My Life Abroad: The Adventures of Two Birds
Choose a Topic:
Mon
30
May '16

Adam’s trip to Melbourne

It1 seems like it’s been years but finally my brother decided to come out and visit.  We aligned his visit with the big Beer Festival in Melbourne the GABS Fest (Great Australian Beer Spectapular). We calculated it has been about 5 or 6 years since his last visit… much, much too long.  I tried to take off from work so that we could go out and see the sights, but he is also a runner and even though we live over a kilometer from the train station, and the main part of town, he found it therapeutic to run a lot while he was here.

This is my main list for visitors to Melbourne (and Melbourne is by far the best Australian city to visit), of these, they are the mainstay of my “tour of Melbourne” that I offer to our guests.  Check them off your bucket list?

 

List of Top “Things to do in Melbourne”

-Melbourne Aquarium
-Phillip Island Little Penguin Parade
-Hot Air Balloon over Melbourne (or) the Yarra Valley [wine country]
-Queen Victoria Market
-Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) – Cricket or Australian Rules Football
-Healesville Sanctuary
-Puffing Billy Railway
-The Yarra Valley wine region
-Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne
-The Great Ocean Road (The 12 Apostles)
-City Circle Tram
-National Gallery of Victoria
-Melbourne CBD Laneways Tour
-Old Melbourne Gaol (Jail)
-Federation Square
-Yarra River Tour
-St Kilda Beach Boxes
-Flinders Street Station
-Flemington Racecourse
-Haigh’s Chocolates Rialto
-Melbourne Star Observation Wheel
-Arts Centre Melbourne
-Crown Casino
-Hardware Lane

You can Google any of these sites for more information or to plan your next trip to Melbourne!!

 

Sun
29
May '16

9th Annual Camping Trip – 2016

25Let’s just say we had a lot of people join us this year and it was fantastic.  One shredded tire, a heated shower, 3 rambling dogs and lots of BBQ later… we enjoyed a visit from the Easter Bunny again and had a massive egg hunt.

This tends to be my favourite holiday week of the year, we get to take off a few days from work and combined with days for the Easter Holiday (Good Friday and Easter Monday included – yes, I said Easter Monday), we really make the most of our “glamping” experience.

Over the years we have perfected our camp and it makes for a nice week away amongst the trees and Australian bush.  This year was no different, we had new guests and some that have revisited us from past camps – and next year we have even more planned. Everyone’s welcome to join in if you are free over Easter break, come join us for a camping experience in the Aussie bush.

Sun
26
Aug '12

Laura Swanson

LAURA SWANSON

I must take the time to say goodbye to one of my long-time friends, unfortunately she passed away earlier this year and I was very saddened to hear this.  I met Laura when I worked at Feather River Hospital back in 2000, we worked together for about 4 years and we became fast friends.  She was so funny, I can remember so many things about her and her vivacious personality.

We spent a lot of time together back then and even after I moved to Australia in 2005, she and I kept in contact. We chatted online a lot, and I helped her out with her dog breeding website here and there.  I visited with her on every trip home and she always made an effort to come out and see me – even if she didn’t really like leaving the haven of her home.  What I know about Laura was that she was a kind and loving friend, mother, and grandmother.  She loved the ocean, her dogs, and she loved her daughters like no-one I have ever known.  She was proud and stood up for what she thought was right. An injury left her in quite a bit of pain and unfortunately left her in a state that dramatically effected her life for years to come.

At a dinner in 2007, in Chico, Laura came down to spend time with me and Rod – with a group of friends – I was grateful to see her, on our 2010 visit I made it up to her place to see her and unfortunately it was the last time I would see her.  I think of Laura when I think of good rock music, tie dye, the love for animals, and loyal friendship.

I know I’ve said this a million times before, but you never know when someone is going to suddenly leave your life.  You must take advantage of the time you have with your loved ones. Losing my father has had a dramatic impact on my life and my heart is full of sorrow for Laura’s daughters, and grand-daughter, that she will not be there to share the rest of their lives with her.  I only hope that they are able to stay strong and carry her memory on with them through life.

Laura, I will miss you. Your daughters miss you so much. I’ve seen a lot of old pictures pop up on your Facebook page in the last few months – everyone is sharing their memories of you.  It makes me happy to see your face and it is a reminder to me of the friend that I cared for so much.  I hope that you are in a happy place and that someday our paths will cross again. And I hope and pray that your children will heal and only remember the best memories of you as they make their own journey through life.

I love you.  RIP.

Sun
12
Aug '12

Expat life in Melbourne

I don’t often talk about how I came to live in Australia, but a recent email from one of my readers has prompted thoughts about how I got here and how I have gotten to where I am today in general – from a “mindset” perspective.

