Monday, February 28, 2011

An unexpected surprise

I was sitting in my room studying when someone slipped a notice under my door to notify me that I had received a 'parcel'.  My first thoughts were, "what's a parcel?"  Although we don't normally use that word in the states, I'm smart enough to figure out that it means package.  I was extremely thrilled and ran downstairs immediately to go pick it up at my hall office!

The package was from my friend, Nick, and filled with my favorite snack, Honey Teddy Grahams!  Also in the package was a 3-pack of orbit gum!  I immediately ate as many Teddy Grahams as I could before I felt sick and now I'm chewing on a half-stick of orbit gum :)  Tastes like home.  The package reminded me of how much I miss my friends and family despite how much fun I'm having.  Thanks, Nick!  Miss you all.

Phuket, Thailand

Back from another unforgettable weekend!  We headed to Phuket, Thailand this time for Tim's birthday.  I have to say that this has been my favorite place so far that I've visited, but it's hard to compare because everywhere has been so different!  If I had to sum it up I would say Phuket was amazing beaches with perfect weather, endless bargaining markets, fantastic night life... and ladyboys! (ew..)

Terry and I headed there on Friday evening after our classes.  Friday class is such a buzz kill, but I know I shouldn't skip!  I flew on my first "budget" airline and it was actually pretty nice.  The terminal was kind of a joke though.

Me and my Thai Baht.

We arrived at our hostel in Patong Beach and headed to Thai place for some good food!  I ordered chicken green curry, which was absolutely amazing (I got it again the next night).  However, it seemed that all the pad thai we ordered was really bad everywhere.

คุณขอบคุณ << crazy language.  This means Thank you.  It's pronounced kapunka.

After dinner we were ready to experience the famous Phuket nightlife!  We hung out in our hostel and drank with some new friends we met.  I really liked the hostel and everyone was very nice.  You meet the most interesting people staying in hostels.  It's so much fun!  We eventually stumbled into town and I don't remember much after that... ;)  just kidding, Dad.  I didn't get too drunk!  But it is legal here.  It was a good night.

Hanging out at our hostel.


Cass and I were trying to take a picture with a ladyboy, but Alex blocked her.. him?

The next day, after recovering from the night with a lot of sleep, we hit the beach!  There are tons of beaches in Phuket, but we went to Surin Beach.  We heard it was the nicest one in the area and we were not disappointed.  The water was amazingly blue and the sand was so soft and white.  We got to the beach by a "tuk tuk".  It was about 20 min and we fit 10 of us into one!!!  It wasn't the most comfortable thing, but we got a great price and it was worth it for the beach!

Some of us in the tuk tuk!

The day consisted mostly of just playing in the water and laying under my umbrella.  I tried to stay out of the sun almost the whole time.  I plan on getting tan, but I still have a little over 3 months so I'm trying to pace myself!

LOTS OF BEACH PICTURES!!!  It was just so pretty.

The girls: Cass, Me, Kira, Julie

Our group: Kira, Julie, Cass, Alex, Terry, Me, Tim.

On the way back from the beach we saw elephant rides on the street!

Later that night we did some crazy bargain shopping!  I was having a blast haggling.  It's hard because you really can't get emotional with the situation, it's needs to be strictly business.  You can't think about the fact that you buying this t-shirt for $3 USD could be dinner for them and then you're haggling over 20 cents (it's all in baht of course so it seems like a lot more with their currency).  They all say "My friend!  My friend!  Give me good price!"  All the shop keepers were very nice and we always got the price we wanted :)  with the exception of one who was very very rude.  After he made some nasty comments and gave us some attitude, we decided not to buy anything from him.  As we were walking away he was swearing at us!  With all the competition in these markets, you think you'd be nice to your customers.

A typical stall.

I bought souvenirs for my friends, a dress, and two cute little wooden elephants!  They have their trunks up in the air, which is a symbol of good luck!  There are literally elephants everywhere and I couldn't be more happy about it.

Me and Cass.

Lots and lots of congestion in the streets.

Fresh seafood.

Julie and I also did a fish foot spa!  It tickled soooo much!!!!  We stuck our legs into a tank filled with these little tiny fish and right when I put my legs in they swarmed and were eating all my dead skin (kind of gross, but super cool).  It felt so strange.  They were quick little guys.  After awhile it just of felt like my legs were just numb.

I could hardly handle it, but I made it through.


We were able to contain ourselves or a split second to take a picture.

It was a very short trip and that pretty much sums it up.  We left early on Sunday morning to come back to Singapore :(  but I can't complain too much because the weather is still beautiful and I'm still having the time of my life.

I know I always tend to get a tad bit sentimental in all these blog posts, but I still can hardly believe that it's about halfway through the semester in February and I get to lay on the beaches of Thailand for a weekend.  All the while, back in Minnesota and Wisconsin it's almost reaching 20 degress F!  Woo!  I feel I've learned a lot so far through my experiences abroad.  Especially about the importance of relationships with family and friends, which I will never take for granted!  I'm also learning not only about different cultures throughout Southeast Asia, but cultures all over the world through the many different exchange students.  I love my diverse group of friends who I've been sharing all my experiences with that I've only just met, but it feels as if I've known them forever.  Weeks seem to be flying by especially with all the traveling and before I know it I'll be back home.  People used to tell me that going abroad was "life-changing" and "the best decision of their life", and now I think I understand.

Some photos courtesy of my friends Cass, Kira, and Alex.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Bieber Fever

Yes… I’M GOING TO SEE JUSTIN BIEBER in Kuala Lumpur!!!  YAYYY!!!

