Go There and Back
About Our Trip
Australia Notes For Budget Travelers
Sad Little Went Tent It should come as no surprise that Australia is not the cheapest of countries on our itinerary. That said, the country is well equipped for backpackers on a budget. Like New Zealand, if you watch your $ in the cities and self-cater (camp and cook yourself), you can stretch your dollars pretty far.
The Top End - Darwin
Fanboat Lolo! We’re in our last stop in Australia before we head off to India. Darwin is the capitol of the Northern Territory, but it’s only a city of about 50,000 people and it has a very different feel from most of the other Australian cities that we’ve visited.
It's Raining Books
Book-Em As you might imagine, reading is a popular past time for Dave and I these days. It’s also something we were both looking forward to on the trip. Prior to our departure, as we packed up the house we made little piles of books we’d take and not so little piles of books we’d have our friend Mary send to us down the road.
TimTams & The Lot
TimTams, the shadow currency of Australia Aussies are very close cousins to Americans in many ways, in fact had it not been for the American Revolution many of them (the convict labor) would have ended up in Georgia, not half-way around the world.
Newtown - One Hell of a Town
Newton - One Hell of a Town We’re back in Sydney for one night to return our rental car and jump on a plane to Darwin. Luckily this gives us a chance to visit one of our favorite neighborhoods in Sydney: Newtown.
The True Blue Mountains
Descending the Giant Steps We spent the final days of our Oz road trip in the Blue Mountains just an hour and a half outside of Sydney. It was quite amazing to watch the dry, dusty land gradually turn into rolling green as we made our approach.
Diesel & Dust - The Outback
Mad Maxs Car - Sweet! As our car camping adventure in Aus continues we headed back to Sydney via the Outback. To say there’s a lot of nothing out there is a bit of an understatement. Aside from mining towns, road houses, road trains and red dust there’s not too much.
Outback Radio, Oh-oh!
Why, Why, Why? One of the downsides of the outback is the dearth of radio stations available. We had grown use to pretty good radio here – much better than the states – Triple J is a standout. You loose all those once you leave the cities.
The Fabulous Cook Family
Some of you know our friend Lorraine (aka cycling fool). Well if you do, then you are aware that she is one great lady. It should come as no surprise then that her family in Adelaide are equally awesome. We felt they were deserving of their very own entry!
Dude, Where's Our Stuff?
It was a lovely day, the sun was shining, birds were singing, the air was hot, the water was cold. Then we went back to the car… did you notice there’s no photo attached to this entry? Our second to last day in Adelaide our car was broken into and a bunch of stuff was stolen.
Book-Em It seems Adelaide has something of a self-image problem. It’s not hard to understand why – with competition like Sydney & Melbourne it’s easy to think of oneself as a little provincial. I can assure you this is not the case.
Vibrant Straw with Flecks of Brilliant Green
Something about the label appeals When you hear something like “vibrant straw with flecks of brilliant green”, what do you think? I am guessing it wasn’t, mmmm… pour me one of those. As you probably well know, Australia is home to many a wine that we enjoy in the U.
Gimme, Gimme, Gimme - Some More Internet Access!
One of the more mundane things we do – a lot, of thank you Mr. Blog – is find Internet access. For those of you who haven’t traveled abroad recently there are a lot of ways to get online. Some are surprising, others surprisingly stupid.
Notes From the Great Ocean Road
The 12 Apostles Along the Great Ocean Road We’re on the Great Ocean Road at the moment. It runs from the suburbs of Melbourne to the edge of South Australia and was built after WWI as kind of a works project to employ returning veterans in the 1920’s, before that the only way to access the small towns along the road was by ship or ferry.
Queen Victoria Market After a few days on the road from Sydney we arrived in Melbourne – the second largest city in Australia and the capital of the state of Victoria. Aside from a stroll though the Botanical Gardens and along the Yarra River, we spent most of our brief visit to the city at the Queen Victoria Market and at the Melbourne Zoo.
Phillip Island Wildlife Park
Captain Kangaroo Making our way west from Sydney toward Melbourne, we decided to head a little off route to visit Phillip Island just southeast of Melbourne. Our trusty guidebook highlighted a couple of interesting wildlife opportunities – one in particular where you could interact with and feed kangaroos, wallabies and emus.
Diary of a Car Camper - Australia
Oh, What a Feeling! We’re leaving Sydney and car camping again. If you’ll recall we were hooked up in New Zealand with a very cheap rental. In Australia, not so lucky. Still lucky, we have it for $29.00 a day AUD, and it’s a much sweeter ride.
Cinema Under the Stars
Tropfest Crowd A really fun part of life down here is that ever major city has an outdoor movie venue and most weeknight during the year you can go to the city park, pack a picnic and see a film under the stars.
Dave - Queen of the Mechanical Bull
Ride em Cowboy Some of you may be aware that Dave has always dreamed of riding a mechanical bull. Well his dream came true just the other day! No, it wasn’t at some dirty, dusty saloon somewhere in the middle of the Outback.
New Year (Chinese New Year) in Sydney
Welcome to the Year of the Pig! So we’re here in Sydney and we’re learning that Sydney kind of marches to the beat of a different drummer. Part of the reason we came to Sydney when we did was timing.
Hong Kong Part Deux
Be Like Water Wow, it’s hot in Hong Kong! When we were here in May it was just steamy, now it’s downright unpleasant. Thats not the only thing that changes quickly in Hong Kong: a bakery and Vegetarian Restaurant that we loved on our first trip were closed on our second visit – only two months later.
Things We Love(d) About China
Tiger Leaping Gorge There’s no denying it. We’ve enjoyed China. We didn’t fall in love with the big cities of the east coast, but the western and southwestern provinces are spectacular – filled with stunning scenery and diverse people.
