Initial thoughts on Bali

P1150422

The view on the beach

So…things are likely going to be pretty quiet around here for the next few weeks.  We’ve made our way to Bali and are staying somewhere near Legion (which is between Kuta and Seminyak but it is not at all clear where one beach ends and the other begins).

Our days are hard — so very hard.  We wake up around 8, wander down to breakfast at our hotel, practice our languages for a bit (Spanish for Robert, French for Lisa), walk the 20 minutes or so to the beach, hang out on comfortable beach chairs reading our books and watching the surfers, wander to a beach bar for happy hour/sunset, walk back to the hotel, shower, have dinner, repeat.  Tough, I know.

But, we do have some initial thoughts on Bali.

P1150425

The view from our bar stools

The traffic is insane.  Not quite Vietnamese insane, but way more insane than Thailand.  If we make it out without getting hit, it will be a minor miracle.

The peanuts here are amazing.  So far, we’ve had fried peanuts with chili and peanuts with fried garlic slices.  Both were to die for.

The number of plastic water bottles beings consumed is not amazing.  Our hotel gives us two water bottles every day.  The beach vendors sell water in bottles.  The restaurants sell water in bottles.  Nowhere have we seen any place to refill plastic bottles.  And the tap water isn’t drinkable.  Ugh.

The wine made in Bali is actually decent.  It is way better than Vietnamese wine.  And cheaper than the imported Australian wine.

P1150419

There are temples/shrines everywhere.  Some are just small little shrines on the street.  Some are on the roofs of buildings, even Circle K’s.  Others are large complexes.  Oddly, the large complexes are all closed to visitors.  They must be open some time though, as many have signs saying “Individuals who menstruate may not enter.”  I’m pretty sure they aren’t actually forbidding all premenopausal women from entering, but who knows.

P1150401

Additionally, there are little offerings scattered all over the roads in front of all the shops and around the various shrines.  The internet tells me they are called “canangs” — they are small baskets made of  leaves or the like with flowers and food inside, along with a small stick of incense.  I’ve already accidentally kicked one and was afraid I had committed a major faux pas, but if the internet is to be believed, once the incense is out, no offense is committed by stepping on the offering.

The food is fantastic and cheap.  In only three nights, we have had suckling pig, grilled fish, lemongrass chicken, chicken satay, beef rendang, and  — of course — pizza.  Everything has been absolutely delicious.  And, every place we have been so far has served garlic bread with lots and lots of garlic.  No mosquitoes are coming anywhere near us!

The beaches are far cleaner that we were led to expect.  They do fill up with dogs in the evening, but the dogs are adorable and not nearly as scary as we were led to expect.  Horses run down the beach each night too.

I’m sure when we move to Ubud in a few weeks we will do more sightseeing, and have more to say, but for now it is beach, beach, and more beach.

 

Posted in Indonesia, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Even further off the beaten track.

So…when the concierge has never even heard of the temple you plan to visit, you know you must be doing something right.  (And, the fact that she later expressed surprise that we visited the temple independently just sealed the deal).

But I’m getting ahead of myself.  Yesterday, we were looking for something new to see and we stumbled upon an article about a temple called Wat Pariwat.  This temple became known because there is apparently a carving of David Beckham in one of the alters.  (For those of you who don’t follow real football, Becks is a famous footballer and he is married to Posh Spice.  Posh Spice is…oh, never mind…).

The temple is accessible via a form of public transportation we hadn’t previously taken — the rapid transit bus.  So, we were in.

On first glance, the temple appears fairly similar — albeit a bit more ornate — to the many other temples we had seen.

P1150256

The outside of Wat Pariwat (from the back)

And, like other temples, there were images of Buddha inside.

P1150291But, when we looked a little bit closer, this temple was unlike any we had seen before.

Wait a second….Is that Popeye?

P1150268

And is that an oddly busty Mickey?

P1150308

And Holy Batman!

