Thursday, September 23, 2010


They both lived happily ever after.

The End

The Things We’ve Learned

In no particular order:

- Don’t sit under coconut trees when it’s windy

- Never take malaria pills on an empty stomach

- No matter where you are, random children yelling “hello” will always make you smile

- Watch out for the bones

- Bring your own toilet paper

- The Guinness is better in Ireland

- Plan ahead, but don’t plan ahead

- Eventually you get used to the ants

- Crossing time zones is different than travelling through time

- You don’t need a mobile phone

- Always have snacks in case of monkey attacks

- No matter what happens, talking to your family will make it better

- Look out for missing sewer grates

- A lot of places smell like pee

- “Putra Jaya” is different than “Puduraja”

- No one’s going to fix that skipping CD

- Off the beaten track isn’t always worth visiting

- Smiling makes things better

- It’s impossible to find a good cheeseburger in Southeast Asia

- There’s always room for one more

- It may not be perfect, but Canada is a good place to call home

Our Top 21 Memorable Experiences

In no particular order:

1. Gunung Bromo (Java, Indonesia)

2. Abu Simbel (Egypt)

3. Climbing in Hat Ton Sai (Thailand)

4. Mokoro safari in the Okavango Delta (Botswana)

5. Petra (Jordan)

6. the Gibbon Experience (Laos)

7. Watching “a kill” on our Serengeti safari (Tanzania)

8. Snorkelling in Nha Trang (Vietnam)

9. Seeing family & friends around the world

10. Observing wild orangutans (Sumatra, Indonesia & Sabah, Borneo-Malaysia)

11. Standing in nothing (Namibia)

12. Eating our way around the world

13. Pyramids of Giza (Egypt)

14. “Ghetto Camping” throughout Africa

15. Visiting Borobodur (Java, Indonesia)

16. Seeing the Plain of Jars (Laos)

17. Flying over the Okavango Delta (Botswana)

18. Hiking through Wadi Rum (Jordan)

19. Biking through the Angkor Temples (Cambodia)

20. Watching elephants from our tent (Zambia)

21. Celebrating Christmas in Bali (Bali, Indonesia)

The Skip-Bo World Tour-Nament of Champions – Update #4

Well Skip-Bo fans… we’ve had an amazing fourth and final quarter in the Skip-Bo World Tour-Nament of Champions!!!

The competition was fierce and fiery to the very end, with leads being shrunk, tables being turned and surprises all over the place.

To start, the victory purse was sweetened through a generous donation courtesy of Robyn’s Mom, Joan – she volunteered to bake the winner a cake.

Or at least, she sort of volunteered…

“Joan – can you bake the winner a cake?”

The inclusion of a delicious treat into the mix caused both the competitors to spring into action, making for one of the most dramatic show-downs in the history of Skip-Bo play.

At the end of the tournament’s third quarter, Robyn was leading by 3 games. And over the next 6 weeks, she not only doubled, but QUINTUPLED this lead to 15 games, making a victory for Eric seem next to impossible.

But Eric still had fight left in him and slowly shrunk down the overwhelming gap. And not only did he turn the tides, but for a short time he actually regained the lead by 3 games.

But in the end, Eric was no match for Robyn’s sweet-tooth…

With the series tied at 190 wins a piece and with time ticking down as they waited in Heathrow Airport for their flight home, Robyn defeated Eric in a nail-biter game to claim her victory…

And eventually, her dessert.

Therefore, the final standing is as follows:

Robyn – 191 games
Eric – 190 games

Congratulations Robyn – you earned this victory!

