The trip to the Golden Triangle was amazing....the hotel was over the top - but what was the most fun was experiencing the elephants and the people of northern Thailand.  We learned history around the Opium Wars and how Thailand has been working to change what the hill tribes do for income beyond growing poppy.  Although the hotel was only 15 tents - this was not like any camp I have ever been too.  The hotel was built into the hillside and designed to blend in with the environment.  You could only get there via a was about a 45 minute drive from the Chiang Rai airport and then a quick 10 minute boat ride.  The pathways, flowers, spa, restaurants - everything was so well done - it was awesome.  Every morning we would go to breakfast and they would bring 2 elephants for us to feed - one was a "baby" at only 5 years old.  Elephants are viewed as working animals in this part of the world - very similar to horses in the west.   They are not ready to go to work until they are about 12-14 years old and they work until they are about 60.  One of the problems is they are expensive to maintain so people do not treat them well once they can't work - that is why so many refuges have been set up in Northern Thailand.  Elephants were a major part of the industry that logged Teak Wood.  However, I would like to say after riding on them for 4 hours I was so sore the next day because they are so big and trying to stay level on them was a little challenging.   After riding them we got to take them to the water hole for a bath - it was so funny - I got sprayed multiple times by the trunk of my elephant - she decided it was a great game and I was laughing to hard to be upset.  Eric's elephant loved having the hose give her fresh he did not get nearly as wet as I did....We had a private dinner one night in the elephant sanctuary and at the end we got to light several wishing lanterns to be sent was so fun.  We got to feed the elephants before our dinner and then get to enjoy a area that was set up with lanterns, music and amazing food -- a super cool experience.

We also went to Burma for a day.  This was very interesting to do - although we had to leave our passports at the border which always makes me a little uncomfortable (if we had not been at such a good resort I would not have done it).  While we were there - it was crazy to see the difference in just one border.  The cell coverage only happens in a really small part of the city.  The poverty was everywhere - not as bad as Mumbai - but still significant and this is viewed as a top tier city in Burma.  We were looking at this little store front on the side of the road and our guide let us know that this was a gas station.  I asked where the pumps were - and he told me the gas was in the juice containers that were being sold...they don't use pumps and they only get about 1 liter at a time.  The other thing that was so obvious was the mix of cultures.  As we drove down the street you could see faces from India, Bangladesh, Thailand, Laos, Han was one of the most diverse areas I have seen.  Most of the countries we go in feel very homogeneous because the populations are so large - but that was not the case where we were in Burma.

From Chiang Rai we went to Chiang Mai.  This hotel was also great - we had a private villa with a pool - which in this climate is fantastic!  This part of the trip was a little more relaxing but we still went to a Sunday night market which was really busy and fun to see what everyone was doing.  We also spent a day up with a hill tribe area.  This was a little more challenging because there are 5 hill tribes that are living together in this area that is about 1 hour from the main city.  It is obvious that they do this so tourists will come and see them (this includes the women who wear the gold rings around their necks to grow them longer)....on one hand you do not want to support them because it feels like wrong - on the other hand they do it to support their tribes that are farther away.  When we talked to the hotel about it they recommended we go even though we were not sure we should support it.

One of our favorite parts of Thailand is shopping for antiques because they get a mix from Burma, China, Bali and China.  We did find several things to send home.  The other thing we did here was go to pet tigers.  This was a crazy experience because we petted tigers from 3 months old up to 18 months old.  When you see the pictures you will notice that we are always behind them - that is because they tell us not to get close to the face - and I was slightly uncomfortable because they are really big when you are close to them.  The paws they have look really dangerous - not even talking about the teeth!  It was late in the afternoon when we went and all the tigers were really active except the large ones - Eric asked if they were drugged - but they told us no that it was due to the heat - with their fur they do not like to move a lot (and it was really humid and hot).   I am not sure I believe them - except it was obvious that none of the others were...but the 18 month old ones were big!

Eric has done up a video of our trip if you want to see it and it has footage from all our experiences....

India is a country of paradoxes.   You can be in a city of 20 million people with a craziness that is hard to even express in words then go back to your hotel and it is so serene, beautiful and quiet you can’t believe you are in the same country.   And this is not unique to big cities because the next day you can be in a village of 5000 people and feel the same energy and vibrations.  The people across the areas we visited were amazing.   Here are some of the highlights that really could only happen in India.  So what I have done because there is just so much to tell is I am doing a quick overview of the areas we went to, but I am ending with our own Top 10 list of weird, wonderful and over the top experiences during the trip….

