We are rob & lauren: two professional photographers who love weddings and travel. This is where all of those things come
together for us. Within these pages we hope you discover and sense our deep love for the cultures that we encounter and
experience. Our biggest hope is that you come away from this site with a great understanding, respect and love for them and
their ways. Enjoy!
A New Portfolio
April 3, 2009
First off, I want to say a huge thank you to everyone who has been stopping by to check out this site. We haven't had much time over the past year to work on it, but there are plans to update it, add lots more information, and hopefully embark on another trip soon. So make sure to keep checking back every once in a while!
Also, if you've enjoyed this site we would be deeply grateful if you'd take a bit of time to go vote for it! Just follow the link below, set up a quick account, and vote. We want people to get to know this site, and get some more attention for the great information we're hoping to add! So go here to vote for us:
And finally, I've been going through all the images from our India/South East Asia trip. I never had a chance to really sit down and look at them all, so I did, and wow, the memories that came flooding back! Here are a few that jumped out at me today:
A fish seller in Vietnam.
Making samosas in Calcutta.
Traffic in Calcutta. I love the look on his face, and I wonder what he was thinking about.
Holy smokes guys, we're so sorry about this huge delay! When we headed off to Delhi we thought that we would have no problem finding internet, but as it turns out nothing in India turns out as expected :) We were staying in Gurgaon, which is a suburb, and thus not at all geared towards travelers with laptops. So we went for a loooooong time without any connection to the outside world. i guess people started to even get worried about us! So once again, huge apologies for the wait. But once you see what we've been up to, I think you're all going to forgive us right away!!!! Anyway, we're going to start off here with a few pictures left over from Jaisalmer, and from a day around Delhi. Then on Monday, March 17th tune in for some INSANE photos that you aren't even going to believe. Trust me, we're so excited to share these with you guys!!!
Let's get to the photos now!
Camo-puppies from Jaisalmer! These little guys were just totally zonked out, snoozing in the middle of the hot day. They didn’t even budge when I took their photo, they were too busy sleeping!
Our friend Philippe found a fantastic spot to watch the sunset at the train station in Jaisalmer. You can see a couple of trains there, and on the horizon is the fort!
And a close up of the silhouette of the fort.
We took a nighttime stroll up into the fort to take some shots. This is a really neat one Rob took, complete with a couple of ghosts!
And one of some textiles still hanging out for sale
It was so crazy, there were tons of these little piglets running around our hotel
A neat scene near our hotel
And a shot of the fort. They call Jaisalmer the Golden City because everything is made out of this fantastic gold sandstone. The fort itself is as well, and was built way back in 1156. Unfortunately, because of tourism and increased population there are actually huge problems with the water destroying the fort. It's very sad, because I don't think this place is going to last too much longer. I'm really glad we got to see it at least once.
A very strange sign…..
And a neat old door, complete with a Ganesh above it.
“What’s that you’re using there? Is that a 50mm?”
As we were leaving Jaisalmer we stumbled across the famous Palace on Wheels! It was stopped at the station for a while, and it looked amazing! Too bad it’s incredibly expensive, otherwise I’m sure we would have hopped on right away
And then we got to Delhi! Yay! We checked out Qutb Minar, a huge tower built back in 1193.
Some of the incredible carvings on the tower.
Who are these attractive people? Not just some randoms we saw, no no. These are our flients (friends/clients), Megha and Chakshu! And you’re going to be seeing much much more of them very soon…..
Wild parrots! Amazing! I can’t get over the wildlife here in India. You see monkeys all the time, and now some incredible parrots.
Some great columns
Then we went to see the Lotus Temple. It is a Bahai temple, and is open to people of all faiths. The design is very similar to the Opera House in Sydney, except this is a closed lotus, and that one is open!
It is such a beautiful structure
This day was really a tour of some of the great sights of Delhi! This is the India Gate, which is different from the Gateway of India in Bombay…
Some jewelry on sale around the Gate
And then it was lunchtime. One fantastic thing about hanging out with locals in India is that they know the great places to eat, and what to order. We made our way to a South Indian restaurant, and Chakshu and Megha took care of ordering. There was this crazy pizza type thing.
And a dosa! Dosa, dosa, dosa, dosa! I love that word! And I love the dish. I think I polished off half of one all by myself. It was so fantastic. It was like a huge crispy pancake with curry potatoes and onions inside. Then you would dip it in this sambar sauce and yum. I hope I can find some in Edmonton…
And these are idlis. They were like rice patties that you would let soak in the sauce. Fantastic.
So there’s a bit of Delhi. Now I’ll let you all wonder what we have up our sleeves and then check back in on Monday to see it! I know you’re going to love it ☺
Alright, everyone, I think it’s about time we added a bit of “wedding” to our “travel”! While we were in Vietnam and Thailand our minds were more on traveling than weddings. But pretty much the moment we got to India things changed. We logged on to the internet to find a very exciting message from Gavin, Rob’s long time friend from all the way back to elementary school. It turned out that Gavin was in India as well for his cousin’s wedding. We had told Gavin about our travels and what we hoped to do with The Wedding Travelers, so he let us know that he had a wedding for us to go to. The stars aligned, the timing was perfect, and we managed to book a flight out to Assam.
To tell you the honest truth, we knew nothing of Assam, beyond me recognizing the name from a type of tea I’ve had back home. A quick check in the Lonely Planet Guidebook told us that Assam is in the North East of India, and is a world renowned tea producing region.
It’s certainly not a region that many backpackers make it out to, and it’s even a bit sketchy, in that there are separatist groups in the area, but we knew that this was the purpose of our trip, to seek out new types of weddings, and so we didn’t even hesitate to make the journey.
A quick flight into Jorhat, landing in an airport that is honestly the smallest I’ve ever seen, and then the incredible hospitality began. At home in Canada when we attend an Indian wedding we adore the fact that we are always treated like family. We weren’t sure what to expect, being that we are really the furthest thing from it, crashing a wedding where we have never met the bride or groom before, but we were treated incredibly well. I’d even go so far to say we were downright pampered! So I’m going to start off by saying an enormous thank you to the families of Runa and Arjun for all their amazing hospitality. We hope that one day we’ll meet up with them all again!
