Posts in the ‘Around-the-World’ Category

A Short Jaunt Back to London

Since Evan and I left London, I’ve wanted to go back. Luckily, we had tickets waiting for us (the last leg of the around-the-world trip plus our original return tickets). We thought we’d be using them over Thanksgiving, but since we’re still unemployed, we decided to move up the date and head out the first week of October.

We left what felt like summer in LA for what felt like winter in London — it was cold, rainy and windy. Thank goodness we remembered to bring our winter coats, though we should have brought hats, gloves and scarves, too. Still, despite the London chill, we were thrilled to be back in our temporary hometown and see all the friends we’d made.

We took the Heathrow Express into town, since we were staying right by Paddington Station, and started a new London adventure, where we mixed going to the sights we’d skipped over the first time around with catching up with our new friends and former co-workers. We even managed to sneak away to Barcelona for a few days to visit Bernat.

We’re back in LA now, but I’ll write more about our trip soon. Unfortunately, we didn’t take too many photos because it was so dreary out. But I may need to add on to my Top London Travel Tips guide with some of the cool things we did, like listen to an open orchestral rehearsal at St. Martin in the Fields and take a tour of the Chiselhurst Caves.

Oh, and check it out: Evan and I are front and center in the Tuttle Club photo on Tech Crunch UK since we went to the Social Media Cafe’s last meeting at the Coach and Horses. I wish I could be there now to check out their new meeting space at the ICA.

Check out our photos in Evan’s Facebook album.

Packing for an Around-the-World Trip

When we decided to go on our around-the-world trip, we knew we wanted to pack light. We didn’t know how much we would need to carry our bags and we didn’t know where we’d be staying each night, but we knew we didn’t want to be weighed down by unnecessary items. We went completely basic on this. Our packing list and what we’d recommend for any very lightweight packer:

  • Backpacks: We bought 50-liter Gregory backpacks (we could have gone even smaller) that were top-loading and had plenty of straps to expand and compress our space. When we checked them on airplanes, we tucked all the straps in so nothing would get caught or ripped.
  • Day packs: Evan bought a Domke camera bag that just looked like a small travel bag and concealed his nice, new camera; I got a medium size nylon, collapsible, zip-top purse. We also bought a small fold-up day pack from Kathmandu to take on hikes and other excursions where we would need more than our normal day bags would hold. The bag was very comfortable and folded up into a tiny pouch — definitely one of our best buys.
  • Clothes: We each brought…
    • 1 pair of quick-drying North Face pants which could roll up to be capris
    • 2 short-sleeve quick-drying collared shirts — we chose collared shirts to help keep the sun off our necks and to look a bit more presentable wherever we decided to go
    • 1 lightweight long-sleeve shirt
    • 1 warmer long-sleeve shirt or fleece
    • 1 bathing suit
    • 4 pairs of underwear (plus 2 bras for me — one sport and one regular)
    • 1 pair of socks
    • 1 set of clothes to sleep in — for us, it was shorts and a T-shirt
    • 1 long skirt (just for me, of course)
    • 1 headscarf/sarong (also just for me — and I bought it once we already started traveling)
    • 1 hat that provides good sun coverage (Evan ended up also buying a baseball cap along the way)
  • Shoes: We each brought…
    • 1 pair of Tevas/sport sandals
    • 1 pair of flip flops
  • Toiletries:
    • Toothbrushes and toothpaste
    • A travel-size brush
    • Hair ties
    • Sunscreen (SPF 40 or 50)
    • Basic makeup for me for when we’d go out at night (foundation, mascara, eye liner and lip gloss)
    • Shampoo and Conditioner
    • Deodorant
    • Pumice stone for our feet
    • Razors
    • Nail clippers/scissors
  • Other necessities:
    • Bug spray — 50% deet
    • Money belt — though we realized we didn’t need this once Evan found a hidden interior pocket in his pants
    • Mini sewing kit — we mended both Evan’s pants and my shirt
    • Laundry detergent — for washing clothes in the sink
    • Universal sink plug — also for washing clothes
    • First-aid kit including Band-Aids, neosporin, blister pads, hydrocortisone cream, Immodium, ibuprofen, Pepto Bismol, Rolaids and Benadryl
    • Pack towels, medium size — good for showers if necessary, as impromptu pillow covers on less-than-clean sheets and on day trips where you’ll be near/in the water
    • Plug adapters
    • Ear plugs
    • Toilet paper and tissues — came in very handy as long as we remembered to take them out with us
    • Anti-bacterial hand gel and wipes
    • Cell phones and cell phone chargers
    • Small Swiss Army knife
    • Guide books — we would buy them one or two destinations in advance

