First “date”?

September 4.2014
Rob texted me Monday night not long after he got my phone number. We texted throughout each day for the next few days that week. Monday before he had asked for my number, we had talked a little bit about going on a hike together soon, but I was waiting for him to initiate that. I wasn’t playing hard to get, but feel it’s the guys responsibility to do the asking. My thought process was, if he’s interested in me, he will initiate. My brother Tracy always use to say, guys don’t hang out with girls they are not at least somewhat interested in; they just don’t. That had been true in my experience up to this point, so I was standing by that belief.

Thursday afternoon rolled around and Rob texted me something vague like, “I am thinking about hiking tonight, you in?” I wasn’t sure if that meant he was hiking and would like me to go with him or if he was just informing me that he was going hiking and it didn’t matter to him if I came with him or not. Oh how boys communicate so differently from girls :) I assumed the best and took him up on his offer.

When Rob picked me up from work, I realized I was wearing the exact same shirt, shoes, and workout capris that I had been wearing for most of the lost coast trip. Great, I was thinking. He’s going to think I don’t have any other clothes. Instead of feeling awkward about it, I just laughed it off with him when I got in his car. That was one of those small moments that showed me that he didn’t really care about superficial things. He was down to earth and so real with me. I loved that about him. It was one of the first things that really attracted me to him.

We drove out near Big Cottonwood Canyon to the trail head for a hike called Bells Canyon. The hike was only about 5 miles round trip, but the last 3/4 to 1 mile stretch we were climbing in elevation almost the whole time and the trail was covered with large and small boulders. I was sweating bullets. We talked all the way up to the falls and all the way back down to the car; Rob’s occasional deep breaths almost unnoticeable under my heavy breathing. Ha! Since the sun had gone down, and we didn’t bring any flashlights (other than Rob’s phone) the hike down was a little slower than the hike up, but that gave us more time to talk and get to know each  other better; which was nice. I learned a lot about him during our hiking adventures :)

I learned a lot of cool things about Rob on that hike. I learned that he wants to live/raise a family internationally for at least a few years, which I would love to do as well. We both love languages. He served a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in Piura, Peru returning in 2010. He loved Peru so much he has been back to visit since returning from his mission. We both LOVE food (that was a non-negotiable) for both of us. That is just a few things I leaned about him.

After we were done hiking both of us were hungry (but I’m always hungry so that wasn’t unusual for me) :) . We drove down to Sugar House and found a little pizza place along 2100 South to grab a bite to eat. We shared a medium size pizza. I am a very slow eater, so he was done with his dinner before I was finished with my second slice of pizza.  Up to this point, just based on his body language and our conversations, I had no idea if this was us just hanging out or a date, but I hadn’t really put much thought into it. When the waiter brought out the bill and Rob immediately got out his credit card, I figured it was a date, or maybe he just felt sorry for me because I only owned one pair of clothes and could use a free meal.

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He drove me home and when we got to my house we sat in his car and talked until 2 am. It was awesome.  He was easy to talk to. We could talk about anything. I loved that. Both of us hated the dating games and we expressed that real quick.

When Rob and I talked about our first date a few months later, I learned that we were on the same page that day. At this point neither of us were sure if we were interested in being more than friends or not, but we liked what we saw and we were definitely interested in spending more time together. We had fun together no matter what we were doing.

I saved him in my phone as “Rob Lost Coast” and he stayed that way in my phone until just a few weeks ago :).

Returning home

Flying home was an adventure to say the least. Leaving Bangkok late because of a late incoming was a great start to the trip. We finally took off around 3am. The flight was completely packed and we were all ready to get going. Unfortunately about two hours into the flights the pilot came over the intercom at isn’t we had a fuel problem and we were diverting to New Delhi. We landed in Delhi and sat on the plane for 2 1/2 hours while maintenance fixed it, finally taking off after that. What was supposed to be a 12 hours flight turned into just over 16 hours.