DSC00919

And I’m really not sure what is going on with these bunnies or why one has its own selfie stick.

P1150266Or why this punk rock girl with a mohawk is sawing off someone’s hand.DSC00918.JPGOr who this guy is.P1150280The bottom line is that Wat Pariwat was stunning.  There were intricate details everywhere and we’ve only included a small fraction of the interesting sculptures.  That said, we never saw Becks (other blogs have mentioned he is in a locked building).  Oh well.

We highly recommend a quick visit to Wat Pariwat.  Just get yourself to the Chong Nonsi Skytrain stop, follow the signs to the BRT terminal, buy a ticket, hop on the bus (it came ever 15 minutes or so and cost 15 Baht when we visited), and ride to the Wat Pariwat stop (which is stop number 7).  Other than a small group of Chinese tourists with a guide, we were the only ones visiting on a Tuesday morning.  Fair warning…it is excruciatingly hot at the temple.  We would have spent even longer there if we weren’t dripping with sweat after the first five minutes.  So bring plenty of water.

Posted in Thailand | Leave a comment

Lumpini Park

Lumpini Park (also sometimes spelled Lumphini) is a bit of serenity in the chaos that is Bangkok.

P1150254

Seriously, it is one of our favorite places to relax and catch our breath.

P1150227

There are fun little figures.

P1150231

There are interesting birds (although the crow and pigeon population has gotten a bit out of control).

P1150251P1150237P1150215

But most importantly from my perspective, the park is full of monitor lizards.  How cool are these guys?

And, we aren’t quite sure what was going on here, but they seemed content.  Afterglow, perhaps?

P1150225

This is a “must do” in Bangkok, even if only for an hour or so.  And, it is free!

Posted in Thailand | Leave a comment

A bit off the beaten track

So…when you have been to Bangkok multiple times, and you’ve already seen most of the famous sights, you start looking for off the beaten track sights to see.

DSC00831

We had been to the penis shrine (otherwise known as the Chao Mae Tuptim shrine) in 2015.  So, we needed something new this time.

Enter the Erawan museum.

P1150138

The Erawan Museum is on the very south side of Bangkok.  I’m not going to guess as to whether it is actually in a suburb or not, because Robert and I don’t really do suburbs, but it is pretty far south.

It is most well known for its three headed elephant (otherwise known as Erawan).  And it is virtually impossible to get a photo of it from the museum grounds but this one isn’t too bad.

P1150195Inside the elephant is a variety of art work and religious artifacts.

P1150172

And a really cool staircase and stained glass ceiling.

P1150165

We actually liked the gardens the best.

P1150144But the best part of going to the Erawan museum is that we got there using public transportation.  It was really quite easy — we took the sky train to the Samrong stop, then hopped a bus to the museum.  Contrary to what Google maps says, the bus stop is right outside the entrance to the museum and the bus conductors will tell you when to get off the bus.

P1150145This certainly isn’t a “must do” for your first time in Bangkok, but it is well worth the trip on a repeat visit.

Posted in Thailand | Leave a comment

PigFish 2 is underway!!!

DSC00817

Wat Arun

But, boy, did it get off to a rocky start.

Things first went south when we tried to check in on-line for our flight.  United’s computer program said we couldn’t check in unless we uploaded a photo of our visa.  A visa we didn’t have.  A visa that there was no time to get.  Now, anyone who knows me knows that I’m just a tad bit anal about some things.  And you can rest assured that I had checked, double checked, and triple checked and had confirmed multiple times and in multiple ways that we did not need a visa.

So, I thought, no problem, I will just call the United premiere desk and they will get me checked in.  Except they told me I needed a visa because we were transiting through China.  I tried to explain to the agent that China no longer required a visa for transit passengers like us.  (Be a bit careful about this — the rules are a little bit tricky and the length of time you can be in China apparently varies depending on which airport you fly into/out of).  But the agent, after talking to her supervisor, condescendingly told me I should call the Chinese consulate so I could get my facts right.

