Punk’d….again!

Fool us once, we should have guessed it. Fool us twice, we’re still idiots. Ahhh the tourist traps. Kitty and Santa tried their best to stay away from the them but within the first few weeks in Thailand found themselves buying into luxurious trips which ended in no such manner. Their first mistake was planning a lovely family outing in Phuket, an island hopping cruise!

“A private boat offers the flexibility to choose those perfect snorkeling places away from the crowds and, when the tides and water clarity are perfect. Boats are comfortable and fast, fitted with all safety equipment and have large covered areas. Wine & dine yourself while enjoying the beautiful surroundings that the islands of Thailand have to offer ” Kitty, and Santa scanned the cover of the trifold OooOOoo-ing and AhhhHhhh-ing. THIS is something they had to do.

Maya Beach, Koh Phi Phi Leh Island, Krabi, Thailand, AsiaWhat the pamphlet really should of said was… ” Welcome abroad you spotted cows, you. We are going to shove 500 people jammed onto a loud and slow barge with plastic chairs and terrible snacks. (Kitty and Santa can’t stand when the snacks are bad)….

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We will transport you at 4 miles an hour to an island where you won’t even be able to see the sand because so many people are standing shoulder to shoulder on the beach trying to get a photo. We then will push you all into the water to snorkel! As you grab your gear be sure to check out our photo exhibit of all the people who were injured in the water! We hope the bloody messes in all the photos will gear you into excitement to jump right in and explore (SAFETY IS ALWAYS NUMBER ONE FOR US, as you can tell we have no idea how to stop all the blood, we only have bandaids on board. We wont tell you how to stay safe but hey, this is an adventure. Figure it out or we will add you to the poster!).

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So enjoy your snorkeling, except you wont see any fish, you’ll only see legs of the person you were sitting next to on the boat. 500 people floating together with their heads dunked under the water, It’ll take you right back in time to your favorite Titanic moment, but with warm water!! After an hour of watching different color board shorts and bikini bottoms flounder around next to you we will let you back onto the boat to sit some more. If your thirsty, grab a warm beer for $5.00 or some saltine crackers for 3 small payments of $19.95. BUT don’t worry, you’ll make your money back on our all you can eat island buffet. We offer a fine selection of local mystery meats smothered in something weird and a chef’s special of hard, old white rice. When you finished eating say MOOOOOO and get back on line to board the ship. If you get there early enough you may even get to sit down in a chair! After just a short hour and no free time on the island we will head back to beautiful Phuket. I’m sure everyone will be exhausted and crabby from a 7 hour tour of nothingness. Our staff will be sure to hide from everyone during this time. Thank you and please, please YELP your exceptional experience aboard the WORST CRUISE IN THE WOLRD.”

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So Kitty and Santa made a mistake and their families had to suffer through a day of herding cattle. Live and learn right? Except they always seem to forget the learning part. Kitty and Santa arrived in Bangkok just to jump on a train a few days later and head to Northern Thailand, Chiang Mai! WOO!! They went to the train station and smiled politely to the attendant, 2 tickets to Chiang Mai please! “No Chiang Mai train, NEEEEXXXT!” Santa quickly stepped in, her normal panic state “I’m sorry, what?” “Chiang Mai train no working now. You take bus, upstaits. NEEEEEXXXTT!” They stepped away from the front desk and were quickly approached by an overly nice woman who was trying to help them out of the good of her heart (and a small commission fee if we booked with her, but mostly from her BIG ol heart). Kitty and Santa moved aside to discuss the issue, looks like they were going to have to take the bus either way. Flights were mostly booked and the train wasn’t working, what other options did they have?!

The overnight bus to Chiang Mai was….fancy. “A beautiful double decker bus fully equipped with restrooms, fully reclined chairs, luggage space below, 2 full meals and drinks all included for just $85 one way! The bus departs around 10 PM and gets in at 7 AM so you can enjoy a full nights rest aboard and wake up with a smile in sunny Chiang Mai.” “WOWWW!” Santa’s eyes grew big with excitement as the guy showed her pictures of a tour bus that looked VIP enough for Kanye & Kim to tour in. “Lets do this, lets definitely do this Kitty.” Kittys face was blank and unamused at what this guy just did to Santa. She looked at Santa and said “Lets go outside and talk about this” Santa immideatly thought she was playing hard to get with the guy and jumped up pretending to agree. “Oh, ya. Pssh. We’ve seen better deals” As the girls started to walk away the man at the desk shouted “FOR YOU $45.00! “OK! SOLD! Kitty that’s like half off” Santa jumped with excitment, Kitty still did not look convinced. “Santa, outside. NOW.” The girls walked outside and Kitty was hesitant. Santa agreed but what other options did they have. At least with this they get food, drinks and some sleep. They were saving 1 nights worth of money for lodging and so it would all even out in the end. The girls walked back in and agreed to the VIP bus arrangement. The next day they were off.