Um, can I have a slice?

the Final Numbers

18 – # of countries we visited

338 – # of nights we were away

20 – # of flights we took

2 – # of pairs of Robyn’s underwear “lost” using laundry services

96 – # of inter-city buses we rode

6 – # of people we saw riding one motor-scooter

342 – # of malaria pills we each took

2 - # of “shin fillets” taken out of Robyn’s leg

381 – # of games played in the Skip-Bo World Tour-Nament of Champions

7 – # of shots of Lao-Lao (Laos “whiskey”) consumed in one sitting

1 – # of cases of serious food-poisoning Eric had

29 – # of books we read

11 – # of different currencies we used

7 – # of ways we learned to say “thank-you”

3 – # of times we willingly ate snails

2 – # of malaria tests we took

7 - # of pieces of fried bread Eric ate at one sitting

1 – # of monkey attacks

$17.97 – amount of CAD$ we spent on public toilets

2 – # of rhinos we saw in the wild

1,123,581,321 – # of memories we had

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


Did we say “our flight to Paris”?

We meant to say “our flight to Toronto”…


Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Surprise Mom / Anne!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Surprise Linda / Linda!

Surprise Dad / John!

Surprise Sara!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Surprise Suzanne!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Surprise Mom / Joan!

Surprise Dad / David!

We’re baaaaaaaaaaaaaack...

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Day 338 – England to France

September 8, 2010 – Milton Keynes, England to Paris, France

Eric and I need to get to Heathrow to catch our flight to Paris so before Mary goes to work, she drops us off at the bus station where we grab a ride to the airport.

We say our “thank yous” and “see ya laters” and then we each head off in our respective directions.

The bus shows up relatively on time and although we hit some traffic, it’s nothing like what’s happening in China, so we can’t complain. We spend the rest of our time wandering around the duty-free stores and playing Skip-Bo.

Eventually the loudspeakers “play our song” and we board our flight.

Day 337 – England

September 7, 2010 – Milton Keynes, England

Mary has today off, which is convenient because so do Eric and I, the three of us spend the day doing a whole lot of nothing.

Well, technically we don’t do “nothing” – Eric and I repack for the next leg of our trip and Mary catches up on some reading, but you get the idea…

Eventually we figure it would be a good idea to enjoy the sunshine, considering we had been rained out in Northern Ireland, so we go for a wander around the lakes of Milton Keynes and get some fresh air.

For dinner we enjoy a nice English meal – chicken pie, courtesy of Marks & Spencer, as well as peas and potatoes – and then we wrap up the evening watching the movie “Doubt”.

It’s an early night for all of us because Mary has to work the next day and we need to catch a plane… our journey continues, yet again.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Day 336 – Northern Ireland to England

September 6, 2010 – Cross Keys, Northern Ireland to Milton Keynes, England

Our final day in Northern Ireland is fantastic. We wake-up early to ensure we can take full advantage of our time here because we fly back to Milton Keynes tonight.

First on the agenda is another fry-up. This time Ellen claims it’s a “light fry-up” and we have a good laugh because it seems her idea of a light fry-up is everything we had the other day, minus the sausage. Well fed, Mary, Ellen, Katherine, Eric and I jump in the car and head off to visit “the Giant’s Causeway”.

Eric is getting in touch with his inner-Leprechaun.

The weather today is typical Irish weather – windy, rainy and foggy – but we make the best of it and enjoy a lovely morning exploring the Causeway.

This is not an exaggeration… I’m hangin’ on for dear life.

We also learn about Finn McCool, the Irish giant associated with making the causeway.

As the story goes, Finn built the causeway so he could get to Scotland because he had a rivalry with Benandonner, a Scottish giant. But prior to reaching Scotland, Finn fell asleep and Benandonner walked over to Ireland to confront him. When Benandonner asked for Finn, Finn’s wife, who had covered Finn with a blanket while he slept, told him that Finn wasn’t there. Benandonner asked who was under the blanket and Finn’s wife told him it was she and Finn’s son. Benandonner was thrown by the size of the “son” – if his son was that large, imagine how big the father would be – so he ran all the way back to Scotland. And as he ran home, he broke up the causeway along the way so Finn couldn’t follow him.