We have spent the last three weeks of January in India – working the first week between Mumbai and Pune (although we did do an afternoon of touring).   It was a crazy week due to the large tradeshow and meetings planned – but we then left for our trip right after the tradeshow since it was the start of the Chinese New Year Holiday.  The trip took us to four cities – Agra (home to the Taj Mahal) and then into the state of Rajasthan to Jaipur, Jodhpur and Udaipur.    In India during the 1500’s there were actually 54 “Princely States” each with their own Maharaja (today there are only about 16).   These families were considered “royalty” in their particular states.  Each of the cities we visited had their own Maharaja….it was their palaces, forts and histories that we learned about during this trip.  When India became a democracy after British rule – each of the Maharaja’s had to give up their power and role.   These families were exceptionally wealthy with land, businesses and jewelry (some of the biggest emeralds and diamonds in the world are from the mines that used to be active in India - today there are not very many precious stones left and no diamonds)…. During the time of the British the Maharaja’s often were autonomous and left alone or making lots of money from their business involvement with Britain.  Today each of these cities still have their royal family (except Agra) and they are actively involved in the communities and still viewed as “royalty” within those cities but similar to Britain they have no  real power.

Seeing the Taj Mahal in Agra was so cool.  The white marble on the building is even more beautiful up close – and if you look at our pictures it might look like painting on the marble – but actually it is semi-precious stones which have been inlaid in the marble.  The marble is from India and is not very porous consequently, it shows very little wear and tear – it is in remarkably good shape – it doesn’t appear to be almost 380 years old.  The building took 22 years to build with 20,000 people working for that time period.  Today the descendants of those families still work on the Taj doing the daily maintenance work and they do the craft the same way that was done back then.   The building is perfectly symmetrical except for the fact that the monument now has 2 graves (both the King and his wife – even though it was built for her).  If you want to read more about it you can go to:  Taj Mahal    

From Agra we went to Jaipur – the pink city.  Now, as a point of information we hired a car and a driver for this trip.  He started with us from Agra and then drove us to each of the cities in Rajasthan.  The first drive was 288 kilometers (about 180 miles)… took us 5 hours to do this drive.  To really get the whole experience of India -- driving into the small cities and on roads that you think are a highway and then all of the sudden it is a dirt road – is how you can really on begin to see the people, process (or lack there of) and challenges that they face.  

Jaipur is a labyrinth of bazaars, palaces and historic sites.  It is called the pink city because in the old city the buildings are washed in this pink color.  It is not unrealistic to see on the streets – motorcycles, horses, cars and camels(I am not kidding they are everywhere here)  trying to move as traffic.  This was an amazing city to see.  We went to Amber Fort which was built by the Maharaja.  We rode an elephant to get to this fort because it is on the top of a mountain and difficult to get to (shocking)….now I was really excited to ride the elephant – but I want you all to know that it is not comfortable!  There is a video but you may get sick watching it because the movement is so weird….More information on this fort can be found at: Amber Fort  .   We also went to the city palace historical museum and an observatory which I thought was like a place to view the stars up close but actually it’s more for astrological purposes.  It is one of the craziest things I have ever seen.     Astrology is very important in India and prior to arranged marriages families will have a “reading done” to make sure their kids are a good fit – if the astrology tells them it won’t work they will walk away from a marriage.  To see more about the observatory you can go to: Jantar Mantar

From Jaipur we went to Jodhpur – this was about 340 kilometers and took us 6 hours driving (please just shoot me….it was crazy but we loved seeing the countryside and all the small villages that we would go through).  In Jodhpur we went to “the Mighty Mehrangarh Fort” which overlooks the whole city.  The Thar desert is on the outskirts and we actually stayed in the youngest palace in the world (finished being built in 1943) and the royal family still lives there in one wing .   The fort was amazing….these structures were built to withstand fighting with Elephants, horses, and camels.  The doors were built with huge spikes on them to kill elephants if they tried to ram the doors….there is more information at:    Mehrangarh Fort   (this is worth looking at – it is absolutely amazing!).  The other big thing we did was go out to the desert and rode camels to watch the sun set over the sand dunes….there are pictures of us out there riding the camels and they were much easier and more comfortable then the elephants!  Although we were not going to do a lot of shopping we did go to a store called Maharani Textiles – and ended up buying a couple of wall hangings for our cabin that are pieces of wedding dresses from Rajasthan in the 1800’s that have been put stitched together – they are beautiful.  This store is written up all the time for the work they do – we spent 3 hours looking at all the textiles….

The last city we went to was Udaipur and this was another 244 kilometers and 5 hours – but this was the best drive of the whole trip.  Besides the Taj Mahal one of the best monuments we saw was a Jain Temple called Ranakpur.   This temple was built in the 15th century and is one of the 5 great holy places for the Jain Religion.  Jain was started in the 6th century BC and is based on a non-violence doctrine towards all living things.  When I went into the temple you can have no leather on, no shoes, etc.  The 2,600th birth anniversary of this religion was celebrated in 2001.  You could spot a very devote follower of the Jain religion because they often cover their mouth with a white band so they do not swallow a bug by mistake – because that would harming a living thing.  There are pictures from this temple but I have never seen such workmanship on such a large scale.  We ended up meeting the high priest who walked us around the temple and explained the many different parts – his family has been working at the temple for 600 years….crazy!  There is a picture of Eric with him in the gallery.  You can learn more about this at Ranakpur  .  The drive from here to Udaipur was beautiful through mountains, and valleys of farming…It was fabulous.

