Thailand – Two Nights in Bangkok!

5.4.17 – 7.4.17

It is serious: our very last destination on our trip around the world is Bangkok! We think we could have not chosen a better place, especially when we hear that our friend Jasmin moved there in January and will do some sightseeing with us! 🙂

But first, arrival at the airport, getting a taxi to our guesthouse (apparently there’s no bus going in our area), being suspicious about the driver asking for 120 Baht to pay the highway fee, but gives the lady in the box only 70…we accuse him of stealing money from us when we realize that there is another checkpoint coming up…poor man!! What a luck that he didn’t speak a word English and didn’t understand what we said. That’s a sad part which happened to us: in countries we don’t speak the native language, the feeling of being ripped off instantly shows up, although there’s mostly no reason for it. We need to get rid off this!

Anyway, our nice taxi driver drops us off at our guesthouse, where we’re super happy about our big room with AC, only to discover that the leaking noise doesn’t come from the bathroom but from the AC dripping on the floor and bed. Damn it!

The night in our smaller room went by fast and at 11am we meet Jasmin in front of the Wat Pho temple. To not get in trouble, Jakub and I both buy some light pants to cover our legs from a lady in a small store for 5$ – they can have strict clothing rules in relegions places here  🙂 The temple is huge and displays the lying Buddha, an enormous golden statue of, yep, a lying Buddha.

It’s great to talk to Jasmin and learn more about her encounter with the Asian culture – she adores the food and loves the friendliness of the Thais. We agree! 😉 Our next sightseeing spot is the Wat Saket, the Golden Mountain, where we have a great overview of the city and enjoy a cup of coffee.

For the evening, Jasmin invited us to her place to enjoy the…INFINITY POOL! 🙂 What a spectacular view from this pool we have over Bangkok, wow!

To end this wonderful night we head to a skybar with Jasmin and Dörthe, a colleague of hers. We treat ourselves with very delicious sushi and good drinks – we could have not had a better last evening on our trip. It was perfect!

The very last day we move in another hostel close to the airport since our flight departures at 4am and we don’t wanna cruise for 1 hour through Bangkok. Since we have all day to get there, we go for an adventure and take the public bus. 😉 From our hostel receptionist we learn that bus No 59 goes directly to the train station we need to catch the train in direction airport. At the bus stop however, one man tries to tell us with wild gestures that bus No 12 is the right one…but it does not leave here. Huh?! In the end, one English speaking Thai lady sends us 300m down the road to another bus stop where No 44 brings us to the train. So funny. 😀 And it took us only 1.5 hours, haha.

In the hostel, we try to organize our luggage for the next day. Interestingly, neither Jakub nor I are nervous or sad to go home. The time has come to return to Germany and we think we had enough time to “prepare” for it. And of course, we look forward to hug our families, get back in touch with friends, meet the 5 babies who were born when we were gone and to realize: actually, nothing has changed but us…

It was a crazy time, we had so much fun, we crossed borders, sweated, laughed, felt real fear,…but we’re most thankful for the wonderful people we met who made this trip a little bit more special than it already was. And we’re really thankful that we had not been robbed, did not lose our passports, did not get sick with any crazy virus but return home safe and sound.

La Vida es Loca! ❤

 

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Cambodia – the Asian Beauty

22.03.17 – 05.04.17

We cannot believe that we are on the way to our last country we are gonna visit during our world trip! It’s been almost 9 months that we have been travelling, through big cities and tiny villages, the most remote beaches and waters in the world, high mountains and low valleys…how are we ever gonna process what we have seen?

We’ll think about that after our trip. 🙂 For now, we need a VISA for Cambodia, which is supposed to be super easy. First, they take our passport, 30$ AND: a photo. Guess how often we needed a photo for a VISA since we travel? Right, never. Which is why my pictures are in my backpack. And not here. Damn it. Luckily, sweet Jakub carries a pic of his girlfriend in his wallet and saves her VISA. 😉 Getting a taxi outside, we drive to our first hostel in Siem Reap, where we are about to meet Lissi! My friend who planned on visiting us for months and finally had the time to stop by, I am so happy. 🙂 We arrive at the hostel and there she is!! Joy and smiles, we hug each other and start talking and laughing like we only met a week ago. Friendship. ❤

We take a walk on the night market while Jakub gets a haircut and get ready for dinner with our friends from Australia, Marie & Frank. We have a nice evening, but need to go home soon because we’ll be seeing Angkor Wat tomorrow for the sunrise – means getting up at 4am, wuuaaa…

Our TukTuk driver is waiting patiently outside when we slowly crawl out of bed at 4am. We head to the ticket office of Angkor Wat to pay 37$ fee and get a mug shot kind of ticket for the whole day. It is still dark when we finally arrive at Angkor Wat and enter the beautiful dark walls over the bridge. We find a comfortable spot to watch the sunrise – the atmosphere is breathtaking!

