Thursday, January 14, 2010

First Quarterly Report

First Quarterly Report
By Juliah
January, 2009 Kampot Cambodia

After over three months on the road, I feel compelled to give you a quarterly summary. Thanks City of New York, I obviously haven't forgotten the work we did together. Here, we have chosen some very important qualitative and quantitative indicators to provide you with a snapshot of our travels so far. Let us know if you have any suggestions for other data we can/should track and we will probably do it.

Countries visited:
South Korea, Indonesia, Thailand, Laos and Cambodia.

Average daily expenditures (for the both of us)-$56

Sunglasses Replaced:
Seoul, South Korea $8 (they came with a case!)
Manado, Indonesia $2 (the red ones)
Bangkok, Thailand $1.50 (blue)

Mark- none

Three points Juliah. Juliah wins.

Accommodations used to date: 43
Note: We have slowed down considerably from when we first started this trip. In our first month or two, a change in accommodation was more likely to indicate movement between towns or attractions. Now we find ourselves changing accommodations within one town more often- like to move to cheaper or more comfortable places.

Cheapest Accomodations: Muang Ngoi, Laos, $3.75 for a riverside bungalow. It had a nice balcony, electricity from 6pm to 10 and a shared bathroom round the back.

Most Expensive Accommodations: Seoul, South Korea, $35 for a room in a large budget hotel where you had to request the sheets but you get instant coffee in the morning.

Modes of Transportation thus far
airplane, taxi, shuttle bus, day ferry, donkey cart, outrigger canoe (motorized), motorcycle, trekking, cargo truck, share taxi, city bus, overnight train, sangthaw (its a pick-up with benches in the back), overnight ferry, double decker overnight bus, bicycle, tuktuk(benches pulled by a motorcycle), riverboat.

Flat Tires Attained: 3
Sulawesi Indonesia:2
Kampot, Cambodia: 1

Best Animal Related Injuries
Juliah: In the Monkey Forest in Ubud, Bali, a monkey climbed on to my shoulder and ripped out my earring. It took the earring up into a tree and sucked on it for a few minutes before spitting it out. My ear hurt for a few days. I kept wearing the earring for several weeks.

Mark: On Koh Wai, Thailand, a nasty centipede crawled up my swim suit and bit me three times on the left and right legs. Everyone there was very nice about it, but the the spots ached for weeks!

Memorable Meal
1. Day 2 of our trip, in Seoul we decided to have a sashimi lunch at the fish market. The Seoul fish market is huge and full of, well, fish. Its bigger than Cosco. We confused the exchange rate and ended up ordering a $60 sashimi meal instead of a $6 sashimi meal. We realized this too late and decided we just had to roll with it. The number plates and dishes that followed were mind boggling. We didn't know what it all was and which parts we should have been eating. It was day 1 of sitting on the floor and my legs had fallen asleep before the sashimi even arrived. We washed as much of it down with Soju as we could. See our flickr page for the pictures.

2. We took a motorcycle tour in Eastern Cambodia and stopped in to a Pagoda around lunch time. The monks and the abbot were just finishing lunch and after some talk between our drivers and the pagoda staff, it was decided that we would eat lunch here. We sat on the floor in front of the large gold budda on matts and ate the lunches we brought with us. Then a woman offered us tea, the remaining food the monks had eaten and rice from an alms bowl (the kind that monks across SE Asia use to collect food from the community each morning.) Sadly, the alms bowl rice didn't taste any different from regular rice. At the end of the meal the abbot requested we take a picture together.

1. JULIAH ATE DOG! We were starting a two-day hike through Sulawesi, Indonesia and our guide was buying a little package of dog meat for himself. He asked if we wanted to try some, and Juliah took a heaping handful, ground up with chili and lemongrass.

I did not eat dog.

2. On our overnight village stay on that same trip, our guide Budi arranged for us to eat Papion. It wasn't the most delicious meal, but the preparation was amazing. We helped pick out the chicken for slaughter, and then we got to hold it and play with it for a bit. After it was killed and cleaned, the parts were mixed with rice, diced banana stalk, and instant noodle seasoning, then poured into a long segment of bamboo and cooked directly in the fire, while the head of the household kept beating a pesky cat with a stick. The taste was overall pretty plain, but the preparation was amazing.