Udaipur was probably the most relaxing of the cities we visited.  We stayed at the Lake Palace which was featured in James Bond Octopussy Movie – now one night we wanted to see this movie so we could see what they did – and whatever you do – don’t rent or watch this movie – it is really stupid.  However – it does highlight several good parts of Udaipur.  The other thing was that across Rajasthan we stayed at Taj properties – and for some reason by the time we got here they ended up giving us the Royal Suite – which was awesome!!!  We took a video of it because it was so fantastic!   A little bit more about this property because it is very historical is at Lake Palace 

We were the only room that had an outdoor seating area over the lake…and a private Jacuzzi….nice    The monuments were not as well maintained here – but we loved relaxing by the pool.

OK I tried to be brief (and failed)….but here are the top 10 weird, wonderful, wacky things that we will remember about this trip starting with 10 and working our way to number 1:

10.  Asking ourselves if it was just us or is everything in India finished to 60% (literally everywhere you look there are buildings where they just aren’t done…)

9.  Across the region we would see these older men with orange hair and we thought it was for a religious purpose or something else – turns out its just henna that they put on their hair because they don’t like grey (I mean – do they really think orange is better?)

8.  Realizing that the young man waiving a flag in front of your restaurant is to prevent birds from blocking your view or interrupting your breakfast, lunch or dinner (his whole job was to waive the flag if a bird landed….seriously I am not joking)

7.   Having Eric tell our driver that answering his phone while passing a car – with another car coming at us – is not o.k. – and our driver wondering why we were nervous….then proceeding to get the car stuck in a sand dune and I almost missed my camel ride (I would have been devastated)

6.  Seeing the sign that said don’t tip the drivers – then to have them look at you and ask “something for the effort” and feel guilty not giving them anything…

5.  Asking the pool boy where the bathroom is – having him walk you to the bathroom then wait for you so he could open the doors for you and make sure you don’t get lost getting back to the pool.

4.  Watching the sunset over the sand dunes while riding camels – and thinking to myself that of all the dreams I had of vacations – I don’t remember having this one - and it’s awesome!

3.  Being the first “non-indians” into the Taj Mahal on our second day so we could take pictures with no one in the background – and realizing how peaceful and beautiful the monument is especially when no one else is there yet

2.  Flying from Mumbai to Bangkok with the largest man ever in front of us – who made so much noise while sleeping (snoring, snorting, and other sounds) – then pushing on his seat to get comfortable and breaking the seat having it fall on Eric’s legs (Eric helped him fix it – but no more sleep for us)…

1.  Driving to Jaipur and Eric asking Rajesh (our driver) to pull over so he could “make water” – and having Rajesh pull over, let Eric out of the car – then wait for him with water so Eric could wash his hands after “making water” before getting back in the car – seriously, you can’t even make that up…..

Much love to everyone – enjoy the pictures, site, etc….

Eric and I made a quick decision to go to Vietnam during the Chinese national holiday.  A couple of points about Vietnam's history - they have been tied to China throughout their history.  Despite repeated revolts the Chinese ruled Vietnam for over nine centuries.  In 1788 the Vietnam leader Nguyen Anh returned home and seized control with the French missionaries.  In 1802 he declared Hue the new national capital and himself the first ruler of the Nguyen Dynasty.  The French were basically ruling Vietnam through this dynasty until the IndoChina war of 1946.  This war lasted until 1954 when the Viet Minh inflicted their final defeat on the French at the battle of Dien Bien Phu.
After this battle the Geneva Conference was held where France, Britain, US and the USSR decided to partition Vietnam at the 17th parallel, pending general elections were never held, and the partition became permanent.  The North became the Communist Democratic Republic of Vietnam with its capital in Hanoi under Ho Chi Minh and the South became the anti-communist Republic of Vietnam, with its capital at Saigon under the US-Allies and fervently Catholic Ngo Dinh Diem.  By 1960 the US military advisors had initiated a 15 year war known in the US as the Vietnam war - and in Vietnam it was known as the American War.  After this war Vietnam went into a time of serious decline - they became one of the poorest countries in Asia Pacific.  By the early 1980's, impoverished and isolated, Vietnam was well on the way to starvation and economic collapse.  In 1986 the death of their leader Le Duan brought about significant change.  Over the next 10 years the country made significant process and in 1995 the US lifted its trade embargo and restored full diplomatic relations with Vietnam.

We decided to to start our trip in Hue.  This is the central part of Vietnam and Hue is where the Imperial City is located.  This area was designated a World Heritage Site in 1995.  The Citadel was established by Emperor Gia Long in 1805 (the first emperor of the Nguyen Dynasty).  We included some pictures from this area in our photo gallery.  It actually comprises three concentric enclosures - the civic, imperial and forbidden purple cities.  Each area had a specific purpose - the forbidden city was the emperor and his family (including concubines) private area.  The civic area was where all public events were held.  The imperial area was where the Emperor spent time educating his heirs and allowed the children to play.

