A Travellerspoint blog

Last days of our trip

and lessons along the way

During the last couple of days in Canada, sold our car and celebrated the birthday of Sophie. For the first time in a long time we went out, so of course Edda had a hangover on the plane the next day...

And then that’s it. Three more flights and the world trip would be officially over.

So, it’s time for recap.

Everybody wants to travel, but a question that a lot of people have been asking us is, why are you throwing away 2 years of your life to travel the world?

Sometimes the answer is hard to explain, and hard for some people to understand. 
Maybe it’s just a feeling that before the ‘serious’ life start, you have to have lived, explored and discovered your true self. Sometimes the modern society, your family, friends and your environment force unconscious expectations on you. We wanted to get rid of all that. Discover what the world has to offer, and discover what we genuinely want in life.
Has the journey been what we expected?

First of all, we learned a great deal about ourselves and especially about each other. Living 22 months so close together, 24/7, which includes months and months of living in a van really creates a bond, creates a bigger understanding for each other, and builds a really deep connection. You get to know what both of you are best at, and together develop a lot of interests, and have a lot to talk about. You go through some extraordinary moments, yet also many stressful moments and big fights, but you learn to talk it out.

Secondly, a world trip sure gives you a lot of time to read and think. Now, we think that it is a luxury to be able to stop and reflect on what you truly want to do for work and leisure. We hope we will never stop thinking about it.

Since we didn’t have TV or games, we had to go for books. We started reading study books and learning about things that genuinely interested us. We both found our interests in this way, and we will pursue these.

Third, we are very happy we did the trip quite independently, and that we spend a lot of time exploring places by ourselves with our own vehicle. It might not have been the most eco-friendly (our whole trip probably wasn’t), but the freedom to explore, meet locals and go wherever you want is what makes the trip worthwhile and distinguishes it from a random holiday. Many things we did, you can’t do on a tour and that’s what separates travellers from tourists.

Although the world trip is finished, the adventures continue in New Zealand ;)
Below some of the best moments during the trip

NZ mountains

NZ mountains

4 days on the river

4 days on the river

Helitrip to the Coromandel

Helitrip to the Coromandel

The van life

The van life

Christophe the chef

Christophe the chef

Edda's cooking

Edda's cooking

The red center

The red center

The Australian outback

The Australian outback

Fencing at a cattle station

Fencing at a cattle station

Cowboy Christophe

Cowboy Christophe

Sunset in paradise

Sunset in paradise

Fishing in Perlubie bay

Fishing in Perlubie bay

Getting (almost) bogged in Esperance

Getting (almost) bogged in Esperance

Harvest work

Harvest work

Sailing race in Esperance

Sailing race in Esperance

Sunset at the Great Barrier Reef

Sunset at the Great Barrier Reef

Snorkelling at the Great Barrier Reef

Snorkelling at the Great Barrier Reef

Blue fire in Ijen

Blue fire in Ijen

Sunrise in Bromo

Sunrise in Bromo

Asian food

Asian food

More Asian food

More Asian food

Hitchhiking in Malaysia

Hitchhiking in Malaysia

Hiking in the tropics

Hiking in the tropics

SUPing in the Philippines

SUPing in the Philippines

Crazy public transport

Crazy public transport

Hello Nemo

Hello Nemo

Learning meditation

Learning meditation

Inle lake trip

Inle lake trip

Temples in bagan

Temples in bagan

Meeting friends on the way

Meeting friends on the way

The Chinese Wall

The Chinese Wall

Myanmar by train

Myanmar by train

Working for food and board

Working for food and board

Glacierlakes

Glacierlakes

White water rafting

White water rafting

The Canadian Rockies

The Canadian Rockies

Glaciers on the icefields parkway

Glaciers on the icefields parkway

US coastal trip

US coastal trip

Posted by cjfvdk 14:49 Archived in Canada Comments (0)

To the US of A

2 weeks in Washington, Oregon and California

As our days in the rafting place came to an end, we were thinking what to do in the two weeks that lasted on our trip. We had a car, so a road trip was the logical option. But where? Canada was getting too cold and wet, although there are heaps more beautiful places to discover here. One options was Vancouver Island, but the weather looked really bad. So we looked South, to Washington State, but it was cold and wet as-well. Sacramento, Northern California seemed to be warm and dry! We wanted some good weather before hitting half winter in Estonia and autumn in Belgium and then the early wet spring in New Zealand.

So South it was. First thing was to cross the border and customs, which went actually pretty easy. Just fill a form, sign a paper. We didn’t even need to show that we were gonna leave at some point, or where we would stay the first night.

From there on, it was drive, drive and drive. First nights we spent at rest areas. We took the costal road, which was quite scenic, passing by cliffs, big rocks, black sand and some rugged coastline. They also have massive bridges on the road, and they are pretty proud of it.

Oregon Coast

First town we passed was Astoria, there were heaps of sea-lions there on the docks, making loud noises. We didn’t stay very long, but did find out that this is the town where Free Willy was filmed! It was quite hard on the coast to find affordable campsites. Everything is 25$ or more. But the petrol is cheap, holy cow! About 60€ per 100 litres! But everything is in gallons, miles and inches there. So about 2,5$ for a gallon of fuel. Further down the road we saw more cliffs, some cool rocks, rugged shoreline and also whales. Christophe did a whaling cruise to see some close buy. They are grey whales, and don’t jump, but still quite cool.