I suppose I easily could have stayed in beautiful Chico,California– the Sierra Nevada Mountains– and continued partying with my same old friends, playing on the pool league with my best girlfriends, singing in a band, and ultimately going no where in “life”.  Fun is one thing but I think I was definitely dying to have my own life, career, and be in love with someone that loved me back exactly the same as I loved him. All of the things I was desperately missing in California.

I’ve always loved travelling. From the time I joined the US Navy in 1988 – I knew I really wanted to get out and see a bit of the world.  I was lucky enough to have travelled quite a bit while I was in the military and I loved every minute of it. My favourite places were Italy and Bahrain.

But, when I met up with Birdie in 2004 some 18 years after we first met, I knew it was meant to be. His offer to come visit turned into what I hoped for – an engagement and invitation to come live in Melbourne permanently.  I do think that we considered living in California but with the job market, cost of living, and economy in a downturn it was the best choice to move to Melbourne.  In my mind it was never a choice.  I don’t think once that I have regretted coming here.  Certainly the support of Birdie’s family and friends made it easier for me and the support of my own family was important to me as well, they wanted me to “be happy”, and sometimes being happy means you have to go far, far away.  I think each year they are finding out that I am not so far away, we visit, and my Mother comes to Australia to visit often.  My best friend in Cali comes to visit and I keep in touch with my friends on FB and through this blog. I will have to say that this blog for me is therapeutic – it is a way for me to share my life with my family (as meager as it is). I believe some think my blog is a bit indulgent, but for me it’s a way for my family and friends to know what I’m doing and know that I am okay here.  I recommend to my expatriate friends to keep a blog and open a portal of communication with your family if you can.  It’s been one of the best things I’ve done for myself since I have come to live here.

My visit to Melbourne for the first time, a 2-week visit, was the most awesome experience I can remember.  Birdie was so good, he took me out to see every part of the city, and we did all the touristy things here and went out to eat in the city and suburbs every night.  He did however, remind me that “it’s not going to be like this if you move here” meaning getting the extra special going out every-night treatment.  But it was a great experience to see a good chunk of where I’d be living.  Melbourne is a metropolis, densely populated with immigrants from all over the world and certainly the South Pacific region. The food here is incredible, some of the best from all over the world – for sure, it’s a foodies paradise. Melbourne hasn’t let me down once, there’s so much to do here and it is by far the best destination in Australia (yes I’m bias).

When I left, I remember giving my car away, packing my things, choosing what to keep and what to get rid of, I even kept some things in storage for over a year in Californa.  Cleaning out that storage unit was a nightmare – Suggestion #1 – don’t keep things you don’t need in storage for over a year especially if your not planning on definitely coming back to live.  We lived in a very small second-rate apartment when I got here… but after I started working and Birdie got a new job we were well on our way to acquiring the things we needed to make our house a home.  It only took 5-years to collect enough shit to furnish a 4-bedroom 3-bath home, and we bought our first home after being in Australia for only 4-years.

My friends, they are still around, some are in my life more than others.  Some I wish were in my life more but ultimately people deal differently than others when “someone is leaving”.  Some didn’t want me to go, some probably couldn’t wait until I left but ultimately you find out who your real friends are when you leave.

Making friends in Australia is something I’ve talked about in detail before – it’s a hard task.  Things are just different here, attitudes are different, and it’s culturally different. – Suggestion #2 – don’t expect Australia to be just like the U.S. (so far from it), it’s a foreign country and just because they speak English (sort-of) here,  doesn’t make it anything like America.  I’m talking about making friends, but also in general – things are just plain different.  I don’t know what I would have done if I hadn’t been so career focused when I got here.  I easily adopted Birdie’s friends, girlfriends, and wives – and some are still around.  But making friends for yourself is something I found hard here, and something that came very easy to me at home.  It’s taken me the entire 7 years to figure out how to make friends here.

Here’s my two cents of good wisdom for finding friends in Australia (this is what I did):

~ Don’t depend on your partner.
~ Get out of the house and find a hobby, club, or other way to meet new people.
~ Get involved in sport, either playing, or participating as a board member.
~ Work!  Even if it’s only part-time.
~ Once you find a friend, hang on to them – arrange a coffee meet up once a week/fortnight.
~ If you have a child join a local “mothers group”
~ Join an Expat group on Facebook or MeetUp, there are tons online, it enables you to make some friends or connections from your own country – this can make things much easier when it comes to needing a shoulder to complain on… er, I mean cry on.
~ Let your guard down a little, I know you don’t want to get hurt but if you can’t let your guard down and open yourself up to making new friends – it will never happen.

I never would have made it if I didn’t have the friends I have now.  And although most of my friends are expats from other countries who understand the pain of leaving their home country – my Aussie friends are as important as anything to me  – Suggestion #3 – if you think you can make it here with no friends, your kidding yourself. I’ve seen American expats come and go and the ones that make a good go of it would swear by this – you need friends to help you get through the hard times.

