Tuesday, January 3, 2012

2011: so, that happened

2011 saw a plan of ours come to fruition without us fully understanding it was a plan at all. we knew we were due for a change and we were saving our money and planning itineraries "for some day." we were whispering to each other about all of the countries we would love to see and trying to imagine ourselves with the freedom to go where we wanted to go. that was as far back as 2009 when we thought we couldn't possibly be those people.

best nap spot ever, koh lanta, thailand
fun facts: over 180 days of travel we've slept in 40 different beds,  visited 10 countries, and taken 12 flights, 8 trains, and, mercifully, just 4 buses.

we're now sitting in chiang mai, thailand, having spent four months in europe and, so far, nearly two months in south east asia. we are those people. we constantly have conversations like "where next, honey?" "how about laos?" or wherever. one morning in istanbul turkey, having decided the cold didn't fit our choice of clothing, we bought tickets to thailand where the weather fits our clothes perfectly. that kind of conversation used to seem so far-fetched but now we find ourselves actually saying these things. then we shake our heads in disbelief that we actually could just get up and go to laos. or wherever. a privilege, indeed.

biggest surprise so far? our two and a half week dip into myanmar (burma). way back when, even when the whispering changed to talking out loud and sharing our ideas with others, myanmar wasn't even on the list! it turned out to be one of the most rewarding, sometimes baffling, and overwhelmingly charming span of days we've experienced so far. that link only covers the first week or so and you can tell we were still finding our footing.

every guidebook you read, about any country you're interested in visiting, starts with a line akin to "they're the friendliest people you'll ever meet...," but can it be true about EVERY country? doubtful. however, in myanmar, it really is true. true in a very big way.

so calm. top of mandalay hill, mandalay, myanmar
in fact, we were taken aback by the sheer kindness and curiosity of the burmese and now, admittedly,  somewhat embarrassed by even having thoughts such as "what is it that they want from us? what's the catch?" luckily, we didn't hold on to that thought for very long. we were relieved to find out that even pico iyer, upon his arrival in mandalay, had the very same inner dialog described in his essay in "kindness of strangers." pico iyer! this is the man of gentle appreciation of all other cultures.

we spent thanksgiving on koh lanta, thailand (big thanks to stu and mabs for reminding us that we can still drink with the young'ns), christmas in yangon, myanmar and new years eve in pai, thailand in a reggae bar where ten minutes before midnight a power outage hit, silencing the band. so, what does everyone do? they whip out their fireworks and start shooting them off... IN THE BAR! safety code? what safety code? apart from the high powered, injury-inducing whirlpool in budapest, easily the most giddy chaos we've ever experienced.

as for those first four months in europe, after germany and austria which we know fairly well already, the balkans were wonderful. slovenia, croatia, bosnia and back to croatia. we knew nothing about slovenia before this trip and now we love it. we met some great people, hiked through beautiful countryside, drank some fantastic wine, and saw world war II history from a very different viewpoint. we knew nothing about croatia either, and it gave us two blissful weeks on an island in the adriatic sea and a lesson in tough love language skills, as well as a few days in dubrovnik steeped in history. bosnia, my god bosnia, was a huge surprise. we tried our hardest to understand the balkan war story of the 1990s as told to us by several locals. that's one beautiful country and no one has a hand in your face trying to make a quick buck, either.

we made it to athens, greece! sure, lots of people do,
but it's athens, greece! you know what we mean?
greece and turkey and the mediterranean sea. as michelle is fond of saying, "holy cow, we swam in the libyan sea!" and the food, my god, the food. and the wine, my god, the wine. and the... well you get it. after athens we headed to istanbul. wow, talk about two ENORMOUS cities chock full of history. the weather was turning cold and we knew our time in europe was soon going to end but there was no way we were going to skip istanbul.

when we started our trip we constantly babbled on about how we want to stay put for two weeks at a time as a minimum. we wanted a contrast to those two week vacations over the years where we crammed in three european capitals in 10 days, or something, but truth be told... the world is WAY too interesting. we find ourselves landing somewhere, opening a map and pointing to all the other places "within striking distance." next thing we know, we're spending four days in each place and hardly "staying put" at all.

which brings us to chiang mai, thailand, "the rose of the north." it's like bangkok extra-light, with low rise buildings. we're staying put here for a few weeks. we're at the six month mark when, according to a ton of others who are doing what we're doing, the wall hits. or exhaustion sets in, or whatever it is you want to call it. for us, it's not a wall or exhaustion but it's time to sit down and recharge. we'll catch up on sleep, get finances in order, perhaps replace those t-shirts that are about to disintegrate and plan the next few months.

and for everyone who's kept in touch with us through this blog, facebook, twitter... thank you. thank you and come join us if you can!

we'll report back.

ancient capital of burma, amarapura, myanmar

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this great post! I've been having a hard time catching up from your old posts, but this really entices me to go back! I missed you both very much this Christmas!