And for the record, this story is completely true – I confirmed it on the Internet.

The rain and wind picks-up as we’re touring the Causeway so Mary, Ellen and Katherine leave us to wander, while they retreat to a tea room. Eric and I continue to brave the weather and take in more of the coast line.

After some serious souvenir shopping by all of us – Katherine the “local” ends up buying the most – we get back in the car and attempt another drive along the coast. The luck of the Irish is with us this time and we’re able to actually tell the difference between the ocean and road signs.

Eventually our stomachs finish digesting breakfast and at around 3:30pm we stop at a hotel pub for dinner, before returning home to say our good-byes and set off for the airport.

Eric and I have had a great time in Northern Ireland. Thank you Ellen, James Henry and Mary for inviting us into your home and showing us the famous Irish hospitality – whiskey and fry-ups will never be the same!

Days 334 & 335 – England to Northern Ireland

September 4 & 5, 2010 – Milton Keynes, England to Cross Keys, Northern Ireland

Milton Keynes is not a place one typically visits in England, but my good friend Mary lives here and we’re crashing at her place. Tomorrow morning she’s taking us to her childhood home in Northern Ireland, so after a nice dinner and some catching up, we head to bed.

Much to everyone’s chagrin, we have to wake up at 4:00am – affectionately referred to as “STOOPID o’clock” by Mary – to catch our 7:00am flight to Belfast. Last night’s dinner also included a couple bottles of wine so we’re a bit slow and we just barely make the shuttle-bus to catch our plane.

It’s a quick flight and after we disembark, we pick-up our hired car and head out to Mary’s hometown of Cross Keys where Ellen – Mary’s Mom – is eagerly awaiting our arrival.

The three of us are barely in the door and Ellen is already serving us up a traditional Irish fry-up, which includes eggs, bacon, sausage and 4 types of fried bread – potato, pancake, soda and multigrain.

Apparently the Irish like their fried bread.

Much to my disappointment, I spend our first afternoon in Northern Ireland in bed – I’m fighting off a bit of a cold. So while I’m resting, Eric and Mary visit Bushmills Distillery, the oldest whiskey distillery in Ireland. Based on their abundance of energy – and Eric’s numerous purchases – it seems they had a fabulous time learning about the whiskey-making process… and more importantly the whiskey-tasting process.

A visit to the town of Cross Keys wouldn’t be complete without a pint of Guinness at the local pub, which is appropriately named the Cross Keys Inn.

Mary’s thrilled because she also gets to catch up with the local gossip.

When we eventually go to bed, Eric and I enjoy the silence so much, we both sleep in – I finally get up at 10:00am and Eric is out for the count until noon. He wakes up just in time for the 1:00pm roast dinner Ellen has prepared in our honour.

Almost all of the family has shown up, including Mary’s sister Katherine, her husband and their two sons. The roast dinner is one of the main reasons we’ve come to Northern Ireland and it meets all our expectations and more.

We spend the remainder of the day touring around the countryside and driving along the coast. Unfortunately our luck runs out and we’re greeted with heavy rain and fog, so the sightseeing really consists of hedges and quick glimpses of what might be either the ocean or road signs... we're not sure.

We do manage to get in a quick hike at a local waterfall before the rain really starts though.

In the evening Eric and James Henry – Mary’s Dad – settle in to watch some hurling over hot totties. “Hurling” is an awesome / insane Irish sport and Eric takes advantage of James’ knowledge to learn more about the game.

Meanwhile Mary, Ellen and I multi-task – we both watch the hurling and knit pom-poms… don’t ask. It’s for charity and Mary has conned Ellen and I in to helping.

Standing Up For Sitting Down

In the past 11 months I’ve had to use squat toilets on numerous occasions.

I’ve used fancy stainless steel ones situated in spacious, beautifully-tiled rooms with excellent plumbing.

I’ve used basic holes in the ground that have two bricks to stand on and a bucket of water to “flush” with.