To fully understand the buildings architecture and the history behind it, we get a guide who explains us a lot about the Hinduism, the Khmer,..After a quick breakfast break we head to the next spot, the Bayon temple. The whole area is huge, some people hired bikes for the day and make their way on their own. We are glad to have a guide pointing out the most famous temples, driving us around motorized in this heat. 🙂 Indeed, the temperature in this ares is incredibly high, it is sticky and we sweat with every step we take. Back to Bayon temple: it is a big stone formation, made of many faces.

We ended our day at Ta Phrom temple, which was magnificent. Trees have overgrown the area and nature worked its way through the building. Simply stunning to see.

Read more about it here:

Angkor Wat is an ancient city in Cambodia that was the center of the Khmer empire that once ruled most of Southeast Asia. This civilization went extinct, but not before building amazing temples and buildings that were reclaimed by the jungle for hundreds of years.

  • Angkor Wat – This temple was built by Suryavarman and is considered the biggest Asian pyramid. It is over 200 feet high and divided into several layers. The central part has four towers in the shape of a lotus flower. This temple is the largest in the whole complex and is where the historic site gets its name. The central temple complex has 2,600 feet of bas-reliefs, including famous battles and Buddhist scenes like the Battle of Kurukshetra, the Army of Suryavarman II, Heaven and Hell, Churning of the Ocean of Milk, Elephant Gate, Vishnu Conquers the Demons, Khrisna and the demon King, Battle of the Gods and the Demons, and the Battle of Lanka.
  • The Bayon – Built by Jayavarman VII, the temple stands in the center of Angkor Thom. With its 54 towers and 216 faces of Avalokiteshvara, this temple looks best in the morning just after sunrise or at the end of the afternoon when the sun shines on the faces. The temple was built on 3 levels: the first 2 are rectangular, while the 3rd is circular. This was my favorite—I really got a kick out of exploring all the little halls, rooms, and photographing the many faces.
  • Ta Prohm – Still covered by the jungle, this place is exactly as they found it. Ta Prohm makes it easy to imagine how the whole complex looked when it was re-discovered in the 19th-century. If you come early, you can avoid the crowds who arrive mid-day. It’s the second best complex behind Bayon in my opinion. (This temple was also made famous by the Tomb Raider movie.)

[Source: http://www.nomadicmatt.com/travel-guides/cambodia-travel-tips/angkor-wat/]

A spectacular day!

The next day we book a bus and head to Battambang. Pick up time: 8:30h, at 9:15h our driver arrives… 😀 We drive through the Cambodian countryside for the next 4 hours. When we arrive we get out of the bus and surpisingly note that there is one TukTuk driver holding a sign up with my name on…how did he know we’d arrive since I didn’t advice the hostel?! Turns out that this nice man has been driving around all morning to every bus stops to catch us, awww. 🙂 Of course, he doesn’t ask for any money but invites us to pay him for a daytrip around Battambang in the afternoon. Sounds fair and he is super nice. 🙂 We start at 1:30pm in a local restaurant to have lunch and then chug through the countryside of Battambang.

The first stop is the bamboo train in the middle of nowhere. It’s basically a flexible wooden construction with 4 tires and a tiny engine. 🙂 We start speeding up and laugh a lot about this hilarious transportation manner, particularly because on the way we have to get up, dissassemble the whole thing to let other bamboo trains pass. 😀 The end of the rail is a small village with friendly local people & kids selling souvenirs.

When we return, our TukTuk driver waits patiently to bring us to the next destination, a temple high up on a hill overlooking the whole area! Close to it is our last stop for the day, the bat caves…when dusk is falling, thousands of bats fly out of their cave to hunt. We see clouds of black bats flying over the area and the stream just doesn’t stop, it’s crazy!

Because we had so much fun with our driver, we decide to do a half day trip with him the next day on which he drives us around local villages. It was so great to see how Cambodians there live. One family produces the rice wraps for Sushi, handmade with fire and wooden frames, others dry bananas from their plantains to sell them on markets or to stores…others produce rice wine which we get to try, strong rice wine! 🙂 We try sweet rice in a bamboo stick and visit the fish market. All in all our days in Battambang were educating, especially the last stop where we got to see a memorial sight for the thousands of dead people who were tortured and killes during the Khmer Rouge regimen in the 70s.