Well folks, that’s it. We did laundry every few days and tried to get rooms with balconies so our clothes would dry faster hanging in the breeze. We were surprised at how much we used things like the sink plug and the blister pads. If we were to do it again, I think we would both bring one more pair of pants, one or two more shirts, and two more pairs of underwear, though it was perfectly doable without any extra items — it just felt like we were always doing the laundry.

Another thing we would consider buying is quick-drying underwear. We laughed off the concept when we saw it at the store, especially since a pair cost about £11, but my underwear always seemed to take the longest to dry — and it’s certainly not an item you’d like to put on wet.

As far as brands go, we were very happy with our North Face gear — we both had North Face pants and I had a North Face snap-down collared shirt. We were also happy with our Gregory backpacks and all our day packs.

Evan and me in 1 of our 2 outfits, wearing our day packs and holding our hats. This is what we looked like every day.

I wasn’t as happy with my Berghaus shirt. Berghaus seemed like a good brand, and I liked their organic cotton shirts, but by the time we got to Turkey, a mere two weeks into our trip, the shirt had three holes where the back yoke met the bottom half of the shirt. These weren’t holes that appeared from anything I did, they were areas where the shirt wasn’t constructed properly — there wasn’t enough material to hold it together and it was coming apart and fraying at the seams. I tried to sew it back together, though there wasn’t much to sew. And another week or so later, one of the buttons started popping open at random moments and the whole shirt just started to look seriously ratty. I wouldn’t buy Berghaus again for travel clothes.

Evan also had some problems with his shirts. He had a Mountain Hardware half-zip shirt that suffered from snags right from the start, and his Kathmandu button-down started fraying around the buttons.

Our Tevas gave us some pretty bad blisters along the way. They got a bit better after a few weeks, but then they started coming back. It was nice to have shoes we didn’t have to wear socks with, but our feet certainly paid the price. Our shoes also developed a horrible smell — it started in Thailand after we wore them on our Marine Park excursion and they got wet. They never really dried out before we had to pack them up to fly to our next destination, and when we took them out of our bags, they absolutely reeked. We tried shoe deodorizers, soaking them in bleach and vinegar and leaving them out in the sun, but they never really recovered from the stink. The days when they couldn’t completely dry out — which happened a lot in Thailand — were particularly bad and embarrassing. I don’t know how we could have done things differently on this front, but I’d love to hear anyone’s advice on the subject. And boy were we glad we had another pair of shoes we could wear at least part of the time.

I bought a few items of clothing along the way because I did get bored with wearing the same thing over and over. I bought a skirt and a dress in Thailand as well as a shirt in Istanbul, but that’s it. We also picked up novels along the way — from swaps in hotel lobbies and used and new bookstores. We went through quite a little library by the time we were done.

Maui: Island Paradise

The coast just past Hana

Our last stop was Hawaii. We arrived in Kona, on the big Island, and we had a flight booked on Pacific Wings to Kahului in Maui. We started looking for the Pacific Wings sign, and we made it all the way to the end of the airport without seeing it, so we asked a baggage handler where it was. He pointed down the road and said, about a quarter mile that way.

