Sunday, December 26, 2010

Happy Holidays!

Wanted to send out a slightly belated holiday greetings to all our friends and family! Also happy birthday to my sister <3 !

We had a day of yoga classes, an evening of dancing, surprise presents, and a long awaited chance to talk to our folks. It was a nice day, followed by a bit of volunteer work and a hike this morning/afternoon.

Just passed the halfway point in the course, and are starting to do asana (yoga pose) lesson plans this week so we are prepared to teach our own classes to the rest of the group in our last 2 weeks. I think both of us are getting antsy to teach again. It has become part of our nature. Won't our parents be proud? ha ha

No photos to share quite yet, but I will try to upload some later this week when we have a bit more time in the afternoons. The weather here has been hovering around very cold (high 18 °C and low 5 °C) in Rishikesh. We went to a nearby town and stocked up on Christmas presents and wooly socks to sleep in on Saturday. Our hotel is located in a mountain basin, so the wind whips down the side of the mountains in the morning and freezes us while we sit in the yoga studio warming up. Brrr... I'm definitely looking forward to visiting in Florida and wearing my sandals again!

Happy New Year to everyone a bit early, and we'll see many of you in just a few weeks!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Leaving Varanasi

Hi everyone. Josh and I are just finishing up our last afternoon in Varanasi, and preparing for a 17 hour train journey to Kolkata this evening. Hopefully the train is only 17 hours. Our train from Agra to Varanasi ended up being four hours late because of a coal cargo derailment at the Varanasi station. It messed up all the traffic in Northwestern India.

Varanasi is a very interesting city. We came in on the night of a festival where Krishna tosses a ball in the Ganges, wades in after it, and ends up fighting with and taming a naga (multi-headed snake). Our guide got us a boat and we watched the spectacle from the river. It was a mess of boats tied together making a boat-island that people ran around on top of for the best view. After that, we headed down river to watch a nightly 45 minute ceremony to Mother Ganga (the river) where the Brahman priests waved around incense, peacock feathers, flaming naga candelabras, and something akin to a golden Christmas tree of fire in graceful motions. It involved a great deal of bell ringing as well.

Our next stop is Kolkata and the end of the northern portion of our tour. We'll be flying south in 2 days, into much warmer weather. We hope all is well wherever you may be reading this from. Sorry for the lack of photos, we made a photo DVD, but the old computers we have internet access on only have CD readers. We'll try to change these google images with our own soon!

This photo is from Mamalapuram on the southern part of the tour.

And here is one from Rishikesh. Will write more soon!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Jaisalmer... finally made it to India

Hi everyone! Josh and I just finished up a 19+hour train ride from New Delhi to Jaisalmer. Can't complain, really. The train wasn't fancy, but we had our own beds and good conversation with the other people in our Intrepid group. There are 12 of us total, plus our guide Navin who is from Darjeeling. We're the only Americans on the trip, which is nice. It's better to have a wide range of people from different backgrounds on a trip like this. You learn more from each other and have a wider breadth of experience to draw from.

A view of Jaisalmer Fort over the train

The ornate ceiling in one of Jaisalmer's Jain temples

Josh and the son of the Guinness Book's longest moustache record-holder, trying to achieve the same status

Ganesh, the elephant headed Hindu god who removes obstacles, is painted on the side of a house before a couple is married, for good luck

In New Delhi at Humayun's Tomb

Inside the Red Fort

Sorry there was no proper update from Myanmar, but the government restricts what websites, newspapers, television channels, and radio you have access to. We were in Myanmar for about 3 weeks and had a really great time. After getting situated in Yangon for a day or so, we hopped on a bus to Inle Lake and spent a few days. Stayed at a really nice relaxing hotel on the lake for one night and spoiled ourselves. Josh gorged on Burmese tomato salad, and we saw the ruins and Indein in the southwest area around the lake. Due to our taxi forgetting us, we stayed an extra day in Nuangshwe (the city with access to Inle). Next up was a 10 hour local bus to Bagan. The bus ride took us through mountainous regions and many small towns. The scenery was gorgeous, and there was no need for air con on the bus. Apparently, quail eggs are a popular traveling snack since all the touts were trying to sell them to the passengers on the bus at every stop.

We stayed in Bagan for 2 days and 3 nights and toured around on Japanese mamachari bicycles. It was harder than it sounds because we managed to hit the 1 week long rainy season in Bagan and were often wading through mud troughs dragging our ever accumulating mud covered bikes beside us. Josh really fell in love with Bagan and we easily could have stayed longer, but money was tight so we headed back to Yangon. The last week was spent in the city, wandering around, looking at the architecture, trying out different restaurants, and spending time with our friends who live there. We went mountain biking on the outskirts of the city one morning with a local expat group. It was once again muddy and grueling. I think we slept for the whole day after!

One of our last nights, we found what may be the only hotel that accepts credit card in Yangon and treated ourselves. I even ordered room service. This was well deserved because the night prior I was bitten on the leg by a street dog (one of MANY in Yangon). Don't worry, I just had my 3rd in a series of 4 rabies shots, and the dog wasn't foaming at the mouth. It's just precautionary.