Sadly, we have to say good bye to Lissi who flies back to Germany in the evening from Siem Reap…Jakub and I however continue our trip through Cambodia and eventually land in Koh Kong! Our plan is to hike the jungle in the Cardamom Mountains – lucky us, because for tomorrow they have 2 spots along with another couple for a 2-day trip into the wild. 🙂 Sounds venturesome, we’re in.

We start at 9am when our guide Dina picks us up. Accidentally, the couple who will hike with us stays in the same guesthouse as we do! Germans, younger than we are, travel through Cambodia. Before our group makes the way in the jungle, we get some water and food from his families restaurant, very nice and friendly people! And then we start trekking deep into the jungle…oh no, wait. Most important before we set one foot in the forest: we put on our long pants, stuff our pants in the socks and then we can start. You’ll learn why… 🙂

Already after the first 30 minutes we are pretty exhausted all together – it’s challenging to walk through this jungle, mainly because you have obstcales to overcome everywhere. There’s barely any path, sometimes our second guide needs to cut away branches and leaves with his machete. Moreover, from right, left and above us plants grow into the way, so you keep ducking, dodging and balancing. 🙂 AND: there are many many leeches!! That’s the reason why we wear pants stuffed in the socks. 😀 Their reaction works like this: since we all walk behind one another, the first person in the line wakes the leeches up. They bob up, smell the sweat and blood and the next person passing them is their victim. Fortunately, Dina showed us quickly how to remove them (DO NOT touch them, otherwise they start sucking your finger – flick them away) and after a couple of hours we were higher and saw no more leeches.

Our lunch break in the middle of the woods was super delicious and again we saw: you can pack food without plastic bags which pollute the forest. The rice was wrapped in banana leaves and still warm, chicken and veggies in 2 boxes. So good!

We continue and finally see our base camp for the night – 6 hammocks, covered makeshift by a plastic roof, next to a huge beautiful river and a fire place close by. Wonderfully simple. 🙂 We are happy to have a roof covering us, because 30 min after our arrival and after we took a refreshing swim in the river it starts to rain. Another group of hikers appears at the camp – a family with a small child of 3 years…I admire these parents, being in the jungle for 2 nights with such a small child.

Our guides start the fire and soon some very delicious looking meat/veggie-skewers grill on the open fire, mmmhh. All together we sit unter the roof, eat from banana leaves, pass along Cambodian whiskey and have lots of fun. 🙂 The night we spend surprisingly comfortable in our hammocks, covered with mosquito nets and only the forest around us…

Together with the sun we wake up and have a rests-from-yesterday breakfast. 😉 The next 4 hours we hike another way out of the jungle and end up on a dust road. From there, a van picks us up and we spend the last hour at the Tatai waterfall. What a cool adventure! We were all sweaty, it was very humid in the forest, but a great get away.

After these 2 busy days we long for some relaxing, which is why we decide to stop at the coast of Cambodia in Sihanoukville. Our bungalow is close to Otres beach, a tiny village with only little things to do but a maximum factor of relaxation. 🙂 Other than reading books, snorkelling or enjoying our pool we don’t do a lot and it feels great.

The last stop in Cambodia for us is Phnom Penh. We booked a bus and within 7 hours we’re in the buzzing capital. Since we haven’t bought many sounvenirs  for family & friends so far, the first thing we need to do the next day is to see the Central & Russian Market to get some stuff! 🙂 Besides the keychains, bags and elephant pants which are typical for souvenir markets, we find a lot of sports clothes on the Russian market – brands like Nike, Adidas and Under Armour! Shopping time. 😀

2 hours later we leave the market, exhausted but satisified – we found something for everyone! To treat ourselves, Jakub desides to go all local this evening and have self-prepared dinner. That means that we order 10 different small dishes (almost like Tapas! :)), mushrooms, veggies, prawns, meat balls,…along with a small stove and a big pot with boiling broth. We throw veggies and salad in, boil mushrooms, shrimps and stuff we don’t even know what it is – the result was amazingly good!