Notable Sleep
Juliah: Trekking in Tana Toraja we got to stay the night with a family who lived in one of those crazy carved houses. (Note: this was actually the same day I ate dog and chicken in bamboo that Mark mentions above). We had dinner with them and watched the soap operas from Malaysia until the generator went off at 9pm. The older daughter had given us her bedroom for the night. It was one of the three rooms and was at the front of the home. The bed was a two inch mattress on the floor and two blankets. As we were settling in, she ran upstairs to us and said in English "simple" and gestured at the room, as if she were embarrassed about how simple her home was. I think she learned the word from our guide downstairs and ran upstairs before she could forget it. In our limited Indonesian, we told her that the house was beautiful and thanked her for letting us sleep there.

Mark: Our first night's stay in Bangkok was pretty horrendous. It was the cheapest place we could find, but the walls were just plywood and the mattress was just a thin layer of sawdust.

Food We Love
Juliah- Coconut pudding dumplings in Thailand, Roasted sticky rice served in banana leaves in Indonesia, mango salads, cold sugar cane juice with orange served with crushed ice in a plastic bag, green onion dumplings.

Mark: Lao sticky rice, Thai green curry, our first meal of Indonesian nasi goreng, and Cambodian iced coffee with sweetened condensed milk.

Best Splurges:
Juliah: Jeans! I bought them for $10 at the Russian Market in Phnom Phen. Since so many clothing factories are in Cambodia now, you can buy clothing really cheap. Jeans are totally impractical for this climate and travel but they make me feel like a human being again.

Mark: Scuba diving certification in Indonesia! It was a serious expense, around $350, but it include something like 20 hours of instruction and 4 ocean dives, and it's allowed me to continue diving with Juliah.

Memorable Party
Juliah: This is easy, because we haven't had many parties. Most of the time, its just the two of us, drinking a local beer and playing dominos in the evening. Two evenings come to mind.

Pay day at the Scuba Shop on Gili Meno in Indonesia
Mark was getting his scuba certification and we practically lived at the dive center. When we walked by the only bar on the island, the local scuba guys beckoned us to have a drink with them. Later, the poi came out and there was fire dancing. Mark amazed all the 18 year olds punk rock surfer guys who worked in the dive shop with his fire dancing. Their jaws dropped to see a older white guy twirling fire. Afterwards, we looked at those green glowing things in the water (phosherates?) and I fell into the ocean.

Tubing in Vang Vieng, Laos
So you rent an inner tube for $5 and take a tuk tuk up the river and find bars full of hundreds of half naked 22 year-olds drinking and zip-lining in to the water. After a beer or two at the first place, you and ten of your new best friends smear more sunscreen on each other and get on your inner tube and slowly float down to the next bar. The bar staff throw you a rope to reel you into their bar. Then they help you to stack your inner tub on the already gigantic pile of inner tubes. This goes on for about 10 bars. The whole scene felt so hazardous- so much drinking and poorly constructed rope swings over shallow water. All the same, it is a time and a place unlike any I have ever seen.

Mark: There was also Christmas at Niall's house in Phnom Penh. Just before we left California, we joined a social networking site called CouchSurfing, that allows people all over the world to connect while traveling through homestays and coffee dates. Niall is a British guy living in Phnom Penh and a few housemates, and the four of them were generous enough to throw an open-invitation Christmas party for 25 strangers in their penthouse apartment. We met some incredible people and had a great time.

Some awesome things that made it all worthwhile
  • Diving a airplane wreck in Indonesia
  • Washing an elephant in a waterfall
  • Exploring a floating village at sunset in a boat with local young people
  • Sharing a meal with 1,000 people at a funeral in Indonesia
  • Kayaking through a green mountainous valley with no one else around
  • Getting an amazing thai massage in a temple in Bangkok

Most Frustrating
1.Asian style toilets. I don't understand why I am still peeing on my left foot every.single.time. I wish I could watch other women use the toilet to see what they are doing. But I have not been able to facilitate this so far. . .
2. Tiered pricing systems. I pay $8 that locals pay $1 for.