After a couple of days the weather got worse, and we saw that 500 km south of us, in Northern California, there was a place on the rugged ‘lost coast’ which had 30 C for the weekend. So we just drove there in one day, over some really crappy road. Sealed, but so crappy. Edda thought the car was going to fall apart. So crappy, you can’t believe. But we got there. The camp was full for that night, but pretty empty after. We were next to the coast, hidden behind the dunes. So we did have quite a bit of wind. But the warm weather was nice. We didn’t do much else than reading there, and a short hike in the sand to a lost lighthouse which had a lot of sea-elephants near it (massive animals). The first morning we had a scare though, when a couple of young kids (18-20) just pulled out a gun, and went to pose with a shot deer that was in the back of their ute. Crazy yanks!

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Lost coast

large_DSCN2383.jpglarge_DSCN2368.jpgLost coast sunset

Lost coast sunset

Mattole beach

Mattole beach

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California Volcanoes

After three days, and the weather getting colder again, we moved past Ferndale (with a very nice Victorian style hotel) to Redding, where it was 40 C, and then to the Lassen Volcanic National Park. There is a road that goes through the park, which a couple of walks in the Volcanic area. We spent a full day there, slept close buy, and went to climb a cinder volcano (ash volcano) the next day, with its accompanying lava beds. From south Canada to North California there is a volcanic mountain range called the Cascade range, which is part of the Ring of Fire, which lays along the Pacific plate. It includes the volcanos on Hawaii, New Zealand, Indonesia, etc. Here on Mainland US, they actually had a couple of eruptions in the last century (Lassen just 100 y ago, St Helens 35 years ago).

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From there we went North past Mccloud river with a few nice waterfalls, and then past Mt Shashta, another volcano with 2 craters. We slept that night at an altitude of 1700m, and luckily there was a small cabin with a fire stove in it, otherwise we might have frozen to death. By then we were again sleeping in the car after a week in the tent, because we stayed at place where putting a tent was a bit difficult, and it was also warmer in the car. That one morning, the front of the car was frosted, which was a bit of a sign to get the hell outta there, because they were also expecting snow that night. We even noticed that because more North, back in Oregon we went to crater Lake, which was covered by clouds and we even saw it snowing on the trees a couple hundred meters above us. So we also went the hell outta there, over the Cascade range, back to lower lands where it was a bit warmer. We didn’t do much more after that, mostly driving and now we are back in Vancouver, preparing for the flight home!

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On the road in USA we had a couple bad experiences with drivers passing left and right, trucks speeding right past you and just horribly bad drivers. We also noticed they are a lot of lowlifes in the USA, and totally understand where the expression the 99% comes from. They really have those 99% in the USA, much more than in Europe. There seems to be no middle class (at least not out of the bigger towns). In one town in Oregon, we went to the library and it was just packed with lowlifes. It was pretty scary. You walk past somebody on the street and he smokes weed right in front of you. In the library someone was just staring ahead of him, which didn’t look healthy. We got a pretty bad impression of the USA, not the country of hope and glory, but quite the opposite. There are many places where you don’t want to live in the USA … And we saw advertisements for Trump about 90% of the time. Bernie 7% and Clinton 3% … The best thing about Oregon was no sales tax, which made everything pretty cheap :).

We had one more scare coming back to Canada the border. As easy as the crossing into the USA was, so difficult was it to get into Canada. What are you doing here, who is with you in the car? It’s a Canadian car, what are you gonna do with that? Can I see your flight details? Can I see your New Zealand visa? Did you buy anything in the USA? … Pretty damn scary!

Posted by cjfvdk 02:55 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Back towards the rafting resort

Via Wells Gray and Joffre Provincial Parks

After dropping Layton and Romy, we went to shop and headed back north to Wells Gray Provincial Park. We stayed at Goose lake, which was quite pretty, but also quite cold and wet. For the first time in two weeks (with no Layton), we didn’t have a campfire :(. We went to bed early, woke up early and went to the park. It is a park known for its many remarkable waterfalls, as leftovers from both volcanic and glacial activity.

That night we did manage to get a fire going, but it required persistence. We didn’t cook on it, but we did warm our hands. In the morning we managed to get it going again, and even cooked (and burned) breakfast on it. We packed up (saw the mouse in our car), and headed towards Lillooet, via a very scenic route (an Edda route), and stayed at the free campsite provided by BC Hydro where we had a great fire and Christophe managed to set up the tarp nicely.

Joffre Provincial Park

A guy at the previous campsite recommended us to go to Joffre provincial park and climb up to the glacier, so we did. It was a nice hike up, passing 3 blue glacier lakes. The track to the glacier was not marked, but once again thank to maps.me, we found our way up to the ice and snow. The view was magnificent :)
Although we didn’t know about it, it’s apparently a very popular park. It was full of people and cars, but we were pretty much the only ones who climbed all the way to the top.

