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Friday, December 04, 2009

2009: Not a bad travel year...

34 days out of the country
100 days outside of Atlanta. No wonder I feel like I don't really live there sometimes.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Howth, Ireland

After a full Irish breakfast at Central Hotel, mom, dad and I walked to Pearse Station to take the DART to Howth. Only about a half hour away by train, Howth was a world away from the bustling city of Dublin.

Once we got arrived at the picturesque fishing village, we turned left out of the station, then another left down to the lighthouse. Along the way were lots of fresh seafood markets and restaurants. Seals clamored for food along the sea wall, as tourists fed them from the markets's catch.

Walking by the water, we got really cold! We journeyed back inward, to Howth Village, where we stopped for lunch at Abbey Tavern, named after the ruins of the old Abbey nearby.

The Abbey:

The Abbey Tavern:

Mom and Dad in the Abbey Tavern:

After warming up by the fire and enjoying our lunch, we hiked along the side of the coast along the cliffs. I wanted to see the cliffs, but I also wanted to see the former home of W.B. Yeats:

Dad at Yeats' house:

The views along the cliffs:
Then the fog started really rolling in:

Mom and Dad along the cliffs:

After walking back down to the sea, dad took this picture of me and mom:

After another visit to warm up again in Abbey Tavern, we took the train back to Dublin City, where we decided to return to The Bankers for our last night's Irish dinner:

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Dublin, Ireland

Mom, Dad, and I left Thanksgiving Day for Dublin. It was their first time in Ireland. We landed early in the morning, and got to the hotel by 8:00 am. The hotel was the Central Hotel, near the Temple Bar area of Dublin.

As I suspected, we were not able to check in so early. We checked our bags as we were told to come back at noon to see if a room was ready. In the meantime, we walked down Exchequer Street to Grafton Street, home of Dublin's finest shopping. The Christmas lights were on, and even though it was 8:00 am, the sun was not up yet.

We saw the statue of Molly Malone, then headed down Grafton to St. Stephen's Green Shopping Center, where mom did some "Black Friday" shopping.

On the Green:

Afterwards, we walked back up Grafton to Trinity College, where I finally saw the Book of Kells--something I had been wanting to do for a long time. The Book of Kells dates back to 800 A.D. Celtic monks made elaborate illustrations of the Four Gospels. The Trinity College Library displays two Gospels at a time-- one to show the art, and the other to show the text. The art page displayed was an illustration of St. John, while the text displayed was the geneaology of Jesus from the Gospel of Matthew. Unfortunately, I couldn't take pictures inside, but I did get this picture outside:

Other scenes from Trinity College:

After a full cold morning, we finally checked into our hotel. The good news was we were able to get in at noon. The bad news was the hotel turns off the heat in the rooms for part of the day! As mama said, they didn't believe in heat or lights. (There were only a few table lamps in the room.)

After attempting to eat lunch at The Stag's Head, we moved down the street to The Bankers as the Stag's Head was out of Fish & Chips. The Bankers turned out to be a great choice, however.

The family at The Bankers (16 Trinity Street):

And our lunch:

After lunch, we walked to the Dublin Castle, then St. James Gate and the Guinness Storehouse, where I learned how to make the perfect pour.

That night, we walked around the city checking out the pubs and looking for a place to eat. In the end, we settled on a bottle of wine and take out pizza from Apache Pizza -- not bad.

Sunday, November 22, 2009


On Sunday, I spent the day enjoying Bangkok. After a great breakfast at the Intercontinental, we headed to the Grand Palace. Some scenes from the Grand Palace:

After the Grand Palace, we went to Wat Pho, where we saw the famous Reclining Buddha.

To get to the Grand Palace and Wat Pho, we took the SkyTrain from our hotel to Saphan Taksin Station, and rode the river taxi up the Chao Phraya river. There were some great views from the river taxi as well:

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Floating Market in Ratchaburi, Thailand

On Saturday, November 21, we visited the Floating Market in Ratchaburi, Thailand. We traveled for an hour and fifteen minutes from Bangkok, along the way passing the memorial to the original "Siamese Twins," Chang and Eng Bunker, and also crossed over the River Kwai.

We arrived at a place where we took boats on the canals to the floating market. The boat ride there was a highlight of the trip!

We saw some great sights along the way:

When we got to the floating market, the sights were equally as interesting:

I bought some fruit at the floating market, but also bought one of my all time favorite desserts: mango and sticky rice.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Thailand Habitat Build

Above: The Build Site (early on in the week)

Above: Foosh and I building (Photo by Ching-Fong Hsieh)

Today was the final day of our Delta Habitat Build, and it was by far the most emotional of the week. We started the day a bit earlier than usual, both to ensure everything was set for our morning photo opportunity with President and Mrs. Carter, and to make sure we finished everything we needed to complete before starting our journey home.

As we wrapped up our work, we readied the new home for its dedication, placing streamers and balloons on the windows and doors. Finally, we gathered in front of the house, by the newly planted flowers and shrubs, circling up beside the homeowners with whom we have worked side by side all week.

Above: The Dedication Ceremony (Photo by Casey Wang)
Many emotions ran through me as we began the dedication. In just a few short but hot days, the homeowner and his wife have become special to me. Even though I can say only a few words and phrases in Thai, we’ve managed to communicate with one another and somehow form a bond. Today, they were no longer just “the homeowners.” They are real people—Kumbao and Khampa-- who have let us into their lives, just for a little while.

As they thank us through a translator for the work we’ve done in providing this new home, they also tell us how much they appreciate the dinner we invited them to share the evening before at Deck 1 on the river. Kumbao thanks us for the nice meal, a meal that costs more than he makes in a day, and reminds us that he may never experience such a dinner again.

(Photo by Ching-Fong Hsieh)

(Photo by Ching-Fong Hsieh)

Kumbao begins to choke up as he tells expresses his gratitude for his new home, and his eyes are not the only ones with tears.

While we present them with the keys to the house and some gifts for their home with money we’ve collected amongst ourselves, I realize they have managed to give so much more than what I’ve given them. I am more appreciative of all the privileges I have, and the many meals I have taken for granted. I now have new Delta friends from all over the company, friends who have shared this incredible experience of building a house from the ground up, placing bricks, pouring mortar and hanging roof tiles. And I know I have a place to stay in Chiang Mai, with an open invitation from Kumbao and Khampa.

It has been an incredible week that can hardly be described in words. To Delta and all of the Delta volunteers, to Habitat for Humanity, and especially to Kumbao and Khampa, all I can say is, “Khob khun krub!—Thank you!”

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