Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Journey Continues...

We've unpacked our backpacks. We now shower and change clothes on a more regular basis. We know where we're sleeping each night. And we speak the language of those around us.

In those ways Syrupsun is over but here, thankfully, Syrupsun lives on.

If regular life ever gets too boring we can jump in Devil's Pool, float down the Amazon, Nile, or Zambezi Rivers, get up close and personal with lions, elephants, camels, and monkeys, hang out with the kids of Rift Valley Children's Village, walk among the ruins of past civilizations, or just sit and relax on the world's most beautiful beaches.

We can't summarize what this journey has meant for us. But we can thank everyone we met that helped us along our way. Some picked us up on the side of the road, some helped us find a place to sleep, some took us places we would never have seen. We would like to especially thank, Pato, Jorge, Suzanna, Linda, Catarina, Camilla, and Zack all of whom welcomed us into their lives and led us on great adventures.

More than just individuals we'd like to thank the Earth and all its citizens. The world rewarded our trust, curiosity, and sense of adventure every day on Syrupsun. And, given the chance, it'll reward yours too.

View Syrupsun ¿donde estamos? in a larger map

Good luck on your adventure.

It's hard to believe that this is the last Syrupsun post.

Thank you for coming along,

Temple and Clay

Wednesday, March 3, 2010


We eased back into America in San Francisco with brother Hudson, who offered us his insanely comfy bed to rest our weary bones. I can't imagine a better place or better person to welcome us back from world travel and show us that the adventures weren't over. After a long rest, we explored Hudson's San Francisco from chilling in their amazing garden to visiting the Janet Pomeroy Center, and biking through Golden Gate Park and over the bridge with Hudson's bicycle sound system booming.

The next stop on our ReEntry tour was Denver to see "Syrupsun Sammy" (along with brother Tommy & Tiffany). Sammy was born just before we left and he showed us how long we'd been gone. Walking around and climbing stairs, just being a little explorer, maybe one day a world traveler.

We went skiing with the Moores in Breckenridge. The snowy Rockies were another wonder to grateful to explore. On the slopes, Temple looked graceful and Clay looked out of control.

The tour continued when Clay got to see cousin Anna Belle and Ty in Boulder and his old friend Zandman. There were more friends and family awaiting in Atlanta. So we boarded the last red-eye flight of Syrupsun, landing Atlanta at 6:00 am.

Everyone was thrilled for our safe return. The welcome home party began.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Fushimi Inari-taisha

From the base of Inari Mountain, tunnels of torii gates climb to the inner shrine of Inari, the Shinto god of success and wealth. The hope of striking it rich makes the shrine a must visit for businessmen and entrepreneurs setting out on a new venture or going through hard times. The shrine has been successful itself, as you can tell by the torii gates. Each one has been donated by businesses or families thanking Fushimi Inari-taisha for bringing them great prosperity.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Philosopher's Path

After reuniting with Zack in Kyoto, we set off on the Philosopher's Path. The route was made famous by Nishida Kitaro, a famous Japanese philosopher who walked along the canal during his daily meditations. The path links Ginkakuji, the Silver Pavilion, with smaller temples and gardens. We walked alone, thanks to the cold rain, discussing the meaning of life and other light subjects.

Our peaceful walk was beautiful and full of laughter.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Himeji Castle

During our karaoke extravaganza in Tokyo, Zack's friends told us to visit Himeji Castle, one of the most popular and well preserved castles in Japan. Shoguns and samurais patrolled its walls and it even survived fire bombing during World War II. We arrived on an overcast day. The hilltop fortress appeared to be floating in the clouds.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Hakone Shrine

From the shores of Lake Ashi, we walk through the vermilion tori gates past the towering Sugi trees that lead to the wooded shrine of Hakone. After the customary washing of hands, we walk to the altar where an offertory wooden box sits. Four large ropes attached to copper bells hang before us. We follow the prayer cycle of fellow worshipers: after tossing some yen into the box, we clap twice, shake the rope, then bow.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Onsen: Hadaka No Tsukiai

Bathing in an onsen, a Japanese hot spring, is a traditional way to stay healthy and unwind. Businessmen soak together to relax after a stressful week in Tokyo. When Zack was teaching in Niigata, he bonded with his coworkers at an onsen.

We say goodbye to Temple who will have to have a solo naked adventure in the female onsen.

Zack and I walk into the locker room and get naked. We walk outside. In the corner are a few rounded stone stools with a bucket next to them. We sit and begin our bucket showers which are mandatory before entering the onsen. When we are clean, it is time to test the waters. There are six small pools to choose from, some are carved out of the mountain and others are wooden like jacuzzis. Each on is a different temperature ranging from ice cold to boiling hot.

