Thursday, September 29, 2011


Singapore was the last stop on my 10 country tour. What a great place! Very modern, clean, and easy to get around. I arrived the day after the Grand Prix. The Singapore Grand Prix is the only race that is at night. The city was transformed into a racecourse and the cars zoomed past all the major landmarks. When I arrived, most of the racecourse and stands were still set up. It meant that most of the streets were closed which was great for me, since I was walking around. I took the Singapore Flyer, the largest ferris wheel in the world, for a great view over the city. The Flyer calls itself an observation wheel rather than a ferris wheel, which I imagine implies that it was not assembled by carnies. 

Instead of riding on seats, you ride in these enclosed pods with glass on all sides. Great panoramic views!

(If you can't tell, I'm loving my reunion with my laptop and my ability to add pictures easily.)

Then I checked out Merlion, the symbol of Singapore tourism that was dreamed up in the 1960s. It is half Mermaid, half Lion. Like I said, imagined in the 1960s...

I also explored Chinatown and the old colonial district. Mostly, I decided to follow the guidebook's advice on the two most important things to do in Singapore- eat and shop. I bought a new shirt to wear on the plane, since I hadn't done laundry since KL. (Yeah over 2 weeks). I was worried that I might be quarantined at customs in any of my other clothes.

I'm back home now with some really terrific jetlag. I woke up at 6 pm yesterday. Brutal. On Saturday, I leave for Bulgaria. Then I'm off to Romania, London, Chicago, and Alaska. I'll post some updates then! I've finally purchased a dslr camera so I'll post pictures from that :)

I put up the last of my pictures from my southeast asia trip. For anyone not on facebook, the links are:




Sunday, September 25, 2011


Taipei was a blast! On the plane ride here, I read up on the etiquette. Here are my faves:
3. The number four is unlucky because it sounds like the Mandarin word for death.
2. Do not give shoes to the elderly as a gift. This is interpreted as urging them on their way out of this life.
1. do not whistles or ring a bell at night. This is an invitation to ghosts.

Chris and I went up to the observation deck of Taipei 101, the world's second highest skyscraper. It is designed to look like a bamboo shoot. It really is pretty. On the 87th floor there is a 660 ton suspended damper, which is a large ball that helps stabilize the building in case of earthquakes. This being Asia, they have spray painted it bright gold and made it into a mascot- Damper Baby. Damper Baby talks on the videos in a piercingly high voice and graces every souvenir imaginable.

Taipei is a great city- good food, friendly people, and an airport that doesn't require you to take cabs between terminals. Glorious.

I'm on my way to Singapore tonight and then home on Tuesday!

Friday, September 23, 2011


Boracay was an adventure. I arrived into Caticlan airport and then took a tricycle (a motorbike with a side cart), a ferry, and then another tricycle to reach Boracay. My favorite part of the tricycle ride was that the "slow, school zone" signs were placed in the middle of the traffic lanes rather than on the side of the road. This caused the cars and tricycles to have to swerve into the oncoming traffic lane to avoid the signs. Somehow they seemed to achieve this without actually slowing down. So much for that idea.

The first day, I went out diving to a shipwreck. I saw four purple pygmy seahorses! Then when we got back to the boat, it would not start. This was not surprising. The real surprise was that the rickety old wooden boat had ever started in the first place. Eventually, another equally unpromising looking wooden boat passed by and towed us back in with a plastic rope that someone on each boat held onto. Welcome to the Philippines...

The beaches in Boracay were stunning- beautiful white sand and clear water. Unfortunately, it is rainy season now so I spent the time split between the beach and the Starbucks when downpours started.

Manila airport is the worst. I had a 2 and a half hour layover and still barely made my flight to Taipei. Such a mess. You actually have to pay a taxi to switch terminals which are far apart and most taxis refuse to take you since they want to wait for a fare into the city. Disastrous.

Luckily, I made it to Taipei!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


Once again, I've been terrible about keeping this blog up to date. Luckily, it is because I've been having such a great time rather than because I've been eaten by sharks etc. Palau is absolutely beautiful with lots of limestone rock islands. Palau is actually a collection of tons of small islands. Diving in Palau was amazing. I must have seen hundreds of sharks in my six days of diving.I saw loads of turtles too. One of the coolest things was a lake filled with stingless jellyfish. You can't dive there because the water is toxic below 40 feet, but snorkeling with the jellyfish was really incredible. There are millions of them in the lake! Naturally, the Asian tourist groups were taking great joy in throwing them at each other, even though you're not supposed to touch the jellyfish.

