Archive for ◊ March, 2009 ◊

31 Mar 2009 Netting Nation’s Net Distribution to Nairobi, Kenya
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Netting Nations’s extends a “special” thank you to Laurie Lathem, Morgan Robinson, Ariela Anelli and the rest of the CSULA students, in addition to Rana Townend, Sherri Vann, Monet Quick, (donations from the Net-a-Fit benefit) and everyone else who contributed to this latest distribution of 700 nets to the “Kenya’s Kids in Need” organization! As you can see from the pictures, the children are very appreciative of the nets they just received and will sleep better at night knowing they are protected.

Netting Nations has many more projects to tackle.

Mosquito nets are the most cost-effective method of preventing the spread of malaria and saving lives. For every 30 nets distributed, one less life is lost to this deadly but preventable disease.

Please visit www.nettingnations.org to contribute!

Thank you,

The Netting Nations Team

29 Mar 2009 One of the best days of our life!
 |  Category: Our Trip, Thailand  | 2 Comments

We started the day off by going on two boat dives near Phi Phi Don Island. The 1st dive was off Bidah Nok and the second dive, known as Whale Shark Corner, was off the island that the movie “The Beach” was filmed (Phi Phi Lei). The diving was beautiful…tons of fish everywhere and lots of colorful coral.  The dive staff at Island Divers were super nice and fun.  After diving we went back to Phi Phi Don and had lunch at our favorite Italian restaurant, Amico’s, where we had lunch every day (great thin crust pizza).  In the late afternoon we went on our second boat ride for the day back to Phi Phi Lei Island to spend the night on the beach at Maya Bay, famous from the movie “The Beach”. We stopped in the middle of the bay and to go kayaking and snorkeling…the water was a gorgeous shade of turquiose!  At dusk they loaded us from the larger boat onto a little Duffy boat and took us to the beach, but the tide was super low, so when the bottom started scraping we had to get out, grab our stuff and walk the rest of the way in the water.  During the day Maya Bay is packed with boats full of tourists, but at night it was just us, the 15 other campers and the Thai crew.  Well prepared travelers that we are, we made cocktails with the bottle of rum and cokes that we brought with us.  Armed with cameras and cocktails in hand, we walked along the beach and saw the most amazing sunset over the ocean between two huge cliffs.  Back at camp the locals had formed a circle and were singing and playing the drums.  Instead of joining the group of campers, we decided to join the circle of locals instead.  They were all so sweet and so much fun!  They had us cracking up as we all tried to remember the lyrics to the songs they were playing…it was definitely a group effort to get through some of the songs.  That night on the beach was probably one of the most beautiful things we’ve ever experienced…it’s hard to describe with words, but I’ll try.  There was the most amazing plankton in the water that glowed a whitish blue and glittered like diamonds…you could go in the water and move your hands and feet and it would light up all around you. The mountain cliffs were silhouetted against the bright star filled sky behind them…we even saw shooting stars. The cliff to the right of the bay looked like a monkey head and the one to the left looked like a gorilla’s head.  To top it all off there was a lightening storm rolling in overhead that was lighting up some of the white puffy clouds in the sky…it was like a light bulb was being turned on and off.  It was absolutely stunning! 
 
After they performed a fire dance show on the beach they gave us straw mats and sleeping bags to lay on the sand.  It was too warm to sleep inside them so we used them for extra cushions and slept in our light weight sleep sacks instead.  Shortly after we got settled and laid down it started to rain.  Everyone grabbed their mats and made a mad dash for the end of the beach where the cliffs gave some shelter…the rain still hit my feet but it didn’t bother me because it was still so warm. It only lasted for 10 minutes, then the sky cleared up and we moved our beds back to the beach under the stars.  Apparently the people who decided to stay under the cliffs had problems with rats and crabs crawling on them while they were sleeping and some guys even wanted to be taken back to their hotels…but we were okay since we slept by the water, we may have had a few crabs crawling around us but I was so tired I barely noticed. 
 
