Christy and Aaron Tracker

Follow Christy and Aaron on their backpacking trip around the world

Memoirs of an A$$hole

Posted by Christy in Posts on 02 18th, 2011

From Tokyo, we headed  to Kyoto, the former capital of Japan and the home to some of the more fabulous temples and gardens:

My favorite part of Kyoto, which I have to admit is kind of sick, was Geisha stalking in the Gion district of Kyoto. For those of you who don’t know what a Geisha is, it is kind of like one step up from being a hooker. You can read about them more here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geisha

In the Gion district of Kyoto, the Geisha industry is still running, albeit just barely.
In the 1920s, there were an estimated 80,000 Geisha in Japan. In 2007, there were just 196 registered in the Gion district.

To view the few traditional Geisha left in Japan, the best time to visit Gion is between 6 and 7 PM, when they have to arrive to their first appointments. So, cluttering the quaint historic street at this time are hoards of tourists, waiting to catch a glimpse. As soon as the made-up women peer around a corner…

SNAP! SNAP! SNAP!

It is just like the paparazzi. I felt like such an a$$hole. The women held their heads down as to avoid the significant amount of flashes. But I’m not gonna lie, I loved every minute of it.

Maybe I should make a move to L.A….



KAR – A – OH – KAY

Posted by Christy in Posts on 02 16th, 2011

Karaoke (pronounced kar – a – oh – kay in Japan) – Seriously, is there anything better? OK, maybe a few things (like puppies), but really, it is a short list.

And just so you know, it is true what they say: the Japanese really love karaoke, but not the kind we know and love in America. Basically they rent out small, private rooms with their friends and sing for hours at a time. Our Couch Surfing hosts, Brenna and Micah (awesome American couple living in Tokyo), took us with a bunch of their friends for a true Japanese karaoke experience in Shinjuku in Tokyo. And, as evidenced in the videos and pictures below, it was nothing short of amazing.

I think my rendition of “Be Our Guest” was probably my favorite of the night. What are some of your favorite karaoke songs? Seriously, I would like to know…



Dining on Delicious and Delightful Dim Sum for Din-Din

Posted by Christy in Posts on 02 10th, 2011

(How bout that alliteration, eh? I seriously thought about this for three days.)

If you are at all into good food, and plan on visiting Hong Kong, and have only a few dollars to your name (or even a lot), then you should know that the cheapest Michelin-starred restaurant is located there. And, my god, it is delicious.

The restaurant is called Tim Ho Wan, located on Kowloon. It would be in a totally inconspicuous space if it weren’t for the hoards of people amassed outside. We had to wait over an hour to eat, but what do you expect? It is the CHEAPEST MICHELIN-STARRED restaurant in the WORLD! Of COURSE it is in high demand.

The chef worked at a five-star establishment at the Four Seasons hotel in Hong Kong before venturing out on his own. Tim Ho Wan serves dim sum, and for those of you who don’t know what that is, dim sum is like tapas. For those who don’t know what tapas are, they are small dishes that are shared amongst a whole group at a sitting. Dim sum consists of dumplings, buns, etc.

Here is what we chose from the menu:

–          Steamed Fresh Shrimp Dumplings

–          Steamed  Dumplings in Chiu Chow Style

–          Steamed Beef Ball with Bean Curd Skin

–          Steamed Dumpling Filled with Bamboopith and Vegetable

–          Baked Bun with BBQ Pork

–          Deep Fried Dumpling Filled with Meat

–          Steamed Poached Fresh Seasonal Vegetable

–          Vermicelli Roll Stuffed with BBQ Pork

–          Tonic Medlar and Petal Cake

What the hell is tonic medlar and petal cake? It is basically gelatin filled with flowers. Does that sound good? No. Is it? Yes.

We both agreed that our favorite was the pork bun. They serve 750 of them a day. Yowza.

All in all, we spent $134 Hong Kong dollars, equivalent to about $17 U.S. dollars. Just so you know how amazing this is, I will make a comparison. A Michelin-starred restaurant in San Francisco is Acquerello. The cheapest meal we could order would be a three-course option at $64 a person. We would spend at least $128, not including drinks or tip.

