Merry Christmas

For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. 2 Corinthians 1:20a Merry Christmas 2014.


God brought us a long way (figuratively and literally) this year from our comfortable, steady lives in Dallas, to a nomadic life often not sure where we’ll be spending the night. We are learning more and more everyday to trust Christ in everything, He is the answer.

From wherever we are to wherever you are,
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Christmas Time in Germany

Its feels really cold to us here, but we’re told it’s actually very unseasonably warm for Christmas time in Germany. Usually there’s snow on the ground, but since it’s in the high 30’s-40’s its just drizzle. But they’re reporting that we’re about to get some really cold weather – starting the 26th temperatures drop and there’s supposed to be heavy snow.

I’ve also gotten to cook while we’ve been here at Song’s – YEA!! I really did miss cooking, and Rick says he missed my cooking (although may be he’s just tired of eating Asian street food?). What was the first meal he requested? Chili of course! So I made a big pot of chili and Rick has eaten just about all of it already.

We are going to a friend of Song’s for Christmas Day. They are also Americans in the military stationed here. I’ve been emailing with Mel (our host) and she is going ALL OUT for the Christmas meal. And I’m excited to get to make some favorites to bring – mashed potatoes, lil smokie crescent roll wraps and a kale salad. It’s funny to look at that list of things and think I’m excited and proud to make them, since I’m usually trying to do something much more interesting, fancy, unique. But I think Rick and I are both craving some of the basics from home.

Speaking of which, we got to go to the BX and Commissary on the air force base, and it was awesome! It’s like a full American grocery store, Walmart and Macy’s all wrapped into one. It’s the first time we’ve seen products we’re used to in months! Plus being able to say I went shopping at the Commissary is just really cool. We have our official military IDs now too!


It has been so incredibly nice to have a “home” to be in for the last few days. We’ve been staying pretty close to “home”, plus there are cool castles and markets to see right around here.


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But after Christmas I think we’re going head out a bit further. I’m hoping we can either go to France or go skiing for my birthday. And Song has made plans for us to spend New Years in Brussels! I don’t know anything about Brussels, but we’re excited!

Since we hadn’t really planned to come to Europe, we don’t have any idea what to do or see in France or Belgium. (Germany has been easier since Song knows it really well). Any one have any suggestions for France or Belgium?

What I’m Learning So Far: 3 Months of Travel

What I'm Learning So FarWe have been traveling for three months now. As predicted, it feels like it has flown by! When we were preparing for this trip, we thought through what we wanted to get out of it, what we wanted to learn, how we hoped it would change us and grow us. It was intimidating to come up with those big scary goals, and it was impossible to say how we would grow. But almost daily as we are traveling, Rick and I find ourselves talking about something we’re learning, or something we had as head knowledge, but is really sinking in now.

So I figured I would share a few of those thoughts. As I got into writing this, it turned into a MUCH longer post than I initially thought. So I’m breaking it up into a series of them. Here’s the first installment, in no particular order:

1) Stop Spending Your Energy Looking for The Best

You’re better off making the most of where ever you are, than trying to figure out where you should be. I’m really bad at this. Like really, really bad.

I’m learning that with perpetual travel like we’re doing, you are basically constantly in planning mode. It’s very different from a vacation – where it’s super fun to plan, you spend weeks or months learning about a place, what to see, where to stay, eat, what are the “can’t miss” things there. But when that’s everyday, it’s gets really overwhelming and there’s just not enough time. I can’t plan for the next country we’ll be in because I’m trying to figure out where the heck we are right now, what we’re not supposed to miss, where we’re sleeping and how we’re getting from the train station to somewhere that’s not in the ghetto. So if I let it (and sometimes I do), every moment of every day could be spent planning where to go next, what to see – and even if you have time to do any of those “best things” at that point, you have no energy to because you’re beat down from all of the researching.

Confession: I am TERRIBLE about this!! (And if you knew me back in Texas, you’re probably nodding along that I was terrible about this at home too) What’s worse is that I’ve dragged Rick down into this habit with me – he didn’t used to do it – but I’ve brought him to the dark side. And this habit is what starts the majority of our frustration and fights I think.

