Traveling in Colombia- there is no way you won’t like it no matter who you are

I arrived in Bogota at night. Alone. To a city that I just new from a free download map. Hello excitement zone! On one side I was happy to finally travel to an Spanish speaking country (no more undefinable food!), on the other I imagined it to be like in my time in  Mexico City where it was not very recommendable to be in the streets alone after 10:00 pm. But arriving in Bogota  was surprisingly smooth and I stayed in la Candelaria for 2 days joining the Graffiti tour and climbing the Cerro de Montserat.

It was nice to be welcomed by the people, you find yourself greeting strangers in the streets, people in general in Colombia are very polite and ‘alegre’, what is a mixture of lively and very socially interested to me, haha. You can always get into the wrong place at the wrong time but even traveling alone as a woman I had just friendly and inviting encounters mostly talking about why I chose Colombia or how I like Colombia.

Arriving at the coast in Santa Marta I got kind of caught by surprise by the wheather- we had about 32 degrees there for about 2 weeks! Constantly! This must be one of these magic places that us Germans only know from our dreams- and I already winded hords of equals here but surprise! This time I found plenty of Israeli instead, of Argentinians and French. After some days of chilling with Adelia and updating each other cause we hadn’t travelled together for a while, we decided to go to Tayrona National Park in the rainforrest on the Caribbean coast. Can you feel that? Maybe? Just by naming rainforest and coast I get goosebumps! We had that before in New Zealand at the Abel Tasman track and really liked it. Well, Adele was not so amused after the last costal track due to the heat and after some hours of trecking in the Sierra Nevada we were laughing about each other because some parts of the walk (especially to Pueblito) were kind of demanding and I saw her grumpy face.

So we decided against the Ciudad Perdida-trip (way toooo hot!) and instead I did my diving course and Adele visited Minka and Palomino, small villages at the cost in the tropically covered mountains. Arriving in Taganga I was just asking for a discount at the hostel Casa Gypsy and 1 hour later I was officially accepted to work in the bar for a week getting free food and accommodation. Nice!

Visiting some beautiful reefes in the morning and at night serving drinks was my first kind of “routine” and it was such a hilarious time! We made lots of jokes and I could test the nightlife of Colombia for the first time. But I already knew what to expect: either reggaeton, salsa or a caribbean beat because you hear this music ev-ery-whe-re and I´d go even further and call the Colombians the most music- (and football-) obsessed nation I´ve ever visited.

On partys it’s nearly impossible to not get in touch with marijuana or cocaine but you can also have great nights without. At least I heard about that🙃

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Us after our float in the mud vulcano

Passing by Cartagena for just 2 days to jump into the mud vulcano Tutumo was enough for us at that time as we perceived the city too touristy and expensive. Further, I snapped up some news about a techno festival in Medellin so we wanted to arrive in Medellin soon. Regarding transportation it´s really easy to go pretty much everywhere spontaneously, it´s so amazing- you just go to a bus terminal and anounce your destination and there is always a helping hand around:o)

Discovering Parque Arvi

In Medellin, a really good place to learn Spanish as the colombian accent is quite clear, we met some friends from a spanish language school and went out to dance salsa. In general, this city hooked us up with its enormous crazy party scene, passion for music and we enjoyed again a stunning time for a week.

The BAUM festival was one of the hardest techno parties I´ve ever joined, dancing for 12 hours and enjoying a sweet stupor caused by becoming one with complete strangers and dancing and sharing everything! Unfortunately also our hangover was exceeding the 12 hours but luckily we stayed in a very nice hostel, the Jaguar hostel where we could chill and regain a clear mind. It was also this place where I fell in love again with the Colombian hospitality because I immedeately felt home and got lots of good recommendations such as Comuna 13, various parks to chill out and a wonderful visit in the Botanical garden.

After that, nature was calling and we continued our trip to Jardin, famous for its waterfalls, mountain tracks and rivers.

Yoga in the morning, a track at lunchtime and a good chill in the afternoon, something like this. Hearing about Yerico, a very original village about 50 km north of Jardin we decided to do a bicicling tour there. What was actually very very hard overcoming the mountains (we even hitchhiked for a while!) but sooo worth it because this village is stunningly beautiful, lovely and welcoming!

Colombia really showed its vibrant joie de vivre so far, talking about nature, big city life, culture, food, party and value for money it has everything combined. We are currently dreaming about opening a hostel in Choco- this is also what this country allowes: dreaming about an upright, autonomous future ✌🏽✌️✌🏿

Next destination: Salento and Cali!

Stay inspired

Nepal Part 2

After surviving an eight hour bus ride from Kathmandu to Pakhora (and imagine its a distance of only 200km) i arrived in this lovely city by the lake. Its not only i was lucky enough to make it in eight hours, i was also blessed with the company of an elder nepali women who took care of me the entire ride. And i really mean the entire time:we started talking about where we were from in a really bad english. She was singing some nepali songs, which was nice, but the last few hours she felt the need to show me all her photos she had on her phone, including her entire family and dozens of selfies.

As Flo and Mella took off to explore the Annapurna mountains i decided to visit a Tibetan Buddhism Meditation Center for three days. I had no previous experience in any of this. I had no expectations but i felt after the adventuriuos time at Everest Base Camp Trek i needed some time off. The center was set up on a hill with a stunning view of the lake. There was also a giant fortune wheel at the terrace and a nice garden to hang out.The people i met where from all over the world, a good mix of interesting characteres.
The days were completly filled: yoga in the morning, breakfast, meditation, buddhism teaching, lunch, group conversation, yoga, dinner and meditation again. We learned the basic of buddhism and discused wheather happiness depends on previous suffering and how to reach the enlightening. It was super interesting and i definitly found my peace in this place.

“welcome to karma cafe, you get what you deserve”

I spent the following days exploring the town and its surroundings with the people i met. We went for a hike to the World Peace Stupa on the top of a mountain. We stopped by at the Devrils Falls, but it was pretty disappointing. The view from the Stupa was very pretty, you can see the entire lake and the lake side town. We did not walk all the way back, instead we descended the mountain and took a boat, which was very convenient exept for a heavy rain fall which caught us while we were in the middle of the lake.

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Another highlight was the sunrise at Sarangkot as we were a group of 10 we shared two taxis and left the buddhism center at about 5:30 in the morning. Just in time we reached after a crazy drive through the steep and curvy streets the viewpoint. Apparently our taxidriver was a stuntman in movies like ” fast and the furious” or “speed”, i am glad i had breakfast after the ride 🙂
The sunrise was just stunning. The Annapurna mountains were still covered in snow and luckily the weather was as clear as possible.

After 7 days on ” my own”, which was actually the first time for me travelling alone, i finally met Mella and Flo back again. But our reunion was not meant to last long. After Flo suffered horrible and painful food poisoning (i will spare you the details – let’s just say there are things i can never unsee) 🙂 he left for the National Park to do a Safari tour and Mella and me took the bus back to Kathmandu were we finally got our Tattoos!!

