Tuesday, September 28, 2010


Now that we've been back in the States for several months, we've had plenty of time to reflect on our trip. In the hopes of getting some closure, here is a summary of Vietnam...

Arriving in Ho Chi Minh City via bus from Phnom Penh was a harrowing experience, to say the least. Thrilled to have successfully crossed the border still as a united group of three, with no place to stay, we decided to spend a few extra dong on a nice hotel and extravagant dinner of tapas and wine. We spent our time there touring the city, eating lots of street food, and visiting the Cu Chi tunnels and the War Memorial Museum for our requisite dose of history.

From HCMC, we traveled up to Hoi An, a beautiful little city known for its Old Town and special food, such as the white rose (shrimp dumpling). In a whirlwind fashion, we then bussed up to Hue, where we stayed in one of the most fun hostels (home of the Legopener passion fruit cocktail, or Lego Peners if you're Alex) and experienced the most extreme, humid heat of the entire trip. We sweated our way through tours of the city, citadel and dragon boat ride to nearby temples, which resulted in a necessary exodus into the Perfume River. We made our way to Hanoi, our final city of our six month tour, where we traveled to and from Sapa and Halong Bay. For our tour of Sapa, we connected with three British travelers for a memorable homestay in a nearby hill town. We happened to spend the night during a holiday commemorating ancestors, which naturally resulted in a raucous party, Hmong-style. (Ie copious amounts of rice wine and all manner of food, including congealed pig blood sprinkled with peanuts and wine. No big deal.)

Our trip to Halong Bay was much more tame, incredibly scenic, and involved spending the night on a boat. Our final days in Hanoi were spent living it up, enjoying everything Vietnam has to offer: great food, nightlife, a multitude of markets and, of course, a water puppet show. After months of being on the road, the trip came to a quick end, though we spent a long period of limbo in the Hong Kong airport that included lots of eating and 4D movies (Clash of the Titans, anyone?).

At this point, it's hard to believe we've been home almost as long as we were gone...Stay tuned for Best and Worst of the World.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

What Goes Up Must Come Down

Cambodia was a roller coaster ride of highs, including Angkor Wat, and lows, including the country's tragic history and realizing how corrupt it still is. We traveled from Bangkok to Siem Reap, then on to Phnom Penh, and finally on to Saigon.

Highs and Lows:

- Exploring Angkor Wat via bike, tuk tuk and on foot.

- Learning about the Khmer Rouge. Visiting the genocide museum and the Killing Fields.

- Discovering that street food is always better, cheaper and more adventurous.

- Deciding NOT to eat snake.

- Snacking everywhere and trying blood clams.

- Thinking we can change things when they go wrong and realizing that no one feels sorry for the "poor" American girls.

- Bad hostel experience. Almost miss bus to Vietnam. Rude staff. Thinking we've booked a certain room only to find we've been put in another...

- Getting ripped off everywhere.

Best of Cambodia:

1. Best accomodation: Golden Mango in Siem Reap

2. Best food: street food, particularly grilling own meat in Siem Reap

3. Best new taste: grilled meats, fresh spring rolls, palm wine and the anorexic bird

4. Best adventure: biking around Angkor Wat

5. Location to return to: the "Angelina Jolie" wat, aka Ta Prohm

6. Best cultural experience: crossing the border into Cambodia and being hassled right and left, and bribing a guard with $3 to allow us to see the sunset from a temple at Angkor Wat

7. Best lost in translation moment: (1) listening to our heavily accented guide for two days explain the history of Angkor Wat, often using the phrase "poor condition" to describe the temples. Alex misenterprets this phrase as "pookhanesian" and finally gets up the nerve to ask where these "people" are from. Devon deadpans her, saying, "Poor condition, Al. Poor condition." Thus begins the epic joke and our new response when asked where we're from.*

(2) While visiting a temple dedicated to women, we learned that men visited the temple to find "a-ppiness". Utterly confused, we try not to look at each other for fear of laughing and betraying the guise of our maturity. Alex asks, "Men come here to have sex?" Our guide is equally confused, blushes and moves on. We later discover that men come here to find "happiness"...ahh.

8. Best bar: Anjali Bar and Restaurant and Bojangles in Phnom Penh. We like Anjali Bar and Restaurant for obvious reasons...We named Devon's backpack Bojangles several months prior; since the bars were on the same block in the same city, this was meant to be.

9. Best local fashion: men sporting large moles with lengthy hairs growing from them, worn with pride as a sign of good health.