Now down to the wedding. Let’s first introduce you to the wonderful people who made the hook-up with this wedding possible. This is the one and only Gavin (he's half Indian, in case you were really confused about his relation to the groom)
The first time I ever met Gavin was right after he returned from a previous trip to India, and he was incredibly sick. Honestly, he looked like he might collapse at any moment. But since then I’ve had the privilege of meeting up with him many times afterwards, and he got over the sickness and turned out to be a great guy. We give him huge props for hooking us up with this wedding!
And next, Gavin’s cousin Talya. Rob has met her a couple times previous, and I had heard her name mentioned in conversation, but never had the chance to meet her. It turns out we have lived about 10 minutes away from each other our whole lives in Edmonton, and we end up meeting in Jorhat, Assam, India. Go figure. But I need to give her an enormous thank you for all her kindness in showing us around, lending me a ton of clothes and shoes so I didn’t look like a total dweeb, and just generally being incredibly entertaining. Here’s a shot of her teaching the chef how to “pound it”.
And now the stars of the post, the bride and groom. This is Arjun, Gavin and Talya’s cousin. Doesn’t he look like a Bollywood star?
And the gorgeous bride, Runa. I adore this shot of her, so serene and peaceful. And at her own wedding too! Would you believe it?
So it wouldn’t be a wedding if there wasn’t some form of rushing around. Rob and I arrived in Jorhat in the afternoon after flying from Calcutta. We had been up since very early in the morning, we tired and worn out. And the moment we arrived and said hi to Gavin and Talya, I was whisked away to change into some Indian clothes and head over to the mendhi. It was a very low key and calm event, which I was very glad for. And the mendhi artists here do some amazing work (P.S. If you are reading all this and haven’t a clue what I’m talking about, check out the Hindu article under the Wedding menu at the top of the site. It’s still a work in progess, but it explains a lot of this stuff!)
After all the girls had their mendhi finished, it was back to the house so that they could change. That’s one thing about an Indian wedding. If you’re properly prepared, you never wear the same thing to more than one event, which means some days you might change 3 times. I, of course, was not that well prepared, so I just chilled with Rob and Gavin, who had a strenuous afternoon of walking down the road to buy some beers.
Back to the wedding location for the Sangeet. At home this had usually been just a dinner and dance party, where everyone just has a ton of crazy wild fun. Many of the weddings we have been to have been Punjabi weddings, and they are notorious for being partiers. The Assamese are much more reserved, I’ll have you know. And the evening was a quiet one, just a relaxed cocktail party. Some music did break out at one point, though it didn’t last very long, thanks to some terrible DJ-ing. But one moment that was quite memorable was when a traditional Assamese dance broke out. It was unlike any Indian dancing I’ve ever seen, and the movements were very bird-like, in a sense. It was really wonderful to see!
And then the next day was the ceremony day. Here in India the ceremony takes place in the evening. That’s very nice, in terms of keeping things cool, but makes our job 100 times more difficult! Nevertheless we managed to get our flashes out and do our best to capture some of the crazy events that were going on. The night started out with the arrival of the groom’s family to the bride’s family’s house (where all the wedding ceremonies took place). They were greeting with the largest display of firecrackers I’ve ever seen. And fire safety regulations are pretty lax here in India, so they were setting these huge fireworks off just meters away from us. Kind of scary, but it sure got the adrenaline going!
Then what happened next is something I’ve never heard of before, so I’m going to attribute it to the Assamese for the time being. If anyone knows of anyone else who does this let me know!
When the groom’s family got out of their cars to walk up the path to the house they were absolutely bombarded with rice thrown by the bride’s family. Naturally I had to be right in the thick of it to get some good shots, and was hit by the stuff, and boy, does it hurt! But it was hilarious to watch.
The groom is accompanied by his best man, who carries an umbrella to protect him. Arjun is the one on the right of the two young guys in white suits.
The groom’s family had come prepared with their own rice to counter-attack, but they weren’t expecting to be showered with soap foam! Arjun’s mom got it pretty bad!
Then things settled down and the bride’s family performed an aarti with Arjun to welcome him into the home.
And here’s something that we will never seen in Edmonton. The ceremony took place in this absolutely enormous structure that was built on the property for this purpose. It was entirely made of bamboo poles that were covered in fabric. I would say it was about 40 ft high and 150 long….rough guess. Huge, is all I can tell you. And it looks absolutely spectacular. The ceremony was performed under the mandap, which is the little tent-type-thing, and it was gorgeously decorated with tons of fresh flowers.
At Hindu weddings there are always many offerings to the gods. Here they are set out, and those little dishes that they are on are actually made out of banana trees, which we thought was really fantastic.
One important part of the Hindu ceremony is when the couple exchanges garlands. If you look closely at what Arjun is wearing you’ll see that he has a wreath around his head. I believe this is an Assamese tradition, and the wreath is made out of Indian basil.
Another new tradition that we haven’t seen before is that the couple’s hands are literally bound together with string. I absolutely love this shot, and the way Rob processed it. It’s so simple, but I really feel like you can sense the emotion and meaning.
The entire ceremony is performed in Sanskrit, which meant that Arjun had no idea what was going on! Poor guy! But he trooped through, and Runa even translated for him once she came.
The entire ceremony under the mandap took just over 2.5 hours, and for the first hour Arjun was all by himself. You might think that is an insanely long time to be performing a marriage ceremony but this was actually a heavily shortened version, and people told us of weddings they were at recently that lasted about 6 hours. Wow. Thankfully there were guys here that were serving snacks so we didn’t get too hungry.
One ritual that we have seen many times is that of pouring ghee (clarified Indian butter) into the fire. I believe that this is a way of offering the gifts to the gods, by turning them into smoke that will go up to the sky. Don’t quote me, of course, but that’s what I’ve been told! Here’s a great shot that Rob got of Arjun pouring the ghee into the fire (which he did innumerable times throughout the night)
At home the ceremonies are generally indoors, and because of that the fires for the ceremony are generally very very small. So when we saw the size of this roaring blaze, we were quite surprised!
After all the ceremonies were over it was time to eat dinner. But not for Arjun and Runa. They went and paid their respects to their ancestors, and then to all of the elders present. It was hours before they were able to go and eat something, but they never once looked unhappy about it, so major props to them.
