Tag Archives: vacation

Bound for the Himalayas

In a few hours, I’ll be en route to my next destination…Nepal!

For the next 10 days I’ll be traveling on the “roof of the world,” which will be, I imagine, quite different than any other place I’ve seen.  I’ll be meeting my friend Ben there, who was last here during Pi Mai Lao and has been travelling around Asia ever since.

Less than 2 weeks is really far too short to spend in the country of a million treks, but I hope just to get a taste of the Himalayas and of the geographic and cultural landscape of Nepal.

The rough plan: Kathmandu–>Pokhara–> several days trekking in the Annapurna region –>Pokhara –> KTM–> and home.

I’ll be back to blogging at the end of the month, with some exciting blog updates coming this fall!

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There and Back Again

It’s been 4.5 weeks, 33 days, and 4 countries, and here I am, back in Vientiane and ready to start a new term of teaching.

Since I last wrote, I rode:
10 airplanes
6 trains
7 inter-city buses
2 subway systems
8 autorickshaws
20 taxis
2 boats
1 bicycle, and
1 elephant

I traveled from Laos to Bangkok, to Northern India, to Southern India, to Singapore, to Northern Thailand, back to Laos, to Hanoi, and back here again.  There are countless stories of frustration, fascination, sickness, and festivities to be told soon, but here are some photos as a preview.

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On another note, tomorrow is the beginning of Term 1 at Vientiane College, which will surely prove to be another ten weeks of learning for both me and my students.  I’ll probably be writing less about my classes and life in Laos for the next few weeks as I try to catch up on the travel adventures, but this term I’m looking forward to teaching five classes–what should be a busy and varied schedule.  I have two Young Learners classes: one Elementary class (probably in the age range of 10-14), and one Pre-Intermediate (my teenage students from last term again).  I have one adults class at the Intermediate level, and I’ll also be teaching a class called “CORE 1” in the “Diploma” program, for students who have graduated from the general grammar-based English classes to the content and critical thinking classes that work them towards a language certificate.  Mine is the first required class in the program, and is loosely current events-based.  Finally, I’m teaching a daytime class on study skills for a special program for students working to improve test scores to earn a chance to study abroad in Australia.  With this wide variety of classes, I’ll certainly have my hands full for the next few weeks, but will try to update with regular installments on my December-January adventures!

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Filed under India, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam

Travel Plans

Now that the term has come to a close, it’s time for a vacation.  The break after this term is a month long, because it’s summer in Australia and because this is the end of Term 4 at Vientiane College, so the new year also starts a new school year.  Therefore, there are major travel adventures in store.

The itinerary:
Dec. 19:
One day in Bangkok
Dec. 19-Jan. 1: India!  I’ll be traveling with two PiA Singapore fellows, first taking trains between Delhi, Agra, and Varanasi, then flying south to Kerala State (Cochin, Munnar, Allepey, Varkala).  I’m expecting India to be crazy, chaotic, fragrant, possibly illness-inducing, colorful, impressive, and delicious, among other things.  (The first sentence of the Lonely Planet Guide description of Varanasi is “Brace Yourself.”)
Jan. 1-Jan. 4: Singapore!  Spending more time with the Singapore fellows, and (likely) marveling at the efficiency of the modern city and the contrasts with India.
Jan. 4-???: Thailand!  I’ll be visiting friends and PiA fellows in Chiang Rai, Nan, and Chiang Mai.  Enjoying the company and working my way back toward Vientiane.
Jan. 20th: First day of teaching.  New year, new term, new classes.

(key: A: Vientiane; B: Bangkok; C: New Delhi; D: Agra; E: Varanasi; F:Cochin; G: Trivandrum–departure point from India; H: Singapore; I: Chiang Rai; J: Nan; K: Chiang Mai)

Unfortunately, the fact that I’m having these epic adventures and visiting so many different places means that there will probably be a month-long blogging hiatus.  I might try to drop in a quick update or two when I get a chance at an internet cafe, but substantive updates and photos will have to wait until January…look forward to many exciting things to come in the new year!  In the meantime, enjoy a glance at some more photos from the past 3 months in my Picasa albums.

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Trip to Bali Part 1: Surprise Vacation and Arrival

Tuesday, 12pm
I am sitting at home, struggling to plan the evening’s lessons through a fog of dengue fatigue.  The future looks bleak.

Tuesday, 1pm
I receive a text message from coworkers saying that school has been canceled for the rest of the week (due to the craze-inducing combination of Vientiane’s 450th and the That Luang Festival).  My energy levels mysteriously increase and I head straight for the AirAsia website (best friend of PiA fellows across the continent).

Tuesday, 8pm
I am in a tuk-tuk en route to the Vientiane airport with my housemate Alex, who is also a Vientiane College teacher.  Our plan?  Vientiane–>Bangkok–>Bali, Indonesia. I’ve only come to the realization a few hours before that Bali is not just ONE place, as I’ve naively assumed for a long time, but an entire island large enough to have many cities, beaches, and mountains. Armed with only a Lonely Planet guide and a plane ticket to Bangkok, we set out from Vientiane, my first time actually leaving the country since I arrived two months ago.  Also for the first time, I get to experience travel the “old school” way.  That is, walking up to the counter in the airport and buying a ticket a couple of hours before the scheduled flight.  It’s the low tourist season in Bali, so luckily the flight isn’t sold out.

Wednesday, 11:30am
Alex and I land in Denpasar (the capital city of Bali), change our money to Indonesian rupiah (which conveniently has almost the exact same exchange rate as Lao kip), and step out into the hot, humid, Bali morning (leading me to realize this is also my first trip south of the equator).  Outside the airport, we are approached by numerous drivers, with the persistent chorus of “Taxi?  Transport?”, which we will hear pretty much constantly anywhere we walk for the next two days.  We take up one of the drivers on his offer, and ask to go to Ubud, an inland “cultural center” town about an hour from the airport.  Along the way, our driver explains in very good English–I notice over the course of the trip that everyone seems to speak English quite well–that although Indonesia is a majority Muslim country, the island of Bali is an exception, with over a 90% Hindu population.  He says that almost anytime a new house is built, a small temple is built alongside, which certainly seems to be true based on our observations.  A large number of the houses have little walled courtyards next door, with small private temples.

Some of the ubiquitous offerings.

The road to Ubud takes us through the large, commercial town of Kuta, where we pass a McDonald’s (with drive-thru), Pizza Hut, KFC, and Dunkin Donuts within close range (all of which thankfully don’t exist yet in Laos) and then through the country inland to Ubud.  Along the road we pass countless shops selling concrete statues, and lots of roadside artist studios, the closer we get to Ubud.  Most of these feature traditional Balinese motifs, although some are a bit more “unique”–one has an 8-foot painting of Beyonce’s face on the porch.

Mandia Bungalows: can I just live here?

After getting dropped off on the main road in Ubud–“Monkey Forest Road”–we decide to walk around checking out guesthouses.  The first one we visit looks good enough for two nights…in fact, I would be happy to stay there for the rest of the year.  The porch of the small stone “bungalow” is decorated with fresh hibiscus flowers, has a table with tea and instant coffee, and looks out into the walled garden, with palm trees and more tropical flowers.  Now that we’re settled, it’s time to explore Ubud.

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