I’ve even used ones in rooms that were so “open concept” I was able to make eye contact with my neighbours, albeit awkwardly.

And in this time, I’ve become quite skilled in the “art of the squat”. Therefore I can say with absolute certainty that Western toilets are way better.

That’s right. You read correctly.


Yes, I know I’m supposed to travel the world to get a greater appreciation of other countries and cultures and I know I shouldn’t judge. But when it comes to me and my “happy time”, I stand by my statement one hundred percent.

For starters, a squat toilet takes time to master.

Not only do you need to find a comfortable position but you also need to learn how to aim. Let’s face it, gravity will do most of the work, put you’ve still got to point it in the right direction... ie. not on your shoes.

And since most people are only on vacation for a week or two, it’s a lot of pressure to become capable in such a short period. When time is of the essence, do you really want to be debating between resting on the balls of your feet or the flats of your feet?

But with a Western toilet all you need to do is sit down, which is something everyone knows how to do. In fact it’s something we do every day – at home, during meals, on the bus, etc. The only difference being on a toilet you have to sit with your pants around your ankles.

But the biggest reason why Western toilets are better than squats can be summed up in one word…


When I’m half-asleep at 3 o’clock in the morning or perhaps after having had a little too much to drink, the last thing I need to worry about is falling over when I’m “doing my business”.

It doesn’t matter whether it’s forwards, backwards or to the side, should this happen, no good can come out of it.

But with a western toilet, I can sit down, take a load off and focus on more important things…

Like dropping a load off.

I rest my case.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Days 330-333 – England

August 31 – September 3, 2010 – London to Twyford to Milton Keynes, England

This afternoon Eric and I are heading to the town of Twyford to visit my cousin Maggie and her family.

Or at least I think she’s my cousin… maybe she’s my second cousin? Or is it my first cousin, once removed? I’m not sure – her mom and my mom are cousins, so we’re related somehow and that’s good enough for me.

I haven’t seen Maggie, her husband Tom and their two daughters Libby and Josie in about four years and am really looking forward to catching up.

But first, Eric wants oysters.

So before we leave London we’re having lunch at one of our favourite places – the Wright Brothers Oyster & Porter House in the Borough Market. We take a nice leisurely walk to get there because the weather this morning is beautiful – it’s hot & sunny – which is very un-London-like.

Our meal start offs with a glass of pinot grigio and a selection of rocks, aka. “oysters” – Maldons, Wild Colchesters & Speciale de Claires. Then we move on to some delicious mains. I have sardines on toast with shallots & capers and Eric has razor clams with chorizo & broad beans in a fish broth… or “deliciousness” as Eric refers to it.

We work off our lunch by taking the long way “home” where we do some last-minute prepping before beginning our next journey. It’s a super-easy one which is good – we just have a simple tube ride to Paddington station and from there a train bound for Twyford.

The hardest part is being sure we head to the correct Twyford… apparently there’s eight of them in England.

We arrive in the correct Twyford glitch-free and are greeted at the train station by Maggie, Josie and Libby. Five minutes later, we walk into their home where Maggie’s husband Tom, as well as her parents Ann & Tony, welcome us with open arms and a glass of “fizzy orange”. Tom has cooked up a feast and it would be rude of us to keep everyone waiting, so we sit down to a nice extended-family dinner.

For the next two days we are entertained by and enjoy the company of the “Twyford Gang”…

On Wednesday we take the girls to 4 different playgrounds over the course of the day, which is fun but exhausting – Libby & Josie seem to have unlimited energy, which makes Eric & I feel old and lazy. ;)

By the way, that's not a bald spot on the back of Eric's head - it's just the way the light's hitting his hair.

