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Yes, a photo tour of Granada too!
Jun 8th, 2010 by Kate

Seriously, if I’m going to catch up on this blog (and before all the memories garble together), I’m going to have to give the down-and-dirty versions of our daytrips in Spain!  So here we go Granada…

Tessa and Phoebe are becoming quite accustomed to the cafe lifestyle!  Here they are at a cafe in a square in Granda enjoying the very evil Spanish treat of churros and chocolate.  Nothing like fried dough and hot chocoate pudding to make you feel like a local!

Tessa and Phoebe are becoming quite accustomed to the cafe lifestyle! Here they are at a cafe in a square in Granda enjoying the very evil Spanish treat of churros and chocolate. Nothing like fried dough and hot chocoate pudding to make you feel like a local!

We started off early in the morning for our day trip to Granada.  We read that the star attraction there, the Alhambra & Generallife Gardens  (an old Moorish fort/palace and its adjoining formal garden) sold a limited number of timed tickets so we wanted to get there early.  We drove the two hours through nothing but olive groves – I read that Spain has 30 million olive trees, and I think we passed every single one of them on our various day trips – and finally when the snow-topped Sierra Nevada mountains came into view, we knew we were close.

This is what all of the towns and villages look like in Andulusia - so charming I want to find a old farmhouse and grow me some olives!  Seriously, they are really picturesque!

This is what all of the towns and villages look like in Andulusia - so charming I want to find a old farmhouse and grow me some olives! Seriously, they are really picturesque!

Our best laid plans were a bust – were were there by 10am but they had no tickets available until 3pm… and then it started raining.  No worries, we’d just head into town and check out a few old churches and wonder the streets looking for treats (the treats are to in fact bribe the girls into going and seeing MORE churches) until our tickets were good.

In Spain, the very best ham comes from black pigs that are fed nothing but acorns.  Little piggy be afraid... be very afraid...

In Spain, the very best ham comes from black pigs that are fed nothing but acorns. Little piggy be afraid... be very afraid...

This is one of the things that we love about Spain, and Europe in general... the public spaces.  Every few blocks you come across a little square or plaza, maybe it has a fountain or a statue, and there are cafes, old men playing games, pigeons, kids, the random flower stand, and a guy playing an accordian.  America would be SO much cooler if we'd just work a few of these squares in here and there!

This is one of the things that we love about Spain, and Europe in general... the public spaces. Every few blocks you come across a little square or plaza, maybe it has a fountain or a statue, and there are cafes, old men playing games, pigeons, kids, the random flower stand, and a guy playing an accordian. America would be SO much cooler if we'd just work a few of these squares in here and there!

So we spent the day wondering Granada, just revealing in the Spanish-ness of it all.  With 3pm quickly approaching, we headed back up the hill to check out the lifestyles of the rich and ruthless from centuries bygone.

The Generalife Gardens were part of the Alhambra's complex, but are across a ravine on another mountain.  They were aweome, very formal with lots of cool buildings and hardscape making it seem more like a floral village rather than just a garden.  It was a little early for their roses to be in bloom, but the wisteria and lady's bank were putting on quite a show, as were the orange trees.

The Generalife Gardens were part of the Alhambra's complex, but are across a ravine on another mountain. They were awesome, very formal with lots of cool buildings and hardscape making it seem more like a floral village rather than just a garden. It was a little early for their roses to be in bloom, but the wisteria and lady's bank were putting on quite a show, as were the orange trees.

Endless hedges with secret entrances - oh this place would be a ROCKIN place to play Manhunt!

Endless hedges with secret entrances - oh this place would be a ROCKIN place to play Manhunt!

The Alhambra is a huge complex of buildings built by the Moorish Sultans starting back as early as the 900’s and continuing on and off through the 1400’s.  There is a huge wall, an alcazaba (fort), a palace, and a cool round building that I can’t seem to find the name of, but it’s like a huge round open space in the middle surrounded by two floors of rooms ringing the open space.  I think I remember it being something that the Christians built after the conquest, maybe as a place to live, but I could be very mistaken… anyway, we thought it was super cool!

The Alhambra as seen from the Generalife Gardens

The Alhambra as seen from the Generalife Gardens

All the girls in the middle of the cool round building.

All the girls in the middle of the cool round building.

The Palace was a beautiful building with very ornate carvings, lots of pretty arches, fountains, amazing tile work, and great views.  Here is an arch with some carvings from afar...

The Palace was a beautiful building with very ornate carvings, lots of pretty arches, fountains, amazing tile work, and great views. Here is an arch with some carvings from afar...

The carvings up close - most impressive...

The carvings up close - most impressive...

This is the view from the very tip top of the highest tower at the Alhambra.  Tessa gets the props because she was the only one that made the climb!

This is the view from the very tip top of the highest tower at the Alhambra. Tessa gets the props because she was the only one that made the climb!

Every room in the Palace had different tile work - the patterns were endless and the tile was teenie tiny.

Every room in the Palace had different tile work - the patterns were endless and the tile was teenie tiny.

Some of the patterns, like this one, made me dizzy just looking at them!  Each piece of color was about the size of a US dime.

Some of the patterns, like this one, made me dizzy just looking at them! Each piece of color was about the size of a US dime.

All and all, we really enjoyed Granada and the Alhambra.  My advise for anyone else going would be to buy tickets online in advance (duh Kate!) and go on guaranteed sunny day (but not a really hot one) because its 90% outside and you do a lot of walking.  It is one of the more impressive complexes, nice to have it all in one central location, and I really really did enjoy the gardens.

Photo Tour of Cordoba
Jun 7th, 2010 by Kate

Yes, I know, we have fallen woofully behind in our blog posts – its just so hard with all the beautiful sites, sounds and food to sit down long enough to write!

But I must stop and capture for posterity the wonderful time we’re having in Spain… a beautiful county with rich culture, lovely people, beautiful countryside, dynamic cities, and of course amazing food!

Our “home base” in Malaga allowed us to really explore the region of Andulusia.  Our first big roadtrip was to Cordoba.  Spring in Cordoba was like walking through an orange grove in full bloom.  The entire city is filled with orange trees and flowers!  The smell of orange blossoms used to remind me of growing up in Florida, but now that memory will forever be replaced with thoughts of the Patio de los Naranjas (Court of the Orange Trees) in Cordoba!

The historic city of Cordoba is within the old city walls.  The streets are narrow, cobblestoned, and every window is dripping with flowers!

The historic city of Cordoba is within the old city walls. The streets are narrow, cobblestoned, and every window is dripping with flowers!