P1150052

Wat Arun

At this point, the panic attack started.  How could I have gotten something so basic so wrong???  We immediately started looking for different flights.  They were out there, but would cost more money (which is why we had booked via China and not Tokyo in the first place).  So, we wandered over (ok, fine, we sprinted while Robert tried to talk me down off the ledge) to the O’Hare check in desk and tried talking to someone in person.  Voila!  Problem solved.  The woman at the check in desk rolled her eyes when we told her our story and confirmed — as we knew — that no visa was needed.  She got us checked in and, at that point, we thought we were home free….

The next day we settled into our seats for the 14 hour — yes 14 hour — flight to Shanghai.  When we landed, we immediately started looking for the transfer desk.  And there wasn’t one to be found.  Nor did we see any signs directing transfer passengers.  Turns out, passengers transferring in Shanghai have to actually go through customs and immigration, enter China, and then recheck in for their next flight.  So we now have Chinese stamps in our passports, even though we never left the airport.  But you know what else transfer passengers have to do?  Give China a complete set of their fingerprints (including thumb prints).  And you know what else transfer passengers have to do?  Pick up their luggage.  Even though two United representatives told us our luggage was checked through to Bangkok.  Even though we had claim tickets showing that our bags were checked through to Bangkok.  Thankfully, an airport employee in Shanghai told us about this quirk, or our bags would probably still be in China…. And I have to wonder just how many bags get left behind by passengers told by their airlines that the bags were checked through to their final destination.

P1150057

Wat Arun

After that, we thought things could only get better.  But we were wrong.  As we were wandering around the Shanghai airport waiting for our flight to Bangkok, Robert realized he no longer had his boarding pass (or our luggage claim tickets which were attached to his pass).  We raced back to the security area (where his boarding pass had been scanned) and started frantically going through luggage bins looking for his pass.  No luck.  About the time we thought we were well and truly screwed, an airline employee came over to us with the pass.  We think what happened is that the security agent put Robert’s pass in someone else’s bin after scanning it.  In any event, Robert says he is blameless!

About five hours later, we finally made it to Bangkok.  Exhausted and badly in need of showers, but in one piece.  And the minute we walked out of the airport, I got a big grin on my face — we were back in Asia and we couldn’t be happier!

P1150069

Robert at Wat Arun

And things have been looking up ever since.  In our first day we rode the Chao Praya express boat (not the tourist boat, which is pretty much a rip off) in a thunderstorm, visited Wat Arun (and learned that the express boat now stops right in front so a cross-river ferry is no longer needed), successfully fended off a tout that tried to get us to “accidentally” buy tickets for the express boat, checked out the food court at Terminal 21 (color us not so impressed with anything except the price but willing to give it a second try since we managed to get lunch for two for the bargain price of about $4), spent some time at the hotel pool, wandered around our neighborhood, and had some delicious panang curry.  (No pizza yet, which must be some kind of record).

Things are definitely looking up!

 

Posted in China, Thailand | 5 Comments

Our epic road trip

P1140599

Robert at Burial Brewery

So…a few months ago a friend of ours suggested we journey down to New Orleans to see him march in the Irish Channel parade on St. Patrick’s day.  We are always up for a trip to New Orleans so, of course, we said yes.  And then, the next thing we knew, our quick little trip to New Orleans turned into an epic 17 day road trip.  Not sure how that happened….  A road trip that took us from Illinois to Kentucky, to North Carolina, to South Carolina, to Georgia, to Florida, to Alabama, to Mississippi, to Louisiana, to Mississippi (again), to Tennessee, to Arkansas, to Missouri, and, finally, back to Illinois.  Whew!

We spent our first night in Cadiz, Kentucky visiting with Robert’s brother and sister-in-law.  It was a nice visit and they have a beautiful lake house with all kinds of wildlife.  I could have sat outside watching the birds (especially the woodpeckers) for hours if only it had been just a tiny bit warmer.