“living on the edge”

Back at the Hostel Fire&Flies we spent our amazing last days with some friends:
Our “aussie”  Luka, who shared my destiny of regressing from the Base Camp Trek unwillingly with a helilift
a guy from India, who wished to be named “Chris or Richard Parker”, Bishal from Nepal, with an icredible life story like that of”Slum Dog Millioniare”
Esme a mexican-american who now lives in Japan, who turned out to be my nepali tequila sister
…. and many more!

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We spent our evenings singing, playing silly games and not to forget listening to some really creepy but catchy songs as: ” monday morning loves you, tuesday morning loves you…. I waaana loooove you eeeevery daaaaay!”
We shared everything and these days will always remain very special in my memories. Thank you for being part of our journey ❤ .
Namaste Adelia

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Nepal Part 1

Coming to Nepal was already an adventure! After we sold our car in New Zealand three hours before our flight (oh my gosh…i dont want to remember this day),we took the longest flight ever to Dubai (14 hours ). Beeing a backpacker means you can not always afford a hotel, so you just sleep like a homeless on some random seats. Thats why we decided to sleep at the airport as our connection flight was on the next day. According to Mella this wasnt a good idea at all. Horrible things must have happend while i was asleep, which involves babys vomiting next or actually on Mella and some rude bahaving people doing disgusting things next to our “sleeping camp” while boarding an airplane. Well, i dont really know what was going on, but i never forget the pale face of Mella saying to me ” you just have no idea what f*** happened” when i woke up in the middle of the night. You must have seen her eyes… . 🙂

Finally we found ourselves at tiny Kathmandu Airport. After paying the visa fee (60$) we got picked up by our hostel (the happily ever after hostel 5$/night). Way to expensive, a taxi would have been the half price (500R). We stayed at Thamel, where probably every tourist ends up. Kathmandu is super dusty, the streets are in bad conditions and the whole city looks like it is under construction for ages. Nevertheless i fell already in love with this country. I liked the flair, the coulorful shops, the bustling streets and i really liked the hostel we stayed at: Fire&Flies (4$/night).

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View from hostel fire&flies

All the people always smiling and wishing you a great day,something you dont find everywhere. After our friend Flo arrived from Germany it was all about getting prepared for the Everest Base Camp Trek. Flo was organizing a lot for our stay in Nepal and we are very thankful for that. In the first days we manage to hire a Tourguide and a Sherpa, buy/rent hiking gear and get mentally prepared for this adventure. There are many cheap gear you can buy in Thamel like jackets, pants, gloves….but i highly recommend not to buy hikingboots AND socks. Mella bought some fake hikingboots and after 2 days she brought them back, they were just very bad. The three of us bought fake North Face Hiking socks and we all ended up having really smelly feet on the trek. 🙂 Good sleepingbags (-20 degrees) you can rent in some shops!


Our tourguide Jag and NJ were so kind to take care of us before the trek even started. We were lucky to join them on a holy festival called Sariswati. They took us in the evening to the Pashupati Temple (Pashupatinath Tempel), where thousands of people were waiting to enter the holy place. On the way we were able to see cremations along the riverside, which was a very interesting but also disturbing experience. We entered the temple, which was very crowded. People were singing, meditating and praying. Holy people “Babas” where around and everybody tried to get a foto with them. I have to admitt i also own a few hundred but only because i was kind of forced to stay next to a very special Baba while NJ proudly took millions of fotos. Some of the “babas” were selling Marihuana for spiritual purpose, which is consumed by many people in this temple on this particular day. The celebration was going on the whole night. It was a very unique experience for us.

On day 5, fully equiped and prepared, we took the cab to the airport.We supposed to fly to the most dangerous airport in the world “Lukla” and start our 16 days hiking tour to the Everest Base Camp, cross the Chola Pass and walk back to Lukla through Gokyo.
Bad luck for us, on this day we didnt fly to Lukla due bad weather. The airplanes are only landing by clear sight. After waiting for 5 hours we were send back to the hostel, next day new try. Unfortunately the weather was still bad and all the flights got cancelled again.
We had to make a decision, loose one more day or fly with a helicopter. Of course it is expensive but we met 2 other hikers and split the costs which was actually a good price. We also got our money back for the cancelled flights. We took the helicopter (420€).

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Apart from the tourguides it was the first helilift for all of us. We were super excited and took as many selfies and videos as possible during the 45 minutes flight. We must have looked rediculous, especially mella focused on filming the poor pilot all the time 😉

In Lukla we met our Sherpa who was carrying our common backpack which we filled with extra food and sleepingbags. I insisted to carry our own backpacks and equipment as it is a part of the adventure. It was already very cold in Lukla and it suppose to be much colder the next days. The official hiking season starts in March so we were still trekking during off season. As i got ill i will only describe the 7 days of our trekking:

The 1.first day we hiked only 3 hours and reached our first teahouse. It was cold and we all got together in front of the fireplace. Who would know that this was one of our warmest nights by that time.

The 2.day we woke up very early. The target was hiking (mostly uphill) 7 hours to reach Namche Bazar, a beautiful village surrounded by the highest mountains in the world. On this day we passed one of the most beautiful swingbridges ever. The day was sunny, but once the sun is behind a mountain it gets super cold.

Day 3 was our acclimatisation day. We did a 5 hours hike with a descent elevation to a viewpoint (thats the birthplace of the “famous” himalaya dance video) and to a close small village where Edmund Hillary onced build a school and back to Namche Bazar where we stayed overnight. Here we had our only one hot shower during the whole trek.Last teahouse with running water aswell!

Day 4 we hiked 5-6 hours to a tiny village which seemed only to consist of three guesthuoses and a monastery. The teahouse we stayed at was in front of the monastery. Each day it was getting colder and colder. It was already so cold that the waterbottles got frozen during daytime. In the afternoon we visited the monastery and had the chance to watch the monks praying. At this point i was already not changing clothes for bedtime because this would be the same as commit suicide.

Day 5 we walked 5 hours to Tingboche where we had a fantastic view on the famous Island Peak. We stayed at a nice and friendly teahouse where we meet the germans who shared the helicopter with us. We decided to buy a bucket hot water to shower and wash some clothes…bad idea as the clothes got totally frozen after a few minutes outside.

Day 6 we had our acclimatisation day. We hiked up to a viewpont at an altitude of 4700 meters. The view was just stunning. All this peaks appear to be unreal und you feel so small being surrounded by all the high mountains. We stayed the night at the same teahouse and spend the evening in front of the fireplace like every night.

Last day we hiked up 3 hours to a teahouse at an altitude of 4620 meters, on this day we supposed to reach Lombuche.

