Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A change of plans

We checked out of our hotel Monday with plans of catching a midday train to Autthaya for the night...only, lucky for us, our cab driver asked where we were headed from the train station. Apparently mother nature and her floods were not so kind to the former Capitol of Siam. While the trains had resumed service to Autthaya, many of the sites are closed until further inspection and restoration. Fingers crossed that the outlook is better before we leave Thailand...

There we were, in the back of a cab, checked out of our hotel with luggage in tow, and no place to go. We came on this trip with no set itinerary, expectations, or back-up plans. So with nowhere to go but out of Bangkok, we asked the driver to change course and take us to the airport, where we found a flight to Chiang Mai leaving in 90mins. Did I mention that in Bangkok it is possible to purchase a plane ticket, check baggage, get through security, and book a hotel with time to spare in this situation? Yeah, TSA could learn a thing or two from these people.

An hour flight later we were in Chiang Mai and on our way to our hotel.

I suppose it is worth mentioning here that while it is very possible to stay cheap in Thailand, thus far we have chosen not to. By American standards the places we've stayed have been very very reasonable, but we have not made the foray into $15/night guesthouses yet. We were advised by multiple people that Bangkok is not the place to skimp as it is, to put it mildly, so hit or miss. What can I say, it's out honeymoon.

We checked into our hotel in the old city of Chiang Mai, rested a bit, and ate a late early dinner. By this time it was just passing from dusk to dark and we decided to take a walk to see the neighborhood.

A few short blocks later we noticed that trailing across the sky were a dozens paper lanterns. As we got closer we heard fireworks which appeared to be coming from a temple down the road. We followed the fireworks and lanterns to the gated yard of the temple where inside were a few dozen Buddhist monks and students, intermixed with other locals and some tourists.

Unsure if this was a private ceremony or not we hovered awkwardly until a middle-aged American couple invited us in. In turns out this couple spends any where from 4-12weeks in Chiang Mai yearly for business, a business I am quite curious to know more about, and considered this their "home" temple.

The locals were celebrating something, which I did not catch, by sending lanterns into the sky. As far as I can understand, the release of the lanterns is symbolic of sending away or letting go of the bad. A sort of cleansing. The Thais, who are also a superstitious lot, will release the lanterns with a firework* attached to scare of ghosts.

While I do not typically wax profane, or even consider myself a sentimental person, this ritual was one of the most amazing things I have ever experienced. The children of all ages playing with lanterns and running through the lot. The joy and calm of the monks. The intrigue of the tourists. It was magical to say the least.

*The lantern I released had a firework attached, that when the monk lit it, I almost peed my pants...

- Typos courtesy of my iPad

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Chatuchak Weekend Market

My second sleep in Bangkok was not nearly as solid as the first, but I didn't wake up with a vicious drug hangover either. I suppose there are trade offs.

We wandered down Th Suhkumvit in search of breakfast...and found ourselves back at McDonalds. The problem I have with the steer vendors and open air restaurants on Th Suhkumvit is that it smells so friggin bad. I don't even know How to describe the street smells, but I find myself fighting back the urge to toss my Pad Thai just about every time we are outside in Bangkok. I don't know if all of Bangkok is this stinky or if we landed ourselves in a seedy part of town. Either way, I cannot wait to get out of Bangkok.

Anyways. McDonalds. McNuggets. Don't judge. If it makes a difference, they make everything fresh when you order it here...and the fountain Coke is legitimate real sugar Coke.

After breakfast/brunch we wandered the streets a bit before recruiting a tuk tuk to take us to the market. Interestingly enough, the first tuk tuk driver we spoke to told us the market was underwater...but offered to take us on a tour of the nearby sites for 150TB. It seemed a little odd so we declined, much to his protesting, and walked to a nearby cab.

Turns out, the market, not flooded.

Side note...Thus far my experience with the people of Bangkok is that they are not nearly as friendly or as helpful as the guidebooks would have you believe. But I suppose that would be like people judged the US based on the behavior of NY cabbies.

Back to the Chatuchak Weekend Market. The market itself seems to wrap around an indoor shopping center, which I could not tell you if it was open all week. I can however tell you it's air conditioned. We wandered the outdoor market for probably 2hrs in the 90degree heat before seeking shelter of the AC.

