Flying in we got a preview of the beautiful beaches.
Before we could get to the beach we got stuck in a Zanzibar traffic jam for a few minutes. It gave a whole new meaning to “This is bull!!”
But we had no idea just how beautiful they would be. Zanzibar by far has the best beaches we have seen on this trip!
We indulged in fresh, delicious seafood dinners right on the beach almost every night.
And hung out with the herd of cows that hung out on the beach everyday.
Our scuba diving was fun, but we were a little sad that we missed the whale sharks.
All in all, the beaches were just incredible. We couldn’t get over it!! Crystal clear water, powdery, ridiculously fine white sand. It was pretty awesome.
Minus the three days that our bungalows didn’t have water… that set us up for our 40+ hours of straight travel, including the 19.5 hour flight from Dubai to Buenos Aires. I really like to shower before that long of a flight, but not so much this time, Just a bucket bath.
So we have few short stories from Africa that didn’t feel like enough for their own blog posts but I thought they would be entertaining to share nonetheless:
Going to see the frogs
The place we stayed in Yei, South Sudan had a interesting feature in the bathroom; Toilet frogs. These little frogs lived in the back “tank” part of the toilet and if you flushed when they were swimming they would come flying into the bowl with the water and swim frantically until the gripped the side and climbed right back up where the water came from. Liz was the first one to find them and when I went to check it out, I flushed again and nothing. Turns out you kinda had to surprise them and catch them swimming or they would be clinging to the walls of the tank, which is where I found three of them when I looked inside. And so, the term “Going to see the frogs” was coined.
Who told you to become a Rastafarian?
This was one of the few things the pastor that was driving us around Yei, South Sudan said in English on his cell phone while driving (he said A LOT not in english on his cell phone while driving). It was in the middle of a serious conversation in the local language and then out of nowhere in a loud serious tone “It’s a very bad thing you’ve brought into your family! Who told you to become a Rastafarian?!?” Liz and I both tried not to laugh out loud but couldn’t resist. We now regularly ask each other “Who told you to become a Rastafarian?”
Meeting the Mayor of Port Bell
Liz and I had grand plans of taking the fabled ferry from Kampala, Uganda to Mwanza, Tanzania. I say fabled as there is or isn’t one depend on where you look on the internet. Once we got to Port Bell (the port in Kampala) we found out for sure there isn’t one (side note: there used to be a ferry but it was deemed “no longer safe for passenger travel”). We figured it wouldn’t hurt to see if would could find anymore information about possible water crossings at “Sailors Bar.” That’s where we meet a thoroughly drunk older man that everyone else kept referring to as “Mayor.” We humored his rambling dialog for a little while assuming he was somebody’s uncle or something and none of the staff seemed the slightest bit concerned.
About 10 minutes in The Mayor really took a liking to Liz, and asked me if she was my wife… then proceeded to try and barter for her. He offered me “An African” in exchange for Liz which I of course turned down, then he upped his offer to “Two Africans!” again I declined and insisted again that I wasn’t interested in any trading. They then thought he might sweeten the deal with a case of beer… In his mind Liz had zero say in the matter so we figured we better leave.
Just for the record I wouldn’t trade Liz for anything… not even “Two Africans, and a case of beer” and there is no Ferry from Kampala to Mwanza.
A nice, cheap, clean, place to stay
So after we parted ways with Drew at the airport in Uganda we got a ride with 3 other people who were headed into Kampala and already had a driver lined up. We thought we’d go to the center of town and find something cheap so when the driver asked if we had a place to stay in mind we said “No. Got any ideas for someplace nice and cheap?” He thought for a minute then made a phone call, and responded back with “It’s not really open to the public, but it’s nice, clean and I know them and it’s cheap.” Sold!
Turns out he signed us up to stay at “Home for the Religious”… a Convent! Sister Angelica was definitely taken back a bit and thought we were crazy when we told her our plans, but obliged and provided us with a room… granted they didn’t have any rooms with double beds “for couples” after all it was a convent, but she did give us a room with two beds (and two very large Bibles)! It was the cheapest thing we found in Kampala, and it was quiet, probably due to the rule “OBSERVE SILENCE IN THE CORRIDORS AND BEDROOMS.” It was a quiet two nights.
Why Americans don’t buy anything?
Anyone who has spent any time in a tourist area has undoubtedly experienced touts trying to sell you all kind of junk. And for some reason I seem to get offered weed a lot, all over the world. Must be a young(ish) white guy thing I guess, lol. Usually the drug offers are fairly subtle “hey man, wanna party?”, “you want smoke?”,”Lookin’ for a good time?” and are usually accompanied by some friendly chit-chat “Where you from?“ “on holiday?” etc. and maybe a coconut or something else a little more “legitimate” they are “selling.” And then some just come out and say it “Need some weed?” I usually give them a polite no thanks, or just ignore them completely. Liz is usually completely oblivious to all drug offers.
Well this guy on the beach in Zanzibar needs to sit in on Liz’s marketing 101 class. Liz and I are walking to dinner on the beach and this guy comes up with some key chains or something in his hand (again totally not uncommon) and says, “Hey man, want to buy some cocaine?”
I was a little taken back by his directness but said, “No thanks.” “Marijuana?” “Nope, not into that stuff.” “Hashish?” (In my mind… Are you seriously asking in that order?) “Ha, ha. No man, we don’t do drugs.” Thinking the conversation is over…
Then he comes back with, “Wanna buy a diamond?” (I can’t not laugh at this point; No I don’t want to buy a blood diamond on the beach in the dark for a guy that just tried to sell me a boatload of drugs.) “Nope, don’t need any diamonds either.” We start to walk away thinking surely the conversation is over and he realizes we aren’t his target demographic. But no, there is more…
He holds up his handful of key chains, “Want to buy a key chain?”
Still trying not to laugh; “No man, not buying anything tonight.”
Now he is clearly offended; “Why Americans don’t buy my Bull S#!t?” “They don’t buy anything?”
“No, man. They don’t buy anything, they don’t help Africa.” “Not even the drugs?”
“NO! They don’t care about Africans. They don’t help Africa!” “Could be you’re approach.”
At this point Liz and I decided we’re at the restaurant we want to go into and I guess he gets the picture at this point or sees someone else, but walks off continuing his rant about how American’s don’t care enough to buy drugs from Africans.
Catholic guilt will work on a lot of things but not on buying drugs and blood diamonds. – Liz
We 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.
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 worldI 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.
…well that’s probably already too long for one post, so I’ll stop there and pick up in another post.
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!
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.
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.
It’s known for it’s rock climbing and a cave that you can only get to in low tide.
Then went to Poda Island
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 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.
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.
We 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!!