January 28, 2009

Hong Kong

-Street crossing.-

Our last stop on our long journey home was in Hong Kong. We spent a week enjoying the company of great friends (Nicki, Brandy, Cathy and Candice) and exploring the urban streets. While Trev enjoyed the architecture, the expansive skyline and the cooler weather, I enjoyed quality time with friends and having a home. After living in so many hotels and hostels over so many months, it was amazing to wake up in a home to the smell of coffee and the sound of friendly voices.

-International Finance Center (IFC Building), the tallest building in Hong Kong and made famous through scenes in The Dark Knight (Batman).-

-Trev, Nicki and I riding the Star Ferry across from Hong Kong Island to Kowloon.-

And while we were anxious to head home, Hong Kong somehow felt like home. Possibly it was because Hong Kong itself was similar in so many ways to Korea or maybe it was the fact that we were once again surrounded by familiar faces, English and good friends.


-We randomly ran into Cathy, one of our best friends from Korea, while enjoying a cup of coffee in the IFC Starbucks. It was such a blessing to be able to see Cathy and catch up on the four months of life we'd missed since leaving Korea.-

-The displays of Christmas Poinsettias in the IFC building were breathtaking.-

-Enjoying a late night chat at Nick's place.-

-Enjoying the Christmas decorations in true Korean style.-

-Visiting a really big Buddha with our friends Candice and Cathy.-

-Nick and I.-

January 17, 2009

Back to Macau

-Remnants of Chinese architecture.-

Nearing the end of our trip I was fortunate enough to head back to Macau, this time taking Trevor along for a cultural learning curve. Shortly after we'd arrived from Vietnam we settled into a 'quaint' hotel and set about exploring the city. As I'd been to this small country earlier in the summer I was apt to share my wanderings with Trev. I showed Trev the downtown, the beautiful old buildings full of color and Portuguese history. We snapped shots of the St. Paul’s Ruins and the armored fortress. While I rambled of my memories with Katrina and Nicki we stumbled upon new discoveries and ancient relics.

-Showing off in communist fashion.-

-Ruins of St. Paul. Portuguese remains of 1582-1602.-

After a long day on our feet, we settled back in at our hotel; the most expensive hotel during our travels ($50 US) and without a doubt one of the smallest. Trev’s feet hung over the bed from the knees down. Even my feet hung over. Thank goodness this was to be the last hotel of our journey.

-The old lighthouse of 1622.-

-Door lamp at the lighthouse as seen at sunset.-

It is after my third visit to this ancient Portuguese trading post that I can confidently claim that Macau is one of my favorite cultural visits. I was delighted to have been able to share this experience with Trev.

-Rachel strolling down the streets of Macau at dusk.-

-We're guessing that it's a fish market...-

-Western influence in the heart of town.-

January 13, 2009


Journal Excerpt - November 21st
Mui Ne, Vietnam
-Fill 'er up. Our rental bike.-

What a great day! When we woke up in the morning we rented a scooter. The hotel was not keen on the idea because the police have been cracking down on ‘illegal’ driving in the last month. This morning they had actually set up a road block about a mile down from the hotel. Apparently, if a foreigner gets caught driving it’s upwards of a 500,000 Dong fine ($30) and they impound the scooter for 37 days. Personally I was vying for an alternative option to illegal bike renting but Trev had his heart set. To get around the road block the hotel dropped us off just down the road (beyond the check stop) and we started off towards the local village. We made a short stop up on the cliffs to admire the hundreds of boats below and the amazing view of the fishing village, beautiful beach and vast expanse of sea.

-Locust on the road... waiting for our hotel to rescue us.-

-Posing with the beautiful scarlet sand.-

We continued on towards the white sand dunes (26Km out of town) stopping only to pick up some water and top up the gas tank. After passing through the red sand dunes, by some run-down resorts and along some unexplored coastline, we felt the bike struggle and the rear time started to ‘jump’… we had a flat, in the middle of the desert, in the middle of nowhere and in a country in which we can’t even say hello let alone, we have a flat tire, no cell phone and don’t know what to do. Luckily, there was a kind Canadian and two Vietnamese guys who stopped to see what all the commotion was about; together we managed to get our bike to the nearest shop, 2 km away. It was then that the real trouble started. The two men called our hotel and informed them of the situation. They then demanded 50,000 Dong for the two local cell calls they made for us (half the price we paid to have the bike for the entire day). Ridiculous. We told them we’d only give them 10,000 (at the most). And after an hour of them screaming, laughing at and ridiculing us, they left with our 10,000 Dong. I was feeling beaten by this point, and sitting in a small chair, under a hot tin roof in the desert waiting with locals who were talking about us and laughing at us, for a ride that was not coming was frustrating. Then a vehicle pulled up asking the locals for directions. I noticed a foreigner sitting in the passenger’s seat and so I asked them for help. They, unlike the others we’d been surrounded by, were more than willing to help. She called the hotel and explained to them the situation, where we were and arranged for them to pick us up. When they left, they refused payment for the use of their phone and told us that somehow we’d ended in the “biggest den of a**holes in Vietnam”. Our hotel arrived 20 minutes later and swapped bikes with us. We were more than happy to continue our journey. We found the white sand dunes, no problem. They were just what sand dunes should be: Tall, bleached white, deserted and hot. We enjoyed wandering around for a while. We jumped back on our bike, heading back to town, to explore the red dunes as the sun was setting.