I’d say I struggled for about the first 2-3 years.  I start out working a job way below where I was in the U.S.   Until I got one job under my belt, figured out how to put together CV (resume) to work in Australia, and got the courage to go out and look for a new job (which was hard and outside my comfort zone), I really didn’t have much of a chance. Finally, I got a job that enabled me to travel for about 10-months straight all over Australia.  I started getting to see more of Australia than my partner had seen.  Perth, the outback, Sydney, and Tasmania… I’d been everywhere!  I started having to make friends on my own because I was spending weeks away from my husband.

I used to remember flying home on Friday nights to see Birdie, and as I was driving from the airport toward the city, I would see the buildings of  Melbourne and think “Ah, I’m home”.  That’s when it finally hit me that Melbourne IS MY HOME.  I love Melbourne.  And as much as my husband wants to live in the U.S., I can’t imagine living anywhere else right now.  Someday I guess I’ll give up those dreams to go live in America once again to give my husband the opportunity to live in America and have his own expat experience there… but not for many more years (I hope).

Ultimately, I am not disappointed with my decision to move here and I made such a good choice in my partner, Birdie has been so supportive of me in this new country.  He understands my plight, when I have to have a good cry – I have his shoulder, good times or bad he’s there for me and I have to give him props for that because I’m not the easiest person to understand – Suggestion #4 – pick a supportive partner, and know them well before you make a move so far away from everything you know and love.  

When I first came over to live, Birdie and I made an agreement that we would live together for a year before we got married.  I wanted to make sure I wasn’t making a mistake that would land me alone in a foreign country with no way to get home, no family or friends. Our agreement included that he would pay for me and all my crap to fly home should things not work out.  Luckily, after being apart for 19-years it felt like we were able to pick up where we left off and create a life together. I am thankful every day for our meager beginnings here, because it meant that we had to rely on each other and it gave us the struggles we needed to make sure that we were a fit.

Ultimately, to all expats planning to move to Australia in the future… ensure you have a good support system outside of your relationship with your partner and be willing to be open to change, think outside the box and be prepared for everything to be different.  It truly is mind over matter!!

Sat
1
Oct '11

The Difficulties of Living Overseas

I have to blog this week about the painstaking process of living in another country, moving to Australia.  It comes to mind this week as I have a friend that has recently moved here and is struggling, and conversations with many Americans that find difficulties with cultural differences and making friends.  It seems great, you come on a ‘vacation’ to Australia and you think “wow, they speak English, they talk funny, the people are nice, they have some of the greatest cities in the world to visit” and then you go home.  But for those of us that have chosen to stay and live our lives here, have a very different experience.  I suppose at first when I came here I thought things were the same as America, but what I have found is that it is quite different from living in America, in that there are expectations of social activity being the ‘same’ as what you are used to.  Nothing is further from the truth.

I speak from my own experiences, but also from the experiences of my friends that are expats to this country in particular.

Australia is a large country with big cities, but the cities are few and far between. The cost of living is high.  Whether you live in Melbourne, Sydney, or Perth – your options are generally in your city and there aren’t that many options.  When its time for kids to graduate high school and go to ‘University’ they live at home and stay with their parents while they complete their schooling, and then they generally live with their parents until they save up to buy their first home or waiting to get married.  Can we blame this on the economy today?  It came to mind however, this is a practice that is more inherited than economy related. Parents, for some reason, are happy for them to stay, taking care of their “grown” children – some even staying through their 30’s.

In America we are dying to leave home after high school, usually to go to a University away from our parents, to experience independence and learn how to live on our own.  University options are plentiful and Americans are eager to move far, far away from their parents. I look back on my 20’s and 30’s and all the experiences I’ve had being on my own and I can’t imagine living with my parents that long, even as wonderful as my parents were/are.  Part of the moving away culture includes the sanity of our parents an the ability for them to have a life free of their children.

Australians are difficult to make friends with, they still have their same friends from school, and because they haven’t moved away from home and experienced making new friends, they aren’t keen to expan their circle.  Coming here as someone that is well travelled and has made friends all over, it is difficult to think how hard it is to break into some friend-groups.

As a working woman, at 40, I tend to think it would be easier, but it is not.  In my industry I work with mostly men, with the few women I do meet, I find that it’s the expats that welcome me and befriend me.  These expats are from South Africa, from Ireland, Japan, America, and Canada. I have only made 3 Australian friends at work, and after living here for 6 years I tend to think that I would be able to make better connections.  I’m thankful for my husband’s friends when I first got here, most took me in.  I do have a couple great friends from my husband’s group, but even my husband’s group of friends are from school. 

