Tuesday, July 30, 2013

October 13, 2013 Wedding Update

If anyone is looking for wedding information, please check out the wedding website at


We are sending out invitations on August 1st, but if you want to book plane tickets now, please come in with plenty of time to enjoy the Wiener Roast on October 12th, Saturday evening. 

Email me with any questions, and I can't wait to see you there!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Night Bus from Siem Reap to Sihanoukville

So, after the fantastic post for Bangkok to Chiang Mai, I'll post about the night bus from Siem Reap to Sihanoukville, Cambodia.

Let's just be clear:
I was not a fan of Cambodia.  Anthony liked it just fine.  Everyone is different.  I get it.
It reminded me of a SUPER touristy Paraguay and everyone knows I love Paraguay.  But...I felt like the whole time we were there, we were blatantly taken advantage of monetarily.  I would suggest going here either with a tour group (if you're not as adventurous), or backpacking with a strong constitution to say 'NO THANK YOU'.  I got really tired of the haggling, the tuk tuk drivers, the hawkers, and would suggest going from Siem Reap - straight to Sihanoukville's Otres Beach.  It's quiet, has great bars and beach huts, and is perfect for relaxing without tons of children trying to sell you bracelets and massages.  If you are a backpacker and not into all night hook up parties, go here.  Lonely Planet really downplays this beach.  We found it the last couple of days while we were staying on Ocheteaul Beach (the backpacker party all night hook up beach), and really wanted to stay for another week - but couldn't.  We kept getting stopped on our rented moto by 'police' who didn't care a fig about our international driver's license, our safety helmets, or our ability to use our turn signals - they still wanted their cut.  But all of that would have been a traveler's tall tale if we had just gone straight to paradise - Otres Beach. 

That being said:  My years in the Peace Corps only slightly prepared me for the overnight bus from Siem Reap to Sihanoukville.  We were told it was a large bus with a toilet.  We saw a couple of photos at the travel kiosk.  It didn't look too bad....but it was definitely not what I expected.  So for those who are curious:
It is a normal sized bus, but the seats have been removed to make room for little 'beds'.  You can't lay down all the way, and your feet get pushed up under the seat in front of you.  I was SO lucky to be traveling with someone, cause there was a girl in front of me who had to share a bed with a complete stranger who was a 'bed' hog.  I was also lucky to be 5'02" (1.57m).

Here are some photos:
There was a mix of locals and foreigners.  There were separate price sheets for locals and foreigners for everything.  We pay triple.  Anthony thought this was fair.  I just thought- I don't want to know what the 'actual' price of everything was - so I could just pretend I wasn't paying thrice as much.
We were on a bottom berth.  The girl in front was traveling alone.  She got a bunk mate about an hour later.
 this is a view from the bottom to the top of the aisle
This is what your seat looks like.  Room for 2 people, but don't be fooled.  It's not comfy, and the air con doesn't work.  You can barely see the beginning of the seat in front of you where your feet would go...
 This is a pic I took while standing up in the aisle, after I decided NOT to go to the bathroom.  I decided to wait for the 1 rest stop, at a road side eatery.  I would NOT buy any locally prepared food there, as the bathrooms were FULL of cockroaches.  As in Peace Corps, I prefer to pee OUTSIDE than pee INSIDE a dirty latrine.  Especially since I fell into one!
 Another frontal picture.  Please note the guy in the bunk next to us.  His feet (and Anthony's) were crammed into the seat in front of us.  Anthony had to sleep with his knees up.  Well, I guess neither of us actually slept.  We listened to podcasts the whole 7 hours.  Also, you must take off your shoes right when you get on the bus to keep it cleaner - so I would suggest wearing easy slip ons - with socks (but most of you know about my aversion to feet).
I used to be able to sleep anywhere, like these people.  I guess I'm getting soft.
There you have it.  When I got on this bus, I thought of 3 things:
1.  This is crazy!  What a great story this will make! Adventure Cambodia!!!
2.  If this bus crashes, rolls over, or gets in a wreck with anything bigger than a Schwinn, we are all DEAD.
3.  I should tell someone in Paraguay about this.  This would revolutionize bus travel in that country!
I mean, just look at the hand welded bunks!  Genius!

So again, if you go to Cambodia, know that it's difficult.  If you love that kind of travel, you will love it.  If you don't, think about a tour package, stay at nice hotels, and private beaches.  The great thing is that there is something for everyone. 

Bangkok to Chiang Mai by Train

This is for travelers in Thailand!  It's been a while, but I finally got to blog about some of our travels!  We were in Bangkok and decided to check out Chiang Mai.  Everyone said we should take the night train....which we did!  It was fantastic!  Very very fun, not too crazy, and very comfy...on the way there.  Air con, fairly clean bathrooms, overpriced (but expected) lousy train food - all in all a good time.  On the way back, we had a non Air Con compartment on an extremely old train.  Both ways, we were about 3-4 hours late from schedule...so some advice:
1.  Don't book any connecting trains.  Leave plenty of space for a good long 3 -5 hour delay.  We were able to rebook our connecting train down to Hua Hin with the help of the conductor. 
2.  Bring your own snacks and food.  The food on the train was expectantly expensive, and not very good.  So was the beer - but who wants to drink warm beer you brought in your bag?
3.  Go to the restaurant car later in the evening for fun and dance party music.  It was awesome.

All in all, a wonderful trip!  I had a great time, and would love to do it again!  On the way back, I wished I would have been able to stop at some of the cool towns we passed.  If you have time, I would do this for the return trip as it was more of a night AND day trip.  It took way longer to get back to Bangkok as it did to go to Chiang Mai.
I did NOT like taking the regular train from Bangkok down to Hua Hin - 2nd class seats were hot (no AC), overcrowded, and our 2 hour trip took us - no kidding - 6 hours.  The morning train we had missed was supposedly the 'express' but really, what does that mean in Southeast Asia time?  Probably the same as it means in Paraguay time: IT WILL GET THERE WHEN IT GETS THERE
But if you're cool wit dat, sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride.

We had top berths on the way to Chiang Mai.  Try to book early, so you can get good spots, which of course are on the bottom.  On the way back, we had a top and a bottom.  This train was newer, and fancier than our return train.
The train attendant comes through when it gets closer to sleep time, and brings you blankets, sheets, and pillows - all in bags so you know they've just been laundered.  They will even make your bed for you!  They also come through at meal times and let you order food and coffee to your bunk, without having to go to the dining car!  But you HAVE to go to the dining car!

You try taking pictures in the Bogie Restaurant Car while the train is moving.  It's all blurry to me!

First this officer wanted to show us card tricks. Then it turned into dance moves.

 This french guy wanted to get in on the action.

 And then the Macarena came on the radio...

 The restaurant car closed at 11:30.  Time for sleep.
 Oh wait!  Snack time!  A delicious sandwich from Subway????  Whaaa?

 mmm....delish!  Now, time for sleep.

Good Night, Bogie Gourmet!