The next day was for the reception. We made our way to the house around 3:00PM, which was an hour later than we were told to. And we still ended up being a few hours early. Such is the nature of Indian Standard Time! But we had a fantastic afternoon. We ate some amazing food, had fresh jalebis made for us (no pictures of that, since we were too busy eating, but I’ll take a picture of jalebis soon to show you all what you’re missing out on), had some incredible chai, played with some puppies and just generally sat around enjoying the peace and quiet. We were expecting things to really pick up and get going once the reception officially started, but we were in for a surprise. Nothing really changed for us all evening! We sat by a fire, chatted, and watched the streams of people go by. This is a shot of where we sat on the left, and a good idea of how large the structure was
And the evening for Arjun and Runa was another long one. They sat inside the tent, in front of this massive and gorgeous tree, and greeted all their guests. All told apparently around 1500 people came, but not in the sense that guests come to a reception in Canada. Here people would walk into the tent, greet the couple, go and have dinner, and then leave. And they just never stopped arriving and leaving all night. So at one time you could look around and think there were only a couple hundred people present, but they were different people all night. Very strange, but also very smart! This one shot here pretty much sums up the events of the reception.
You can see that great tree, Arjun and Runa standing on their platform, and the guests streaming by.
Here’s a quiet moment near the end where they were actually able to talk to each other!
And then it was all over. It was certainly much more subdued then we are used to, and as a result all of the family members involved with the wedding seemed very relaxed and calm. The whole thing had a very peaceful air about it and compared to the chaos of Calcutta, this wedding in Jorhat may as well have been an oasis for us. We were so honored to have been a part of it all, and to have seen everything we did. We were even given these amazing gifts as we left.
They are little metal dishes that are generally used to put offerings of masala and paan and whatnot onto. Then there are packets of Assamese tea (which we can’t wait to make when we get home) and some little towels that are used when they want to be respectful (this is what I was told, and I’m clearly doing a terrible job of explaining the meaning, but I hope you get my drift). Isn’t that the most fantastic gift ever? We were so excited to get something so meaningful, and that will always remind us of our time in Assam.
Well, there’s the wedding in a very condensed form. There were, of course, many other little ceremonies, with varying meanings, but we tried to just highlight some of the differences we saw. The Assamese have some very unique traditions and we were very happy to get to see them!
And as if to reinforce the way weddings just bore down upon us as soon as we got to India, last night as we were in our room in Varanasi, we heard this incredible racket, and run out onto the balcony to see what was going on. It was a barat, which is the procession of the groom and his family to the bride, and it was incredible! Here’s a quick video to give you an idea
And while we’re just throwing up videos, here’s a neat one of the rhino in Kaziranga.
(same thing for this video too, I'll put it up as soon as I can!)
Well, I hope that keeps you all occupied! We’re staying in Varanasi a couple more days, and then will be making our way south to see the Ajanta caves. So many more neat things in store!
First off a long overdue post about our friend Jon. We mentioned him briefly before but he really needs more attention given to him and his greatness. I intended to make this a seperate post, but since fast internet here is tough to come by, and requires us "soft hacking" our way into using the connection, we regretably don't have time to post every day and give him his due in that manner.
So we're starting this post with Jon, and then there will be lots of fun pictures.
But first: the man, the myth, the ninja master legend, Jon.
We met this guy and his amazing fiancee Sarah when they dropped by to talk to us about their upcoming wedding. We had shot a couples session with Jon's older brother Dave, and they liked our work so thought they would stop by and chat with us. In our discussion it came up that Jon was a web developer, and specifically worked with blogs. We had had the Wedding Travelers on our mind for a while at this point, and knew we needed to figure out a way to make a wicked cool blog. It was a match made in heaven.
The work started, we gave Jon a template that we wanted to use, and somehow from that simple Photoshop file he put together the complex and easy to use blog you see before you. It still is in it's beginning stages, and he has a ton more tricks up his sleeve, if you can believe it. I'm sure you all haven't even used half of the cool feautres he has created, and we'll be sure to let you know all the great ways to use the site as they are finished.
In our business we have worked with many many companies, from people who make our websites, to the people who print our business cards, to the people who ship all of our gear to us. I'll tell you right now that dealing with all those people is easily the most frustrating, time-consuming, and difficult part of our job. But this has never ever been the case with Jon, and for that we value him so very very much. Not to mention his incredible talent. I'll tell you right now that when it comes to small businesses working with small businesses, honesty, promptness, and general friendliness is the most valuable thing, and worth much more than saving a few dollars along the way.
So if you have any web related ideas, need someone to consult with, need a website or blog designed, or anything along those lines, Jon is without a doubt the guy you need to talk to. His company is called Streamline, his website is www.streamline-web.com, and he is the man. No questions about it.
If you miss this post later on as you are looking for his link, it's at the bottom of our website, and also on our Photography Resources page, for your convenience :)
But before that, let's finish up with Thailand.
Oh, and by the way, this is Rob writing. I usually prepare pictures for the blog and Lauren writes up the post, but today I bring you both! We’ll start off where we left off, in Krabi, Thailand. Here’s a little video of a temple we climbed close to Krabi:
The thing about this temple was that there were 1237 huge steps (sometimes a single step was greater than 2 feet!) to get to the top. I guess it wasn’t actually a temple on top (the temple was at the bottom) but there was a giant sitting Buddha and what looked like a giant bell and various other smaller ornaments. It was a tough climb but definitely worth it. I’ll let the pictures do the talking!
First picture is unrelated to the above, but right outside our guesthouse was a banana tree. I’ve never seen a banana tree before and it was somehow different from what I expected (it looks like some kind of carnivorous plant!)
On with the temple!
My grandma had asked to see more pictures of what people’s homes looked like (which I thought was a great suggestion!). This is one of the nicer looking places that we came across on our scooter ride to the temple. In the rural areas along the road a lot of people just live in metal corrugated shacks, as well as rickety looking wooden houses. In cities and towns most of the buildings are reinforced cement or cement layered brick.
Cool rock formations (I can’t remember if they are mountainous or karst limestone formations). Anyways they are all around Krabi.
