Photo Friday – Camping in Fiordland, New Zealand

11 Jan

We spent a few nights before the New Year camping at different sites along the road to Milford Sound on the South Island of New Zealand.  It was stunning.  I think we got supremely lucky with the weather because this area is one of the wettest places in the world and our first three days were full of nothing but summer sun, gorgeous blue skies and sunsets like this.

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The Thailand Roundup

9 Jan

Thailand Map

The Statistics

Number of days spent in country –  19

Cities/towns visited – Bangkok, Koh Tao, Khao Sok, Phuket

Number of different lodgings – 7

Flights – 0

Bus journeys – 10

Boat rides – 4

Taxis – 3

The Budget

Thailand chart

Total US dollar amount spent – $1,642

Average cost per day, per person -$43.22

Average lodging cost per night, per person – $11.86

Most expensive lodging, per person – $32 at the Royal President in Bangkok.  I had just gotten out of the hospital in Nepal and we decided to treat ourselves to a few days at a proper hotel.  It was lovely.

Least expensive lodging, per person – It’s a tie at $6.50 for a fan room that was pretty basic at SB Cabana II on Koh Tao, and an air-con room at a dive hostel in Bangkok that was also pretty basic.

Average food/drink cost per day, per person – $17.  Generally our meals were cheap street food in Bangkok, but we splurged big time with meals on Koh Tao and ate out many times at nicer places since my brother was there to give us some great recommendations.  The alcohol accounts for probably half of this total as we made up for all that beer we didn’t drink through Turkey, Jordan, Israel, India and Nepal…

The Best

$1 Pad Thai on the street.  Practically everywhere you look, you’ll find the super-cheap pad thai carts.  They aren’t always great, but they are a great value for a huge pile of noodles with veg, and chicken/beef/prawn on request.

 

Barracuda on Koh Tao – This place is run by a chef who worked for my brother when he had his restaurant on Koh Tao, and it’s easily the best place for a nice fish meal on the island.  Their appetizers are to die for.

 

Lung Pae on Koh Tao – It’s is a bit out of the way, high up on a hill with a great view of the ocean, which makes it perfect for a sunset dinner.  If you don’t have a scooter, they’ll come pick you up.  Interestingly enough, even though it’s a Thai place, they are best known for their steaks, particularly menu item # E4.

Portobellos on Koh Tao – Craving Italian?  This is the place to be.  Excellent thin crust pizzas and a decent wine list.

Sunday Roast at Banyon on Koh Tao – Obscene amounts of comfort food for when you are feeling particularly homesick.  It’s a local’s hangout so you’ll likely encounter bar and dive staff from all over the island at this weekly feast.

Going to the movies in Bangkok –There are massive movie theaters at the tops of nearly all the big shopping centers in the Sukhamvit area.  These are no ordinary theaters though, and they range from huge and classically decorated to enormous and lavish rooms filled with couches, soft lap blankets, and bottle service.  You can choose your level of service/quality of seat (and believe me, even the regular seats are generally nicer than those you’ll find in the States).  It’s a perfect way to deal with a rainy afternoon.  Don’t forget to stand for the national anthem…for real…it’s the law.

Photo by drekne on Flickr

Massage parlors literally line the streets!

$6 massages – Massage parlors are everywhere in SE Asia, and Thailand is no exception.  They run the gamut from sleazy ‘happy ending’ factories, to luxury spas that will pamper you for hours.  We stuck to crowded places with a communal area for Thai massages (no happy endings possible in these!) and if one massage wasn’t that great, we just went for another with a different masseuse!  If you want a super luxury deal (so, not $6) at a fraction of what you’d pay in the States, head to the Jamakiri Spa on Koh Tao.  They’ll come get you for free and you can spend the day getting pampered, and then relax by their pool that overlooks Sharks Bay.

The Worst

Getting random jumbles of noodles with fish sauce at a ‘Pad Thai’ cart in Bangkok.  This happened more than once.  Watch the cart before you order to see if they are really making Pad Thai or if they are just dishing up mixed noodles and veggies to drunk tourists.