Some Americans move here and do not have a circle of friends, a support of their partner’s family, and this missing link can be quite damaging. It’s important to have a support system in place in order to “make it” in a new society that is different from your own.  Culturally, there are so many differences, from language to how we were brought up, how are we to bridge those gaps to find some common ground?

Sometimes we just have to take matters into our own hands.  Thanks AIA.

Sat
30
May '09

Candace makes the L.A. Times

I just want to preface this article in the L.A. Times about my best friend Candace and the Roar & Snore tour she provides at the San Diego Zoo’s Wild Animal Park – you are fabulous!  You can do anything!  You are living your dream and I want you to live YOUR dream, not anybody elses!  We are so proud of you, this article is fantastic!!! 

San Diego Zoo’s Wild Animal Park offers overnight camping near wildlife

The roar of the lions, the circling vultures, the breakfast of Frosted Flakes? It may not be Africa, but it has its charms.

By Jane Engle, Reporting from Escondido
12:15 PM PDT, May 16, 2009
L.A. Times

“It’s cheaper than going to Africa, I’ll say that,” Christine said as she scanned a rolling savanna where giraffes, gazelles and elephants ambled within a few dozen yards of a tent she shared with her husband, Jim.

For the Claremont couple and more than 50 other safari wannabes like me who spent a chilly Saturday night in March at the San Diego Zoo’s Wild Animal Park, the aptly named Roar & Snore camp out was also enlightening, fun and a little eerie. But not necessarily restful. (Pictured below: Candace Zylman, left, leads the Roar & Snore tour)

candace-tour.jpg“Oh God, where did I put my earplugs?” my partner Wesla asked soon after bedtime, as sonorous snoring erupted from nearby tents. “That’s going to be louder than the animals.”

Not always, we would learn. More on that later, along with the truth about rhino flatulence, grisly lion treats and how to train an elephant.But first: Why are we here? Like Christine and Jim, we couldn’t make it to Africa (or so I thought, until my editors agreed to send me; see “South Africa” article, left). Instead, for Christmas, Wesla had given me a night at the 1,800-acre park in Escondido, where countless beasts and birds fly, swim, roam and mate, many with only a moat to protect them from herds of camera-wielding bipeds. Or vice versa.For $129 each (plus $35 for park admission), Wesla and I got a tent, dinner, breakfast, three after-hours walking tours and plenty of face time with park staff during an adults-only edition of Roar & Snore, which is also offered for youth groups and families with children.

Among our fellow campers were veteran park-goers and newbies such as Tammy and her daughter Tara of Virginia Beach, Va., visiting during Tara’s spring break from college.

“In the past we’ve cruised,” Tammy said. “We thought we’d do something different.”

That it was. Wesla’s verdict: “A really cool experience.”

candace-tour1.bmpAfter a two-hour drive from Los Angeles, Wesla and I pulled up to the park gates, checked in and by 4:45 p.m. had spread our sleeping bags across the vinyl floor of our 9-by-14-foot canvas home near Kilima Point.

We had paid an extra $20 each for a so-called vista tent overlooking the nearly 70-acre East Africa habitat; cheaper ones are off the rim.

Below us grazed a dozen hoofed — what? After searching in vain for signage, I collared Candace, one of several perky camp guides.

“We’re a nonprofit,” she said. “We put up as many signs as we can afford.”

Then she clued me in: Those were Thomson’s gazelles, sporting dark racing stripes. And over there were reticulated giraffes, a few fringe-eared oryx, a regal-looking defassa waterbuck, several African crowned cranes and, atop distant hills, African and Asian elephants.

Closer in, near the camp’s dining patio, a couple of hulking white rhinos snuffled in the dirt.

“They’re kind of gassy,” Candace said, giggling. Something to do with inefficient digestive systems. Turns out you can get too close to nature.

candace-tour2.bmpAbove us, swirling turkey vultures that I had mistaken for hawks cruised for roadkill. It was not the only time that night I would feel like prey.

Speaking of food: A buffet of grilled hamburgers and hot dogs, veggie burgers, barbecued beans and green beans, consumed at communal picnic tables, made for mostly happy campers, although some growled that the $8.25 mixed drinks were more mix than drink.

Just as well. We would need sharp senses and sure footing for our post-dinner forays: two brisk 90-minute hikes through the darkened park.

“Our adventure begins,” camper Christine said, grinning like an excited 5-year-old as two dozen of us trooped behind Candace down a dusky road toward predator habitats. I felt like a child sneaking into the zoo after closing.

Candace fed our fantasies.

When we passed a pacing female cheetah that glared at us with shining eyes, Candace said, “You just finished dinner. You smell like food.”

Thanks to a moat and a swath of electricity-charged grass, we were spared. Not so some visitors.