After landing in London we had to mess with getting rebooked, and they put us on a flight to Chicago connecting to another flight onto LA. We grabbed a quick sandwich and rushed to board the flight to Chicago. Again once boarded we were delayed because of thunderstorms. Heathrow had shut down all of it’s runways and we sat on the tarmac for another hour and a half. Finally arriving in Chicago, we cleared customs and immigration, and of course we arrived late and had to be booked onto another flight to LAX. Mom and TJ will end up staying the night, missing their 4th and final flight to SLC because of the days events. I’ll stay in LA for a couple days driving back home with Nick and Alex.

It’s been an long adventurous day, and because of the delays, and time zone changes, we have been living in Thursday the 14th for over 38 hours. It’s been our longest and most unproductive day yet. :)

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Bangkok

Bangkok was the last mega city that I visited on the trip. After having only spent 5 days, I think I can say that I really like it. There is a certain raw gritty city vibe that the city gives off. On top of the phenomenal food, culture, unique markets (floating, and train), and the skytrain, it is a city vastly different from others I’ve visited such as Tokyo, Seoul, Beijing, and Chongqing. Although a huge tourist destination, I didn’t really get the sense of being overwhelmed by foreigners. Sure walking down some of the expat streets, in the malls, and down the infamous Kao Sarn road you are inundated with foreigners, but outside that it was few and far between.

 

We spent the first day hunting down some of the markets for souvenirs and handicrafts, spending a good chunk of the day wandering around the city, and through a couple of the shopping malls. Malls here in the US are nothing compared to malls here in Asia. The malls here are ENORMOUS, and often are littered with countless high-end brand names of clothing, jewelry, perfume, and shoes. More often than not the stores are empty, but there are plenty of “shoppers” milling about. While walking around one of the nicer malls here in Bangkok, we stumbled onto a famous Michelin star restaurant called “Din Tai Fung”. It is a famous dumpling restaurant in Hong Kong and has branched out to select cities. We debated going in and earing, but finally did ordering an order of pork, and chicken dumplings, and some pork sweet buns. Turns out, its famous for a reason. The pork dumplings were phenomenal. Slightly sweet, with mouthwatering juice as you bit into it. It really was fantastic, and cheap! We ended up paying like $14 for all three of us. After eating, we set our sights on Chinatown. It was a long trek though the city,, but after 2 subway rides and a couple miles of walking we finally arrived to a street filled with fresh fruit, seafood, and countless street food options. I grabbed a oyster omelet that was fantastic, and then we trucked back to a side alley and found a fancy chef that was cooking up orders like a maniac, throwing up a ball of fire every time he started cooking a new dish. I ordered seafood stir-fry that was amazing. Mouthwatering crab, squid, shrimp, and scallops all fried together with a small plate of rice. Walking away from the day quite full, I finally understood why Bangkok is considered a street food sanctuary. The food we’ve eaten just over the past 2 days has been outstanding.

 

We visited two markets the next day that were also very cool, and unique to Thailand. The first was the Mekong train market. Long ago, train tracks wound their way through a town, and eventually over time, a market sprung up on both sides of the tracks. Today it has grown to the point that sellers are peddling their good right on the train tracks, and you are forced to walk down the length of the track to navigate to the different parts of the market. The cool thing is that the tracks are still active with a train rolling through 6 times a day. When approaching the train blares its horn, and like clockwork, all the sellers pull back the awnings, and push back their tables, and like magic the pathway is cleared for the train to creep on through. It slowly chugged by within inches of us, and skimming over the fruits and vegetables that were still on the ground. Passing by us, the awnings were dropped, tables pushed back out, and within seconds, people filled back in and it looked like nothing had happened. This is something that you definitely cannot find in the States, and sadly something that probably won’t be around in a couple of years in Thailand. I don’t think it is very well known, but was much better that the floating market, which was overflowing with tourists, and seemed to be a fabricated picture perfect photo op for the tourists. It was also cool with seemingly endless passageways of water, each canal filled with people and their boats selling everything from wooden elephants, to photo ops with pythons, to mango sticky rice. Somehow I imagine that 5 years ago this was an awesome destination as the Thai people really used is as a “market” and actually purchased their daily food items, selling here to support their families. Although cool see, I don’t think I’d come back., as it’s a tourist hotpot with the endless “sales people” pushing their various wares.