Photo Friday – Tessellated Pavement, Friendly Beaches, Tasmania, Australia

4 Jan

We found huge sections of the beach with these rock patterns

We went for a lot of beach walks on the east coast of Tasmania, and we came across this phenomenon more than once.  It’s rock, but it looks like paving stones on a street.

These are not separate stones! It is one big rock!

The ocean and the wind does creates a nearly perfect grid system that makes the rock look man-made…but it’s all Mother Nature. It’s called tessellated pavement.

The grid lines are almost perfectly straight

Happy New Year!

1 Jan

Champagne by Anders Adermark on Flickr

We stopped making New Year’s resolutions long ago.  There came a time when it started to feel absurd that we would resolve to change something just because of the time of year, but I suppose it’s as good a time as any to really sit down and really evaluate yourself and your life.

One of the major things Justin and I have done differently in the last few years is to make a conscious effort to put ourselves in uncomfortable situations.  I know, it sounds strange, but it’s been one of the best things we’ve done for ourselves.

It started when I stumbled across a little graphic that looked a bit like this:

Magic

This idea resonated so completely for me that I still use it to help guide my choices.

For us, stepping outside our comfort zone has meant a lot of different things, ranging from small steps, to huge leaps.

It was uncomfortable to quit our jobs without any real plan for what we’d be doing in the future.  It was uncomfortable when I finally decided to quit smoking.  It was uncomfortable when Justin went back to school full time and still had to have a full time job.

All these things were difficult for us, but all of them have ultimately resulted in us being happier and more at ease with ourselves and where we are in life.

Stepping outside your comfort zone could mean lots of things:

  • Taking up a new hobby or sport.
  • Putting aside a shy nature and introducing yourself to new people.
  • Getting rid of things that are cluttering up your home.
  • Leaving a relationship or job that is no longer fulfilling.

It can be difficult to take risks to change your life, but isn’t now just as good a time as any to decide you’re worth it?  We think it is, so we wish all of you a Happy New Year filled with all kinds of magic!

Photo Friday – The Great Ocean Road, Australia

28 Dec

The Great Ocean Road winds its way along a massive stretch of lower Australia and while we would have loved to make a road trip of the entire thing, we had just a day to get as far out on it as we could before heading back to Melbourne.  It’s a stunning drive and a place that’s on our ‘must return’ list.

Photo Friday – Cradle Mountain, Tasmania, Australia

21 Dec

If you’re reading this post, then the world hasn’t ended.  This is obviously great for many reasons, one of which is that you still have time to head down to Tasmania and check out Cradle Mountain!  Cradle Mountain is one of the most visited spots in Tasmania, and for good reason.  The landscape is dramatic, stunning, and feels very wild.  The hiking is some of the most beautiful we’ve done, and felt a lot like parts of Patagonia.

Photo Friday – Angkor Wat, Cambodia

14 Dec

In case you haven’t been paying attention, we really loved hanging out in the temples in Cambodia, especially in Angkor Wat.  It’s incredibly atmospheric, especially just after dawn when the crowds haven’t completely descended on it yet.  This time of day is also good since the sun isn’t hot enough to make you feel like you might actually be cooked alive while walking around.  Lots of people don’t really take the time to walk around the backs of the temples and poke in all the nooks and crannies.  It’s a shame they are missing out on some really interesting spots, but it makes it much easier for us to get pictures that don’t include hundreds of strangers.

Photo Friday – Little Australian Crabs

7 Dec

I don’t know when I developed such  huge fascination with tiny critters like ants and crabs, but here we are so I’m just going to go with it.  We’ve spent a lot of time on beaches lately and we keep coming across these little piles of sand on the part of the beach that’s flat and wet after the tide goes out.  We didn’t think much of it at first, but after a while we realized that the pile was actually a bunch of little sand balls that were set up by these crabs.

The crab is super hard to see as he’s basically the same color and texture as the sand…

As they create tunnels (or whatever it is they are creating down there) they roll out the sand in little balls and scatter it around the entrance to their domain.