Before we leave Cambodia, we wanted to learn more about the Khmer regime and visit the S-21 Prison, known as the Tuol Sleng Museum of Genocide:

Tuol Svay Pray High School sits on a dusty road on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, Cambodia. In 1976, the Khmer Rouge renamed the high school S-21 and turned it into a torture, interrogation and execution center. Of the 14,000 people known to have entered, only seven survived. Not only did the Khmer Rouge carefully transcribe the prisoners’ interrogations; they also carefully photographed the vast majority of the inmates and created an astonishing photographic archive. Each of the almost 6,000 S-21 portraits that have been recovered tells a story shock, resignation, confusion, defiance and horror. Although the most gruesome images to come out of Cambodia were those of the mass graves, the most haunting were the portraits taken by the Khmer Rouge at S-21. [source: http://www.killingfieldsmuseum.com/s21-victims.html]

It was horrifying and terrible to be in the actual building were so many innocent people died, to hear the audio guides voice narrating stories of prisoners and what has happened, to comprehend that people died randomly…we both had goosebumps, but were glad to learn more about the history of Cambodia.

The 3 weeks here passed so fast! We enjoyed travelling Cambodia a lot and definitely wanna return for more Asian countries – most likely on another trip. 😉

អរគុណ, Cambodia!

Bali – Temples, Gardens and Incense Sticks

15.3.17 – 22.3.17

Late in the evening we arrive at Denpasar airport in Bali and already the aiport building is very impressive, being built like a temple, beautiful. Our first hostel is outside of the buzzing city, close to the coast in Uluwatu – luckily our airport shuttle awaits us already and we drive through tiny crowded streets. Bali…unfortunately, all we think we know about this spot on earth is that it is known to be a hotspot for young Australians, searching for party and party…and party. 🙂 But! It is absolutely not like this, read for yourself „8 interesting facts about Bali“:

1. Most expensive coffee
The world’s most expensive coffee in the world comes from Bali. It is called Kopi Luwak and is not your typical coffee bean… They collect the beans from the digestion of a Civat Cat, which is a shy cat-like creature living in Asia. The Civat cat only eats the ripest and finest coffee cherries but doesn’t digest the bean
2. Black Beach
When thinking about the beaches in Bali you’d probably think of white beaches and clear blue sea. While there are some stunning beaches like that around the island, there are some with black sand instead! Take for example Lovina Beach, where the beach is covered in black sand that comes from the cooled lava of the Mt Agung volcano. Even though it’s not what you’d think of when dreaming about a tropical beach, it’s still worth a visit!
3. Tourism
Due to the fact that Bali is a popular tourism destination for travellers all over the world, around 80% of its economy is related to tourism. From leisure activities to hotels and restaurants; tourism is the largest industry in terms of income.
4. New Year celebration
Did you know that the Balinese New Year starts in silence? The first day of the new calendar is called Nyepi; and no one is allowed on the streets. Noise and light are to be kept at a minimum and these rules apply to everyone who is on the Island.
5. Language
There a lot of different languages and dialects spoken all over Indonesia, although Bahasa Indonesia is the country’s official language. Most Balinese residents speak 3 languages: Balinese, Indonesian and English (the last one mostly due to tourism).
6. Children
Balinese babies are carried everywhere the first few months of their lives, this is because they are not allowed to touch the ground. They are considered little angels, their connection to the spirits is kept in tacked by not touching the earth. When the time has come that they are allowed to touch the ground, a big ceremony is held.
7. Teenager
Another big ceremony is held when a Balinese reaches puberty; the tooth filing ceremony. This ceremony symbolises three things: a coming of age, the transition from animal to human and the control of the 6 human evils (desire, greed, anger, confusion, jealousy and being under the influence of strong
8. Names
You will also find a lot of people called Wayan, Made, Nyoman or Ketut. Actually, most Balinese people are given one of these four names, male or female. It simply means ‘first born’, ‘second born’, ‘third born’ and ‘fourth born’. So, what do you call your fifth child, you may ask? Simply start over again and name him or her ‘Wayan’ again!

Wow. Okay. How ignorant we are…^^ And how fortunate that we still decided to come here and explore this wonderful country. 😉 Let’s first get some money from the ATM…aha, maximum amount: 2.5 Millions….OMG, we are millionaires! 😀 Yeah…or not. Just a crazy currency exchange rate of 1USD = 13.000IDR…

Anyway, our first day we decide to spend at the beach Padang Padang. To get there, we need to climb tiny steps downstairs and need to pass some serious predators living here: monkeys!! To be honest, these animals can be sweet and everything, but most of the time we don’t wanna get too close to them in case they start a revolution or something and we find ourselves living on the planet of the apes! 😀 Just kidding.