10. Best "we're so lucky" moment: we've never experienced a war at home; we live in a democracy and not a dictatorship.

* To that end, the last entry, though based in truth, was fabricated. Phu-khan does not exist. Google it.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Important Service Announcement

.... we have diverged from our original itinerary.

On a whim we threw all care to the wind and followed 3 Norwegians to Phu-Kan (pronounced poo-khan), a lesser known Thai island. As two young young women who are plan-oriented perfectionists we felt this is a step towards letting go of attachments and going with the flow. We spent one crazy weekend experiencing all that island life has to offer: white sand beaches, clear waters, motorcycle trips into the mountains, and all expenses paid by our new friends. Nonetheless, we enjoyed immersing ourselves in Phu-Kanese culture.

We are now enjoying Cambodia. Stay tuned.

Eye-Opening India

After a difficult departure from Egypt, complete with nearly missing our flight, a late connecting flight and a confusing pickup in Mumbai (you'd think we'd be good at this by now...), we arrived in India exhausted to the bone but wide-eyed and eager. We began with family in Mumbai for 5 days of pampering before flying to bustling Delhi, making our way to Agra to see the Taj Mahal, then leaving city life behind for the villages of Himachal Pradesh. India is a place of extremes and everything in between: light and dark, busy and quiet, a breath of fresh air and overstimulating. The more we saw, the more there was to see and still is to see. We could write endlessly about the different aromas on one street in Delhi...instead we'll settle for a few of our highlights.

Highlights Reel:

- Trains: chorus of snoring men and, of course, getting in the wrong box car every time.

- Hostel Downtown in Delhi. The upside: it was $4 a night for 2. The downside: the amenities reflected the price. Backstory: upon arrival in Delhi at 1am, 3 hours later than anticipated, we haggle for a rickshaw and try to explain that we want to go to Hostel Downtown, only to be misunderstood by the driver who thinks we want to go downtown. "We want to go to Hostel Downtown.""Yes yes, downtown!""HOSTEL Downtown!" "'Ok, downtown!" Used to the language divide, we give the driver our street name and drive up and down the street until we find the hostel.

- Humayan's Tomb in Delhi. An estate covered in tombs. Going to the wrong tomb and being wholly impressed, only to find out that we had not yet reached the real tomb. Stumbling upon the site's namesake and realizing our mistake.

- Getting lost in Old Delhi and being bombarded by all that is India. Visiting Jama Masjid and the Red Fort.

- Staying with Anya in Sidbhari. Cooking together, hanging out, dancing, taking walks, celebrating Holi and Devon's birthday.

- Finding prunes.

- The 2 bus, 1 truck journey to McLeod Ganj, home of the exiled Tibetan government and the only place to grocery shop.

- Trying to walk the holy kora around the Buddhist temple in McLeod Ganj only to be deterred by the river (and we mean RIVER) of poop exploding from a sewage pipe. Devon is jealous. TII moment.*

- Devon buys her first sari in Agra and bargains down the price.

- Visiting the Agra Fort and It Mad-Ud-Daulad, aka Baby Taj and the Taj Mahal. Devon almost falls out of rickshaw upon first sighting of Taj.

- Seeing a Bollywood movie called "3 Idiots" in Hindi in Mumbai. The message we take away is ''All is Well". Message to AMC and movie conglomerates in the US: Add reclining armchairs, intermission for pee break and waiter service to theaters everywhere.

Top 10:

1. Best place to stay: The best places are always with family. Anya's cottage in Sidbhari, Jay and Madhavi's apartment in Mumbai and house in Alibaug.

2. Best restaurant: brunch at the Lodi Gardens restaurant in Delhi

3. Best new taste: pani puri, a DIY Indian snack sold on the street, and momo's, an Indian/Tibetan dumpling also sold on the street

4. Best adventure: navigating Old Delhi and train to Himachal Pradesh

5. Location to return to: India. We've hardly skimmed the surface.

6. Best cultural experience: bargaining for everything and hearing the Dalai Lama

7. Best "we're so American"experience: every time there was no TP. "What do you mean I just use water?!"Also bucket showers, 15 people in one Jeep and no one bats an eye, "we're ALL in the backseat???" Squat toilet. "Wine and beer" shop everywhere translates to bad whiskey. Another legacy of the British...

8. Best bar: Anya's house with us as bartenders. 5pm sharp, Happy Hour! Thank you, Maria Hurdle.

9. Best local fashion: nose rings, all jewelry, glitter sweater worn by males and females alike, saris and matching salwar kamis.

