Thursday, February 26, 2009

better late then never!! we never did talk about Tokyo on here. We have shared many Tokyo stories at this point in one on one moments, but it is only proper to finish off this blog right!
We got into Tokyo in the evening, and had to take the train into the city, as a cab would have run us 300 US$$$!!! I kid you not! The train took forever and I was anxious to just get to our final destination.
From the train station we did take a cab to our Ryokan, and I have to say my first feeling of Tokyo was how I feel when I get into NYC. Its massive and bustling, and there are buildings everywhere. Now, I know you all know that already, but after being in Indonesia for so long, lounging on beaches and not seeing anything built higher than two stories, you could imagine how overwhelming Tokyo would feel.
We got to our Ryokan somehow, as we really hard a hard time communicating with our driver, although I have to say he was patient, and we made it. A Ryokan is a traditional Japanese guesthouse, and the cheapest way for us to stay there. Did I mention that Tokyo is expensive??!?!! For a mere 80 US$ a night {that was our entire daily budget by the way} We had our own lil, and I mean lil room. The room consisted of bamboo floor mats, two twin size futons on the floor to be pushed together for our bed, a t.v. with about five whacked out channels of kooku crazy Japanese entertainment, a tea set, and a funny teeny tiny bathroom where the sink literally only came up to just above my knee!!! The place was silly, but we were cozy enough, and there were no wild massive spiders in there, so I was happy!!
Jonathan's mom put her magical researching skills to use to help us find that place, and thank goodness. The options of places to stay in Tokyo is abundant and very expensive. We were very lucky to only pay 80$ a night, and to have the restroom be a part of our room.. Most Ryokans have a shared bathroom down the hall..and you all know how I feel about that!! hahha.
For me, one of my # 1 plans for Tokyo was FASHION!!!! I planned on coming back to America with some fantastical avant garde pieces..zztzttz. Well. I had been told over and over again by people and guide books that unless you are teeny tiny you will not be able to fit into anything. I decided that that information was stupid, and I was determined I would fit in something. WRONG! I am like an amazonian alien in Japan!! What was I thinking? I attempted to try on a couple of pieces and every time I could not squeeze an inch of me into any look!!! It was ridiculous, and to be quite frank, I was quite upset about it. All the day dreaming I had done over fashion in Tokyo was crushed with every look I would get from the immaculately minuscule sales girls and boys as they gave me a look like why am I even trying??!! Its true though. Japanese males and females are so small it almost doesn't make any sense. I began to wonder where their innards went? Their bodies are are just so petite!!! Seriously, Jonathan and I were gigantic!!!
Needless to say I did not come home from Tokyo with a dream bag full of garments to die for, but I did buy the only thing my mammoth limbs would fit into and that was two pairs of leg warmers, and I love them.
We were only in Tokyo for six days, and we barley scratched the surface. The major problem for us is that Tokyo is so expensive, and its a very hard city to crack no matter what, but without the funds to get you everywhere you want to be, its not easy. After being in extreme detrimentally hot climates for so long, Tokyo was frigidly cold to us. We went out everyday and wandered our way all over that city, but it was tough with how cold it was. All that being said, I think we would both love to go back to Tokyo with a pocket full of never ending $$ and in the spring or summer!!
One thing I appreciated about the people in Tokyo was their sense of style. Everyday on the trains I got to people watch real Tokyoites. I was impressed. Everyone, men, women, children had a look, and were stylized and super sharp. People really seem to take the extra care into presenting themselves and I love that. The surgical face masks killed me though. They are also worn by everyone, and I have to say at first I did not get it, because I was thinking if you are going to be that much of a germaphobe, then why aren't they wearing gloves as well, think of all the germs on train handles and what not, or even a bubble suit for that matter!!! hahah. But I learned later from Cathy {Jonathan's mom, who has been to Tokyo} that the masks are not to keep you from getting germs, but rather they are worn by people who have a cold, so that they will not spread the germs. Whatever the looks funny and weird.
As far as food goes..forget about it if you are a vegetarian!! Jonathan was in love with the noodle house's where you go in, pick a picture on the vending machine that looks good, pay the machine, then you sit and within minutes a steaming hot bowl of mystery ramen/soba noodle soup appears in front of you. This was a fine option for him, but I could not order mystery soup, as everything comes with creepy meat in it. Speaking of vending machines though. They are everywhere, and you can get all sorts of stuff from them, including delicious warm drinks, and beer and whiskey!! Yes, I am telling the truth. Anyone can go to a vending machine and get whiskey..gross!!
Ok...I guess that's a good warm up on Tokyo. I will make sure we get some pictures up from our last stop, and maybe Jonathan will write a lil something too!!
Alicia Claire