P1140616

Deer in Francis Biedler Park

The next day we were off for Hot Springs, North Carolina.  I had big, big plans.  We were going to hike the Appalachian Trail.  OK, fine, we weren’t going to hike the entire trail, but we were going to hike a small stretch of it so we could say we had been on the trail.  Now, the trail goes right through town.  And we knew where to park.  And, yet, we somehow completely missed it.  Seriously, we missed it.  Once again, we have no idea how that happened…  And, ordinarily it wouldn’t have been a huge problem — just turn around and find it, right?  Except Robert was grumpy, grumpy, grumpy.  So there went my dreams of hiking the Appalachian trail.

Instead, we pushed on to Asheville, North Carolina.  Where it was cold and rainy.  Nonetheless, we made good use of our time.  You know what that means — we ate and drank our way around town.  We started by hitting a local bar and asking the bartender with a hipster mustache where he would eat.  He sent us to a place called Cucina 24.  Amazing Italian food.  The next day, we ate ourselves sick at Rocky’s Hot Chicken Shack.  Fried chicken, and chicken pot pie, and pudding.  Amazing!  And, even better, it was Tattoo Tuesday, which means we got a discount after Robert showed off his tattoo.  Then, we made our way back to the main part of town where Robert tried a ton of local beers.  He was getting pretty worried because, in all honesty, he wasn’t liking anything he tried.  Were Asheville beers bad?  Was he sick and didn’t know it?  Has my love of wine finally tainted his love of beer?  He finally found success at a place called Burial Brewery.  Shocking right?  How can you not like a place with themes of death, good music, dogs galore, and beers called I Know for a Fact You Do Not Party, Consequences of Humanity, Garden of Earthly Delights, Bone Dagger, and Visions of a Valkyrie?  And right after that we wandered into a wine bar where a bunch of locals were playing blue grass.  And then we stumbled upon a champagne bar.  All in all, an excellent day.  We would have loved to spend more time in Asheville (when the weather was better and we could have done some hiking) but the road was calling our name.

P1140630

Francis Biedler Park

As we drove out of Asheville, the snow was coming down.  We were a bit worried about driving through the mountains in the snow, but it cleared quickly enough.  Our first stop was a New York bagel shop.  Seriously.  In North Carolina.  I can’t say the bagels were New York quality, but they were better than anything we expected.

Out next stop was Francis Biedler park.  It is a boardwalk (1.75 miles if memory serves) through a cypress swamp.  We were there a bit early in the season, so we didn’t see a ton of critters, but we did get to see two very skittish deer, a lizard, a turtle, and a bunch of birds.  Plus, we had the place pretty much to ourselves, which made for a very nice walk around the boardwalk.  If you are ever in the area, I highly recommend it.

P1140687

Rainbow Row in Charleston

Soon enough, we were pulling into our hotel in Charleston.  As I asked the bellman a question about where to park, the first thing out of his mouth was “Mam, y’all in a hurry?  Because you need to slow down.  We don’t move that fast down here.”  OK, guess I had been told!  But, he was right.  Sometimes you do really need to slow down and enjoy life.  And that is exactly what we did in Charleston.  We started our stay with a long walk to Rodney Scott’s BBQ.  Best.  BBQ.  Ever.  Seriously.  Wow!  It was so good.  And the cornbread was like candy.  And yet the locals seem to treat it like “meh” for reasons we don’t understand — several people we spoke to admitted as much but couldn’t explain why.  We also walked all around the waterfront (and got to see a dolphin!), and all around the old part of town, exploring the old houses and their placards.  Robert also tried local oysters — good, but not as good as West Coast oysters.

You know what I found most interesting about Charleston?  The houses are old.  Like built in the 1700’s and 1800’s old.  And they are still standing.  I can pretty much guarantee nothing being built in Chicago now will be standing 200 years later.  And, they were built for tradesman — carpenters and bricklayers.  I can pretty much guarantee tradesman in Chicago can’t afford such nice homes these days.

