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Monthly Archives: February 2012

Fun in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Author: Amy

We very quickly came to enjoy our time in Thailand.  Even though the Chiang Mai Metropolitan area has a population of close 1 million people it has a slower more appealing pace than what we initially thought we would experience. The people are so polite and respectful and always have a smile on, you can’t help but be happy.

Here we are at our art class.

Things are so inexpensive we were able to enjoy many classes that we might not have done if the price was higher.  Whenever you approach a place (business, market, etc) the people are always smiling and so happy to have you there. The prices are great so you want to stay.  We had the kids teeth cleaned – it was too booked for Steve and I.  We also took a painting class from a wonderful artist in town.  It was so much fun – we went 2 different days for an hour and a half.  I don’t really see a future for any of us but it was a great, relaxing way to spend some time.  We also had our share of massages.  Massage is a huge part of Thai culture, everywhere you go people are getting massages.  We took advantage of this on our first day in town and throughout our time there.  Such an amazing luxury for such a great price, we couldn’t resist.

Just one of the MANY massage establishments.

Something you often hear about in Asia but is hard to comprehend is the transportation.  Throughout Chiang Mai there are loads of motorcycles, scooters filled with people and families – it’s not strange to find a family of 4 or more people on one scooter.  We relied mostly on tuk-tuk’s and songthaews to get us around town.  Our hotel was a bit out of the center of town and we usually paid about $3-$5 USD to get all 4 of us across town.  The vehicles are called tuk-tuk’s because of the sound their motor makes.  They are basically a motorcycle with a back seat that fits all 4 of us.  Sonthaews are red pickup trucks with 2 rows in the back that are basically a shared taxi.  Our first tuk tuk ride was a great experience – our hair in the wind driving through the city.  By the end we were always looking for closed taxi’s.  The amount of pollution in the air is a huge challenge and waiting at the stoplights is just miserable.  Steve got to be an expert at haggling with the drivers – you can never take their first price – Steve hates haggling and often would get the price down and then when we would get off he would give them the original price they asked for.  He’d say to me – “you don’t think that was worth another 65 more cents?”

The tuk-tuk

One of the drivers asked Keegan if he wanted to ride up front with him - so here's what it's like to ride shotgun in a tuk-tuk!

A Sonthaew - just hop in the back!

Steve negotiating our best rate!

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Posted by on February 24, 2012 in Thailand

 

Kuala Lumpur Bird Park and Batik Painting – Malaysia

Author: Kendal

Pretty bird . . .

For a couple of days Dad had been emailing a nice family here in Kuala Lumpur that have been traveling indefinitely for the last few years. He was hoping to get some information on worthwhile sites to see here in Kuala Lumpur.  I like it when we meet up with other people to mix up our “just us four” group.  We ended up meeting up with them at the Kuala Lumpur Bird Park. Once we got our tickets and we went inside Dad started having second thoughts about going to a BIRD PARK… he has been “attacked” by birds many times in his lifetime. Whether he liked it or not in we went. The park calls itself the largest free flight aviary in the world, with over 3000 birds, it certainly lived up to its name. We saw all sorts of different birds from peacocks to the hornbill; they even had parakeets, and our dad’s favorite the Mohawk pigeon! The birds are all around you and are free to fly about.  Keegan and I fed some birds in the bird feeding area, when we were feeding them they climbed on our hands to eat/drink you could see them lapping up the liquid with their tongues it was so weird!!!! It was really fun to watch even though they scratched our arms pretty hard. They weren’t even afraid of us, their colors were so vibrant I could have stared at them all day.  We met up with this traveling family at the pale flamenco attraction (yes pale not pink).  The parents (Brandon and Jennifer) were really sweet it was really fun comparing stories that we had all had during both of our trips. They had 3 adorable little girls; Emily (8), Marie (6), and Asya (8 months). We all had an amazing time watching all the birds and watching the eagles feeding as well as the highly entertaining bird show. They even had some random monkeys hanging around the bird park.

Having fun feeding the birds

The beautiful Victoria Crowned Pigeon

Here I am feeding the birds, they had a tight grip

Keegan found out pretty quick how strong they hang on as they eat

We got together again at the Kuala Lumpur craft center. The main craft they had is called Batik painting, it is a certain type of painting that they do on fabric here in Malaysia. I was so happy because we were able to paint – I love crafts!!  First we had to pick a picture that we wanted to paint, and then we traced the lines of it onto our piece of fabric. Our instructor traced our lines with very hot wax, we were given step-by-step instructions on how to paint using water based dyes. The parents weren’t allowed to do the craft even though my mom wanted to really badly, they were told that they were only allowed to buy, lol. Once we finished we had some good-looking artwork; hawk (Emily), owl (Marie), tiger (Keegan), and a lovely flower (me).  We had a really great time getting to know this family; they are a super nice family.

