48 hours in hong kong

after 4 attempts to give the cab driver the address of our hotel, we gave up and let him take us to the wrong place. I walked into a beautiful lobby, glanced longingly at the sign for the Starbucks in the basement, sighed, and asked the front desk for directions to our far-less-glamorous hotel. that's the great thing about nice hotels - even if you aren't a guest there, the staff is courteous and helpful. ten minutes later we checked in to the right hotel, and found our tiny [but clean!] rooms with hard as rock twin beds.

but really... when you're only in Hong Kong for 48 hours, how much time do you plan to spend in your hotel room?

Hong Kong is bright, busy, fast, loud... exhausting. things kept trying to disappoint us: foggy and smoggy and humid-as-heck weather. city noise that kept us up all night. lack of public toilets. dying camera batteries. my wimpy haggling skills. earth hour shutting down the famous skyline light show. missing Hong Kong changing over from stamping passports to giving entry slips by three days. THREE DAYS.

but more often than not, our trip was filled with a sense of wonder. at least 3 times a day, Husband and I would look at each other and one of us would say "is this really our life?" sometimes I still can't believe it. that we are the kind of people who just fly to Hong Kong for a random weekend. that we live in a part of the world where that's even possible - less than a 2 hour flight. that a year ago I was terrified at the thought of going to mainland China and I spent the weekend within spitting distance. that we just pick up and go to these places we've never been. and it makes me feel unbelievably grateful that I have this opportunity to experience so much of the world and alter my perspective so deeply.


railay: the lagoon. almost.

there is a lot of great rock climbing to be done in Railay. the trail that Husband and I took to find the lagoon [rumored to be hidden somewhere in the jungle] involved more rock climbing than we anticipated. it may not have been the best idea I ever had to go through with it. being, as I was then, a girl who was recovering from a scooter crash related knee injury and hadn't really worked out in 6 months. but, we did.

I should also mention that in the interest of saving space while packing [and in an attempt to be realistic- really, like I was going to start working out again while on vacation?] I left my nikes and workout gear at home. so I ended up doing this climb in flip flops, a bathing suit, and jean shorts. oh. and with a DSLR slung around my neck. when I make a bad decision, I really just go all in.

the hike/climb involves going up a steep, rocky incline with the aid of some ropes. and then to get to the lagoon you have to go down again. a few times. we made it down two levels before we decided to call it quits. we could see the lagoon [pictured above. kindof.] but we could also see that the next stretch of rock was completely vertical and had no ropes. and that there was at least 2 more drops after that.

I really wanted to climb all the way down. we could see it. it was so close. and we had already come all that way... but we decided that we wouldn't go any further, for fear of not being strong enough to get back up. it was really tough for me to give up and climb back. I'm stubborn. and I don't like not being able to do things. but it also was probably a really good decision not to get us stranded out in the jungle with no cell phone and no one knowing where we were.

I would love to say we made it all the way to the lagoon. but we didn't, and that's ok. looking back it seems pretty impressive that we made it as far as we did. and since we've been home I've been working on building my strength back up... because there's always next time.


railay: longtail adventures

one afternoon during our stay in Railay, Husband and I hopped a longtail boat to Ao Nang for a late lunch. taking a longtail taxi is interesting. it's cheap... about $3 US for a ride. but you wait until they have 8 passengers before the boat will leave, unless you want to pay the private boat fee.

we weren't in any rush. [it's vacation, after all]

ten minutes, a few splashes, and a pirate boat sighting later... we found ourselves on the shore of Ao Nang. our stomachs were rumbling and our feet were soggy and sandy. and in my case, in pain.

on that particular morning I had sliced my foot open on a rock while Husband and I were exploring the shallows. salt water + open wounds = sting-y. wet feet + sand + cut = possible infection.

it was strange to see all the cars and traffic and people after being on secluded Railay beach for a few days. after wandering through the streets + shops for a bit, we stumbled upon an Irish pub. Husband was pleased because the pub was playing European futbol [aka soccer] on the big screen. I was pleased because I was able to rinse of my sandy, sting-y feet in the sink. AND they had Weston's Cider on tap. which means happiness for the gluten-intolerant! Husband had fish + chips, and I had a giant plate of nachos [which turned out to be better than the ones we got at the Mexican place a few nights later. go figure.] Irish pub for the win!