P1140696

Check out these cool trees in Charleston

As we pulled out of Charleston, we had a full day planned, almost all of which turned out to be misses.  First, we decided to hit a plantation.  Drayton Hall is just a short distance from town, and in the general direction we needed to go, so that is where we went.  It was a nice stop, but an expensive visit. In all honesty, we probably should have skipped this stop when we realized just how expensive it would be ($20 per person for a one hour tour).

P1140716

Drayton Hall

Our next “miss” was the Wormsloe State Historic Site.  We had simply wanted to see the driveway lined with massive oaks.  But they wanted $10 per person just to drive down the driveway.  And, it was really dusty.  And, people were having a picnic right in the middle so we wouldn’t have been able to get good photos.  So we left.

Believe it or not, we had another “miss” after that.  We had read that the Bonaventure Cemetery was cool.  And we love cemeteries.  So, off we went.  It was pretty, but boring.

We had to salvage the day somehow, so we backtracked to the Savannah Wildlife Refuge.  We were there after hours, so we couldn’t visit the visitor center, but we did drive around the refuge.  It is about a 4 mile drive with plenty of places to get out and take a walk.  We saw a ton of birds and our one and only gator on this trip.  But the real star of the show was a bobcat — it was the first time I had ever seen a bobcat in the wild.  Unfortunately, we didn’t get a photo of the bobcat, but boy was it cool to see it checking things out.

The next day was a leisurely exploration of Savannah.  Now, when we were researching where to go, there was quite a bit of debate about whether Charleston or Savannah was better.  After spending a day in Savannah, I think we have our answer.  Charleston is better, hands down.  Don’t get me wrong.  Savannah is pretty and we are glad we saw it.  The numerous squares (parks) scattered every couple of blocks around downtown are amazing, as are the beautiful old houses.

P1140792

Savannah Park

But, the food we experienced in Savannah wasn’t nearly as good as the food in Charleston.  (Although if you do visit Savannah, take the long walk to Back in the Day bakery, affectionately known by at least some of the locals as “Crack of the Day.”  Trust us on this….).  And, how to put this politely?  Savannah stinks some days.  Apparently, the smell is caused by paper mills and marshes.  And it is so bad it woke us up one night.  Seriously.  So…bottom line, it was worth a day, but we wouldn’t have wanted to spend more time there.

Next it was off to my parent’s house in Ft. Myers Beach for a couple of nights.  We hit the Seven Mile Cypress Slough on one day.  This is another boardwalk through a swamp.  Things started out quietly, but we ultimately saw a ton of birds, a bunch of turtles, and — wait for it — three different snakes.  Pretty cool (especially since the snakes were not within easy striking distance — or at least that is what I’m telling myself….).

The next day we were off to Ding Darling park.  This is one of those things where you drive around and get out and hike here and there.  Once again, we saw a ton of birds.  But the absolutely highlight was the two dolphins who swam by us, not more than 10 feet away.  It was pure luck that we saw them — not sure where they were going but they were definitely on a mission somewhere.

As we pulled out of Ft. Myers, we stopped at the Manatee Park.  Florida had been having cold whether, so the manatees congregate by a hot water discharge pipe near a power plant.  Neither one of us had ever seen a manatee before and we got to see quite a few at the park.  Wish we could have gotten some photos, but no such luck.

IMG_2397

Crawfish!

After the manatees, we powered through to New Orleans.  Talk about a long drive!  We arrived exhausted and barely coherent.