Zai Jian China!
Goodbye China China is not a developing nation, it’s developed. And we all might understand soon just how developed they are. I’ve never met a people who are more determined to make an impression on the world than these folks.
Doh! We've been Shanghai'd!
Take Us With You! Just when we thought everything was resolved with our flights, it turns out that it wasn’t. You’d think that even the less than stellar women at the Qantas office in Beijing who issued us new paper tickets or the very stellar AA women in the U.
Shanghai Nights We’re in Shanghai at the moment, and we’ve had another near miss with my cousin Sam Forrest, we had a close encounter with him in New Zealand, but we were on opposite sides of the North Island.
Olympic Fever - Beijing
Thats A Big Wall The truth about Beijing, if you’ve been in China a while, is you only need a few days to see the sights, then get out …unless you want to go shopping. Then you could be there a month.
Showdown at Qantas Office - Beijing
So part of the attraction of our Round the World ticket is it’s flexibility. Once you’ve identified you’re destinations and flight dates you can change your dates at will. So if you get some where and love it you can stay longer, or if you get somewhere and hate it you can jet out, and for a fee you can change your destinations entirely.
China Notes for Budget Travelers
Our original budget for China was based on the costs of the big cities like Shanghai, Beijing and Hong Kong. Our goal was to stay at or below $70 a day for both of us. We were able to get by on about that in Hong Kong, but were able to easily stay below $50 a day for most of China.
Maybe we should have burned the yak butter at the Buddhist Temple or made one more round with the prayer wheels because we have had some kind of bad luck when it comes to cameras on this trip. After our misfortunes in Australia, we purchased another point and shoot digital camera to get us through until Hong Kong.
Things to Do in Beijing
Long Live China I have to admit – we probably shouldn’t even do an entry on Beijing until we go back there next month. Our three nights and two days there on this leg were mainly occupied with chores: picking up tickets from the travel agency, finding a camera shop to repair our busted equipment, trying to make a few changes to our airline tickets and doing laundry.
Shaolin Wushu Students What can I say – Lonely Planet you got it wrong again! The LP entry on Shaolin kind of disses on it, making it seem like an over-touristed slock show. LeeAnne and I went in with very low expectations, but if you’ve seen as many Kung-Fu movies as I have, going to China without visiting Shaolin Temple is like eating a peanut butter sandwich with no peanut butter.
A Tale of Toes and Terra Cotta Warriors - Xian
Terra Cotta Warriors Of the many, must see' cities in China, Xi’an is certainly high on the list. It’s considered one of the four great ancient capitals of China and is the eastern terminus of the old Silk Route.
Mr. Wang & The Giant Pandas
Panda Mania! For many travelers who venture beyond the East Coast of China, it seems that the city of Chengdu is a natural stopping point and with good reason. As capital of the Sichuan Province, it’s a gateway to a number of great adventures and a popular jumping off point for Tibet.
Rock Art I have to say we really didn’t really give Kanding a chance, we were only there one night before we moved on to Chengdu. If we had more time it probably would have been worth a day or two.
Trouble in Photo Upload Town
Call it bad luck, call it damn bad luck. But we have had a heck of a time recently finding a machine and a connection to upload photos from. For this we apologized. Even if we can’t see what we’re posting you could, but recently we’ve either been in towns with no internet cafe’s, or towns with internet cafes and crap connections, or towns with good connections and machines so locked down we can’t even run the Flickr Uploadr.
Litang - Little Tibet
Monks Chillin So for various reasons (time and cost being the biggest two, hassle being another), we have chosen not to go to Tibet. Let me explain a little: there are now three ways to get to Tibet from China proper
One Night in Xiencheng
Friendly Monks Xiencheng is a very nice little town in Southwest China with very little tourist traffic that you probably have never heard of. If you’re in Xiencheng it’s probably to overnight here waiting for a bus to take you to another town.
Shangri-La - Not So Much
The back streets of Zhongdian Just north of Tiger Leaping Gorge at the edge of the Tibetan plateau sits the town of Zhongdian – recently renamed Shangri-La by the Chinese. It’s Tibetan name is Gyeltang, but no one uses it.
The Great Firewall of China Strikes Again!
Before we had arrived in mainland China we were aware that censorship was alive and well here. The televised news is little more than propaganda and access to other forms on information is limited. Many web-sites, several that we use regularly are blocked.
Tiger Leaping Gorge
Tiger Leaping Gorge We just did a mini-trek at Tiger Leaping Gorge, it’s in the western part of Yunnan and it’s famous for being one of the steepest and most dramatic Gorges in the world. I have to say, it’s probably the highlight of China for us right now.
Comrades and Capitalist Roaders
Mao Meets Capitalism If a picture is worth a thousand words, this one must be worth a thousand dollars. This is China today. New cars being sold at the foot of Chairman Mao while “Life in the Fast Lane” blasts from stereos.
Earthquakes, Orchestras and Pictograms
Lijiang One of the top 10 tourist sites in China is the World Heritage Site of Lijiang, a small town in the mountains of the Yunnan Province. It was ankle to elbow full of tourists, but that didn’t stop us from enjoying the people and culture that abound.
That Can Do Spirit!
View from Lhasa Express When we were in the early stages of planning our trip, I was only lukewarm to coming to China. But then I began to read more, not just about the tourist sites, but also about the history of China and its people.
The NBA - It's Chan-Tastic!
Shane Battier is Big in China Move over Ping-Pong, make room for Basketball. The NBA is surprisingly huge here. After Soccer it’s probably the biggest spectator sport in the country. The NBA play-offs are broadcast twice a day here, live at 8AM in the morning and then again at night, followed by a highlights show with Chinese talking heads summarizing the game.