Outside the vendors ranged from antique Chinese furniture, to puppies, to clothing, and everything in between. There was likely a plan to the layout, but I couldn't tell you what it is. Each area seemed to have its own "food court" of sorts serving up all of the local fares.

It was hot, sometimes stinky, crowded...and fascinating.

Chestnuts roasting over an open fire...

Thai corn on the cob?
I cannot believe W passed this up.

Amazing fabrics

Beads sold by the strand or weight.

Shoes...some new, some used.

All of the latest in Thai fashion.

A HUGE fish section.

Inside we indulged in ice cream from a "traditional" American ice cream shop.

Later today we will attempt to navigate the Thai train system and make our way to Auytthaya, the ancient capitol Siam. It's another balmy day here...and the train to Autthaya isn't air conditioned. It could be a very long ride.

- Blogging from my iPad

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Bangkok He Said, So Bangkok She Did...


Can you tell my travel insomnia has set in...?

After almost 30miserably long hours of travel, we arrived in Bangkok around midnight Friday night/Saturday morning (11am Friday for those of you playing along at home). Except for a bit of a language barrier at immigration, as in she spoke no English and I spoke no Thai, our first trip through the airport was blissfully uneventful. Our luggage even made it here unscathed (thank you Delta!).

We hopped a cab and headed over to our hotel, which was just off of Th Sukhumvit. We are spending our first few nights in a Radisson...can you guess who booked that? Somebody, aka W, was giddy like a school girl when he saw that Bangkok had Radisson hotels just like back home. Ok, whatever.

My initial observation as we navigated our way to the hotel was that we must be staying in a seedy part of time, but in the daylight I've come to believe that's just Bangkok. But I'll come back to that.

Our room was spacious, air conditioned and clean, so I have no real complaints. We settled in, climbed into bed around 2am, and much like a fine Calgon soak, we let Ambien take us away. As a side note, I had to BEG and plead with my dr for a very small allotment of Ambien for the trip. For our 20 day trip I was able to finagle 5, which was after a visit to the dr and 3 phone calls. W, on the other hand, made one quick call and was set up with enough drugs to put down a herd of elephants. For a month. WTF?

Anyways...I woke up Saturday morning around 8am initially to the sound of construction. Awesome. Luckily I was just drugged enough to pass back out for another 2hrs. When I woke up at 10 I felt like I had the worst hangover of my life. Seriously wretched. I don't know if it was the Ambien, the travel, dehydration or all three, but I thought I was dying. All I could think about was how badly I wanted a Diet Coke the size of my head. We showered and wandered down the street to the convenience store...only to find no recognizable soda. We snagged a few water and kept on walking. At the next convenience store I found Coke, but no diet. I've come to surmise that they just don't have Diet Coke in Thailand, which unfortunately means I could never live here. Their loss!

We decided to wander the street markets on Th Sukhumvit a bit in search of palatable food. Coincidently, wandering the streets of Bangkok was not what this hungover girl needed. It smells like a mix of leftovers gone bad and pee. Or perhaps that someone peed in your questionable leftovers. Barf. Also note, that in modest culture that won't allow women into some temples an other such things, it is perfectly acceptable to sell religious tchotchkes, knock off DVDs, and dildos from your cart. On the street corner. In plain daylight. And apparently Viagra is OTC here. Bizarre.

After navigating several blocks of street markets, I spied what I do believe saved my first day in Bangkok. McDonalds. Let me tell you, those McNuggets were pure magic. Turns out that the hangover curing powers of McDonalds' greasy, salty goodness is universal.

So yes, I am telling you that our first meal in Bangkok was McDonalds. And I'm ok with that.

Stay classy San Diego.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Three Things Thursday

1. So about that training plan of mine. You know, the pre-training-plan training plan? Still haven't gotten around to starting that. Huh. Being out of the country for 3wks and coming back to start marathon training (for my first marathon, mind you) with virtually no base is going to kill me. Worst. Idea. Ever.
1 1/2. Since when did finding motivation to run and work out become so difficult? It used to just be what I did. Sort of like brushing my teeth before bed. It was just part of the daily routine. Lately it's a good week if I manage to run or workout once. WTF?!