Monday, December 29, 2008

Amber waves of grain

hey!!! strange and happy and sad, and everything in between. Ok, so I have actually never see amber waves of grain in America, but here we are non the less!! Jet lag does not even begin to describe our state of weirdness. Once we get a lil adjusted, please stay tuned, for we will put up a bunch of posts all about Kooky Crazy Tokyo!!!!!
Alicia Claire

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

tokyo christmas

we made it!! no time to write, but wanted to let you know we are tall and happy in tokyo!! merry christmas!!!!! xoxoxoxoxxo

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Bali and Gili Islands Photos

Alicia and I are winding down our last few days of tropical vacation land. We leave for one day in Singapore tomorrow. The following day we have an early flight to Tokyo! I have no idea what to expect about Japan besides cultural differences everywhere. That and it will be cold. We only have six days in Japan before we land bright and early in Seattle the morning of the 29th. That will be the cap to six and a half months spent overseas.

Spectacular Ubud scenery. From beautiful river valleys right outside of the city to rice paddies among stores and shops.

Shots from the back of the monster boat we took from Pandang Bai to Gili Trawangan. The top shot shows some of the boat staff working on a misbehaving engine. We were apparently on the boat's fourth day of operation. Given my motorhead and boat loving nature, this 1000HP craft was a lot of fun. You can see the five V6 200HP outboards hanging off the back. On the dashboard in front of the captain were five black VDO RPM gauges. It was quite fun to watch them start one by one and all climb up to 5000RPM for the duration of our 30 knot trip.

Alicia and I on our first tour of Gili Air in a horse-drawn cidomo. No motorized transport is allowed on the islands via a collective village decision that it would be noisy and pointless. Hooray!

Alica and I with our new friends Chantel and Björn. We met them at our guest house in Ubud and we both ended up on Gili Air for a few days while they planned a boat trip to the island of Flores. They two of them wholesale silver jewelry in Germany and manage to travel to SE Asia for at least a couple months each year. Amazing.

Alicia climbing on a bizarre tree next to the ocean. Maybe it is a mangrove?

Alicia sitting with the other tourists at the Sasak wedding we got to attend on Gili Air. Rosie, one of the owners of our guest house is to Alicia's left.

Sasak "breakfast" (aka, lunch and dinner food). As Alicia described in her wedding post this feast for 500 was prepared all night with the mostly-women volunteers working in shifts until dawn. Very spicy. I love the thick coconut-chilly-beef curry stuff in the bottom right. Yum!

A crappy picture (color-wise) of the lush village. This is a typical family plot in the 1100 person village in the middle of the island.

The population of Gili Air will probably be 3000 in ten-fifteen years. There are loads of kids about. All super cute and playful. It seems to be like a rather idyllic place to grow up. No cars, paths everywhere, tons of playmates, the ocean on all sides... not so bad. The best part is watching the tiny tiny kids all ride their bikes with no training wheels.

Doesn't Alicia look so beautiful even when she is tired? We were out of bed early to catch the wedding.

The new couple and their family along the reception line.

We witnessed history on Gili Air! The photo above shows village men connecting the recently laid fresh-water pipe from Lombok. They were connecting the line to a pre-laid village system. Previous to the pipe a small amount of potable water was available from Gili Air itself, but not the other two islands. All other water was brought over in huge tanks on outrigger boats each day. And guest houses and locals end up with brackish showers. So great for the island but not so great for Alicia. She missed fresh water showers on Gili Air by a week!