We also visited several of the Imperial tombs - this was very cool.  It was much better than I expected - and the designs were amazing.  Most of them were designed by the emperor that was going to be buried within them.  They often used the areas during their life to work and study away from the main palace.  There were 13 rulers who sat on the imperial throne but only seven were given the honor of their own tombs - the rest died in disgrace or in exile.

It rained the entire time we were in the city -- I have never been so wet - it took me 2 hours to dry out and my shoes were still wet went we got home 5 days later..... Click here if you want more information about Hue....

The next day we went on a Motor Bike Tour across the fields of Vietnam.  IT WAS AWESOME!!!  We didn't kill anyone else or ourselves.  We went to an area called My Son (Me Soon) - which was like Ankor Wat but damaged significantly during the French and Vietnam Wars.  It was finally declared a Unesco World Heritage Site.  This was a religious center between 4th and 13th centuries.  Traces of around 70 temples may still be found but only 20 are still in good condition.  The Cham Empire existed in Vietnam for about 1,600 years from the 2nd century AD to its downfall in 1832.  Today, there is still a community of Cham living in Vietnam.  Charm art derives from the Indic tradition and represents Hindu deities with their celestial mounts, dancing girls and demons - this art is carved into many of the temples we could still see.  Click here if you want to read more about it....

The last place that we spent time on this trip was the city of Hoi An.  Its located on the north bank of the Thu Bon River, Hoi An was an important trading port from the 16th to the 18th century.  This town was also declared a Unesco World Heritage because of some unique features....including long, narrow tube houses, Chinese pagodas, and the Japanese Covered Bridge.  This old bridge was built by the Japanese in 1593 to link them with the Chinese quarter of the city.  The whole city was amazing - we could have spent more time was quaint and the people were really nice. We did buy some art here and we also participated in an English class to some young students - it was pretty funny.    Click here if you want to read more about Hoi An....  

We have a video that is really cool - it is Eric wearing the go pro while driving on the motorcycle....we also have video's from Hoi An, My Son, Hue and the Emperor Tombs....hope you enjoy and all is well....

This trip was a unique experience for many reasons.  The first is that it is a very remote area and the altitude alone makes it challenging to visit.  We arrived on a Thursday afternoon and left on Sunday afternoon.  The first evening Molly had a slight case of altitude sickness - which meant she was really tired and had a slight headache.  By Friday morning all was well and we started our touring.  The second unique part of this trip was that the spirituality of the people was incredible - I have not ever seen anything similar.  To watch and participate was moving and gave you an appreciation for their life style.  We only could take pictures in one of the monastery's Inner Sanctum's and we have a couple of videos that you can look at to see them if you are interested.  Many customs that are a part of their faith also arose as response to life in this harsh environments.  Sky burials, for example, (this is where the dead are left out in the open for the vultures to eat) are practical in a land where firewood is scare and the earth too hard to dig.  Almost 25% of the population of Tibet are nomads, keeping herds of animals and living in tents.  The livestock they raise providing products which are vital for everyday life - yak butter is used in the ubiquitous bitter butter tea (which provides salt that combats dehydration and fat which gives energy) and burnt in smokey chapel lamps (it was in every chapel we visited).  In case you are wondering I did not try the tea......

It is illegal to be in Tibet without a guide as a westerner so we were accompanied the entire time we were there.  Our guide was from TIbet and she was very nice - although her english was just o.k.  The first stop was the summer palace (Norbulingka) of the Dalai Lama.  It was founded by the 7th Dalai Lama in 1755 and expanded by each of his successors.  The park has multiple palaces, chapels, and buildings.  The current summer palace was built for the present Dalai Lama in 1954 and where he left Tibet for India in 1959.  The palace has an assembly hall where he held state and has a beautiful golden throne with colorful murals depicting scenes from his court.

Our next visit was to Sera Monastery.  This monastery was founded in 1419 by disciples of the Gulugpa order and is famous for its warrior monks, the Dob-Doa.  The largest and most striking building in the complex is the Tsogchen.  It features wall-lenth Thangkas (we have a video of the inside in our video area).  Thangkas are religious paintings that have been mounted on brocade that carry painted or embroidered images inside a colored border.  There were inside every monastery we visited in all different sizes - but the ones we saw here were quite large.  Also in the monastery is a throne that was used by the 13th Dalai Lama.  At 3:30 everyday in the courtyard the monks assemble for debates.  Their ritualized gestures - clapping hands and stamping when a point is made - make it interesting to watch (a video is available).