Even after this trip brought me to the hospital (where i actually spend the first night since almost 7 months alone) it was one of best things which happened to me. The nature was so stunning, i always felt attracted to the mountains but around the Everest i thought i can stay forever. Even the hikes were exhausting i felt every day good and balanced.It was one of the toughest things i have done so far. We saw many different birds as Jag turned out to be a professional bird watcher. We met interesting people on our way and we spend our evenings sharing funny stories. No television, radio or cellphones, just great company, blue rivers, endless mountains and clear skies.
I he i can come back one day to finish the trek ❤

Adelia

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New Zealand or the place where I lost myself to travel

By the time we reached Christchurch, we were traveling for 4 months already and we felt very happy about staying longer in this country than we normally do. Our mission was big: buy a car to travel flexibly, find a job and still visit as many places as possible. What I could not foresee at that time was the danger of feeling too comfortable with all the conveniences that come along with this kind of travel. That´s why in this entry I will put more focus on the personal experiences of my travel rather than the sights and recommendations I normally concentrate on (btw: it is so easy to travel NZ: Just download Campermate and go with the flow- you´ll have an excellent time!)

Buying a camper van determined also the atmosphere of our trip. Having everything close and in one single place is a fantastic feeling! We dind´t touch our backpacks for 6 weeks what made me feel „at home“ and also the posession of cutlery, gas cooker and chairs made me feel prepaired for pretty much EVERYTHING, haha! Additionally, this beautiful country literally awaits to be discovered, every 20 km you find a new mountain, beach, view point, tramping opportunity, cave or animal spotting point, that´s why in the first weeks we felt like Robinson Crusoe himself- besides the fact that we had to share most of our discoveries with many other tourists. Well, December and January are not the best months to look for remoteness- but still I found way more than expected.

From Christchurch we started our trip to the Banks peninsula where we had the best view on the southpacific ocean. Here, we also spent christmas in front of a fire place with a bottle of wine and 2 german friends we got to know in a hostel- Bernhard and Christian. We met them spontaneously in a couple of places and always enjoyed an easygoing mood- especially the tramping to Mt. Cook was a very deep common experience as Christian and I pretty much had the same (slow) trecking velocity and so did Bernard and Adelia. At Mt Cook, we started at a temperature of 20 degrees in the valley and ended up walking in the snow at 1800 m altitude. What a walk for me as an unexperienced grumpy tracker! Here I learnt about the rush it can bring to fight your steap way up to the summit to enjoy the astonishing view- what a nice metaphor for so many situations in life!

Spending some days at lake Tekapo and lake Pukaki, we enjoyed some clear nights to watch the stars.

Heading towards the Catlins, I can say that there is barely a comparable feeling of freedom to me than passing beautiful landscapes with a well-choosen playlist and the best friend beside me talking about everything that comes to my mind and never knowing what can be discovered behind the next slope. We passed by a gemstone beach, „the end of the world“ , many camping grounds where we spent the nights in front of a bonfire and beautiful forests that where mystical and surreal because of the outrageous diversity of flora and fauna.

This was also the part of our journey where I started to appreciate the simple act of sharing because in this abandoned area, you feel the inner necessity to get in contact with the few people you meet-not only for sharing good stories but also for salt, cooking equipment or a helping hand to collect firewood. As trivial as it sounds, the satisfaction of dissociation from personal possess was one of my key experiences I had in New Zealand. The further we reached the remote south, the more I focused on the pleasure of the nature rather than thinking about things. Living with the nature, the world I know from back home seamed so far away and gave me lots of reason to think. There is so much pleasure for me just by waking up with the sound of the birds singing, then quickly jump into the next river and discover the surrounding by taking pictures or walking around. This part of our journey was characterized by a calm and close relationship to Adelia also because we evolved the same rhythm what made it very intensive for us to travel together.

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Daily camper life I


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Camp ground daily life II


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Us at Nugget point


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South cost


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Bluff

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Slope point


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Catlins landscape


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Yellow eyed pinguin encounter


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Sunrise at the catlins

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In the Fjordland, I had my next magical moment: seeing a yellow eyed penguin just because waking up with sunset and going to the beach enphasized the necessity to enjoy every single moment rather then spend too much time planning the next trip, goal or what ever. Especially while travelling when you know you will probably never return to the place you´re at right now makes it so clear that the moment is now and shouldn´t be wasted by worring about tomorrow. From my background I feel that especially my people tend to always plan, organize and worry a lot about the future and, while doing so, miss the chance to feel the uniqueness of that ONE moment. I hope I will learn to appreciate the moment on our world trip and not always keep busy thinking about tomorrow!

An unforgettable moment, in a very bad context though, was the start of our year 2017: disapointed from the slightly boring atmosphere of Invercargill we spent the night in a hostel (pure luxury!) with a kiwi and a malaysian girl until 1:00 am, deciding to go to bed early, we suddenly heard the kiwi peeing right next to Adelias bed in our dorm. He didn´t even wake up after Adelia made clear that he is triyng to enter HER bed instead of his a couple of meters away- he only put off his pants and layed down naked in his bed. OMG, what a disgusting moment, probably the worst hostel experience ever and we qickly continued our trip via Te Anau to the westcoast and appreciated our togetherness in our beloved van.

At Milford Sound, we met Bernhard and Christian again and decided to do a kayaking and boot trip through the beautiful 15 km long fjord. It is amazing how small I felt compared to the huge dimension of the glacier-formed landscape. A very nice experience!

Passing by Queenstown and Wanaka, we enjoyed being back to civilisation and directly bought some warmer clothes because the weather was worse than expected in this season. Like jerks we stormed the Kathmandu-store and bought jackets, socks and warm leggins. Obviously prepared now, we did our first glacier track in Wanaka before the phone call of Gourmet Summerfruit reached us: „Girls, meet you at 4:00 pm in our office, your first working day starts tomorrow at 8:00 am :o) Sometimes everything goes exactly as it should- we were very lucky to find the job in the cherry packhouse and so we continued our trip to little Roxburgh, surrounded by yellow and ochre-coloured montains and a nice river.

Without knowing anything about cherry grading we found ourselves in front of a convert belt with approx. 50 other people- let the show begin! Most of the days we started at 7:00 am and finished at 5:00 pm. The work routine followed a fixed schedule of 3 breaks between 10 & 30 minutes. The rest of the day we sorted out bad cherries from a convert belt that ran THE.WHOLE. TIME. The biggest motivation for me was the music we listened to while grading the cherries. Sometimes everybody was dancing to keep warm (in the packhouse we had approx. 10 degrees to keep the fruit cold), it was very funny to watch this spectacle and also our supervisors joined us from time to time- the atmosphere was very peaceful. But still, after nearly 4 weeks of standing the whole day in one place watching the millions of cherries passing by, we were happy to leave Roxburgh! We finished with my birthday party, after which several people had to leave the camp ground- it was a really wild party and will always stay in my mind! By the end of our job, we became good friends with some french, kiwi, mexican, taiwanease, argentinian and thai working mates what also resulted in a spontaneous adaption of our travel route. To better stay in contact and enjoy our last 2 weeks we decided to skip the north island and travel up the west cost until Montueka, do the multi-day-hike at Abel Tasman and return to Christchurch.