As I’m writing this, God is definitely speaking to me, “Liz, why do you think you do that?…. Hint, hint, is it because you struggle with control? Is it because you too often forget that I have a plan for where I want you to be and when I want you to be there? Do you forget to trust my timing and hand on you?” Yes, nailed it, God!

You’re better off going to one of the first places you find, it may be mediocre or flat out crappy, but you’ve saved yourself a ton of stress and you actually have energy remaining to enjoy it. That goes from the smallest things, like the restaurant you’re eating at or which temple to visit, to the bigger travel things like which country in Southeast Asia to go to or which island to stay on.

There’s a danger to always looking for, seeking out the best, always trying to figure it out and get to it. I’m an addict though. I always want to figure out what the best option is and go for that one. But it’s easy to miss where you are when you’re mid-super-research-and-planning-extravaganza looking for the best. And certain moments in a mediocre place can be so much more fulfilling, memorable, and meaningful than the time you would spend in that perfect place. Make the most of where you are, instead of looking for the best place – I’ll be working on this one for the next leg of our journey.

Learning - Good Luck

2) I Don’t Have To Have It All Figured Out

Actually I only have to have a very, very little bit figured out – Who God is, and who I am to God. Everything else will work out, as long as I’m focused on those two things.


3) Learning What I Like: Mountains, Countryside

Being free to be where I want, having those options, has helped me to realize things I enjoy most. Previously, living in a city, I kind of assumed that I liked getting out into nature, the country, just because it was different that what I saw everyday. But now that we are bouncing around between cities and more rural places, Rick and I have both found that we really like being out in nature much more that being in even the most interesting and beautiful cities. Not a huge break though here, but good to know. I’ve also determined that I’m a mountain person. I’m just happier at altitude and with mountains as my backdrop. Even when I’m at some of the most beautiful beaches in the world I would rather be in the mountains. I’m looking forward to continuing to learn more of these innate preferences as we continue the journey.

PS – For Rick, definitely countryside over city. He could do beaches or mountains, definitely not as strong of a preference as me, but he leans towards mountains.

Learning - mountains…well that’s probably already too long for one post, so I’ll stop there and pick up in another post.

It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas… in Germany!

We originally planned to be somewhere in Southeast Asia for Christmas, before heading to Africa. But while in Thailand we started missing the usual surroundings of Christmas season – the cold weather, the decorations, people getting into the holiday spirit. We also wanted to be around friends, people we knew at Christmas, not just strangers.

So we kinda went rogue! We started thinking about where we would be Christmas-y and where we knew people. And places that were somewhat on the way from Asia to Africa. Our friend Song came to mind. We had met him while trekking the Annapurna Circuit in September. It was a total shot in the dark, but we emailed and asked if by any chance he would be around and up for a couple of house guests. To our delight, he said “Come on!” So we booked our tickets for Christmas in Germany.

P1100475It’s been so much fun to hang out with Song and meet his friends. And Germany is the capital of Christmas Markets! We took an outing to a couple of Christmas markets. The first one was in Bernkastel-Kues, an adorable valley with vineyards all around, the drive was beautiful. It was a small market, but the town itself was so cute and festive. We had our first Gluehwein (pronounced Glue-vine), which is hot spiced wine. Thank goodness for it because the weather was COLD!! Maybe it’s coming from the beaches that makes it feel so cold to us, or maybe it’s that it’s damp and windy and there’s no sun. Either way, I was very happy to have hot wine!

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The next day Song took us to the Heidelberg Christmas Market. We got to see the lights up at the market and enjoy more gluehwein and some bratwurst. It was so much fun.


There were beautiful Christmas decorations everywhere! P1100505 P1100495Yesterday we were on our own since Song had to work. We planned to drive to Baden-Baden, but when were about halfway there we stopped for a coffee in this small town and the sweet owner of the shop told us there was a really nice old city we should see just ten minutes away, Wissembourg. We thought “sure, why not?” and reset the destination in the GPS. About ten minutes later we realized Wissembourg is actually in France! Its so crazy to us to be able to just drive over to another country.