In the evening we went to watch the lights of Potala Palace - we have a video of this that you can look at as well.  It did not matter what time of the day you looked up at that landmark in this city - it was amazing.  On Saturday morning we headed to Potala Palace.  It is built on Lhasa's highest point and was once the residence of Tibet's chief monk and leader the Dalai Lama.   The climb up was not as difficult as I expected given the altitude - but I am glad we went the second day not the first.  Also we only get one hour in the palace once we start - so lucky for us we were first in that morning...not as many people which was a really good thing.  The palace is a vast museum, serving as a reminder of Tibet's rich and devoutly religious culture.  The first palace was built in 631 and then merged into the larger buildings that stand today.  The white palace was built in 1645 and was where the current Dalai Lama held court and lived.  In his assembly hall we were so early in the morning that it was just the 3 of us in the hall with a monk chanting in the background and taking care of the statues that are still in the room.  It was overwhelmingly peaceful.  The red palace was built in 1693 and in this part of the palace there were also many chapels but also multiple stupa's.  These are large decorated vessels that contain the mummified remains of former Dalai Lama's or important monks.  The stupas we saw were huge and they all were done in gold with multiple jewels on them - they were beautiful - the largest one was about 43ft tall and made completely from gold.  The stupa of the 5th Dalai Lama contains around 6,600 lbs of gold....  After going through the palace we went for a walk around the holy circuit that surrounds Potala Palace.  It took us about 45 minutes and we must have seen about 1000 Tibetans walking at the same time....all carrying their prayer wheels.

In the afternoon we went to an area called the Barkhor.  This is one of the liveliest neighborhoods in Lhasa due to its proximity to Jokhang.  There is a pilgrimage circuit or "kora" that runs clockwise around the Jokhang and it is the holiest since the 7th century.  Market stalls have always lined the route to serve the pilgrims who are staying in the area.  Many of the buildings you walk around are very old - some even going back to the 8th century.  We did also walk this circuit - it took us quite awhile since we did do some shopping along here, plus we wanted to people watch.  It was very busy with lots of people everywhere.  There were these huge incense burners out front which mark the start of the "kora" and they put juniper bushes inside them to burn.

We did go to Jokhang temple also in the afternoon.  It was founded in 639 to house an image of the buddha brought as dowry by the Nepali Princess Bhrikuti on her marriage to King Songsten Gampo.  The Jokhang is Tibet's most venerated site.  Pilgrims bow and pray on the flagstones just outside the temple doors.  There is a huge statue of Chenresig, the Bodhisattva of compassion in one of the chapels.  The doors and frames were crafted by Nepalis in the 7th century and are among the few remains of the original temple.  There is also a impassive statue of the 12 year old Sakyamuni to make offerings and pray.  It is the most revered image in Tibet.   The Inner Sanctum of this temple houses many important statues and you visit it by going clockwise.  There are so many people the monks are present to keep everyone moving and manage the crowds.  

One of the biggest challenges when going to all these monastery's was the sheer number of Buddha's and deities that they pray to, I felt like we really needed to have done more reading to truly appreciate and understand more about the religion.  But everywhere we went they talked about the specific Buddha's which were a part of that chapel - and it never sounded like the same ones.

Lhasa was a really interesting and intense experience.  If we had taken one more day we may have gone out from Lhasa to another monastery, but to get a brief glimpse of what that part of the world was incredible.  We felt very fortunate that we could go and the people were wonderful.  
We have taken our first trip to Cambodia and it was a wonderful experience.  We started in Siem Reap at the Hotel de la Paix ( ) - which was beautiful.  There were three different markets including a night market that we could walk around in during our time.   When I think of Cambodia I just remember the horrible images of starvation that I saw growing up due to the regime of Pol Pot's khmer rouge.  The extreme Maoist party seized power in 1975 after the vietnam war (where thousands of cambodians were killed since the Vietnamese communists used Cambodia as a staging point which resulted in significant bombing from the US).  This party was overthrown in 1979 by the Vietnamese and by that time it had killed an estimated 2 million cambodian's in one of the works acts of genocide in history.  Since the collapse of the Khmer Rouge in the early 1900's this part of Cambodia has gradually reopened to the world.  Miraculously, in a nation so devastated by war, the great temple complexes have survived remarkably unscathed.  Today the clearance of land mines, dense vegetation removal, restoration and conservation are all in full swing.

The big draw to this part of Cambodia is the area of temples from the Khmer era - 800 - 1200......This area is 77 sq. miles and contains about 70 temples, tombs and other ancient ruins.  We started by going to the temple of Thom City which was the site of the ancient capital of the Khmer empire.  We got to see the south gate, Bayon, Baphoun and the Royal palace compound, Phimeanakas, Elephant terrace, Prah Sat Surprat and Terrace of Leper King.   Then when went to the temple of Angkor Wat which is the only temple which has had monks living in it since it was built - so it is the best preserved.