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For me,the best came last: the whole west cost was insanely beautiful: rain forest right next to mountains, glaciers and awesome beaches- the widest range of the best landscapes here in (south) New Zealand! We traveled with a friend from Roxburgh and his chilean friend from Wanaka to the Franz Josef Glacier, to Okarito, to Hokitika, to Punakaki and to Takaka. Again I felt vast freedom and excitement on our way along beautiful beaches; had another struggling track at the glacier and enjoyed the leaned-back atmosphere in Takaka- right after the luminate-festival, many visitors came here to „chillout“ so we met very interesting people and had good conversations while smoking an apple. I was so ready to „live the moment“ and I really enjoyed every minute of our journey. I shared everything I have with the people around me and became one with my environment. Especially at the Abel Tasman track I inhaled all the nature around me and captured the beautiful sunlight in combination with the palm trees, the marine blue or turquise water , the green forests or the moonlight at night- we even had full moon! After that track I had the feeling that the colour of my eyes got a little more blue somehow- I don´t know what this is about but my time in New Zealand literally opened my eyes for a lot of things and I am very thankful for all the awesome moments I spend in the nature, in my thoughts and in the embrace of the great people we met here! It was nice to see you again, David and my lovely Zora and also meeting Flo again felt like meeting longknown friends! Thanks for our common adventure, as always the people met determined the success of our travel!

We are lucky now to continue our trip to Nepal. So far I didn´t regret one single day of our trip, not even now that we struggle to sell our van so hopefully you feel inspired by our journey!


Thanks for reading*

Mella

Sydney- or should I better call it Birdney?

Spending 3 and a half months in Asia tought me a lot. I got used to deal with very slow transportation, very crowdy and dirty places, ongoing stomach problems and different customs (like lighting a fire right next to the street in order to keep mosquitos- and bad spririts- out . What was most impressing to me is the amazing way in which people find creative -though not always longlasting- solutions for pretty much anything, from the crazy electricity nets hanging just centimeters over one´s head because it got too heavy, from changing business models of a shop depending on the day time (during day time a travel agency, a clothes shop at night) to the many ways in which a hat can be build. In general I felt a fast-developing atmosphere with many young managers, and a well-connected net of connections between people. I enjoyed people saying: “I can´t help you but wait 5 minutes and I get a friend here who surely has what you need…” .

What I missed in this time was good electronical music and -surprise, surprise! food like cheese and bread and not-already-melted chocolate. So somehow we felt ready to leave the asian fields and change it for Australia and New Zealand. Spending just 3 days in Sydney after our stay in Thailand, we would like to share our experiences on what to do in there in just a couple of days.

First, if you are not totally desperate to make party with 20-year-olds avoid the hostel Summerhouse Backpackers. In order to not end up in the streets shortly before christmas we made the mistake to rely on a prebooking and ended up in a messy, impolite crowd of girls and boys finding it funny to flood the bathrooms or distribute a torn newspaper in the whole hostel. Anyway, this made us spending most of the time outside in the beautiful surroundings of King´s Cross and competely sober by the way because it was so difficult to find a store selling alcohol. It is very interesting how drug regulations differ from country to country and now we changed an environment where marihuana cosumption is treated with death penalty to lands where alcohol consuption seams to be treated nearly similar. Without showing the passports (not ID or driving licence!) of EVERYbody you are with, you cannot buy alcohol… even with 30! Besides there are (too) many alcohol bans for parts of the city or also beaches what I just don´t understand but hey! you can smell marihuana everywhere again. Okay, let´s come to the things you definetely shouldn´t miss in Sydney.

Our first encouter that was totally astonishing is the botanical garden where you can enter for free. It shows a breathtaking viarity of palms, rhododendron, roses, bushes, old trees and also birds- I never saw a more beautiful garden before. We spend hours there just walking around and watch the Harbor bridge like a queen throning over the city or also the Opra House. Also there, I evolved my new hobby what is: Bird watching! We saw aras, paradise birds, other parrots and many differnt species it was sooo cool. Right in the middle of an urban structure you see even big birds passing you by just some meters away, this is an awesome feeling!

Aditionally, the fancy Opera house and the Harbor bridge are a must-see, it is simply beautiful and spreads a sophisticated atmoshere because of its unique architecture I think. Enter the view point in the middle of the bridge and enjoy the high stairway. Walking around this area, you find every shop you look for as the city centre is a large melting pot of malls, boutiques and technology stores or follow the water and find nice restaurants and bars with swimming pools and cool partys at night.

Bondi beach was also very recommending to visit.It has a nice walk along the cost and here, besides the beautiful beach, it is cool to watch the locals do what they just do on a saturday morning- running, taking the dog for a walk in jogging pants and hoodie, meeting up for a coffee with the best friend… I liked the relaxing atmosphere here and we walked a lot that day. There is also a small market on sundays where you can buy nice local things for a lot of money- or just take away a coffee and watch very handsome and talented surfers if you wish to :op

 

For dinning, we ended up at Domino´s.On the one side because it´s a cheap alternative to all the pricey restaurants and on the other side because we missed eating pizza in Asia:o) after that we were so satisfied and were absolutely looking forward to our next destiny New Zealand where we stay 2 months and also plan to work.

Hopefully, you didn´t find it disappointing to find nothing but the very touristy places here but in such a short time we had to stick to the obvious places and attractions.

In our next post, we will tell you about the best places to see in the South Island of New Zealand, so thaks for keeping in touch!

Cave exploration by kayak: Xe Bang Fai Cave

Thakhek was our destination after an 11 hours drive (but only about 300km distance, with an estimated time of 6 hours) with a local bus from Pakse (80k kip) . As we already mentioned everything is taking a bit longer in Laos than usual 🙂

Our local bus was stopping at every corner to buy food or either take the opportunity for pass by for something thats close to an outhouse or just stopping for i dont know what!
Anyway we arrived just before sunset and the bus stopped in front of “the” backpacker hostel ever. And we stayed there for a night. It was cheap but everything than clean. The sheets were full of stains, but as i already mentioned it was cheap. The city us not really nice but there is a kind of feeling of lots of adventure when you get there. Many off road cars spread the feeling of departure.From here many travellers are getting ready for ” doing the loop” around the Lak Sao Road, passing by giant caves such as the famous Kong Lor Cave and the tribe villages. So that was actually our itenerary. But arriving at Thakhek there was no way we rent a scooter again (especially after being exposed to pictures of a deadly accident on the road of a foreign couple) and we also did not want to join a mass tourism group to explore the nearby caves.
After some research a found an article about the Xe Bang Fai Cave (Tham Khoun Xe) which is close to the vietnamese boarder

When i first saw the pictures i knew i have to go there no matter what the cost. And in fact there was not much choice. Green disvovery is the only operator. Going by your own makes no sense, as the road is pretty bad (dirt road). You have to cross even rivers and you definitely need a 4 WD. In rain season its even not possibly to access this cave at all. Even if you get there by your own (we met some dudes, which were bagging to share our kayaks) the only thing you can do is see the cave from outside and rent a wooden boat from a local to go for the first kilometer inside the cave an thats pretty much all you can do. Going further you need an inflatable kayak as you go upstream inside the cave. There are 4 significant rapids you will pass and each time you get off the boat and you carry the kayaks along the rapid… .