2. Speaking of things I say I'm going to do but never really get around to doing...minimizing my muffin top. I have been desperately wanting to lose all the weight I've gained in the past year and a half and get back in shape. Admittedly 2009 and 2010 were ROUGH. Multiple surgeries, multiple stints on crutches, lots of self pity and what not. Wah, wah, wah. But I don't have those excuses for 2011. Last spring the motivator was to be tank top and swimsuit ready by summer...which then became a need to trim doing by the wedding...and when THAT didn't happen I shifted gears to being swimsuit ready before our honeymoon. The post-wedding, pre-honeymoon goal was 10lbs in 2mos. Plenty of time to do it the healthy, responsible way. Riiiiiight. Pretty sure that hasn't happened.
2 1/2. In my defense, I have lost and kept off 7lbs since last spring. But 7lbs in 6+ months is hardly something to write home about. I have become much more aware of what I'm eating and portion control. That's not to say I don't routinely make poor food decisions, but I would like to think that those 2 little things have helped stave off any weight gain and helped me get those 7 measly pounds off. Now if only I could get my lazy ass to exercise...

2 3/4. I have a friend who has been working on getting into shape for sometime. I can't say for certain when she revamped her lifestyle and went all hardcore because she's always been active, but DAMN has she made some progress in the last few months. She's always been pretty, and stylish with a wardrobe to die for, but she is transforming herself into like a goddess. Arms to die for, sculpted legs, and I'm just sure she is well on her way to rock- hard abs. She still eats and goes for cocktails (frequently), but she works out with dedication and it shows. She is like the definition of healthy, active, and HOT. I wish I had even an ounce of her motivation...

And yes, I have a TOTAL girl crush on her.

3. I started packing for our trip earlier this week. Trying to sort through my backpacking, tech-y travel clothes and see what still fits. I am happy to say that everything more or less fits, which is so not what I thought would happen. Some things definitely fit better than others, but there weren't any tragic outfit failures, camel toes, mom butts, or other such fashion faux pas. So that's a win.
3 1/2. I had challenged myself to lose 5lbs before we leave. I know, I know. I don't have a very good track record with the whole set a goal and work towards it thing, but if by some stroke of dumb luck I do lose a few lb's before our trip my clothes will fit a smidge better. And that would be pretty a-okay by me. I have exactly 2 weeks left from today to attain this goal...and so far I'm only .5lb down from where I started. Unless I go all fad-diet-juice- cleanse or some crazy shit, I don't think this is going to happen. #FAIL

Happy Birthday Wyatt!!

From flamboyantly intoxicated nights on the town

to questionable outfits,

quality time with the pups,

and trying to be hand around the house...

From playing in the leaves,

to helping around the house,

to fearlessly taking on the hornets nests,

and sharing his hidden talents;

Here are to many more birthdays and growing old together. <3

Psssst.....You can send Wyatt a little birthday love of you own on the Twitter: @wyattjirsa.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Wordless Wednesday

11/9/11 First Snow
(as seen from my office window)

Friday, November 4, 2011

Foto Friday

Hyde's Mill

I purchased my first DSLR late in July this year knowing that I had a handful of photoworthy trips and events happening in the coming months. For the first few weeks I brought that camera EVERYWHERE I went and took pictures of EVERYTHING. I was starting to get the hang of the basics. And then work ramped up, and my free time became virtually non-existent, and my camera sat for weeks on end safely tucked in it's bag.

I had a little time while in Kona for work to play with the camera again. Much time was spent working hard to capture sunsets, ocean views, and athletes in motion. I stumbled upon some great photos, but genrally came back feeling frustrated at my inability to use my expensive new toy to the fullest of it's capabilities. I also came back wanting like 3 new lens, a flash, and a new camera bag, but that's a while other story...

On Saturday 10/22/11 I headed out to Hyde's Mill with a local photog group. This was definitely stepping out of my comfort zone as this was a group of all new people, I was going alone, and I was feeling RUSTY with my relatively new Nikon 3100. The group was, for the most part, super friendly, and many of them were in my shoes not so long ago. There were a few pro's in the group, but mainly there were just there to answer questions and give pointers. I've never been shy at asking questions, so I took full advantage of picking their brains.