A view from the road of the temple we climbed. You can just barely see the enormous Buddha and Bell on the top of the second peak from the left.
That’s it from Thailand, we’ve moved onto India now. Our time so far in Calcutta is actually the reason why I wanted to write today. There is so much about this place that cannot be told in pictures. One reason is that this city stimulates the senses in much more than just a visual way. Even now in the dark recesses of our windowless hotel room I can hear horns honking somewhere. On the street it is a never-ending cacophony of diesel engines, horns and sirens of every frequency, jack hammering, construction of every kind really, and people. People yelling, people laughing, people crying, people whistling, people spitting, belching, and even peeing. Maybe you can’t really hear people peeing but it sure seems like that when you pass open urinals on the side of the street, which brings us to the smells. Walking around is like this: Your baseline is diesel fumes, if you’re outside and on street level then you smell them all the time. If you pass a dark looking alley it usually smells like urine, if you pass an open urinal it definitely smells like urine. You’ll pass a chai stall and the sweet smell permeates the air and you can smell nothing else. We’ll pass sweets stands and spice vendors and their respective smells will sweep over you. You’ll pass garbage dumps and the same will happen. And when you’re not passing near by something that smells (which is rare) you will return to the baseline of diesel fumes. We actually clean our noses out at night and it blackens the Kleenex. I’m really not exaggerating. As far as tastes go we’ve been pretty cautious about what we eat (no fruit or anything unpackaged) but I can tell you right now we’ve had the best Indian food of our lives. Actually it’s pretty much all we’ve had for breakfast, lunch and dinner since we arrived here. It’s all so familiar but at the same time on a different level than the stuff we get at home. And the chai here is fantastic. A typical meal at a restaurant with chai, a couple sodas, a couple pieces of Naan and two or three small dishes usually costs around $5. It’s by far the best value we’ve seen.
Another reason this place cannot be told well in pictures is because of the poverty here. I shouldn’t say that it cannot be photographed, it’s just a really difficult thing to photograph. I’m having a difficult time right now even talking about it. I can’t speak for all of India because we’ve only been to one small part of one city, but when I think about how many people live in India (1.03 billion, 16% of the worlds population) it makes sense to me that the quality of life here can’t be the same as anywhere else. And its not the amount of beggars or homeless people that account for the poverty I’m talking about—though there are many. It’s the standard of living that is so shocking. I wish I could describe this all in more detail but I really feel at a loss for words. We’re going to try really hard to show more in our pictures. I don’t mean we’ll focus on the poverty here, but it really is an intricate part of where we are.
Anyways here are a few pictures from our little walk yesterday:
Like the title of this post suggests, we do attact considerable attention (particularly with our big cameras) and the people here certainly do not mind staring at us!
Old style Ambassador taxies
Crazy motor rickshaw
Street side barber
A cup of chai from a street vendor and the little clay pot they serve it in. We drank our chai by the vendor expecting we needed to return the cup, but it turns out they just throw them out afterwards. Weird.
Where chai comes from...
Good to the last drop
The Indian flag
A busy street scene
Power lines and birds
I’ve done some different processing here on a few photos from today’s post, and I'd really love if you guys would let me know what you think! Leave a comment!
We haven't posted for a while, and that's because we have been on the move, as usual. We left Krabi, Thailand and took another 12 hour bus ride (that was blessedly uneventful) back to Bangkok. The fates were smiling upon us, and at 5AM when we rolled into the Khao San Road, a kind taxi driver pointed us to a hotel with a room. A clean, nice, and comfortable room right on the Khao San. It was certainly a very different experience from our arrival in Thailand!
A busy day was had after we woke up. We mailed things home, which was a very simple process (it is not always that way!). Then we treated ourselves to a bit of pampering. We each had a half hour foot massage, Rob got his head shaved, I had a half hour Thai massage, got my hair shampoo'd and cut, and my eyebrows waxed. Total cost for all of that: 790 Baht. A whopping $25.50 Canadian dollars.
If I could get an hour long massage for $6 back home I would certainly have one every day....everyone sigh with me now as we imagine that.....
Ok, moving on.
We fly from Bangkok into Kolkata (Calcutta), early the next morning. A lengthy wait for our bags to come out, a harrowing 2 hour taxi ride in which we both were certain we were going to die numerous times (note: we both were hit, and hit someone else, both times not hard at all, but I guess that is quite common here!), and finally we come to the "backpacker district" of Calcutta. I use quotations around "backpacker district" because really we see hardly any other travelers at all! The hotels were still mysteriously all booked up, and we finally found a seedy place complete with a cockroach in the bathroom (as I write this I hope that it is still trapped under the water glass that we utilized this morning).
It certainly has been an incredible shock arriving in India, and even a month of traveling South East Asia couldn't prepare us for it. The poverty is all around you, and it is very hard to comprehend. Even the street we're staying on looks like a movie set, and I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that it is not pretend, but shockingly real.
But, the purpose of The Wedding Travelers is soon to be fulfilled, as we have already found a wedding to attend. It is in the North East, in a town called Jorhat, and we just finished booking some tickets to make our way there in a couple of days. We have no clue what to expect, but elephants are rumored, so we've excited.
And now we take our leave to go find something to eat. Although Calcutta has scared us and startled us, the food we have had is fantastic enough to make up for it all, and a good cup of chai in our bellies calms us right down.
WIFI has been non-existant, thus the lack of photos, but we're going to do our best to figure something out. Until then, just use your imaginations :)
Hoi An, Vietnam - Bangkok, Thailand - Ko Phi Phi, Thailand
February 3, 2008
Well, we haven’t gotten a good blog post up in a long time, so I bet you’re craving some pictures and some videos! Especially all of our friends and family back home in Edmonton who are enduring temperatures of -50 degrees Celsuis right now. I can’t imagine you guys are going outside, so here are some photos and videos, dedicated to you! I hope they help you try and think of warmer places!
I’m going to keep the chatter to a minimum here since there are really a ton of photos and videos to get through!
We’ll start with our last day in Vietnam, which was spent in Hoi An. First we have a rooster that we came across. I absolutely love how he is the one splash of colour in this shot.
And before we left we had to go back and visit our good friend Chompsky. Here we are having a good last snuggle.