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But to start the story from the beginning: we asked for information at Green Discovery and a 2d/1n trip was about 380$ us dollar each of a group of 2. Price would drop to 260$ each by 4 people. There was just Melanie and i, so we decided to wait till the evening. Maybe there will come more people for that trip. Unfortunately no one came, but however we managed to drop the price a lot (i ll get in trouble if i tell you how much we spend at the end 🙂 ) by skipping some points of the itenetary.

Cave history: the cave supposed to be the largest river cave in the world with a lenght of 9,5 km.It was first discovered in 1905. Almost 100 years later she was rediscovered and in 2012 (recording the agency and locals) she was opened for tourism. In 2008 the cave received public attention after being explored by the caver John Pollak for National Geographic.

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Day 1: the very next day our tourguide “Dick” and the driver “Phun” picked us up at 8 am. First stop was this big market in Thakek where we bought our food supplies for the next day. Everything was fresh (herbs, fruits, rice,vegetables), so fresh that a few ingredients very still alive (fish) after we left the market.
For the next 3,5 hours we ve been driving mostly a dirt road passing by beautiful limestone scenery of Khammuan province. We ate lunch in front of huge limestones and stoped a few times to make some pictures
Arriving at the river by 3pm we had to get the kayaks prepared and get everything out of the car(tents, lifejackets food…) as we were about to tent on an island in front of the cave. Melanie and i were eager to try to kayaks so we decided to take care of our kayak and paddle alone as it was not far at all. Thats where we realized how exhausting it is to paddle upstream. None of us has much experience in kayaking and none of us was doing a caveexploration before.
After setting up a camp we took a bath in the river, while the dinner was prepared by our tourguide. At least we helped them by making the campfire.

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Imagine you sit at the beach in front of turquise water and a giant black hole in the rocks: the cave, and you know you ll spend the whole day inside without any daylight. Retrospectively it still gives me goosebumbs. Some poeple from the village joined us for the campfire, they couldnt speak any english but they obviously liked the company of strangers as not many come along 🙂 they even slept near the campfire to “make sure” we will be safe. Lovely people. At 3 am i put the alarmclock as i wanted to see the stars, so i woke up and there was this stunning sky with so many stars.


Day 2: We started at 8 am after a great breakfast at the campfire. We paddled to the cave entrance, carried the kayaks and equipment along the rocks and put them back inside the river to finally start the tour. Going further inside the cave meant going into completly darkness. Receding more and more from the entrance means getting used to the darkness. But after a few minutes you get used to it, unfortunately neither my gopro nor my waterproof camera were able to make proper pictures inside the cave. After arriving the first rapids we had to go off the kayak and carry it to the other side, this was very exhausting but necessary. There is no way you can paddle upstream at this point. The rocks very huge and we had to take care of our steps as there were huges descents where you can fall in for a few meters. Some rocks were also slippery and i actually fell one time badly on my wrist. It was also very hot inside the cave, or i felt this way because of the excercise. Any time we got in water i was really happy about the refreshment 🙂


You get hungry quick? You are afraid of not getting enough food on this trip? Dont worry every time you get off the kayak and breath you ll get enough insects in your mouth to fill you empty stomach in seconds.
Continuing to the other side of the river we passed in total 4 rapids, each was the same procedere: get of the kayak, carry it and equipment to the next side. It took us more than 3 h to get to the other side of the cave. According to the agency it must be a distance of about 6 km to the opposite entrance, but inside the cave i totaly lost my relation to time and distance. I was really concentrated to stare at the cave wherever i could. Thinking of being alive just because of a few headlamp pumps so much adrenalin in your blood … living on the edge as we use to kid around at our juvenelity 🙂


Arriving on the other side (of the rainbow) we set a campfire and had a lunch on the rocks. We swam to the rocks, climbed around and explored the area. The knowledge of being so far from civilisation is a feeling you wont forget that quick! Everything depends on you. Heading back was easier as you follow the stream. The first rapid we passed with the kayak which was really fun. The other 3 rapids the same procedere as usual. Sometimes we stopped at some sandbanks to explore the cave and at the last rapid we even kind of lost control of our kayak which ended up being stocked between some rocks. Scary situation but with hard work of our tourguides we managed to pull the kayak out of the rocks again. We stopped for another exploration close to the exit. There is a “balcony” where you have a stunning overview of the cave entrance. After 9 hours of hard exercise we were so happy about us mastering the cave exploration. Dick told us we where the first ones in this season who managed to go to the other side, the previous custumer gave up after a few kilometers. What a compliment.
The drive back we were pretty tired as you can imagine. We stopped for dinner at a local restaurant and after arriving to the hotel, which we havent booked in advance as always, we fell asleep within seconds.

Tips: bring some sneakers which can get wet or proper watershoes, shorts and a sleeve are enough to wear but bring some changing clothes, ask everybody to turn off all lights in the cave…thats so creepy, wake up in the middle of the night to see the stars when the moon is gone and ASK for discount at Green Discovery it is more affordable than you think!

Thx Adelia

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Laos- easypeesy flow meets native countryside

After spending the ultimate days of our Cambodia tour in Siam Reap, we looked forward to arrive in a more quiet and natural surrounding. We chose Don Det as a destination, this is one of the 4000 islands in the southern part of Laos. After we crossed the border, our lao adventure directly begun: Instead of driving in a normal bus, we were “loaded” on a truck with an open passenger hub and drove nearly half an hour to the port of Ban Nakasang. As everything takes a little more time here than usual, the sun set already and with a very small wooden boat we continued to the island.