We decide to begin in the largest and most popular. We relax and soak. During the next hour, we try out all the different pools and take a sauna. Once our relaxation is complete we towel off and go to hear about Temple's solo adventure.

Onsen by ClayBolton

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Black Eggs

We are floating above sulfur hot springs with mustard colored clouds rising towards our gondola. We disembark and walk with other tourists to the springs where eggs are boiled in the sulfur water which turns them black. You can only buy the eggs in bags of five. Since none of us think we will want more than one black sulphur egg, Zack asks a young Japanese couple if they want to split a bag. They are happy for the offer. With our bag in hand we start peeling.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Kamakura & Enoshima

Zack points us in the right direction and heads to work. After navigating the kanji (Japanese writing) necessary for train travel, we arrive in Kamkura, a heavily templed town outside of Tokyo.

Before entering each temple, we cleanse ourselves by dipping a bamboo handled copper cup into icy water and rinsing our hands. We follow the locals who make offerings by throwing a few yen into a wooden box, clapping twice, and then bowing.

After sampling the local specialty of sweet potato ice cream, delicious and purple, we head to Daibutsu, the towering bronze statue of Amida Buddha looking out to the sea. Our journey along the coast continues as we make our way to Enoshima, a small island just off shore with temples and nature existing in harmony. We walk to the far side of the island to see Mt. Fuji in the setting sun.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Future

Landing in Tokyo from New Delhi was the closest we got to time travel. Gone were the cows lounging in dusty streets, the hawkers howling from every storefront. The clamor of India was replaced by the stillness of the train from Narita airport. We arrived at Shinjuku station in a mass of quiet and orderly people. In an odd way Japan felt like home. At least more like home than India. We walked through the neon to a quiet park. On a chilly February day we wandered alone.

That evening we met up with my cousin Zack outside Shinjuku. He's been living in Japan for almost 3 years and would be our guide for culinary and other adventures.

On Saturday morning, we woke up early to explore. Our first stop was the Sensoji Temple in Asakusa. This was snack central with tasty bean cakes, balls of fried octopus and other free samples of traditional fare. We were late in arriving to the world famous Tsukiji fish market but that didn't stop us from eating fresh sushi. Zack picked out an awesome conveyor belt sushi restaurant. As each plate glides pass, you grab whichever you want. The pricing is based on the color of the plate and when you're done they scan your stack of plates to give you the bill.

Fueled by sushi and green tea we ride the monorail to the The Hall of the Future, also known as the Musuem of Emerging Sciences, where we, along with many Japanese school children, saw that robots will one day be our overlords. But they've got a long way to go. Being surrounded by kids and gadgets made us want to go to an arcade. Luckily Sega's three-level Joypolis was nearby. We pumped a lot of yen coins into the games before leaving.

We were off to meet Zack's friends for dinner and karaoke. We ate izakaya "family style", before heading off to our own private cubicle to sing our heads off.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Rat Temple

The name says it all. Rats run this temple. Milk and sweets are put out for the rodents to enjoy by worshipers who believe that they are the holy reincarnations of a storyteller from the 13th century.

Only in India.

Like other Indian temples, the Kari Mata requires you take off your shoes before entering. Here, however, tourists have the option of cloth foot covers. When we enter the temple, we see rats in every corner nibbling or scurrying by. There are so many rats that we have an odd primal reaction as if our deep Dark Ages ancestors are screaming "bubonic plague! bubonic plague!" Soon we're laughing, though not too loud as to offend.

Most of the temple is open air. Though I explore some of the darker corners, Temple thinks it wise to remain in the light.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Desert Festival

We arrived in Jaisalmer two days before their world famous desert festival was set to begin. We extended our stay to see the parade and festivities which included Mr. Desert and Mr. Mustache competitions, camel decorating, and turban tying. For laughs there's also a tourists turban tying competition where Clay's attempt at the traditional turban scored only a few points short of first place.

Monday, February 1, 2010


On the edge of the Thar Desert sits the sand castle fort of Jaisalmer. Unlike other forts in Rajasthan locals still live within its walls.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Blue City

From the ramparts of the Mehrangarh Fort stretches out the Blue City of Jodhpur. Many generations of mahajaras marveled at this view from their impenetrable fortress, that weathered war-elephants and cannonballs. The royal family lived here even after Indian unification. Now, its gates are open to all and everyone can enjoy the once royal blue views.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Jain Temple

A string of orange flowers hangs over the entrance to Chaumukha Mandir, the famous Jain Temple in Ranakpur. After removing our shoes, we slide our feet across cool marble floors to enter a kaleidoscope of color. A Jain ceremony bursts forth with sounds and smells. Generations of family sit playing music, chanting, and performing rituals that include offerings of food and dance. In a haze of incense, they perform devotions as if the onlooking tourists don't exist.