If you are lucky enough to catch someone leaving their building, you might get to peak inside their courtyard and see one of the spectacular courtyard gardens that Cordoba is known for.  One weekend a year they have a courtyard tour where buildings vie for the honor of being the courtyard-of-the-year.  This was a winner one year.

If you are lucky enough to catch someone leaving their building, you might get to peak inside their courtyard and see one of the spectacular courtyard gardens that Cordoba is known for. One weekend a year they have a courtyard tour where buildings vie for the honor of being the courtyard-of-the-year. This was a winner one year.

And this was a winner another year.

And this was a winner another year.

The big attraction in Cordoba is the La Mezquita-Catedral.  Back in the day, it started as a tiny little Christian Church, then the Moors came though and built a massive, and I mean MASSIVE mosque on the same site.  I think it was like the second or third largest mosque in the world at the time.  It is famous for the hundreds and hundreds of pink arches that hold up the massive roof.  I’m pretty sure I read that the interior footprint of the interior of the mosque is the size of three football fields!  Just the mosque itself is amazing and impressive, but not to be outdone, when the Christians came back through in the late 1400’s they decided to build a full size cathedral right smack dab in the middle of mosque!  They blew out a few hundred arches, raised the roof, and built one of the prettiest cathedrals in the world!  Our pictures do it NO justice, so please put it on your list of places to see in the world :-) .

Outside of the mosque/cathedral.  Not as impressive from the outside as some of the other cathedrals, but still FAB!

Outside of the mosque/cathedral. Not as impressive from the outside as some of the other cathedrals, but still FAB!

A close-up of the girls in front of the same fountain, just because I think they're cute!

A close-up of the girls in front of the same fountain, just because I think they're cute!

A few of the beautiful arches.  I tried my darndest to capture more of the space, but my photo skills held me back!

A few of the beautiful arches. I tried my darndest to capture more of the space, but my photo skills held me back!

A bit of the "new" cathedral's ceiling

A bit of the "new" cathedral's ceiling

A bit more of the ceiling...

A bit more of the ceiling...

Pheobe and I trying to take in the ceiling.  We would have prefered to lay down on the floor, but there were too many darn toursits there and we surely would have been stepped on.

Phoebe and I trying to take in the ceiling. We would have preferred to lay down on the floor, but there were too many darn tourists there and we surely would have been stepped on.

As amazing as the mosque/cathedral was, the highlight for me is always the gardens.  After a quick lunch of fresh bread with jamon and Manchego, we headed over to the Alcazar de los Reyes Christiano (Castle/Fort of the Christian Kings).  The castle was cool, but the gardens were amazing!  Everything was in bloom, and while a sneezing nightmare, it was totally worth it!

cor garden overview

cor topiary

cor blooming tree

Climbing to the top of the castle

Climbing to the top of the castle

Loved Cordoba!  I don’t think there could be a prettier time of the year to visit there then in the springtime, but I bet its charming whenever you go.  It was a bit touristy, but overall a quaint town with lots of cute little hotels, nice cafes, and very manageable historic sites (some of the other historic sites are so massive and spread out they are hard to do in one or two days, and can be exhausting for the kids).  I would happily visit again… maybe next time I’ll time it so the roses are in bloom instead of the orange trees…

Ah Spain, glorious Spain!
Jun 3rd, 2010 by Kate
In front of the Royal Palace (I think - so many pretty buildings!)

In front of the Royal Palace (I think - so many pretty buildings!)

During about our third week in India we decided we needed to stop moving around for a bit and rest our tired backs.  Our onward tickets to UAE and Egypt were already bought and our plans made – so we had 2 more weeks of moving and then… what?

And now I’ll make a long story short… my best girlfriend from high school (hey Kel!) is engaged to a great guy (hey Mariano!) who has a really cool sister (yeah Koren!) who very generously offered us her townhouse in southern Spain way back last year when we were planning our trip.  At the time we thought maybe we’d go and stay a week or so, but when we decided we needed to stop moving for a while I thought of her offer, and after a few emails we arranged to stay for a MONTH!  Woohoo!

So, onward to Spain – to Malaga and the Costa del Sol via Madrid.  As fate would have it, half my family was already planning on being in Spain the week we arrived.  My sister Claudia and stepmom Bo were on a high school trip with Caud’s school, and my cousin Sydney was there visiting friends (we had a great dinner with her our first night in Madrid – so funny!!)  Then, my sister Krissy and her son Jack amazingly arranged to meet up with us in Madrid and join us for a week down south (amazing, because she has one year old twins at home!).  So it was like a little family reunion!

Our first night in Madrid with my cousin Sydney!

Our first night in Madrid with my cousin Sydney!

Madrid was awesome.  We all loved it and were SOOOO happy to be in a “first world” country again (our idea of the high-life is being able to drink the tap water!).

In Madrid, we decided to do the most touristy of things to kick off our trip – hop on the Big Red Bus tour!  I know… it sounds lame, but with three kids, three jet-lagged adults, and 1000 years of Spanish history to tackle in three days, it was the only way to go!  Madrid was the perfect city to do this in… it brought us all over the city, we got to see all the sites from high above the traffic, and when we saw a museum, palace, or giant hill that needed to be rolled down, we just hopped off the bus!

My sister Krissy, nephew Jack, Tess & Phoebe cruising Madrid on the Big Red Bus!

My sister Krissy, nephew Jack, Tess & Phoebe cruising Madrid on the Big Red Bus!

Jack and Phoebe taking part in our family tradition of rolling down any large grassy hill we can find - in this case behind the Del Prado Musuem!

Jack and Phoebe taking part in our family tradition of rolling down any large grassy hill we can find - in this case behind the Del Prado Museum!

Madrid is very pretty – lots of great architecture, fountains, tons of parks and lots of green space.  We had been good about not shopping too much up to this point, but it was in Madrid where we started slipping down the slope of retail therapy… the shops here are amazing, and everywhere.  Tess, Phoebe and I did a great job justifying our purchases because it indeed was springtime in Europe and much cooler (both temperature-wise and cool/hip-wise) and we only had clothes for hot weather!  And the baby clothes – wow!  The Spanish babies are the best dressed I have ever seen.  The other funny thing that all of us noticed was that the older people here (grandma and grandpa-aged) are impeccably coiffed!  Smart suits, dresses, furs, hats, lovely handbags and jewels and beauty shop hair dos.  Phoebe commented that when Auntie Tasch and I are old that we should move to Spain so we can dress up every day and walk around together.  I think we might just have to do that.

