Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Sixty-Day Status Report

Written in Cochin, Posted from Kumily, Kerala, India

In case you're curious, and even if you're not, we wanted to let you know how we're doing now that we're over halfway into this journey. So we categorized some of the top-priority items and wrote up our thoughts on them. Basically, it's a list of all of the things we had concerns about, most of which we shared with you, and how we're dealing with them so far. Without further ado, our status report:

Accomodations: After our disgusting four-nights-stay at Big John's Backpacker Hostel in Bangkok, Thailand, our standards increased considerably. We decided that we don't need to be hardcore backpackers and that we outgrew dorm rooms sometime around the day we graduated from college (and actually before, but we were RAs, so we couldn't really knock them). Dorms are fine for single travelers, but hard for couples. When we can't sleep near each other, we're not as nice to each other the next day. And then there's the fact that in a dorm room, we're 10-12 years older than our bunkmates. We now pay an average of $18 a night for a room. Sometimes that gets us AC, sometimes it doesn't. We are loathe to pay more than $20 a night and when we do, we are splurging. That $25 per night room better have AC and sheets so clean we can sleep on them without wearing pajamas!

Water: Still not drinking it

Vegetables and Fruit: We TRIED not eating raw vegetables. We really did. But we can't. So we are. So far, we haven't eaten any that were grown in someone's poop. And in fact, the vegetables we've eaten are delicious -- they actually taste like actual homegrown vegetables. And fruit? Did you know that there are over 150 types of bananas? Neither did we. We've eaten about 8 different kinds and so far, they're all delicious.

Cravings for American Food: The cravings are high but not presently as high as they were in Southeast Asia. Which is in part due to the fact that we caved and ate McDonald's when we were in Bangkok that second time (a cheeseburger never tasted so good). Since we love Indian food and we've eaten it loads of times before now, it tastes a little bit more like home than Beef Noodle Soup with Fish Balls tasted. On the other hand, when we're watching an episode of Friends, we occasionally drool when we see what they're eating. Especially if it's pizza. Oh, pizza.

Mosquito Bites: I have about 32 visible bites. Matt has about 10. But the ants love him and stay away from me. We use DEET to try to scare away the bugs, but really using it is more about the psychological factor of feeling like we're DOING something, since the bugs don't seem to care whether we're DEETed or not. Thank goodness for Malarone.

Tummies: For the most part, our tummies are fine. We both suffered a bit in Southeast Asia and for that period of time, neither one of us could handle the local cuisine. But we got through it and so far, India has been kinder than we expected. Though the mantra "if it's spicy on the way in, it will be spicy on the way out, too" still holds. And is repeated often. Except for Matt's current aversion to rice, we're loving the food. And when he's sick of rice, there are a host of breads to make up for it.

Crohn's: So far, so food. When my stomach was bothering me in Cambodia, I had that feeling of "here it is, this is it, my intestines hate me so much that we're going to have to go home so I can go back on steroids or something." But then I remembered the combined wisdom of Andy and my GI doctor: sometimes an upset stomach is an upset stomach. I concluded that mine was a classic case of "you've been in Southeast Asia for a month" and took it easy and listened to my body and made no rash decisions to change our itinerary. I ate a lot of sandwiches. By the time we got back to Bangkok, I was ready to eat street meat again.

Traveling as a Couple: Sometimes it's harder, but most of the time, it's easier. A lot easier. There are times when we bicker, but just like at home, 99.9% of the time, it's because we're tired or hungry. We've had an actual fight on two occasions, both while we were in Vietnam, and both within a day of each other. But both times we had the time to actually talk it out which is something that's actually easier here, given that we HAVE to spend 24/7 together. In fact, I think that's been the biggest gift of the whole trip -- the time we've had together. We realize that those opportunities will get harder to find as we get older. We're doing our best to savor it now. And I think that's makig it so that we're a little gentler with each other. For the first time in a long time, we have a chance to actually understand where the other is coming from.

That Thing you Don't Talk about with your Parents: Which is why I'm not going to talk about it here either, since our parents read this blog. Suffice it to say that when you have the time to actually understand where the other is coming from, when you know exactly what their day was like because it was your day too, and when at the end of that day you're still excited to hear their perspective on something you both experienced, well, then you have time to... you know.

Grooming and Beauty: We're generally dirtier here than we are at home. We shower every day (though much faster than we do at home, particularly when there's no hot water) but Matt shaves about once a week and even though I shopped diligently for the perfect all-in-one makeup pallette, I have yet to use it. When it's too hot to wear my hair down, it's too hot for mascara. Our hair! It's long, so very long! And my hair gel totally hates me -- it's the one thing that keeps exploding.

And if you're still reading, then you're probably the only person interested in our superlatives list, which is here:

Lowest Price for a Decent Room: $6, Julie Guesthouse in Chiang Mai, Thailand
Cheapest Big Meal: $3 for two, an all-veg place in Munnar, Kerala, India
Best Tea: Toss-up between the black tea in Sri Lanka and the Chai in India
Best Night Train: Thailand (Bangkok to Chiang Mai)
Cheapest Laundry: 10,000 kip/kilogram in Laos
Cheapest Western Food: Two Cheeseburgers, Two fries, Two Cokes = $5 in Saigon, Vietnam
Best Coffee: Toss-up between Sri Lanka and Vietnam
Best Pool: The Angkor Palace Resort in Cambodia
Best Rickshaw Driver: Manish in Munnar, Kerala, India
Best Night Market, So Far: Luang Prabang, Laos

And if you've gotten this far, then WOW, do you love us. Is there anything else you're just burning to know? Anything you wish I would have written about but didn't? If there is, let us know in the comments section and we'll write it up specially for you with love.


Katy. said...

Your posts about the trip so far have been great... Its great to be able to be in the loop, even from over here! Oh, and thanks for my postcard. :)

Cris said...

do you ever watch tv? i can't imagine there is usually a set in you room, but i was curious as to the local programming...


Steffers said...

I love that there's 150 types of bananas, and that you've eaten 8 of 'em. That's how I'd get sick. Eating fruit!

What about the strangest person you've met? Place where you had more time to visit?

Andy said...

What is the national bird of India? I am reading these posts to the bitter end dammit!