Happy to finally arrive, we found a nice homestay on the sunrise side of the island right next to the Mekong although we had no reservation and the next day we cycled over the island. The vibe is very relaxed here and you can see some people smoking Marihuana at the riverside. Special attention lay on the citizens as they were very friendly waving and smiling all the time as the islands were not that highly frquented by foreigners until only some years ago. Passing by the waterfalls of Don Khon, we found an idyllic little oasis with a cute café and hammarks right next to the imense falls. There is also a beach to take a bath but as we saw an imense water snake the first day we were not to much into jumping to the waters. Also here, there were not too many people and everything still seemed very original, only a little wooden fence divided the steep cliffs of the river of the walking ground- a nogo for european circumstances but this is what makes the charme of Laos- the nativeness of the landscape and also the people. Another example?  We passed by a house where a father and his son just had dinner at the patio and suddenly the little kid got of his chair, went to the balustrade and peed on the dusty path were we stood- we were lucky enough not to cross his direction:op

The next day it was time to head north to Pakxe. It took us approx. 4 hours by minibus (when we hear this word, there are some really bad experiences tied with this kind of transportation because it is very common that the operators promise a pickup at the hotels… at the various hotels… so pretty often you spend the first hour just driving from hotel to hotel watching the bus get fuller and fuller). Trying to organise a tour to the numerous waterfalls nearby, we were disappointed because as there are only a few operators every tour was quite expensive and we missed the good travel infrastructure of Vietnam a bit- but if you want to visit the abandoned places, of course there are not too many providers what turned out to be our luck: we rented a semiautomatic motorcycle, initially for one day, grabbed a selfdrawed map and started our private tour to the Bolaven Plateau, famous for endless coffee plantations, beautiful landscape, native villages and- surprise- waterfalls! After a short introduction of how to drive the semiautomatic transmission (pretty easy), we dared the adventure! Driving north, our first stop was Tad Pasuam- a little bit of a tourist trap beacause the waterfalls were not that big at this time and in the village itself was not idigenous at all. Following the recommendation of the scooter rental, we took another stop at Mr. Vieng, an organic café . It was our luck that a group of dutchies, italians and kiwis arrived there at the same time because from then on, this was our lovely travel entourage and what was planned to be a day trip turned out to be a 3-day- discovering tour!! At the end of day 1, we ended up in Tad Lo, about 80 km away from Pakxe. Our homestay there was one of the cheapest we ever stayed in, for 1,5, we had a 16-dorm, veerry basic with just a mattress on the floor and a mosquito net. We had some beers and went to bed early to be prepared for the next day as we had about 100 km on our way to the next destination- wich we didn´t know by then:op

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Tad Pasuam waterfalls

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Tad Pasuam waterfalls

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Cock fight at Mr Viengs cafe in the backyard

So after breakfast we went east to Kok Poung Tai, the town of “Captain Hook” according to our motorcycle rental. Not sure what to expect we entered the village and immediately we were surrounded by many (half-) naked children who begged for food or little presents. Meeting captain Hook, we found a small guy in his 30s, showing us his selfmade tattoo (the writting Captain Hook of course!) explaining that many years ago americans came to his town to do some research and teaching english to him. Walking around the little village and visiting the coffee planttions and herb gardens, he explained us many facts about his town:

Consisting of 724 people, the leaders of Ko Poung Tai are the guru and the shaman. The villagers stay for themselves and it´s not allowed for other people to constantly enter there. Men can have several women and if a woman gets a baby, she leaves to the forests around. After some days, she brings the newborn to the shaman who decides if it has a good or bad spirit (based on the dreams of the woman). In case of a bad spirit, she has to return to the forests:o/ ear, a little puppy is sacrafied to keep the bad spirits away and as a reward, the villagers get a new water buffalo. As everybody in this world sees the same sun, differences in time are a lie- if the sun shines in Laos, it shines everywhere! And differences in skin colour appear because of drinking too much of “blue” or “red” waters- so I drank too much blue water, Captain Hookwas explaining.

A little confused, we left the town and continued to the next waterfall in Tad Faek.

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these needles are used for tattoos

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Captain Hook in his coffee fields

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a venomous spider on our way- omfg!

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playing

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our posse

After a short lunch break, we continued to Tad Tayicsua, the most beautiful part of our trip as the landscape was overwhelming! We even saw the sunset… wait, the sunset?? We still had a little bit of a way upcoming to the waterfalls and… one moment. was this tiny path over there the actual way to the waterfalls?! Okay, no excuses- let´s go! We found ourselves on a dirt road, it was about to go dark and we didn´t even know if we´ll find a homestay but we were keen enough to try- and we had no other options:o) luckily, we found a nice stay in a natural hut and had the best preconditions to explore this beautiful area in the early morning next day!

Waking up in the middle of nowhere we were very excited to leave. After an 20 minute hike, we found an awesome waterfall and even a place to swim! It was so worth th go there and we got in some kkind of an adrenaline rush. I even could enter the water right under a waterfall and let myself float in the river for some meters, that was really huge!! Energized by this adventure, we continued west to finish our 340 km loop by the end of that day. At Tad Yuang we took another brief stop and saw two enormous waterfalls.

Arriving back in Pakxe we enjoyed a last common dinner with our new travel buddies before we continued our journey further north on the next day. Our new destination was Thakek, where we went with a local bus- again it was very intersting to watch some local habbits: every half an hour we stoped in small villages and about 5-7 roughlooking women entered the bus with food, mostly speard on a stick: whole chicken, fish or sweet sugar balls… and if some of these touched a seat or a shoulder, nobody even cared… it seams like the 3-second-rule is also locally adabtable and in Laos there is a very flexible interpretation of it:oP

We really enjoyed our stay in Laos, the silence at night and the calm spirits of the people.

Read in our next post how we nearly drowned in the Xe Bang Fei cave and how we made it from Laos to Thailand in just half an hour.

 

Cambodia,dark background and present beauty

“The Killing Field (1984)”, a movie i watched when i was a teen was the first time i heard about this country and i recommend to watch it when you’re about to go there or if you havnt heard about the Khmer rouge yet. If you re travelling from Vietnam take one day off this horrible party mile in HCM, get yourself a hotel with good WiFi connection and watch The Killing Field and if you havent seen Heaven&Earth (1993, Oliver Stone) yet, by the way, just do it, but get yourself enough tussues though.
We took a sleeping bus from Ho Chi Minh City to Phnom Penh. A two days history tour began. First we took an audio tour through the actual killing fields, make sure you dress yourself proper with long pants and at least a tshirt.I cant describe how you feel by passing the mass grave and hearing the history and be aware of the meaning of a killing tree.No expression for it. I guess my travelmates were pretty shoked (they were not prepared by watching the movie) and there was such a silence through the whole place. Reflecting the killing fields we visited the genocide museum, a former shool which turned into a torture prison during the Khmer rouge regime. Not many handle to enter the former prison cells as they remained untouched. There are also tours offered to tunnels and shooting range compared to Cu Chi in Vietnam. But i really cant understand why people would make funny pictures with weapons in theier hands and shooting selfies while coming out of a tunnel with a smile close to a mass grave? Maybe there is something wrong about me…

To remember is the only thing we can do about the past.So we left Phnom Phen behind a headed to the South. Kep, a small village by the sea with a sweet National Park. We ended up staying there for three days. And it was worth it! Yasmin and i managed to organize a DIY tour to Kompong Trach caves. We took a local bus to Kompong, the bus driver stopped at the market where we asked for a driver to go to the caves. Of course we did it the cambodian way. Yasmin, me and the driver on one scooter 🙂 He did not speak english but apparently he knew where we wanted to go. 4$ and 10 minutes later we arrived at the caves which were completly flooded due the rain last night. But our 8 year old tour guide Rita showed us as much as she could untill she had to go to her school classes. We decided to take a walk around the limestones and climbed up a hill for some selfies. Always in mind not to leave the path because of the landmines. On the way back a friendly farmer passed with his selfmade carriage filled with grave and gave as a ride back where our driver was waiting. That was a lovely experience which a travelagency cant offer!