Tess, Jack & Phoebe at a park in Madrid.

Tess, Jack & Phoebe at a park in Madrid.

mad tess w statue

Spain has been doing its best to displace France as the culinary capital of the world.  And I have to say they are doing a pretty darn good job!  We opted for tapas and bar food over the fancy-smanchy dining rooms of Madrid, but we still ate like kings.  By FAR our favorite and most often eaten meal was fresh bread with Iberica ham (or Serrano ham…those acorn-fed piggies sure are tasty!) and Manchego cheese.  Grilled veggies, mystery sausages, anchovies in olive oil and lemon with crushed sea salt, and gazpacho rounded out many-a-meal.  And in Madrid, we couldn’t pass up their famous churros and chocolate!  Yes, churros like we have at home, but freshly fried, and served with a cup of “hot chocolate” that is more like hot chocolate pudding that you dip your churro into.  OMG!  I’m getting fat just writing about it!

All and all, Madrid is definitely a city to come back to and spend more time in.  We didn’t even scratch the surface of the museums and cultural sites I wanted to see, plus there really are some amazing restaurants that I need to experience.  I would definitely put Madrid high on my list of places to come back to.

Phoebe & Jack in their scarves, cruising the streets of Madrid, lookin so hip!

Phoebe & Jack in their scarves, cruising the streets of Madrid, lookin so hip!

Luxor, Egypt
May 26th, 2010 by Kate

After days of living in relative luxury, we decided to head down the Nile (or maybe it’s “up” the Nile – in any event, we headed south, which seems to be down to me!) and visit the other not-to-miss historical treasure trove of Luxor (ancient Thebes!).

Cairo train station

Cairo train station

We had the option of flying, but being the budget-minded travelers that we’ve become, we opted to take the overnight train – saving us the high cost of airfare (Egypt Air has a monopoly) and a hotel for the night.  Plus, Olivia (my 20 year old sister) has never been on an overnight train, and you haven’t really traveled if you don’t have the overnight train notch on your backpacking belt!  So after a FULL day in Cairo, all five of us piled into a cab and strapped our backpacks on the roof for the 10pm trip to the train station for our 11pm departure.

As usual, and for reasons still not clear to us, we cause quite a stir at every train station we enter.  The stares, gawks, and finger pointing were even more than usual, as we were sharing the train with an entire battalion of Egyptian army guys who were literally falling out of the train to get a closer look at Olivia.  The CONDUCTOR of the train that came in before our train actually stopped everything he was doing and took pictures of us with his cell phone for a good 10 minutes (I am not kidding one single bit) and would have continued I am sure if it was not for everyone in the station YELLING at him to move his train!

Our best overnight train was from Shanghai to Beijing and I would rate it a 5 on a scale of 1-10.  This one was a two, mayyybe a three.  Was clean-ish (mind you my definition of clean has changed dramatically), but the food sucked and it was very lurchy.  Also, Olivia was totally freaked out by the bathrooms (squat pots on a lurching trains…fun!) so her back teeth were floating by the time we reached Luxor.  Without going into details that would embarrass my sister, let me just say that Phoebe and Tess offered her lessons and moral support, and I really really meant to be more supportive but I couldn’t be because I was laughing too hard.

Olivia & Tessa's train compartment.  The brown panels behind their head and the platform they are sitting on convert to beds.

Olivia & Tessa's train compartment. The brown panels behind their head and the platform they are sitting on convert to beds.

Luxor was a lot smaller than we expected.  Our hotel was right on the Nile, quite nice and surprisingly reasonably priced.  Across the river from us was an agricultural area pretty much untouched by the modern world.  The coolest part though was that the hotel pool was on a barge-like contraption that actually floated IN the Nile.  Pool water and Nile water did not meet, I assure you.  We spent every afternoon on the pool deck watching the feluccas (traditional Egyptian sailboats) sail the Nile, and the farmers and herdsmen bringing their animals to the riverbank for their afternoon water.

The scene from our hotel of the riverbank across the Nile.  Yes, real camels!

The scene from our hotel of the riverbank across the Nile. Yes, real camels!

We went sailing on the Nile at sunset on a felucca...

We went sailing on the Nile at sunset on a felucca...

Tessa skippering the boat - she's quite the sailor!

Tessa skippering the boat - she's quite the sailor!

luxor sunset on nile

The sightseeing in Luxor was intense.  The Valley of the Kings really is a valley of the kings – like hundreds of kings and their sons (mostly) are buried in these pretty incredible underground bunkers carved hundreds of feet into the mountain stone.  We were able to visit four of the graves, but have no pics as cameras are forbidden.  So let me try and describe it to you…

The Nile runs south to north and has a green fertile band that runs along each side of it for, I’m guessing 5-8 miles wide.  When the fertile band ends, it totally ends.  I’m talking lush green field to sand (yes, truly sand, like you see in the movies and on bad postcards).  About 5 miles from where the sand starts is a mountain range of rock mountains.  Not a single bush, tree, shrub – NOTHING but rocks.  There is a deep valley that runs through the mountains, dissecting the mountains and running perpendicular to the Nile. The mountain towards the back of the valley naturally looks like it has a pyramid on top of it.

As we all learned in school, the great pyramids and all the other really obvious burial extravaganzas got broken into and looted early on.  The kings in the later eras took note and decided to hide themselves and their treasures a little better, hence the Valley of the Kings.  Their “workers” (don’t EVEN suggest to the modern-day Egyptians that slave labor was used) dug tunnels (the sizes of the tunnels corresponding to wealth and self-importance of the king) deep into the rock, sometimes hundreds of feet long and 20 feet in diameter.  In the tunnels we visited, every square inch of space was covered in really colorful, highly detailed hieroglyphics that have survived thousands of years in really vivid, beautiful condition.  I was really shocked and amazed, they almost looked retouched, but I’m pretty sure they weren’t.

I am really really glad I got to see them, because at some point someone that knows about archaeological conservation is going to come into power in Egypt and say “NO WAY – stop parading all these tourist though these fragile environments.  As you climbed deeper and deeper into the tunnels to where the burial chambers were, you could feel the humidity from the breath of all the busloads of people cycling through.  Ugh.