Well, Hello Dali!
It's so nice to see you... Dali is a beautiful city with mountains on one side and a picturesque lake on the other. It’s an old walled city and unlike many of it’s ilk it has not yet been totally changed by tourism.
Notes From a Chinese Walmart
Sam Walton ...Made in China I’m sure Sam Walton is spinning in his grave. The man who billed his store as “All-American, and American Made” now has a huge business in China, with All-Chinese made products. We’re in Kunming, the capitol of Yunnan Province in the South-west of China, and our room is right around the corner from Yunnan’s first Walmart …how could we resist?
Fresh, Really Fresh
Can I Have You Over For Dinner One thing you can’t say about Chinese food is that it isn’t fresh, no frozen peas need apply. As a way of demonstrating let me relate something that happened to LeeAnne and I just the other day on the way back to our room:
Early Reflections on China
Beverage, Pastry, Why Not Both So we’ve been in China for almost two weeks now and I have to say, sometimes I need to remind myself we’re in the Third World. After two months in India, being here is …refreshing.
The Dragon's Backbone
Dragons Backbone Rive Terraces From Yangshou, we headed back north through Guilin again and on to Longsheng – our base for visiting the Longji Rice Terraces, also known as the Dragon’s Backbone Rice Terraces. I’d read a post online from another traveler that Yangshou was really too touristy (true) and that if you really wanted to see the people and countryside, you should head to Longji and the villages within.
Li River Daze
Li River Scenery One of the “must do” activities in China is a cruise down the Li River from Guilin to the smaller city of Yangshou. Like all good budget travelers we opted to join the Chinese tour. You get the same beautiful scenery sans the English commentary, but for half the price of the Foreigner’s tour.
Long Live China Well it appears we’ve succeeded at obtaining a legitimate 30 day visa for me in China. While in Guilin, we visited the local Public Security Bureau to inquire about an extension. Word among travelers is that they are quite pleasant to deal with and offer a relatively quick turn around.
Land of Limestone Towers & Caves - Guilin
Reed Flute Cave Near Gulin Guilin, it’s just one of the many cities in China with over a million inhabitants that you have probably never heard of. It’s also the first real stop for us in China (we spent a night in
High Road to China
We’re in! Well, almost …we’re crossing the border in a few hours, but LeeAnne was given a Visa. Just a ten day visa, but we’re hoping to get an extension in-country. Barring that, we’ll return to Hong Kong and reapply for a 30 day visa through a travel agency.
Hong Kong Phooey
Hong Kong Phooey I have to say, after spending two months in India, there are few places better to go than Hong Kong. It’s clean, super-modern and very comfortable. We’re loving our time here, we’re staying in Kowloon, which is kind of a tourist ghetto, but a Hong Kong tourist ghetto is a lot better than a Indian, or even Australian tourist ghetto.
England Notes for Budget Travelers
Bıg Ben Ok. Budget is a bit of a misnomer. Let’s refer to it as a bleeding. The U.K. is an expensive place to visit when you’re on vacation and headed back to work and a paycheck next Friday.
See You Later UK!
Say Cheese! Our time in the UK was short, shorter than anywhere on the trip yet. You say – the UK has a lot to offer, the transportation system is excellent, why not stay longer? A few reasons: we’ve both been there before, we live on the US East Coast and flights to London are relatively cheap so we will probably go again, and the idea behind this trip was to go places that were a little less accessible to us for whatever reason – distant location, long flight time, crap internal transportation systems.
Big Ben - Parliament! After close calls with my Cousin Sam Forrest in both New Zealand and Shanghai, we are happy to say we have successfully made contact with my cousin Joe Bateman in London. Actually, he lives ın Watford, but he was nice enough to meet up with us in Central London and show us the sights.
This is Anfield
Welcome to Liverpool The first thing you’ll need to know is that İ’m a soccer fan, next it’s important to know that İ’m a fan of Liverpool FC in England, since we happen to be in the UK it would make sense to go to a game in Liverpool right?
Chillin in the Pool
Paddys Wigwam We ventured to Liverpool for very obvious reasons, but still without the promise of tickets to see the boys in red at Anfield. Luckily the tickets worked out, but I’ll let the footy fan tell his tale.
Damn that Dollar!
England is great and London is possibly one of the greatest cities in the world. There are cool things to do, funky clothes to buy, good shows to see, and yummy food to eat (ethinic food of course). Too bad it costs so damn much to do any of it when you’re coming with US dollars.
Back to Mumbai - Indian Wrap Up
Gateway to India We’re back in Mumbai awaiting our flight out of India. Driving in from the train station it was hard to recognize the town as the big dirty smelly place that shocked us when we flew in two months ago.
India Notes for Budget Travelers
Dave and Lolo at the Taj India is a budget traveler’s dream. It’s certainly one of the cheapest countries on our itinerary. Our daily budget for two is probably less than you spent the last time you went out to dinner.
Ellora & Ajanta
Buddhas at Ajanta As we were making plans for our final week in India, we really wanted to find a way to visit the caves at Ellora and Ajanta – World Heritage Sites located in the state of Maharashtra.
Wedding Season It doesn’t take a Vince Vaughn scheme to crash a wedding in India, especially during wedding season. We actually had one gentleman befriend us on the streets of Udaipur to “practice his English” and subsequently invite us to his wedding party the following evening.
Coming From? - Common India 'Engrish'
One Pen There are a few phrases that any visitor to India will become familiar with rapidly. Here’s a quick run-down of common “Engrish” you’ll come across: Coming From? – The most benign, they just want to know what country you’re from.