“Every once in a while, a not-so-bright bunny gets in the enclosure,” with predictable carnage ensuing, Candace said.

candace-tour3.bmpLounging lions seemed less wild than mild, which they kind of were, having been trained, she said, to open their mouths for tooth inspections and tolerate sundry pokes and probes. Their favorite summer snacks, though, were chilling: frozen rabbit’s blood, which park employees dubbed “bloodsicles.”

Not all our guide’s insights were as G-rated. Hoping to give other males a chance to mate, staff had shunted a Cape buffalo to a habitat by himself, we learned.

“He’s nicknamed Longfellow, and it’s not because he likes the poet,” Candace said of the horned Lothario.

We paraded past African black rhinos, nyala antelope and more animals before returning to camp for a snack of cheesecake, cookies, hot cocoa and coffee, and then heading out on our second hike.

A highlight was the African elephant area, where we ogled a day-old calf and his mom while nearby, two researchers sat with laptops, recording his every move. The tender scene belied the power of the pachyderms, whose enclosure includes of concrete-filled steel pillars. Keepers never share the same space, Candace said.

Not that elephants are untrainable.

“These guys would do almost anything for alfalfa pellets,” Candace said. As if on cue, one of them bellowed.

“They heard the magic word,” she said.

By 11 p.m., Wesla and I had turned in for a less-than-magical sleep, disrupted by the snores next door and several drowsy treks to the bathroom about 180 paces away.

No matter. What happened shortly after 6 a.m. banished weariness. That’s when the lions started roaring.

In the still pre-dawn, their majestic chorus hollowed out the misty air, obliterating every other sound. I flinched as my nerves recalled some forgotten prehistory when humans were the hunted. It was thrilling, unsettling and unforgettable.

candace-tour4.bmpThe rest of the morning brought an alfresco breakfast of scrambled eggs, sausage, pancakes, fresh fruit and, of course, Frosted Flakes with Tony the Tiger on the box; and another hike, where we viewed Sumatran tiger cubs and their mom, endangered California condors, North American porcupines, bighorn sheep and other beasts.

We had an up-close encounter with a baby alligator and heard the tale of the negligent roadrunner, who had a way with the ladies but a habit of deserting the nest. For that, the bird suffered in solitary confinement, where he raced back and forth.

“He’s looking for the female,” said Cindi, our morning guide.

The Roar & Snore ended about 9:30 a.m. after we packed up and the staff took our stuff to the parking lot. Later, we rode the park’s Journey Into Africa tram, which rolled past the same savanna we had traversed the night before and beyond to areas we hadn’t seen.

After the wake-up call by the lions, it all seemed anticlimactic. How do you follow that act?

jane.engle@latimes.com

Sat
10
Jan '09

Our last days in Thailand

The scuba class went well, I’m finally certified and I had a great time on my last day of dives. Unfortunately we drove out to where the sharks are but it was such rough waters that we ended up not being able to go there.  So we went back and did some dives closer to the twins: the Nangyuan Islands.  I did get to see some great fish and I finally finished all of my course work, skills and my 4 dives.

4dive1.jpg 4dive2.jpg 4dive3.jpg

Well Michelle arrived yesterday, Tony also arrived from Phuket – so we have a new group of 6 for our last couple days.  Mat, Blair & Michelle are heading to Bangkok next for a few days before they return home, Tony leaves for home tomorrow and we leave on the 11th to return home.

Last night we took Michelle out to dinner at the beach, to walk along the main strip and ended up playing pool in a bar all night with the group of us.  We had a fun time.

pool.jpg blair-pole.jpg blair_mich.jpg tony.jpg portable-bar.jpg

yo-rod.jpg tongue.jpg lainey_mich.jpg lainey_rod2.jpg blair_mich1.jpg

blair_mich2.jpg tony1.jpg blair_mich3.jpg daquari.jpg mohito.jpg italian.jpg

We found this great Italian joint that had the best food and we have had a dinner and a lunch there, that is Vecchia Napoli Ristorante & Pizzeria and it is the most spectacular homemade italian/pasta/oven fired pizza!  Definitely a place to go!  We also went in for massages and the boys got pedicures and manicures while us girls got pedi’s, I got a facial and an oil massage. It was a full day at the spa for me and it was lovely.

pedicures.jpg

We moved on for dinner at a place called Bono – I had King Prawns in Green Curry with rice, Tony had a beautiful filet of Barracuda, and Rod had squid with basil, garlic and chili. Most of these places have their fish, lobster, etc. out front of the restaurant so you can pick what you want cooked – Birdie picked out a squid.  Yum!

This morning Birdie and I did our last shopping, had a quiet lunch together and just the two of us, and we tried to overcome our hangovers from last night. We couldn’t keep up with the group – man I’m getting old!

 lainey-lunch.jpg rod-lunch.jpg

For me, my scuba class is over and I am now licensed! We’ve had a wonderful holiday and I can’t wait for our next trip back to Thailand.