Hetshepsut's burial temple

Hetshepsut's burial temple

Next on our tour was the Deir el-Bahri of Hatshepsut, the burial site of the first of only four female pharaohs.  This amazing building was in COMPLETE rubble, and I mean complete rubble when found in 1800’s.  It is being re-constructed, piece by piece, to this day – in a joint project through the University of Chicago and Poland.  Poland you ask?  Yes, Poland.  We don’t get the connection either, but they’ve apparently been working on it for years and years and are credited by the Egyptian government with saving the Temple.  GO POLAND!  It was really interesting to see the place being rebuilt, the parts we could visit were beautiful and interesting, and when you look towards the piles of rubble left to be rebuilt you can begin to appreciate the enormous task a bit.

You can see the cracks in hieroglyphics because they pieced all of this back together from rubble.  The colors were still amazing after nearly 5000 years!

You can see the cracks in hieroglyphics because they pieced all of this back together from rubble. The colors were still amazing after nearly 5000 years!

luxor hep columns

Luxor Hep w familyOne funny thing about driving around the east and west banks in Luxor were that there are ancient ruins ALL over the place.  There’s a field of sugar cane, and a bit of a column sprouting out of the middle of it with some other column pieces littering around.  We saw pharaoh heads (really big ones, like the size of a mini-van) in the backyard of an apartment building.  In some places they were fenced off (barely) and in other places they were just, well, there…  A few times we saw men dressed as I’m sure they were dressed 1000 years ago lugging hand-made bucket of sand and, well, precious ancient Egyptian shards of stuff around to who knows where?   If there were officials and trained archeologists around, they disguised themselves very wells as down-and-out manual laborers.

These were some of the random ruins that were just "around".  Note the chainlink fence.  It was only about 100 feet long, otherwise you could just cruise in and out of this area at whim.  So weird.

These were some of the random ruins that were just "around". Note the chainlink fence. It was only about 100 feet long, otherwise you could just cruise in and out of this area at whim. So weird.

Our last day in Luxor was spent at the Karnack and Luxor Temples.  And for all of you reading this now who are old enough to remember Johnnie Carson, you can now hold the envelope up to your turbine and divine the rest of this blog instead of just reading it…

Tessa at the Avenue of the Sphynix at Karnak Temple

Tessa at the Avenue of the Sphynix at Karnak Temple

At the Karnak temple, the hieros were deeply etched into the plaster and stone.  We learned that the this technique was used here because the pharoh that built this temple didn't want later rulers to come in and etch their names over his name.

At the Karnak temple, the hieros were deeply etched into the plaster and stone. We learned that the this technique was used here because the pharoh that built this temple didn't want later rulers to come in and etch their names over his name.

Karnak columns.  There were like 800 or so of these, and each one takes about 5-7 men with joined hands to encircle each one!

Karnak columns. There were like 800 or so of these, and each one takes about 5-7 men with joined hands to encircle each one!

The temples were really spectacular.  Massive, imposing, amazing – the superlatives that I need to describe them are just not there.  Even with the zillions of tourist trying their best to ruin my view, I still loved being in both spaces.  Both temples were in various states of ruin up until the 1800’s, and they are still digging and discovering new areas and treasures every day.  As a matter of fact, just this week Olivia sent me a link to a news story of a huge treasure trove that was unearthed along the Avenue of the Sphinxes almost in the exact place we were standing – seriously we very well could have been literally ON TOP of them!  Kudos to the University of Chicago who has been working for decades in Egypt to reconstruct these great monuments – and if you have any children that are really good with both legos and jigsaw puzzles – please send them their way!

This is the entrance to Luxor Temple.  We visited it at night as they have it lite up beautifully!  There were two obelisks here at the entrance, but the king of Egypt gave the other one to France, and now it sits in in the middle of the Champs-Elyse!

This is the entrance to Luxor Temple. We visited it at night as they have it lit up beautifully! There were two obelisks here at the entrance, but the king of Egypt gave the other one to France, and now it sits in in the middle of the Champs-Elyse in Paris!

luxor temple hieros

Luxor Temple with our guide!

Luxor Temple with our guide!

luxor temple statues

More columns.  Sorry, they're just so pretty!

More columns. Sorry, they're just so pretty!

You know we had to do it at least once...

You know we had to do it at least once...

The ultimate in rock climbing – the Great Pyramids!
May 10th, 2010 by Kate
Couldn't open my blog about Egypt without posting my version of the Sphinx and the Pyramid...

Couldn't open my blog about Egypt without posting my version of the Sphinx and the Pyramid...

Aside from Tessa developing an irrational fear of camels – our time in Egypt was awesome.  I have to say, Egypt was on my “list” of places we absolutely HAD to go to because I thought it should be, not because I was really dying to go there.

Plus, almost everyone we spoke with about Egypt was like “good luck with that” and “it is SO insane there… dangerous, dirty, and difficult…”  Needless to say, after our dangerous, dirty, and difficult time in India, Egypt was sounding more and more like work, and less and less like fun.  But there’s those darn pyramids, and all that history, and in my mind, we couldn’t very well go to the Great Wall of China and then not see the pyramids because it was gritty – right?  Plus, my sister Olivia wanted to meet up with us for her Spring Break (a month in New Zealand just wasn’t enough!) so after a few lovely days in UAE and our first McDonald’s purchase in 10 months (free wifi with purchase!) during our layover in Kuwait – we made our way to Cairo.

Egypt was great!  Yes gritty, yes crowded and polluted and, yes the traffic was a bit crazy (the little electronic guy on the crosswalk sign, he literally RUNS when its time to cross – we didn’t even see that in Shanghai!) but we liked it.  Cairo is massive, I mean like 2nd largest city in the world massive, but thanks to my dad and stepmom, we stayed on Zemalack Island which is rather large island right smack dab in the middle of the Nile.  Back in the heyday when Cairo was obviously highly influenced by French architecture, Zemalack was where the embassies were, and where the embassy staff lived.  Lots of really old fabulous houses and apartments remain, along with tree-lined streets and the coolest restaurants and shops we found in all of Cairo (and you know us – we looked!).

Walking across the bridge over the Nile between the island of Zemalack and the downtown.  That is our hotel in the background - nice view!

Walking across the bridge over the Nile between the island of Zemalack and the downtown. That is our hotel in the background - nice view!

Cairo? Paris?  I'm so confused!!!  This is one of many old cool downtown Cairo buildings.

Cairo? Paris? I'm so confused!!! This is one of many old cool downtown Cairo buildings.