The Cult of Lonely Planet & Lodging in India
Join Us, Won't You? Our time in India is starting to wind down, so we would just like to pass on a few words about lodging here. We’re using the latest edition of “Lonely Planet – India” as our main guidebook and it’s great of course, very well documented, written, and well thought out.
Notes From Octopussy's Lair
Octopussy, Every Night Udaipur is a great place to go if your extremely rich, or a fan of James Bond films. Actually, if your a fan of one James Bond film in particular: Octopussy. A large part of the film was shot here and even though it was released some 25 years ago, every restaurant in town still shows Octopussy every night at 7PM sharp.
Monkeys at Jaigarh Fort I guess it shouldn’t be that surprising, but there are monkeys everywhere in India. We’ve spotted a few in the wild, but most have been hanging around rooftops and historic forts. When Dave or I would spot monkeys on our safari in Corbett Reserve, all the locals just shrugged as if to say, “just a monkey”.
Pink City - Jaipur
Astronomical Clocks in Jaipur Rajasthan, in northwestern India, is kind of what I had always pictured India being like – desert, lot’s of castles and old forts, monkeys all over and people in Turbans. And so far it is not disappointing me.
Queen of the Hills
Mmmmm...Masala Popcorn After our relaxing time in Rishikesh, we were still longing for some cooler temperatures so we made our way further north to Mussoorie, also known as the Queen of the Hill Stations. It certainly lives up to its name.
A Few of My Favorite Things
Masala Dosa During our time in India, I have been making a list of my favorite things. Not surprisingly, most of them are food related! But there are a few other things unique to India which have also won our hearts.
With all of our frank musings about India, we realize that we might seem ethnocentric or judgemental to some. That is not our intention. And yes, we do like it here most of the time. As you travel through any developing country – or any country that is just different from your own – you’re faced with all kinds of different experiences.
Hippy Dippy Do - Rishikesh
The Beatles Slept Here Rishikesh is a smallish town set on the Ganges at the foothills of the Himalayas. In part due to it’s “auspicious” location it’s a pilgrimage site for Hindus. But of late there are a lot of other people here besides Hindus.
'Oh Dirty River'
The Ganges River at Rishikesh As I stood at the edge of the Ganges in Rishikesh, I couldn’t help but hum the final lyrics to Sleater Kinney’s “Light Rail Coyote.” Oh Dirty River, Come Let Me In Except, I have no desire to dip into the Ganges.
The World Cup (of Cricket)
Satellite TV, On a Black and White TV One of the things we were excited about was being in India during the World Cup of Cricket. We arrived in Mumbai just a few days before the first match and were anticipating a huge outpouring of support for the national team from India’s billion plus people.
Elephantitis: Corbett National Park
Elephant Safari Jim Corbett National Park Leaving Delhi, we set off for Corbett National Park about 250 km north in the state of Uttarchanal. Our mission: elephant safari! And maybe spot some other wildlife as well. We were partially successful.
A Tail of One City: Agra
The Obligatory Shot “It was the best of times and the worst of times.” Mr. Dickens could have been been talking about one city in India, rather than two cities in Europe. Agra, a few hours outside of Delhi is a study in contrast.
Fatehpur Sikri Gate During our time here in northern India, I have developed a particular fondness for the Mughals. Mughal is the Persian word for Mongol. The Mughals claim decendency from Genghis Khan and their empire ruled much of India and its surrounds during the 16th to 18th centuries.
Hair is a Universal Language So I needed a haircut some kind of bad. I haven’t had my ears lowered since before Christmas. I’d been holding out for some time, but the 110 degree heat in Delhi, combined with to opportunity to get a haircut on the street was too good to pass up.
Several Million Do Make A Difference
India Gate After a long, chilly train ride, we arrived in Delhi last Thursday. Delhi is India’s second largest city after Mumbai. And though I can not find consistent population numbers, it is a fact that several million fewer people live here than in Mumbai.
Beef Anyone Ok, so you may know that cows are considered sacred animals in the Hindu religion. Very little beef eating going on here. Even McDonald’s has a sign stating “No beef or beef products served here.” (This is a surefire way to see a failed McDonald’s in the midwest!
Life on the Rajdhani Express
Travel in 2nd Class A forty two hour train ride isn’t really something to be looked forward to. But after the better part of a month spent traveling further and further South, LeeAnne and I decided it was time to knock off a few of the “Must Do’s” in India – The Taj Mahal etc – so we had to find a way from Trivandrum (near the southern tip of India) to Delhi (in the North of the country).
Three Nights in Thiruvananthapuram
The Main Drag in Thiruvananthapuram Thiruvananthapuram: the small town with a really long name! Formerly known as Trivandrum, the town elders decided to change the city name for brevity’s sake to Thiruvananthapuram in 1991. We’re in town for a few days waiting on a train to Delhi.
Cruising The Kerala Backwaters
Kerala Backwaters A highlight for many travelers in Kerala is taking a leisurely cruise through the 900km network of waterways known as the backwaters. The waterways vary from narrow shady canals fringed with homes and rice paddies to large lakes filled with fishing boats.
Gastrointestinal Update: No. 1
TP is Good! To appease our readers I will report that there have been no major gastrointestinal incidents in India as of yet. We are very careful about water, but have been enjoying a variety of local foods, juices (no water and no ice used) and veg (no lettuce) with little to no adverse result.
A Homely Stay
Sabu Elias & DeerVilla Home Stay Since arriving in India a little over three weeks ago, we’ve run the gamut on lodging options. We’ve stayed in overpriced, run down hotels, a rodent infested beach shack (Yes, we weren’t the only ones sharing that great view!