So there you have it. If you are in Hong Kong, it is a must. If you were even to make a trip to Hong Kong just to visit Tim Ho Wan, I wouldn’t argue with you. It is that delish.



Happy Chinese New Year!

Posted by Aaron in Posts on 02 4th, 2011

Welcome to the year of the rabbit!

Christy bunny

We are so lucky our schedule had us in Hong Kong during Chinese New Year.  The city buzzes and is full of activities to celebrate this holiday. As soon as we got through immigration in the airport we were handed fliers with all of the activities in the city.

The first activity on out list was the flower market. The streets were packed with people buying flowers for good fortune and mandarin orange bushes for good luck.

Aaron at the flower market

The next activity on our list was the New Year’s Parade. We saw last year’s San Francisco Chinese New Year parade so we were excited to see an even bigger display of lion dancers, dragons, traditional costumes, and firecrackers. We got to see all of those things but not in an overwhelming way like we expected. The parade felt more like the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade in New York City then the Chinese New Year parade in San Francisco. There were floats sponsored by various corporations. There were almost as many international dance acts as local groups, including a thong clad Samba group from London, the Louisiana State University dance team, and scissor musicians from Peru. There were some lion dancers and some dragons, but only a couple of each.

Samba dancers from London

Dragons!

Aaron with a dragon

The parade was fun, but we were disappointed by the lack of traditional acts. I think the difference between reality and our expectations is Hong Kong’s goal is to put on a world class parade, while the San Francisco parade is a way for immigrants and descendants to stay connected and show pride in their heritage. Hong Kong’s parade is great, just not what we expected.

The last special New Year’s event we went to was the fireworks display. We have been told we have not seen fireworks until we have seen Chinese fireworks. This show did not disappoint! The setting is the beautiful Victoria harbor with the lights of the skyline reflecting in the water. The entire show is at least 6 fireworks wide filling our field of view. Sometime fireworks explode into the shape of rabbit faces. Other times “I ♥ HK” is written in the sky. We both agreed they were the best fireworks we have ever seen.

Christy with what expand into bunny fireworks

Aaron at the Chinese New Year fireworks

Happy Chinese New Year!



And the Award goes to… (Southeast Asia)

Posted by Christy in Posts on 02 1st, 2011

Usually I have an entire list of different categories for my “Top Three” posts. However, I don’t think we explored enough of the area to culminate enough info for such a list, so I am just going to narrow it down to my top three places that we visited:

3.) Vang Vieng, Laos

It may be the college girl in me, but I really enjoyed my time in this Spring Break dream destination. The smell of cocktails in the air, “Family Guy” around every corner, and the stumbling drunks wandering the streets really put a big smile on my face.

OK, I’m just being a little sarcastic here, but seriously, tubing down the river was SO MUCH FUN! Being surrounded by bars, other 20-somethings, and rope swings and slides – really, it’s a frat boy’s dream, and frankly, I enjoyed it. So sue me.

2.) Angkor, Cambodia

Just give me a fedora and call me Indiana! Exploring the temples of Angkor gave me the feeling that, well, we weren’t in Kansas anymore. A French explorer who came upon the ruins in the mid 19th century described them as being even more magnificent than those in Greece and Rome. I, personally, would have to agree with that statement. AND, unlike Rome and Greece, the restrictions on where you could wander were rather loosey goosey. I think I could have climbed to the roof of Angkor Wat and started chiseling and I doubt anyone would of said anything to me. (Did I mention that Southeastern Asians are the chillest people I have ever met? God, I love them.)

1.) Koh Phangan, Thailand

Sure, it rained two out of the three days we were there, but at least we could soak in one day of infamous Thailand island beauty that rivals the likes of Hawaii. (I’ve never been to Hawaii, but Aaron has, and he has gone on the record as claiming that Koh Phangan is more beautiful than the island of Maui.) The night life was also spectacular, with interactive games at every bar, not to mention the fire breathers and jugglers.