10. Best "we're so lucky"moment: We had people to stay with and show us around. We won the genetic lottery and never had to experience poverty.

Sensory India:

Sounds: "chai chai chaaaaaai"hollered every 5 minutes on train and constant honking.

Smells: spices up the nostril, bugs up the nostril, potent scent of urine (imagine someone pissing up your nostril...), frying dough, curry

Sights: palatial forts, trash everywhere, people everywhere, animals - especially monkeys - and rikshaws everywhere

Spacial India: crossing the street sidestepping debris in road, almost getting hit by rikshaw, bicycles, people on foot, bullock carts, cows, water buffalo and/or elephants and horses, not to mention cars

* This Is India

How cheap can you go...

Celebrating our 5 month travel anniversary has brought us to an all time low in funds resulting in penny-pinching to the max.

1. Celebrating Devon's 23rd drinking "White Mischief" (that's "vodka") and forcing others to drink it as well.

2. Opting for the cheap bus to Chiang Mai from Bangkok, Anj sleeps on shoulder of Thai man next to her. This is the bus where one large seat counts as two.

3. Overnight train to Dharamsala stacked 3 people high on metal bunks that fold out of the wall. Takes 2 people and about 10 minutes to hoist backpacks up to our top level.

4. Thai street food: 2 rounds of grilled chicken, noodles, soup - 200 baht. That's pennies in US $.

5. Shamelessly stealing TP everywhere. Priceless.

6. Massages for an hour and a half - less than $4.

7. Hearing the Dalai Lama speak: priceless.

8. Staying with family and friends and friends of friends of friends.

9. Befriending wealthy Indian man with extra tickets to a dance performance. Benefiting from friendship and enjoying 2 hours of Veena playing and Kathak and Mohiniyattam dance forms for free.

10. Free drinks and entertainment in Ko Phangnan. Participating in flaming jump rope, foam dance party and musical chairs: priceless.

11. Arguing over 50 cent difference in Diet vs. regular Coke and leaving because of the "pricey"discrepancy.

12. Having wallet stolen so down $50. Shit! No lunch this week.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Walk(ing) like an Egyptian......


Our adventure in Egypt almost failed to launch. Upon arrival at the Johannesburg Airport, Devon checked in to the AirEgypt flight without a hitch. There was no record of Anjali's booking.* The next two hours were spent frantically running back and forth between airline counters and airline managers in an attempt to get Anjali on the night's flight without paying the new ticket fee of $1000 US. The duo was almost torn in two, dispersed on either end of the African continent. As Anjali openly cried in the airport, a strange, but well-dressed man appeared, expressing leering concern over her tears. Anjali rudely brushes him aside, only to discover that he has the power to get her on the flight. TIA (This Is Anjali!) "Cry harder Anj!" says Devon. Of the 50 people on standby, Anjali gets a seat on the flight. As fate would have it, Anjali escapes half the ticket fee and runs aboard the plane. Having lost 10 years off their lives, due to stress, the reunited pair beg the steward for glasses of wine, only to discover that Egypt Air does not serve alcohol. Welcome to the Arab world.

We spend the first couple of days in Islamic Cairo before departing for Upper Egypt, Aswan and Luxor, with two Americans and two Aussies we meet in our hostel.

Highlights include:

- First laying eyes on the pyramids and the sphinx. (A dream come true!)
Quote of the day: Weijia, "That is not the reeal sphinx!?" Under the impression that the sphinx is larger due to angle of photo in guide book.

- The muraled tombs in the Valley of the Kings and Valley of the Queens in Luxor.

- The Museum, which feels like a cluttered warehouse, complete with Tut's mask and galleries of mummies.

- Wandering narrow allies and crowded market stall with trailing cries of "gifts for you habibi!" or, "it is free to look!" And then being anointed with every perfume in a shop including "Queen Nefertiti" and "Secret of the Night."

- In an effort to find our way, we buy a used map of Cairo from a sidewalk stand. 5 years ago it was found in the Intercontinental.

- Egyptian knockoffs of everything! Ex. Boreos Cookies, Bacardoi Rum, Brand, fake RayBan's (Devon now has a pair)

- Learning to use the palatial Marriot's services without staying there or spending money. Note: to backpackers, use their concierge services and make use of the well-kept bathrooms. In a pinch, also stock up on TP!