Our very first night in town we made a beeline for a Cairo classic – El Sid – for a feast of Egyptian delicacies… the rabbit, lamb in yogurt sauce, fool (a lentil, noodle, and tomato sauce dish – my FAV!), and pigeon stuffed with rice and dried fruit (YES – we ate pigeon!) were amazing.  The vibe was awesome… great music and fruit scented sheesa smoke… and the décor SO exotic… dark woods, funky north African lanterns and spinning table tops.  LOVED IT!

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Our family in India, and “The Dance”
Apr 15th, 2010 by Kate
A day trip outside of Idar with the Wells crew and Jeshel, Mito, and Mama.

A day trip outside of Idar with the Wells crew and Jeshel, Mito, and Mama.

Tess did a great job of summing up our visits to Udaipur and Jodhpur, so I’ll limit my comments on both those cities to the captions on the pictures that I dropped into her post.  That being said, I must add that our time in India improved greatly after we left Delhi, I think that it was a combination of adjusting our attitudes and expectations a bit, and also becoming more accustomed to the very foreign ways of life in India.

A detail of the carving on the temple outside of Idar.  The carvings on the Temples in India have impressed me greatly!

A detail of the carving on the temple outside of Idar. The carvings on the Temples in India have impressed me greatly!

We met a number of travelers along our way, and many of them were spending months traveling through the country – and for most of them it was a return visit.  Being the nosey person that I am, I asked them what brought them back, and over and over their answer was “the people and the foreign-ness of it”.  And I have to agree, the people we met were incredibly nice, and there is certainly is no place like India that I have ever been!  Also, keep in mind that we saw the tiniest of tiny areas – they call it a sub-continent for a reason, and there is as much to see that we didn’t get to as there would be if we’d visited Washington state and thought we’d seen a good representation of the US.  Someday I’ll go back (Jeff and Phoebe are still of the “not going back camp”, Tessa and I might be on our own!) and travel to some other regions and try to get a better “overall” view of the country.

Our family in India... from left to right... Jeshel, Mama, Jeff, Phoebe, Tessa, Kate, Papa, Mito, Dolly (Raj, Shelly and the baby are sadly missing from the shot!)

Our family in India... from left to right... Jeshel, Mama, Jeff, Phoebe, Tessa, Kate, Papa, Mito, Dolly (Raj, Shelly and the baby are sadly missing from the shot!)

The absolute highlight of our time in India was spent in a small town called Idar.  Jeff’s brother’s wife Paru is from this little (75,000+) farming town a few hours north of Ahmadabad in the state of Gujarat, and we went there to meet her family.  Her father and mother have a lovely home there, and opened their arms to us like we were their long lost children.  Papa as we affectionately call him, is a retired bank manager and is obviously very well respected in town (everywhere we went, everyone knew him and wanted to be sure we knew that they were one of his old friends!).  Mama spoiled us rotten – to the point that we really really did feel guilty that she wouldn’t let us raise a finger to help with anything – we had to “sneak” just to wash our own dinner plates!

There was a huge herd of goat in the road and Phoebe and Mito just had to get out and play with the kids!

There was a huge herd of goat in the road and Phoebe and Mito just had to get out and play with the kids!

Paru our sister-in-law, married to Jeff’s older brother Doug) is the oldest of four, and her sister and two brothers (and their wives) all live in the family home.  Mito, Paru’s sister, is as far as I’m concerned, one of my sisters too.  She is a teacher, and has the warmest smile you have ever seen!  We had such a great time with her shopping the markets for all kinds of fun stuff, making up dances, and trying on her zillions of bangles.  Phoebe spent most of her time following Mito around, and even when Mito had students over to tutor, the girls were right there by her side chatting with the other kids and teaching them Montessori ways of doing their math homework!

Raj, the oldest of the boys, is married to Shelly, and the week before we arrived they welcomed their baby daughter!  What a fun time for us to be there – Shelly was recovering at her parent’s house but it was right around the corner from our house so we got to go sneak some peaks at the baby (name still TBD!).  Shelly and the baby are both beautiful and Raj was beaming all the time.  So sweet!  When he wasn’t with Shelly and the baby he was juggling spending time with us and his job as the principal at a local college- he was great to us and we can’t wait till he and Shelly come visit us in the US!

Raj, Phoebe and the new baby!

Raj, Phoebe and the new baby!

Phoebe, Mito, and the baby

Phoebe, Mito, and the baby

And last, but certainly not least is the baby of the family Jeshal and his beautiful wife Dolly!  What an awesome couple these two are!  Jeshal just finished his PhD in chemistry, so had a bit of time off, so was our professional tour guide for the whole week!  We went and hike up to an abandoned castle that overlooks Idar, and ventured further up the mountain to visit a bunch of small Hindu temples dedicated to various gods, and to see two “step wells” that were used hundreds and hundreds of years ago when the castle was occupied.  We also visited another beautiful Jain temple (we think they are our favorites), and a “water tree” that has water bubbling up mysteriously from its roots (the more cynical – and logical – of our family say it is a natural mountain spring, but the locals beg to differ!).  While we were there, Jeshal got a call that his PhD project was going to be published in an American chemistry journal and in the same day he got a great job offer – woohoo way to go Jeshal!!!

Phoebe, Jeshel, and Tessa at the AMAZING "step well" in Ahmedabad.

Phoebe, Jeshel, and Tessa at the AMAZING "step well" in Ahmedabad.

Dolly is a professor of education at another local college, and while she was busy a lot preparing for the graduation ceremonies, we still managed to spend some really fun times with her.  Part of the graduation festivities included an awards program, along with a student/teacher cultural talent show.  Dolly was actually in charge of this, and she and Mito cooked up a plan for Phoebe to dance in the show.  OH MY!  The three of them would lock themselves up in one of the bedrooms night after night and all we would hear was the JayHo song from Slumdog Millionaire playing over and over and over again.  The day before the show, Mito and Phoebe got up in the morning with a plan to find Phoebe a costume for her big performance – so off we went into town to hit up EVERY SINGLE clothes shop in the entire town to find JUST the right black and sparkly outfit.  Of course she also need bangles, earrings, a nose ring, and red and blue glitter… hum…

Finally, the night of the big program… we got to the college amphitheater and there were hundreds of people there, including a couple hundred children Phoebe and Tessa’s age who go to the primary school that is part of the Teacher’s College.  Phoebe got totally nervous when she saw all the kids, but as the program got started and she saw the other performances, her confidence grew that she could put on a good show.  Oh and she did not disappoint!  The crowd was SO excited to see a little blond person – and to have her dance to an Indian song – priceless!  The music started, the lights dimmed and the disco strobe kicked on, and Phoebe DANCED!  The crowd was clapping and singing and she was, well, she made it through about the first 10 moves they had practiced and then got overwhelmed and started free styling!   Kicks, twirls – and then the cartwheel!