It’s all very organized, and you can tell the size of the crab by how big the sand balls it produces are.

We were at Cape Tribulation, in the northeastern part of Australia, and the beaches were totally packed with these critters.  They must have to do this every single time the tide goes out as I imagine all their work collapses at high tide.

All the non-smooth sand is really made up of their handiwork. You can even see the little paths they kept clear as they rolled everything out. Industrious little buggers.

In The Wild In Tasmania

4 Dec

It’s a good thing I have a regular Photo Friday, or this blog might have totally fallen by the wayside.  We’ve been in Australia since the end of October, and we’ve hardly posted a thing in that time.

Here’s where I offer some excuses…Last month, my mom and step-dad, and Justin’s sister came out to travel with us for a while, which means that in the evenings when I might normally be thinking about sorting photos or trying to write a post, we are spending time hanging out and catching up on the year’s happenings.  Another thing is the absurd lack of wi-fi access.  Honestly I don’t really get it because, hello, even in tiny Indonesian villages we were able to get free wi-fi at most guesthouses or restaurants.  Those things aside, well, we’ve been really enjoying our time, and I just haven’t felt much like being in front of the computer.

https://i0.wp.com/farm9.staticflickr.com/8202/8242582499_20b73dc53e_n.jpgLast week we said goodbye to our loved ones and made our way to Tasmania.  It’s part of Australia…you’d be surprised how many people don’t know that.  I’m a little ashamed to admit that when a friend of mine came here years ago, I had to look up where exactly it is on the map.   In any case, we’re currently living out of a campervan (which is amazing by the way, totally do this for a while if you ever get the chance) and have been spending most of our time gallivanting around Tasmania’s national park system.

We didn’t know much about Tasmania because almost nobody we know has ever been here, so we didn’t really have any expectations other than that we’d heard it was a good place to be hiking and doing other nature-y things.

Well let me tell you, our minds have been totally blown by how STUNNINGLY beautiful it is.  The landscape combines two of the things we love the most – lush mountains and perfectly blue-green ocean waters on white-sand beaches.

Our photos don’t even begin to do it justice, but we’ll leave you with this very tiny slide show for just a small taste.  As always, it’s much better if you actually click-through to Flickr and check it out on the full screen setting.

*For whatever reason, I can’t make the slide show actually show up here, so just click the link and it’ll open in a new window*

http://www.flickr.com/photos/theparallellife/sets/72157632167603166/show/

Photo Friday – Total Solar Eclipse in Port Douglas, Australia

30 Nov

Before we even bought our first flight for this trip, we had promised my mom we’d meet her in Port Douglas, Australia for the total solar eclipse on November 14, 2012.  Honestly, I would never even have known it was happening, but the timing worked out well since we wanted to be in Australia and New Zealand for this summer.

I remember seeing one partial eclipse as a kid, but this was before the days of disposable eclipse viewing glasses so all I really remember is constructing those little cardboard viewing boxes and seeing the shadow they created.

This time around we were armed with multiple pairs of glasses, including the extra sets we used to cover our camera lenses with.  Interestingly, the only time that you don’t need the glasses is during the ‘totality’ when you can look at the ring of light directly.

It had been cloudy and raining the two days prior to the event, and we were very worried that we wouldn’t get to see it all happen.  Fortunately the morning was only partly cloudy and even though our view was obstructed sometimes, we did get to see many phases of the eclipse, and we even got a shot of the totality before the clouds took over.  The most amazing thing was the eerie silver appearance everything took on just before the drop into darkness that comes with the totality.

It was easily one of the more spectacular things we’ve seen and we’re excited that there will be one crossing over North America on August 21, 2017.  Total eclipses occur nearly every year, but are only visible within a narrow corridor, and not on every continent.  For more information check out NASA’s eclipse webpage.

The professionals get much better shots with their giant lenses and official eclipse lens covers (as opposed to say…taping a pair of cardboard eclipse glasses over the lens of your camera…not like I know anyone who did that…) but you get the idea with these.

The very beginning

Totality. This looks like it was taken in black and white, but it wasn’t.

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