We stayed the night at a random campsite. Luckily no rain today!
On our way back to the rafting resort, we passed by Whistler and Squamish. Then we got the really bad weather. It was raining all day and night. It’s very touristy around there, so even the cheapest campsites cost half of what a hotel room would cost. We were so sick of camping in the cold and rain, that we decided to book a hotel room instead. Luxury!

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Posted by cjfvdk 12:14 Archived in Canada Comments (0)

Road trip to the Rockies

In Vancouver, we had already gone shopping and collected most of the things we would need, such as tents, mattresses, cooking gear etc. So we were quite ready. We went for a quick look at the fire-lookout where we had spent a night before, and almost hit a black bear on our way up! Our first night was at a lake besides the Thompson river, after a very very scenic drive besides the Thompson. The scenery is really quite amazing there! The evening was a bit chilly. Luckily Layton, being a bushman, had no trouble cranking up our first campfire. We had some snacks with bread, which would be quite a poor meal compared to what we would have later. The next day, we got some rainbow trout from a guy fishing the lake, which we had for lunch. We continued our trip through Kamloops, gathered some more things from the thrift store and went towards some wineries and then Harper Lake. We were all alone at this very nice lake, and stayed two nights. Layton had the idea to make a float trip around the lake on the air mattress, which was really nice. Later that day, we got a fishing rod from a fishing family and some flies (for fly fishing) which Layton put to use for some hours improving his technique, and eventually catching fish after lots of patience. The second night, we got the company of a family of hillbillies :).
The tour

The tour

The road trip car

The road trip car

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Following Harper Lake was Salmon Arm, where they sell quite some local produce. We stayed the night at Begbie falls, which had again amazing scenery. Layton found his favourite can beer, Mt Begbie brewery’s Nasty Habit. We managed to make a blazing fire, to keep bears away at night (we found some tracks), had a great dinner and rest. The morning was rainy, so we quickly packed up and went to Revelstoke. Layton and Romy tasted quite some local beers here, and following the advice of the Aussie barman, we went searching for hot springs. 100 kms on partly bumpy road and a ferry later, we arrived at the Halfway hot springs, met camp host Bob, set up our tent and went to relax in the natural hot springs, leaning on the rocks while enjoying some wine. We had dinner on a campfire and treated ourselves on another long bath in the morning. Then all the way back to Revelstoke, and on our way to Golden.

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We stayed at a wet campsite with a rewarding view of Wapta falls, and met an American fellow travelling alone. He seemed quite happy to meet some other travellers (and eat some of our left-overs), and told us that Lake Louise (our next stop) was full of tourist, which we found out ourselves the next day. We had a look at the lake quite late in the afternoon, and since it is so conveniently close to all lodges and hotels, it is very full of tourists. Moraine lake was the same, but was already nicer. By now, we were in the province Alberta, and turned our clocks one hour forward. Since Wapta falls, we also have an extra traveller on board, and can’t get rid of it …

Once we hit the Icefields parkway (connecting Banff and Jasper through the respective national parks) we were blown away by the beauty of the Rockies. Peyton Lake was exceptionally beautiful, way better than Lake Louise. We spent our night in Sunwapta campground in Banff National Park, where we were almost alone, and with an amazing sunset and view. This must be one of the better campsites in the world. We had a nice fire, which was necessary, because the night got freezing cold in the Icefields. In the morning, Christophe woke up to get the fire going again, but that was quite a hard task. He eventually managed, so that we could have our daily bacon and eggs on the fire.

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We had a long day ahead of us in the park, visiting the Saskewatchan glacier (again, just beautiful), walking close to the Athabasca glacier, and visiting Sunwapta and Athabasca falls. The Saskewatchan glacier viewpoint was the highlight of the day, because this was the one with the least people. We had to get out of the park that day, so went to Jasper to stock up some food (super expensive town, a total rip-off) and went on, back to British Columbia.

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We stayed at a campsite in Mount Robson Provincial park, with a shower (the first this trip, we did swim in some lakes ;)), which was nice :P.
We did a small hike in Mount Robson Provincial Park to Lake Kinney, and then continued our trip to Valemount, where we stayed at Kinbasket Lake. Roy and Edda picked some mushrooms and cooked them. (They were excellent!) The sunset was very nice, as we were surrounded by hills, and with the upcoming storms hovering over us. We got a lot of rain and thunder and lightning, but still managed to cook a decent meal on our campfire, but got rained out. The morning was still wet, yet we did have breakfast on the campfire, and went on our way again.

We wanted to find one more lake, where we could maybe finally catch our own fish, so we headed for Gorman Lake on the Bonaparte plateau. The evening was nice, we didn’t catch a fish, but once we were in the tent, it started raining, and never stopped. So everything got soaking wet, and as we were on higher altitude, it was cold as well. We were freezing, packed up and drove to Kamloops. We had a meal there, and decided to spend the night in a motel, in stead of going camping, since Romy and Layton would continue their trip to San Francisco from Kamloops. We dropped them at the airport, and went each our own way …

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It was a good trip! Saw 2 black bears, lots of eagles, deer, some caribou and other wildlife. We met some nice people, and got to see a bit of the beautiful British Columbia! We had some great food on campfires, and oh do they have great pork here!