Here's a picture of our instructor applying the hot wax outline

That's me and Keegan painting with Emily and Marie

 
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Posted by on February 20, 2012 in Malaysia

 

Batu Caves and Taxi’s – Kuala Lumpur

Author: Steve

Last week Keegan and I took a day trip to the Batu Caves in Kuala Lumpur.

I can’t say enough about the people in Kuala Lumpur, they are so very nice.  Getting around can sometimes be an adventure.  I can’t imagine driving in this city, the traffic is so heavy and widespread and the motorbikes weave in and out everywhere. The street lines don’t matter much, it seems everyone just goes where there’s open space. Taxi drivers have a method of driving on the wrong side of the street for as long as they can until it get’s too dangerous – which for me always having to drive in the front seat is immediately, especially when I don’t have a working seat belt.  For the four of us to walk across the street is an adventure all on it’s own.  We have been using the rail-system when possible but not everywhere we go is accessible by the rail system. The majority of the time we have been using taxis because they are pretty reasonable once you get through the negotiation process.  On every taxi there is a big sign on the door that says, “This is a metered taxi, haggling is prohibited”, which if it were true would be very convenient. However, it’s not true, it seems you need to haggle your price every time you walk to the door.  And if it rains, forget about it, that same distance doubles in price. You can ask for a meter but they have many excuses why they don’t meter;  the meters broke, traffic is too heavy you’re better off with a flat rate, it’s Friday night, it’s the holiday, etc.

Batu Caves is one of the most popular Hindu shrines outside of India dedicated to Lord Murugan. The statue is the largest statue of Lord Murugan in the world and stands at 140 feet tall.

Because it was so hot and the stop on the rail system closest to the Batu Caves was quite a bit away Keegan and I decided to get a taxi. We negotiated 25 Malaysian ringgit (MYR) to get there from our hostel; which is about $8.25 USD.  When we finished our tour at the Batu Caves we decided we wanted to go to a nearby train station, we heard it has a cool mall connected to it. Mind you, this is half the distance back to our hostel so I’m thinking on the high-end maybe 15 ringgit.  We always walk a few blocks away from a major tourist site to get a better deal on a taxi, however, this day Keegan and I were immediately sieged by a couple of taxi drivers right outside the gate.  I told them where we were going and they said it would cost 50 ringgit!

After walking the 272 stairs to the top you enter the Temple Caves. The limestone hills that form the Batu Caves are around 400 million years old and reach as high as 328 feet.

“But we want a meter and we know that’s half the distance from where we came and we only paid 25 ringgit.”  One taxi driver turns and walks away and the other one agrees on a meter.  As we are walking to his taxi the taxi driver says, “Where did you come from?”  I say, “What does it matter, we’re not going back to the place we came from we’re going to the nearby train station”.  “Yes but where did you come from?” “Close to downtown but again what does it matter if you are going to use a meter like you said you would, it shouldn’t matter, right?”  Then the taxi driver says, “You are telling me lies but I am not angry at you”, and walks away.  Keegan and I just looked at each other in confusion . . . so we guess he didn’t want to use his meter.  We walk about a half a block and 5 more taxi drivers come (one being the head guy in charge of the taxi queue) to ask us where we were going and basically offered the same price, 50 ringgit.  I had just spent the last 5 days haggling and I was feeling slightly accosted at this point so I pointed my finger at the sign on their taxi’s and said (in a very nice voice), “Every one of your taxi’s has a sign on it that says no haggling but I haven’t been in one taxi that uses a meter yet. I don’t want to get in trouble with the police for haggling with you so do any of you use a meter? That’s the ride my son and I want, a metered taxi”.  They all walked away.  Reality is there were more than enough clients for them to work with; they didn’t need to deal with me.  So I looked at Keegan and said, “Am I crazy or do you understand my point?” “No, you’re not crazy Dad, I understand your point but I’m not walking to the train station! It’s way too hot and the stations too far. Let’s try to get another taxi and try to haggle for a better deal”.  We walked a few more blocks and haggled for a ride, we decided to go all the way back to our hostel and ended up only paying 30 ringgit.

Taxi is short for Taximeter – a device fitted to a taxicab or other vehicle for automatically computing and indicating the fare due.

Yeah right . . .

