Christy and Aaron Tracker

Follow Christy and Aaron on their backpacking trip around the world

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!

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.

Chiang Mai

Posted by Aaron in Posts on 01 2nd, 2011

We spent several days in Chiang Mai around the new year. When we were not celebrating we took some time to experience some of the Thai culture.

Chiang Mai is famous for its many Buddhist temples. Everywhere we walked in the old city we found more temples.

Aaron at a Buddhist temple

Christy with one of the many temple dogs

Aaron and a large Buddha statue

Christy at a Buddhist temple

The highlight of all of the temples was Doi Suthep, 12 kilometers from town at the top of a mountain.

Aaron at Doi Suthep

Statue at Doi Suthep

Christy at Doi Suthep

All over Chiang Mai, people are offering cheap Thai massages. We did not indulge, but we could not resist a fish spa. In a fish spa there are tanks of doctor fish that eat the dead skin off of your feet. The fish do not hurt. They mildly tickle until you get used to the feeling. Here is a video of Christy’s initial reaction when the doctor fish begin to nibble at her dead skin:

Happy 2554!

Posted by Christy in Posts on 01 1st, 2011

Happy New Year, family and friends! Aaron and I rang it in Thai style in Chiang Mai. Fun times were had by all, at least we think so.

To commemorate the event, Chiang Mai had a food festival, complete with live musical acts and fireworks at the stroke of midnight. To celebrate New Year’s Eve outside was an adventure in itself, as it is usually below freezing at that time in Ohio, and you know how we all like to keep out of the cold as much as possible.

We also lit a Sky Lantern on the 30th, for good luck in the new year! Sky Lanterns are airborne paper lanterns. They are constructed from oiled rice paper on a bamboo frame, and contain a small candle or fuel cell composed of a waxy flammable material. When lit, the flame heats the air inside the lantern, thus lowering its density causing the lantern to rise into the air. The sky lantern is only airborne for as long as the flame stays alight, after which the lantern floats back to the ground (Source: The effect that they have is amazing, as thousands of people light them and they end up dancing in the sky above the city, almost replacing the invisible stars above (oooohhh, so poetic!).

Also, it is not a typo in the title of this post. Different cultures use different calendars, and the Thai happen to believe that the year is 2554. Go figure.

We hope the new year brings much luck to you. Don’t worry, even though you didn’t light a sky lantern, I’m sure you will have it anyway!

Weirdest Christmas Ever

Posted by Aaron in Posts on 12 26th, 2010

Every year of our lives, Christy and I have spent Christmas and the holiday season with our families in Ohio. For obvious reasons (the world trip), we were going to spend Christmas away from our hometowns for the first time. We went to a hotel at Hua Hin to celebrate this Christmas at the beach. We tried to blend some of our favorite holiday traditions with the amazing local atmosphere. In the end we both found ourselves saying, “It wasn’t the best Christmas. It wasn’t the worst Christmas. But it was definitely the weirdest Christmas.”

Thanks to Christy’s Grandma and Aunts, we were treated to a hotel room for Christmas. We felt like we were living in luxury. We could only remember 7 other times we had a room to ourselves with our own bathroom. We also made sure to get a room with free wi-fi so we could call our families on Christmas day.

We spent our time in Hua Hin trying to find the Christmas spirit in the city and ourselves.

We went to the beach:

Christy and Aaron at Hua Hin beach

We admired the decorations and lights throughout the city. The city was decorated with lots of lights to celebrate the king’s birthday on December fifth and they are left up through the new year celebrations. We pretended they were Christmas decorations too.

Christy in Hua Hin

The malls had real Christmas decorations up for the tourists:

Christy and Thailand Christmas decorations

One of the best thing in Thailand are the night markets. It is fun to look around at all of the stuff with out getting pressured by the shop keepers. It has been months since we could look at souvenirs without getting hassled. It is such a relief once the hassle is gone.

Christy in the night market

We go to the night markets almost every night to eat good cheap street food.  We usually pay around $1 per item, including full plates of pad thai. There are also a lot of exotic foods available. Look how happy I am with my special Christmas Eve treat, squid on a stick . As you will see later, I would come to regret this decision.

Aaron and squid on a stick

Christy went for a different Christmas Eve treat, a festive ice cream sundae.

Christy and her ice cream sundae

We spent the rest of Christmas Eve night watching Christmas shows on Youtube and my favorite holiday movie, A Christmas Story.

Christy watching A Christmas Story

Christmas day we went to a safari park to ride elephants as the second part of our gift from Christy’s aunts. As a bonus we got to hold a tiger cub.

Christy and a tiger cub

Christy and Aaron riding an elephant

As the day wore on I started feeling sicker and sicker. We ended up back in our hotel room for the rest of the day while I battled food poisoning from the squid on a stick.

Aaron sick with food poisoning

We did not go out to dinner at a nice restaurant like planned, because I could not leave the hotel room. Christy’s Christmas dinner ended up being a Pizza Hut pizza.

Christmas dinner pizza

Later that night we Skyped with our families. While Skype calls are nice, we wished we could be with them, instead of watching them open presents on the computer screen. This is the first time we have felt really homesick on the trip and wanted to be home. Christmas is always such a nice time of year in the United States it was sad to be somewhere else. Now that Christmas is over I am sure our desire to return home will fade as new adventures begin.

Beaches, lights, elephant rides, squid on a stick, and Skype, it was a weird Christmas.

Merry Christmas from Thailand!

Posted by Aaron in Posts on 12 25th, 2010

Christy and Aaron riding an elephant