 

There are many things about Bangkok that I love and these are just some of them. I can’t wait to come back. Thailand is an amazing destination, and I would have loved to have some more time to explore the city. I would love to rent a bike and cycle down through the soother peninsula, or take time to explore up north and see all of the ancient ruins. I will definitely be back, and I hope that when I do come I’ll have to see the rest of the country. The little bit I did see was stunning, and I know that Thailand has a lot more to offer when it comes to destinations of the beaten path.

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Ko Samui

Ko Samui

Ko Samui was a blast. It was very similar to the island we visited just off the coast of Vietnam, Phu Quoc. We stayed 3 days and 3 nights, with a mix of beaches, swimming, scooter riding, more beaches, and snorkeling. It was a blast. It was actually really touristy and very pricey, but for a couple days it was worth it. Some of the vistas were incredible and well worth the trek, and the money.

We spent one day touring around the island on our scooters. We rented two for the day at $4.50 a piece, plus gas. I liked this a lot better than the organized tours because you explore at your own pace. You go and see what you want, when you want, for as long as you want. We saw some amazing beaches, hiked to a cool waterfall and got off the highway and saw some cool local communities that we otherwise would have never seen.

The organized tour we did on the island was a day trip to the Mu Ko An Thong National Marine Park. It’s a fantastic cluster if island surrounded by warm blue water. We spent the morning kayaking around one if the islands, eating lunch and then snorkeling, and hiking up another. The hike up to Ko Mae Ko was amazing. Situated in the middle of the island is a bright blue/green lake. Once on top you can take in the beautiful lake and behind you the ocean and the stunning view if the other smaller islands. It was probably one of the highlights of our trip here in Thailand.

As I write this we are seated on top of a high speed catterameran headed to Chumporn. We will spend one last day on the beach before heading to Bangkok and then flying home shortly thereafter.

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Chiangmai

After spending just one night in Bangkok, we caught a cheap flight up north to Chiang Mai. Everybody we’ve met for far has told us to spend most of our time in Thailand up North or in the South, getting out of Bangkok as soon as you can. We came up to find out for ourselves.

We spent the first day seeing the famous temples which turned out to be pretty cool. They are all Buddhist temples, and some are still used today. We took a 25 minute or so ride up the mountain overlooking Chiang Mai to Doi Suthep. Essentially Doi Suthep is a golden temple with a bunch of statues. The most impressive one I though was the one in the center of the old city walls called Wat Chedi Luang Worawihan. Older and broken down, it still has a couple of elephants and other animals adorning the sides about halfway up. We ended the day at the market, browsing the endless trinkets and doo dads (once you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all), but we grabbed yet another smoothie and hit the bed. We booked a 3 day 2 night trek through the jungle tomorrow. It will take us through the mountains a couple of hours north of Chiangmai.

Day 1 was a pretty easy walk preceded by some delicious rice cooked in banana leaves, and a crazy cage that we climbed in to cross the river. We stayed at a families small bamboo “guest house” with all 11 of us sprawled out. The next morning we got a pretty late start and trekked through the blistering sun, followed by a torrential downpour that lasted the rest of the day. We did manage to stop and swim in two separate waterfalls which was very relaxing from, but a bit chilly on the second one (as it had long been raining). We stopped at another families house where our guide Johnny Walker cooked us a pretty decent meal of bamboo, chicken, cucumbers and rice. After an improvised Thai card game and black pot of charcoal, we ended the night. We woke up somewhat early, had another breakfast, and then went “whitewater rafting, and then bamboo rafting. It was nothing compared to rafting back home in the states, but it was fun nonetheless. We ate some pad thai, and headed back to Chiang Mai. Back in the city, we walked around the Sunday night market that runs down the length of the city. They block off a major road, and vendors set up shop along the entire thing. We ate dinner, and then hit the bed early, as we have a 8am flight down south to Krabi where we will spend the last couple days of vacation before heading back to Bangkok.