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They waited in line for what seemed like a very long time to board the bus, “What is taking so long?” As the line grew closer they noticed the bus was short staffed. It appeared a random man was in the luggage compartment, smoking a cig and sweating profusely while trying to load in the luggage. Kitty leaned over and started to whisper to Santa an important bit of information she forgot….”My friend told me that sometimes these night buses are highjacked by thieves and in the middle of the night when everyone is asleep they throw a smoke bomb on the bus that knocks everyone out for real. Then they steal everyones luggage and stuff, and then they leave the bus stranded in the middle of no where. Its happened before, its true.” She leaned away from Santa who was next in line to throw her luggage in the compartment. Santa looked at Kitty in fear and Kitty just nodded with a “I’m so serious right now” face. They boarded the bus, Santa still in a state of shock. “Its a little dirtier than what I hoped for but we still got the food to look forward to!” Kitty said to brighten the mood. She sat down on her rock hard chair and pulled the lever up to test out her seat in fully reclined mode. BOOM. Her seat was basically lying on the seat behind her.”Ooops! Good thing no one was sitting there when I did that” she laughed. As people were boarding Santa looked at Kitty struggling with her seat “Kitty! Put your seat up, these people need to sit down.” Kitty’s face was glowing red, “Its stuck!” “what?!” Santa began to laugh. “I’m serious, it wont move. I’m trying.” People filed in and sat down around Kitty and Santa as they noticed the 2 girls frantically panicking with Kitty’s seat. One guy made a comment about how he was happy he didn’t have the seat behind Kitty, she was a little too comfy for his enjoyment. “I’m not sitting like this on purpose, ITS STUCK!” Kitty squeaked. The man tried to help Kitty but there was no such luck. After 10 minutes of pushing, pulling and smacking her chair it finally sprang into a far too forward position. Kitty went from riding dirty to folded in half. In fear that it was going to get stuck again she let the chair be.

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The same man who was smoking cigs and loading luggage came and asked for their tickets and handed them an old child’s blanket for sleeping. Confused at who this man was and what the stain on the blanket was  they handed the tickets over. 10 minutes later the man was handing out snacks. Looked like a one man show. Kitty got super excited, I wonder what it is. They were given 2 hoho looking cake treats, one lime green and the other bright pink and a juice that looked to be made of antifreeze. “IS THIS OUR MEAL?” Santa asked. Kitty was absolutely positive it wasn’t. “It said 2 meals, not one. This is a snack for sure. Not a meal” Kitty then politely asked the strange man what was on the menu for the evening dinner. She didn’t eat anything since lunch because she was so excited about the free food. Thai food? Maybe Indian? Nooo it was probably some kind of noodle dish. She rubbed her hands together and tried not to drool. The man looked down at her “Meal one. Meal two” He pointed to each of the colorful weird looking cakes. Santa swears a tear almost fell from Kitty’s eyes in that moment. As she tried to focus on the cakes the last passenger boarded the bus, with a screaming baby and guess where the baby sat, YEP! Right behind Kitty and Santa. This bus ride was going to be a cake walk. Literally. Santa scrambled in her bag for a second, Xanax!! Kitty and Santa popped a stress relieving pill and hoped to fall deep into a coma for 9 hours. As the luggage loader, ticket puncher, waiter got into the drivers seat of the bus they prayed if the robbery was going to happen they would be out for it…Hopefully they would be waking up with a smile on their face in beautiful Chiang Mai in the morning…. (To be continued)

Ashton Kutcher −2        Kitty&Santa −BIG FAT NOTHIN.

Reunited in Phuket, Thailand

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Kitty and Santa got to their gate at the Seoul International airport an anxiously devised a plan of attack. They’re family’s connecting flight to Phuket was Kitty and Santa’s departing flight from Korea. All of their sadness about leaving Korea was quickly washed away when they sprung up on their parents walking through the terminal. Hugs, tears and more hugs were given as they were finally reunited after a long year apart.

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They arrived in Phuket and were greeted the next day by Katie’s sisters Liz and Emily. They felt the love as they listened to the girls talk about their 12 hour layover in Hong Kong with no good selection of snacks. They bought a large bottle of expensive wine (the cheapest they could find in the duty free section) passed the bottle back and forth and chased it down with some NyQuil and a large French fry ….point taken, you don’t sit around the Hong Kong airport like that for just anyone. Kitty and Santa felt truly blessed to be reunited with some of their families on the beautiful beaches of Karon. They all were able to bask in the sun, island hop, eat some amazing Thai, Indian and American food & tour the local sights that Phuket had to offer.
 