We made our way to the Central Market in Old Town, which provided some fantastic photo ops
And some nice light as we were walking home
We got up incredibly early (4AM) to go to the My Son (pronounced Mee Son) ruins just outside of Hoi An. They were built by the ancient Cham people, and were Hindu temples, which was surprising and also very cool. In the end we were very glad that we got there so early, since we didn’t have to try and work around hundreds of visitors to get some great shots.
And then we were out of Vietnam. We had originally planned to visit the North, but in the end chose to cut it out of our itinerary. We ended up spending 10 hours in the Hanoi airport, and saw that the weather looked absolutely dreadful. We actually wore a couple of the winter coats we had made for us, as well as scarves, because it was so cold! So we were happy with our choice for sure!
When we got to Bangkok we headed straight for the Khao San Road. I would say that it could be considered the center of the backpacker universe. In the morning after a good nights sleep we were up and exploring. We had some absolutely amazing Phad Thai from a street vendor
Breakfast of Champions: Street food, Red Bull, and Coke…mmmmm
There were some really cute kittens at our hotel
And here’s the Khao San Road at night. It’s really a crazy assault on the senses!
They have these things here in Thailand that they call “buckets”. It is essentially a small plastic bucket that they fill with alcohol. The “traditional” mixture is cheap Thai whiskey, Red Bull, and Coke. It’s potent, to say the least!
And while on the Khao San pretty much anything can happen. As we were sitting there this women came up and just plunked this weird hat on my head. Clearly I was a bit surprised!
And then we made our way to Ko Phi Phi, nothing less than an island paradise.
Our first night there we wandered around and came across a wicked fire dancer show
They make just amazing patterns
Here are a couple of videos that will hopefully give you a better idea of the madness of these dudes than pictures can. In this first one if you just saw the end, you would definitely think it was on fast forward. But no, he’s really just that fast.
And then the finale consisted of about 6 of these guys just going at it. It was way too cool.
Then the next morning we went snorkeling. Now in Vietnam the snorkeling we did blew our minds, and we were hoping that Thailand would measure up. I’ll tell you right now that it completely blew all of our expectations right out of the water!
This was the sight we saw when we first jumped in to the nearly bathwater warm water
The visibility was incredible, you could see way deep down beneath you!
The variety of sea life we saw this time around was mind blowing. Check our this enormous eel we came across
This is a giant clam, and you could see it opening and closing if you watched for long enough
A sea cucumber
A rather scary looking sea urchin (I think the thing in the center is it’s eye…..creepy!)
And perhaps one of the coolest things was seeing these clown fish (think of Finding Nemo!).
They were hiding in the sea anemone and if you wiggled your finger they would dart in and hide, then pop back out, ready to play some more!
Other strange creatures? No, just us! I’ll tell you, it’s rather hard to smile while wearing a snorkel!
Our snorkel tour even took us to Maya Bay, which was where the movie “The Beach” was filmed. Back when Rob was here 4 years ago he had the whole place to himself. Unfortunately we had to share with 100 other people. But we still really enjoyed the white, soft sand and the clear blue waters. Here’s a shot of one of the long boats inside of the bay.
Then on the way home we saw an incredible sunset. Here’s a shot of Ko Phi Phi Ley in the gorgeous evening light (which is the island that is home to Maya Bay, we stayed on Ko Phi Phi Don, a short boat trip away).
And one of that sunset (straight out of camera, no Photoshop to this one. The colours were really spectacular)
And to finish up our time on this island we headed off to a local bar to watch a bit of Thai Boxing. It was definitely intense!
So you might wonder why we only spent a couple days on such a gorgeous island? Well, I shall tell you. First off, Ko Phi Phi is actually really expensive now! We were paying roughly $100 dollars a night for our room, and it was not as nice as I was expecting! It was really quite standard. And we were lucky to even find it, everything on the island was practically fully booked! So with our traveler’s budgets there was no way we could afford to stay there very long.
Secondly, Ko Phi Phi has become something of a Cancun of South East Asia. The number of young, tanned beach beauties around was astounding and they were all there to just party and lie on the sand. As we were wading in Maya Bay, easily one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, I overhead a girl say “This is fantastic. But if only it had a bar!” Can you believe that?? The chilled out travelers vibe is totally gone, and the place is just packed. Not exactly what you want for a place to relax, since it’s tough to even walk down the street without having to push through crowds! Not exactly our scene.
That being said, we honestly thoroughly enjoyed our time on the island. We had some incredible food (easily the best sushi we’ve ever had) and indulged in a Thai massage. We don’t have any pictures of that, since we were too busy getting massaged, but it’s so very different from a typical Swedish massage! It involved a lot of pushing and pulling on your limbs, and has been described as “passive Yoga”. It sounds very strange, but I assure you it was fantastic!
So that’s the scoop with us. Right now we’re in Krabi and are very happy to have found a simple room for $10 a night. We’ll be spending a bit of time here catching up on our work, and then preparing to arrive in India. So get ready for that, and we’ll talk to you all soon!
So it’s time we gave you a little taste of Hoi An: City of Dreams….Well, City of Dreams to those who dream about fashion. This town is THE place to go if you want some clothes tailored in Vietnam. You are more than welcome to saunter into a store with a copy of Vogue in your hands, and they will do all they can to make your fabric fantasies come to life. I’ll tell you right now, it’s been incredibly hard not to pick up 15 different coats, as every day I see another one that I love. I’ll be walking away with 3, the same as Rob. Add to that a few pairs of pants each, probably 10 tops for me, 8 for Rob, a suit for him, shoes tailored to our specific size…the list goes on, as do the Visa bills. But you can see that this place is heaven if you’re coming for clothes. And that’s why we came here: just for clothes. That’s all we knew about this little town. But I’ll tell you right now that we were incredibly surprised at what a picturesque and beautiful place this is. Yesterday we had a few hours to kill between appointments at different tailors, so we packed all of our camera gear into a couple bags, and took off to “shoot the hell out of this town” as Rob put it.
And it was such a fantastic (and extremely tiring) afternoon. This is what we came up with.
A shot, not of Hoi An, but cool all the same. This was the light switch in our compartment on the train we took here from Nha Trang. To this day we aren’t entirely sure what the button on the far right is for, and I’m not really wanting to find out….Ignorance is bliss in this situation, especially since we will be taking more trains!