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Battambang

Battambang is pronounced bat-a-bong, and it was our last stop in Cambodia before moving into Thailand. We just had one day here before our lengthy bus ride to Bangkok the next morning. It’s a pretty small town that not to many people visit. Just a stop on the way to the border.

We hired a tuk tuk driver for the day and he processed to go all out as your guide. He explained the city architecture, the various French bridges and statues and all of the attractions we headed to see. First stop was the bamboo train. The locals here have basically taken over a 20-30km stretch of abandoned railway and have created their own little cars fastened out of old tank parts, bamboo and a motor. They used it for transportation back in the day, but as scooters, roads, cars and trucks became more prevalent it slowly lost it’s luster and exists solely for tourists. It’s a shame though as the government has accounted plans to rebuild the countries railway network, so that means this awesome little train “carts” will be gone be gone. Construction has started near the capital and will be moving up to Battambang in the next year or so. Basically you just sit down in the cart and it putts down the rails. Whenever there is another one headed for you, you determine who has the lightest load as you have to lift it off the track to let the other one pass. Heading back we ran into the missionaries in their P-Day, and a some guys who had recently graduated BYU. It also started to rain frogs and pigs so this is when we really got wet as the motor died and we ended up pushing it back to the station!

The surprising yet amazing stop of the day was a crocodile farm. We ere told it was a baby breeding farm where you can go hold and feed them. “No big deal” we said. We couldn’t have been more wrong. It is a relatively big operation. They have over 600 crocodiles that there are breeding for a variety of uses. The younger ones are sent to China to be used as medicine, the middle aged one to Vietnam for the meat, and the oldest ones to Thailand for the leather. They were enclosed in 3 separate pits depending in their age, but there was close to 200 in each pool! It was insane. Something we were not even remotely expecting. Most of them looked fake as they were just chilling with their mouths open, but occasionally one would jump outbid the pool and they would shuffle around each other.

During all of this a massive rainstorm rolled in and processed to dump a massive amount if rain. Cambodia is currently in a drought so we were told it was much needed, however it kinda sucked being wet for the rest of the day.

Our guide suggested the bat cave as our final stop. There is a cave near the end of town where hundreds of thousands if not millions of bats live. Every night around 6pm they come out if the cave to find food, before returning the next morning. We stood there for probably 30 minutes watching them stream out of the cave. Really impressive. We left and went out to the rice fields after and you could still see black clouds moving and flying around. Really really cool.

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Siem Reap

We made it to Siem Reap after another lengthy bus ride. They are sort of become a theme here in Asia haha. Day one we skipped the most famous temple Angkor way and instead went to Ankgor Thom, and Bayon and a bunch of smaller temples. Even after we visited Angkor Wat the next day, I think that Bayon is my favorite and the most impressive. The amount of intricate carvings, the stone faces in almost every pillar, and the endless passageways and doors made it really fun to explore. We ended up spending almost 2 hours just in this temple.

Eventually we moved on and saw the other temples in the area. They are all really impressive, and I think they even rival Machu Picchu in terms of impressiveness. Both had to have had enormous numbers of workers, time and patience to build them, and hundreds of years later it’s amazing we can still marvel their beauty.

We woke up around 4:15 to go see the sunrise at Angkor Wat. We grabbed a tuk tuk and arrived in complete darkness. We decided to forgo the rest of the folks, and we snuck inside (usually doesn’t open until 8). We managed to get to the top and inside before we were stopped by a guard. We each ended up giving him $5 “fee” so we could avoid the masses of people and watch from above. Definitely a good choice. Although Angkor Wat was impressive from afar, up close it was really boring and I really preferred the others. We rented bicycles and ride around the test of the day, drinking smoothies and seeing some of the lesser known temples.