Kumily & The Tiger Reserve
Beware of Monkeys! After a few days cooling off (literally in Munnar) we’ve headed down south to Kumily which we’ve used as a base to visit the Periyar Tiger Reserve. Count yourself extremely lucky if you see any tigers here.
Run For The Hills
American Giants with Indian Honeymooners Ok, so technically we didn’t run. We took a bus. An old, well worn bus that wound its way back and forth around seemingly endless switchbacks for the 130km trip from Kochi to Munnar.
This Forks for You
Bananas... I’m currently working on a theory about the relative prices of eating out here in India. After a couple of weeks here we’ve been in big cities and small cities. Touristy places and less touristy places and we’ve been trying to come up with an explanation of the wide range of cost on what is basically the same food.
God's Own Country
School Days No, we didn’t come up with this, the State of Kerala did. Signs and brochures are quick to coin Kerala as God’s country. I imagine much of this is due to its beautiful scenery, which in all honesty we haven’t had the chance to see much of as of yet.
Hot Time in Kochi
Kochi Coastline First off let me say we did not do Kochi justice. Kochi (formerly Cochin) needs to be seen in December or January – before it gets too hot. In late March it’s just too hot and too humid.
Big Day Out in Goa Just to make sure we didn’t get totally bored of reading and relaxing on the beach all week, we decided to take a little day trip and see some sites beyond Palolem. We rented a scooter, bought a few liters of petrol and headed north.
Passport Please One of the more frustrating things here in India has been the India love affair with red tape. Fair warning to all those who come to visit: memorize your passport number. You will need to produce it at many (unexpected)turns.
Go, Go Goa
A Room With A View Following our escape from Mumbai, we decided to head south, where according to various parties it’s “less crazy.” We chose to come directly to Palolem Beach in southern Goa for a little chill time.
Escape from Mumbai
Tuk Tuk'ing Along When is a 12 hour train-ride in tropical heat with no air conditioning worth it? When it gets you out of Mumbai. Our journey began before dawn at Mumbai’s Central Station and would not end until just after night fell on us and our Auto-Ricksaw driver on a beach in Goa.
Hooray for Bolliwood
Bolliwood Stardom Jokingly one of our goals on this trip was to get cast in a Bolliwood movie: Mission Accomplished! It was surprisingly easy. There are some 700 movies made in Mumbai a year so the numbers are working for you if you want to be cast as an extra.
Fishermens Village, Mumbai After a pleasant 9 hour flight from Darwin, we arrived in Mumbai (formerly known as Bombay) on Wednesday evening. Our arrival was as smooth as could be expected at any international city. Breeze through immigration, pick up our bags, change some money and walk right through customs.
Passage to Mumbai
Passports at the ready So we’re getting on a plane bound for India this afternoon, and we’re full of excitement and anticipation. We’re also sadly saying good-bye to things like clean tap water, salads and the ubiquitous first world flush toilet.
There are a couple of angles I could take with this particular country wrap-up. One is: Jordan – the only country we’ve visited to be ruled by a former guest star on Star Trek (It’s true – King Abdullah is a huge fan of Star Trek and worked his connection to get an appearance on an episode of Star Trek: Voyager.
A Day Out with the Asads
Lee Anne & The Asads There is no denying it. The best way to explore a city is with a local. Not only do you get the insider’s perspective, but you get to see things that you may not seek out on your own.
Life on the Kings Highway
Life is a Kings Highway There are two ways to get from Petra to Amman: the fast way is to take the Desert Highway, a name that leaves little to the imagination, the other is the Kings Highway. The King’s Highway was a major trade route in the ancient Mid-East.
Looking for the Promised Land
Let Their Be Water! 7 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, 8 Take the rod, and gather thou the assembly together, thou, and Aaron thy brother, and speak ye unto the rock before their eyes; and it shall give forth his water, and thou shalt bring forth to them water out of the rock: so thou shalt give the congregation and their beasts drink.
The Treasury Pun intended! There’s no doubt about it. Petra is an amazing place. Definitely among the most amazing places on our trip. When you think of Petra, you may envision Harrison Ford and Sean Connery on horse back emerging from a narrow canyon to see the magnificent Treasury.
Is That Who I Think It Is?
Delroy! It’s always kind of fun to see famous people, even when they’re not that interesting. I’m not sure why. I can remember acting like a groupie at a rock concert when a I saw Dukakis at a rally back in high school.
Sain Yavaarai Mongolia!
Mongolia its Grrreat For those planning a trip to Mongolia – don’t bother leaving UB if you are a Vegan or Lactose Intolerant. You will starve! These people love their meat and dairy products. It makes sense, most people here are nomads and don’t want to stick around in one place long enough to grow a crop.
Mongolia Notes for Budget Travelers
Mongolian Kid and Friend Mongolia is a bit different than the other countries we have visited thus far. There is only one real city, UB, and there is very little infrastructure to support public transport around the country. As we mentioned in Off We Ger if you want to get out into the countryside, which is really THE reason to come to Mongolia, then you need to a) join a tour; b) hire a jeep; or c) be completely raving madand take the local long distance buses.
Nadaam - Not Just for Men Anymore Nadaam is the national festival of Mongolia. Indeed, the Mongolian word for festival is Nadaam. Imagine, if you will, a very large State Fair with a Super Bowl type opening ceremony and an emphasis on sports and you will come close to what Nadaam is.
Modes of Travel in Mongolia
Hell Bus 2007 The tricky think about Mongolia is that you have to get out of UB and into the countryside to really get a feeling for the country, but it’s hard as hell to get out of UB.
Tales from the Mongolian Countryside
Trekking in Central Mongolia Since my time in Peace Corps, my motto has kind of been “hope for the best, but expect the worst.” With this frame of mind, you’re generally prepared for everything to go wrong and pleasantly surprised when it doesn’t.