And now for some from Hoi An. A very typical scene here is the young kids riding down the streets on their bikes. And they usually ride two to a bike, as you’ll see here!
One of the main streets here is Tran Phu. Look at how fantastic the post is that holds the sign. I wish things back home had even half that much character.
As we made our way to the river I saw this guy rowing his little boat along. I did practically yank the camera with our big zoom lens on it from Rob’s hands to get the shot, but in the end I don’t think he minded too much ☺
One of the most enchanting parts of Hoi An is the Old Town section of the city. We’ve spent most of our time here since our hotel is right beside it. It’s an area that is now a Unesco World Heritage Site, and is regulated in order to maintain and preserve the buildings. If you can block out the other tourists with cameras in hand, and the stalls selling Coca-Cola and cigarettes, and just get lost in the buildings around you, you can almost feel like you’ve been transported back in time. This Japanese covered bridge is one of the main attractions, and is certainly a very interesting site. If you saw the picture of the lantern from the last post, that was taken inside the bridge.
A stunning view across the river
Some gongs for sale
Really, am I crazy for wishing that Edmonton looked more like this place??? I certainly don’t think so, it’s just fantastic.
I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned it before, but here in Vietnam they stick little bundles of incense all over the place (in pop cans on the street, in tree branches, in cracks in the pavement) and it burns frequently throughout the day. It’s such a comforting and warm smell, and I just love walking past the little bunches.
A simple stroll down the street is sure to turn up some wonderful sights, including this little lily pad
And this gorgeous flower beside it
What a quiet street looks like in Old Town
Vespas all over the place. I desperately wish it was practical to have one back home…but I don’t see it doing so well competing with the huge trucks along the freeway at 80 km/h
Some boys just out for a ride
They young guy was doing some incredibly intricate carving at a shop.
Then we walked along the river to take a peek at the fishing boats
I just love all the colours of them
And now it’s time for you to meet Chompsky! One thing that I was doing as we walked was “collecting” photos of dogs (I’ll be posting that up soon!). We were walking past a square when I saw this ridiculously cute dog just standing there, so I stopped us and went over to get a shot. Little did I know that this would turn into a 20 minute stop-over as we played with him! Here he is playing around between my feet.
And a shot of Rob as he was trying to help Chompsky catch his tail
Lowepro Camera Bags: Puppy tested, puppy approved.
Don’t you just want to snuggle him all day??
As we were watching him a group of three young girls came up and started playing with him. I took some shots of them goofing around with Chompsky, and eventually they wanted to check the photos out.
Now, why is his name Chompsky? Because he’s a very young puppy, still teething, and really likes to chew on your hands, and maybe even your feet! He loved chasing after the girls feet as they danced around keeping away from him.
Even this old man was enjoying the scene as everyone played with the puppy. Don’t you just adore his expression? So happy and peaceful.
The girls playing, and Chompsky chomping
All in all it was such a great little experience playing around with the puppy, and we even went back today and hung out with him for a bit. But, like the careful travelers we are, once we left we made sure to wash off our hands, so don’t worry that we’re going to get sick.
Then as we continued our walk we came across this lovely little scene
And then walked past the tailor where we got the majority of our clothes made. We had to take a shot and post it up here so that anyone planning on making their way here after hearing us rave about the clothes would know where to go! There are two Thuong shops, and this one (#16) was our favorite. They were super nice, and always waved to us as we walked by, which was really cute. And the clothes they made for us turned out great, so check them out for sure.
And a couple more from the rest of our walk. Here’s a fruit stand. These are all along the road and it’s so great to see them walking around pushing them down the street!
Now with all those scooters we’ve been showing you, you must wonder where they get the gas from. This here is one of the more fancy gas stations. It’s really a cylinder of gas with a plastic tube to pour it out into the scooter. We’ve even seen plastic water bottles filled with gas that they just set out close to the road in case someone needs to ride up and fill up. Yes, there are the big Shell stations, but they are few and far between, so this is a fantastically smart way of solving that problem!
So I know that was a ton of pictures, but I’ll tell you right now that we could have put up so many more. This town is just brimming with character and charm, and we couldn’t help but be swept away by it all. I hope you enjoyed it. It’s sadly the last stop in our traveling in Vietnam, but I think it was the perfect way to end it all. We will be checking out some local temple ruins tomorrow, and doing a bit of a photo excursion (hopefully the weather will cooperate with us for that!) and then we’re heading to Thailand for a week and half. Vietnam was fantastic to us, and will certainly remain in our memories for a long time. I really intend to write up some reviews of all the towns we visited here, so that those who saw what we did, and think this might be a cool place to travel to will know what the deal is!
But for now we’re heading out for dinner so I’ll leave it here.
P.S. Did anyone catch the two semi-finals of the Australian Open???? We were completely in shock! Two huge upsets back-to-back, incredible! We’re rooting for Tsonga now, and I hope he gives a similar performance in the final!
First off, at this point in our trip, after having logged many hours of walking, we thought it was about time to give some credit to our shoes.
Yes, our shoes.
If you’ve ever traveled before, you know that it involves huge, huge amounts of walking. And if you have shoes on that aren’t comfortable, it can be misery. Add to that the fact that this place is hot, and you need something that isn’t going to make your feet super sweaty.
Well this time around we took a chance on an unknown shoe, and boy are we glad. Rob remarks about once a week that he could live in these shoes.
And I guess the makers would appreciate me saying that these are, in fact, not a shoe. They are designed to “mimick the natural function of the foot”. They like to call it “Barefoot Untechnology”. And I’ll tell you right now, these babies work. For the first couple of days we definitely felt some soreness in our feet. There were muscles there that we don’t usually use with our fancy schmancy hi-tech shoes. Now that we’ve gotten used to them we can wear them all day and barely feel a thing. It’s so amazing, we really had to recommend them to any other travelers. Here’s another shot more close up. They definitely look really cool, we think. And they don’t stick out the way bright white running shoes do…..Please don’t wear bright white running shoes! ☺
So another cool thing we did was check out a lacquerware factory. Lacquerware is a big thing here in Vietnam, and you can see it being sold all over the place. It was really amazing to see what actually goes into making it. This is where they apply the lacquer and sand things down. This guy was just working away as we walked through.