Posted by cjfvdk 11:00 Archived in Canada Comments (0)

Rafting resort adventures

After a couple of weeks in Duncan to get our batteries fully charged again, it was time for a change. We had a great time in Duncan, healthy food, good weather mostly, some football, fun and less fun jobs, lots of progress, personal time, so we are ready to get going. We applied to workaway at a rafting resort on the Nahatlatch river, and got a reply quite soon that they would be needing help very quickly.

So we had our last meal with Riitta and the British workawayers, packed our bags and set out at 7 am the next morning to hitchhike some 300 kms, with a ferry trip in between. We could have taken a bus, but that would have made everything way to complicated. We had also applied for some ridesharing, but none of it worked out. We got picked up by two different drivers on our way to Nanaimo, the ferry stop. That was quite smooth and we got dropped right at the ferry in a large and comfy pick-up truck. We did arrive 5 minutes late to catch the ferry so had to wait 2 hours for the next one. Once on the ferry we started hunting for people who could take us towards hope, but nobody either went that way or had some space in their car. So we got a desperate and stranded in the Horseshoe Bay ferry terminal. Luckily google helped us out and suggested to get by public transport all the way to the other side of Vancouver and try to catch a ride there. On our last bus towards our hitch stop, a friendly man told us we could take another bus that would bring us 60 kms closer to our destination, and where we might have more success getting a ride. So we did that and arrived in Chilliwack. Half an hour later, a friendly lady took us on and brought us to Hope. By then is was 5 pm. Luckily she felt like going for a ride and brought us another 70 kms further to Boston Bar, where we would be picked up to get to the rafting resort. We arrived there by 7 pm, just in time for dinner. Success!! We were very happy we made it :).

The rafting resort is located in a lovely forest setting right beside the Nahatlatch river. They offer glamping, hot pools, full pension, so it’s quite nice. Edda was appointed to work in the kitchen, and Christophe got to do housekeeping. There is always something to be done, you were sort of busy the whole time.

Edda started making great desserts that people absolutely loved, and we gradually, we both got more responsibility. We also got to go on rafting trips on the level 3-4 river, which Edda thought were very cold and freezing and not super pleasant, but Christophe had a really good time, although he fell of the boat a couple off time, which Edda thought was really funny.

At first we were thinking to stay 2 weeks at the resort and then start planning to get back to Vancouver to pick up our Australian friends, but as we got more responsibility and we felt good, we stayed 3 weeks at the resort. We did our daily duties, and Christophe helped out on the 2 Stein trips (level 5 river) which required additional rafting training on the Nahatlatch. The guests also had to do this training on day 1 and on day 2, there was a full day trip to the Stein river, including carrying in the rafts over a small walking track for 4 kms to the launching spot. We roll the 80 kg raft on to a pole, and then carry it with 2 people, one up front and one in the back. It’s pretty hard, changing shoulders often and changing people often as well. Some guides manage to go all the way, but others have to switch quite often. Christophe was pretty happy with his performance :). Once you get the rafts to the launching spot, you still need to pump them up, and off you go. The first time Christophe had to walk back with the poles, but the second time, Christophe could raft down the river, which was very cool. It was in the safety both with experienced rating guides, and it was pretty high leve, but good fun. We had to portage (carry the boat across) 1 rapid, because we didn’t know if we could do it and looking back, we should have taken our chances. But the Stein is definitely a rewarding trip!

The weeks at the resort slowly went past and the group of volunteers was really good, and went well together. It was hard work sometimes, and a lot of work also, but it was fun to be in a close community and getting to know these people. On the day we had to leave, we went with the parents of one staff member to Vancouver, spent the night there and then got a vehicle to pick up our Australian friends and go car hunting. The first car was the good one. A 2003 Dodge Durango with a quite noisy V8 engine. It needed a bit of work, but our Aussie friend could easily manage that. We stayed 2 night around Vancouver, and then went back to the resort to work on the car. Our friends went for a rafting trip as well, and after two night there, we went for the Canadian road trip adventure! More about that in the next post.

DSCN1876.jpglarge_DSCN1886.jpgNahatlatch fire lookout

Nahatlatch fire lookout

large_DSCN1897.jpglarge_DSCN1900.jpglarge_DSCN1902.jpgChristophe <3 Super Duty

Christophe <3 Super Duty

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Posted by cjfvdk 12:33 Archived in Canada Comments (2)

Spending time on Vancouver Island

We got a mail from this Finnish/Canadian woman already while we were in Asia, asking if we’d like to stay at her place for a bit on Vancouver Island. We said yes to that, and ended up saying almost a month.

So far we’ve done all sorts of yard work, from digging up an old sewer pipe to demolishing a shed. And also some inside work, as she is in the process of renovating the house. It’s been interesting and the food has been really good. Mostly organic and very fresh local stuff :)

We are staying in Duncan, which is a quite small place, but there are lots of events happening around town. Christophe is playing football twice a week with the locals. Every Saturday there is the local market as well, where we always get some good bread and baked stuff.

There are a few hikes around. So far we only did a hike at Mt Tzouhalem. It was really nice and we could see the snowy mountaintops in the US. See pictures below. It’s been really nice to just relax in a nice place after the hectic Asia experience.