Village children playing soccer.

Typical village life. A young woman, of course with head scarf, on her bike through the coconut tree fields.

On a walk through the middle of the island with a wonderful British couple, Judie and Gabriel. They had just started a four month SE Asia journey and we had sundowners on the beach.

The sunsets, as usual, were amazing.

On a cidomo again on our way back to Bali.

Local boats at the harbor.

Kuta has a number of scary western establishments. But this two story KFC takes the cake.

The main drag in Kuta at night. Full of drunken shirtless Aussies outside of clubs offering 'foam parties', 'Pirate nights', and 'jam jars' (huge Thailand-bucket-like cocktails). Note the Starbucks across the road. One wasted fellow was dancing in the street and nearly dropped his shot glass on Alicia's foot right after taking this photo. Lots of scary people but inside some of the clubs are almost entirely Indonesian crowds. Most of them wonderfully behaved and actually wearing shirts and no swim wear. Imagine!

A cute Christmas tree with tropical flower.

This shot may be a bit small for the required detail. But the two people in this photo were too hilarious to pass up. We stopped at a club next door to Double Six (in Seminyak, Bali) to wait for people to show up. The fellow in red to the left was dancing like a total maniac. I'm not sure I've ever seen someone so violently out of sync with the beat. The other guy to the right was in a strange Tommy Hilfiger tank top, faded jeans with the bottoms rolled up and weird sandles. And he was all over the local ladies. Gross!

Alicia and enjoying our last tropical dance party night.

Beautiful lady!

This strange guy wanted Alicia to take a photo of him. When shown the result above he was apparently all about it!

The dance party at Double Six in Seminyak. We showed up at 12:15 to a virtually empty club. Alicia and I were disappointed. By 2:00am the cavernous dance floor was packed with 80% Indonesians rocking out. The local flavor and vibe more than made up for the totally average commercial dance music.

Rosy-cheeked makeup goodness.

The night before these photos Alicia and I went to the 'Sky Bar' in Kuta. It was a really, really scary place full of super drunken tourists and 'sexy girl' Baliense dancers in tiny outfits. We lasted about 45 minutes but long enough to meet a wonderful guy named Doddy (above). We figured he was probably the only cool guy in the club and were right. He lives in San Diego but was raised on Java. We met up with him last night and got a super great Indonesian-speaking guide to hang out with. Hooray for meeting great people around the world!

The scores of motorcycles outside the club. We're assuming almost all of these were driven home by drunk people :(


Thats it for now. Stay tuned for pictures from Tokyo.


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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Turtles and the Deep Blue Sea

Alicia and I decided to take a snorkeling trip on our last full day on Gili Air. What a great idea it turned out to be!

After a bit of wandering around the island we finally found a boat headed out for the day. The difficultly lay in actually getting to the boat. We had picked one of the lowest tides of the year to do our snorkeling. The boat lay about 50 meters out from the normal beach line. We had to make our way over slimy rocks and ankle deep puddles of normally covered ground to climb in the boat. Not a problem for myself and my trusty Teva sandles. Not so good for Alicia and her magical yellow inexpensive flip-flops. After a plodding walk we climbed into the traditional outrigger and headed over to Gili Trawangan. After some choppy seas we made it to the 'turtle area'. The Gili's are well known for their population of sea turtles and everyone said we'd see some. I was a bit dubious if we'd be so lucky. However in minutes after following the boat-helper teenage boy into the water I was swimming after a huge sea turtle headed away from us into the depths. The sight of the big turtle headed into the deep blue water away from the island shelf will be one of my most vivid brain-memories of our trip.

We continued seeing turtles here and there as well as encountering tiny jellyfish bits that gave a strong sting. Alicia got hit with quite a few of them and decided to head out of the water. As she was getting out another smaller turtle had been spotted. After getting stung on my upper lip, arms, etc... I made it to the friendly little green guy.

The turtle swam around with us in circles. They are so funny looking and graceful under water!

After turtle time we had a couple additional snorkel spots and lunch on Gili Meno (the third and least populated island).