And, like the rest of Southeast Asia, and very much unlike Hawaii, it is CHEAP. Accommodation cost us about $7 per person at the resort we stayed at. Can’t beat that!



Watch Out! The Thai-Gers are on the Prowl…

Posted by Christy in Posts on 01 29th, 2011

As I mentioned in my previous post, we had some very interesting nights out in Hua Hin, and to explain further, I need to backtrack and draw upon my conclusions of the beach town…

Hua Hin caters mainly to two different types of tourists (that we observed): kiteboarders, and the above 60 crowd. It makes for an interesting mix, especially when going out, because the senior citizens seem to take over EVERY BAR, and it is hard for us young’uns to find one to fit into (We don’t want to upset the elders with our outlandish outfits and that damned rap music).

With this obstacle to overcome, we have yet another hurdle to climb when it comes to Hua Hin nightlife: THAI WOMEN. Thai women are extremely aggressive when it comes to white men. We were actually forewarned by Lindsey’s kiteboard instructor about this, but we thought he was maybe just being a bit of a prude. Or gay. But when we saw that every bar had at least 20 decked out Thai chicks ready for some white man action sitting out in front, and Aaron having his ass grabbed twice, we knew that the instructor was in fact heterosexual, and not exaggerating on his claim.

We thought this was pretty entertaining at first. We even had Aaron walk out in front of Lindsey and I a few feet so we could watch him awkwardly reject girls’ advances. But when we settled into a bar and started having friendly conversations with other kiteboarders, and the Thai girls would immediately interrupt us to compete for the boys’ affections, it stopped being funny and more annoying.

Then the conversation (only among the three of us now, of course) turned to only one thing the rest of the night: Who ARE these girls??

We had seen a ton of these young Thai women out and about with much older white men throughout the week, but I hadn’t thought much of the situation until it was thrown in my face during our night out. Aaron thought they were prostitutes. Lindsey and I thought they were desperate for a ticket out of Thailand, and in their minds, getting a white man is the only way to achieve that. After a little research, it turns out we were both right.

Bars hire Thai women from low income families to become “bar girls,” which is basically just a tiny step up from a prostitute (think of a Japanese Geisha). The girls love the scene, having previously worked 60+ hour weeks and earning $100/month in measly jobs and never setting foot inside a bar before. Suddenly they are making more money, hanging out with their friends and partying all night. Which would you prefer?

The first part of the bar girl’s job is to lure the men in, obviously. Once the men are lured in, the girls have two options:

A.)   Persuade the men to buy drinks for themselves and the bar girls

B.)    Throw themselves full force to get the men to “buy them” for the night

The bars act as the “pimps.” To take a girl home, a customer must pay the bar a “barfine,” which usually runs between 200 and 300 Baht ($7 – $10). It is to compensate for losing a member of the staff. There is no going rate for a night with a bar girl, it completely depends on how much she likes her patron.

So, these bar girls dominated the first half of our night. Later we ended up at a club at the Hilton (at the recommendation of our young bartender). Again, the Thai girls were dominating the scene, and they were aggressive as ever, including our bartender friend! Poor Aaron could have used some sort of blunt object to fight them off.

Well, it doesn’t seem likely that an establishment like the Hilton would hire bar girls, and we know our bartender was definitely not a bar girl, but she sure was acting like one. We had to conclude that Lindsey and my theory was correct: these girls were desperate for white men, and more precisely for a way out.

Seeing this behavior really made us sad. Why don’t these women pursue education? Do they really  think they have to whore themselves off to much older, undesirable men to make something off themselves? And for that matter, is it fair for these much older men to take advantage of this situation?

This is the first time we have encountered this behavior around the world. Hmm, actually, that is a lie.

Trade genders, and the same situation exists in Egypt. When we were in the Sahara Desert, the cook and the driver were very flirtatious with me. Our guide explained to us that the ultimate goal of every Egyptian man is to marry a Western woman. Why? To gain freedom from a life of poverty. It is so depressing to witness.