The old town was beautiful and we decided to forget about Baden-Baden and just wander around Wissembourg.

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And since it was our first time in France, we couldn’t leave without getting some cheese and wine.


We headed back to meet up with Song for dinner, and enjoyed a really pretty drive through the German forests and hills. The countryside here is beautiful!

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Lovely Lanta and Scuba Diving

Scuba diving with Phoenix Divers - Koh Lanta, Krabi, Thailand

We spent about five days in Ao Nang/Krabi, and while the trips to islands were beautiful, the town and beach there was trashy, overdeveloped, overcrowded and you could tell the locals were just beat down by rude tourists and in no mood to be nice at all. So when Alvin and Jennifer headed back to the states, we headed off to find a different island base. We went with Koh Lanta – described on a travel review as “The Island for People Who Can’t Decide What They Want”, as in it has waterfalls and caves to hike to, great scuba diving, a little town at one end, a bunch of uncrowded beach, some rocky areas and the occasional all-night beach party. With our travel ADD, it was great for us!

Koh Lanta, Krabi, Thailand

We arrived in a bit of a funk, tired of the trashy overdeveloped, not-quaint-whatsoever cities… and were immediately relieved by the cute little port. We hopped in the back of a pick-up truck that our beach bungalows had sent to pick us up and rode to the other side of the island, where we quickly found the island paradise we had been hunting for!

Paradise - Koh Lanta Krabi, Thailand

Koh Lanta, Krabi, Thailand

Complete with idyllic sunsets and hippies practicing their fire dancing and hula hoop skills. (by the way, these photos don’t have filters or anything, its just that gorgeous).

The next day we went in search of where we would take our scuba course. We had thought about doing a one day “fun” dive where you don’t have to be certified, just to see how we liked scuba diving since neither of us had done it. But we quickly agreed “of course we’ll love it” and with our standard go-big-or-go-home attitude, decided to go for the 3-4 day course that gets you a PADI Open Water Diver Certification.

After talking with over a dozen different shops, landed on Phoenix Divers with kind owners and amazing staff from all over the world. We didn’t realize that Koh Lanta (Koh = Island in Thai) has a huge Swedish ex-pat population. Especially in winter when Sweden is getting only 3-4 hours of sunlight a day.

So we were off to studying, we had about 100 pages in a textbook and 3 quizzes to complete before our class started the next morning. Lots of studying, but not a bad place to do it!

Studying on the beach - Koh Lanta, Krabi, Thailand

The first day of the course we reviewed the theory at the scuba shop with our instructor in the morning, then headed off to a pool to put on the equipment and practice all we had heard about. Basically you’ve read a bit about how it works and what’s supposed to happen, and then you’ve read A LOT about what could go wrong, what you’re supposed to do to prevent it, and what you do when it goes wrong anyway…. And that last part is what you’re practicing in the pool.

This did not go so well for me. Turns out I take things very literally when it comes to life-or-death instructions, and I took things a bit too literally… when the book said “#1 Rule: You must breathe constantly. Never hold your breath”, I did that, which made me feel super uncomfortable breathing from the regulator, and made me want to breathe through my nose which doesn’t work well in scuba because it makes water come into your mask, which means when you breathe through your nose the next time water comes into your nose. Combine that with all of the drills where you lose your mask and have to hang out underwater without it, lose your regulator (thing in your mouth where your air comes from), swim without your mask, swim without your regulator, rescue your buddy who’s lost his air supply, do that while you’ve lost your mask, do backflips while singing the national anthem while underwater without your airsupply, on and on and on. Okay, maybe not that last one, but you get the idea.

I did not enjoy it. It was like acting out “1,001 Ways To Die” Scuba episode. I was not sure I’d make it the next day when we went out into the ocean. And to add insult to to injury, we had to go home and study three more chapters for about 5 hours!

