Wednesday, December 26, 2012

New Website

Hi family and friends,

I got a new wordpress blog! That is what I will be updating from now on. The url is

See you there!

Love Amber

Friday, November 30, 2012

Massage School

In June of 2012 I did a 12-day Thai Massage School through the Sunshine Network. I heard about it from friends I met at Hariharalaya, the retreat in Cambodia, who raved about this Massage School in Northern Thailand.  As soon as I heard their reviews, I knew I had to go! 

The classes were held outside on this amazing platform. There were 9 of us students, and we all became good friends.

Sveta from Russia is working on Mickey from Chile

An all-vegan diet and accommodation in a small shared cabin was included. This is my good friend Yumi, who I also visited in Kuala Lumpur.

Some girls from the village droppin their gang signs

Our teachers mother who cooked our meals for us

This woman came every day at dinnertime to try to sell us stuff

The village

Cute local kid dressed in bright colors

She loved having her photograph taken


Enjoying coffee at Starbucks, AKA a neighbor's front porch


Thursday, October 11, 2012

Tianyar, Bali

After Taipei, I flew to Bali, Indonesia to meet up with my boyfriend James. We spent the first few days in Kuta, which is a horrible, horrible place, filled mostly with drunken Australians on a perpetual spring break...  I didn't take out my camera at all there, I was so annoyed with it all.

So we rented a motorbike for 20 days - $2 per day! - and set out to loop around the island. For a few days we wandered up the east coast, staying at guesthouses, eating at roadside warungs (restaraunts.) 

A few days into our trip I received an email (we checked every few days at internet cafes, $1 per hour) from a guy named Aaron who asked if we wanted to volunteer teaching English at an after-school program. He reached us through the website, which we have been using for the past year to find places to volunteer in exchange for room and board.

We had nothing else to do, so we rode the motorbike to Tianyar, on the north coast of Bali, to meet Aaron and volunteer for the program.

This is a girl who lived in our neighborhood. We lived with Aaron and his wife Lindsey, an American couple who moved to Bali to start a cashew factory.

The front yard of the house. The kids came over one day to play. At first it was just a few and then more and more started to trickle in until the whole neighborhood was there. Every day after that some of the boys would come by and ask to play.

In addition to volunteering at the after-school program, James and I helped Aaron write the content for his cashew website. I went to the factory several times to interview the ladies and see all parts of the cashew process. I'll show you the link once he's put up what we wrote.

The cashew-friut. In Brazil they eat the fruit, but not in Indonesia. They break off the nut - on the bottom of the fruit, see? Then they dry it, sort it, steam it, open it, and peel it... Lots of time and people involved for every single cashew being processed.

Here it is opened


Monday, September 24, 2012

Motorcycle Trip!

While I was in Taiwan, a typhoon was supposed to bash the east coast! Luckily at the last minute the typhoon veered towards the ocean, and I was able to fulfill one of my Asia trip goals: go on a multi-day solo motorbike trip.

The motorbike cost about $10/day, which is pretty expensive for Asia. But totally worth it. Some require an international drivers licence, but if you ask around at different places, you'll find someone who'll rent to you.

Almost the entire route was wide roads right next to the ocean with a separate motorcycle lane. It never rained, and wasn't unbearably hot. I was pretty lucky.

Lots of pretty places to stop, too!

These pagodas are everywhere, perfect for yoga and napping.

Pretty sculpture park, everything was made out of driftwood.

Lots of other travelers admiring the scenery. Most of them were from other parts of Taiwan, but also a lot of Chinese and Japanese tourists. 

I rode from Hualien to Taidung, which took about 4 or 5 hours, with plenty of time to stop and admire the scenery. Once I reached Taidung, I went to the tourist office, but no one there could speak English. Luckily I had written down the phone number of a youth hostel, so we called there and the owner of the hostel came and picket me up!

This is my cool roommate in Taidung, who is from a different part of Taiwan, and travelling around the country by train. He has three fancy cameras with him and photographs everyone he meets.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Taroko Gorge

After a few days in Taipei with Tessa, we split up for a week. She headed for the urbanized west side to visit family friends, and I meandered to the less populated east side for hiking and adventure.

I took the train to Yilan and spent the night there at a hostel that reminded me of a prison or hospital, so I only stayed there for one night. I woke up early the next day and took the train towards Hualien, but decided to get off at Taroko National Park, a 'place of interest' in my little brochure that I had picked up from the tourist office in Taipei. With my backpack (only 9kg!) I took the tourist bus into the park, and walked for about three hours, admiring the grandeur, and caught the bus to Hualien.

Epic bridge, reminiscent of the ones on New Zealand.

Its hard to capture the scale of it.

See the people walking? They were on the bus with me, I had a nice chat with them.

That little pagoda in the center of the picture is about 2 meters high.

Taipei, Taiwan

I had the opportunity to visit Taiwan, thanks to Tessa! Her parents were born there and her grandparents live in Taipei, so growing up she would visit them every summer.  Her family has an apartment in the city that Tessa and I stayed at. I never would have thought to visit Taiwan, but it was honestly one of my favorite places in Asia.

I took these pictures from a pedestrian footbridge over this busy intersection. There's always lots of traffic, but Taipei has a very user-friendly underground MRT system; even me, who can't speak a smidgen of Chinese, could take the MRT alone no problem.

Buses are not so easy to navigate, but I took them plenty of times with Tessa, who speaks Chinese!

Bus lanes are in the middle of the street, see? Everything in Taipei is well organized.

The 101 Tower, which used to be the tallest building in the world. Tessa's family's apartment was just 3 blocks away from it. We could walk to its huge air-conditioned underground mall from her place.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Visiting Yumi in Kuala Lumpur

On my way from Ho Chih Minh City, Vietnam to Taipei, Taiwan, I had a layover in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.  I decided to stay for 5 days so I could visit my friend Yumi, who I met in Thailand, and see the city!

This is the view from her apartment window. You can see the Patronus Twin Towers on the left and the KL Tower on the right.

Yumi is a yoga teacher at an ashram in India. She comes to Kuala Lumpur to visit her parents, who own the apartment. She's setting up the camera on top of the TV to take a  picture of us.

Yumi and her parents were great hosts. Thanks so much for having us! 

A traditional Japanese breakfast: rice with miso soup and a communal salad/omelette plate. Yummy!

Hoi An, Vietnam

Hoi An, Vietnam, where every other shop is a tailor shop.

This one is named after my sister.

Nico enjoying some yummy street food.

A tasty Vietnamese dessert: flan on shaved ice topped with sweet coffee - very French. YUM.

At this little juice cafe you can get fresh fruit juice for 25 cents.