I am so happy :)  I got tickets earlier this week.  I would’ve posted about it sooner, but I was far too excited to type comprehendible sentences.  The concert is Thursday, April 21 and my friend Cass is coming with me!  It should be a great time.  Willow Smith is also touring with him.  Then, I just found out yesterday from the radio that Justin Bieber is ALSO coming to Singapore on Tuesday, April 19th.  I was really upset when I found this out because it wasn’t posted on any of his tour websites and I’ve already got tickets to see him in KL!  The tickets aren’t even on sale for the Singapore concert yet.  Either way, I’m going to see Justin Bieber, I’m super happy about it, and it’s going to be LEGEN — wait for it….

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Bintan, Indonesia

This weekend, 7 friends and I took a relaxing getaway to Bintan, Indonesia.  It was only a short ferry ride just under an hour!!
Emma and I arrived Friday night just in time to meet the others for dinner.  We stayed at a place called Nostalgia Yasin Bungalow!  It was so awesome.  Two people stayed in one room and they were very spacious.  The beds all had mosquito nets and each room had a balcony.  
A picture really is worth a thousand words and I’m feeling quite lazy right now.  So this post will have a plethora of pictures.  I tried to organize them a bit, but they are just from the whole weekend.
Me and Emma in our room.
Lobby of our hostel.
We experienced low tide and high tide while we were there.  The difference was huge!  This is high tide.
Same boat during low tide.
Low tide.  During high tide the water was up to the rock wall.
The pretty water bungalows :)
Full moon.
The deadly bug I found in our bathroom!  AHHH!!!  I don’t think I’ve ever seen a bug this big.  I probably wouldn’t have gotten this close if I had known that if you get bitten it could kill you.  We called the front desk to get rid of it and they stomped on it.  eek!
The shower.  You just stand in the corner and hose yourself down.  No hot water, but it wasn’t bad.  Can’t expect much for $18 singapore dollars a night.
Our room.
With the mosquito net down.  Apparently malaria is a big issue in a lot of places in Southeast Asia.  I’m taking my chances and not taking the pills because they are quite expensive ($7.50 for one) and you need to take them everyday while on the trip and at least a week after you get back!  I’ve been continuously wearing bug repellent and mosquito patches so I don’t get bit.  I successfully avoided any bites this trip.
Hanging out on the porch.
Dinner the first night.
Appreciating life.
Fresh fruit juice every morning!  This is watermelon and pineapple.  They also have fresh fruit juices on campus, but it seems so much cooler when you’re enjoying it on the beach.
Enjoying breakfast before going into town.  Terry, Alex, Tim, Cass, Kira, Parisa, Emma.
Around 300,000 rupiah!!  But 1 singapore dollar is 6,900 rupiah so this is only about 43 singapore dollars.  ($1 USD = $1.27 SGD)  It really felt like we just had fake money.  The coins were so light and probably made from plastic, which makes sense because 100 rupiah is not even a tenth of a penny!
We went into town one day to see a little bit of the lifestyle and culture.  It was about an hour ride.  The driving here is insane.  Running red lights, passing people around corners, cars going between motorcycles, no seat belts, etc.  It was actually kind of scary.  I’ve found that bad driving is pretty common in Southeast Asia, even in Singapore where I would think it would be extremely regulated because everything here is.  I guess that’s why it’s a stereotype in America that Asians are bad drivers.  Also, not many people had cars.  They all had motorcycles.  At one point I saw a mother with 3 kids on one motorcycle.  It really didn’t look very safe, but it was very common.
On our way to town.  Me and Cass.
A lot of flooding was present in the town.
Machete sales on the street.
The simple life.  I’m curious as to whether or not they realize the extent of their poverty or if it’s just they way of life to them.
More flooding.
Apart from going to town, it was an extremely relaxing weekend.  It was cloudy for a lot of the time we were there, but it was still great!  On the last day, I forgot to put on sun screen because the sun wasn’t really out.  Bad idea, I got a little pink!  It isn’t bad, but I hate knowing that my skin got damaged :(
I obviously had to get my coconut.  Not as good as the ones in Malaysia and Singapore.
A lot of kite surfing.  It looked really difficult, but so cool!
We played a little friendly beach volleyball, but we all know how competitive I can get.  All we do is win, win, win. No matter what.  Team Awesome.
Playing on the beach!
Pool!  This wasn’t at the hostel we were staying at, but it was at it’s sister resort which was about 1km away.  We got free shuttle services there and back!  We did most of our activities at this resort including volleyball, kayaking, tanning, eating, and I got a foot spa!  So pretty much everything except sleeping.
Praying mantis by the pool.
We went kayaking!  It was extremely tiring!
Me and Cass having a great time with our life jackets.
Me and the German.
I’m 20 years old, living and studying in Singapore, visiting resorts in Indonesia for the weekend, and it’s February!  I’m so grateful that I am able to experience so much while abroad!  Thank God.
I purchased some souvenirs while I was there!  I got my own set of chopsticks, which I’m super excited about.  I love using chopsticks now.  I used a fork this weekend for the first time in about a month and found myself thinking that my food would be easier to eat if I had chopsticks!  I also purchased a couple of picture frames made from batik, which is traditional Indonesian fabric.  They’re very pretty and I can’t wait to decorate my room with all the things I collect!  It was a super relaxing and fun weekend in Indonesia with my new friends from all over the world :)