Since Palau played a big role in the Pacific battles in WWII, I got to visit a fair bit of the Japanese navy underwater. (USA! USA!... I tried not to chant that during dive briefings). My favorite story: An American submarine torpedoed a large Japanese ship halfway between Palau and the Philippines. The Japanese through some heroic efforts managed to get the ship hundreds of miles so that they were within sight of land in Palau. The US then sent in an air strike. The ship burned for three days on the surface before finally going down.

Among the other cool things I saw: snake eel, giant Napoleon wrasses, nudibranches, and a red leaf scorpion fish. My favorite fish were the giant tuna that would be freshly caught and turned into sashimi by the dive shop.

I absolutely loved Palau. It is on the short list of places I really want to visit again asap. Leaving was especially difficult because I had to go back to Manila, which is such a mess. Luckily I only had one night in Manila and then an early morning flight to Boracay. It is stunning here- absolutely postcard perfect with white sand beaches and turquoise water.

I've posted some pictures finally:




Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Brunei and Manila

Brunei was so shiny! There is an amazing mosque there with golden domes and beautiful stained glass windows. A bank attempted to build a building that was taller than the mosque and the sultan ordered that the top floor of the building be removed. It must be nice to be sultan. There is also a Royal Regalia museum. The entire first floor is taken up by a recreation of the sultan's coronation parade, complete with giant chariot. There is also a recreation of the sultan's Jubilee parade, including an even larger chariot. Once again, it's good to be sultan. On the second floor, there are displays of the gifts that other heads of state have given the sultan. If you're wondering  what to get a guy who has everything, the answers range from a gorgeous silver miniature of Angkor Wat (from Cambodia) to a colorful shield with your own picture in the middle.

I was ready to leave by the end. Having 9 pools and no chance for a Bloody Mary (Brunei is Muslim and there's no alcohol) was too depressing. When I asked the hotel how early I needed to get to the airport, the woman asked me if my flight was international. There's one airport in Brunei...

I'm now in Manila. I spent last night in an 8 bed dorm listening to karaoke from the bar downstairs. Who knew Celine Dion was still so popular. Apparently my heart will still go on.

I spent the day sightseeing in Manila. It's a much more charming town than I expected. I leave tonight for Palau, an island country east of the Philippines. I'll be diving there for a week. So excited! The diving is supposed to be amazing.

I come back to the US two weeks from today. It is hard to believe that 6 weeks and 6 countries have already flown by!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Kuala Lumpur and the Empire Hotel

KL was great. Elisa and I waited in line forever for tickets to go up the sky bridge that connects the Petronas towers. We were lucky since it closes for 3 months of renovation starting next week. The view was amazing and totally worth the wait. KL is a huge city. It was fun to walk around, get cheap massages and try the food. Elisa is back in Paris now and I'm in Brunei.

After weeks of hostels with squat toilets etc., I splurged and I'm staying at this crazy hotel built by the sultan in Brunei for a totally reasonable 1.1 billion. There are nine swimming pools, lots of Italian marble, and my hotel room is bigger than my law school apartment. It's like Vegas but without the willingness to laugh at itself. I'm going out to explore the rest of Brunei today and then I fly to Manila tonight where it will be back to dorm beds.

Thursday, September 8, 2011


After 12 hours of trains and buses, I made it from Yogya to Bromo, a gorgeous volcano in east Java. Elisa and I woke up at 3am to climb the nearby hill and watch the sunrise over Bomo. Absolutely stunning. We then climbed Bromo and were able to look into the steaming center of the volcano. Really amazing, but not a place you want to lose your balance.

We then took a three hour ride to Surabaya, a town in east Java which not even the ever crunchy Lonely Planet guidebook can get excited about, calling it pandemonium writ large. We tried an ice cream shop that Lonely Planet recommended and all of the flavors just tasted like rum. Interesting choice for a heavily Muslim city.

We have a flight from here to Kuala Lumpur tomorrow afternoon. It will be sad to leave Indonesia, but more adventures await!