In Phoebe’s words “so I was like dancing along and I totally forgot where I was and I could barely hear the music cause everyone was screaming and so I did a cartwheel and the crowd went wild so a did a few more!”

It was bedlam!

(And yes, there is video, and we are totally saving it for when she is a teenager and we need to blackmail her into behaving, which will happen, I can assure you!)

Finally, the song ended, she took her bow and cartwheeled once more for good measure and the performance was done.  She was a hit, and for the rest of the program she and Tess (who was also quite famous and sought-after in India too among the kids) went from isle to isle in the crowd visiting with the kids and being the American goodwill ambassadors they have become.

We had an amazing time with our family in India, and are SO SO grateful for the time that we spent with them.  I have told my brother-in-law Doug that if anything ever happens to him and Paru, that we’re keeping her (and her family) and getting rid of him.

Road Terror, the Taj Mahal, and other TOTALLY over-the-top forts and mausoleums
Mar 28th, 2010 by Kate
Okay, look closely now - we COUNTED 11 people on the roof - and 26 inside!!!  This is a nine-passenger van!  The most amazing thing is that we saw more than one van like this that had at least 20 more people in/on it!

Okay, look closely now - we COUNTED 11 people on the roof - and 26 inside!!! This is a nine-passenger van! The most amazing thing is that we saw more than one van like this that had at least 20 more people in/on it!

So our trip from Delhi to Agra didn’t go as smoothly as we planned.  Our eight hour car ride turned into 11 hours in the car, with one car accident, one fist fight, three very bad side-of-the-road restaurant meals, one carsick kid and one carsick parent, no fewer than 3 motorcyclist hit with our rearview mirrors, and hundreds upon hundreds (I am NOT exaggerating here) of barely avoided collisions with large colorful overload trucks carrying everything from tires to asphalt, chickens to people.  I was sitting in the front seat to try and quell my carsickness, and from my vantage point I was FOR SURE the worst parent in the world for putting my kids through the misery (and sheer peril) of this car ride.  In the eleven hours we on the road, we saw EIGHT overturned trucks (of the brightly painted variety), two car accidents that involved fire  and blood, about 2,000 various animals wandering though traffic (1,500 of which were cows), and one car-into-the-back-of-said-brightly-painted-truck that resulted in a person without a head.  Nice.

cows

cows in townThere actually may have been more examples of death and mayhem to report, but I decided to put on my i-pod and close my eyes for the last four hours of our ride home.  I only opened them when the driver slammed on the breaks so hard my seatbelt choked me, or when I’d hear “THUMP” and look around to see that the motorcyclist, pedestrian, or cow that we’d just sideswiped with our side mirrors was still moving.  If I had to re-count the most stressful 24 hours of my life, this ride would account for 11 of them.

This is the "Little Taj".  I know it looks nothing like the Taj Mahal, they call it that because appearently it was the first time the King made the entire inside with white marble which made it much more light and bright inside... or at least that is what we THINK the guard told us...

This is the "Little Taj". I know it looks nothing like the Taj Mahal, they call it that because appearently it was the first time the King made the entire inside with white marble which made it much more light and bright inside... or at least that is what we THINK the guard told us...

The one positive thing that came out of our “journey” was that when we pulled over for the second time after our accident (so the 7 men in the van we hit could beat up our driver), we stopped at this really really pretty mausoleum that was the pre-curser to the Taj.  Everyone called it the little Taj, and while I can’t for the life of me find the paper I wrote the name of it on – I have a few great pictures!  If anyone out there knows the name of it, please give us a holler and I’ll update the blog!

Our first sighting of the Taj was from a busy street in Agra that was situated high above the river valley that winds behind the Taj.  The pollution was pretty bad, but even through the haze you could see how magnificent it is.  Thankfully, some wise person a long time ago had the foresight to keep the rest of the city at arm’s length from the grounds, so there is a 2km swath of river and grassy-ish plains surrounding the sides and backside of the Taj Mahal grounds.

That building in background is the "gate" leading up to the Taj Mahal entrance (looking at it from the Taj).  As you can see it is pretty impressive in its own right.

That building in background is the "gate" leading up to the Taj Mahal entrance (looking at it from the Taj). As you can see it is pretty impressive in its own right.

We had pre-arranged a guide (his name was “Money”- god I love being a tourist and being at the mercy of tour guides) to bring us to the Taj Mahal and to the Agra fort, so after meeting up with him we made our way to the west entrance of the grounds.  There are actually 3 entrances, the west one was reserved for the royal family (and that’s where the tourists now enter), an east one that the locals and current employees use, and a south entrance that was where the actual Taj construction workers used way-back-when.  The passageways for the entrances are located within a huge rectangular wall/building complex that creates a giant courtyard.  On the northern side of the courtyard, mostly blocking your view of the Taj, is a massive arched gate building that provides a pretty spectacular build-up to finally seeing the Taj.

Throngs of people bottleneck at the arched gate because as you walk through the largest arch, it makes a perfect framed view of the unbelievable building.  You can not help yourself but to stop and add to the bottleneck of humanity.  It is truly an amazing sight (sadly, no photo could do it justice), and just seeing the Taj made our entire trip to India worth it.Taj through frame of gate

As you pass out of the gate, your perspective changes as the expense of the grounds of the building are visible.  The gardens are just like you see in the photos, green and pretty and with fountains lined up perfectly dissecting the middle of the vista.  We were bummed to find the fountains empty for cleaning, and missed out seeing the famous Taj reflection in the waters, but your eyes are SO drawn towards the building, we quickly forget the fountains.Taj Mahal

We spent a bit of time doing the hokey tourist photo ops that our tour guide insisted that we take (pushing the Taj over, jumping over it, putting your finger on the top of the dome, and catching the reflection of the Taj in our sunglasses – oooh so cool) and then we went to see it up close.Taj dome & tessa

