The address we chose for our blog is dontusemytoothbrush.com. Kind of long, but easy to remember and fits the way we travel. We are setting off for a 10 month journey around the world. One small back pack each and we are ready to conquer. The plan is Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, China and Tibet. After that….? Rome for Christmas. Our budget is $150 a day(excluding plane tickets). Seems doable for 4 of us. Looking forward to long bus rides and street food!
Flagstaff family takes a year off to travel the globe
EDITOR’S NOTE: Flagstaff 12-year-old Lily Maurer is about halfway through a year spent traveling the globe with her family. She is traveling with her parents, Jeff and Kari Maurer, and her brother, Miles Maurer, 15. Lily has lived in Flagstaff from age 2. She attended Flagstaff Junior Academy and will be in eighth grade there next year. The family rented out their house and left Flagstaff in August, headed to Bangkok. They will return in June. In an email to the Daily Sun, Lily said her parents have been wanting to do this trip for a long time and saved their money. They are currently traveling around Southern Africa for four months. The family is blogging about their trip at http://www.dontusemytoothbrush.com.
Our flight to Bangkok gave us a three-day layover in Beijing, China. There we had the opportunity to hike the Great Wall of China. Our Airbnb host, Cindy, recommended a rarely visited area that was on a lakeside. We walked on the Great Wall for about four hours with perfect weather.
Next, we headed to Thailand for a month. We went to the Grand Palace, took a river trip on the Pai River and visited the beaches in Krabi. My brother got food poisoning here and spent two days in a local hospital.
Not knowing that the train tracks to Cambodia were flooded, we headed to the train station. We were informed of the problem and rushed to the bus station. Even though my dad refused to pay the bribe at the border, we made it safely to Siem Reap in a downpour. My favorite spots in Cambodia were Angkor Wat and a homestay in a local village.
Following the Mekong River, we headed over to Laos. The people there were very friendly and greeted us with “Sabaidee” (Hello).
With a little change in our schedule, we ended up in Nepal, which turned out to be the highlight of our trip so far. We learned so much, spending 18 days hiking the Annapurna Circuit with Thorong-La Pass, the biggest pass in the world. It was really cool to hike in the Himalaya’s, knowing that it is the world’s highest mountain range. Hiking Thorong-La Pass was amazing, with the top of it at 17,769 feet. We hiked from tea houses to guest houses in the middle of nowhere. The terrain switched from jungle to rice field terraces and big snowy mountains. Finally, we finished the Trek spending a few days in Pokhara and Chitwan.
From Nepal we flew to Portugal and visited Lisbon, Oporto and Sintra. Oporto was the best because it wasn’t a huge city like Lisbon, plus it was where port wine was from.
We met up with my grandma and my sister, Karisa, in Rome and spent Christmas in Florence. There were six people and were on a budget, so we decided to spend two Euros on each person for a present.
For New Year’s, we stayed on Lido and saw the firework show on Venice. We got water taxi passes so we could go on all of the islands.
Now we are in Cape Town, South Africa preparing to drive across the wilds of Africa for four months.
December 7, 2013
Here I sit in our Lisbon apartment listening to soft jazz and looking out over the calm waters of the Tagus. Our rooftop balcony is located on one of the oldest streets in the Alfama. This is one of the first times we have had to catch you up on the month that just flew by. –Jeff
We headed to Laos close to October 8th and stayed about 3 weeks there. First we went to the 4,000 islands and visited the Don Khone Waterfalls. After staying 3 days on the island, we took a 15 passenger van that held 25 people to Thakhek! -Lily
Thakhek is still a backwater gem. French colonial architecture that flows into Deco. The former majesty is tarnished and raw. The few tourists are not noticed by others of the same or the dismissive locals. Brash teens are racing the streets on flashy Chinese made fixies. Beer Lao and a straight razor shave, now that’s living. -Jeff
There was a huge festival going on in Thakhek with circus games and junk stands. We stayed at the green climbers’ home for 4 days.
Check out greenclimbershome.com. Limestone faces, caves and sweet tufas. Dad and Miles climbed the whole time we were there, while Mom and I went swimming in the stream and got massages. We rented some scooters and went around a rural loop. It’s supposed to take multiple days, but we did only 2 days because one of the days we were going to have to go through a foot of mud. –Lily
Having bailed on the track of mud, we headed back to Thakhek and boarded a bus to a little town near Konglor Cave. This had been our goal all along and it saved us a day of scootering on the busy main road. We picked up some scooters locally and headed for the cave. –Jeff
We took a boat through the Konglor cave, which is 7.5 kilometers in length. A river runs through the cave so there is a lot of stalactites and stalagmites from the water. On the other side of the cave was a little village. We didn’t enter the village because it was a little after noon and the drive back was about an hour. –Lily
Did we mention one scooter crash and two burned esophagi? We now headed to Vientiane, the capital of Laos. Another city that showed the vestiges of its French colonial past. One of which was the French Embassy Clinic. A small tropical medicine clinic with Tin Tin Lao illustrations on the walls. More about the esophageal ulcerations. So, did you know that if you are taking malarial meds, don’t drink enough water and lay down afterwards, you may very well have them stick in your throat!? Well, Miles and Kari found out. They could barely swallow and it hurt even to breathe. The doctor at the clinic rolled his eyes and said in his wonderful broken English – “We see this all the time”. A week of meds and no acidic foods later, another emergency was averted.