OK, unusual, but at least we only had backpacks for the walk. We made it over to the commuter terminal, which is more of an indoor-outdoor porch with a few desks, and tried to arrange for an earlier flight — we were only able to book one about 4 hours or so after our flight got in because the earlier one was supposed to be full.

There was no desk agent, and we were told to just use their courtesy phone to check in. We picked it up and told the woman we were at the airport, then asked about the earlier flight. She told us to just check with the pilot. Never been told that before. So we started chatting with the other people waiting on the little deck and found out that we’d be taking a 9-passenger plane known as the “Dramamine flight.”

Our teeny tiny Pacific Wings prop plane

There wasn’t any room on the earlier flight, so we waited around, hungry and tired, until the single-engine prop plane got back. We didn’t have to go through a security screening, but we did have to tell the pilot how much we weighed. We then dropped our bags off by the wheel of the plane and hopped in just behind the wing.

Evan and I grabbed the only two-person bench seat — the rest were onesies — and settled in right behind the pilot. Evan watched his instruments while I ogled at the beautiful scenery throughout the flight. People pay good money to take small-plane sightseeing flights! Thankfully, the flight wasn’t anywhere near as bumpy as I expected, and it was really only the last 5 or 10 minutes that we moved around a bit, since it got windy going over the island.

When we hopped off the plane, we got our luggage and directed my mom and dad to the commuter terminal where they came to meet us with leis. When we got back to the Marriott Maui Ocean Club in Ka’anapali, my sisters had baked cookies and had made a “Welcome back to America” sign.

The coast just past Hana

We spent the next few days lounging on the beach, sleeping and playing Catchphrase with my family. My parents and my sister Michelle left 3 days after we arrived, though — they had already been there for a week — and Evan and I, along with Suzie and her boyfriend Danny, moved just a few miles away to Lahaina to stay at Lahaina Shores.

We took a snorkeling expedition early one morning. We left on kayaks from a small black sand beach just a few minutes out of Lahaina, and went out to the reef. We put on our snorkel gear and hopped off the boat, and we were greeted by at least four sea turtles! Most of the were hanging out at the bottom, though some were coming up for air right near us. The were really beautiful. Then we went on to the reef, where we saw more turtles swimming around, and plenty of fish. Most of the fish were black and yellow, and I was amazed at how calm they were. We didn’t bug them, and they didn’t bug us. It was the first time I’d been snorkeling that I wasn’t afraid of the fish. The coral and fish were so clear and picturesque, I felt like I was swimming in an aquarium. The coral seemed to go on forever.

Evan and Danny in the banyan tree — and this wasn’t anywhere near the biggest one we saw!

The day after our snorkeling excursion, we took the Road to Hana, an incredibly windy and treacherously narrow “highway” that has incredible ocean and rain forest views. We stopped in Hana for lunch, then went on to the state park, where we swam in a freshwater pool underneath a waterfall and looking out on the ocean. Then we took an easy hike up to another, much bigger waterfall, passing a big banyan tree, which Evan and Danny climbed, and going through the eerie bamboo forest. From the outside, it looked like a Dr. Seuss green toilet-brush top mountain; inside, it was dark and quiet and kind of eerie. The whole setting, from the coast line into the rain forest, was one of the most beautiful places I’d ever seen.

The entrance to the bamboo forest

The next day, we went out for breakfast, relaxed on the beach and had a sunset dinner before heading to the airport. Our trip was over — time to go back to LA.

The waterfall at the end of our hike

Check out more photos in Evan’s Facebook Gallery.

Touring Tokyo

On August 14, we took the Shinkansen to Tokyo. We had reserved seats, but they turned out to be in a smoking car — and at the very front of the train. We decided to look for new seats, but all the unreserved calls are at the back of the train. I walked from car 16 to car 4, where there were lots of open seats, then went back to get Evan and our bags. It took until we got to the first stop to get everything settled.