Off We Ger
Ger Ya Later! Part of the allure of Mongolia is getting the heck out of UB and heading to the countryside. The only complication with that is that you can’t just hop on a bus and wing it like we have in other countries.
Call Me UB - Ulaanbaator
Can you say SOVIET? Ulaanbaator is a sleepy medium-size town that happens to be the capitol and only real city of any size in Mongolia. The Soviets essentially built this city and it’s painfully obvious in the architecture, monuments and city planning that the Mongolians had little say.
Life on the Trans-Mongolian Express
A Thriving Mongolian Community When young Mongolians ask their parents where white people come from I’m sure many are tempted to say “From the Trans-Mongolian Express”. After being a pair of white dots in a sea of Chinese faces for over a month it was a little shocking being in the majority on this train from Beijing to Ulaanbaatar.
Wild Wild Windhoek
Windhoek - Its Off the Hook! Windhoek is the medium size capitol of a very small country, – Namibia only has 1.2 million residents – it’s also Namibia’s financial and transportation center. If you are coming to Namibia, at some point you will pass through Windhoek.
The Southern Tour of Namibia
Big Dunes First things first. No, we didn’t come to Namibia because Brad and Angelina did. No, we didn’t see them. No, we didn’t even meet anyone who mentioned them. We were, however, shown the filming location of J Lo’s movie, The Cell, which of course we haven’t seen.
Hei konā rā New Zealand
Sarah, Leah & Sue Tomorrow we say goodbye to New Zealand and the lovely Kiwis (people, fruit and birds) and head for Oz. New Zealand has been good to us. It’s a beautiful country to tour, and I imagine one of the easiest places in the world to travel.
New Zealand Notes for Budget Travelers
Spending Tips from the Experts! Some of you are probably wondering how the heck we are making our money stretch around the world. The answer is on a budget! As we planned and planned and then planned some more prior the trip, we did our best to estimate our costs from everything to tickets and visas and travel insurance to daily costs and special, one-time expenses like tours.
Rainbow Falls When Kiwis go on vacation they go to Northland. It’s the peninsula north of Auckland, and you’re sandwiched in between the South Pacific and the Tasman sea, so there are loads of beach options. It’s where most of the Maori population is located these days too.
Spotted - 9:30 Club Guy in Auckland
9:30 Club Guy So LeeAnne and I are back in Auckland briefly before we head north to visit Sarah. We’re here primarily to finally pick up our tickets and run a few other errands around town. So after we’ve finished our business we’re walking down by the harbor right around sunset and we approach a big guy on the sidewalk.
That Smell: Rotorua
Anyone Smell Eggs? Rotorua stinks, literally (some may say figuratively too, but that’s another entry all together) it’s the center of a lot of geothermal activity here on the North Island. There are geysers and steam and the smell of rotten eggs all over up here.
Near Miss - Cousin Sammy
At the same time LeeAnne and I are doing our around the world travel my cousin Sam Forrest is doing something very similar. Last I had heard he was in South America so I never really even thought about the possibility that our paths might cross, but small world that it is, it seems he jumped over the Pacific by way of the Galapagos and Easter Island and was in Auckland when we were in Wellington – opposite sides of the North Island.
The Wild West Coast
Punakaiki Pancake Rocks After touring the Lakes District and Fiordland, we headed over Haast Pass to the west coast, described as wild and quite wet by most brochures and guidebooks. The drive over Haast was on one of our first clear, sunny days.
The Ice Storm: Glacier Country
Sure Footed LeeAnne Traveling up the West Coast of the South Island we did hikes to the Ice faces of two of the biggest glaciers in New Zealand Fox Glacier and Franz Joseph Glacier. I’d never seen glaciers except on TV before and the experience was well worth the trip out.
Serious LOTR Country - Milford Sound
Good Lord of the Rings! Fjordland – the southwestern corner of the South Island – feels very different from the rest of the country. For one thing it’s almost all a huge temperate rain forest. So you’ll have a forest of conifers littered with huge ferns, and these crazy mountains that don’t belong in the Lord of the Rings – they’re the source material for it.
Crazy Blue Lake Tekapo The first stop in our career as car campers is Lake Tekapo – a wonderfully blue-blue (almost phony looking) lake in the Southern Alps. We’re also at a pretty high altitude, and the lake is rather remote so residents of the lake area claim to have the clearest sky’s in New Zealand.
Diary of a Car Camper - New Zealand
Not ours, but I wish it was... We’re starting kind of a second leg of our stay here in New Zealand, the bikes are gone and we’re renting a car for the rest of the trip. Of course it’s going to give our legs a break and let us have a lot more range in terms of where we can go and what we can see in a day.
Cycling New Zealand - That is a Wrap
Lets Stick a Fork in this one LeeAnne We are back in Christchurch finally, after spending the past few weeks biking the South Island. From here we rent a car and head to the west coast over the mountains and then back up to the North Island.
Dunedin - San Francisco of the South?
Tribal Graffiti New Zealand is a very hilly place. Dunedin is the MOST hilly place we have been yet in the country. In fact it’s the home of the steepest street in the world – Baldwin Street. And the motorway in to town – the main artery for cars trucks etc.
Eat Your Heart Out Charlie
Cadbury World If you’re like me, watching Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (the original with Gene Wilder) when you were a kid was a little disturbing. Our tour of Cadbury World in Dunedin proved to be full of a little of that same creepiness as well as loads of chocolate goodness!
Big Birds, Sleepy Sealions and Super Cute Penguins
Cute Yellow Eyed Penguins with Happy Feet while they are Marching Yesterday we threw the budget out and splurged for our first tour in New Zealand. Actually, it was quite a bargain and worth every penny! Stretching out from the Dunedin coast is the Otago Peninsula.