-The magnificent white sand dunes.-

-Trev taking a stroll. White sand dunes.-

-Just playing.-

-The inevitable emptying of shoes.-

Here, we had a great time chilling with some kids that were trying to rent us sleds so we could ride them down the dunes. A tempting offer but we already seemed to have more than enough sand in our shorts for one day. We returned to the hotel safe and sound and only 10,000 Dong more ripped off then when we left. No too bad.

-One of our little guides at the red sand dunes.-

-A bug our other little guide found for us. Amazing!-

-White sand.-

-Our guides showing us how it's done on their 'crazy carpets'.-

-Desert flowers.-

Costal Vietnam

-Low tide. Mui Ne, Vietnam.-

-All washed up. Mui Ne, Vietnam.-

-Drying fish on top of a heap of garbage. Nha Trang, Vietnam.-

-Ocean spray. Nha Trang, Vietnam.-

-Beach combing. Nha Trang, Vietnam.-

-A street side nose hair trim, earwax extraction and haircut. Full Service! Nha Trang, Vietnam.-

-One stop shop. Nha Trang, Vietnam.-

-Vivid advertisements. Nha Trang, Vietnam.-

January 2, 2009

2008 In Review: The Top 10

Playing off of a fantastic idea from K+B's blog, we've decided to share with you all a few of our highlights from the past year. These events and happenings are in no particular order, yet all of them have played a tremendous roll in making 2008 an outstanding year.

  • Visitors. We were delighted that both of our parents ( Andrus and Olson) and our good friend Katrina managed to make it over to explore a little of Korea with us. Dr. Fish (a foot spa where fish actually eat the dead skin from your soaking feet), ancient Korean palaces and cuisine, as well as a trip to each Beijing, China and Jeju Island, South Korea were a few of the excitements that we were able to share with our precious visitors.
  • North Korea. Furthering our travels, Trev and I managed to get into one of the world's most secluded countries for a second peek at the North Korean way of life. Visiting Kaesong was both heart wrenching and amazing.
  • Mud Fest. Before leaving Korea, we were blessed to have spent a muddy weekend on the beach with our friends who had become our tight-knit family while in Korea.
  • Printed Fame. After two faithful years of blogging we finally managed to land a spot in a newspaper... or two... or three, to be exact. We've now written travel sections for a paper in London six times(The East), been interviewed for one of the major papers in Seoul (Maeil Business) and made an appearance in a local Korean paper (Jung-gu District).
  • Hong Kong + Macau. I was able to visit one of my oldest friends at her home in Hong Kong this summer. We spent days cliff diving, exploring the jungles and wandering the narrow streets. While we spent the evenings talking, laughing and crying. It was a wonderful time of reminiscing and memory making.
  • So Long Korea. After over 2 years in Korea we decided that it was time to head home and catch up with family. It was hard to leave the life and bonds of friendship that we'd been blessed with. But alas, we are home and are learning, even now, to bloom where we are planted.
  • Oceania + Asia Trip. We were fortunate enough, upon leaving Korea, to travel for about 4 months around New Zealand, Australia, and South-eastern Asia (IDN, SGP, MYS, THA, LAO, KHM, VNM, Macau and Hong Kong). It was a trip that was too amazing for words. You can check out our travels from August on wards. We hope to have the rest of the trip-blogs finished up shortly.
  • Boat Trip. Possibly the most amazing adventure that we've had to date, our boat trip into the back islands and reefs of Indonesia was nothing short of miraculous.
  • Family Christmas. It was amazing to be able to spend so much time over the holidays with our loved ones (Olson & Andrus Christmas). We enjoyed the kids, the catching up, the card games, the blizzard conditions outside, the traditions and of course the food.
  • Canadian Rocky Mountains. Since being home we've been learning that our homeland has so much to offer in the way of spectacular sights and travel. So far we've been able to make it out to the mountains twice; once for Trev's birthday and once for a reunion with Eddy (one of our closest friends from Korea). What an amazing thing it is to be able to show off your magnificent home to your friends from abroad.
Below we've posted a short video of our Korean Memories. Hope you enjoy!!

January 1, 2009

Winter Days

-A frosty spruce morning.-

Our winters over the past few years have been inconsequential in comparison to what we have been accustomed to here in Canada. And, while it is hard to adjust to the cold and extremely dry conditions, it is nice to be surrounded by the visually stereotypical winter wonderland that is often related to thoughts of our homeland.

-We stumbled upon this old relic on one of our many journeys to the mountains.-

-Another shot of Grandma and Grandpa's garden taken on a frosty morning.-

Since being home we've done a lot of driving. Back and forth to the mountains, to and from parents places, and in all of this driving we've come across some amazing sights. Here are a few of those sights for you to enjoy.