We got in to Tokyo in the early afternoon and made our way to the fancy Keio Plaza in Shinjuku. We stayed a night, then spent the rest of our stay at the brand new Shinjuku Best Western, which was nice and cozy and had decent prices for Tokyo.

In Shinjuku, we went into plenty of fancy department stores and movie theaters and had a nice and filling Indian lunch at Pina Maharajah.

August 15, 2008

Our second day, we set off for Ginza to see the Sony showroom, where we played with cameras, TVs, phones and music players. It was fun, but less interactive than I’d hoped. The we went off to find the Godzilla statue that was marked on the map in our guidebook. We nearly missed it is was so small! It was quite a let-down, though it’s possible that was the original size of the claymation Godzilla. After taking a quick photo, we went to see the parks around the Imperial Palace, which were very pretty, though much of the area is gated off.

Godzilla: smaller than he appears

After strolling around a bit, we used our Passmo cards to take the subway to Roppongi Hills to check out a giant shopping mall. Like Kanyon in Istanbul, it was modern, clean and a nice place to spend an afternoon.

August 16, 2008

The next day, we spent the afternoon at the Tokyo National Museum in Ueno Park, looking at old Japanese paintings, armor, ceramics, sculpture and clothing. It was a nice, concise collection that gave a good overview of Japanese art and culture. The park was also very pretty.

August 17, 2008

We took another museum excursion, this time farther out of the city, to the Ghibli Museum in Mitaka. We bought tickets months earlier, when we were still in London, because it was recommended to us, and we were not disappointed. The museum was fanciful and fun, with beautiful Zoetrope exhibits, sketches and painting. The building itself was also fun, with lots of small doorways, staircases, elevators and walkways. There was rarely a direct way to get anywhere. We also went to the cafe, where we had a great lunch, topped off by a giant piece of strawberry shortcake.

The robot on the roof of the Ghibli Museum

We went to a great macrobiotic place in Harajuku for dinner and had a lot of fun walking around the area. There are lots of funky little shops, and people make a real effort to look different, with candy-colored hair, Little Bo Peep-style costumes and neon clothing.

August 18, 2008

It was surprisingly hard to find vegetarian food in Japan, especially at standard restaurants. It was even harder to find menus in English. I learned to say “I’m a vegetarian” — “Watashi wa bejitarian desu,” but that didn’t always mean I’d get a vegetarian meal.

Evan wanted to get some good sushi while we were in Japan, so we tried to go for a nice sushi lunch. The nice place recommended by our guidebook was closed, so we found a small place with a good lunch special nearby. I told them I was a vegetarian, hoping to get a selection of vegetable rolls, but it apparently translated to “Don’t serve me anything.” I ended up picking some veggie rolls off Evan’s place while he enjoyed the fish, soup and other small dishes.

For the afternoon, we took the elevated train on what felt like a fancy urban monorail ride to Odaiba, in Tokyo Bay to go to Toyota Mega Web in Palette City. We checked out cars, rode in simulators, and went to an arcade to play some air hockey. We also did a reaction-time race car driver test, where we had to press buttons as they lit up on a big board. I did a bit better than Evan (sweet!). The elevated train back to Ginza was fun again on the ride home since it was dusk and the city’s lights were coming on and the towering glass buildings were becoming even more transparent.

Ginza by night

We went to Harajuku for dinner again and spent time in an English pub before getting a fantastic feast at Fujimama’s, where I had a pink Hello Kitty cocktail and Evan had an orange Crouching Tiger one. We shared a grilled vegetable salad and Evan had something meaty while I had some really delicious handmade noodles with mushroom and truffle sauce. Of course, we had dessert, too, though our Oreo mousse was my least favorite course.

August 19, 2008

For our last day in Japan, we visited the Toto Super Space to check out — and test out — some fancy toilets and other homewares. The Japanese sure have a monopoly on fancy toilets, they have ones with auto-up seats, adjustable sprays and bidets that can move around and change temperature and intensity, and they have toilet sound cloaking noises you can turn on.