Thursday, January 28, 2010


On a hilltop in Udaipur sits the imposing City Palace glowing golden in the setting sun, while at a distant ghat colorfully dressed women wash the day's clothes. We circle the lake in a small boat cramped with Indian tourists getting an up-close view of the elegant floating palaces. A mother and child sit beside a barefoot man while he masterfully plays his ravanahatha, a traditional Indian fiddle.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


According to legend, when Brahma dropped a lotus flower thousands of years ago he created a lake in the middle of Pushkar. This makes Pushkar one of Hindu's most holy cities. In the bustling streets around the lake, music and prayer fill the air. Worshipers gather at the lake's many ghats, seeking guidance and purity while making offerings of brightly colored flowers and sweets.

After meeting the swamis, touring their temple, and becoming friends, we are invited to attend their puja ceremony that evening. Pushkar Temple by ClayBolton

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Jantar Mantar

Like many of us, Jai Singh II was fascinated by the stars. His interest led him to build observatories all over his kingdom and the largest, Jantar Mantar, is in Jaipur. Jantar Mantar means "instruments of calculation." These structures, built between 1727-1732, gave Singh II the ability to record time, locate stars, and track eclipses. Jantar Mantar has the largest sundial in the world called Samrat Yantra (The Supreme Instrument). The instruments continue to be accurate and used to this day.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Block Printing

On the roof of Gandhi Textiles, a small ink-stained team of block printers work with surprising speed and detail. All the work is done by hand and put in the sun to dry. The final products are large pieces of cloth that will become bed linens, saris or scarfs.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


Our two week tour of the colorful kingdoms of Rajasthan begins when we meet our driver, Rajeev, a.k.a. Raj of Rajasthan. He's actually a sarcastic 24-year-old from Delhi who drives like a mad man. We learn this all too suddenly when we get into his car and are spun into a continuous whiplash motion accompanied by incessant honking. Before the car moves, he honks. When he passes a car, cow, or rickshaw, he honks. Before turning a corner, beeeeep! So I ask him "Do you always honk like this?" He responds with an Indian proverb, something like "No wife, no life; no girlfriend, no tension; no horn, no car". It seems funny enough, so I convince myself that I will adapt for the next 2 weeks with Raj.

When we arrive in Jaipur a few hours- and many honks- later, it is dark. We haggle for the 350 rupee ($7.00) hotel price and are off to bed. The next day we wander through the streets, forts and palaces of Rajasthan's capital. First, we tour the Amber Fort, its yellow walls welcoming tourists riding decorated elephants. Raj drives us by the Water Palace and a royal crematorium called Gatore Ki Chhatriyan with its beautifully carved white marble. We eat a delicious lunch of vegetarian tali which is like an Indian sampler: mixed vegetables, dal, masala, raiki, roti, papad and rice. Next, we walk around the City Palace, its ornate gates leading to stately halls, where maharajas (kings) received other dignitaries. Finally, we enjoy the ever rising windows of the Hawa Mahal (Palace of the Winds).

Monday, January 18, 2010

Fog Mahal

We walk through the fog and darkness of pre-dawn Agra, hoping to beat the throes to the Taj Mahal. Passing through the gates, just as the day begins to glow through the heavy fog, all we hear are birds chirping and cameras snapping. The encompassing cloud gives the marble mausoleum a mysterious aura as we admire its symmetry and inlay work.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Reclining Buddha

After getting our Indian visas and seeing Avatar in 3-D, it was time to be tourists in Bangkok. We jumped into a tuk-tuk and headed for the Reclining Buddha and Grand Palace.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Purgatorio Paradiso

Not a bad place to wait for a visa. Our long tail boat dropped us off in the east bay of Railay Beach. We waded ashore and found our bungalow on a nearby hillside. We soon forgot about deportation, Kuwait, and visas, and just swam in the Andaman Sea. The beautiful beaches were surrounded by towering cliffs and dense forests. With the smell of pad thai in the air, we knew five business days were going to fly by. We climbed into the jungle, found rocks to jump off, and rented kayaks to explore deserted beaches. Temple even tackled rock climbing. In the evenings, we chilled with ice cold Chang Beer. The days passed and soon our purgatorio in paradiso was over. As we departed in our long tail, we thanked Railay for letting us forget our problems.