The next morning we woke up early and walked to the other side of the island to watch the sunrise.  Then we did yoga on the beach, had breakfast, took a group picture and went for a swim…it was so nice, it felt like our own private beach. They started loading everyone up on the boat to head back to the big island, but we were having such a great time that we didn’t want to leave, so the owner of the camp and island said that we could stay longer and go back on his speed boat with him and his two sons instead of going back on the slow boat with everyone else.  It was so much fun racing across the water next to the beautiful huge limestone cliffs.  He even took us snorkeling in a gorgeous little bay that was surrounded by tall cliffs on all sides. Then he took us snorkeling at Monkey Beach where we saw tons of beautiful fish and the coolest neon purple starfish with black pricks coming out of it and a white sea snake that almost blended in with the white coral.  After that he took us to the back side of Phi Phi Don Island.   To thank them we invited him and his sons to lunch, but he had to go so only his younger son, Adam, joined us.  Adam is so sweet and speaks great English and French.  Since we were all a little stiff from sleeping on the beach we asked him if he knew of a good place to get massages.  He said his mom’s friend (who’s a ladyboy) owned P.P. Garden Massage, so after lunch he took us there.  It felt so amazing that one hour wasn’t enough, so we got 2 hours instead and were in sheer bliss!  What a wonderful 24 hours…it couldn’t have been any better!

27 Mar 2009 Phi Phi Don Island Pics
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26 Mar 2009 Bangkok – March 26th: 20,000 Red Shirts Protest
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On our last day in Bangkok before we headed to the Islands in the South, we decided we wanted to go watch a movie in one of their super plush movie theaters. You basically get your own lazy boy style reclining chair with a foot rest and they give you a blanket and pillow and serve alcohol and food to you while you relax in your chair. We planned on walking to the river and taking a speed water taxi (called a “khlong”) to the theatre. On the way there we were amazed to find that the street was full of thousands of protesters wearing red and shouting “Truth Now”. They seemed pretty peaceful and smiled at us, so we weren’t too concerned and were just happy that they were marching in the same direction that we were headed in so we would have to walk against the crowd. We had no idea at the time what they were protesting about…luckily then it was a peaceful protest that became less peaceful while we were away in the Islands.
I looked up the following information on the National Post:
Supporters of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra march toward to Government House during a protest on March 26, 2009 in Bangkok, Thailand. Thousands of anti-government protesters are demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, the dissolution of Parliament and fresh elections. More than 20,000 protesters surrounded the offices of Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva on Thursday, distracting his government as it began giving cash handouts to the poor in a bid to stave off recession. In the latest episode in Thailand’s long-running political crisis, protesters derided Abhisit’s handling of the economy and vowed to stay at Government House until he resigned. “We want to get rid of Abhisit. We will stay until we achieve our goals,” said Jatuporn Prompan, a leader of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), which backs former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, ousted in a 2006 coup. Thousands of police and unarmed anti-riot soldiers ringed the Government House compound as the red-shirted crowd waved “Abhisit, Get Out” banners and speakers hurled abuse at his three-month-old government. The demonstrators had earlier pushed through police lines to get closer to the compound, but did not try to enter. The crowd was calm as night fell.
24 Mar 2009 Bangkok, Thailand
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Bangkok is an incredible, busy city that never sleeps. We arrived late in the evening and the streets were packed. We stayed in a guesthouse near Khao San Road…which is known as the backpacker district.  Our 1st day we walked to the Grand Palace which wasn’t too far from where we stayed and we were drenched in sweat by the time we got there. It was sticky hot! Not to mention that there are hardly any pedestrian crossings and tons of cars and motorbikes!  We waited for a Thai person to dart across the street and followed quickly behind. The Grand Palace was amazing…it left you speechless.  So overwhelming with all the detailed statues and structures glinting gold and jeweled colors. The grounds were huge with one ornate building after another. Did I mention it was hot? The Palace is a sacred place with many temples and Buddhas (one of the most famous here is the Emerald Buddha) so you have to be appropriately dressed with skirts down to our calves and shirts with sleeves.  To enter the temple with the Emerald Buddha you must also take off your shoes. It was a very spiritual experience with people from many different cultures, including the monks dressed in their orange robes, kneeling down in prayer and meditation. We also visited another temple, Wat Pho, which has Thailand’s largest reclining Buddha. It was huge and so beautiful!  Over 150 feet long and 50 feet high!