We stopped briefly at the Nikon showroom, which is just a couple of floors up from Toto, then we picked up a picnic lunch to take to the park. Unfortunately, since it was our last day and the ATMs would only let us take out a minimum of 10,000 yen (about $100), we were back to where we started in Japan — with no cash. We had just enough to buy lunch, but we couldn’t scrounge up 400 yen ($4) to get into the park. Instead, we ate on some benches by the visitor’s area, then went shopping in the department stores.

Late in the afternoon, we hopped on to the Narita Express from Shinjuku station to go to the airport for our flight to Hawaii.

Check out our Tokyo photos in Evan’s Facebook Gallery.

6 Days in Kyoto

Getting to Kyoto from Bangkok involved a very long day of traveling, which seems to be a recurring theme on this trip. First we took a 5-hour flight to Tokyo, then had to hop on an hour-long train to get to the 3-hour-long Shinkansen — where we had to stand in the unreserved smoking car for about 45 minutes before getting seats. We also had a bit of a failure in planning here — we had no baht left to exchange for yen, so we didn’t get any in Bangkok. Then we missed the exchange counter at the Tokyo airport, leaving us with 0 yen, and thus no food or drink possibilities. We thought we’d be able to find an ATM at one of the train stations, but that didn’t happen, and when we finally got to Yamashina, where we just needed to take a Kyoto subway 4 stops to Daigo, we got stuck. Our Japan Rail passes wouldn’t cover the trip, the ATMs we found wouldn’t take foreign cards and at 10:30 p.m., we didn’t have any exchange options we could see. We were also caught in a thunderstorm. Thankfully, we were able to call the person we were staying with, Ted, to come pick us up. He even had dinner ready for us when we got to his house.

The front gate at Kiyomizudera

We spent our first few days in Kyoto exploring the city — going shopping, eating at vegetarian restaurants and checking out the temples. Kiyomizudera was my favorite, with its pretty trails, beautiful views and quaint wooden shrines. The complex also has a waterfall that people drink from to gain luck and knowledge — we made sure to drink up! We also spent some time in Gion, where we saw a Geisha in her full get-up, with white face makeup and all. Tons of people were snapping photos of her just crossing the road. There were many other women in traditional kimonos, but not many were fully made up.

We visited some other temples in the hills that form the city’s border, like Nanzen-Ji, where we walked through an enormous gateway and under a red-brick aqueducts and up into the woods to visit a small shrine by a waterfall. And we walked down the Philosopher’s Path, a quiet walkway by a canal, until we found Honsen-In, another temple, which was closed for the day.

A temple garden in Kyoto

We were able to scramble over to the Ginkaku-Ji, the Silver Pavilion, shortly before closing time, but were disappointed to find the structure undergoing a complete restoration — it was basically a shell of a building covered in tarps. The gardens, however, were well worth the visit, with clear ponds, stone steps leading up to a view point, sunny and shady areas, plenty of moss groundcover, and a sand garden shaped to represent Mount Fuji and the sea. We took a second loop around the grounds because we liked it so much.

The rest of the time we were based in Kyoto, we took day trips to nearby cities. Also, we were surprised by how hot Kyoto, and Japan in general, was — the heat and humidity made Thailand feel temperate, and we had to buy little towels to wipe the sweat from our faces. Who knew?

August 11, 2008

First, we took the Shinkansen to Hiroshima, where we visited the peace park. We saw the A-Bomb Dome, the ruins of a neoclassical building that was very close to the hypocenter of the blast, which was eerie — parts are still standing, other parts are totally mangled, and there are Japanese families taking photos giving the peace sign in front of it. From there, we walked on to the island where most of the park is, and saw all the paper cranes that comprise the children’s memorial, then went by the eternal flame and the cenotaph, which looks back on the A-Bomb Dome.