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Some short stories to highlight the trip::
 
You want my dirty Baht?
“Give me dirty Baht Santa”…”You want my dirty Baht?” Santa exclaimed in fear. “Nooo, I need your thirty baht.” With Santa’s hearing problem and miscalculations of currency there was never a dull moment wheeling and dealing their Baht (Thai money) on the streets of Thailand. Santa welcomed Kitty’s parents as her mom Cindy never seems to hear things correctly the first time and her dad was caught bragging to people at the pool bar about how his room cost him 80 Baht (thats equivalent to $2.50 USD)! They got many chuckles out of swindling people down on prices when they found out later they only knocked off 5 cents. Kitty and Santa had long conversations about what type of hostel they wanted to book in northern Thailand. An hour into it they realized this large debate was weather they should sleep with 8 people in a bunk bed dorm room that had 1 window and 1 fan OR for $3.00 more they could have a private room with air conditioning. Ummmm? “DIRTY BAHT” (said of course, in a Justin Timberlake Dirty Pop rendition).

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Bartering with the tuk tuk mafia. 
Apparently the mafia runs the entire transportation system on the beaches of Phuket. Bartering was not easy but when the 4 girls approach the locals in their bikinis lowering the price of BAHTS happened to get a little easier. The entire time Liz was telling Emily to watch her mouth, as she can get a little scrappy with her bartering techniques, in fear the mafia might restrain her. Kitty was relieved after the week was over that we never had to meet with the “queen bee”…”queen bee?” Santa asked. “Ya, you know the ring leader of the mafia pack. He’s the queen bee right?” Santa would have thought a mafia leader would roll with a tougher name than that but was happy to be learning Thai mafia facts from Kitty.

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Our Wolf Pack
After the parents left it was just the 4 girls. Liz, Em, Kitty & Santa. The girls set out for a beach up north in Phuket called Nai Yang. They strolled down the quiet tiki beaches when they noticed they had made a new friend. A medium sized dog who looked just as lost and beached as they did. Their wolf pack quickly became 5 as they welcomed their 4 legged friend, they even named her Dolly. Kitty and Santa will spare the details but she definitely had some boob issues going on. As they walked they heard a loud a ferocious bark from the village street at the top of the beach. This dog sounded an alarm which hailed at least 8 vicious looking dogs storming the beach in their direction. “What the fuck?” The girls all huddled together and tried to keep calm as they walked along. Then they noticed Dolly was in trouble. The dogs ganged up on her nipping, growling and showing fangs. The 4 girls had no choice but to leave Dolly and walk as calm and collectively as possible away from the scene of attack. They didn’t want to get in the middle of a dog fight. The dogs pushed Dolly around until she left their territory but then another pack of dogs came howling. The girls kept their distance but felt bad for their new friend who was being bullied around the beach. The real question was “who let the dogs out and why did they hate poor Dolly so much?” Later they found out from a beach front bar owner that Dolly was new to town and these dogs ran Nai Yang beach. It appeared the dog beach mafia was also a tight run clique. Poor, poor Dolly.
 
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Patong and Ping Pongs
The Wolfpack had planned to attend the full moon party in Koh Phangan, but when they found out it was a 5 hour bus ride to a 2 hour boat, they decided stick around the area. They traded in an island fiesta for a night out in Patong. They had heard about the infamous Ping Pong shows and lady boys, but wanted to see it first hand. After Liz gave the group a talk about sticking together and what they were to do if attacked by a mafia member, they got decked out in their flare and hit the streets. They found a party tuk tuk that dropped them right at the action, and for only 400 baht! They were immediately bombarded with people, ping pong show offers, iguanas and monkeys. They had decided they would probably skip the ping pong shows, grab some beers, and scout out the area.  Without travel insurance they didn’t want to risk catching a ping pong to the eye. Patong or Bangla Road to be exact, was a bit crazier than Karon beach. Lots of people, music, and bartering going on. The Wolfpack posted up at a country bar, had some drinks and watched the swarming streets with wide eyes. After a few rounds they found there way back to Karon beach where they hit The Terrace Bar for some live music. They were the only patrons that night and after a few rounds Emily stole the show. The band didn’t know the words to all the songs requested, so the Wolfpack offered to fill in for the lead singer. They danced, sang and drank until closing time. They finally stumbled home around 3am and spent the following day lounging at the pool, receiving massages and taking naps. Wolfpack -1 Mafia-0
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Kitty & Santa loved every moment of their adventure with their families. It was the perfect way to reunite after a year apart. After lots of hugs and see you soons the girls packed up their bags and headed to Northern Thailand, next stop…Bangkok & Chiang Mai 
 
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Aside

Boryeong Mud Festival

Last weekend Kitty and Santa set out on a trip to Daecheon Beach for a mud festival with a group of 70 other foreigners from Gwangju.  It just so happens that this festival was over the same weekend as their beloved Country Thunder (CT). For those of you who don’t know, Kitty and Santa have been attending CT for 13 years now. They go every year  to this 4 day festival with their best friends and family to camp, listen to some great music and socialize with hillbilles.