Be thankful that you live in a country where you don’t have to depend on others for prosperity and you can make something of yourself. I will never take it for granted again.



A HOELL Lotta Fun!

Posted by Christy in Posts on 01 28th, 2011

We had yet another visitor join us for a leg of our world tour… This time it was our friend Lindsey Hoell, who lived across the street from me while growing up. We reconnected when we were both living in San Francisco. We became close friends, so naturally we were so excited for her to join us in Thailand!

The first thing to know about Lindsey is that she is extremely active and really doesn’t adjust well to downtime (she would agree). This was great for us, because honestly, traveling for 8 straight months has taken a toll on us, and we needed her to re-energize Aaron and me for two more months of world travel. I have to say, it worked like a charm.

We met her in Bangkok and traveled down to Koh Phangan, best known as the island with the “Full Moon Party.” We just missed the full moon, but we did manage to still party on the beach, complete with Lindsey “breathing fire,” and winning the “Pop the Balloon” contest. Needless to say she had a good night:

While Koh Phangan was beautiful, it was disappointing  because it rained two out of the three days we were there. We did manage to get some paddle boarding in, though:

Due to the weather we decided to get out of Koh Phangan early and head north to Hua Hin. We had already been to Hua Hin for Christmas, but everything south of that point was due for heavy rainfall for the rest of the week. Also, Lindsey is really into kiteboarding (link), and the biggest kiteboard school in Thailand is located there.

So we ended up spending the rest of the week in Hua Hin, hanging out on the beach and watching Lindsey take a few kiteboard lessons, and when she had enough experience to kite by herself, we would help her when we could (fetch her board when she lost it, etc.). We would have loved to take lessons ourselves, but at $140 a pop, it just wasn’t in the budget for us.

We did have an interesting night out in Hua Hin, which deserves a whole other post in itself…

Anyway, thanks for coming out, Lindsey! We miss you already!



Angkor WHAT?!?

Posted by Christy in Posts on 01 18th, 2011

I am gonna be honest, I had no idea what Angkor Wat was before we arrived in Cambodia. It was merely a recollection buried deep inside my brain that I had heard in passing in 7th grade world history class. It actually has a very interesting background behind it, which I will share with you now:

Angkor Wat is the principle temple of the region of Angkor that served as the seat for the Khmer Empire. There are over one thousand temples in this area, which were built approximately between the 9th and 13th centuries.

Angkor Wat is the largest religious building in the world. It was built in the 12th century and dedicated to the god Vishnu of the Hindu religion. A century later it was moved to the Buddhist religion. Today the Buddhist religion is still practiced there.

Visiting Angkor Wat and the other surrounding temples was a very enjoyable experience for us because, unlike Rome and Paris, it was a free-for-all on where you could venture in the temples. We could literally climb the walls of any structure and nobody would say a word.

We were in Angkor during the high season, so we expected vast crowds of tourists. I have to say though that it wasn’t bad AT ALL, especially compared to, once again, France and Italy. Plus there are so many temples to explore, in such a huge area, we didn’t feel the slightest feeling of agoraphobia.

I would say, if you are in Southeast Asia, Angkor is definitely worth the trip. It is a little steep for the backpacking bunch ($20 per person), but we have no regrets at all, and trust me, we are very cautious with our money.

Also, if you feel up for it, we recommend renting bikes to explore the area. The bikes cost us $2 apiece, and it is only 6 km to the temples from Siem Reap (the closest accommodations to the area are located there). Also the area is so big, you can’t get to every temple on foot, so you either have to rent a bike or rent a tuk –tuk for the day, which will set you back $20 and it is not much fun.

I would also like to add that I am not as narcissistic as I appear. Aaron holds the camera in his pocket, and as a result takes more pictures of me rather than himself. I try to take as many pictures of him as possible, but you know how I am a video kind of girl, so he ends up in a lot more videos.