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Posted by cjfvdk 22:14 Archived in Canada Comments (1)

3 days Beijing

There is a possibility to get a free visa to Beijing (and some other Chines cities) for 72h while on transit. We decided to use this opportunity to explore a bit of Beijing for free before entering Canada.

On our first day we walked around Houhai lake. We saw a lot of people fishing and swimming there despite all the signs saying you shouldn’t swim or fish. Houhai lake is a nice are (a bit touristy maybe), but it’s good for an evening stroll. It’s very peaceful :) In the evening we ate some local food and prepared for the next days.

The second day we visited the Tiananmen square and the National museum of China. Tiananmen square was very hard to get to. They had closed a couple of the underground entrances, so we had to go all around the massive square, find pedestrian crossings and find this one and only entrance to this square. There were guards, fences and tourists everywhere. Everything was very controlled by the guards/police and surveillance cameras.

On our last day we went to the Great Wall of China. We decided to take the train there as it was cheaper and more scenic than the bus. We arrived at the station and wanted to buy tickets, but saw that there was a sign saying that they are all sold out. Christophe was very resourceful (as always :) ) and saw online that if you have the GO card for the trains, you can get into the train anyway. We quickly ran to the other platform, got ourselves the GO cards, ran back to the station and joined the humongous queue of people taking the train. Once the platform doors opened, people ran to the train.

The Great Wall was quite impressive to see. Edda thought it would have looked a bit more old and wide though. The nature around the wall was spectacular (see photos). There were quite some tourists, but if you walked on the North side a bit more, you could have the place for yourself.
The train back was also overbooked and full of people. When we got back, we went hunting for chinese smartphones. Christophe got himself a Meizu and Edda got Xiaomi. :D

The overall impression of Beijing was pretty cool. Although there are a lot of people, it doesn’t seem to be that cramped. There is a lot of space and the buildings are big. The cleanliness level is good and the food is delicious :) Wouldn’t mind coming back someday!

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tiananmen square

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Posted by cjfvdk 15:37 Archived in China Comments (0)

Myanmar - Summary

The good the bad and the ugly

It was only 14 days we had to explore this huge country. As the time was a bit short and we had a lot of distance to cover, sights to see and pagodas to visit, we only went to the on the beaten track places.

What we liked:

  • Bagan: still has a village or a town -like feel. Nice green scenery with surrounding mountains.
  • Lake Inle: We were expecting a tourist trap, but got a really beautiful scenery and got to experience the importance of the lake for the people living there.
  • Train trip Inle - Thazi: Just stunning scenery
  • The nature. It is still mostly untouched and so green :)

What we disliked:

  • Myawaddy: nothing there except for people who try to make a living out of you.
  • Yangon: Noisy, busy, dirty, unfriendly, rainy and uninspiring
  • The street food. Thumbs down for all that deep fried, grease dripping unhealthy stuff.
  • All the government fees and foreigner pays more -fees

Our very first impressions were pretty bad as the border town of Myawaddy is quite unpleasant for foreign tourists (meaning it’s expensive and people there see you as a walking money bag). The next stop was Yangon, which didn’t really improve our image that much. It was very noisy, very very dirty, people were busy and quite unfriendly. The street food was not great either.

From there on it went better though. Bagan was beautiful and we could freely explore the temples with bikes. Lake inle was really pretty as well. We will remember the train trip to Mandalay, but Mandalay itself had nothing special to offer.

The impression we got from the people is that the country (and the people) are quite rich. We saw a lot of nice cars and houses. There is a big gap between the rich and the dirt poor though. Everyone seems to be proud of their country and think that everyone is so nice and friendly in Myanmar (not sure we totally agree). There are for sure nice people around, but in most cases when people randomly start talking to you (especially near a tourist attraction), they will ask for a donation in the end.

Tour de Myanmar

Tour de Myanmar

Posted by cjfvdk 07:17 Archived in Myanmar Comments (0)

The long road to Mandalay

After Christophe talked Edda into agreeing to take the train from Inle to Mandalay, we had about 12h of scenic train travel in front of us. We had read that the trains are rather poor quality, they shake, jump over the bumps on the tracks and go very very slooooow. It was indeed quite a shaky ride, but not nearly as bad as we had expected. The upper class seats were comfortable enough to even have a nap. The seats in the ordinary class are wooden, so wouldn’t really be able to nap there.

The scenery however was breathtaking. Mountains, green valleys, fields, water….beautiful nature everywhere. We went over some narrow and scary bridges and stopped in small villages/towns where local people were selling food and random stuff. Everywhere we stopped, venders came in to sell some snack, so we never got hungry either!

The long hours passed fairly fast as we were staring out of the open windows. Yes, there is natural air conditioning, as all the doors and windows are open all the time.

A cargo wagon was the last wagon of the train, and at every station people were loading cabbages and different vegetables into it. All the produce was going to Yangon.

We stayed the night in Thazi in a reasonably priced guesthouse, so we could watch the Belgian football game, and continued at 4:30 am with another train to Mandalay.