Fast forward to the next morning and we’re out at the dive location, Koh Bida, I’ve talked myself out of freaking out, but I’m not excited about this adventure. I now know that both Rick and our instructor, Alex, were rather apprehensive that I was going to bail out when we started having to do all of the “ways to die” drills underwater. But as soon as I jumped in, it all disappeared! For once my ADD paid off, and as soon as I looked underwater and saw all of the fish and coral and amazing creatures, I was like “SQUIRREL!”


My distraction by all the cool stuff to see, allowed me to stop overthinking every little thing I was supposed to do, and instead just do it. Even when I managed to breathe in a lungful of sea water during our “lost your mask, swim around” drill – my lack of panic when it happened and completing the exercise despite it, convinced Rick and Alex that I would actually make it as a diver! (what I was actually thinking was “Liz you can’t quit now because if you do, you’ll have to do this whole stupid exercise over again!”)

Scuba diving with Phoenix Divers - Koh Lanta, Krabi, Thailand

At Koh Bida we saw a ton of fish! A huge cuttlefish (kinda rare, we were told), stingrays, lion fish, parrot fish, puffer fish, banded sea krait sea snake, lots of more eels. I think my favorites were the dozen different kinds of clown fish playing in the anemones. The funniest thing was when Alex kept signaling us with all of these underwater signs/charade signals, and we had no clue what he was talking about. I keep trying to figure out that drill it means. We get to the surface at the end of the dive and I’m thinking “wow, I must have missed a ton of the drills”. Well turns out each fish has a “scuba signal” and he was just telling us what to look at! Some of them are quite humorous… like the one for grouper… here’s a hint it includes groping yourself 🙂

We weren’t able to bring our camera with us, even though it’s waterproof because it only goes to about 45 feet and we were diving deeper than that. So these pics aren’t ours, just a few from Wikipedia to give you an idea what it looked like.


The next day was the last day of our course, went to Koh Haa. We successfully passed all of our drills and exams – YEA!! I finally got that you don’t really have to breathe in and out constantly, and got really stinkin’ good at the buoyancy stuff, so I could control all of my vertical movement with my breath. Apparently I’m really good at managing my air supply, too. I would come with almost double the air supply left that Rick had.

Phoenix Divers - Koh Lanta, Krabi, Thailand


Rick loved scuba diving! But not so great at the air management. He was so excited to see everything around him that he was sorta spazzy and flitting all over the place. Our instructor kept motioning to him “slow, slow”, “calm, calm”. So a little work to do there.


We got do to more fun diving on this day than the previous, including going into an underwater cave sort of.  Sign language is a big deal underwater when you can’t talk to each other.

We wanted to go for another day of diving to one of the best sites in Thailand that was very close to where we were staying, Hin Daeng and Hin Muang, known for whale sharks and giant manta rays. But the weather was too rough, so no trips were going. So we’ll have to get our first “officially certified” dive in somewhere else – Africa? South America? We’re taking recommendations!

We spent the next few days enjoying our beach front bungalow and exploring the island. A very relaxing way to close out our time in Asia.

Sunset - Koh Lanta, Krabi, Thailand

Amazing Beaches around Krabi

Hanging out on the Islands

You’ve seen the pictures of gorgeous sunsets, and the famous Thai beaches with white sand, crystal water and limestone karsts jutting out. Let me tell ya, it’s harder to find in Krabi than you would think, but when you do finally, it’s spectacular.

Here’s my travel advice warning before you get carried away with these incredible pics: I still don’t recommend staying in Krabi or Ao Nang. They’re really overdeveloped, haven’t been taken care of and, frankly, the food and service sucks. But there are pretty day trips from there… but you could take those same day trips based out of somewhere far less trashed out.

Ok – so on to the beautiful pictures to make you all jealous while you’re bundled up in winter clothes!

Sunset Ao Nang Beach, Krabi,, Thailand

Our first night we got to enjoy the most beautiful sunset I think I’ve ever seen, just off Ao Nang beach. Choosing which pictures to post for this is really hard – and really they don’t even begin to capture it!

The next day we went on the “Five Island Tour” on a longtail boat.

Longtail Boats - Krabi,, Thailand

We started off at Railay Beach – the perfect “play in the water” beach. It’s not an island, but you do have to take a boat to get there because it’s cut off from any road due to the rock formations.