The A-Bomb Dome in Hiroshima

We also visited the museum, which gave a detailed history of Hiroshima and a good amount of insight as to why it was bombed. It also had a lot of information on nuclear weapons and really showcased the devastation of the city through photos, models and artifacts from the day it was bombed, like warped metal girders, burned clothed, melted roof tiles and some gruesome victim portraits. The museum isn’t only a memorial of what happened there, though — it is truly a call for peace and an end to nuclear proliferation. It was very powerful to see such a tragedy turned into a positive mission.

After taking in the museum, we also checked out the memorial hall, a large, echoing sunken space with a fountain at its center and the names of Hiroshima’s neighborhoods set around it. Also, we noticed that water played an important role at the peace park — many visitors were leaving water bottles at the memorials — and we learned that it’s because many of the bomb’s victims died begging for water.

The floating gate in Miyajima

Once we’d toured the park, we were ready for some lighter fare and headed to Miyajima to see the tori gate in the sea. We took a ferry over to the island and were surprised to find lots of deer to greet us. We walked down the coast to the shrine, which was closed because it was a bit late in the day, then watched the sun set pink behind the bright orange floating gate.

August 12, 2008

Our second day trip was to Himeji to see the castle. From the train station, we walked right up the main road until it stopped at the big, scenic moat. We walked across the bridge and onto the castle grounds and went to the main tower — a big, white, multistoried building on a tall stone foundation. There were lots of small spaces for people to throw rocks or boiling water down on invaders, and these came in square, circle, triangle and rectangle shapes. It was also a no-shoes building, so we climbed the stairs to the top barefoot, carrying our shoes in bags. I don’t know why they insist in putting metal caps on the ends of the stairs for people going barefoot — it’s quite an uncomfortable climb.

Himeji Castle

The view from the top wasn’t all that great — Himeji looks pretty industrial — but it was nice to see the castle.

When we returned to Kyoto station in the evening and took the escalators up to the roof garden on top top of the cool modern bulding to take in the nighttime view, then walked across its glass walkways.

August 13, 2008

Our day trips started feeling like doing suicide sprints backwards — we started with the longest, Hiroshima, and just kept on the same train lines, going shorter and shorter distances each day. We definitely made the most out of our JR passes. The bullet train was basically our daily transport, which really helped us get back and forth quickly, though we wish we could have ridden the super-speedy Nozomi trains, which had better, longer routes.

Osaka is only a short ride away from Tokyo, yet it feels quite different. It’s much more modern, and much more crowded. We first went to the aquarium, since it was highly recommended. Apparently it was highly recommended to all of Japan, though, since there were some really incredible crowds. There were people blocking every tank and sign and women on bullhorns yelling announcements every few feet. It made for a pretty stressful visit, though we did manage to at least get a glimpse of the dolphins, otters, penguins, rays and whale sharks. The best part was a smallish exhibit with baby otters, which was set apart from the main path and nowhere near as packed.

Looking up at the Osaka Sky Building

Next on our sightseeing tour was the Osaka Sky Building, a transformers-looking structure, with two tall buildings attached at the top, with long escalators running to the roof garden observation point and a thin bridge at the 22nd floor. We made it to the top just in time for sunset, when the clouds and sky turned a beautiful pink over the sprawling city. And riding up to the top in the glass elevator and then taking the glass escalator the last five stories was quite a thrill.

Check out more photos in Evan’s Facebook gallery.

3 Days in Bangkok

Golden Buddha at Wat Pho

Sorry again for the long delay between posts — it’s tough to get a good deal of time to blog while on the road. I did keep up my journal, though, so let’s take a look at the rest of my around-the-world adventure, starting with 3 days in Bangkok, Thailand.