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Christmas in July, Good ol Country Thunder

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They decided mud fest was the next best thing to paying two grand to fly back to the US for a four day getaway in the corn.  Saturday morning they met their group at the bus terminal to start the 2 hour trek to Boryeong South Korea; a small town on the west side of the country.  Being surrounded by foreigners made it impossible to catch any Zzz’s on the bus, so they decided to throw back a few cocktails on the way.

They arrived at their pension (sort of like a shared hotel) at about one o’clock that afternoon.  This was Kitty and Santa’s first experience staying at a pension, and they didn’t really know what to expect.  It turns out that this pension, like most, was a big empty room where about 30 people would be sleeping.  There weren’t beds, pillows or blankets, but just some mats that you laid out to mark your territory.  Kitty and Santa didn’t hesitate; they threw their bags down, slipped into their bikinis, grabbed some beers, and hit the streets.  They made some new friends, ran into some old ones, rolled in the mud, swam in the sea, and soaked up the sun.  Needless to say it was definitely a day to remember.

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Once the sun began to set, they headed back to the pension to shower off.  As you can imagine 30 drunk muddy people, two showers, and one large room, wasn’t exactly the best set up, but they managed.  After the demudification, they picked up some makgeolli and street food for dinner.  As Kitty and Santa made there way to the beach they were  approached by a few new Korean friends that invited them for drinks under the fireworks.  They graciously accepted, and sat gathered on a small blanket, drinking from Dixie cups, sharing stories, and enjoying the show up above.  After a few hours they stumbled on home, curled up on their mats, and fell fast asleep….next to 30 other bodies.

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Buddha’s Birthday Bachlorette in Busan

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Kitty, Santa and Krissy packed their bags and headed to the beaches of Korea to celebrate the long weekend. Buddha’s Birthday is recognized as a national holiday in SK, so they decided there was no better time to give Krissy one last girls weekend away before she ties the knot with her fiance in August!! The weekend was off to a hilarious start when they boarded their bus in Gwangju to find they were not the only english speaking travelers with plans to enjoy the beach. It was like being back at home; they could understand all the conversations that  surrounded them and they didn’t like it one bit. After about 30 minutes of taking in the English chatter, they all began to realize what was going on. Did that man behind us just say “Gather around my lords, we have council members to impose. Right now we will discuss our wizards internal fairy rights?!” They started to listen closely as they realized the group behind them were absolutely serious and they were not playing a game. This was real life to them. Kitty and Santa had heard about these fantasy role-playing games called Dungeons & Dragons, but never in their lives had they come across a group of 15 wizards, lords, fairies and warlockes. Four hours on the bus with this talk, and Kitty and Santa felt like they had been in a real life video game. “Will’s outside, but he’s invisible. Lets grab our royal weapons and head to the streets!!” Kitty, Santa and Krissy agreed with the wizards as they jumped off the bus kicking and punching the air. It was time to hit the streets running!!

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The three gal wolf pack checked into their love motel, got ready and met some of Krissy’s friends at their favorite Indian restaurant. After dinner they went back to their hotel to enjoy some Jameson and dress Krissy up in the bachelorette gear Kitty’s Mom so very nicely sent them. It included (but was not limited to) a sparkly sash, bling bling rings, mustaches, beads, buttons, glow sticks and shot glasses. Everything necessary for a  successful night out. The girls headed to Wolfhounds, a fabulous Irish pub that became their home for the next three days. They danced and sang to some classics like: ‘Nsync and B*witched.  Over the course of the night the wolf pack doubled, and even tripled in number.  With vocals like these, they aren’t sure how anyone could stay away.

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The following morning they weren’t feeling too shabby.  The weather in Busan didn’t exactly make them want to run to the beach, so they picked up some Starbucks and decided to walk around a bit.  They came across Kitty’s favorite fair game, and she couldn’t pass it up without trying her luck.  Krissy also decided she needed to take a stab at it.  Although the carney caught them stealing some extra darts, they ended up winning three hand-made shell necklaces.  They ran away with their dollar store jewels, like three of their excited kindergarten students.