From there we headed to the river to try and catch a cool breeze and a ride. We got on one boat and we were all excited as it pulled away from the dock but that was short lived as we realized we had gotten on the wrong boat…this one only took you across the river to another amazing temple. Luckily from that side we were able to catch a large gondola down the river…it felt so good to be on the water with the breeze; a temporary relief from the heat. We got off the river and hopped on the Skytrain which was a great way to see the city…the views were amazing and there was AC!

The day flew by!  It was already after 6pm and we needed to get back to the other side of town to meet Trevor and Richard (friends of friends that didn’t know each other but both live in Bangkok) but it had taken us awhile to get here via the gondola and Skytrain…a taxi wasn’t a good option either since it was prime time traffic. A quick look at the map and guidebook we discovered a smaller river with a public water taxi, the Khlong. For only 8 baht (about 25 cents) you jump on a long skinny boat packed with people (mostly Thai)…it was fun and fast! Racing down the narrow canal with other Khlong’s heading in the opposite direction…there were sheets of plastic on the sides that you pulled up while passing other boats so the passengers don’t get too wet. We arrived back to our side of town in no time and hopped in a tuk-tuk (a small motorized taxi) for a short ride back to our hotel where we met Richard and Trevor.  Over dinner we were able to pick their brains on where to go and what to see in Thailand…1st hand traveling advice is priceless! Plus Trevor just finished writing the Cambodia guidebook for National Geographic so we got some great advice on where to go when we get there as well.

We had a great 1st day in Thailand and managed to try many new means of transportation.

23 Mar 2009 Bali Photos
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22 Mar 2009 The Real Bali – Bicycle Tour
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We did a downhill cycling tour with Bali Eco tours.  It was amazing! They picked us up in morning and drove us up the mountain where we had breakfast overlooking Mt. Batur, the volcano and its crater lake. The view was spectacular! You could see the black rock from the last lava flow which happened in the ’60s and took out a big temple. Next we stopped at a plantation where they were roasting the coffee by hand and we got to sample the local coffees, teas and fruits. We tried some crazy looking fruits…snakeskin fruit was probably the strangest looking but actually tasted pretty good. We even tried the Luwak coffee which is made from beans that are 1st eaten by certain species of cat, the beans ferment in the stomach and then are cleaned and harvested from the cats poop before being roasted and brewed into coffee. If you’ve seen The Bucket List then you’ve probably heard about Luwak coffee. It actually tasted ok…just very strong and I’m not much of a coffee drinker anyway.  Then we got on our mountain bikes with our guide, Ketut, who was super cool and funny!  Plus he made sure to stop for lots of pictures! It was 25K, mostly downhill through tons of little villages and rice fields.  Children would run out as we ride by shouting “hello”, waving and giving us high fives. We stopped at one family compound and got to go inside and see how a traditional Balinese family lives. Many generations all live together in a series of small huts or buildings, at the back of the property were the animals…a cow, pigs and chickens. Each family compound also has a temple in which they make offerings every day. Most of the women were busy weaving bamboo mats. Balinese women work very hard in the home and in the fields. Even the grandma was busy weaving a mat. We also stopped in the rice paddies along the way and planted rice and harvested rice. The ride ended in the afternoon with a wonderful lunch overlooking the rice paddies. Yummy smoked duck and chicken, chicken satays, fried rice, gado gado, peanut sauce, vegetables…amazing! We ended the day at the monkey forest in Ubud.  These monkeys weren’t nearly as aggressive as the ones at the temple but they still tried to steal some things from peoples pockets and handbags. You definitely do not wear a hat or sunglasses when seeing the monkeys because they will steal it and they are sneaky!