Wed
7
Jan '09

Tomorrow, I swim with the sharks…

lainey_monkey.jpgOnly a few days left on our trip, I’ve been busy with my Scuba ‘Open Water Diving Course’ this week, tomorrow I will be licensed!!  I’m so tired from the classes and being underwater for so long – kicking away!  The guys came out with me today and snorkelled while I did day two of my course.  We went to Nangyuen where most of the snorkellers are taken out to – we had lunch there and were out most of the day. The waves were a bit choppy and Mat and I suffered a bit. I’m hoping tomorrow will be a little more easy out on the seas. Once I get underwater, the current is quite strong but you don’t really feel the rolling of the water. 

Today we did training underwater but I did get to see a big school of barracuda that was “Awsome” (as Brent likes to say)!  I took a few snaps of the island and our boat but there are no diving pics, hopefully tomorrow there will be a few. 

So, it’s true, tomorrow in my last day of my Open Water Diving Course we are going to swim with sharks.  I heard they are 4-5 meters long (13 feet-ish), and some we will see are white fin sharks.  I’ll know more when I blog tomorrow.  There won’t be pictures because we will be diving to 18 meters deep (60 feet) and the cameras we have won’t work that deep 🙁

<- Yes, there is a monkey on my back (no, it’s not booze).  Believe it or not the monkey’s name is ADAM.  He’s cute and people walk around with them trying to get idiots like us to pay for a picture with one, I couldn’t pass it up.  He was cute but wouldn’t look at the camera, instead he kept swiping at Birdie trying to smack him.  It was funny.

After all that we met up with a friend that arrived last night, Tony, and we all went to mexican for dinner and ate a load of ribs, tequilla, and some margaritas.  We are having a great time hanging out and I’m so excited that Michelle, Blairs friend, is showing up tomorrow and will be around with us for the last days of our trip before they head off for 3-days in Bangkok.

mexican-dinner.jpg

At night we’ve been making our way around the small town of Samui checking out the bars and attractions. The guys have found that fireworks are easy to buy here and they have been setting off really big ones on the beach.  I’ve included some pictures of our snorkelling island/boat, and the last couple days and nights. Including this one, my favourite sexy ladies:

sexy-ladies.jpg

catamaran-to-nangyuan.jpg nangyuan.jpg nangyuan-resort.jpg nangyuan-resort2.jpg nangyuan_sleepykitty.jpg nangyuan-resort3.jpg nangyuan-resort4.jpg nangyuan-resort5.jpg dream-girls.jpg fireworks.jpg

Mon
5
Jan '09

We’ve all arrived at Chaweng, Koh Samui

beach-dining2.jpgMat and Blair arrived this afternoon to the island of Samui.  We got to bed early on the night we arrived and headed out in the morning to check out the shopping on the main road.  What’s different between Samui and Phuket is that there is just one main road really where all the shopping, massage places, bars, clubs, and some restaurants are – all of the resorts have entrances on the beach side of the street and on the beach is where most of the good dining is.

After we had breakfast at our restaurant, we walked around about 9:30am in the EXTREME heat we came back and changed to go to the pool and had a foofy drink (I had a Sex on the Beach for Candace), we swam and then went into the ocean.  The ocean water is so warm and wonderful, the pool water was colder.  We caught some rays and relaxed on the beach.  Before Mat and Blair got there we went for another oil massage together and met them after for a drink, after about 3pm it cooled down considerably – the evenings are nice here.

We had dinner on the beach, at the end of the day the resorts turn all of their wood lounge chairs into tables to eat outdoors, a few fairy (christmas) lights and ‘bang’ it’s an outdoor restaurant on the beach.  Each resort does it so there are about 20-30 restaurants on the beach.  That’s where we had a big meal and shared a hooka, all for about $15 a piece with drinks!

 beach-dining.JPG lainey-hooka.jpg mat-hooka.jpg rod-dining.jpg mat_little-thai-girl.jpg laniey-dinner.jpg blair-hooka.JPG boats-at-dusk.jpg samui3.jpg wood-sculpture.jpg sandwoman.jpg

So tomorrow more sunning, swimming, massages (maybe a facial for me), a few beers with the guys and a lot of relaxing for me.  I’m getting ready for my scuba open water diving course on the 6th – 8th to get my license, I’m hoping the guys will be able to come on my final day of testing and snorkel while I dive so we can all hang together on the boat.  Check back for more soon…

Sun
4
Jan '09

Goodbye Patong Beach

Our last night in Phuket was just great, it’s just the four of us left: Mat, Blair and the two of us. We hit the Aussie Bar on Bangla Road then headed out for dinner – a whole fish, some awsome crab, shrimp cakes and beef & basil – wonderful meal. The day after we arrive in Koh Samui, Mat and Blair will arrive so we did a night on the town playing pool and hanging out.

 blair.jpg

aussie-bar-sign.jpg bangla2.jpg bangla3.jpg bangla4.jpg 

bangla5.jpg fish.jpg telephone1.jpg 

bedroom.jpgSo today we caught a hop – prop plane from Phuket to Koh Samui. It’s definitely different from Phuket and the hotel we’re staying at called Al’s Resort (yes I picked this one) is completely AWSOME!