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Just down the street Kitty spotted last nights stomping grounds, “Hey, why don’t we go to Wolfhounds and grab some good food.”  They all agreed they were pretty hungry, and headed in to find a table.  As they waited to order, they decided having an afternoon cocktail wouldn’t be such a bad way to kick off day 2.  As they ordered their drinks and a few appetizers, Kitty spotted something that she hadn’t seen in Korea before.…GOLDSCHLAGER.  Kitty couldn’t resist ordering a round for the wolf pack; she knew Krissy would enjoy the golden delicious treat.  Once it hit Krissy’s lips she was in love.  Let’s just say this round led to a few more, and again, the wolf pack began to grow.  They started playing darts, dancing, and Kitty even got her hair did!  Their table was seated next to a lonely ‘lost and found’ box, and they ended up finding some props to wear for that day’s festivities.  It was a long day at the pub, but one they will most definitely never forget.

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The following morning they weren’t feeling as fantastic as they had the day before.  They showered up, grabbed their props, and headed for the subway.  As usual, Kitty and Santa were cutting it quite close.  While Krissy and Kitty grabbed some food, they sent Santa to hold the bus.  Santa was standing in the bus door with one foot on the ground waving to the bus driver to wait just a few more minutes. Luckily, Kitty and Krissy made it before take off time, except the bus Santa was holding was a bus to Seoul….not Gwangju.  They muttered some “mian haeyos” (I’m sorries) as they ran off the bus, and managed to jump on the Gwangju bus before it peeled out of the parking lot.  As they all reclined in their seats for a much-needed nap, they were thrilled to see and hear that there weren’t any  wizards, lords or warlocks on this ride.  Kitty and Santa had never been happier to be surrounded by Koreans.

Although they didn’t see much of the beach in Busan, it was a great weekend celebrating Krissy’s last fling before the ring!! Congrats to their wonderful friends, they will most definitely be missed in South Korea when they leave in July!!

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Philippines Part 2 – Island Life

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Kitty and Santa found themselves on the back of motorcycles touring around the island with their local friends, Ramos and Denmar.   They rode through the small villages and became very envious of the simplicity that comes with island life. The guys took Kitty and Santa to an amazing beach and showed them where to get the best fresh coconut drinks right from the tree.

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Ramos and Denmar are cousins and both grew up on the island. They explained to Kitty and Santa that their grandparents moved to the island when tourism was nonexistent and had 11 kids. Each of those kids (including their parents) had around 10 or 11 kids. So literally everyone was related to them. They told Kitty and Santa that they absolutely loved their island life and wouldn’t trade it in for anything. They both own little huts by the beach, they have electricity, a TV and good rum. Their pet roosters win them money in the weekly cockfights and they both participate in the Island’s Dragon Racing. Kitty and Santa were in shock when they heard the guys  made around $5.00  a day through booking tours and that was plenty of money for them. Enough for food, drinks and bills. They said if one day they don’t make enough to eat then they just go to one of their 145 relatives on the island whom conveniently all live in huts surrounding them. Denmar said “I’m not rich, I don’t have a lot, but I am so happy. This island is my family and we take care of each other. We are happy and that makes us rich.”  This really stuck with Kitty and Santa. How amazing to meet people who truly appreciate every aspect of their life without the need of materialistic items. People work their entire lives in hopes to retire to an island like this when in reality it would only cost them $5.00 a day to just do it (give or take). Kitty and Santa want to urge all of you reading this that there is no better time in life than NOW. Money means nothing in the end. Do only what you love. Enjoy the amazing life you were granted, the beautiful places in this world and all the bright souls you might meet along the way…because there are SOO many of them out there. Kitty and Santa were feeling truly happy and blessed. 

When they were done sleeping on the beach they went back to where Ramos had said he would meet them. He was there waiting but it was only him and his motorcycle. Confused Kitty and Santa asked where his cousin was. Ramos told them he had to do something so he would be taking them back. Still confused Kitty and Santa both said “On your motorcycle?” Ramos also looked confused “Yes, lets go.” Santa got on and then Kitty did too. They had become those people they were always laughing at riding 3 deep on a motorcycle. They felt very odd about the situation until they pulled up next to a family of 5 and a baby on 1 motorcycle. Then it wasn’t so bad. (to our mom’s: please know these island roads move VERY slow or Kitty and Santa would have never agreed to get on). They safely arrived back to their beach for sunset.