SPRING BREAK, WWWOOOOOOOOO!!!!! (AKA Vang Vieng)

Posted by Christy in Posts on 01 10th, 2011

Wow. If college students could afford airfare to Laos, I am sure Vang Vieng would be their number one choice in spring break destinations. If any of you are at all familiar with the city, I am sure that you have heard that the most popular thing to do here is tubing on the river, you would be correct. But there are so many more reasons why it would be popular with the 18-24 crowd, and I shall list them:

1.)    Vang Vieng is CHEAP.

Well, DUH, Christy, it is in Southeast Asia! Well, let me just tell you how cheap: Aaron and I are spending $4.25 each for a bed in a hostel. It is one of the most interesting hostels we have stayed in, as it is a treehouse, but it is very comfortable.

And yes, that is a random drunk guy that passed out in our bed. Nice.

Also, local Laos liquor is cheaper than soft drinks in this country. A cocktail containing Laos liquor costs about $1.25, while Laos beer is in the same price range. Say you drink about five cocktails in a night. It would cost you $6.25 for a night’s worth of drinking! I would easily spend that much on one drink in a bar in San Francisco.

2.)    The river in Vang Vieng is surrounded by bars all along the banks. When tubing down the river, when you want a drink, you simply signal to the closest bar, and they throw a rope to you and pull you in. You then can enjoy a variety of cheap (in price, not in taste) cocktails and beers before heading on down the river once more.

(Unfortunately, our camera is not waterproof, and we didn’t want to risk ruining our camera while we went tubing for the day. So these images are compliments of Google images!)

As an added bonus, a lot of the bars have rope swings and slides. Oh, what debauchery those kids could get into!

3.)    Along with the traditional Laos dishes, the many bars and restaurants offer many kinds of Western foods, including pizzas, hamburgers, french fries, milk shakes, baked potatoes, etc., etc. etc. Nothing like nursing a hangover with food that will one day eventually lead to a heart attack!

4.)    This may sound too good to be true, but I can assure you that this is no lie, and if none of the above reasons have proved to be Spring Break-worthy, than hear this: A lot of bars and restaurants have TVs, and they play Family Guy on a loop 24/7. No really, it is true. There is even an eating establishment named “Family Guy.” It is amazing to see:

So there you have it. We are going to go back to reliving our college days. KEG STAND, ANYONE??



The Bamboo Bridge on the River Pai

Posted by Aaron in Posts on 01 6th, 2011

Our next location in Thailand was a little river town called Pai. Pai is the first time we were out of a big city in Thailand and it felt good to experience the jungle nature of Northern Thailand.

One of the best things about Pai was the location where we stayed. We did not book a hostel in advance so we wandered the town until we found a place we loved. We found the perfect riverside bamboo huts after crossing a little bamboo bridge.

Bamboo bridge over the Pai river

Christy at our bamboo hut

It was so relaxing. We kept flashing back to our experience in Nuweiba, Egypt where a 5 day stay turned into 17. We extended our stay in Pai by 2 nights, but our schedule was a little tighter than in Egypt.

Like the rest of Thailand, Pai had a nice night market where we could get good street food for cheap. Fortunately, Pai is not close to the ocean so squid on a stick was not available to tempt/taunt me.

Christy eating a bowl of noodles

One of the most common things to do in Pai is to rent a scooter and explore the surroundings. Ordinarily any activity with an engine is outside of our budget, but scooter rental was only $5 a day. The prices in South East Asia always amaze us.

We rode the scooter all day. We visited waterfalls and canyons we would not have been able to see otherwise. It felt so good to be able to explore an area beyond our walking range without having to ride in taxis. I think the smiles never left our faces all day.

Aaron on the scooter outside of Pai

Christy cannot stop smiling while riding on the scooter

Christy at a waterfall

Aaron at a waterfall

Christy at the canyon

Aaron hiking at the canyon

I loved relaxing, being outside, and riding the scooter so much I wished I could have stayed longer. But, eventually we had to cross back over the bamboo bridge on the river Pai and continue on our journey.



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