 


Next day we did a mountain bike tour without mountain bikes though. How is that possible? Well we rented some kind of “bicycles”, tiny little wheels, no gears and no proper breaks. Its a miracle that this bikes didnt fall apart on the tour. However we managed, again, to start at an unfavorable time such as noon. Too hot to cycle uphill on a rocky road. But as you see we also survived that. On the way a sign made us stop: cold drinks and monkeys, Gibbon valley.We left the bikes at the street unlooked, would be a surprise if anyone would have stolen it by this heat. We walked the short trail to the Gibbon Valley which turned out to be a kind of a small hotel with a few bungalows in the middle of the jungle. Nikki an australian women runs it since a few years, she also helds some rescued monkeys which are addicted to everykind of jewellery or sunglasses as i can tell you by experience. We liked it so much that we decided to overnight at this place. We got a spacious cottage in the middle of the jungle for 15$, a crazy night with some crazy people from all over the world and a beautiful sunrise uphill in the morning.

A contrast to Kep was Otres Beach close to Sihanoukville.We stayed at Everythung hostel, 10 metres from the beach for only 3$ a night in a very simple dorm. If you want to party for a few days and get drunk or change however your mental condition, thats the place to be. The beach is nice, not the best i ve seen so far but ok to relax a few days. Melanie and Yasmin liked it a lot, especially Melanie, so on the last day i had to pick her up after a party at 8 am in the morning to catch the bus/boat to Koh Rong Samloen.


At Koh Rong Sanloem we found cheap huts in front of the beach for 20$ a night ( Homestay resort, to the right of the harbour). This Island was super expensive compared to the mainland. If i would known that before i would have brought some wine and cigarettes with me :). Also taking a boat to beaches you cant reach by foot, was so high that we decided to walk only the few trails on the island. Lazy beach was very quite, you feel like robinson crusoe for a moment. There is only one hotel with some bungalows. There is also a two hour hike to a light house which is pretty nice, make sure you carry enough water with you as the are no restaurants or anything else and at least one dollar to pay the entrance fee for the lighthouse.


One of my highlights was a glowing plankton tour for 8$ with the owner of the homestay resort (actually it has nothing to do witha resort, there are just a few simple huts!). He took the three of us for a private tour at night to swim with the plankton. It is like you swim in the sky and above you is a second sky. I tried to capture this moment with all my high technology photographic equipment, but apart grabing darkness and some voices screaming:” holy *** something touched my feet” there is nothing left than indulging in memories.

Last stop: Angkor Wat, in Seam Reap, 40$ for a three days pass, holy water! But if you realize how huge this terrain is, 40$ is nothing to keep all the temples for eternity. So the first day we arrived, full of energy, desperate to see Angkor Wat, we decided to rent bicycles and “do the small loop” DIY. Great but very painful idea. We ve been driving for 7 hours this day. By Sunset we’ve passed just the half of the temples we wanted to see on this day. Luckily we met a local who was working at the temple. He was amused by the idea us cycling all day long. He offered us a tour for the next day starting with sunrise at Angkor Wat, ” doing the big loop”, the kings wife temple of Banteay Srei and waterfalls for 10$ each. Great deal and a long 12 hours day. There are many rumors how to avoid the crowds, apart from Ta Prohm, which is apparently crowdy all the time, we kinda manage to stay away from the crowds. Of course there is no way to be alone by the lake in front of Angkor Wat at sunrise or sunset. So after sharing the sunrise with millions of people we decided not to go inside, we drove straight to the Bayon temple which was very empty as it opens at 7 am. We visited Angkor Wat on the third day by noon, compared to the days before it was empty.


Apart from Angkor Wat we visited the Angkor Hospital for Children, which offers free treatment to the cambodian children. There is a small visitor center which takes donation.
The last day in cambodia was sad in many ways: i ate a one kilo dragon fruit, which was apparently to much for my stomach, we had to leave this beautiful country and also say goodbye to our travelbuddy Yasmin. We spend 6 weeks together, day and night. It was bound to happen, sooner or later. Last evening we spend drinking expired red wine and we enjoyed our first khmer massage in kind of a pyjama 🙂

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Crossing the border to Laos was very easy.Early in the morning there are a few minivans driving to the border (no nightbuses as the border closes at 5pm). In total in took us 11hours to get to 4000 islands in Laos, after changing the minivan for a bus and a public transporter. We paid around 42$ for the visa on arrival.

Adelia

Vietnam-or the place where adventure lurks at every (street) corner

After spending the most comfortable 2 weeks of our journey so far in Kyoto, it was time for the next destination. Having a short intermezzo in Teipeh/Taiwan where we met an old friend of Adelia who showed us around the biggest night market in Asia and the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall, we arrived in Hanoi. Meeting 2 friends who started their world trip from Amsterdam (see their route and adventures on www.around-the-blog.com) and my boyfriend combined the arrival in Vietnam with the feeling of coming home actually and the first thing we did was having some beers in the old quarter of Hanoi, probably one of the busiest places I´ve ever seen. Sitting in the narrow streets on some tiny plastic chairs watching the colorful mix of street vendors, musicians and backpack-loaded tourists brings a special atmosphere, as if you become a part of this colorful mosaic just by sitting there and having a Pho. Thrilled by this unique mood, we took a walk from the Hoan-Kiem-lake to the Temple of literature passing the Ho-Chi-Minh Memorial and end at the (smaller than expected) Tran Quoc pagoda. Not so easy in the hot, humid climate-especially walking along streets makes you recognise what a regulated vehicle inspection like in Europe can procure. So we longed for some more nature and decided to visit Halong Bay, one of the 7 natural world wonders. This breathtaking landscape originates from a dragon, winding his way through the cliffs and rocks of this bay according to the vietnamese myths. Here we also made the first experience of masstourism, meaning that this bay was full of big boats and also our tour operater was just rushing through his program without any consideration of individual needs but anyway- we had a great time visiting a cave, paddeling out with a canoe and having a mini-party on the rooftop of our boat.