As they strolled back to their favorite beach bar, Nigi Nigi Nu Noos, Ramos offered to take them out the next day on his boat. He told Kitty and Santa he would take them snorkeling and to a some private islands where he could cook them his famous Philippine BBQ chicken. Sounded like a dream come true, Kitty and Santa kindly accepted the invitation!

Even though Kitty and Santa had been hanging around these guys for the past few days they still took the necessary precautions before heading to sea with their friends. That night at the bar Santa told just about every person she met to remember her face incase they saw her on the news in the days comming. She told them a detailed description of Ramos and Denmar and where exactly they like to hang out and every bit of information they told her. When Santa got home she wrote an email titled “IF I GO MISSING, READ THIS”  and sent it to herself and Kitty just in case. Santa was sure the FBI would check her e-mail if something happened. She also wrote a note and left it on her bed for housekeeping. Its safe to say that Santa and Kitty have watched one too many ‘I survived’ / 48 hour murder mystery shows. They weren’t going to be the girls that go missing on an island without a trace. They left clues hidden EVERYWHERE.

Turns out Denmar, Ramos and  a few of their cousins that joined them were really just amazing people. They didn’t want to harm or kill Kitty and Santa, they just wanted to cook them chicken and ask them questions about their life back in the states. The day at sea couldn’t have been more of an amazing experience thanks to the amazing Filipino hospitality and culture!

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Where we enjoyed lunch and a few bottles of rum :  )

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Saying goodbye to the boat and our friends

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❤ Peace, love & freedom to all of you on this journey we call life. ❤

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“The biggest adventure you can ever take is to live the life of your dreams.” 
― Oprah Winfrey

VIVA Las ‘Graduation Day’ Vegas

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When kitty and Santa started their jobs at VIVA English Academy they were confused as to why this Korean school would use the word VIVA, a spanish word, to describe their English kindergarten. Perhaps they were aware of the popular phrase that Kitty and Santa had come to love over the years “Viva Las Vegas”. Well, 6 months into their jobs and Kitty and Santa finally came to realize that VIVA Las Vegas was a large inspiration for the school.

Graduation day. A day in the USA that parents and grandparents love. Families come together to celebrate and honor loved ones for their wonderful accomplishments. Middle school, high school, college and even kindergartens hold this special day so when Kitty and Santa heard that they would be hosting 2 days of graduations they were excited and proud to watch their baby geniuses walk on stage and get their diplomas.

Side note: In most Korean private schools the school year ends around February 25th. Korean children then take a holiday that lasts 1 to 2 days. Yes, we said days. Not a summer, not weeks, not months. The children got a good extra 48 hours tact onto their weekend before they resumed classes the following Monday. Just another reason Kitty and Santa appreciate a good ol’ American summer.

They found out a few months prior that their classes would be doing a full play on stage in front of parents along with some English speeches. They worked hard everyday preparing materials with their kids. The Korean co-teachers would drill the children for their lines, correcting the 6 and 7 year olds posture and making sure every high note was hit during dance rehearsals for row, row, row your boat. Kitty and Santa praised each child for their efforts but feared the co-teachers high volumes of stress as they darted around the room beating the desks with a wooden sticks to the tempo of each movement. They scolded the kids and even Kitty and Santa in Korean, instructing everyone to try harder and give more to their performances.

The day finally came. Kitty and Santa watched as their littles one, dressed in caps and gowns, were awarded their certificate of graduation. This ceremony was met with a long Korean speech from a woman people only know as ‘the General’. The General is the cute little old lady who owns the school and is incredibly feared by all. Next was the Korean national anthem and then the kids would be up to do their plays and speeches. Kitty and Santa followed their classes downstairs for what they thought would be a last minute prep before the kids were back on stage.

As soon as they entered the class room children started ripping their clothes off and the co-teachers ran in circles screaming commands in Korean. Kitty and Santa stood pressed up against the classroom wall trying hard not to get hit by a flying shoe. They slowly began to realize that this graduation day was not going to be like the 25 minutes of cuteness and photo ops like the ones back home. This was going to be a full on VIVA Las Vegas performance. A show with verity and color and 15 costume changes. A show that would put Celion Dion to shame and make Circus de Soleil look do-able by a group of 6 and 7 year olds. This was no ordinary show – this was a Korean VIVA Las Vegas English graduation ceremony.

They stood in shock as the co-teachers dressed the children in flashy bright outfits and taped microphones to their faces. Santa eyes grew big as she saw some of her boys dressed in fairy dresses and belly shirts, it was a very proud and confusing moment for her. “This is what the kids were going to be wearing for the little red riding hood play? A little much, don’t you think Kitty?” asked Santa. Kitty stared in disbelief. A co-teacher ran past them and Kitty got her attention “Teacher, time for play now?” she asked. The co-teacher looked at her in shock “No teacher. Time for DANCE.”