Mark: The Indian Embassy in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. When we applied for our visa in person, we were told we needed to submit photocopies of our passports and paperwork--something not mentioned online. This required a mile's walk through the city during the hottest part of the day to find a working photocopier, and a race back to the embassy to submit our application before the noon deadline.

Interesting People We've Met
I think this was Michael, an older American who'd moved to Cambodia in 1992 to start the country's first English-language newspaper, the Phnom Penh Post. His only previous experience with journalism was as a newspaper delivery boy. He'd been in Cambodia when the UN Transitional Governing Authority pulled out and just as Cambodians were sorting through the rubble and rebuilding their country, and he'd documented the very violent coup of 1997 when separate political parties had their own tanks and soldiers fighting in the streets. He said he'd only been able to publish about every other week, "the most infrequent weekly in South East Asia," but the coverage had been brazen: interviews with child soldiers, photographs of soldiers going through the pockets of air crash victims. When we met him, he'd recently returned from several weeks in Afghanistan.

Most Annoying Fellow Backpacker
Juliah: French woman on bus in Laos from border of Thailand and her stupid German boyfriend. They rolled their eyes and snorted everytime the bus stopped. The bus kept stopping because the driver was looking for gas before trying to cross an isolated strip of mountains. The european couple would have noticed had they looked up from their lap top. When they did look up, the german dude came around to the front of the bus, sat in the drivers seat and honked the horn at the driver. It was a bad moment for white people everywhere. Oh, AND he threw trash out of the bus window. Who does that?

Mark: In Vang Vieng, Laos, we met this bizarre Swedish guy who lured us to his friend's bar and just became stranger and more annoying as the night went on. He asked us about our lives back home and what we did for work, then said, "Oh, I'm a carpenter, healer, rescue diver; I do many, many things." He later said he hoped something really awful would happen to the US, that it would fail and that it would be good for the world.

Things we have learned about ourselves that we feel like sharing

1. I have a good sense of direction. I can take you to places that neither of us have ever been before, but I some how know how to get us there.
2. I am more afraid of heights than I would like to admit. But I just admited it! There, glad thats out in the open.
3. I am fine with very little. A bucket of water for a shower, a plate of rice for a meal, one pair of pants. No problem. Bring it.

1. Travel is more rewarding when you can speak the local language, and I really enjoy learning foreign languages. Just a few words can get you much closer to local people, and that's been the most rewarding part of this trip.
2. I have a serious fear of biting and stinging insects. Since the centipede incident one month ago, I keep swatting at imaginary red ants in my shorts.

Surprises so Far:
1. Mark is STILL talking to me!
2. I'm not exhausted or grumpy or jaded at this point in the trip.

1. In the eight years since I was last here, there have been some serious changes in South East Asia. Many of them are positive: people have higher standards of living, the roads have improved, and more schools have been opened. But mass tourism development has left a mark on some previously very beautiful and quiet places, and I'm not always happy to see large, loud crowds of culturally insensitive foreigners interfering with monks in Laos or laughing in some of the more somber places in Cambodia.
2. We are under budget! We never have to go home!

Hopes/Fears for the Future
Juliah: I have an irrational fear of running out of SPF 85 sunscreen. Thanks mom and Kate for the last shipment.

Mark: I'm looking forward to dumping some of the weight in my backpack! We haven't bought many souvenirs, but the small things have been adding up. I also hope we can continue to avoid dysentery in 2010.

Mark and Juliah


  1. Ok, budget wise, you may never HAVE to come home. But dang it, I really, really, really hope you do. I MISS YOU. I'm already planning my head my next trip to San Fran to see you. BECAUSE I MISS YOU.

  2. Is there a way I can facilitate your ability to mail me weird stuff that should never count as a gift but absolutely would? I've always kind of wanted to be a storage space. I also think lists like this should be a monthly thing. Don't mean to be a downer but saddest thing, or greatest injustice (to you and for others) might be necessary...

  3. Irene, I miss you too, but you are being unreasonable. We shouldn't come home, you obviously should come here. :)

    Rhett, Hmmm. . mailing stuff sounds like a fun challenge. Lets see what we can do. Rodger on the lists, we will get to work on that.

  4. My address right now is
    31 Franklin St #2
    Montpelier, VT 05602
    We can see what I can do to help with shipping costs. Like if you know of a couch surf place coming up I can send dollars ahead of time.