As we reach the beach, there is little space to actually lie down and enjoy the sun, because the tide is so high pressing the waves in the little bay. At least we can swim in the warm water. After our quick refreshment, we wanna go to the next beach, Uluwatu beach. Since it is „only“ 2.5km from the first one we start walking…a very smart idea, with tiny streets, people on scooters driving like maniacs and honking cars. Ellen was convinced that sooner or later someone hits us and we die painfully on the side of the street….this did not happen. No, contrary a lady in a street cafe where we enjoyed a fresh watermelon juice encouraged us walking along the street! Well, all good then. 🙂 Uluwatu beach was not accessible either, but the terrace-like cliff next to it counted many bars and restaurants where we sat and watched the surfers taking massive waves.

Now for the next stop we decided to take a Tuk Tuk – we want to visit the famous Uluwatu temple. Typically, our driver stared with a price twice as much as we wanted to pay and so we met somewhere in the middle. The temple was huge and nice to see, built directly on the cliffs close to the ocean. What an amazing firth day! And no drunken tourists to be seen. Haha.

Our next location is Canngu, a beach town on the South Western part of Bali. Once we checked in our hostel, we headed to the beach and took a swim in the ocean – the waves were crazy here, coming in fast and strong. We actually needed to calculate the exact moment when to get out of the water to not being hit by a wave and end up with a ton of sand in the hair and other parts of the body. 🙂 In the evening we went out for dinner and found a restaurant, a local place, very cute and filled with friendly smiling locals – we ate there the first night and returned every evening, because it was so good and had fair prices!

The next day started rather cloudy and when it started to rain, we decided to give ourselves a little treat and got a massage! One hour, 8$, sounds like a good deal. 🙂 In the beginning we didn’t have any music since, due to the thunderstorm the electricity was gone, but after 10min music and AC went back on. 😉

Canggu, other than being a surfer spot and a tiny beach village didn’t have much more to offer, which is why we used the time to do…nothing much. 😉

Next destination: Ubud! This city in the middle of Bali is mainly famous due to the movie „Eat, Pray, Love“. Which we have never seen, but we know it’s about Yoga and Julia Roberts is the main character. Already the entrance to our home stay hostel looks fabulous – it’s basically a temple garden, with beautiful plants, offerings for the gods and the smell of incense sticks. Wow. There is one mini downside to this however: no AC. We’re not big fans of an AC normally, but here, having constantly 30C plus and high humidity, the room just doesn’t cool down unless you have an AC. But we’ll survive without it 😉

We want to explore the city first and dive into the beautiful world of local food, street market filled with clothes and souvenirs, sweet cafes and countless yoga places. We decide to take a small walk outside the city through the countryside, ending up at some rice terraces, where we drink fresh coconut water and smoothies – we love the fresh tropical fruit here!

On our last full day in Bali we do a temple tour with a guide, who speaks surprisingly good English. We first drive to the Taman Ayun Temple, the Royal Family temple. They do not live there, but it was originally built for them. The temple area is super big and looks amazing.

Next stop: Holy Monkey Forest….oh no. Let’s just not have any prejudices and just see what will happen! We walk in direction to the forest and have to admit that the whole place is simply beautiful. There is an old temple overgrown with moss which makes it look very magical. It seems to be a popular wedding photo place since we have seen 2 wedding couples being photographed here. 🙂 Along with a guide we walk through the forest, the monkeys being suspiciously close by. They know that the guides usually feet them and make them climb up the humans, waaaaaaa. Ellen doesn’t wanna have any monkey on her shoulder, but Jakub eventually gives in and let’s one big animal climb up his arm. Of course he ends up with scratches on arm and shoulder…haha.

We are about to try one of the most expensive coffees in the world: the Luwak-poo-coffee. 😀 As explained in the beginning, the coffee is made from the Luwak cat poo, which strolls around the plantain during the day, eating the fruit and comes home in the night, pooing in his cage. So weird. Admittedly, the coffee tastes very fruity! 😉

Our last stop is the Bedugul temple, probably the most famous one when thinking of Bali. We see a lot of local people here as well and are fascinated by all the colors! Our guide explains that in Hinduism, the colors red, white and black are important. They represent the three gods Prahma (the Creator), Shiva (the Destroyer of evil) and Vishnu (the Protector). Mostly the Hindu use yellow blossoms, because it is another version of the color white. Our guide asks us a lot about our culture as well and when he mentions that he has never seen real snow in his life, we again feel so grateful and privileged for being able to travel around the world and exploring small and big wonders.

Bali was a real highlight on our trip, because we completely underestimated this country and were biased by clichés. To sum it up, what Bali really is like:
☆ Friendly smiling people
☆ great food and tasty fruit smoothies
☆ the smell of incense sticks
☆ temples & gardens

TERIMA KASIH, BALI!