A close up of him sanding. The white parts of the panel are made out of eggshells that are broken into very small pieces.
This woman was working on putting the eggshells on. They use goose eggs instead of chicken, as they are stronger. Bet you didn’t know that!
And this guy was painting designs on. They really have incredible skill, and the painting they do is so intricate.
Now here’s a common site in Vietnam. Iced coffee! They make it with very strong coffee, a ton of ice, and condensed milk. Think about that for a moment. Amazing. To tell you the truth it takes like a Tim Horton’s Iced Cappuccino (Iced Capp, as we Canucks like to say), but more flavourful, and less simulated.
Those two were actually both Rob’s. He tends to drink one in 30 seconds, so he always orders two. The men here will nurse one of these for 4 hours as they sit and watch traffic go by. Rob has a long way to go before he manages that!
Now one of the really nice things about this past week here in Ho Chi Minh city is that a couple of our friends from Edmonton have been here. Actually, let’s call them our “flients”. That’s a term I concocted to describe clients of ours who have become our friends. So Kevin and Cherie are flients of ours. And it just so happened that they were planning to be in Vietnam the same time we were. So we’ve been hanging out with them and having a ton of fun. The other night we went out for dinner and found this insanely cool place. It had tons of tables with grills for the meat, but it was all open air with tons of lights and lanterns and huge trees. The ambience was just amazing. The food was pretty tasy too.
Those crazy cool flients of ours, Kevin and Cherie. Trust me, you will be seeing a LOT more of them very soon ☺
Now, I know we haven’t been posting a lot these last few days, and for that we definitely apologize! I’ve actually had a bit of the stomach flu and have spent a ton of time trying to recover in the hotel room. So we haven’t been out too much. Now if you’re like me, when you’re stomach isn’t feel too hot you want some familiar food. So we went out in search of some pasta. And did we ever find it. This is what I got for dinner, served in a clay pot red hot from the oven. It was fantastic, and I was so happy to have something familiar in my tummy!
Man, this post is just loaded. Yesterday we ventured out to the Cu Chi tunnels. This was an elaborate network of tunnels dug by the Viet Cong in the American war. Here’s one of the guides showing us a cross-section of the tunnels. They were three levels deep, and had kitchens, living rooms, and escape routes. They even created a system to let the smoke from the cooking escape in a manner that kept it small so that the enemy wouldn’t notice it. Very impressive.
They have widened the tunnels so that the tourists could fit through them. But they have one that shows the original size of the openings. There was no way Rob would fit, but I managed to squeeze in there.
It sure was narrow though!
And last night we made our way to the post office to send some of our gifts back home. That was a crazy adventure in of itself, which I will write about later, but on the way out we decided the play a bit. Here’s a shot of the impressive post office of Ho Chi Minh City, and we tried to write “Vietnam” over top of it. Hard to do, and we didn’t do the greatest, but it was still neat looking!
And one last shot. A wide view of the street below our room at night time.
Well all, that’s it for now! We’re hopefully leaving tomorrow to Dalat, and then things will really pick up! But we still have some cool stuff up our sleeves from HCMC, so stay tuned.
Well, well, well here we are! Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Formerly known as Saigon. And honestly an insanely cool place to go. Like I mentioned before, neither of us really knew what to expect from Vietnam, but I’ve gotta say that I’m so glad we made our way here! Within moments of driving through the streets on our way to the hotel we got a sense of the charm and character of this place. The photos will really tell you more than I can with words, so lets get started!
Our airplane from Singapore to Vietnam.
A shot from the balcony in our hotel room of the typical street scene
Many of the women here actually wear the conical hats that you see in movies. It adds such a dimension of authenticity, it’s fantastic. They all ride around carrying whatever it is they sell. I believe this woman was selling strawberries.
The street that our hotel is on. Sure it looks crowded and crazy, but it’s so simple and real at the same time.
So when I ordered a coconut juice at a local café I definitely wasn’t expecting this! To be honest I wasn’t a huge fan, but it sure looked cool.
There are street side markets all over the place, and our hotel room is a short walk to Ben Thanh, one of the big ones. Here are some of the fruits they are selling. I really don’t know what they are! But they look interesting ☺
The Ben Thanh market caters not only to tourists, but also the locals to come here to buy their meat and produce. We were quite shocked to find that all of this seafood is actually still alive!
The market is crammed with hundreds of booths selling everything from shoes, to handbags, souvenirs, dried shrimp, coffee, tea…you name it! Most of the booths look like this, completely packed!
We’ve grabbed a couple meals at the market. This fried rice surely had some sort of addictive substance in it, because there was just no way to stop eating it.
And of course when in Vietnam you have to have a bowl of pho. It’s pretty much the staple here, and is eaten at any time of day. It’s a simple soup, with rice noodles, onions, and meat. But it’s just incredibly good, and we enjoy it immensely.
Here’s Rob getting right into it!
A shot from our seats where we were eating. This was all the meat for the dishes that they were preparing.
And a very typical street scene. The women carry so much on their shoulders, I can’t even believe it. And they always, always do it with a smile.
A shot from our walk home. The walls here all have the most incredible texture and character to them, Rob is loving getting shots of it all.
And this is what the roads look like. As you saw in the videos below, crossing the street is a bit of a gongshow. There are an insane number of scooters here, like they comprise 90% of the vehicles on the road. And from the outside the traffic looks like complete chaos. But somehow they manage to get by with out ever colliding. Honestly, there have been times when we were in a cab where we simply couldn’t believe that we would get through it all, but somehow the scooters magically part and you just sneak on through. It’s beyond impressive. If only Edmonton drivers were this good ;)
All the drivers on their scooters wear face masks because the pollution here is so bad. We literally have not seen the sun yet!
At all the intersections the power lines look like this. It’s beyond nuts! Our power was out yesterday, and I think they just routinely shut down different parts of the city. All the restaurants and shops had generators out on the sidewalk so that they could keep business going.