Cave Railay Beach, Krabi, Thailand

Railay Beach, Krabi, Thailand

It’s known for it’s rock climbing and a cave that you can only get to in low tide.

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Then went to Poda Island

Poda Island Krabi, Thailand Poda Island Krabi, Thailand

Then we stopped at a couple spots to snorkel. There were a ton of fish, but it didn’t have the coral or variety we were hoping for. But it did remind us how we had wanted to learn to Scuba drive (… foreshadowing for future blog post).


Then we went to Chicken Island… can you see why it’s named that? The couple Americans on the boat agreed Turkey Island would be better, but they don’t really have turkeys in Thailand.

Chicken Island, Thailand

Chicken Island is attached to a few other small islands at low tide by giant sandbars that, so you can basically walk between them. So of course we did… Childhood flashback to Land Before Time and the land bridge to The Great Valley… except our land bridge took us to the only island where you could buy beer! Didn’t exactly save us from extinction, but we were excited nonetheless!

We enjoyed swimming around and playing on the islands the rest of the afternoon.

That night we thought we had upgraded our accommodations from where we spent our first couple nights – the desk lady was still not a fan us due to our vagrant-style introduction. I guess first impressions stick.

We did have a location closer to the main beach… but here’s our “Ocean View” bungalow in Ao Nang. Yep, that’s the Ocean View. It was rustic charming though.

Ocean View room

The morning we got up to pack all of our stuff up we found THOUSANDS of ants had moved their colony into our clothes that we had sitting on the floor of the bungalow. There wasn’t any furniture or places to hang clothes, so we just had them stacked up in packing cubes and piles. The bungalow is built on short stilts, the floor is bamboo with small gaps between the planks. We didn’t have any food in our room, no idea why they picked our clothes as their new homestead. But it was terrifying and a huge pain in the butt. They had moved in the queen. And ants in your pants don’t shake off. They refuse. It took us over an hour and we still didn’t get all of them off – we just had to prioritize the clothes we were wearing that day and hope that being packed up in our backpacks would kill the others.

AntsWe spent the next few days enjoying the beaches and exploring with Alvin and Jennifer! We had so much fun – they are a blast!! We had some really great times, and even when things didn’t go our way we still made the most of it and made some memories that will be forever be really awesome stories!! Alvin and Jennifer rock!! We are so grateful to have them as friends and couldn’t have imagined more fun or awesome people to be the first to meet up with us on our trip!! YOU GUYS ARE AWESOME – WE LOVE YA!!

Phi Phi island

Our Arrival to Southern Thailand



Well we had our first significant travel logistics ooops. We flew from Chiang Mai down to the beaches in Southern Thailand. We found a cheap flight into Phuket, but Alvin and Jennifer were going to Krabi, so we really wanted to just get to Krabi. We thought, no problem, it’s just a 2 hour ferry ride from Phuket to Krabi… a few minor details we overlooked.

  • That’s the time it would actually take, yes, BUT all ferries make it a day long trip with a stop on Koh Phi Phi for 5-6+ hours.
  • That means that the ferries really only run in the morning
  • Also buses only run mid morning
  • Our flight landed in Phuket at midnight
  • The Phuket airport is in. the. middle. of. nowhere. – an hour and half cab ride into the town of Phuket. An expensive cab ride. And the bus to town quits running at 8pm.
  • The bus to Krabi leaves from in town, not out by the airport.
  • The Phuket airport shuts down at midnight and kicks everyone out.

So basically our options were, sleep outside of the airport until the morning (not really an option, there was no where to sleep), cab ride to Phuket (expensive), or cab ride to Krabi (slightly more expensive, but at least at our destination).

We did the cab ride to Krabi, and arrived at 2:30am. We tried to book a room online en route – when we got there we looked for the place for about 40 minutes. It was a little guest house. Everything was shut down. Our sweet cab driver was so nice and got our and helped us walk up and down the street searching for our place, asking the 7/11 clerk, more searching, trying to call. Finally Rick walked really far down this alley and found our place. It’s now after 3:00am… and there’s no one to be found. The front of the guest house is this sorta open courtyard, there’s one leather-ish couch.