After a good night’s sleep, we promptly found boiled crawfish.  New Orleans has a big Vietnamese population, and while researching restaurants we came across an article about Vietnamese style crawfish (which as we understand it basically means butter and herbs and lots and lots of garlic).  Well, that settled that!  Off we went to Gretna for traditional crawfish, Vietnamese style crawfish, shrimp, corn, and potatoes.  And, then because one Vietnamese meal a day apparently wasn’t enough, we had more traditional Vietnamese in Mid City later that night.  And, then we randomly wandered across a St. Patrick’s day parade in the Quarter.  (Remember that debate about whether Charleston or Savannah is better?  The real answer to that question is New Orleans.  Period.  Cool architecture, street cars, good food, and amazing people watching!)

The big day finally rolled around and we headed out to the Irish Channel parade.  You know, the whole point of this entire road trip.  And the parade turned out to be, ahem, disappointing.  It was great to see our friend and his family.  But the parade was a bit of a mess.  There were no porta potties, so I was afraid to even drink water.  We waited for hours for the parade to start.  And then, once it did start, it quickly fell apart, with big gaps between the marchers.  But we did have a quintessential New Orleans experience on the walk home — we randomly came across a second line in celebration of a wedding.  And, there were two brides!

Soon enough, the fun was now over and we faced the long drive home.  Where we quickly learned that the state of radio in this country is problematic.  You want Christian radio with its insipid music?  You can find that everywhere.  You want right wing talk radio with announcers who think guns are the solution to every problem and still can’t stop bitching about Hillary and Obama?  Yep, you can find that everywhere too.  How about “classic” rock that nobody listed to even when it was new?  (Remember The Final Countdown by Swedish rock band Europe?)  Oh yeah, that is pretty much everywhere too.  But there are broad swathes of this country where NPR must be a dirty word and where the only music being played from 2018 is country (oh, and probably western too).  But, thankfully, we were soon back in range of our beloved WBEZ and, not too long after that, home sweet home.

Next stop, Thailand in May!

 

 

Posted in United States | 1 Comment

Guess who is back???

The Schneiduks have big, big news!  We have officially retired!

Well, perhaps we should be a bit more clear.  Lisa retired from the practice of law as of December 2017.  Robert, on the other hand, will likely never get to retire from the task of the care and feeding of Lisa….

But Robert can do his job from anywhere in the world.  So, after a couple of months of wrapping up our lives here in the U.S., PigFish Version 2 will officially start on May 9 when we depart for Thailand.  PigFish Version 2  will be the bigger, better, and — most importantly — much, much longer version of PigFish.  The current plan is a year in Asia, followed by a few months in Europe, and then a year in South America, followed by who knows what.

In the meantime, we have two road trips planned.  Our first trip was to Joshua Tree, where we got to see a ton of trees that look like they belong in a Dr. Seuss book.

We also got to see some cool rock formations.  And Lisa was totally shamed when a woman with 20 years on her talked her into walking up to an old abandoned mine and said “don’t worry, we will go as slow as you need to go and stop whenever you want.”  Guess all those years of sitting at a desk were not conducive to staying in shape….

And we saw some nifty bushes.

P1140556

Robert even found a juniper bush.  He was quite disappointed to learn that gin doesn’t actually grow right on the bush.

P1140541

Lisa’s favorite plant though was the jumping cholla.  They are pretty cool.

DSC00607

Robert also took some amazing night photos.  The stars in the desert are out of this world.  We’ve only seen better stars once in our lives (and that was while boating down a river in Laos).  Unfortunately, being so close to LAX and San Diego, we had to contend with quite a few plane lights as well — at least they created some fun effects in the photos.

Other than this guy, we didn’t get to see much in the way of critters.  We did have a coyote trot by our car one night and could hear coyotes the second night (we momentarily wondered how stupid we were for being outside the car in the middle of the park in the dark).

P1140509And, after leaving Joshua Tree, we drove by Palmer, where we ran into some wild burros.  They are adorable, but unfortunately have been taught that cars equal food so they come right up to all the cars begging for treats.

P1140587We are glad we saw Joshua Tree, but we both agree the desert is just not our thing.

More to come after the next road trip (which will involve BBQ and wine and New Orleans and which is much more our style….).

Posted in United States | Leave a comment