Taj phoebe jumping

Taj w familyThe entire building is giant blocks of white marble, and the closer you get the more you need your sunglasses.  Phoebe didn’t have any, and could barely open her eyes once we were on the main level of the building looking up at it.  From afar you have no idea that most of the surface of the building is intricately carved – but aside from the dome, every square inch is covered in carved vines, flowers, patterns, and Arabic inscription (the king who built is was Arabic, the architect Turkish, and the beloved wife who it was built for was from India).  Also, there is quite a bit of color on the building (I always thought it was all white) in the form of semi-precious inlays.  The thing that surprised me the most though was that the building was really small inside.  There’s one room with two stone coffins (very high ceilings obviously, but not such a big room considering the size of the building), and a few very small anti-chambers around the edge of the burial room that didn’t seem to have any purpose other than to provide light into the center room.  I was really shocked that is was so small inside – for some reason I thought it was sort of like a palace with many rooms.  Hum.  The other thing I didn’t know about the Taj Mahal is that it is not just symmetrical from the front view, it is totally symmetrical on all four sides.  The “back” of the building looks over a very wide river (it was really shallow when we were there) and if you stand in “line” with the entrance and look across the river, you can see where the king was going to build his black Taj Mahal for himself!  I had heard this story, but thought it was a rumor – but no, he totally had plans for his own fabulous mausoleum too.Taj marble detail

This is behind the Taj looking towards the river and the land the King was going to build the black Taj on.  Check out the kids riding the water buffalo across the river - totally India!

This is behind the Taj looking towards the river and the land the King was going to build the black Taj on. Check out the kids riding the water buffalo across the river - totally India!

As it turned out, the King’s plans were VERY expensive, and his son decided to overthrow him anyway – so in the end, the king was imprisoned in a very nice wing of the Agra Fort (they call them forts here – but they are actually VERY amazing royal palaces) and he spent the end of his life with a lovely view of the Taj Mahal from all of his windows.

The entrance to Agra Fort

The entrance to Agra Fort

One of the many grand courtyards inside the fort.  I had the mistaken idea that forts were for armies, but in India, the kings lived in the forts and wow are they grand!

One of the many grand courtyards inside the fort. I had the mistaken idea that forts were for armies, but in India, the kings lived in the forts and wow are they grand!

Shortly after the King finished the Taj Mahal for his wife, he was overthown by his son who imprisoned him here in the Agra Fort.  At least he had a good view of his masterpiece!

Shortly after the King finished the Taj Mahal for his wife, he was overthown by his son who imprisoned him here in the Agra Fort. At least he had a good view of his masterpiece!

Dehli Oh my gosh!
Mar 19th, 2010 by Kate

India – hum – where do I begin…

girls at Hindu temple

girls at Hindu temple

I knew I wanted to go to India.  I have so many friends from there, my wonderful sister-in-law is from there, and I love many things about the culture (or at least the Americanized version of the culture).  As we have traveled for the past 8 months, many fellow travelers that we’ve come across have spent time in India, and just about everyone said we needed to go experience it for ourselves.

Jeff was “in charge” of India.  To help us plan, and to help us each keep our sanity, we split up the countries and one of us focuses on the research and planning for each country.  He read about India extensively before we left, and communicated with his brother Doug and sister-in-law Paru to help us plan our time there.  We also spoke with lots of teachers and friends from Khalsa (the girl’s school back home) and many friends generously offered us information, places to stay, and contacts with their relatives.  I need to extend a huge thank you to everyone who opened up their heads, hearts and homes to help us plan our trip!

Our original plans were to spend a month in India, but in the end we only spent 2 weeks.  My sister Olivia (of New Zealand fame!) wanted to meet back up with us for her Spring Break from New College, and to make meeting up with her work – we needed to get somewhere further west for her to maximize her 9 days of vacation.  So after lots of back-and-forth, we decided to cut southern India out of our itinerary and head towards Egypt via the United Arab Emirates.

But back to India…

Yes, that is a giant elephant on the highway in Delhi!

Yes, that is a giant elephant on the highway in Delhi!

We flew from Bangkok to the capital city of Dehli (FYI there is a “new” Delhi and an “old” Delhi – both are part of the same city).  I’m going to be brutely honest here – Delhi looked like a war zone.  We were all shocked.  The International Airport was horrid and upon finding our driver, we walked through endless dirt parking lots fill of garbage, stray dogs and beggers.  We read in our guide book that our hotel was nice, but the neighborhood was “somewhat” in disrepair.  We were only a few blocks from the main tourist area – so we though “how bad could it be?”.  HA!  Open sewer ditches, construction debris, sagging overhead powerlines with live wires, cows, camels, donkeys, stray dogs, stray children and all their poop was everywhere!  It smelled.  Okay, actually it smelled REALLY bad.  Oh yes, and it was insanely noisy at all hours of the day and night.

Now I must interject here and swear to everyone that I am NOT being prissy or whimpy or overdramatic.  Jeff went out to get some money and some fruit, and when he got back I was sitting in the window agog at the sites below me.  All Jeff said was “oh just wait until you walk down the street.”

We took the advise of many and hired a driver through our hotel (and as for our hotel, it was actually clean-ish and had hot water if we went down and asked them to turn the boiler on).  We spent the entire first day driving around and around Dehli, seeing a few sites but constantly trying to get our driver focused on where WE wanted to go, rather than where HE wanted us to go – which amounted to stores where he would get a bonus for bringing us plus commission on anything we bought.

GAndi's eternal peace flame - let it burn!

GAndi's eternal peace flame - let it burn!

We managed to make it to Mahatma Gandhi’s mausoleum (in a nice park, with lots of inspiring Gandhi quotes), the biggest Hindu Temple in Delhi, the National Museum (pathetic and a museum conservationist’s nightmare), and did drive-bys of the Ba’hai Temple (really cool looking, like a lotus flower), the Presidential Palace (puts the White House to shame), the Parliament Building (also impressive) and through “the Mall” a long grassy park-like area linking the government buildings and an arch commemorating fallen soldiers (so full of trash parts of it actually looked like a dump).

So we saw some good stuff (trying to be positive!), and felt like we got a feel for a good part of Delhi as we made our way ALL over town.  But we couldn’t help but notice that the oddest thing is happening in Dehli – they are re-doing all of the sidewalks in the entire city – AT THE SAME TIME!  I am not kidding.  Every single solitary sidewalk in the entire city has been completely torn up and the piles of debris have been left in the roadway (making the bad traffic worse).  They are also building an elevated highway through the middle of town and are trying to build “skytrains” too.  These totally torn up roads, combined with the concrete buildings with exposed rebar, shanty huts, pollution, crazed drivers, and animals wondering around REALLY REALLY makes Delhi look like a war zone!

Big Ben, Parliment... okay, just Parliment!  It looks so nice, since I ended my writing on such a negative note, I thought I'd really end with a nice photo!

Big Ben, Parliment... okay, just Parliment! It looks so nice, since I ended my writing on such a negative note, I thought I'd really end with a nice photo!