22 Mar 2009 My Bali Haircut
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On our last day in Bali I decided to get my haircut. I had originally planned on trimming my hair before leaving on our trip but I ran out of time.  So we found a nice spa in Ubud where Sherri and my mom could get massages while I got my haircut. The girl who was cutting my hair seemed pretty professional but she didn’t speak English very well, so I showed her the length I wanted cut off to be about 4 inches. My hair was very long to begin with…all the way down to my lower back, so it takes quite a bit of work to comb it out. The hairstylist only had a small skinny tooth comb to try and get through my thick, long hair…this was going to take awhile, or so I thought. Before I realized what she was doing she gave up trying to comb out the tangles and was hacking away at my hair, cutting them out. My long beautiful hair is gone…it is now layered and falls just about to my shoulders. It was shocking at first but I’m slowly getting used to it. It’s definitely is a lot easier to take care of while traveling. Plus I definitely cannot complain about the price!  It was only $6, which included wash, scalp massage,  cut and blow dry!

19 Mar 2009 A day with the Orphanage
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Scott and Jenni, a married couple from Colorado, along with Tina Augustina, a Balinese woman, run a home caring for about 20 children in Bali at the Yayasan Permata Bali Home.  This orphanage was founded in 2000 by Tina, who grew up with poverty, abuse and a dysfunctional family. Tina has been able to relate to street children enduring similar conditions. This Bali orphanage cares for the needs of these children by supplying them with shelter, food, medical treatment and a loving family-home environment. All of the children are in school Monday through Saturday but Sundays are always a fun day which is usually spent at the beach.
Sherri, my mom, Eliana and I got to spend a very special Sunday with the kids.  Once a year, if they get someone to sponsor it, the children get to spend the day at Waterbomb, a huge water park located in Kuta.  This is a real special treat for the kids and this year another orphanage went to the park on the same day so there were over 80 people including the kids and staff!  It was awesome seeing all these adorable children running around the water park.  We floated down the lazy river with them and went on some of the bigger slides with the older children. We sat at the bottom of the kiddie slides and watched the younger kids as they just went over and over again down the little waterslides…each time they were so stoked. And then they’d come over and splash water at us or give you the thumbs up. As we sat there watching the kids we talked to Scott and Jenni, who told us more about each of the children and what their background story was.  It was heartbreaking…each child has a unique story and are very fortunate to now be in such a loving and caring environment where they are getting the opportunity to get a good education as well.  The youngest one was 3 1/2 and he was so loving.  He kept coming over and hugging us and jumping in Sherri’s lap. He was rescued by the home about a year ago.  He had been living in the streets surviving on whatever he could find. His mother died shortly after childbirth and his father abandoned him. When they first brought him to the home he couldn’t talk at all, he just barely made noises…now he is slowly learning a few words. There were many stories like this…it’s just good to know that there are people out there that are trying to help and make a difference.  We ended the day in Nusa Dua at church with the kids, Jenni and Scott.  It was an amazing and eye opening experience.

It costs about $1,000 a year to feed, shelter, clothe, give medical care and educate each child. As the funding increases, they plan to expand their facility and take in more street children.  If you would like to make a donation you can do so on their website www.asianpacificchildrensfund.org

17 Mar 2009 Happy Birthday Rana!!!
 |  Category: Bali, Our Trip  | 4 Comments


For Rana’s Birthday we made french toast with caramelized pears for breakfast followed by a day at the Spa. We all got four hand massages, which were amazing and only cost about US $10 for an hour. Then we went to a trendy oceanfront restaurant and bar called Ku De Ta and watched the sunset and sipped on yummy martinis. We had dinner at a very tasty Italian restaurant called Trattoria and then met up with friends in the town of Kuta for a night of fun!