Angkor Wat is the single largest religious monument in the world, and literally means "the City which is a Temple."  It was dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu, the Protector of Creation.  The layout is based on a mandela or sacred design of the HIndu cosmos.  A five towered temple shaped like a lotus bud and representing Mount Meru, the mythical abode of the gods and the center of the universe.  Here is a link to some information about Angkor Wat if you are interested:

Angkor Thom means "Great City" at at one point there were over a million people living in this ancient city.  There are five gates and each of them have beautiful enigmatic faces carved into the stone pillars.  The Banyon is one of the city's most amazing structures and that is one of the places we visited.  It represents the period's artistic brilliance and the most unique temple shaped as a pyramid.  The best features are several huge calm, smiling faces that adorn its towers and the fascinating bas-reliefs on its galleries.  Th Baphuon which was believed to be one of the grandest of Angkor's temples.   The terrace of Elephants is over 950 ft long and has three main platforms.  The terrace reviews of military and other parades.  The entire terrace is elaborately decorated with almost life-size images in the sandstone elephants (video is in the our video section).  Here is a link for Angkor Thom if you are interested:

We also went out to a remote temple called Banteay Srei (or Citadel of Women) - it has amazing carvings in the Pink Sandstone.  It is the smallest of the temples that we visited but was probably the most beautiful.  I think there is a close up of some of the carvings in the video section.  One the other great parts of going out here was the opportunity to also drive through some other parts of Cambodia and see some villages outside of a main area of Siem Reap.  Driving through the countryside you see how many of the people live in Cambodia, and it was really difficult from our perspective.  They do not have electricity (or they may have a car battery that they use to have a light at night) and running water is a big issue.  The people were extremely friendly and nice even with the circumstances of how they live.

The last temple we went to was Ta Prohm which is perhaps the most evocative and mysterious of the temples.  It was built as a buddhist monastery and at its peak, it owned more than 3,000 villages and was maintained by 80,000 attendants, including 18 high priests and over 600 temple dancers.  The wealth of the temple was listed to include more than 35 diamonds and 40,000 pearls.  It has been left in its existing condition limiting restoration with very little of the dense jungle cut down.  As a result of this the temple remains smothered with the roots of giant banyan trees preserving the atmosphere of the temple.  It probably felt the most spiritual of all the places we went with the combination of jungle and quiet in the area.  It was by far our favorite of the temples that we saw.  As a side note this was where Lara Croft Tomb Raider was filmed with Angelina Jolie - and I can understand why they picked it.....
Here is a link if you are interested in more information:

Our last big excursion was to Tonle Sap Lake to see the floating village with floating homes, schools and a forest (where the fish spawn during the wet season) and a crocodile farm.  This lake is about 110 km long and 34 km wide and it can range in depth from 3 meters to 30 meters during the wet season.  It also is where most of the fish are caught - they actually export fish from this lake to both Thailand and Vietnam.  Due to the amount of movement of the water the homes are moved regularly so that they can stay closer to shore - the distance they cover is about 2 km from low season to high season....crazy.  Of anything we saw this was one of the most difficult - they literally live on the water and are not cambodian's but Vietnamese refugees who do the fishing (there is a video in our video section).

The last night we were there our hotel hosted a Aspera Dance Troop (this is the traditional Khmer dance).  It was beautiful and the children who perfromed were from Sangkheum Centre for Children.  It is a local orphanage just outside the township of Siem Reap - The name means "Hope".  One of the great aspects of our hotel was that they are supporting many local programs to help with the standard of living around Cambodia.  They focused on schools and supporting having people learn a skill (sewing, or hospitality so they can work in a hotel).  They actually had an additional 5% to everything we do and pay that as a tip to the entire staff -- it was awesome!

This has been a really long blog  but I would recommend for anyone to go to this area.  I would suggest that you avoid the busy season, because I think it would be overwhelming with all those people and you would not get to really experience the temples the way you can with fewer people.  Hope you are all doing well, we can't wait for summer at the lake!

Well, it has just been we apologize for not writing for so long....we spent a couple of weeks in Australia which was fantastic.  One week for work and the other for vacation on the Gold Coast.  One of the coolest things we did was an adventure called the Sydney Bridge Climb...we put a picture of us from the top of the Sydney Harbor Bridge in our gallery - it was very cool!  It took about 1.5 hours and we were 135 meters above the was a long way down!The weather was perfect and we a great time on the beach and by the pool.  We met some wonderful people and had some great food.  

Molly has been to Delhi, India and found some beautiful pashmina's - the work sewing on them is amazing.  Eric has been traveling across parts of China trying to get caught up after the Chinese New Year Celebration.  

So 2011 is the year of the Rabbit - and we are so glad we were gone during the celebrations.  The amount of fireworks they light off here is crazy....I actually put a flip video in the video section of the site.....Eric took the last night they can do fireworks....this was taken right off our balcony - Eric had to go back inside so he didn't get hit by them!

