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Its hard to explain the craziness that was the two day Mekong river tour. After Chang Mai, we took a mini van filled to capacity to the small border town of Chiang Khong. The hotel was so dirty that we didn’t shower, figuring that we would probably get filthier instead of cleaner.  The next morning, our bodies filled a small boat for the short trip to the immigration stand on the other side of the river. After the chaos that was getting our visas stamped and changing our money, we loaded into the tuk-tuks to take us down to the bigger boat that was ready to take is to Laung Prabang.

Before the boat ride though, we got a nice little presentation on how long and tortuous the boat ride is. People got scared enough to actually pay a lot more money to take a van to Luang Prabang. Fools. It was all obviously a marketing ploy to get scared white people to pay more money. Now, I know in your mind you are picturing a lovely two day cruise down a river on a nice and comfortable boat. Well, let me tell you, it definitely wasn’t as romantic as that.

Green Is The Official Color

The boats are all wood, with small wooden seats, cramped space, and a hole in the back that dumps in the river as the bathroom. Before the boat ride, they sell you cushions for the wooden benches and let me tell you this was one of the smartest purchases I made on this trip. That cushion, which I named Lesley, saved my ass from certain death.

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The first half of the trip I sat in back with newly made BFF from Canada, Jordan, with each of us buying each other beer the whole way. This was a great idea, since it made that first day go by much quicker. It also made frequent trips the “bathroom” quite the adventure when you are trying to pee in a small hole on a long moving boat.  I also became close with Grieg and Fiona, from the U.K., and a great couple from Italy. I would actually end up traveling with these peepz for almost half my whole trip.

11 - Jordan

After what seems like a bajillion hours, you finally arrive at the small town of Pak Beng. While the boats pull up, the whole town literally descends the hill trying to help you get your stuff, use their taxi, and get a hotel room. We all ended up getting rooms in the same hotel and went out to a big group dinner where we drank lots of Lao Lao, which is their rice whiskey. To us, it tasted like Kerosene since it was so potent. The drunk laughs came by quickly during that dinner. What is amazing about Pak Beng is that all electricity for the entire town is shut down at 8 pm. ALL electricity. So when we got out of our candlelight drunk fest, we realized that there were no lights to help us find our way back to the hotel. It was insanely dark, but when we looked up, I don’t think I have ever seen the stars shine so bright. They sky literally drew gasps from the whole lot of us. Then I tripped and fell because I couldn’t see a thing.

The next morning we woke up to this:

The Mighty Mekong

It’s this when you realize you are in the middle of a fucking jungle. We saw so many villages by the river and it definitely hits you that these people just lead a life that you can’t remotely identify with. I would literally look up and see villagers using elephants for transport.

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The second day definitely seemed longer.

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It could have been the hangover.

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Still though, the scenery is indescribably breathtaking.

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Blue Umbrella

A Man Paddles Home

It was crazy how close you become to the people traveling with you on this two day journey. It could be the effects of the Lao Lao whiskey or because you are so uncomfortable that you will do anything not to think of the numbness that is your ass. But I made friends for a lifetime on this boat.

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12 - Gabe and Retro

I would do it again in a heartbeat.

If you are ever in Laos, the two day boat ride down the Mekong needs to be on your “must do” list.

I was talking to Katherine the other day, and we both really couldn’t believe that this time last year we were backpacking Southeast Asia. It is such a generic comment, but time really does fly, and I hate that. The scar on my hand and leg are slowly fading away, but it still reminds me that around this close to this time last year I was getting into more motorcycle accidents than the average person, just so I could go see a waterfall in a third world country.

If it all goes well, and it all falls through, I hope this year will bring another new set of amazing adventures.

Here we go. Once again we have another year zooming by, but unlike other years, when I look back at this one I think “HOLY F*CKING SH*T!!!!” To me, it seems like so many people around me are more than ready to say goodbye to the year 2009. I can truly honestly say that I don’t share that sentiment in the slightest. It is hard to explain why without making me sound like I am boasting, but I am going to do it anyway.

This time.
I’ll have no fear.
I’ll be standing strong and tall.

I rang the New Year with some great friends
Another Group Pic

I backpacked Southeast Asia

Lighthouse orphanage - Group Pic
I still can’t believe the awesomeness that was this trip. I started the trip with two amazing friends and ended up with even more wonderful friends. From the 14 hours bus rides, the two day boat journey down the Mekong, the sickness, the craziness that is Bangkok, floating the Viang Vieng river, crashing a motorcycle in Laos, eating amazing food in Vietnam, meeting the most wonderful people in Cambodia, exploring the ruins of Angkor Wat and relaxing on the beautiful islands of Thailand. So. Incredibly. Amazing.

I spent a month in Africa
1 - Table Mountain Victory
Spending time with one of my best friends Tfaith, meeting and becoming secret lovers with his future wife, conquering Table Mountain, camping the Garden Route with a backpack and a blanket, conquering pickpockets and scary alleyways, introducing South Africa to power hour and having my life changed in a small township outside Cape Town. Africa…..there are no words to how incredible it was.