So I pull out my camping air pad (thanks, IMM!) and hunker down on the ground, and Rick takes his spot on the couch. And we slept semi-peacefully amidst the mosquitos and cats. Until 6:30am when the front desk lady found us and woke us up yelling “No! No! No! You can’t do this. You can’t sleep here!” we tried to explain what happened, but really she didn’t care, she kinda shoved us into an empty room and told us to sleep there. Heck yea! Free night’s stay!

sort of.

Seed Effect: South Sudan

Seed Effect

Seed EffectAs many of you know Liz and I are big supporters of Seed Effect a micro-finance ministry that we’ve worked with for the last few years. One of the “pillars” of our trip was to spend some time working with Seed Effect in South Sudan and our trip is right around the corner! We’ll be there in January spending about 10 days meeting the the local staff, collecting stories, learning and seeing what God is doing in South Sudan. We plan to document these stories of life change and share them through Seed Effects various social media channels (as well as right here of course).

Many of you have partnered with us to support the work Seed Effect is doing in South Sudan before but we’ve got some exciting, timely news … matching donation through the of the year!

So while many of you are considering your “End of Year Giving” please consider partnering with us and Seed Effect and you’re money will go even further with a matching gift.

You can read more about our heart for South Sudan, the work of Seed Effect as well as donate directly at You can hear more about the work of Seed Effect and stories of hope from the South Sudanese themselves below:

Throwback Thursday: Easyriding Dalat, Vietnam

Easyrider Dalat, Vietnam

I promised Liz I would write the post on Dalat, Vietnam and since it’s been over a month and 2 (going on 3) countries ago I thought I better get this up before I forget how awesome it was.

Dalat, sits in the mountainous western part of Vietnam between Danang and HCMC so the weather is not the hot humid jungle you expect in Vietnam but pleasantly cool.
We only had 2 nights to spend in Dalat so we started with a little hiking.

On our way back from the hike we finally learned why it’s important to have your “ducks in a row” apparently that’s how you market them to sell (hint: it helps if you tie up their feet).

Getting your ducks in a row

The true highlight of our time was our easyrider trip. Motorbikes are in intricate part of the culture in Vietnam and no trip is complete without letting a local that knows the area like the back of his hand show you around. We’d done our fair share of adventures on a moto in Vietnam but I was looking to having someone that actually knew where we were going directing us. Our easyrider trip was arranged by the owner of the Wolfpack Hostel (seriously that’s the name and it is AWESOME!). I thought it’d be more fun if I drove a bike too (instead of sitting 3 deep all day). We meet our guide, Hung, first thing in the morning and we were off.

Easyrider Dalat, Vietnam Easyrider Dalat, Vietnam

Our first stop was to see the amazing dragon sculptures at a temple in town. It was HUGE! And we learned about Chinese unicorns, the don’t have horns and look kinda like dragon/lion hybrids.

Easy Rider - Dalat, Vietnam

Then we were on our way into the countryside to visit a flower farm.

Easy Rider - Dalat, Vietnam

Then it was more riding (i really liked driving through the country side!) and a stop in a little tribal village with a really friendly family that showed us their home and let us take a few photos.

Easy Rider - Dalat, Vietnam

From there we rode to a place that makes civet coffee. That’s coffee made by weasels (the civet cats to be specific). I won’t go into details of how the weasels make it …

Civet Coffee - Dalat, Vietnam Civet Coffee - Dalat, Vietnam

As part of the tour we got to see their homemade rice “wine” still… AKA Moonshine. I imagine the civet coffee business isn’t that profitable, but if you can make some rice wine, and in true vietnamese fashion, throw some dead things in it, you can sell it as an elixir. We tried it, sans dead things, and it wasn’t too bad. Our guide lit some on fire to show us how strong it was.

Our next stop was to a silk production farm. It’s was amazing seeing little worms go from devouring leaves to crazy machines and hot water unraveling their cocoons to machines weaving silk fabric like a player piano. The whole process was pretty neat, and Liz really like the boil silk worms, she said it tasted like a mix between pecorino and ricotta cheese, I think she hasn’t tasted cheese in a while then.