Right now we are starting a really busy time at work - strategy plans across the business as well as some major projects - so we are really just working a lot, but planning on a short trip to Cambodia to see Angkor Wat - which I am really excited about it.  We hope you are all doing well and we look forward to time at the lake this summer!
     We just got back from our first trip to Thailand.  A couple of interesting things to know about Thailand - approximately 90% of the population is Buddhist.  Most Thai males are ordained as monks at adolescence - a major rite of passage - they do this to earn merits for themselves and their families (typically this last for a couple of months or a year).   Almost every Thai person gives some sort of offering to Buddha each week - this could be a piece of food, incense, flowers - this is to earn them merits on their way to Nirvana which is the highest level of enlightenment for them.  The Thai people are very friendly and easy to be around.  Thailand became a constitutional monarchy in 1932 which is the year the country changed its name from Siam to Thailand.   The current King is the longest running monarch in the world today - his coronation was in 1946.  They have a long and proud history that is very integrated to the rest of Southeast Asia.  We went to several "Wat's" these are temple areas around Thailand.  Within each Wat is the "Bot" this is where the buddha's are located.  Most Wat's have monks living within their walls - the exception is the Wat Phra Kaeo at the Grand Palace with the Emerald Buddha.  We did see this and could not get any pictures but we got a couple off the web for you to see.  If you look up "Emerald Buddha" on the web you will be able to read a lot more about this....they believe it was built in 53BC - and it is about 66 centimeters tall with 3 different outfits for each season - Rainy, Summer and Winter.  One of the most beautiful temples we have seen - video's are included for your viewing pleasure.
     We started out in Phuket at the JW Marriott resort - gorgeous.  If you want to look at the resort the easiest way is to go to their website at   Molly got the worst cold she has had in I don't know how long - actually ended up needing to go on antibiotics - yuck!  All we did in Phuket was sleep, drink, eat and sit by the pool and sea.  It was very relaxing - the ocean was warmer than the pool.  It was gorgeous.  They had several big events happening for the holidays - we went to Barbecue on the Beach - it was very fun and festive.  It didn't feel like Christmas as all - it felt like April.  Very strange to be somewhere warm (and I mean hot)....Some of the pictures we have in the gallery are from a fire ceremony then they do most nights - very cool.
     After 7 days of fun and sun we headed to Bangkok to do a little more cultural activities.  We spent our first afternoon riding in a long boat on the Chao Phraya (river of kings). Bangkok was once called "Venice of the East" - the long boats in Bangkok actually don't move with a pole like Venice - instead it is a car engine and transmission running a long pole with a propeller on the end - Crazy!!  There is a picture for you to look at...The canals were very interesting to see - and we actually saw a 7ft lizard (there is a picture) - it was huge!!  The canals were also a little depressing to see - from an outsider's perspective many of the people along the canal appeared to live at the poverty level or below.  
     From the canal's we went to see Wat Arun.  This temple was named for Aruna, the Indian God of dawn.  Each of the "Prangs" (these are the tall tower like structures in the temple) are completely covered in broken porcelain.  We went up as high as we could walking up the central Prang - and they are built really narrow and steep to represent the difficulties humans face when they are trying to attain a higher level of existence.  I don't know if they helped us with that when we did them - but going up was a little painful - trying to get down scared me!!  (picture of the stairs is in our photo section).  
     That evening we decided to go shopping at an antique market that was recommended - it was overwhelmingly beautiful.   They had some of the most beautiful pieces for sale that I have ever seen - Eric and I decided that if we didn't find a lot of other pieces around the area while we are here we may need to make a trip just to go shopping there for a whole day.  We did buy 2 pieces - one is a prayer book that is about 100 years old from Burma - written in their language and the second was a sculpture of one of the hindu gods.  Both are amazing.  After shopping we dropped off our stuff and headed out to "Pat Pong" which is the oldest red light district in the world.  There are three main streets - one for hetrosexuals, one for homosexuals and one for trans-sexuals.  We had several drinks, shopped at the night market and just watched the people - crazy!
     Next day was to see the Grand Palace and Wat Phra Keao - there are a lot of pictures and a couple of video's for you to see - truly one of the most beautiful I have ever seen.  The temples and they way decorate them is so different from western churches - but the craftsmanship and attention to detail is really wonderful.  The other amazing thing we saw at this site was the Ramakien Murals - these stretch over 1/2 mile along the cloister walls of the temple.  There are 178 panels of intricate detail and vibrant colors - we have included a couple of pictures for people to look at.  Another item that was at this site was a model of Angkor Wat - Eric and I will be going to this temple in March.  It is located in Cambodia near Siam Reap - if you look up Angkor Wat on the web you can learn all about it.
We were supposed to go to the National Museum for a couple of hours as well but it was closed - so instead we went shopping for Amulets.    The Thais are a highly superstitious people - those who do not wear some sort of protection or lucky amulet are firmly in the minority.  Although many amulets are religious in nature - such as buddha images others are copies of sacred statues.  Amulets are big business in Thailand - they even have magazines dedicated to them.
     For New Year's Eve we decided to splurge and went up to the 61st floor of the Banyan Tree Hotel for a 7 course meal, overview of the city - it was outside dining and we could see all of the city for fireworks.  To get home that night we rode home on a "Tuk Tuk" which is a 3 wheeled motorcycle.....quite an adventure at 1:30 in the morning in Bangkok.  Dinner was a great way to end our trip!
     Hope you all had a great holiday season and we wish you the best for 2011!

