Saturday, July 28, 2007

Norwalk Hospital Graduation 2007

Back in June, Kirsten and her colleagues completed their three intense years of residency. Florian Seeburger put together a great tear-jerker of a slideshow looking back on the last year, which I've uploaded here.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Honeymoon photos online

Our honeymoon photos are all online now. Hope you enjoy.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Team D&K return

It's late Friday night in Connecticut. Kirsten and I've just returned home, full of memories but exhausted. The strange thing about traveling halfway around the world is we don't even know how long we've been traveling, as days start to lose definition. The international dateline is a very curious thing. The Nagoya to San Francisco leg of our trip departed at 3:30 PM on July 20th and arrived at 8:30 AM, July 20th.

Our two days in Bangkok were fun, but a little sad too as we knew we'd be leaving soon. We arrived via the first-class sleeping compartment of the "Super Rapid Express" train from Chiang Mai to Bangkok. We thought this would be an experience akin to the Orient Express, but it was closer to sleeping on a bunk bed in a walk-in closet.

In Bangkok, our Thai friend Monic treated us to a fancy deep tissue massage, by far the best of our vacation--just the right level of tough, our masseuses hit all the right spots and none of the wrong ones. (Kop khun khrap, Monic!)

We heightened the experience by following it with dinner at a fancy Thai fusion restaurant. The food in Thailand had been great, but a little repetitive, so we were happy to see what new inventions chefs were making with the old techniques. I ordered duck spring rolls then roasted duck couscous. Duck-a-licious!

The next day...our last in Thailand...we visited a sleepy island outside of town called Koh Kret. It's a Mon community, the Mon being one of the oldest of the Thai ethnic groups, and prodigious potters for over a thousand years. The island is all footpaths, no cars, and filled with lots of old kilns. We wandered, a little aimlessly, stumbling across an ornate building we assumed was a temple. Walking inside, we discovered it was actually a house, but luckily the proprietor was very friendly. We turned down her offer of dinner, but accepted the invitation to tour her house, which was decorated with wood carvings and giant Chinese vases.

One red-eye flight to Japan later, we were back in Nagoya, with several hours before our San Francisco flight. We took a train into town then de-stink-ified at a Japanese bath house. The bath house experience oozes tradition in Japan. As an outsider, the real question is not if we're violating cultural taboos but which ones and how badly. I think my biggest mistake was to spit my toothpaste into one of the bathing bowls. Luckily the Japanese seem to prefer silent judgment to open criticism. I prefer this too.

Washed and refreshed, we wandered past Nagoya's semi-famous pagoda-style castle, then grabbed lunch at a very cool, very Japanese restaurant. We ordered by pointing randomly at the menu and hoping for the best, and it worked out well.

In the afternoon our 777 left the ground and our Asian odyssey came to an end. About 20 hours of bad airplane movies later, we're home.

Looking back on four weeks of memories, a few sensations stand out. I remember the peacefulness of Buddhist monks meditating, motionless, seeking mental calm through physical calm. I remember the energy intrinsic in an active lifestyle with a deluge of new experiences. I remember the happiness that came from experiencing these things together with Kirsten.

There are lessons here for how to live a good life after returning home. I see the Honeymoon not so much as an event, but as a beginning.

I leave you with a video of the coolest travel girl I know reading a sign in Japanese during our hike up Mount Hiei...

Monday, July 16, 2007

sucked dry in chiang mai

Our attempt to cross the skybridge in Kuala Lumpur ended badly. Of all the days that we could be there and all the days the skybridge could be closed, we were there on a Monday and Monday they were closed. Kirsten in particular was heartbroken. Now we have to return to Kuala Lumpur someday to try again.

We attempted to console ourselves with foot massages, but unluckily my masseur was a sweaty-handed Malaysian foot butcher. I left limping, with a bulge in my left foot's big toe that hadn't been there before.

For the last week we've been in Chiang Mai, on the adventure phase of our vacation. We rode elephants, went white-water rafting, floated on bamboo rafts and swam under a waterfall...and that was on our first day!

Since then we've immersed ourselves in various other enlightening and outdoor activities. Today we took a motorbike up Doi Pui, the mountain outside of town. Halfway through our overgrown wilderness trail en route to the Mon Thon Than waterfall, I felt a pain in my bum, but figured I could walk it off. Later, at the waterfalls, a fully engorged leech dropped from my shorts. I was the victim of a vicious Thai bum-sucker, and bled profusely.