- Falafel sandwiches for 1 Egyptian Pound. Roasting sweet potatoes on the street corners.

- Using landmarks such as KFC and "Accessories for the Next Woman" to navigate Cairo.

- Strolling through Al-Azhar Park, one of the only serene places in Cairo.

- Wearing the same outfit everyday in order to be respectful/not draw more attention to ourselves, including long underwear and socks under sandals, a heyday for fashion police everywhere.

- Staying at the Arabesque hotel in Aswan where the door to our room does not work, requiring a man to climb through our window every time we wish to enter.

- Metaphor for our time in Egypt, first dinner on the Nile, we're treated like queens and are gifted a free dessert. We return the following night with two male friends in tow and are given the cold shoulder and receive nothing free. Moral: the only perk to being women traveling alone in Egypt is a free dessert.

- Hearing live Sufi music at the Makana, a popular basement venue in Cairo. As usual, we had trouble finding the place and although we were following very specific directions, we failed to turn left at the correct cigarette kiosk.

- Visiting impressive mosques and hearing the call to prayer resound throughout.

Best of....

1. Best hostel: No one hostel stood out as particularly noteworthy, each place had its moment of disaster. Such as: failed shower, failed door, failed staff, etc.

2. Best restaurant: Sequoia for atmosphere and fine dining, street food for taste and budget fare.

3. Best new taste: Mango sheesha and turkish coffee.

4. Best adventure: Overnight felucca (traditional sail boat) ride from Aswan to Luxor; finding alcohol in an Arab state. Devon quietly questions a hostel employee, "where is the nearest liquor store?" He laughs but says in full seriousness, "pass the fourth tree on the left and head to the river. Ask again within." We find ourselves in a small restaurant full of men. The waiter responds to our inquiry by sending someone out to make our purchase. We are offered triple-sec or "Brand." We take the Brand. Days later, a friend living in Cairo tells us, "You're brave, that stuff can make you go blind."

5. Location to return to: Fishawi's, a coffee house in Khan El-Khalily Market; Abu-Simbel as an Ancient Egyptian.

6. Best cultural experience: 1) Our driver in Aswan, stopping in the middle of the narrow road so he could get out to pray. The aggrivated driver in another car hopped in our van and moved it out of his way as we all sat in the back, powerless and drop-jawed. 2) Not finding the English speaking tour guide and instead having a tour of Abu-Simbel in Spanish.

7. Best "we're so American" moment: 1) Getting lost for 2 hours trying to find our way back to our hostel in downtown Cairo. (Maps and most directions are misleading, there are no street signs, name of our building was on the inside of the front door, we don't speak Arabic.) 2) Being the only women dining out in a room full of men. 3) Smoking sheesha in Luxor and drinking potent tea like an Egyptian man.

8. Best bars: Stella and Hureya, because a male friend, Max took us there.

9. Best local fashion: Burqa with Louis Vuitton insignia all over it.

10. Best "we're so lucky" realizations: We don't live under a dictatorship; we enjoy much more freedom than women in Egypt; we have street signs.

For those of you visiting Egypt catch up on your Egyptian history, read a book on Egyptian gods and goddesses, and don't miss these other but no less impressive sites: PhilaeTemple and Edfu Temple in Aswan, Luxor Temple and Karnak Temple in Luxor, Ibn Tuloun Mosque in Egypt.

*Note to self: Do NOT (try to) book a flight in sketchy internet cafe in Swakopmund, Namibia. TIFA

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Navigating Namibia with Nomad

With long faces we departed Cape Town for a 26 day camping tour. We drove through and camped in Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Kruger National Park.


1. Spending the night at and canoeing down Orange River, the border between South Africa and Namibia.

2. Crossing the Namibian border in heat as high as 40 degree Celcius (that's a million degrees Farenheit).

3. Watching the sun set over Fish River Canyon with complimentary aluminum mug of white wine from a box.

4. Drive through Naukluft Park and wake up to watch the sunrise on Soussusvlei Dunes, waking up at 3:45. Get in touch with inner child by running down Dune 45. Create Dune 46 with amount of sand in our shoes. Explore Soussou Flay, white plain covered with skeletons of 600 year old trees, with desert guide.

5. Seeing the Tropic of Capricorn, moon landscape and hundreds of flamingos at Walvis Bay on our way to Swakopmund.

6. Hope to skydive over dunes. Effort thwarted by broken plane. A *TIA moment, one of many.

7. Explore Spitzkopf, mountainous rocks rising out of the desert sand.

8. Two nights in Etosha National Park where we saw lions at night as well as drinking from a watering hole, a rhino, giraffe, zebra, to name a few.