Somewhere Between Clinton and Gore
Along the Presidential Highway So we are back on the road cycling. This time we are lighter (we dropped a bunch of stuff off with acquaintances in Christchurch), smarter (we’ve traveled south by bus and are riding north to keep the wind at our backs), and more motivated (if you read our post on Invercargill you’ll understand, we need to get out of here!
Invercargill is not a hotbed of activity The Legend of Burt Munro Have you seen the movie “The Worlds Fastest Indian”? It’s the true story of an elderly Kiwi who breaks the world speed record for motorcycles at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah at the ripe old age of 69.
Christchurch... or Disneyland?
Is it Christchurch, or Epcot? I once had a conversation with an Australian woman about the nature of Kiwi’s, “They’re more British than the British she said.” Now, asking an Australian to define the nature of a Kiwi (or vice versa) is never recommended, and you shouldn’t expect an unbiased answer, but in the case of Christchurch …she may have been on to something.
Pedal, Pedal, Pedal
A Bad day on the bike is better than a good day in the office So our plan for a while has been to bike while in New Zealand. After considerable research and contemplation, we decided to rent bikes and bike on the South Island only.
One Night in the Jailhouse
LeeAnne adds her marks to the door An unexpected end to our second day of riding was that LeeAnne and I spent the night in the jailhouse. The Chevoit (Pronounced Chevy-Ut) Motel is built on the grounds of the old Cheviot jailhouse – which still stands.
Hobbits & Elves
Well, San Francisco has hills and Cable Cars too. But that is where the comparison ends We arrived in the capital city of Wellington on Monday evening after 11 hours on a bus traversing the North Island from Auckland.
Reflections on Sweet Potato, Pumpkin and Hokey Pokey
Flavored Milk is Big Down Here The three things that stand out about food here in New Zealand are their love of (In order) Ice Cream, Pumpkins and Sweet Potatoes (known locally as Kumara). Let’s cover the last first, when I first saw it listed on the menu I just assumed that Kumara was a strange type of sausage.
The City of Sails
Lively Auckland We arrived in Auckland early Friday morning and spent three days there exploring the city. Since we only spent a few days in one city, it’s probably not fair to make any kind of sweeping generalizations about Kiwis or New Zealand for that matter.
Kia Aro from New Zealand!
After fifteen hours of flights and four or so hours of lay-overs we’ve arrived at our first destination: New Zealand. You may say to yourself: “Too Easy! An Around the world trip that starts half-way around the world, they’re cheating.” Well, yes maybe we are cheating.
Return Ticket Please!
Incident at LAX Finally, after months of planning, preparations and daydreaming, we were off. Lee Anne’s sister in law and niece Megan saw us off in Dallas, and we were on our way to our first stop – New Zealand.
Where Are They Now?
“So what ever happened to that crazy couple that were going around the world? Where are they now?” The quick answer is, geographically we are back in the U.S. at home in Washington, D.C. where we are looking forward to returning to normal life and everything (good and bad) that that entails – Jobs, Mortgage, Health Insurance, Pets – bring it on.
One more thing before we let you go – and I don’t want to get too Ed Begley Jr. here, but I think it does bear mentioning. When you travel around the world like we’ve done this year there are some unseen consequences, and I’m not talking about introducing Mongolian Nomads to iPods.
On Top of the World!
So, since we’ve been back there have been a lot of questions about what was our favorite place, our favorite thing to do, etc. We’ll try and address that here. Some things stand out in our mind easily (like our favorite bathroom), others are a little harder to narrow down to just one thing (favorite place?
The Big Mac Index
So I have to tell you, from a exchange rate perspective, 2007 has not been a great year to travel outside the United States. Well, at least not if you have American Dollars to change (thank you George W. Bush). The exchange rates of most of the currencies we changed for was usually worse when we left than when we arrived, it sucked.
Our Trip By The Numbers
So here’s a quick rundown of our trip by the numbers, full of fresh statistics. Possibly interesting, possibly obsessive? You decide! -1269 : Lowest Altitude – The Dead Sea, Jordan -46 : Lowest Latitude in Degrees South – Invercargill, New Zealand 1 : Movies Appeared In – Mumbai, India
Headed Out Remember how you felt before you started your last Round the World trip? No? Let me remind you: It’s really no sweat, you’re only leaving home for several months, going to God knows what kind of places where you won’t understand the locals, be familiar with their customs or know which way to look when you cross the street …and that’s just Australia.
Pretrip Gearlist (Or Things We Should Have Left Behind)
Below is a partially complete list of stuff we’ve set out with. Too much (almost certainly), not enough (what are you smoking?), we shall see. Please note that the Cycling stuff is going home after we leave New Zealand, and the Camping stuff is going home after Australia.
flickring Around the World
Hopefully soon we will have many many photos in here. We’re using flickr to host photos while we’re traveling. It’s easy to upload stuff from internet cafes and it beats trying to store everything on our own, and then either losing them. Besides we can share them with everyone else.
Packing, Packing, Packing
Are we traveling light yet? Wow! We have a lot of stuff for two people traveling light around the world. It’s embarrassing telling people your traveling around the world on a shoestring and then asking their help to pull your two large duffel bags, two fully packed back-packs and two or three carry-on’s out of the car for you.
Cafe Press Been in Effect, Go Get a Late Pass
Everyone Needs One, right? Is it cool? No. Is it fun, kind of. Is it needed? No. Are we making ANY money off of it? No. But we still have a CafePress store, so deal with it. CafePress Store
Mork to Orson, Come in Orson...