From the silk farm we went to Elephant Falls. A little waterfall that we were able to hike around and under.

We rode to another temple with a GIANT Buddha and some more dragons.

We stopped on the side of the rode and watch some farmers harvesting a plant that’s used in curry we’re were told it was sometimes used as lipstick, I made Liz try it.

Curry - Dalat, Vietnam

Curry - Dalat, Vietnam

More riding to another little waterfall, a mushroom farm, an orcid farm and a visit to a village that is named “Chicken” after giant statue of a roster with 9 spurs and a story of forbidden love.

We got a little rain on the way back so we suited up and then we ended the evening with a “family dinner” at the hostel sitting around the dining room floor.

Easyrider - Dalat, Vietnam Easyrider - Dalat, VietnamWolfpack Hostel Dalat

Tigers and Trails: Chiang Mai

Tiger Kingdom - Chiang Mai, Thailand

After hot and sweaty Bangkok and spending a few nights in a brothel (unknown to us until we put all of the pieces together), we landed in Chiang Mai and immediately loved the weather. It was cool and dry in the mountainous north of Thailand…. Okay, mountainous seems like an exaggeration, after going to the Himalayas in Nepal my standards for “mountainous” have been elevated a bit. But it was still really nice.

Chiang Mai, Thailand We booked the hostel next door to Alvin and Jennifer’s hotel, which turned out to be quite nice (especially compared to the brothel in Bangkok! … “hmm, why is there this random green light bulb over our door?”)

Our first day we rented bicycles to explore the city. And of course the four of us managed to find a bar with beer pong! Rick and I got sounded beat in both matches.

Chiang Mai, Thailand

Chiang Mai, Thailand Beer Pong

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The next day we decided to expand our exploration and rent a motorbike. We came across Tiger Kingdom, and were skeptical about actually going to play with tigers… were they drugged? Mistreated? We did an elephant trekking activity in Chitwan Park, Nepal and were so saddened by how the animals were treated that we couldn’t even finish it. We did not want to support something like that again. But we went by the Tiger place, and they invited us in to just look around and see if we liked it before we bought tickets or anything. We were really relieved to see that the cats were actually playing and running around. I’m not going to say it was the best conditions ever, or an ideal thing, but they looked a heck of a lot happier than most tigers you see in a zoo. So we decided to go in and play with the tigers and it was pretty cool!! Yeah, so we played with tigers – what else can you say about that?!

After the tigers, we went on to explore the countryside around Chiang Mai. It was so fun to drive the curvy roads through the mountains. We visited a hill tribe village, where there were no westerns tourists. Beautiful views and the best strawberries we’ve ever had! They had really cool terraced gardens all around. Chiang Mai, Thailand

We wound our way back with our jackets on – it got quite cold on the bike!

Our next day was even better, thanks to Alvin and Jennifer for booking a whitewater rafting trip for us! But first Alvin cashed in on a bet he won against Rick… Rick’s lack of accuracy in the carnival shooting game cost him – Alvin got to pick one thing that Rick had to eat.  Alvin was pretty kind, all things considered that he had to choose from at the roadside market. That’s a deep fried chicken head. Rick said it was surprisingly delicious.

We had so much fun. And how often is it that you get to raft by elephants in the river?! We also got a special surprise at the end of the trip. As we were pulling up to the side of the river to get out, a random guy was there bathing… well, we’ll say bathing, but really it seemed like he was just hanging out naked on the shore of the river right where the rafts were coming in. We named him Steve. And inviting “Steve” to our activity for the day became a running joke.

"Steve" Rafting Chiang Mai

While in Chiang Mai we explored some of the many waterfalls. We found one river that had 10 “levels” of waterfalls over the course of a couple of kilometers.

We  spent or last day in Chiang Mai hiking the trail up the back way to the Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. Which also passes another smaller Buddhist temple. It was a fun little hike that ends in the little neighborhood the monks live in. Both temples had a bunch of awesome statues.