On our last full day we slept in a bit, and then rented a tuk tuk to head out and see a temple called Banteay Srei. It’s about 45 miles outside of town and took well over an hour in the tuk tuk.  It was really cool passing through the countryside and little villages. Almost every little kid we passed would be starting at us yelling “hello” as we passed by. This like that are what I’m going to miss most. We pulled into Banteay Srei and although it’s an pretty small complex of temple ruins, it was amazing in terms of rock carvings. They had carved flowers, monkeys, and all sorts of designs into the rock. A lot more than any if the other complexes we saw. We stopped by the Cambodian land mine museum before heading back to the hotel. This one guy tells a story of how he was recruited as a child to fight with the Khmer Rouge and was deployed to lay land mines. During the course of the war and after fighting against Vietnam he had set thousands and thousands of land mines. Once Cambodia finally stopped fighting, he decided that it was his responsibility to clear his village, the villages around him, and eventually Cambodia of land mines. To date, he has removed over 55,000 and although retired, has a team that continues to do so, while he runs a refuge for kids who has been injured by land mines. Nobody knows how many are still out in the country side, so much so that you are warned from going out to far in the bush when hiking,  riding, or what not.

Sunday we went to church before we packed up and caught a bus to Battambang, which will be our last stop before heading to Thailand.

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Phnom Penh

I had heard both good and bad things about Phnom Penh before arriving, and after having stayed a couple of days; I can say that I didn’t really like it. It’s not a relatively big city, but it seems dirtier, grittier, and a lot more “raw” that some of the other capital cities I’ve been to. We arrived late afternoon on Sunday and wandered around the city getting used to our bearings. We toured the National Palace, which was really quite interesting. The king used to live here, but today it’s a big attraction, and mainly holds a wide variety of Buddha statues in both silver and gold. The different buildings are all very ornately decorated and one of the pagodas even boats roof tiles made of silver. We grabbed some amazing fruit smoothies just outside the palace for a buck. A little cart was parked on the corner and had a variety of fresh fruit smoothies. These ended up being a serious addiction during the rest of our Cambodia excursion. I have to say the dragon fruit, followed by avocado, and then pineapples are my favorites. For just a $1 it was hard to get only one. They were that good. We wandered through the central market in search of an elusive Cambodian desert called Num sang khya l’peou. It is pumpkin that has had the seeds removed and then been filled with coconut milk, egg yolks and sugar which is then steamed. It more or less turns into a creamy custard. It was really quite good. We went and visited the killing fields and a genocide museum the next day. It was incredibly horrifying, and somber experience. The Cambodian people have been through so much, and reading about the genocide and fighting against the Khmer Rouge reinforced their desire that many spoke about, which is moving on, and preventing it from happening again. Its reassuring to know that they have such a strong desire to forget it. We finished up out last day by heading taking a ferry to the “silk island”. Many of the families here still produce silk scarves, skirts, and other items, and it was very cool to drive through the villages, wandering around their houses, seeing these old looms work, and the silk being spun by hand. Of course it started raining worse that cats and dogs. It was more like whales and elephants. We continued wandering through each hut hiding from the rain picking up trinkets and some silk scarves, before heading back to Phnom Penh, and a taking bus to Siem Reap.

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Kampot

Crossing the border from Vietnam, there was an instant change in the housing, and use of the land. Rice fields are everywhere, and the houses look a bit more conventional, than they did throughout Vietnam. It was really crazy to see such a visible change, just because we crossed an imaginary line on a map. We spent just two nights here in Kampot, before heading out to Phnom Penh, which is the capital of Cambodia.

Kampot is a very laid back farming town. Not a whole lot to do, but I enjoyed it, as it was a break from the GO, GO, GO of the last 2 weeks or so. We rented scooters again, and headed up the mountain that sits in the middle of town. It is a national park, but it has a couple of casinos on top, a church, and a really cool abandoned casino/resort complex from the 80’s. Today it’s overgrown with moss and trees and make for some really cool pictures. The drive up gorgeous. It was clear, and green, but as we got closer to the summit the fog started to roll in and for once on the trip it was a cold! We were actually dripping from the moisture; face a long windy ride to the top. We were shivering and ended up at one of the restaurants at the casino just so we could warm up. The drive down again was a thrilling race against the cars, tight turns, with the stunning views of the surrounding city, and green rolling hills.

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