A pro I'm not, but here a few of my favorites from my afternoon at Hyde's Mill in Ridgeway, WI.

A shot of the original water-powered mill in Iowa County. This was a test in difficult lighting (direct sunlight, none the less), framing a photo, and capturing moving water. No easy task as I learned that when I adjusted for one condition, say moving water, I had to then compensate for the other condition, direct sunlight. Definitely a learning experience!!

Close up shot of the original mill wheels, once powered by the water wheel. This was me playing with macro, sans a proper macro lens. It was also a test of my limited DSLR knowledge and how to focus on the near, and soften the far.

If you were paying attention of your surroundings while on your way to Hyde's Mill, you would have noticed a quaint church on your right as your turned onto Mill Road. I, however, did not. This was taken from 1/2m away, up the hill, on Mill Rd. I toyed with bringing the distance into focus while letting the foreground soften and merely frame. I also had the epiphany of, duh, using manual focus to force the camera to take the shot.

Behind Hyde Church was a quaint cemetery, mainly filled with headstones and monuments dating from the early to mid 1800's. This is another attempt at macro work, sans proper macro lens. The sharpness of the photo is lacking, but I still love the color of the interesting moss, and the softness of the background.

All of my photos can be found on my flickr site....just click on the widget on the left to take a peek.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Three Things Thursday

Thailand Edition

1. For better or worse, come hell or high water (too soon...?), our airfare has bee purchased. We waited too long to nab the best of deals, but came in under our max, which is promising. On Thanksgiving day we start the 23hr trip to Bangkok....and don't head back to the good ol' US of A until December 13 (19 whole days!!!).

1 1/2. If you all note in your calendars to make sure we make it back on December 14th that would be excellent. Check the blog, stalk me on Twitter, peruse my facepage, shoot me a text, or perhaps stop by (if you're in the area), just please make sure we're alive and on US soil. If not, please contact the US Embassy.

2. Now that the tickets are purchased, I'm actually getting, um, nervous. All this time I've been cavalier and bold. I've talked the game of a season traveler, of an adventure seeker. But now that the proverbial ball is in motion I'm wondering what I've gotten us into.

I've wanted this to be a low-budget, backpacking adventure, with maybe a touch of luxury along the way. I wanted to arrive in Bangkok with little more than our backpacks, a fistful of Bahts, and nothing but time. Sure we'd have a checklist of things to see and our dog-eared LonelyPlanet guidebooks to help us get there, but other that it was a game of wait and see.

But now I'm wondering if this fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants plan is really such a good idea....

3. Then there's all the unknowns. Like, can I find vegetarian food? Will anyone understand us? Will the flood waters be down? Or, will we be able to find potable water? What if one of us get sick? What if, what if, what if.... But isn't all these what if's and unknowns that make it an adventure?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

November 1st

Not to state the obvious here, but today is November 1st. November is busy month in my world. Many, many birthdays (including my own!), Thanksgiving, the Saris Gala, an abundance of loose ends to tie up at work...before our trip to Thailand, typically the first snowfall, and so on.

But what November 1st signifies to me this year, on this day, is the start of my pre-training plan training.

It's no secret that my fitness level is way, way down. It's actually been on the decline since July 2009. As of late though it's taken a even bigger hit. I can probably count on one hand how many runs I've taken in the past two months, all of which have been miserable might I add. Starting a training plan 3 weeks prior to leaving the country for almost 3 weeks seems silly, but to wait until after our trip is like putting all of eggs in the proverbial basket. Instead, I had hoped to start ramping up my fitness level over the next few weeks so that it won't be as much of a shock to the system when we get home. In December.

But instead, I am coughing, and sneezing and sniffling here at my desk. I am eating some questionable Chinese takeout, the spiciest item on the menu just hoping to be able to taste something, and staring out the window. Staring at the 60 degree day. Staring at the sunshine. Staring at my coworkers coming and going from the lunchtime runs and rides. I ambitiously packed my running gear just in case I felt up to a lunchtime run...but it never made it out of my car.

So here it is, November 1st, the start of my training, the month I turn 30....and here I sit.