One thing we’ve been doing a lot of research on running up to the last days before we leave is telephones and phone cards. Keeping in touch with folks back home is really important to us so we want something reliable, but we also don’t want to pay a lot for that muffler.
Okay, this one is our bad. After getting screwed by the Irish travel agency back at Thanksgiving we decided on another course of action. “Originating” our OWE flight in the UK. It was going to be great, we would fly there for a few hundred, maybe catch a soccer game, stop in Dallas to see LeeAnnes family on the way to New Zealand and be on with our trip.
The Itinerary - For Now...
Okay, the Irish screwed us. After going through everything, AND running our credit card they told us (by email) that they had quoted us for the wrong price. And it would be about 1,000 euros more! Now I don’t follow the currency market like I should, but I do know that right now the exchange rate for US Dollars to Euros is no good, and a thousand Euros is …well, more that we want to pay.
Our Men in Dublin
Ticket Plan B – Okay, so we’re going to use a travel agent in Ireland to purchase our RTW tickets, fly there a few days before we “Originate” our One World Explorer tickets and then fly to New Zealand. Crazy, yes, but it’s going to save us a bunch on ticket costs.
One World Explorer Pricelist by Country
Okay, so one thing we learned very quickly from the One World Explorer FAQ is that OWE tickets are priced differently in every country they are sold in. Is that crazy or what? Originally, we were planning on flying from the states for 4,900 USD plus tax.
Tickets - One World Explorer
We’ve researched a lot of different options on Round the World tickets. It’s a great way to control your costs on getting there and back, because after you pay a flat fee you can use as many or as few flights as you want too.
Going hand-in-hand with vaccinations is Travel Insurance. I’ve been out and about in the world before, but have never even considered getting it. But, this is a big trip and we are grown up now, so it seems like a good time to look at it.
Bicycle Hire in New Zealand
For a couple of months we have been considering trying to work in some Bicycle touring as part of our travel. It didn’t take too long to identfy New Zealand as the place we wanted to do it in. It’s suppose to be one of the best places in the world for touring and camping.
Vaccinations - Don't Leave Home Without Them
First stop on the road to Round the World Travel is the Doctors office. It may not be the most romantic or adventuresome idea, but I’m pretty sure that before the best adventurers and explorers headed out they got their shots. How much could Indiana Jones have gotten done if he were bed-ridden with Hep B while chasing the Ark of the Covenant?
Hello World - A Word About Why We Are on this Trip
Maybe we need to explain a little about why we are doing this: LeeAnne and I have always had a bit of the wander lust. She’s a Returned Peace Corp Volunteer and I’m know in my office as “The Guy That Leaves, But Then Comes Back”, or “TGTLBTCB” for short.
So Long Southern Africa!
Like Sands Through the Hourglass... I feel like we owe Africa another trip. Five weeks here just doesn’t do this wonder corner of the world justice. We’ve had a chance to pop around a bit in Southern Africa, but I feel like we just peeped through a keyhole and the place has a lot more to offer.
Black and White and Southern African All Over
This is the part of the blog where I get us in trouble. We’ve only been here five weeks or so, but it’s hard to leave here without making a comment about the racial tension in this part of the world, and it comes from both directions.
Chillin in Cape Town
Cape Town Rules Cape Town is easily the best city we’ve visited in Africa, by far, LeeAnne is even claiming it’s her favorite city on the whole trip (but I’m not ready to go that far yet). african penguins african penguins african penguins african penguins african penguins african penguins african penguins african penguins african penguins african penguins african penguins african penguins Why all the enthusiasm?
Crazy Taxi - South Africa Edition
Try to Avoid it... Why did we do it? We had little choice. Was there no other option? No, there wasn’t. These are only a few of the questions we found ourselves asking one another as we took our first African “Public Taxi”.
Poverty & Apartheid
Kliptown, Soweto Despite the bad wrap and the inconvenience of being a tourist in Johannesburg, a trip there is well worth it to be able to visit Soweto and spend time in the Apartheid Museum. I would recommend, however, that you do not visit both in the same day like we did.
The Viewing Game - Krueger National Park
Giraffes! After a little taste of wildlife viewing in Zimbabwe and Botswana, we were pretty psyched to head to Krueger National Park in northeastern South Africa for a four day safari. We were even more excited to be sharing the experience with friends from the States.
The Walls of Johannesburg
The Safest Place in Joberg - The Mall Johannesburg is very sketchy, the crime statistics are scary and in a place where even locals don’t go out at night tourists have to adapt. As a consequence of crazy crime, the security business is booming – everyone has high masonry walls around their homes and at least one of the following on top: razor wire, barbed wire, electric fencing, or crushed glass.
Fear and Loathing on Flight 749 to Johannesburg
Things not to do on a flight to South Africa include: read a South African newspaper. LeeAnne did just that and it was fairly unnerving. South Africa in general and Johannesburg in particular have issues with crime. And while most of it is based in the poorer African Townships, it still makes the news.
So Long Turkey!
Theres No Place Like Dome This entry should really be titled: “Hoşça kalın Türkiye”, but it was too hard to resist the chance to use that title. At least we didn’t title it “Get Lost Turkey!”. Leaving Turkey, this is the last time we will have our Passports stamped out on this trip.
It's Istanbul Not Constantinople Now
Aya Sophia - Just One of Many Photogenic Sites Istanbul is a great city. It straddles the Bosphorus placing half the city in Europe and half in Asia. It’s an interesting mix of cosmopolitan and traditional is full of rich history and impressive structures left behind by the Greek, Roman and Ottoman empires.
Meow! A curious thing about Istanbul is the number of healthy stray cats that freely wander the city. You can easily have a seat in the park near the Blue Mosque and count 20 or more in a matter of minutes.