Ready for the long journey

Ready for the long journey

Loading the train

Loading the train

Train stop - selling fruits and stuff

Train stop - selling fruits and stuff

large_DSCN1596.jpgDSCN1575.jpgScary bridges

Scary bridges

DSCN1567.jpgLandscape long the way

Landscape long the way

DSCN1543.jpgMore landscape

More landscape

large_DSCN1535.jpglarge_DSCN1530.jpglarge_DSCN1525.jpglarge_DSCN1515.jpglarge_DSCN1582.jpglarge_DSCN1580.jpgStarting the night market

Starting the night market

Almost a sunset

Almost a sunset

Posted by cjfvdk 07:13 Archived in Myanmar Comments (1)

Lake Inle - Myanmar

Entry 12 500 Kyats/pers.

It’s possible to do a hike of 2-3 days to Inle from Kalaw and other nearby towns, but as we were short of time and partly because of the rainy weather, we just took the bus. When we arrived, Christophe made a trip to find cheap lodging, but came back from a bald journey, with a room of 20 000 Kyat per night.

The scenery around Inle is really beautiful. We had read that a boat trip on the lake was a massive tourist trap and thus were sceptical. We woke up early in the morning, unsure whether we would do a hike or a boat trip, but we didn’t find a guide for the hike. Instead went to the harbour and found 2 more people to share a boat with. We visited the markets, silversmith’s workshop, umbrella workshop, tobacco factory, silk and lotus weavers and some temples. The scenery was breathtaking, the trip itself was really interesting, and it was fun to be on the boat.

They fish (in an amazing way), live on top of the lake, have gardens and use the lake for pretty much everything. The mountains and valleys around the lake are really pretty :) Although the boat takes you pretty much from one tourist shop to the other, they didn’t really force us to buy anything. On our way back, we even saw a nice rainbow on the mountains. We did wonder if this way of doing things would be sustainable for the lake, as it seems that with the tourism, there is a heavier load on it …

The next day we decided to rent bicycles and do some self-guided hiking. First we cycled 25km, then hiked up a hill and down to a village in a valley. They were growing a lot of crops in the village and everything was super green around. It was a magical view, and totally unexpected.

The temperature here is a bit cooler that Yangon or Bagan, so the air is nice and fresh. Inle seems to be quite a relaxing place. In the evenings Christophe played football with the locals. They were also setting up a massive festival in the town, and on Friday night we passed by, but it was raining cats and dogs. So we didn’t see much of the festival. The next day we would have to wake up early because we would take the slow train to Mandalay!

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Posted by cjfvdk 09:13 Archived in Myanmar Comments (1)

Bagan - Myanmar

A relaxing village with magnificent temple ruins

We arrived with the night bus from Yangon and were welcomed by our guest house with a nice breakfast :) The road was a bit bumpier than we had expected, so we didn’t get much sleep. However, after filling up with some coffee, toast and fruits, we rented bicycles and started touring around the temple ruins. There are so many, so we took some time to decide where to start and which ones to visit. Turns out it doesn’t really matter that much. Most of the smaller ones are not that different from each other, but the big ones can be quite impressive. Look especially for the ones where you can climb up and admire the great view.

The bike tour on our first day was pretty big and long. We cycled through sand, dirt and countryside and saw some pretty impressive pagodas, as well as beautiful scenery. It was drizzling in the morning, but it cleared after a couple of hours and we had a beautiful day.

The next day we did the same, rented bikes and went around. It is a shame that there is very little information available about the temples. It should be included in the high entrance fee to the area. Most of it is in Myanmar language and what is in english is mostly about the people or organisations who sponsored the restoration work. There is a museum of archeology, but some of its reviews were so bad that we decided to skip it. We had worse bikes the second day and Edda had a flat tire half way through the tour, so we decided to cycle a bit less that day.

Our last day was also cycling. We asked for the same bikes we had on the first day, and off we were! The weather was still good and we even bought some souvenirs. We admired some more pagodas and scenery. Began has a nice village -like feel to it. It is not infested with tourists and not too busy. We really enjoyed our time here.

People rave about the sunrises and sunsets here, but as it is the rainy season you don’t get much of either. In the morning there is a bit of mist and in the evening the sky goes a bit pink. However I can imagine that it must be pretty impressive when the sky is not covered in clouds.
The entrance to Bagan is 25k Kyat/23$ these days. And you can get a taxi near the bus station to town with 2k kyat, if case anyone is interested.

large_DSCN0988.jpglarge_DSCN1002.jpgMango trees everywhere

Mango trees everywhere

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Posted by cjfvdk 04:24 Archived in Myanmar Comments (0)

Yangon - Myanmar

Land crossing and first impressions

We spent one more night on the Thai side of the river, which was cheaper than staying on the Myanmar side. We walked around a bit, it was very rainy, and it’s a different town than Chiang Mai. There were lots of Muslims, and people were rather unfriendly looking. Christophe found a herbal sauna though, which was very nice and hot also. Fired up with wood, it got really hot inside!

We had quite high expectations about Myanmar. So many people who had been there recently told us that it was just amazing, the people are so nice etc etc..

Our fist impressions didn’t really match our expectations, but I think we are getting a better feel for the country as each day passes by. We arrived from Mae Sot (Thailand) to Myawaddy (Myanmar) by car/foot. The border and immigration process was simple and fast. But as Myawaddy is a border town, where many people seem to live off from tourists… You can expect people to be overly friendly and pushy.