happy with bellies full of tasty food [and maybe just a little tipsy] we strolled through the various shops along the beachfront. we found a pharmacy to pick up some IP alcohol for the gash on my foot. and then we hopped a longtail back to Railay, where the boats were thick in the water and begging for a photo op. I definitely enjoyed the change of scenery [and food options] but it made me glad we chose to stay in the much less crowded Railay. besides- cider is only a boat ride away!


goodbye, google reader

// hilarious yet accurate image via thewonderforest.com

yesterday, Google announced that it would be discontinuing it's reader service starting July 1st. wah, wah. I've been using reader for a few years now and I'm really sad to see it go. it made it so easy to follow all my blogs and tumblrs and keep everything in one spot ND connected to to gmail account. I'm not sure how this will affect users who follow using blogger or friend connect... hopefully followers won't just dissappear! it also makes me nervous... what other services will Google take the axe to? gah. but I suppose there's nothing I can do but find a new reader service. so what else is out there?

one option is hellocotton, though I haven't figured out how to import a reader list. they are big into supporting women bloggers, and feature posts from a variety of different categories daily so you can discover new favorites. hey look... one of my readers + blogs I follow, Yelle, is the personal post today!

bloglovin' is one of the services that hopped right on the opportunity created by the end of reader. in a few clicks you can import your entire google reader list. I signed up for an account and now you can follow my blog with bloglovin. they also have pages that list "top blogs" and "popular posts", though it seems to be mostly fashion/style blogs.

feedly is another option I've seen a lot of talk about. I haven't played around with it yet, but it's another service that can import your google reader list. it seems to be similar to reader, and less of a community-type site like hellocotton and bloglovin.

I'm not sure yet which service I'll be switching to, but at the very least I'm going to take this opportunity to clean out my reading list. [which inevitably results in finding new blogs to follow. oh well] this feels like buying a new car... have to test drive all the models before making an investment. what about you- do you use and love any of these readers? or is there something else out there I'm missing?


railay: monkey business

we spotted our first monkey less than 5 minutes after arriving on Railay Beach. a pack of them ran across the trail we were on, headed to the hotel. another gaggle of tourists was snapping pictures and oohing and ahhing over how cute they were... until one snagged the banana right out of her hand.

I laughed when I saw the sign on our balcony door, thinking it was a funny way to let guests know they had to keep the monkeys out of the room. not thinking the monkeys would actually break into the bar. I was wrong.

we heard the shouts of an angry Thai woman before we spotted this guy scampering along the edge of a wall. seems he had stolen her orange soda before she even had a chance to open it.

one afternoon I came back up to the room to grab some more sunscreen for the pool, and I heard some interesting noises coming from the room next door. I though the French couple next to us was just having a fight, but there weren't any shouts to go along with what sounded like chairs and such being knocked over. I peeked out on the balcony and sure enough, it was a pack of monkeys.

one was sitting on the railing [you can kindof see] chowing down on a bag of nuts, while two more were on the roof ledge wrestling open a can of pringles.

it was one of those moments where you grab your camera and just start shooting, not stopping to think. apparently I had left the settings on manual from the night before [instead of switching back to Av], and the bright sunlight left me with nothing but this. or maybe it was the monkeys?


for your monday entertainment

here is a list of 7 random thoughts and ramblings to entertain you on this monday...

what, you were expecting more beach pictures?

1. I painted a chevron wall in my office this weekend. and because all the paint is in Chinese and I opted for the large $5 can over the small $12 can I accidentally used not interior paint. but hey, it was $5. and I really love the way it turned out, even if the paint is kinda shiny. Husband likes it too... he suggests we paint a wall like this in our house someday and get an animal mount. he's picturing a moose, but I'm having visions of this. for now... this wall is just going to stay chevron. and become my new taking-photos-in-front-of spot. I'm not going to do a true DIY post on it because a: I followed a mixture of this tutorial and this tutorial and b: I was a bad blogger and didn't document it all step by step. but you know... sometimes what's bad for the blog is good for life.

2. last fall after the scooter crash, my yoga instructor gave me a bottle of traditional chinese medicinal oil to rub on my bad knee. I stopped using it when I realized it contained turpentine oil [and was taking off my nailpolish] probably not at a harmful level, but still. in the course of painting the chevron wall this weekend, I ended up with paint all over my hands [and a little on my feet.] the first indication I had that this was not your typical latex interior paint was the fact that I could. not. wash it off. thankfully I remembered the little bottle of oil, and it worked like a charm to remove the paint.