 
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Posted by on February 15, 2012 in Malaysia

 

Happy Chinese New Year from Malaysia

Author: Amy

Outside one of our many stays in Kuala Lumpur the Rainforest Bed and Breakfast

After having a few longer-term rentals we thought we would try to do Malaysia in parts – the beginning and ending in Kuala Lumpur and the middle in the Cameron Highlands so we could see the city and the outskirts.  We’ve envied some other travelers we’ve encountered that seem to wing it and thought we would try winging it on accommodations for the Cameron Highlands. That didn’t work!!  When we arrived we learned that Chinese is the second largest population in Kuala Lumpur and Chinese New Year is a HUGE celebration.  Companies and Federal offices all close for at least a week.  We could not find any place to rent in Cameron Highlands, as it is a popular destination for those to get out of town.  Ultimately we stayed in Kuala Lumpur and did a bit of hotel/hostel jumping.

Cherry Blossom are a sign of new beginnings

Kuala Lumpur was in full festive swing.  Everywhere you looked was covered in red. We were able to see some lion dances that were so pretty.   2012 is the year of the dragon so there were huge beautiful displays of dragons all around.  One thing Kuala Lumpur does right is their shopping malls – there are a lot of them and wow are they beautiful.  Chinese New Year is considered a time of new beginnings so the theme is also cherry blossom trees.  A time for cleaning out the old and starting the New Year fresh, with new beginnings. Kuala Lumpur was a great start to our time in Asia.

Lions dance and then they give oranges to the crowd. It's a popular custom to give oranges because in Chinese, the word "orange" sounds like "Ji", which means "good luck"

The big red dragon at the mall. Based on the year he was born Keegan is a Dragon.

Meeting the God of Fortune

Famous Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur - they remain the tallest twin buildings in the world ever built. We never did get to the walkway - it was closed when we tried and we never made it back to try again.

 
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Posted by on February 9, 2012 in Malaysia

 

The Amazing Malls in Kuala Lumpur – Malaysia

Author: Keegan

Hi Everyone,

We were just in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and one thing I wanted to tell you about Kuala Lumpur is their shopping malls are hugely amazing!  One of the first malls that we went to had a TON of cool stuff to do. We were hungry but we didn’t want to have a whole meal so we decided to have some ice cream instead, they have a lot of different and really cool ice cream shops and the one we went to had four soft serve machines with all of these different unique flavors.  So you choose which flavor and then you fill the cup with how much or how little ice cream you want, then you get to put whatever toppings you choose on top. They weigh it and that’s how you pay for it!  Oh and I forgot to mention almost all of the people are super nice and friendly.  Did I forget to mention the mall was HUGE, it had 10 floors and inside of it there was a THEME PARK, yes, you read that right a huge theme park inside of the mall!! There was a ginormous roller coaster that went around the whole room it was in!!! We didn’t go on it though because our family isn’t a big fan of rides. LOL. That same day my mom, Kendal and my dad each got a haircut. I didn’t get one though because I didn’t think I needed one yet. After that we went to go do some good old archery with a bow and arrow (also inside of the mall). For lunch we had some really good Pad Thai. There was also a movie theater and bowling alley in the mall, which we didn’t do that day but my dad and I bowled a different day.  For me the most um…. how am I going to say this AWESOME and UNIQUE thing EVER was our fish spa.  There are these tiny little fish, they call doctor fish or garra rufa fish, that are inside of a tank that has an open lid, you put your feet in and get your feet like um… smoother. They get smoother because when the fish nibble your toes they get all of the dead skin off so your feet become smoother than ever! When you put your feet in the tank they all SWARM TO YOUR FEET and it tickled so much that I couldn’t help laughing — hysterically! I am a bit embarrassed because during the time when there was only like five minutes until we could take our feet out, Kendal, Mom and Dad’s fish were all tired of eating and resting but my little fish were STILL EATING and when I put my feet in further they just climbed up my leg and it tickled even more than before!  After we got our feet smoothed up we decided to go back and have a good nights rest after an amazing day at the mall.

P.S. We are a little behind on our blogging because right now we are in Chiang Mai, Thailand; so sorry for the inconvenience.

From The Angeles Family

Here's a part of the rollercoaster, the other half leads into another large room.

That's my mom and Kendal at the archery room, they both really liked it.

There I am taking aim

I took this picture because I thought it was funny how long they washed Kendal's hair without using any water.

My mom laughed a lot that day, she kept telling the stylist's that she didn't want her hair curled but they just kept saying, "It's okay, it's okay, we make you sexy for you husband". So I guess that hair style is sexy, LOL!

I didn't want to put my feet in at first so the guy that works there helped me by putting them in for me.