A little less exciting but much more enjoyable was the food and wine. We ate every lunch at a small French restaurant that had a multi-course fancy shmancy meal for $4.00 bucks. Add some wine and “se magnifique!” Also, dinner at a local noodle shop for even less and by the end of our stay we were greeted and served tea like the regulars. – Jeff
We looked up must do’s in Vientiane and the number 1 thing was visit a rehabilitation center? We walked to the center and found out that it was a landmine and UXO’s victims rehab clinic, awareness and fundraising center. Inside were some replacement legs made out of wood, tin cans and bombshells that the villagers made and prosthetic legs made with plastic. There were displays and taped interviews of people affected by landmines. It was very sad for me to find out that the U.S.A dropped more tons of bombs on Laos than all bombs used in WWII. –Lily
October 2, 2013
We took another long bus ride and ended up in Phnom Penh. It was a holiday for 5 days. We ended up staying there for 4. There were lots of creeper, old, white guys everywhere. They were super gross and had young pretty Cambodian girls with them. The city was dirty and smelly with piles of garbage everywhere. At the market, we all almost gagged. People just throw their trash in the street and the rain makes it all soggy. Then a garbage truck comes when the pile is high. They shovel it in the truck. We could see rats running around.
There we visited the Killing Fields and the genocide museum. The places were scary and sad. Pol Pot was horribly mean and we all felt so sad when we looked at the pictures of the people before he had them killed. Dad made us walk around the entire city. On the last day the Grand Palace finally opened. There we saw the Golden, diamond crested Buddha and the Emerald Buddha too. I am tired of seeing Buddha statues, but these were very cool. I did not feel good on the next bus ride to Kompang Cham.
September 29, 2013
When we went to catch the train to Cambodia we discovered the tracks were flooded. We were very happy we had not tried to get on the 5:55 am train. We took a tuk-tuk straight to the bus station and jumped on a bus that was leaving in 5 minutes. The ride was very long and after 6 ½ hours we got to the border. It was already dark and the border was going to close soon. After we got our visa we were in Cambodia. A car was going to drive us to Siem Reap that night. It was so rainy that we were scared the driver would run off the road. Finally in the pouring rain we arrived at the beautiful Golden Mango Hotel.
We spent 4 days in Siem Reap. We went to visit Angkor Wat 3 times. One morning we got up early to watch the sun rise. We also went on a tour that we did not like. It went to Tonle Sap Lake and we felt like they were just trying to rip us off. It just seemed weird to stare at poor people all day. Angkor Wat is amazing and Angkor Thom is in the movie Tomb raider. Miles liked Banteay Srei.
After leaving Krabi, Miles became very sick. I was off for a foot massage with Dad. Mom, feeling guilty about letting Karisa suffer through 5 days of food poisoning last time they were in Cambodia, took Miles to the nearest hospital in a Taxi. Miles was shaking and could not even walk. After the diagnosis, they checked him into the Pediatric floor. The nurses put cute PJ’s on him and laughed a lot. The next day Mom had an appointment at a skin clinic. There was a big, scabby growth on her forehead. She figured it was best to check it out now.
While Miles was having porridge and pickled cabbage at the local hospital Mom and I headed off to the other side of town. Not knowing anything about the hospital she had made an appointment. When we pulled up to the clinic, we noticed that it was in the fancy part of town. There were makeup counters everywhere and it was like a mall inside. A guy who worked there was in the middle playing on an ebony grand piano, playing Bad Romance by Lady Gaga and Marry Me by Bruno Mars. It turns out that people come from all over the world to go to that hospital… It turned out that Mom’s big scab was not cancer. They said it was from the sun and she should have it cut out. They did it right then. The doctor must have felt bad that we were not fancy. He gave us a 3000 Baht (100 dollar) discount.
It was hard to get a taxi to the other side of town where we were staying (about a 1 and a half hour drive). After about 5 taxi”s said no to us, we finally got one… It was a long, bumpy drive back and I got carsick. I could barely walk to our hotel room, but once I got there Miles was sitting on the bed, back from his hospital after a long night there.
September 19, 2013
We left Pai and had a great river trip. Ending up in Mae Son we had to make our way back to Bangkok. Not wanting to go back to Chiang Mai, we worked our way down the border of Myanmar. This involved staying in a few small towns, as well as a 6 hour ride in a songthaew. This is basically the open bed of a truck with seats. People were on and off the entire trip. School kids hopped on and made their way to school. One women who had traveled our route for the previous 2 days with her daughter was dropped off at a refugee camp before Mae Sot. Although we had not been able to communicate with her during the trip we were all very sad as they stood out front the refugee camp with a letter in hand.