Bromo pictures are up:

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


So I spent a restful night in Yogya. The karaoke bar shook my room until 4am and then the nearby mosque started its loudspeakers blaring at 5am. Tonight, I'll be sleeping in a  non-reclining train seat for 6 hours which I imagine will be more comfortable.

I went out to two amazing temples. First, I went to Borobudur for sunrise since I wasn't sleeping anyhow. It is a Buddhist temple 30 miles outside Yogya, that was constructed in the 9th century. Once Buddhism fell out of fashion (as I dream that Crocs will), Borobudur was abandoned and then covered in volcanic ash from an eruption in 1006. It was abandoned until it was rediscovered when Stamford Raffles governed Java. Way to go Brits. It has some absolutely stunning carvings throughout the large temple.

Then I went to Prambanan, a Hindu temple complex with some equally stunning carvings. It was badly damaged in the 2006 earthquake, but UNESCO is doing a great job of restoring it. At least that's one thing the UN does quite well.

Over the course of the day, at least a dozen Indonesians at the temples asked to take pictures with me. This makes me suspect that today's outfit- Birkenstocks, a tiedyed maxi dress, green hipster sunglasses, neon bag- looks like a costume to them (and to me) so I basically spent the day like a crunchier Disneyland themepark princess.

I'm taking a 1am train out to east Java and then a series of buses to meet back up with Elisa to go see Bromo, the volcano there. It is supposed to be amazing.

Pictures from today are up:

Monday, September 5, 2011


OK I really want a komodo dragon as a pet. They may have anger issues and may eat their own kind alive, but is that really so different from first year law students? I took a boat out to Rinca island, which is in the Komodo National Park. It is never guaranteed that you'll see dragons, but I was lucky. I saw at least 10! A number of them were lurking around the ranger station, because they could smell someone cooking. The ranger offered to take a picture of me sitting in front of them, but then took like 10 pictures, which produced a series with me looking more and more nervous the longer my back was turned to the dragons.

He then led me on a hike through the island to look for dragons. At one point there was a tree with a ton of skulls of the dragons' prey which the ranger identified- buffalo, deer, monkey, unwary tourist... (followed by only his hysterical laughter). The dragons really were amazing. There was one that had a broken foot and looked so sad that I really wanted to take him home with me. Another thing to add to the list of things to adopt from Southeast Asia. Apparently he has a broken foot because he has an especially violent temperment and won't stop picking fights with the other dragons. I'm such a good judge of dragon character.

The diving in Komodo is the best diving that I've ever done. In the first five minutes of my first dive, I'd seen a shark, a turtle, and a giant moray eel. Unreal. On the second dive, I saw about 40 manta rays and it isn't even manta season!

After two flights, I'm now in Yogyakarta, Indonesia which is on the island of Java (where Jakarta is). Tomorrow, at 5am, I'm off to see Borobudur, the most popular tourist site in all of Indonesia. It is a huge temple built in the 9th century. Then off to Prambanan, another amazing temple. I may well be awake until 5am anyways since my room is on top of a karaoke bar. This is karma for the night in college I thought I could sing Lady Marmalade. The room also has a squat toilet. It's basically awesome.

I added more dive pics to my Gilli T album:

And Komodo pics are up:


Saturday, September 3, 2011

Komodo Dragons

After a couple of flights, I've made my way to Labuanbajo, an island near Komodo. The Komodo dragons are the world's largest lizard weighing in at over 200 pounds full grown and reaching 9 feet in length. It has massive claws, huge teeth, a creepy yellow forked tongue, and can expand its jaw to swallow a goat whole. It can sprint and raise up on two legs before attacking prey. Who wouldn't want one of these adorable little guys as a pet? It eats deer and buffalo, and, on occasion, farmers. The males also attempt to eat the eggs that the female lays, leading to an epic battle of the sexes. Adult dragons are cannibalistic, so the little ones live up in trees until age five. The dragons make those kids on Teen Mom look like model parents. The Komodos are a protected species since the world needs a real live nightmare Godzilla.

The diving near Komodo is supposed to be amazing, so I'll probably go tomorrow. The diving in the Gilli islands was insane. I saw 10 turtles in one dive yesterday! Then I'll probably take a boat the next day to get up close to these charming little critters.