After two days there, we continued down south by night train (btw there is no possibility to go directly- you have to go back to Hanoi)  to the National Park Phong Nha-Ke Bang where the biggest cave in the world was just discovered some years ago. We found ourselves in the middle of highly-flooded fields, rivers and streets! As there was not much to visit these days due to former heavy rain falls, we rented a bicycle and entered the wideness of the rain forests and its beautiful views. We visited the botanical garden being welcomed by some monkeys (probably macaques) and saw a waterfall. Due to the weather we directly continued to Huế, former capital of Vietnam.Visiting the citadel and discovering the city by bicycle we had a very good time here. A big surprise was the concert of Vonwegenlisbeth in a university where we could enter for free. It was so sweet to see all the (still very young vietnamese) students sitting in their seats and we decided to take this concert “the german way” and started to dance in front of the stage! After a while more and more people joined us and the singer Matthias announced that this was the first time that people danced on their Asia-tour! This was an unforgettable moment on our journey for sure as it was a nice local experience to watch the vietnamese guys go crazy and dance and smile with us.

Our next destination was Hoi An, the city of thousand lights. Right by the river, this city is definetly worth visiting as it has this leaned-back atmosphere with many delicious restaurants and sites to see. We entered the japanese bridge, the most beautiful temple Quan Cong and the cultural museum (the view from the roof top is very recommendable!). Worth tasting is the mango cake sold in the streets, reminding us a little of the japanese mochis and has a peanutfilled-core but actually nothing of mango. Walking through the ancient town feels like a journey back in time because the buildings are so well-maintained and especially at night thousands of candles and lanterns cover the city in a cosy light. Talking about walking, we made the experience that from 3pm there are no scooters allowed in the old town- our scooters were removed from where we parked them and brought to a hall what nearly caused us a heart attack as we didn´t know about this! But we were lucky to not pay anything for this mistake, in general we didn´t make any bad experiences in our two weeks in Vietnam!

 

Our next stop Dalat we reached by flight from Na Trang due to time-saving measures and it was a nice surprise to go from the shores of Hoi An to the mountains and the coffee plantations of Vietnam (worlds 2nd biggest exporter after Brasil, sooo delicious with a trace of chocolate) in just one hour. Visiting the national park, we encountered a waterfall and enjoyed a nice trail through the wildness. We ended up being stuck in the rush hour with our scooters and got into a bad traffic- so now we are ready for the next step to drive in a bigger city also:op

Did you ever hear about “canyoning”? Me nether; so this means that you climb on top of a big hill or waterfall and abseil yourself only secured by a rope. It was such a thrill to climb up the waterfall and then abseil down in the pouring water, I never experienced this mixture of hights, physical power control and adventure before! Rasmus and Selma even jumped down an 11 m high mountain into the refreshing water.


 In the night we went to a very cool bar, the 100 roofes that is consisting of an enormous, self-made labyrinth on more than 6 floors with the sweetest roof garden!  This was the last encounter of our tour before going to our final destination Ho-Chi-Minh-City.

Here, we visited the war remnants museum and were deeply moved by all the horrible memories of Agent Orange, the war and the many faces of the vietnamese (and american) victims.

After this 14 days we visited 6 different cities and drove more than 2000 km. Maybe this is the reason why I don´t really got deeper in touch with vietnamese culture or habits- unfortunately. The most special experience was meeting the family of Sang, one of Rasmus friends who helped us a lot. Even dining together was very special because we got the best vietnamese food we tried in this 2 weeks. 


Still, our journey through Vietnam was absolutely recommendable for the adventurers of you.

In our upcoming post we tell you everything about our experiences of crossing the border of Vietnam and enchanting Cambodia and how we persived the lovely Khmer culture.

 

Stay inspired by our journey,

many pre-christmas regards,

Mella

Diverse Kyoto: meeting great people and joining the natural spectacle

By the time we reached Kyoto, we were already travelling for 7 weeks in Indonesia and Japan so several routines start to occur especially before reaching a new destination: First we do some research on sights, best quarters to stay and restaurants in blogs or in the Lonely planet, followed by an overview of the transportation opportunities (UBER, Metro, scooter, bicycle, walking, tuc tuc?) and last  the options regarding accomodation. Therefore we read reviews of hostels on booking or tripadvisor but the final decision is often made after having a look on our prioritized stays on site to avoid bad surprises.

For Kyoto we were lucky to stay with another workaway-host for 2 weeks so we were warmly welcomed by the team of Gojo Paradiso. This place offers 7 Airbnbs for short- and midterm stays and a nice litte restaurant. The staff is partly consisting of volunteers that stay between 2 weeks and several month to support the little business. Overwhelmed by the nice people we settled down and were happy to unpack our backpack for 2 (!) whole (!) weeks. The next day we started working: for 3 hours/day we prepared the guest houses for the new arrivals. Again we quickly adapted to the new rhythm and were happy about the routine that we gained by the fixed working shifts. You maybe notice already, in daily travel grinds, some routines are worth a lot because it gives me a little stability somehow. In the afternoon we still had enough time to visit the best places in Kyoto like the Imperial palace, the  Higashi Hongan-ji (for free, 5 minute walk from Kyoto station), Fushimi Inari (went there by bile from Gojo quarter, also no entrance fee) and the market Kobo-San (15 minutes walking from Kyoto station) where you can buy traditional porcelain, Kymonos, good food and further local crafts (every 21st of a month, surrounded by impressive temples).
We worked together with travellers from Chile, Australia, Italy, Spain, Brazil, US, Britain, Switzerland, France and Guatemala, and could share our experiences, thoughts and plans what was just so sweet! A real melting pot when it came to spoken languages, cooking habbits and cultural backgrounds! We learnt a lot about Kyoto from the guys that arrived before. We even enjoyed a traveler´s luxury like chilling on the sofa, watching a movie, cooking together or having a beer in our living room. Ha, I´d never imagined that this can mean so much to me but it was great to live together in this colorful and very diverse

entourage!

Running along the river or renting bikes was part of our daily plans what made this place feel like home within only days!

We were lucky again to join a festival, the Jidai Matsuri where the whole town joins a parade and several fire ceremonies to rememeber the time when Kyoto was capital of Japan. Representatives of every epoche since then walk through the city, wearing the traditional cloths of the ancient times until the croud reaches the Heian Jingu temple.
Especially Arashiyama, a quarter famous for great bamboo landscape fascinated me a lot. Walking along the river, we saw beautiful views with the”momiji”, the changing autumn colors.  Visiting the monkey park next to the river, we got an idea of how Kyoto looked like without the human influence- the flora and fauna is so diversified in Japan, I never saw such a variety before! Especially in spring and autumn, the cherry blossom and the momiji attract lots of visitors, there is even a japanease expression for people following the changing leaves (momijigari) as it is part of japanease tradition. We also enjoyed one day on the philosopher´s path were we were also doing momijigari:o)
Kyoto has so much to offer that it´s impossible to name everything we did and even more difficult to put the impressions in words because it was not only about the great places we saw but more about the vibe, the positive experiences with japanease culture and the lovely relationships we built within our team. We even won a further travel mate, Yasemin who joins us for some more months on our way through Vietnam, Kambodia and Thailand. I am very thankful for this great and haunting time and again it was so hard to say goodbye to all the gorgeous people but this experience gave me lots of confidence for our oncoming destinations as I know I will never be alone but surrounded by impressive people.