OK so this week started off on a crazy foot - it was snowing in Shanghai.  This is unusually early - so they said that meant good luck - I am not sure I agree.  Eric and I are getting ready to go to Thailand - it should be a very interesting visit - we are looking forward to sitting on a beach and doing nothing - except maybe a little reading and swimming.
We posted a couple of video's - one is of our apartment so everyone would see our baby christmas tree and lights on the deck as well as the Eaton facility here.  They put up a tree - it looks a little like the Charlie Brown tree - but it looks very festive so we thought to show it to all of you.
We also added some pictures of my short visit home - it includes pictures of my new nephew Bastian and some family and friends.  It was a great time to see everyone and made my holidays.
Happy Holidays to everyone!
Things here have been really busy since we have gotten back.  Overall work is going good, just so much to do.  We have booked our tickets to fly to Thailand for Christmas and the New Year.  We will be in Phuket for about 8 days then spend a couple of days in Bangkok.  It will be strange to not be home for the holiday season.  One of our friends is cooking a turkey and invited us to come over but I think we will have Italian so it won't feel like we are missing it.....
There are stores over here putting up stuff for the holidays - but in general it is pretty small - since their new year celebration really happens the first week of February.  It looks like we will be spending that holiday in Australia....we have several meetings down there and then will stay for about a week of vacation which should be really nice.  We will probably go somewhere warm since it is the summer time for them....
We have bought a couple of cool pieces of artwork and furniture since we have come over so our apartment is starting to look a little less sterile....but it still has white walls and the korean victoria grandma furniture.....with winter coming we can tell it is going to get cold.  We walked yesterday for a long time around the city because it was relatively nice (clear but cool)....we went to a great restaurant last night for dinner with customers...probably one of the best meals since we have been here.  The view was of Radio Tower and The Bund.
One interesting thing since Expo has ended is how much the city is changing.  We have only lived here since they were kicking off Expo and so the pollution was bad, but not what we expected - and you saw no beggar -- so I just thought that was how it was in the city.  However, it turns out they were trying to minimize those items -- since the end of Expo the pollution has gotten much worse and there are a lot more people begging for money.   During the Expo it was outlawed to wear your pajama's all day -- (in Shanghai about 15% of the population wear their pajama's all day long - they sell designer brands for people) that Expo is over you see a lot more pajama's during the day.  We seriously thought of taking a picture with some of them because it is so funny.  But I can't get up the nerve to ask them so we have no pictures....
Its hard to believe we have been almost 7 months - time goes so fast and the way we live is just so different from anything we have experienced before.  Miss you all and hope you are doing well!
So It has been awhile since our last post, but in that time we have spent 10 days in Europe, 3 weeks at home and 1 crazy week back in Shanghai literally trying to dig out and get caught up.  We had a wonderful time in Europe.  We started in London which we had not been to in about 3 years -- it was great to spend time in an english speaking country!  From there we were in Switzerland -- at our European Headquarters.  This was a very busy meeting but we enjoyed getting to see that area and we had a couple of great experiences with outings we went on while we were there.  One night we went to a traditional swiss dinner -- which was mainly cheese -- but they then brought out that big long horn that they blow...turns out by the end of the night each of us had to blow it as was pretty funny and thankfully there are no pictures!
From Switzerland we went to Budapest -- a place I have always wanted to see it!  We loved visiting that area and saw some amazing things.  We have included pictures, and video's for you to look at if you are interested....We did get to go to a wine festival while there -- it was awesome -- local dancing, food, wineries and lots of was very cool...
Then Eric headed to the US and Molly was back to Shanghai for a crazy week -- to meet up in Seattle on the following weekend....we got to be at home, and the lake over the next 2 weeks -- it felt great.  The lake was amazing as usual -- we fished, boarded and did work -- but overall just nice to see family and friends.  We had the Pink Shamrock Party which enabled us to see lots of people and catch up....another great thing for us and the PInk Shamrock is doing great.
As mentioned on the front page we did go to the Expo last weekend -- thank goodness we saw it, but it was absolutely crazy.  There are so many people you can barely move and the lines to see everything were so long that we did not go into the pavilions.  However to have seen it in person was a good thing, and something we won't forget because the scale and detail were over the top.  All Eric and I could think about was the World's Fair in Spokane and how much smaller it was than this...
We are hanging in there -- but work is very crazy and there is so much to do -- time just flies by!  We think of you all frequently - take care of yourselves and Happy Halloween (as a side note they do celebrate it over here - thank goodne