They loved my feet!!

 
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Posted by on February 5, 2012 in Malaysia

 

Jerusalem and Bethlehem – Israel

Author: Steve

Our Jordan guide left us off at the border crossing of Jordan and Israel.  We made it through customs fine and our Israel guide was waiting for us as soon as we got through on his end.

While in Israel, our driver was Muslim, our guide was Christian and they were both Palestinian.  Let’s just say we learned more about this area than we could ever have imagined. Just the simple fact of going through another border into Bethlehem, which is Palestinian territory, is something we did not clearly understand until we got there.  I have chosen not comment on the politics or the religions of this part of the world but I will say; we have met nice people here as we have in other countries throughout the last 7 months.  To be in the Holy Land wasn’t something that we planned to do when we started our trip but we are all happy to have seen what we have seen and the experiences here will stay with us forever.

We got very lucky with our guide in Israel he was born and raised in the location of the 6th Station of the Cross and his wife on the 8th Station of the Cross, he said it just like “I grew up on 27th Street and she grew up on 84th Street”.  It’s amazing to think that places talked about in the bible are still lived on today.  He was so well-informed and openly shared with us answers to all the questions we had, and we had many.

While we were in South Africa, Amy was working with the tour Director, Jasmine at Jordan Select Tours via email to tailor a 2-week Middle-East (Jordan and Israel) itinerary, keeping in mind the time frame we had and the age of our kids.  We are very happy we chose to go with this tour company, the guides were great and they did a great job overall.  Since it would be tough to give a summary of everything we saw in Israel I listed our 2-day itinerary below.  It seems like a lot, which it was, but something else we learned is that all of these locations are pretty close geographically so we saw everything without being rushed. We walked most of our tour in Israel.  Also, it’s off-season so there were very few crowds and we weren’t really slowed down at any site.

Here is the list of religious places we visited:

Mount of Olives, Dominus Flevit, Church of All Nations, Garden of Gethsemane, Western Wall, Old City of Jerusalem, Pool of Bethesda, Church of St. Anne, Stations of the Cross, Church of the Holy Sepulcher (the ancient site of the Crucifixion and burial of Jesus), Mount Zion, Church of St. Peter in Gallicantu, Tomb of King David, Room of the Last Supper, Church of Dormition, Church of John the Baptist, Russian Orthodox Church, Shepherds Field, Manger Square, Church of the Nativity and the Milk Grotto.

I took this picture from the Mount of Olives. I thought it was so interesting because you can see the Jewish grave-sites immediately in front of us (there are many more which you'll see in the next picture), then after the trees you can see a number of walls, one after the other, that's the Christian grave-sites and after that right in front of the farthest wall are all the Muslim grave-sites. Now if you look at the wall on the right side you will see the Golden Gates (said to be where the Divine Presence appeared and where the Messiah will return). Behind the wall you see the gold dome which is the Dome of the Rock. If you look to the left you can see the black dome which is the Church of the Holy Sepculchre. The Kidron Valley separates the Mount of Olives from the Dome of the Rock.

Now here we are on the other side of the wall looking at the Mount of Olives. You can clearly see all the Jewish grave-sites leading up to the Mount of Olives from this shot. The church on the left is St. Peter in Gallicantu Church.

The Western Wall or Wailing Wall (men on the left, women on the right). It's said that construction started back in 19 B.C by Herod the Great.

Keegan decided he wanted to say a prayer.

The site of the First Station of the Cross. The arch above the entrance has thorns carved into the stone depicting the crown of thorns.

Jesus meets his Mother at the Fourth Station of the Cross. Some believe that the footprints on floor are where Mother Mary stood.

Coming upon the Church of the Holy Sepulchre where many believe Jesus was crucified and buried.

The Calvary (Golgotha), the place where many believe Jesus was crucified. On each side of this altar under glass is the Rock of Calvary. Beneath the altar is where many believe is the location of the crucifixion.

Beneath the altar there is a hole many people believe is the place where Jesus' cross was placed and raised.

The Stone of the Anointing, also known as The Stone of Unction; many believe this is the spot where Jesus' body was prepared for burial after his death.

In front of the Ediule of the Holy Sepulchre - The Tomb of Jesus

Keegan in line about to touch the spot where Jesus is believed to have been buried.

The Tomb of King David, located at Mount Zion.

This was the path-way said to have been the path Jesus took with his Disciples after the Last Supper and then crossed the Kidron Valley and it's the same path-way Jesus walked after he was arrested and he was taken to Caiaphas the High Priest.

 
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Posted by on February 1, 2012 in Israel