There’s a swim up bar and pool that faces the beach. A restaurant facing the beach and they put tables out on the beach to eat dinner in the sand with beautiful lighting.

Our room is incredible and our towels were shaped up like little elephants!

We drove through the main part of town to get to our hotel and there are tons of bars, restaurants and shopping all over. A bit more upscale than Phuket.

We’re really looking forward to the next 8 days!

hop-flight.jpg als1.jpg als2.jpg als3.jpg als4.jpg bed1.jpg elephant.jpg

We have a lot to do in the next week, including my scuba class! I’ll be posting again in the next couple days. Check back soon.

Thu
1
Jan '09

Hartin’s Last Nite in Phuket

We went out for our last night in Phuket before the Hartins had to leave to go back home, we went and found a little place called Dolphin bar with a pool table.  Here is our “group” photo of everyone that came from Melbourne with us:

group.jpg

We had a really fun night together, now some are going home, and 4 of us are heading to Koh Samui for 8-days there.  Smaller group will be fun and we will also have some of our own time to do things.  I’m looking forward to spending some quality time with Birdie.

I have noticed that there aren’t many Americans that come to Thailand for holiday but when I hear the accent I usually ask.   Here are the friends I made from Arizona!  This fun group were carrying around a red blow-up devil thing that ends up in every picture, so I get to hold it in this one:

arizona.jpg

Here are my last snapshots from last night, click to enlarge!  We’ll check back in from Koh Samui!

hartins.jpg mat_blair.jpg lainey_rod.jpg laniey_rod2.jpg lainey_matti.jpg

Tue
30
Dec '08

ยินดีต้อนรับสู่ประเทศไทย

Welcome to Thailand!

Our flight was excellent, I’m not so sure if I can travel with the cattle again after going business class. The flight just flew by so fast 9-hours and we were in Bangkok at the airport waiting for our connecting flight.  We waited in the Thai Airlines silk lounge for our connecting flight to Phuket and arrived just after midnight on the 30th.  A quick ride to jenga.jpgthe hotel from the airport and we met up with everyone that was out at the bars and we thought – we’re so tired, just one drink. 

But we ended up out till 4am when the bars close here on Banglor Road with the group having drinks.  Mat, Blair, Damien and Georgia – we had a good night and weren’t too tired to hang. 

After a good sleep we proceeded on New Years Eve day to go shopping and show Damien and Georgia around to the best shopping places.  We stoped during shopping for a beer at little bodega and the guys played jenga against the bartender.  Hilarious!

We’ve  spent a bit of time drinking out of fruit – sitting on the beach at beach bars soacking in the heat and having a great time. Here are the snapshots from our first full day:

coke.jpg georgia.jpg rod_coconut.jpg mat.JPG 

We all met later for drinks after a full day of shopping and then went to dinner and the fireworks started about 10pm.  We ran home and changed then went back to Bangla Road and Beach Road where we watched the most spectacular fireswords show – well not really a show – you can just buy the most massive fireworks on the street here.  Bangla Road is where everyone hangs out and it was a crazy scene on the street, insane amounts of people:

bangla-road-nye.jpg

welcome-to-patong.jpg

lantern.jpgEveryone buys BIG fireworks and goes down to the beach and sets them off. Like big kilometer sized up in the air ten stories high fireworks.  A bit dangerous but they went on for hours and hours.  Incredible! The most awsome thing we saw were these lanterns made out of paper you can buy, they have a built-in ring of cardborad that you can light and after a few minutes of being lit they start to gain heat and fly off into the sky.

Rod and I sent one up for my Dad which was very cool! There were thousands in the sky at any given time between 11pm and 4am. 

Some of the pictures look like stars they just twinkled off into the sky for miles and miles. It was one of the most beautiful things I think I’ve ever seen.

It is something everyone should experience! It is something I will never forget for the rest of my life.  Here are some more snapshots of the lanterns in the sky – click to enlarge.

lantern2.jpg lanetrn3.jpg lantern3.jpg lantern4.jpg lantern5.jpg

So only a day and a half left here and we fly out to Koh Samui for the majority of our trip. On the little island we will relax, eat, drink and scuba! Check back in a couple days for our next update.