On the night of August 4, we took the sleeper train from Chiang Mai to Bangkok because we’d heard it would be a fun way to travel. In retrospect, we probably should have just spent the money on booking a flight. We rode in a second-class car, and I had an upper bunk while Evan had a lower one. The food was inedible, and there were no veggie options, though we had the good sense to bring some snacks. The car seemed to be infested with what looked like baby cockroaches — I squished quite a few, and saw many more scurrying about under our seats and on the walls. And sleeping on a train is no real substitute for sleeping in a bed, especially when there’s some anxiety about vermin, so we arrived in Bangkok exhausted.

Ronald McDonald saying “Sawadee-ha”

We caught a cab to our hotel — the New Siam III in Banglamphu, the backpacker area, but the room wasn’t ready. To keep from falling asleep, we went for breakfast at a nearby cafe, then went downtown to buy our Japan Rail tickets. We spent the rest of the day wandering around the downtown malls, and went to visit the Ocean World Aquarium, which is conveniently located in the basement of a mall.

The underground aquarium was surprisingly expansive, and we even got to ride a glass-bottomed boat around the top of the biggest tank. We also saw the sharks and sting rays at feeding time from the tunnel that goes through their tank.

The Grand Palace

The rest of our time in Bangkok, we visited more classic sites, like the Grand Palace, Wat Pho and Wat Arun. The palace was as extravagantly and elaborately decorated as I ever could have dreamed, though a good deal of it was off limits, and at Wat Pho, we put coins in the long row of bowls along the giant, temple-sized reclining Buddha for good luck and a long life.

The towering Wat Arun

We climbed up the pottery-encrusted Wat Arun, also known as the Temple of the Dawn, which is the oldest temple in the city. And we spent a lot of our time traveling between sites on the express river boats, which aren’t too fast, but have good views, though the river is a scarily murky brown color, and they don’t get stuck in traffic. Still, we did take a cab across town once, and we ended up paying only a little more than we would have had we taken the sky train-express boat combo that we would have needed to get back — and got a comfy, clean, air-con ride for about $3.

Check out more Bangkok photos in Evan’s Facebook album.

Zip-Lining Through the Thai Treetops

We’ve got our gear, now where do we jump?

Today Evan and I went on the Flight of the Gibbon treetop zip-line adventure. We got picked up at 8:30 a.m. and driven out of Chiang Mai, up a windy mountain road. We got outfitted with harnesses, helmets and “brakes” — V-shaped pieces of bamboo. Then our group of 8 was driven to our starting point — a platform by a tree on one side of a gorge.

After some brief instruction, which included pretty little — basically, you just hold on to the rope, keep your feet up and brake when told — we were clipped in, then sent off, one by one, hanging from a steel cable, to a platform on a tree maybe 10-seconds’ journey on the line away. When we got there, we were clipped to a safety line while we waited for the rest of the group to cross, swaying the tree each time they hopped off the platform and put their weight on the line.

Oh, I jump now? Here I go…

The day continued with us leaping between the trees, past streams and by plenty of lush greenery. There were also a few rope bridges to cross as well as 3 points where our instructors belayed us down to lower platforms — sometimes as frighteningly fast speeds for parts of the journey.

We were constantly reminded, “Legs Up!” to keep them from smashing into the landing platforms, and of course to “Braaaake!” Some group members did better than others with taking directions, but everyone ultimately got across safely, including a little kid who one the longest line got stuck halfway across because she wasn’t heavy enough to make the journey. The instructor went out and met her, the pulled her to meet the rest of us. One of our guides, Jabu, liked to cross the gaps upside down, which was quite a sight. I don’t think we could have done that in the harnesses we had, though.

Post-lunch activity: waterfall hike

When we were done with the tree course, which lasted about 2 hours, we had some lunch up by the main office. Then we were driven to a pretty waterfall that we hiked up (well, climbed the stairs to) as a group but sans guide.

Sadly, that was the last stop on our mountain adventure. We drove back to town, had some food, and shopped at the outdoor market by Tha Pae Gate. Then I got all caught up on my blogging (whew!).

Check out all of our high-flying photos (they’re quite funny) in Evan’s Facebook album.