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Kitty and Santa went back upstairs to try to understand the entertainment selection while waiting for their turn to go to the stage with their class. They had spent everyday for the past 2 months rehearsing for what now appeared to be a tiny portion of this production. When did these kids have time to learn all of these dances? Within this 3 hours they witnessed their little ones spin around the stage in a ballet recitale. A hip hop dance off. They rang cow bells to twinkle twinkle little star. Played the chelo like Pablo Casals. Pounded on cajon box drums like professional street artists. Dressed like swedish goat farmers in a swiss bell recitale. Danced around stage with African drums. Performed a full English play. Blew out some whimsical music from their recorders. Gave English speeches on lemons, Santa Clause, science, how to make a delicious Spam sandwich and much much more. Kitty and Santa were exhausted after 2 days of watching these shows so they couldn’t imagine how the children felt. The little ones walked away from VIVA with so much more than an English education….we hope to see them again one day…. strolling around the Las Vegas Blvd.

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We can sleep when we’re dead. (NAM 2)

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At about 11:00 pm in Vietnam Kitty and Santa finally stepped off their 3rd and final plane. They were feeling excited, but a little sluggish after consuming their 3rd plane meal in one day. Kitty wouldn’t allow them to skip out on the freebies. She says that’s where they make all their money back. None the less they trotted over to the visa-on-arrival line where they handed over their papers with an attached passport size photo. Unfortunately for Kitty and Santa these photos were more like a pair of mug shots from the show Snapped. If you are wondering, Snapped is a show about women who snap and kill their husbands, and that is exactly what Kitty and Santa look like in these pictures, scary and embarrassing. They handed over the documents and waited about 20 minutes for their names to be called.