So as you can see this place is really incredible. There’s such a different feel to it than Singapore. Yes, here you are constantly berated with calls of “What you looking for, madame?” and “Let me help you, madame!”. I definitely get it worse since I’m so obviously white, and Rob’s just an enigma to everyone. I think people who have trouble with personal space might have a hard time here, as I’ve been gently grabbed on the shoulder quite a few times by over-eager shop keepers, but I’ve learned to just keep going, and stay chilled.
Same thing with the street crossing. It may have looked incredibly scary on the video, but after doing it once you really get the hang of it.
For any of you planning on visiting Ho Chi Minh City in the future, and are worried about the crossings, I’ll give you the scoop. All you need to do is understand how it works, and it’s easy as pie.
First, you check the road, and which way the traffic is flowing, and at what point it changes direction (for when you are crossing traffic going in both ways) so you know when to switch and start looking the other way. Do not step out if a bus is just about to come your way. They have the rule of the road, and don’t really stop for anyone. You stop for them.
Then you slowly step out into the road. Yes, there will be scooters careening at you from every which way. But the key to is to walk slowly. That way they know where you are going, so they can swerve around. Don’t start to run, that would pretty much be the worst thing you could do! Just walk nice and slow, small steps, and don’t be afraid to just stop and wait for cars or buses to go by.
It’s quite the experience, and I know things are similar in Dehli, so I’m glad we’ve earned our wings with street crossings!
So that’s the scoop so far. We’ll be posting again soon with something different, so stay tuned!
P.S. Just a couple of house-keeping things! We just wanted to let everyone know that they can feel free to post about us on their own blogs, and grab a few pictures (keeping the logo on of course!). We think it’s so awesome that people are spreading the word about what we’re doing! Just make sure you drop us the link so we can check it out! And HUGE thanks to all that have done so so far, we totally love you guys!
And also, sometimes when we’re working on pictures or surfing the net we’ll have our Skype open. You can feel free to add us and chat with us if you wish! Our username is “robnlauren” so say hi!
So finally the time had come and we were about to leave Singapore. We were here for only a few days, as this was really only a stop over before we made our way to Vietnam. We’re hitting Singapore up again for a few days on our way home, and at that time I’ll do up a little review of it as a travel destination. But in 100 words or less, Singapore is a great place to start your trip. It is a very gentle introduction to Asia, if you’ve never been before. In fact, let’s call it Asia 101. Safe, clean, bright, fairly modern. A good way to prepare for Vietnam and India!
On our last day we decided to head down to the waterfront area to take some shots. We found ourselves at the Fountain of Wealth, the largest fountain in the world (so they claim). But it looked pretty large to me. There are times throughout the day when they turn off the main fountain so that people can walk out to the little center fountain, wish for something, and walk around three times. I think it’s meant to bring you wealth. We didn’t go out there, as we have all the wealth we need. We are artists after all ☺
We grabbed a quick bite near the fountain. Now I’ll tell you that if you’re a food lover, you’re going to get extremely jealous throughout this trip. So far we’ve had some of the best food of our lives, and it’s only been a few days! We had some dumplings:
A crazy tasty bulgogi beef soup with ramen noodles
And here’s a shot of Rob digging in to some spicy chicken. To die for. Oh, and for anyone thinking of visiting Asia, make sure you’ve learned how to use chopsticks before you come, because many times there isn’t a fork to be seen. I absolutely love using chopsticks, and use them all the time at home, so I came prepared. But I can imagine how tough it would be for someone who never has used them!
Then we just randomly wandered around. Rob grabbed this neat shot of the staircase
This is a shot of the Esplanade (or some like to call it the “big durian”…I’ll explain what a "durian" is later in this post). It’s a performing arts center, and we were really excited to see an ad for Broken Social Scene, one of the absolute best Canadian bands at the moment!
Then of course we had to visit the famous Merlion statue, the symbol of Singapore. There was a small version that Rob named Jorooter.
And the huge one that I named Mermy
The clouds were so amazing, and added such interest to our shots! But yes, we did get rained on, again!
We’re always looking for cool patterns, light, and texture
Here’s a shot of the sign for Merlion park, just in case you thought we made that name up
Rob spotted some amazingly cool trees as we were walking around
This one will make an awesome desktop background, I’ll have to size it up for that!
What we’re going to try to do is a post about the food for every location we were in. Singapore had some of the strangest foods I’ve ever seen…..and smelled…..there were definitely times when I had to promptly do a 180 and walk right back out of a market because I really couldn’t handle the smell! Stuff like fish head soup in a clay pot….tripe and intestine soup….ugh! I definitely was not that adventurous! That’s not to say that there wasn’t good food, but our appetites definitely ran far away from us a couple times when we found one of those smells. This is a quick shot from a night market we wandered through.
And speaking of smells, Singapore is well known for the durian fruit. This is a moment when I wish someone had invented a way to transmit smells over the internet, because this is one that needs to be experienced, not described. Suffice it to say that there are signs on all of the public transport that explicitly say “NO DURIANS”. That’s how pungent they are…they are banned from confined spaces!
Now I know you are all so curious as to what they smell like! I’ve seen them before at Superstore back home in Canada, or any local Chinese market. If you see one, definitely go up and give it a good smell. You certainly won’t forget it! When Rob’s grandparents stayed with us, they would buy durian (they are from Singapore actually!) and the whole entire house would just be filled with that smell…those were good times ☺
This guy was cutting up the durians for people to eat on the street. I did not try it, since I don’t know if I could handle being around the smell for that long. Plus the insides sort of looked like little brains! Rob says the texture is like custard….Perhaps we’ll try it some time on our travels and report the experience back to you ☺
Well, that was about all from our time in Singapore. Didn’t buy much, just walked around and got used to traveling again! It’s been a very long time, and life is so much different when traveling. At home we’d go to bed around 2 AM and wake up around 10 or 11. Here we’re so tired we’re in bed by 10PM and actually woke up today at 7! We take life slow, sit down and just watch people go by and just enjoy taking it easy. I think these 3 months are going to be really fun. We’re so glad so many of you are following along! Make sure to leave a comment if you have a question you’d like us to answer!
(P.S. Sorry for the delay in posting this! We're actually in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam right now and the internet in our hotel was down yesterday. But look for a couple awesome posts about this place in the next couple of days. We also did an amazing shoot today, and can't wait to share it! Cheers!)