class scrambles and muddy and slick. I am surprised they have not hauled dead tourists out of there!
The view was amazing...that was worth the hike. Then we started the sketchy decent/mud slide into the lagoon. Down climbing was required to get to the lagoon. It was difficult and the ropes placed for assistance were not that helpful, most of the time, since they were caked in mud.
Once at the bottom, we took some time to relax and catch our breath. It was pretty serene...we were the only ones down there at the time(wonder why??).

We have really been enjoying the people. They are more than helpful, with a smile. They are very hard working and enjoy what they do. We have a feeling of being "locals" since we have our hangouts, and know the people there. It is sort of like "Cheers"! We are going to be sad to leave Sunday :( but paridise cannot last forever!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Relaxing...on the beach

Today we did some climbing on the beach in Ton Sai then spent the afternoon relaxing on the beach. We enjoy a combination of people watching and reading on the beach. Mike is feeling the affects of climbing two days in row (I know how to limit myself...since I am a mere mortal). We are going to take tomorrow off (from climbing) and kayak in the morning, while the sea is a little less choppy, then make an attempt at getting to the lagoon. It is a pretty vicious trail (has ropes as handrails)...we will see!?!?!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Finally, the day has come!

Today, during our breakfast we got the call!! Somehow Wee's climbing called the local climbing shop by our resort. They informed us that we were being called up to the big game today....Deep Water Soloing! There are not many pics because we didn't take many with our camera that we load pictures to the blog...we used our better camera. I guess you will have to wait until we get home!

The picture above is from the second area we went to and was mainly traversing (moving horizontal along the rock). The first area we went to involved more vertical movement...we both went up about 50 feet. It is a little scary falling from that high. Mike really dug it, I am going to stick to being roped up! I like knowing something will catch me. Plus, while you are falling it is hard to remember to keep your mouth closed. We both got salt water in our throat, mouth and ears! Not that enjoyable. This really helps you want to stay on the rock, but once you get to the top...you only have one choice. Think about it!

After a couple of hours of climbing, we motored over to a deserted beach for a lunch break. It was nice having our feet on the ground. The waves were making everyone a little woozy. After lunch we moved to the area shown above.

We are really enjoying the people we meet here, both Thai's and other travellers. They all are very accomidating and we feel we are friends with everyone. It is a very inviting atmosphere. We are loving it!!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

This entry is going to be short pictures...sorry!! Our battery died while we were sitting here uploading pics. Deal with it!

We had another day of dissappointment with deep water soloing. Our lack of a cell phone that works here makes it difficult. We have been sitting on the beach for the past 3 mornings waiting for them to pick us up...no show! We are hoping to get a trip in before we leave, it all depends on if they have enough people sign up before Saturay (which is when we leave this amazing area).

The picture above is of me climbing in the Wee's Present climbing area. The climbs here are so steep I am tired after one. My lack of being able to do a pull up is really causing me to "suck wind" in climbing. Mike is like a rock star (literally), but after he does 4 climbs in a row he is pretty tire too! I think it might be the lack of resting between each lead that does him in!

After our climbing, a horrendous storm blew in. We got to see a water spout (a small tornado over the water). Silly people sitting on the beach just sat and watched it...we moved out of the way. They didn't find it so entertaining when it came ashore and almost blew them over and covered them with sand!

I took a Thai cooking class this afternoon. I was the only student, so we cooked everything I selected! It was great! Amazingly enough, I could actually make these things at home. We are really enjoying the Thai meals, they are delicious and fresh! I have a great picture of the pad thai I made, but you will have to wait for another day (see reason above).

Monday, July 27, 2009

The Fruits of Thailand

Here is a view from the top of a climb on the Escher World wall. It was a fun day of climbing in the shade!! Which is necessary...we need to get out of the sun sometime! Even with this being the low season, there were still 3 other guided parties around us. Imagine what it must be like during peak season!! Climbing is definitally one of the fruits of Thailand!
This evening we took a sunset snorkelling tour. The sunset and the snorkelling were second to an incredible meal on the beach and swimming with the phosphoresent phytoplakton (sp?). Imagine swimming in dark water with lightning bugs attached to your skin and the water when you move! That was absolutely spectacular! Also, getting to see the stars was a highlight for Nicole. We were able to see both the Southern Cross AND Polaris!! That is magical! (It's the Science teacher in me!) Another fruit of Thailand is the incredible beaches and beautiful sunsets!
Finally, the real fruits of Thailand. We sampled some mangosteen (a local favorite) and it was delicious. You eat the white fruit in the center. It was an incredible two days. We are hoping to finally get to go deep water soloing (climbing above water with no ropes) tomorrow. The trip requires a minimum number of people to go, so we are waiting. Patiently, as you can tell!!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Welcome To The Jungle!