Hi to Dawn & Woz, Candy, Melzie, Mat’s Mum, and all of our friends checking in – we’re all having a great time!

Love Lainey & Rod

flowers.jpg

Tue
23
Dec '08

The countdown to Thailand…

thailand.gif

Well we are now down to the wire and I’m starting to get really excited now!  We are the first of our group of 10+ to fly out and we will have a day or so before the next one arrives. I’m going to start my scuba training course on the 27th and I will be diving with confidence (and on my own) by the 29th. 

We are leaving around 2pm on Christmas day and we will arrive in Bangkok on the 25th after a 10 hour flight, rest up and catch our hop down to Phuket on the 26th and we are there until Jan 3rd to celebrate New Years Eve with our friends.

After New Years Eve about half of the group are heading off for our last 5-6 days at Koh Samui (or Ko Samui) which is a bit more resortish than the big marketplaces and night clubs of Phuket.  I am hoping for some pool-side/beach-side relaxing time at Koh Samui Island and some time alone with Birdie.  If possible I will try to do a dive in Koh Samui since I’ve never been there before.  I imagine since it is a smaller island it will be a great dive!

As you can see Thailand, for those of you that are geographically-challenged, is between Malasia, Vietnam, Burma, Cambodia and Laos.  Still not sure?  Get out the ole globe and take it for a spin, or just Google it.

Check in for my posts of our daily adventures in Thailand, this trip is bound to be exciting!

Feel free to post comments throughout the week as we will be checking in often.

goodbye_thai.bmp

or Goodbye for now… 

***

Mental Status: High spirits, getting excited about our holiday.
Favourite thing this week: Finishing my Christmas shopping.
Book this week: Three to Get Deadly (A Stephanie Plum Novel) by Janet Evanovich.
Happy Moment: The beautiful ring Birdie gave me as an early Chrissy present!
Looking forward to next week: Being pool-side with booze in a pineapple and a big straw.

Thu
16
Oct '08

Lou Mars: Big Winner of Nationwide Dixon Drum Contest

Well my “band” days may be over, but it’s far from over for my old Simply Irresistible drummer Lou Mars, he’s won a nationwide contest put on by Dixon Drums “Drum your way to Hollywood” through votes of YouTube.  Sensational!  Long time friend, Lou was one of the reasons I started our previous band and I’m so happy and honoured to say that we’re still great friends today – I’m so proud of you Lou!  Go kick some ass in Hollywood!

Lou placed 1st out of 46 contentants and has won a beautiful set of drums, a trip to Hollywood to play on the A&R Channel for the Dixon Drums Special and studio time at Westlake Recording Studios to play with some of the music industrys best!

Congratulations my friend!

Tue
5
Aug '08

Reunion Success (day 24 of 35)

I have learned that people do read my blog… thanks Christy!  It’s good to know that I don’t sit here and write for nothing.  The Reunion was a very busy three day event and things were fantastic.  We had so many compliments and I was so pleased that the night turned out the way it did.  Day three of our Reunion – the Family Picnic was great – 70 in attendance, a great showing – here is a picture of the students that attended!

picnic_50.JPG

With spouses and children we had a great day, facepainter kept the kids busy so the adults could have a good time and connect.  Pictures from the actual reunion will be available online soon.  Here are some of my favourite snapshots from the three days of events:

lainey_birdie.JPG 166.JPG 167.JPG 170.JPG 1711.JPG 172.JPG 

181.JPG 179.JPG 177.JPG  mike-profile-pic.JPG  

committee.JPG 183.JPG 184.JPG 189.JPG 186.JPG picnic_501.JPG 

202.JPG 190.JPG 203.JPG

Next on the agenda is a quick trip back to Chico for the day to give my kitty Kahlua to my young friend Leanne, we are going to have lunch with friends and then we are off to the Nevada County Fair in Grass Valley (kinda like a hometown Carnival).  We are then off on Thursday flying to Houston for my 20-Year Reunion at Klein Oak High School in Spring, Texas.  I am really looking forward to meeting back up with my friends from 4th to 10th grade.  And plus I’m not planning this one so I can finally relax a bit and enjoy the evening!

We have more rest and relaxation planned for the remainder of this trip so don’t expect an update every three days anymore… Mel! 

***

Mental Status: Glad the reunion is over!  But sos happy with the fantastic success!
Favourite thing this week: Being crowned Reunion Queen by the 1988 Homecoming Queen and Reunion Committee Member Christy Salcedo.
Book this week: Everybody Worth Knowing by Lauren Weisberger
Happy Moment: Seeing Reida and Jennifer at the Reunion, and Jennifer Foote (class of ’89) at the pinic.
Looking forward to next week: Flying to Houston for my other Reunion, and seeing old friends from the Med Cruise in Dallas (Melanie & Peggy).