We had this one guy clinging to us already from the immigration. He wanted to take us to his friend to exchange money, he had « the best » bus for us to Yangon. He could recommend us a place to eat and borrow us money etc.. He had a solution to all our problems and wishes. In the end we had to tell him that we wanted to walk alone for a bit and look for a better exchange rate (which we found easily from a bank). We ended up taking his bus to Yangon (costed 10 000 kyat/person). It was very very old, but we got to Yangon after 12h.

We are here during the rainy season. It’s good that it’s not that hot, but it’s raining several times EVERY day. It’s grey all the time, so all our pictures also have a greyish feel to them.

Two other bad first impressions come from the hygiene level and price level. We thought Indonesian street food had a questionable hygiene level, but here it seems to be much worse. Actually this is the first Asian country where we have had some stomach upsets :S It is pretty filthy here: The way they touch the food and treat the ice in the streets of Yangon is quite revolting to look at.

PS: Myanmar street food is also very deep fried and unhealthy.

It is not that cheap either. Hostels charge almost (eastern) European prices and food is 2-3 times the price compared to Thailand. There seems to be also a lot of entrance fees especially for tourists. Tourists pay more in the bus, on the boat, to get to the temples to get in to Bagan etc etc.

OK, so is there anything good about this country?!
The pagodas are beautiful. They have very decorative and impressive images of Buddha. Most of the people are friendly and they can have a good chat or help you out (there are a few exceptions) without asking for money. They don’t usually initiate a smile, but they smile back at you if you smile.
The nature is beautiful and very green everywhere out of town. In towns the colonial buildings are magnificent, yet not very well taken care of.
I’m sure we’ll manage to find more positive and nice things as the time goes by and we visit more places.
Crossing the border

Crossing the border

One side Thailand, other Myanmar

One side Thailand, other Myanmar

Scenery on the way to Yangon

Scenery on the way to Yangon

Every bus stop has their vendors

Every bus stop has their vendors

Yangon

We arrived late night, it was very rainy, and we didn’t have a booking so we hopped in a taxi and asked to be brought to a hotel we had read about online. We thought we won’t book so maybe we get a better price than what we would get online. When we arrived at our place of choice, they were closed already. So we walked in the rain for 15 minutes to another totally crappy place for too much money and stayed there for 1 night.

The next morning, we walked around town for 3 hours asking prices and looking for another place to stay. But they all charged a lot (starting from 8 euros for a dorm bed - Thailand is 2,5 euros for a dorm bed in a nice place). So we looked online and then found dorm beds for 5 euros.

In the afternoon, we caught the circular train for 3 hour ride around Yangon. Nothing very spectacular.
In the evening we were in trouble again. We went through the food stalls, but didn’t have a clue what we should eat. Eventually we found a restaurant with a friendly manager who explained us in English what they had. We took a grilled fish and some vegetable curry. It was good, yet it didn’t let our tastebuds explode.
When we came back in the evening, we found that the aircon above our bed had been leaking. We asked for and got another bed, and then saw that Christophes backpack was also wet. So we asked if they could dry the backpack, and they put the backpack outside. In the rainy season … Five minutes later I got my backpack back, totally soaking wet. They suggested to dry it again, but I decided to dry it myself.

The next day went better. We walked to the Shwedagon pagoda, around the Kandawgiy park, to a tower, to the old house of general Aung Su, and to the temple with a massive sitting Buddha and a massive reclining Buddha. There we had a monk invite us to his monastery and we had tea with him and his student. It was an interesting experience to talk to them and we learned a bit more about Buddhism and culture here in Myanmar. In the evening we went again to see the Shwedagon pagado in the night, but didn’t go in as the fee for foreigners is 8000 Kyat (0 for locals).

Today is the last day in Yangon, we visited the Buddha hair relic pagoda (6000 Kyat) and got a teaching on the Burmese horoscope. Christophe then made offerings for his family and grandmother to wish her well in the next life. Now we are waiting inside the hostel, as it is raining, and in the evening we will catch the nightbus to Bagan.

It is a busy city, so we hope to find some more peaceful towns where the cars don’t honk all the time and people have time to stop and smile.

Downtown Yangon

Downtown Yangon

Main train station

Main train station

DSCN0804.jpgCircular train

Circular train

Footvolley in the mud

Footvolley in the mud

A random train stop in Yangon

A random train stop in Yangon

DSCN0831.jpglarge_DSCN0839.jpgDSCN0843.jpgDSCN0846.jpglarge_DSCN0854.jpgCassowary!

Cassowary!

large_DSCN0865.jpglarge_DSCN0877.jpgHaving tea with a monk

Having tea with a monk

Staris to Shwedagon pagoda

Staris to Shwedagon pagoda

Shwedagon pagoda

Shwedagon pagoda

DSCN0913.jpgDSCN0916.jpgForeigners fees... yey <img class='img' src='http://www.travellerspoint.com/img/emoticons/icon_sad.gif' width='15' height='15' alt=':(' title='' />

Foreigners fees... yey :(

Blessing the family

Blessing the family

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Posted by cjfvdk 07:57 Archived in Myanmar Comments (0)

Chiang Mai - Thailand

We didn’t spend enough time or see enough places to make a decent summary of Thailand. Based on a very short visit in very few places, we very much like it here. People are friendly, food is good and transport is fairly easy. But I guess we’ll have to visit it again to have a bit of a broader experience.