Yes, we hiked up and thru that jungle!! We had just applied sunscreen and it was SOOOO hot it looked like we were both sweating milk! What we thought was a 15 min walk turned into a 45 min. strenuous hike. We did get to our final destination to make arrangements for deep water soloing. We are going tomorrow...oh yeah!!

After sweating out milk, I think everyone deserves a pineapple milkshake. I love the fact that you can get pineapple with EVERYTHING! Pineapple shakes, pineapple cashew chicken, pineapple on the beach.... that is my heaven!

Friday, July 24, 2009

SPF 70

We brought 2 bottles of sunscreen (less than 3 oz. of course) and will have to purchase more. Since anything above SPF 15 is hard to find around here, we are going to have to search. We learned that our application skills leave something to be desired. Our midwestern skin is not used to this!! Anything that was not covered by clothing or a thick layer of sunscreen resembles a tomato. This is really cutting into my thai massages!!
We got here!! Railey East/West is amazing!! When took a long boat from Krabi, and due to low tide we got the privilege of walking inland (the beach on this side is mainly coral..very rough). We spent the rest of the day exploring the areas, it is a walk to go to West Riley, which is a nicer beach.

The approaches to the climbs are a real pain. We have to wait until low tide...Mike is on edge all day until the water goes down! Oh yeah, who's the guy with the yellow pack (it's like where's waldo!)?

Mike really was dedicated to this climb. All of those pull-ups are paying off!! This is the reason Mike came to Thailand...climbing on the beach! Mike has been dreaming about climbing on this specific formation for years. What are we going to do with the other 9 days we are here?? Any guesses??

He is loving it here because of the climbing...I am loving the fact they serve corn on the cob every night (oh yeah, the beach, climbing, food, people are nice too!!).

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Flying South

We are leaving today to fly to Krabi. We have a hotel booked and transportation to the hotel arranged, but not sure how we are going to make that connection. I guess we will find out! As I always say, when you are in another country...as long as you have money, you will be OK!

This morning I woke up hungry for noodle soup...it is just so good!! The fruit is also amazing, who knew pineapple could be so fabulous!
Today we got out and around in town. We headed in from our hotel (on the outskirts of Bangkok). I got to have the juice from a fresh coconut (see left), which I have been wanting to do since our trip to Costa Rica (where I didn't get one). I found that much of my desire to drink this was lost after the first sip...not as good as expected. Mike had to be the trooper and finish it.

We also went to the Grand Palace, which was amazing! We had the guided tour, which helped us learn a lot about the culture and the many kings. The amount of gold used in construction of the buildings was unbelievable. One of the buildings is build out of marble which is completely covered with 24k gold. I don't know much about construction, but I do know about gold!!It was spectacular. These people really know how to decorate!!

After the tour of the palace, we got some pad tai (sp?) and went on a long boat ride up the river to the floating market. There were not many vendors today. Below you can see a picture of one of the vendors coming over to our boat. Mike got a coke, she asked if we wanted to buy a beer for the driver of our boat. We respectfully declined.
Both of us also experienced our first Thai massage. It was interesting, yet I enjoyed it. The best description I have of the process is that it is like a wrestling match, but the therapist always wins. Good thing I warned Mike, he would have tried to pin the lady. She was only 90lbs (MAYBE!), yet she could really pack a punch....literally!
We are leaving tomorrow for Krabi. This flight is less than 2 hours, but would take 13 hours by train. I am glad we picked the flight!!!
Thanks those of you that are actually reading this. We appreciate you checking in on us!! Love ya lots!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Answer is: 27 hours

Yes, that is the amount of time we spent in either airports OR airplanes to get here!! We watched 5 movies and ate 3 meals on the plane (international travel is the way to go!!). Thank you Suzy for the advice about the taxi service (we were tempted to use the people in the yellow jackets!!). The beds are short, Jeremy...you would have struggled with ducking to get into the elevator!

We have made it to Bangkok, had an amazing noodle soup for breakfast and are ready to go out on the town. We should have some pictures later.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

T-minus 15hours

Our flight leaves at 6am tomorrow morning. Mike and I are trying to tie up loose ends around the house AND get packed. There are important things to take care of (i.e. What songs do I want on my Ipod for the trip? Is there Mtn. Dew in Thailand?) before we can be completely ready.

We are not going to have internet access again until we are in the country. We are hoping to post some great pics while we are there...wish us luck!!!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Preparation, it's not easy

We are one week away...and we have to get the house ready for rally renters, pack for Thailand (which we are not totally sure what to bring), I will be gone for the week, Mike has to work, and we have a family reunion. We are doing this classic "Keegan" style!