Thursday is the girl’s first day of school. In fact, it’s Josie’s first day of school EVER, so it’s a big day around the house. Maggie drops them off without any problems – we’ve had a sleep-in, so we miss out on the festivities – and then she takes us over to Ann & Tony’s caravan in the nearby town of Henley. We enjoy a fantastic picnic lunch and after Maggie heads back home to pick the girls up from school, the four of us visit Cliveden House, which is a massive estate on the Thames River.

Since the girls are now experts at going to school, the next morning I join them which is a lot of fun – oh the memories. We wrap up our visit with Maggie by going out for lunch at her favourite pub, before catching a train from Twyford to Milton Keynes.

Our time in Twyford is fantastic. It’s great to be able to catch up with family, eat amazing meals – including wines and cheeses from France – and lead a life resembling a bit of normalcy. Thank you “Twyford Gang” – Maggie, Tom, Libby, Josie, Ann & Tony – for your wonderful hospitality. We look forward to you visiting us in Canada sometime!!

The train rides from Twyford to Milton Keynes are generally uneventful, though we do run into a bit of confusion trying to catch the Tube from Paddington to Euston Underground… nothing worth really writing about though.

My friend Mary picks us up from Milton Keynes Central right on time and we head to her house for a light dinner, where we also help her clean out her wine cabinet. This seems like a good idea at the time, but at 11:45pm we suddenly remember we have to wake-up at 4:00am to catch the red-eye to Belfast.

Red-eye indeed, hmmmmm…

Friday, September 3, 2010

Days 325-329 – England

August 26-30, 2010 – London, England

After a deep and refreshing sleep, Eric and I wake-up ready to take on the day. Unfortunately it’s raining outside, but there’s no way it’s going to stop us – we have things to do!

Our first task is of the domestic variety – we need to pick-up ingredients for tonight’s dinner. We’re cooking for Erin and her boyfriend, to both thank her for letting us stay at her place and so we can finally meet Dean, who we’ve heard so much about. It’s also a great excuse for us to visit the Borough Market, one of our favourite places in London. We discovered it when we were here at Easter and it’s conveniently located only 20 minutes from Erin’s place.

Once this is accomplished, we go for a long walk to Covent Gardens, so I can book a hair appointment for Friday. I haven’t had my hair cut since the “Vietnam incident” and am looking forward to a little primping and pampering. We also swing by a couple of comic book shops so Eric can get his Batman fix – he’s been such a good boy on this trip, he deserves a treat.

We eventually head back to Erin’s and start preparing our feast. On the menu tonight we have chicken stuffed with bacon, old cheddar & chutney, roasted potatoes with leeks & tomatoes, a garden salad and a selection of treats from the market for dessert… or “pudding” as they say around here.

Dinner goes swimmingly well and we finish off the evening swapping stories, emptying bottles of wine and laughing our heads off… but not in this particular order.

Friday is the start of a long weekend in England, so Erin and Dean take off to Norwich, and leave us the run of her place.

We originally planned to go to Paris for the weekend, but it seems we’ve both picked up a cold so we decide to take it easy for a bit – Erin’s place is very comfortable and we make ourselves at home by catching up on movies and cooking for ourselves. Oh the luxuries!

On Monday we venture out of London to visit Cambridge.

It’s a lot busier than we expect, but the weather is lovely – no rain in sight – and the city is beautiful, so it’s a great way to spend the day. Plus, Cambridge is home to Fitzbillie’s bakery which is famous for its Chelsea buns and being the Chelsea bun connoisseurs that we are, we have to sample them – it only seems right.

The buns are good, but we both agree that the ones from the bakery in Gravenhurst are still better… we biked over 25kms to get them last summer.

After lunch in a local pub, we return to London and check out Oxford Circus.

It too is busy with all the people getting ready for the upcoming school term… suckers. Neither of us is actually interested in shopping, so we walk “home” via Buckingham Palace, Big Ben and the Tate Modern where we spend the evening vegging out in front of the TV, calling Eric’s parents and packing up our bags...

Tomorrow we’re off to the town of Twyford to visit my relatives.