Dehli is the first place in eight months of travel that I could be perfectly happy never going back to again.

Smile – Bangkok loves you!
Mar 6th, 2010 by Kate

Bangkok is yet another massive Asian city full of frenetic sites, sounds, and smells.  We arrived late in the evening after three days of travel to find the driver from our hotel waiting for us with a blessed sign that said “Wells Family”.  Hallaluhah!  We were SO tired, and the thought of dealing with a taxi or big-city mass transit was worse than depressing – but Jeff saved the day and had booked us into a 4-star hotel using some of the points we’ve accured on our Visa – and a nice man in a giant Volvo was there to wisk us away with no haggling involved.  I was so happy.

Big beds, nice sheets, fluffy pillows, warm water WITH water pressure enough to actually rinse the shampoo out of my hair, a breakfast buffet, swimming pool and a real gym – yeah!  Our bathroom was marble and the free toiletries were highly stealable – The down side… our street was one of the better known hooker streets (they seem to congregate around the 4-star hotels rather than the 5-star hotels) and so before we had even spent 24 hours in Bangkok we had to have the less than comfortable discussion with Phoebe about what prostitution is… I was actually surprised we’d gotten this far in Asia without having to have the talk, and almost thought I sneak out of this part of the world without her having clued-in… but its Bangkok, and the discussion inevitable…

I think the biggest difference between our life on the road and our life at home is getting around the big cities.  All big cities have that hustle and bustle vibe, and the cracked sidewalks, funky (not good funky) smells, and tons of sensory input to take in.  However, in Asia so much of the input is SO different than the things we’d experience in even San Fran or Chicago –  I never get tired of walking around, peering into shops and alleys, listening to conversations even though I have no idea what they are saying, and trying to figure out the heck the food vendors are selling and if it looks okay to eat.

I am embarrassed to admit that I totally bought all the rumors about Bangkok and was secretly worried about rampant drugs, opium dens, Thai gangs, and of course the infamous fear of being kidnapped and sold into slavery (not me, the kids!).  And while unfortunately all of those things do exist in Bangkok, we didn’t see one lick of any of it.  The Bangkok we enjoyed was one of fascinating shops and markets, great food, super nice people, big parks, efficient mass transit (elevated train and subways) and medi-tourism galore.   Someday when I’m picked to be an ambassador, I will happily accept the post to Thailand and live in Bangkok!

So I know my mention of “medi-tourism” is going to prompt a bunch of people to email/comment and ask what the heck I’m talking about – its short for medical tourism, and it’s BIG business in Thailand.  I first heard about in on 60 Minutes a few years back, and have since seen a few articles in various mags.  When my crown broke back in China a number of people suggested that I go to Bangkok to get it fixed, and we heard lots of travelers around SE Asia & Australia talking about the great care they’d received in Thailand.  It got me to thinking…

Before we left I had inquired with my dentist about having my 20 year old veneers replaced on my six front teeth.  I broke three of them badly when I was a teenager and while the old veneers were holding up pretty well, I felt like they were looking pretty shabby.  That, along with the fact that they were only supposed to last 10-15 years made me think I should take some proactive steps before I found myself snaggle-toothed one day.  I got a quote from my dentist and almost croaked – $2500 PER TOOTH!  Since our big trip was coming up, and knowing we’ll have two kiddos in braces soon after our return, I decided that I’d wait and see how much mileage I could get out of the old ones (the sacrifices we mothers make!).

As we got closer to traveling to Thailand, I started doing some more in-depth research on clinics and doctors, safety records and patient comments.  The internet proved to be an amazing tool (I take back all the bad things I’ve said about you Mr. Internet, well, some of them, not all of them).  I  read dozens of review and blogs, and finally settled on three clinics that I thought looked best.  I made appointments with two, and the third had a walk-in consultation time so I set off on my first day in Bangkok with addresses and a list of questions in hand.  Ultimately, I decided that they were all good (two of the three were WAY nicer than my dentist at home), and that I would get good care whichever I chose. In the end I made my decision based on the fact that my doctor went to the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill, and he spoke great English, and he had really nice teeth himself (Silom Dental Clinic and Dr. Lee were the big winners).

I’m being long-winded here so I’ll wrap it up…

Day 1:  Full check-up with Xrays, consultation with the doctor, and the decision to first whiten my bottom teeth with home bleaching trays (rather than the brite smile or laser treatments which he said won’t work as well on my color teeth) so my new veneers would be a better, whiter color than my old ones = $175US (would have been $125 for the check up and $500 for the whitening at home).

Day 14:  Back to Bangkok for appointment #2.  They were shocked at how white my teeth got (I was a bit shocked too, as my bottoms were very white, especially next to the old veneers that were still on and YELLOW!).  They took off my old veneers and put on temporaries, and ordered the new veneers in a color that would match my newly whitened bottom teeth.

Day 21:  Back to Bangkok again (we traveled all over Thailand between appointments and came back each time for only a day or two) for my final visit.  They took off my temporaries and attached my new veneers – and they look AMAZING!  I love them!  They feel great, look great, and a week later I still have to look at them every time I pass a mirror.  Its like one of those things that you say to yourself “ I can’t believe I waited so long to get that done”.  And the price (drum roll please…) out the door – $1500 TOTAL!  Eleven THOUSAND dollars less than my dentist at home!

They do everything at this place – from silly cosmetic procedures like mine to total jaw bone reconstruction – and crowns and bridges in between.  Jeff and I both agree that if we ever need major dental work done, we will definitely consider coming back here.  Just wish they could do braces from across the ocean…

So the moral of my story is, don’t let Hollywood be your source of opinions on a place – had I not listened to friends and family about the wonders of Bangkok I probably would have skipped it… when you see my new smile you’ll be happy for me that I didn’t.

PS.  Sorry there aren’t any pics of my new smile, I’ll post some as soon as I can – we have lousy internet access at our current locale…

Three Days to Bangkok (sung to the tune of the “Twelve Days of Christmas”)
Feb 26th, 2010 by Kate

After 3 days of travel, my head was killing me…

60 kilos of backpacks

28 hours sitting in airports

18 hours on the airplanes

10 airport security lines

8 trips through customs and immigration

7 hour drive across New Zealand

6 more passport stamps

F-I-V-E overpriced airport meals (fa la la la la la)

4 shuttle buses

3 grungy hotel rooms

2 unhappy children

AND a 4-star hotel room waiting at the END (yeah Jeff!)

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