Friday, January 8, 2010


Syrupsun had been going smoothly, a little too smoothly, and we got sloppy. We landed in Mumbai without a plan but, more importantly, without visas. We soon found ourselves in a small room with a few immigration officials who questioned us and began paperwork. We naively thought that there was some alternative, that we could get a visa on arrival. Some of the staff we talked to seemed willing to help, but when Clay looked over the form said "Refusal to Land." Despite pleas for help, we were soon on a plane back to where we'd come from, a place we hadn't wanted to go to in the first place: Kuwait City, Kuwait.

Before boarding, Kuwait Airlines handed us tickets to go all the way back to Amman where we'd left the previous morning. We refused to go that far or pay for those tickets. Luckily, we got our bags off the plane before they flew there. In Kuwait, we immediately went to the Indian Embassy and explained that we'd been deported and needed a visa asap. We were shuffled back and forth all day between the consulate and the passport office. At one point, we heard that we could get the visa the next day if we got a certain man's signature, at another point we were told that it would be a minimum of 10 days. After hours of no official answer on how long we'd have to wait, our top priority switched from getting into India to getting out of Kuwait.

We left the embassy with our passports and decided that if we had to wait, we'd do it somewhere beautiful, and cheap. Thailand. We found tickets online and surprisingly Thai Airways had a Kuwait office open until 8:00 pm every night. All day long regular people at the embassy had been helping us even as they dealt with their own problems. This continued as people in the internet cafe lent us cell phones, people on the street helped us with directions, and in the end, one guy walked us all the way to the airline office. We were amazed and grateful at the kindness of the people in Kuwait who made the ordeal bearable.

We flew to Thailand the following day. The Indian Embassy in Bangkok guaranteed our visas in five business days. It suddenly seemed so simple. After dropping off the passports we got on the first bus to the beach.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Dead Sea Float

In the Dead Sea, you float like a cork. Falling backwards into the water your body slides across the surface without effort. We floated in the late afternoon sun, quickly getting used to our salty lounge chairs. We were the last ones in the sea as the sun sunk behind the hills of Israel.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Petra Blue Moon

We first glimpse the Treasury after walking through a long deep canyon called the Siq, when sandstone walls reveal the intricately carved face of Petra. The stone facade glows golden, filling the air with an ethereal magic. After the postcard Petra experience, I worry that the rest of the Nabatean metropolis will disappoint, but the magic continues as the city of sandstone sprawls in every direction. We hike around the site for hours, exploring the holes and eroded facades that occupy every nook and cranny. Even more amazing is the visible effect of time on the ancient walls. The faces of tombs appear to be melting in a gothic display of dripping reds, purples, yellows and blues.

While looking for the Treasury viewpoint from the top of the canyon, I follow Clay up a stairway that seems to lead to nowhere. After many steps we arrive at the Sacred High Place- a carved stone altar used for rituals in biblical times. Although it's not what we're looking for, the views are worth the hike. Back down the stairway to nowhere, we pass the Royal Tombs and finally find the trail to the viewpoint. We briefly lose our way when, suddenly, the top of the Treasury's facade appears. The new perspective ignites a sense of discovery in both of us.

Down from the viewpoint, we take the main road through the center of the ancient city, passing souvenir shops, camel caravans and mysterious temple ruins. We head for the Monastery which is on the top of a mountain that we climb with several other tourists, many on donkeys. The reward is the remarkable Monastery, which, like the Treasury, is mostly a facade, the inside being only an empty room.

After climbing for several hours, we are ready to head back but I go for an alternative route. Soon, we are in a whole new part of the ancient city, seeing incredible tombs and ruins, some only partially uncovered. We follow a path that takes us to the Renaissance Tomb, Tomb of the Soldier and the Lion Fountain. All magnificent. Low on fuel, I'm hoping to turn the corner to find the main road but instead the trail leads up and up, more stairs. Clay helps me keep a good attitude when I'm seconds away from hopping on the next donkey I see. As soon as we reach the summit, Clay sighs, "Sacred High Place". We've climbed the back way to where we were that morning. We laugh at ourselves, enjoy the views again and finally descend, heading back to the hotel to rest before our New Years celebration begins.

That evening, we join a small crowd to walk the candlelit path through the Siq in silence. When we arrive, the space in front of the Treasury is dotted with paper lanterns. Traditional music plays and we drink hot Beduoin tea, enjoying the Treasury in moonlight.