1. Cross into Botswana and spend 2 nights 'bush camping' in the Okavango Delta, arriving by mokoro canoe.

2. Bush walks siting hippos and elephants.

3. Arrive at Chobe National Park, take boat "cruise" (more like floating raft) down Chobe River, watch hippos, buffalo, baboons, crocodiles and elephants play in the water.


1. Take in the spectacular views of Victoria Falls, getting drenched by torrential spray from the falls.

2. River rafting down the Zambezi River, the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia.

Kruger National Park, South Africa:

1. Numerous game drives and siting rhinos, hippos, baboon, green mamba, elephant, giraffe, warthog, zebra and the highlight, a leopard lounging on a tree branch next to the remains of an impala lunch.

2. Panoramic route back to Johannesburg, stop along various points of Blyde River Canyon including God's Window, Lucky Potholes and Three Pinacles.

Nomad Tour: A Day In The Life

Wake up at asscrack of dawn to "Vivi!" shouted by Leo, Vivi's eccentric, Argentine husband. Roll over and groan. Pack up wet tent in zombie-like state. Daily cup of Ricoffy, gagging as we suck it down. Need for caffeine trumps taste of tar. Fight over seats on Frank. End up squished between seat and large Samsonite suitcase. Drive 10 hours, stopping only for pee breaks (Question: Should we bring the toilet paper? Answer: Yes. Always.), sights along the way, and so half of us can smoke. All done in zombie-like stupor because woken up from nap. Cross border. Fill out border crossing form in a million degree heat, everyone asking the same questions (How many days will we be here? What's my passport number?). Back on Frank. Large suitcase falls on face. Muscles have attrofied. Read trashy romance novel called "Blazing Star" out of desperation. Enjoy it. Stop for lunch by side of road in middle of nowhere. Sandwiches again. Back on Frank. Dirty, sweaty, smelly. Arrive at campsite. Fight for best tent spot. Fight for tent without broken zipper. Set up moldy tent. Find pool, dive in, watching out for frogs, bugs and cobras. Fight for shower that has no pressure, no hot water, crawling with bugs, and/or floods. Put back on same clothes. Douse self in bug spray. Feel greasy again. Happy hour! Break open bottle of red wine. Pour liberally into aluminum cups. Dinner is served with the following statement: "Okay guys, as usual, our dinner is ready. We have something on the table. Self service. Tonight we have kudu. My pleasure." Tinike (crabby old Dutch woman) pushes to front of line. Nightly question: WHAT is she doing on this tour? Rest of tour members roll eyes and wait. After delicious meal, nightly meeting commences. Four hours later, we've discussed issues such as: fair seating on bus, number of mattresses allotted to each person, wake up time, fair chores, with Johannes (tour guide) repeating everything at least three times. Finish bottle of wine. Dishes. Retreat to tent or bar. In bed by 8:30 so we can wake up at ass crack of dawn. Repeat.

Highlights Reel:

1. Upgrading in Windhoek to actual dorm room, only to have Devon sat on by German lady in the middle of the night. Devon's loud yelp wakes whole room.

2. Devon jumps out of seat to take picture of one of the Big 5. We've spotted a rhino! In her enthusiasm, zooms in on the first grey shape she saw and takes picture. Upon later inspection, realizes her first rhino is, in fact, a rock.

3. Given Okavango Names by our mokoro poler, Action (aka Josiah Jackson, aka DJ Snoggy). Quote: "Anjali shall be Star. Devon will be Planet Okavango."

4. Another night of thunderous snoring ringing throughout campsite drives us, quote: "Back to the bar?!"

5. Disaster, as usual: Changing African currency into dollars. Note to self: bring personal US bank on future travels.

6. Trying to book flight to Egypt. Midway through, prices escalate. Devon books her flight. Anjali momentarily stuck in Southern Africa forever because refuses to pay the extra $100. Has to book on Devon's computer because it hasn't registered the price change. **TIFA.

7. Flooding tent in Okavango Delta. Everything wet. Irrepairable stench of tennis shoes like old, moldy couch.

8. In moment of genius, Anjali names our mokoro Barack the Boat. Devon takes a turn polling and exclaims,"I can't do this!" Anjali: You can only say yes we can on Barack the Boat!"

* This Is Africa

** This Is F*&$#@! Africa