Back to India...

Our hotel in Jaisalmer is stunning. Our room is covered in mirrored mosaics and sandstone lattice work shelving. We have a sweet little window seat with a huge cushion which I have made my own. We're here for 2 days, then it's out to the desert to ride some camels and spend a night under the stars around a campfire. I'm pretty excited to see the stars from the desert again, and we're really lucky to have a full moon as well!

Will write more soon, and hopefully have a chance to upload some photos. I hope you are all well!

Nihongo de, mo sugu kakimasu!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Almost out of the weeds

Hi everyone! Sorry for the long absence. Josh and I are currently mired in a CELTA (Cambridge English Language Teaching to Adults) course in Hang Dong, Chiang Mai, Thailand. It is a 4 week intensive course, so we've been writing reports and attending classes day in and day out.

Fortunately, we had a bit of time to wander around in Old Chiang Mai with Kawasaki and some other friends over our first weekend. We get out about once a week to stock up on tea, snacks, and other essentials, like orange Fanta, to keep us going. The rest of our week is spent in classes from 11:30-9:00 with a few breaks for lunch and snacks in between. We are definitely getting some prep work in for graduate school, and I have to admit, it feels nice to be on this side of the desk again. In one more week, barring any unforeseen drama, we'll both be certified CELTA English teachers! Cross your fingers for us :D

Nihon no tomodachi, gomen nasai! Kono pasokon ha nihon no ji ga arimasen. Mousugu nihon no tegami wo kakimasu! Eigo de ganbatte kudasai!

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Sabaidee (hello) from Laos!

We started off in Bangkok, and went south to Hua Hin for a few days to catch up with some of Josh's friends from his days in Thailand. Highlight, 2kilos of mangosteen for 50baht. That's less than 2 US dollars! Yum.


After a few more days in Hua Hin and back in Bangkok, we flew up north to Chiang Mai where we explored a bit and were picked up the next morning to head further north to Chiang Khong. We took a longboat from Chiang Khong to Luang Prabang, passing over the border to Laos on the 28th.


We are currently enjoying double-priced yet air-conditioned internet in Luang Prabang, a bit down from our hotel. Our first 3 days were spent at a great little bungalow place named Khoune and Khone about 4km outside of the city. The owners are a husband and wife who built and run the place with their family. We experienced shoe-cleaning ants, a monster spider, and a really beautiful setting. The family is lovely, and we got to spend some time talking to them and eating Laos home cooking.


Yesterday, we rented a motorbike to head out to Kwang Si waterfalls, about 29km southwest of the city. It's nearing the end of rainy season, so the falls were very strong and the swimming was a bit difficult. We managed a bit of rope swinging (Josh more than myself). You can see we have very different "styles".


We have to leave Lao a day early because of a flight cancellation. I guess that will give us a little more time to explore Chiang Mai before the course starts. Silver lining? I'm not so sure. Josh is pretty bummed to leave. I think he has become a bit fan of Lao.


Monday, August 16, 2010


Hello to all our friends and family who might be seeing this blog for the first time. What Josh and I are going to attempt to do is update the blog with photos and info when we can manage to find internet cafes and friendly hotel lobbies during our trip. Also, I am going to try to update in Japanese as well as English, so our friends back in Japan can see what's happening.


We are departing Toyama-ken tomorrow morning at 6am.


We also wanted to share some news with all of you. On August 11th, while on a hiking trip in the Northern Japanese Alps, Josh and I got engaged.


And we're off!


Friday, April 09, 2010

Kyushu by car II (Miyazaki and Kumamoto)

Haniwa, a bit of a trip theme

ritual cleaning basin at Aso-jinja

Aso-san, recently burnt for new growth

clouds wisping out of the crater

I was reprimanded for not posting the "money shot" from the love hotel

Takachiho gorge


the waterfall at Takachiho

J pretending he's falling

more Takachiho

Down the river from the gorge, rocks are stacked vertically in Buddhist tradition, to make a safer and happier place for the spirits of the dead.

every direction you looked, as far as people could reach, there were stone piles



businessmen walking to Aoshima-jinja

Aoshima-jinja and an Obachan (grandma)

J investigating the Giant's Washboard

within Udo-jingu's cave

Udo's cliffs

a view down and into the cave

secret island cave shrine near Udo-jingu

views from the cave

Kumamoto castle

flowers and lantern

yukizakura (cherry blossom snow)

in my natural habitat

walking up to our final shrine in Kumamoto-shi

sakura petals

That just about wraps it up. From Kumamoto, we headed back home to Toyama. The return trip was a rainy affair, but we are back, safe and sound.

Next up is a Golden Week camping trip. Not sure if we'll head to Gifu's mountain area, or somewhere coastal and therefore warmer. I suppose it depends on the weather. Either way, we're doing cheap and local this time around!