3. I've always had this constant inner dialogue with myself and life just makes more sense when I give it an outlet onto paper or a keyboard. I've had some form of blog for nearly 12 years [anyone remember livejournal?] and I kept paper journals before and in between. when I was in college I had a secret spot on campus where I used to go and write. I'd pour my heart out and then tear up the pages and throw them away when I left for class. in fact, most of what I've written in my life has ended up in a landfill, electronic or otherwise. I pitched all my childhood journals, and deactivated more blogs that I remember.

anyway, I've been thinking of maybe writing something a little more permanent. a book maybe.

4. since coming back from vacation, wine has been my drink of choice. there's a whole lot of debate over whether grain liquor is gluten-free or not, but my go-to mixer liquor [vodka] has started giving me splitting headaches. scotch is still safe for me, thank you, but I'm starting to think it's because we drink the good stuff made from single or blended malt. most tequilas are safe, but seems excessive when everyone else is having a beer. and so: wine. [thank you Costco for carrying a few decent bottles under 200NT.]

5. I took an unintentional internet hiatus this weekend. I didn't even turn my computer on friday or saturday. I'm not as attached/obsessed/addicted to checking social media as I used to be [no more smartphone] but gosh it feels good to disconnect. sometimes I really don't like facebook. and often wish I could deactivate it again. sadly, it's my main and sometimes only method of contacting a lot of people. so... it stays.

6. I've been having a lot of deja vu lately. things that I've dreamed coming true. does that happen to anyone else? I'll walk into a store, or look at something, or hear someone say something and just get that warm dizzy I've-experienced-this-moment-before feeling. the strangest part is that most of these moments I dreamed before I moved to Taiwan. I clearly remember dreaming them and thinking "when on earth would I be in a place like that?" I don't think this means I'm psychic or anything, but sometimes it's freaky. although sometimes it's awesome... two years ago I dreamed one of my coworkers had a son [she was looking into adoption at the time and I didn't know it], and I just found out she's due to have a baby boy in a few weeks!

7. it still astounds me how completely unexpected Taiwan is. I thought I was prepared to move here, but the longer I am here the more I realize I didn't have a clue. I packed 2 year's worth of chapstick... they sell my brand up the street. I assumed I could find things here like plain tank tops and tees... not that fit my curves. I've found gluten free pasta and flour mix in 4 different stores, and diet coke in only one. butter is everywhere but we can't track down a food processor. I had no idea how westernized this place would be, and I'm continually surprised by what we find [or don't find] here. there are some disappointments... but usually it's a pleasant surprise - I don't have to buy a new razor after all, yes we can make a gluten free pie for pi day, root beer floats are a short walk away.


railay: one night on the west beach

welcome to Railay, a little slice of heaven on the Andaman Sea. this is the west beach: our arrival, and our first night there.

I think it says a lot that to even get to Railay you have to ditch your shoes, hike up your skirts, and put your faith in a guy with an 8-foot-long outboard motor. this is not a fancy place. beautiful, yes, but in a very laid back way. you have to just go with it. you will get wet + sandy on your way to Railay. there's no way around it, literally. even though Railay is a peninsula [not an island] thanks to the surrounding rock cliffs, there are no roads that can reach this beach- only boats.

oh, but it's worth the trouble.

we arrived late on a hazy afternoon, flying from Bangkok to Krabi, grabbing a taxi to Ao Nang, and then of course a longtail boat to Railay beach. by the time we settled in to our hotel and made it back to the west beach for dinner we had missed all but the very end of the sunset. [in fact, we only ever saw one sunset in Railay. but it was a spectacular one.]

spectators hole up at one of the many beachside bars or restaurants and stay through the whole show. others camp out in the sand. or better yet, in front of the bar that sets out mats on the beach to use as tables. [that's where we relocated after dinner.] with warm breezes and cool beverages aplenty, there's not much incentive to go very far.

there's still plenty to see after dark. the moon, big and bright. the stars, clear as ever. couples strolling hand in hand. possibly drunk girls feeding pizza to cats

merchants selling paper lanterns wander the beach. and when someone breaks down and buys one, and everyone watches to see how far out over the sea the lantern will fly.

after a few drinks, the west beach quiets down. the sea starts to light up in eerie green as the squid boats arrive for the night. some good conversation, a few rounds of cards, and it's time to head back to the hotel for a midnight swim some beauty sleep.

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