Overall the rest of the snorkeling was not incredible. This is mostly due to the poor health of the coral in the area. The islanders and foreign hotel owners do have a fund to help preserve and repair the coral on the islands which is really great.

Even without bright vivid corals it was lots of fun to swim all afternoon. Thankfully we were under cloudy skies. I was also able to practice some free-diving with my basic skills my Dad taught me swimming in cloudy lakes in Idaho. I can assure you its much more fun to swim like a fish is perfectly clear and warm oceans!

Sadly, our day with the turtles may be our last ocean day on our trip. The beach here at Kuta has some very scary undertow and is also terribly polluted and shockingly full of litter. So we thankfully ended our ocean adventures on a high note.


Last night Jonathan and I went to do what we came to Kuta for. We went DANCING!!! This crazy town is packed with clubs and bars, and I was just itching to bring it to the dance floor!

We began our night at a "reggae" bar that was horrible. The DJ was playing the likes of Shaggy and Red Red Wine tracks. Not what we had in mind. After a crappy cocktail, we deiced to just wander up and down the street, as most of the night spots are on one strip. As we meandered our way along we passed many super gross Aussie travelers, the guys were the worst wearing their swim board shorts and no top. What are these guys thinking? They all look like such fools to me. First of all I cant stand board shorts, I think they are cliche and boring, but to wear them all day and into the night when they are not even near the beach, then to also feature a bare chest is just idiotic.

The music bumping and blasting out of most of the clubs was total trash sleaze hip hop. This was also not what we had in mind. We finally walked past a spot that seemed to be playing electro housey beats and we thought that this was our best bet. Inside the lighting on the dance floor was gross. They had red and green laser beams shooting all around making everyone look like writhing Christmas tress. Dreamman and I ordered cocktails and found a spot on the edge of the dance floor away from the miserable light show. From here we also had the best vantage point of the whole dancing crowd, and DJ booth which was up a level in a cage like podium.

The first and second DJ of the night were girls, and I have to say they were rocking it out. I was not disappointed in the music. It started off kind of classic electro but there were lots of wild drum beats thrown in, and it progressed to grindy grimy beats that I just love. It was especially interesting to get to see and hear 2 fierce female djs dressed in tight outfits in a Muslim country.

Lover and I had a total blast people watching before we brought it to the dance floor ourselves. The best and worst, was this white girl flailing around like she was having seizures. She was wafting her limbs and head in every which direction. I don't think she gets out much back home, nor does she have any sense of rhythm or dance whatsoever. I could not get over her. In fact I felt terrible for her, and had to restrain from dancing myself, for a while, because I just did not want to put her to shame. Her boyfriend was glued to a couch in a corner obviously not into the club or music, with no desire to be there at all. I felt bad for him too. The girl tried to get him to dance with her countless times, and it was disturbing to see his discomfort and her begging.

The rest of the crowd was local flavor, and predominantly gay. Leave it to me to find the gay dance club by accident!! hahaha. I think Jonathan and I were both thoroughly pleased to be at a bumping party filled with locals as opposed to the super trashed out travelers/tourists!

I ended up having the strongest cocktail of this entire trip last night in that club and danced it up like a wild women. I loved it! As gross as most of the people are here and as tourist driven as it is, it was all worth it to come here for me just to dance.

We will take advantage of the rest of our time here and go dancing at least 2 more times!! I am sure there will be much more people watching hysteria and twists and twirls to be made!!

Alicia Claire

wedding bells

Hey!! Ok..we are back in Bali, and are now in a town called Kuta. Its is Australian sleazy tourist crazy, and Jonathan would rather be back on the beach in the Gilis!

One of the many lazy days we had on Gili Air we got the opportunity to go to a local Muslim wedding. Our guesthouse owner is originally from Austria and is herself now married to a Gili man. She invited us and some other travelers that were staying at their place, Gili Air Santay, {which has some of the best food on the island if you end up there!!}. She told us to meet at her house at 9am and to dress appropriately...i.e. bikinis and sarongs were a no go. I think I already mentioned to you all how hot and muggy it was on that island, but I sucked it up and wore a long skirt and a top with sleeves to get a chance to be a part of such an event.