While in Mae Sot we made a visit to Myanmar. Lily did not like it here. Such a change once we were across the bridge for Thailand. We had a guide who took us around and even took us to his son’s house. The house was small and on stilts in a swampy area, Garbage was everywhere . We went in and were offered coffee. Not wanting to drink the yellow, hot water Kari made excuses about how we had stomach aches. Our guide then told us his son never finished school and that was how he ended up living in Myawaddy in a dirty house with his wife and son. The guide had finished college and encouraged his son to do the same. “But some kids are just bad and don’t do what their parents say.” Lily will surely not drop out of school when seeing what the consequences are.
A night bus to Bangkok and back to Feung Nakorn, a nice hotel. Jeff arrived at 12:43 am. We were all happy to see him and overloaded him with our stories.
September 12, 2013
Average per day $132. Tiger Kingdom(a total waste) and Elephant Camp really jacked this up.
DECISION….I hate keeping track of the costs each day. All I do is think about how much something costs and our daily expenditures. Last week I transferred our monthly budget into the travel bank account. Now I will only have to check every few weeks.
The BAD news…..A line of credit payment just kicked in. If we don’t want to go in debt the budget is CUT to $110 a day. Onward we press. If we run out we will “Eat Dirt”.
Pai….We are holed up in a hippie town in Northern Thailand. Thanks to Lonely Planet, which we don’t use, plenty of folks have joined us. Eating, playing video games and studying the properties of minerals is how we spend our time. It seems FUSD has set a standard that includes boring, outdated online courses.
If this post seems cynical….I miss the travel days of even 10 years ago. People actually talked. Now at even given time 8 of 10 are on their phone. We are as guilty, online school and a blog.
In fact, I saw the most disheartening display of this at Elephant Camp. A couple (in their 40,50’s) came to the Chai Orchid from Spain to fulfill a dream. To be married on an elephant in the water. We watched as they prepared. Flowers on the elephant, a wedding dress, local dancers. Up on the elephant they ride to the water, waving and smiling. The elephant walks 100 yards, stops for vows and then lumbers back. Cameras and phones clicking the couple returns to the lodge. Once off the elephant they Immediately head to a table, sitting across from each other. Not saying a word for 20 minutes, they text and post photos online.
September 6, 2013
A rainy morning in Chiang Mai . During the night the electrical went out. Our room was pitch black. We could not even find the door out. In a panic I ran downstairs where they had emergency lights on. I was given a flashlight. Seems this might be a common event in downpours here. ~Kari~
It was my birthday and it was amazing! I got to wash a 1 year old elephant in the river and she was so nice. At night we had some spicy Thai chicken wings and they were really good. Their were some people having a wedding party and the people that worked their had extra flowers from making the decorations so they made me a beautiful headdress of flowers. ~Lily~
Monday, September 2nd, 2013
We took the train from Bangkok to Sukhothai, Thailand. We got a taxi to take us to our hotel and the driver took us to a more fancy hotel in the middle of nowhere, at least we finally got to the right hotel. We had a great dinner with spicy curry and fruit shakes (they were SO BIG, they were at least 1 foot tall).
Weekly average spent per day $125 (Seems good for the 2 big cities)
August 27, 2013
We had a 72 hour layover in Beijing. This is the maximum time allowed without getting a visa. We could only manage 2 nights and still get a flight to Bangkok within that time frame. We were very unprepared. Not having a printed itinerary was a problem for China. I had to E-Mail my reservation to the airline, then they printed a copy. We had booked through Airbnb. Cindy sent a driver to pick us up. They were there with a sign. That was a family first. Her house was in the old part of the city. The Communists had taken it from the family and they just got it back 10 years ago. During that time, someone had sold the entrance to several families. There were living spaces without a kitchen leading up to her traditional home. We had a bedroom to ourselves off a courtyard. Cindy gave us a cell phone to call when we were lost and arranged a driver to take us to the Great Wall. We chose to go to the Lakeside portion of the wall. There were a few locals there and us. We had the wall to ourselves. We walked for 3 hours until the wall became overgrown. Miles bushwacked for a bit before we headed back. We didn’t have to deal with vendors, entry fee or other tourists. Miles wants to return for a long walk on the wall. We ended up spending the next day at the forbidden city. . We only had to call Cindy 4 times. One night we ended up eating off a main road. Everyone seems to think that Lily can speak Chinese and asked her what we are talking about. In fact, one woman wanted to steal her at the Wall. We were confident with our subway skills at this point. We successfully took it to the airport and flew to Bangkok.
Bangkok was awesome. There is reason there are so many tourists. Just taking the side streets leads to incredible Wats. Khao San Road is the best. We had a foot massage and Thai massage. We also bought some Beats for less. The tuks tuks are scary fun, we took them often. We visited the Grand Palace, Wat Pho, The Golden Mountain and several other Temples. Plus the hotel had a breakfast buffet. Yeah!!!