After this disturbing encounter, we hiked a "nature trail" to the summit of Doi Pui, where I acquired four more leeches on my legs and Kirsten picked up one of her own. What a grand adventure! Tomorrow we flee towards Bangkok!

Sunday, July 8, 2007


We're in Kuala Lumpur, in the chaos of Chinatown. There's street stands everywhere, selling all sorts of indescribable and sometimes unmentionable food products. My favorite stand had live chickens in cages and decapitated chickens for sale. Too bad we don't have a kitchen! Our stay here will be a battle between street food and our digestive tracts. So far we've only had fried fruit products, and our digestive tracts are ahead 1-0.

Before Kuala Lumpur we were in the resort island of Langkawi, and before that the old British colonial city of Penang. Penang looked awesome on the drive in from the aiport. It's a mix of old colonial architecture, the Chinese-Indian-Malay influences of the population and the modernism that's defining modern Malaysia. However, walking around the streets wasn't as pleasant. There was a lot of traffic and not much in the way of sidewalks. Also, the tropical weather is eroding the colonial buildings' facades at record pace. It can be a bit grimy. We went for a rickshaw ride, took lunch at the Eastern & Oriental hotel, then booked it out of there.

Langkawi is 2.5 hours' ferry ride north, and the voyage marked a real low of our trip. I slept until Kirsten shook me awake to let me know she was puking into the hood of her favorite sweatshirt. That was about 2 hours into the trip, and the next half hour was really ugly. Especially, Kirsten wasn't the only ill passenger so the whole enclosed cabin smelled rank. (Kirsten wants you to know that she held out for an especially long time. Some of the weaker passengers gave way after only 1 hour.)

On land, with Kirsten still not herself, we opted for some high quality comfortable accomodation. Our room was a "chalet" on stilts above a private beach. The unexpected highlight of this location was the resident family of monkeys who came by the beach to have their crab dinner. They were unfazed by us, swimming off the shore, as everybody from Grandpa Monkey to Baby Monkey frolicked and fed.

The next day we hiked above a waterfall to "Seven Wells", where a stream drops from one pool to another creating natural slides. We spent several hours sliding down, walking up and sliding down again. The weather was beautiful. The views of the ocean were stupendous. Our vacation is right on track.

Tomorrow we plan to go to the skybridge on the Petronas towers...Kuala Lumpur's inadvertent monument to Madonna. For now, it's back into the markets!

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

from green curry to penang curry

We're in the outdoor thatched roof structure that is the Koh Samui departure lounge. Tonight we fly to Penang, Malaysia, home of the famous Penang curry.

Yesterday was incredible. We took a tour of the Ang Thong Marine National Park, made famous in The Beach, the film with Leo DiCaprio, as the supposed location of their mysterious hidden utopia (although it was filmed elsewhere). We went snorkeling, kayaking, and hiked into an inland lagoon filled with coral, connected to the sea by an underwater cave.

In the evening, back in Samui, we got massages..our second of the trip so far! Our mental status remains happy and relaxed.

So long from Thailand!

Sunday, July 1, 2007

koh samui, thailand

In contrast to our fast-paced tour of Japan, our time in Thailand has been characterized by a whole lot of laying around in the sun. Day 1: laying by the sea at our resort. Day 2: laying by the sea at our resort. Day 3: taking motorbikes to another beach and laying by the sea there!

We're very happy and very relaxed. Our resort is the Imperial Boat House and it's as impressive as its name. We're staying in the unfathomably awesome honeymoon suite (thanks Mom and Dad!). The room was veritably covered with orchid flowers when we arrived, with a basket of exotic Thai fruit and champagne waiting. After scouting the island, we've decided we have the coolest room in the coolest hotel on the coolest beach of the coolest island in the coolest country. Which is only fitting, since we're the coolest honeymoon couple around!

Lest that be in a doubt, we took in an all-night full moon rave our first night. Amid the dilated pupils crowd was your humble honeymooners, trancing with the best of them. The vibe was incredible, very high energy, and dancing on the beach was a great thrill.

Last night we went to a Muay Thai boxing match, which is pretty much like normal boxing but kicking is allowed. It's great fun, especially when one of the boxers tries a roundhouse kick and misses. They spin around and it's very embarassing for them. Then the other competitor pummels them.

We're very content with this idle life of ours, but we must leave Koh Samui soon before we spend our entire vacation here. We've no idea where to go next, however with reports of heavy rain in the mountainous north of Thailand, we're thinking about tarketing another beach town.