The wedding day begins early and all the guests arrive to have breakfast. Breakfast in Indonesia is not really breakfast at all, but rather its like lunch and dinner. Rice, mystery meat curries, wickedly spicy green bean salad, banana curry, prawn chips, and all sorts of other strange foods. I was, and am not thrilled about Indonesian breakfast, but you have to eat and be polite. I loaded up my plate with mostly rice, and some fire breathing green beans. I nearly choked after my first bite, they were so hot!! There are huge tents set up for all the people to sit under and eat. First we walked through the buffet tables, before finding a spot near the massive pile of sandals on the edge of the tent to sit down at. Some of the food, the meat curries in particular had been literally slaved over into the wee hours of the night, as there is no refrigeration to keep the food, so it had to be made as close to breakfast time as possible. In the tradition of Gili weddings there are separate tents for men and women. All the children go with the woman to their tents, but being travelers we were aloud to sit together on the edge of the women's tent.

I was sweating long before I put those green beans in my mouth, and my dewiness factor did not let up, especially after the spiciness. Up until this point, on the island we had not really seen that many local women around. There are about 1000 people that live on the island, and there were at least 500 of them attending this wedding, so it was a great chance to really check out all the locals. The women of course, we covered up and looked miserable in the heat. They all had similar oval pudgy face shapes cloaked in their scarves, long sweltering un-breathable tops and skirts, and simple sandals. Some of the women were a lil dolled up in lace outfits, but they looked just as hot. I really do not know how they do it. I could barley contain my own body heat and my head and arms were out!

The men all had fabric on their heads as well, folded in a very certain manner, but this is for ceremony only, normally they do not have their heads covered up, wherein the ladies always do. The rest of the guys outfit was super simple, a t- shirt, and then a sarong style fabric wrapped around their waists. Besides the head covering difference between the men and the women, the other most prominent difference is body type. All the men, young and old have killer bodies. I mean zero percent body fat, six pack abs, and long lean muscle. They have the type of physic that gym rats would die for. Its really quite impressive, but its testament to their hard working lifestyles as farmers, fishers, and general island living labor. The women on the other hand were all a little round and had puffy cheeks and faces. To see them paired up was kind of funny.

The general skin tones of the Gili Ar inhabitants is either burnt sugar cookie brown, or a ricc burnt sienna. Either way its a burnt tone, also due to island life. Everyone was also very short, the tallest men were maybe my height. The Gili people all have slightly angled coal black eyes, and just as dark hair either thick and wavy or corkscrew curly. It is a very interesting look to say the least. I am sure they all thought I was also bizarre looking too. They do see other travelers, but most other travelers are all lobster red from the sun or too tanned, so my skin tone gleamed in the light there!

After the breakfast, there was a lot of waiting around wiping the sweat from our brows, until finally there was a bit of a ruckus. All the men lead the groom to a different tent that all 500 people gathered around for a good viewing spot. In the tent was the man hosting the ceremony, the groom, and one of his men. The bride too, was escorted by a gaggle of ladies into the tent. She had on a simple but pretty beige outfit, her hair was up and she had a wild silver crown of flowers jutting straight out of her hair in a halo formation. She also had on a sleek silvery blue eyeshadow awash over her angled lids.

The bride went and sat next to her fiance, and neither of then even stole a glance at each other. This was weird to me. The ceremony proceeded, and I stood in the back round people watching and checking out all the hundreds of children running around. There were just so many lil ones, it was crazy, and they were all eating ice cream bars and acting out on sugar highs. I decided to get an ice cream as well, as I figured if my breakfast was more like lunch, then I could have ice cream first thing in the morning too!

When the ceremony ended the bride and groom walked out of the tent side by side, but not touching. I still do not think they had even looked at each other, and this made me sad. They stood and posed awkwardly for some photos and walked off together still not touching. That's a Muslim wedding for you, I guess. Its just that in that religion its not ok to share affection in all know how I feel about this!!!

I was happy when the wedding was over so I could get out of my sweat drenched outfit, but it was quite amazing to get to witness such an intimate affair!

Alicia Claire