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As they gathered their things they felt butterflies in their stomachs. They had arranged with their hotel to send someone to pick them up. Kitty and Santa had never been picked up by a private car before. They imagined what their driver would look like as he stepped out of the stretch limo with a sign that had THEIR names written across it.  As they made their way through customs Kitty spotted a man holding up a white 8×11 paper that had Santa’s name scribbled in black permanent marker. “There he is!” Kitty yelled. Although he wasn’t exactly what they had pictured they awkwardly introduced themselves and followed him to what appeared to be his personal whip. It wasn’t exactly a stretch limo, but more like a secondhand midsized Sedan. He threw their luggage into the trunk and without any hesitation Kitty and Santa hopped right in. Although it smelled a bit like someone had just smoked a pack of lucky strikes Kitty and Santa were ecstatic!
The drive to the hotel was about 45 minutes and they were in for a real treat. Little did they know they were only getting a taste of what the roads were really like in Hanoi. As they peered out the back windows into the darkness they spotted a motor bike rolling four deep! Yes 4! The passengers were holding on for dear life as they flew past them and the speedometer in their Corolla hit 70. Shortly after they passed a group of cops sitting on the side of the highway taking a smoke break. They didn’t seem too concerned about the motor bike that had gone speeding past and Kitty and Santa thought that was quite strange. Come to find out that the cops in Hanoi are very wealthy due to the fact that many of the locals pay them in order to fly under their radar. Once they were aware of that things really started to make sense. After one heck of a ride from the airport they pulled up to their hotel in the old quarter district of Hanoi. They were greeted with warm welcomes and hot tea. Just what they needed as they settled into their room and said goodnight. Feeling very thankful that they had finally made it safe and sound.
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The next morning they got up bright and early ready to do some exploring. They only had one full day in Hanoi before they would be leaving for their three day cruise in Halong Bay. They enjoyed a delicious breakfast at the hotel before they hit the streets. As soon as they stepped out of the front door they realized they weren’t in Kansas anymore.  Santa and Kitty stood on the side of the road as a constant stream of motor bikes, tuk tuks, and an occasional car sped past them. This was quite different from what they had witnessed the previous night. After staring for a good 10 minutes at the craziness that lay before them they started walking; trying to keep with the flow of traffic, if that was even possible. They observed a few other locals doing the same and decided that it must just be the way things worked. There didn’t seem to be any rules of the roads, traffic signs or pedestrian walk ways so Santa and Kitty jumped in the first tuk tuk they spotted. Tuk tuks are little carts that are powered by a man on a bicycle. Their driver swindled them into an hour tour of the old quarter for about 10 bucks and they agreed. They sat speechless at the mayhem. It was amazing.
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After their bicyclist dumped them off at one of the street markets they were feeling a little more comfortable and confident. They walked through the crowded streets snapping photos and taking it all in. Suddenly Kitty noticed Santa was not at her side. She stopped dead in her tracks and did a 180 as her eyes darted from face to face. It’s pretty hard to miss Santa’s fro, but for some reason she couldn’t spot it. Finally after doing a double take Kitty located Santa a few feet back. She had a vietnamese conical hat tossed over her locks and a yoke full of bananas over her shoulder. Next to her was a lady screaming “Picture, picture!” Kitty had read about how these ladies dress you up and demand money, but it was too late. Santa was in too deep. Kitty snapped a photo and as she went to grab Santa another lady swooped in and before she knew it she was balancing the bananas herself. “Wait! No! Wait!” she screamed, but it was too late.
ImageSanta was snapping pics and enjoying a laugh as a lady handed her two bags of pineapples, and demanded dongs(Vietnamese currency). Santa made her first mistake and pulled open her wallet. The pineapple lady grabbed her money while the banana lady got in her face yelling “2 picture.  2 pineapple. She get you change!” Before Santa knew it she had been robbed of 250,000 dong. She stood their in bewilderment. Kitty finally got a grab of her arm and swept her away. Santa was in a state of shock, “That lady just stole my money! I’ve been robbed!” It was Kitty’s turn to enjoy a chuckle, “It’s okay Cin, she robbed you of about $8!”  It took Santa a while to calm down. That pineapple lady had really upset her. After that incident, anytime Santa saw a lady with a yoke she screamed, “No! I know what your doing!” and ran in the other direction.
They continued their walk through the market until they found themselves in quite the pickle. They may have mastered the flow of common traffic but when it was time to cross the street they were back to square one. What exactly was the protocol? Again they found themselves staring into the street speechless. Finally an elderly man offered them a ride on his motorbike. Kitty and Santa looked at each other and replied in unison, “My mom won’t let me ride on motorcycles, especially without a helmet!” They kindly declined using the Korean body language they had picked up and threw up an x with both their arms. They looked back towards the street and started talking strategies, but every time they put one foot forward a motor bike would be headed straight for it and they would immediately withdrawal. After about another 5 minutes the elderly man with the motor bike grabbed Santa’s hand and they were off. He started shuffling them slowly through the street and led them safely to the other side. Turns out that the traffic just weaves around you. It was pretty amazing. From that point on anytime they wanted to cross an intersection they simply closed their eyes and stepped out. Sounds scary but they got use to it after their first couple of runs.
After strolling the streets for a few hours they found a Thai restaurant that they just couldn’t pass up. They’ve been craving Thai food for months! They enjoyed a delicious Pad See Ew dish up on the second floor of the building, which had a great view of the busy city streets.
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Following lunch  they decided to walk towards Hoan Kiem Lake which is home to the infamous red bridge, as well as the Thap Rau (tortoise tower), which is located on a small island in the middle of the lake. The lake was beautiful and the path around it was a nice switch up from their morning of havoc.
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After looking over their map of the district they decided to cab it over to see Ho Chi Minh’s complex and museum next. Before their trip they were informed that Ho Chi Minh’s body is kept in a freezer somewhere in Hanoi. They thought they might have been given faulty information, but a local reassured us that it was indeed the truth. Unfortunately that day they were too late to see their man Ho Chi in a freezer, but they did learn about his role in the foundation of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, as well as lots about the history of the country. His complex was quiet, peaceful and surrounded by beautiful gardens. They enjoyed their walk through the grounds and then made their way back to their hotel to freshen up and throw back some vino before stepping back out to see what Hanoi’s nightlife had to offer.
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Luckily they had become quite friendly with the staff at their quaint hotel and they were more than happy to steer them in the direction of some popular bars. A few rights and lefts later they stumbled upon Finnegan’s, a second story Irish Pub. No matter where they go they always seem to have luck with Irish pubs, so they climbed the stairs and posted up at the bar. After a few Jamesons they began talking with a group of Americans stationed in Japan that were in Vietnam on holiday. After they shared a few more rounds of cocktails they found themselves at closing time. Santa and Kitty started to gather their things when the bar tender stopped them, “You don’t need to leave! We are just going to turn the lights down and as long as you keep quiet you can stay.” The group they were with reassured them that this was indeed the plan. They told Kitty and Santa that the new chief of police in town was trying to crack down, but if we kept quiet they wouldn’t bother us. Again this seemed strange, but after a few more rounds they had forgotten they were in hiding. At about 5am Kitty and Santa decided it was time to head home. At 8am they were going to be hopping on a 4 hour bus to Halong Bay. It felt like they had just closed their eyes when they received the wake up call from their friends downstairs. It was going to be another long day but Kitty and Santa decided that they can sleep when their dead. : )

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