I surprised my best friend in NYC for her birthday
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I raced for the cure
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I saw Britney Spears with future awesome doctors
Big Bang

This time.
I’ll be sailing.
No more bailing boats for me.
Ill be out here on the sea.
Just my confidence and me.

I saw my oldest friend accomplish awesomeness
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I did an epic road trip with the most amazing person – Atlanta, New Orleans, Houston, San Antonio, Hell, Tucson.
Colorful Doors Lead to A Colorful History
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I spent the most amazing summer EVER in Seattle
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I moved to San Francisco
[119-365] Just Another Manic Monday

I went to Puerto Vallarta for the most epic Bachelor Party of All Time (seriously) with the coolest guys of ALL TIME

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Did some wine touring
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I had my first professional shoot
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I saw two of my best and closest friends marry each other

My mind is blown away by this year. Exploring San Francisco, visiting Omid in Houston, Jordan’s Bachelor Party in Phoenix, seeing my sister dance, Halloween in the Castro, Stanford games with Niamh, Fourth of July in Seattle, San Antonio Debauchery, Atlanta Debauchery, New York Debauchery, Jumbo Margaritas with Brian, conquering the world with Deborah, crazy adventures with Micah, seeing my sister dance. I know I am forgetting so much, but that is good because there was just THAT much that happened in 2009. Thank GOD for picture sets to remind me forever.

e la vita la vita si fa grande così…….e comincia domani

It was the year I decided to follow my dreams, and most importantly I did it finally being myself.

I guess I am scared to ring in the New Year because it is going to be really hard trying to top this last one. But you know, its going to be one hell of a fun time trying.

HERE IS TO 2010!!! HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE!!!!

…and if the world decides to catch up with me, it’s a little victory. – Matt Nathanson

A Room Of Knowledge Filled With Death

A classroom is a powerful thing.

A room that basically supports our own existence. Without classrooms we wouldn’t be able to learn about the world; our history; a new language; building a skyscraper; becoming a doctor; the power of music; letters and numbers; the science of life; the art of dance; life, etc.

Without classrooms, we would be nowhere.

It was in a classroom I learned about the Khmer Rouge.

I bet thousands of survivors and surviving legacies of the Khmer Rouge wish those classrooms never existed. If you were educated in Cambodia during the Khmer Rouge, you were pretty much guaranteed to die. So here at the Tuol Sleng Genocide Musuem, what was once a place of learning for thousands of students, ironically became a place of torture and death.

Tuol Sleng Door Handle

It’s hard to describe the emotions I felt walking the halls of this former high school,  Chao Ponhea Yat. Its impossible not to think you are walking in halls and rooms where thousands of people died. Even when you touch a single door handle you think “How many times was this same handle touched by someone who murdered hundreds of people?”A room where simple Algebra was learned was now a storage for leg and arm shackles that kept prisoners from attempting suicide. In every school you see photographs of students lining the walls engaged in various activities, but here you just see photographs of victims.

Genocide Museum - Portraits

Out of 17,000 estimated prisoners at Tuol Sleng, there were only 12 known survivors. I bet many of those prisoners yearned for the chance to be in a classroom to learn anything they desired, yet it was in a building of knowledge that their chance was taken away.

Tuol Sleng Shackles

And there I was, in the classroom of their deaths, learning more than I could have ever possibly imagined.

A classroom is a powerful thing.

I realized that I stopped posting pictures from my round the world trip.
I should catch up on that.
But editing takes SO LONG.

But I DID re-edit the video of Southeast Asia that I made.
Brian calls it the remix.
Its just a better song.
Not some rock music in the background.

I suggest your rewatch it again so you can get re-jealous that I went to Southeast Asia.

Or rewatch it for the ending only.
The kids singing “You Are My Sunshine” to me will always hold a special place in this black heart.

Anyway, definitely anticipate more posts on places I didn’t blog about.

Have a good weekend peepz!

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I ate a lot in Thailand. Because everything was SO GOOD.

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Seriously. SO GOOD

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Like these banana wrapped waffles. Drroooooll

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Doesn’t that shirt suite Katherine perfectly?? The Chiang Mai Sunday Market was amazing.

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It took a lot of energy NOT to push them down the stairs.

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Katherine wasn’t in the picture because we got tired of her and left her behind.

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I don’t think I was allowed to touch it. Screw them all.

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I shouldn’t be smiling since there was a huge hole in my crotch.

Of course more fawncy photos of Chiang Mai can be seen here.

Sandals
You have to take your shoes/sandals off everywhere you go. Resulting in black feet at the end of the day.

Dingman
Katherine: Does the bandana make me look cool?
Gabriel: Umm…It will be mean of me to say yes.
Katherine: F%^# You

Greg Jump
This was how excited Greg was everywhere for most of the trip. So. Annoying.

Scary Mannequin
Just because it is Deborah’s favorite picture ever….for nightmares

Gabe and Greg
Mmmmmm Tiger Beeer.

I also posted more photos HERE.