After the Mindfulness project we took a night bus to Chiang Mai. The goal was to apply for a visa to Myanmar and do a bit of sightseeing around the area. First thing after arriving was the visa. We had copies of our passport and 2 passport pictures ready. That was actually all that was needed. We had read terrible stories about the crowds at the embassy and all the scary paperwork. When we arrived (like 1h after the opening time) there was just 1 person there. We were guided in by a smiling guard, handed the papers and it was very simple to fill in everything. We handed our papers, paid the fee and were told to come to pick our visas on Monday. The whole thing took like 15-20min.

We found a hostel near the Northern gate, where they also have a nice food market in the evening. There is this famous lady with a cowboy hat selling braised pork leg with egg and rice. Super yummy!

We also visited the museum of arts and culture (I think it was called like that) to learn a bit more about the history of the town, the people and the whole of Thailand. The museum was OK, not very spectacular. Still happy we went.

IMG_20160602_162606.jpgBraised pork leg with egg

Braised pork leg with egg

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The next day we decided to rent a motorbike and go to the temples at the hills. First stop was Doi Sutep with its good views towards the city. We continued to do some smaller temples and the Bhubing Palace. There are really a lot of temples, but once you start visiting them a lot, they sort of start to look the same :D So I cannot tell you which one was more impressive than the other.

Then we went on to tour around the ruins of the old city. It was quite interesting to learn about the history. The whole area had been covered by mud floods and all the temples have been buried. People sort of forgot about its existence and houses and other stuff started to pop on top of these ruins. Then in some archaeological excavations these ruins were found, and there are a lot of them.

Christophe tried to visit some more waterfalls in the evening, but at the moment none of them seem to really have much water. In the evening we visited another food market to taste some new stuff. There was also a possibility to have a foot massage, so we tried that. It was the best half an hour during this week for Edda. It was pure enjoyment! Christophe didn’t enjoy it that much unfortunately.

Motorcycle tour

Motorcycle tour

large_DSCN0673.jpglarge_DSCN0678.jpgDSCN0686.jpgDSCN0701.jpglarge_DSCN0703.jpgDSCN0708.jpgTake time to smell the roses <img class='img' src='http://www.travellerspoint.com/img/emoticons/icon_smile.gif' width='15' height='15' alt=':)' title='' />

Take time to smell the roses :)

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We took one day just to visit the city center. We walked around everywhere from malls to parks to markets etc. It was Sunday, so they had « Sunday Walking Street » where they turn a whole road into a walking street for the night. It’s full of people selling crafts, souvenirs and food. It was pretty massive. We didn’t even visit the whole area. We found some nice (and not so nice) bites to eat though.

DSCN0742.jpgMini mini ice creams

Mini mini ice creams

Sunday walking street

Sunday walking street


The next morning started with an adrenaline rush. Christophe had booked a bungee jump the previous night. Edda had done it once already, so now it was Christophe’s turn to show some guts ;) He did very well, but almost had his eyes pop out as he didn’t close them. It was a nice 50m jump with a loud scream :D Edda filmed it all. He enjoyed it and said that he’s ready for the highest jump of the world (which can be done in NZ).

We continued the day by picking up our visas from the embassy of Myanmar (again no queue). Then we went to another massage place where Edda (after such a great experience the other day) had half an hour foot massage, and Christophe had 2h of Thai massage. Edda’s massage was probably the worst massage ever, but Christophe enjoyed his.

Tomorrow we are off to Myanmar, but first we’ll still have one night on the Thai side of the border: Mae Sot!

DSCN0751.jpgDSCN0756.jpgDSCN0760.jpgDSCN0768.jpgAnd he's off

And he's off

DSCN0774.jpgBeen there, done that!

Been there, done that!

Posted by cjfvdk 08:25 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Thailand - the Mindfulness project

Work and meditation near Khon Kaen

We’ve been looking for a place or some volunteering work that would allow us to settle down for a bit and not think about where to go, what to do, on what budget etc. A place that would allow us to have the cultural experience, but in a bit less hassle free environment. The Mindfulness project was recommended by a friend who had been there, so we decided to give it a go.

This place was situated near Khon Kaen in a small village. Getting there was actually pretty straightforward despite even following the old instructions by accident which lead us to their old place… oops..

We had read about their strict schedule and getting only 2 vegetarian meal per day (which was freaking Edda out a bit). Once we arrived though, the schedule was not strict at all . We had a lot of free time and we noticed that the food was prepared with love, there was plenty, it was enough and nutritious. Even if some days we didn’t have leftovers from lunch, there was a village nearby where you could get food and they were also selling some home-made peanut butter and other snacks.

The work was physically quite hard especially because of the temperature and sun. It was quite enjoyable though. Everyone was doing what they could and the motivation was good.

In the evening we usually had a talking/sharing circle and some teachings. We really enjoyed the teachings and hoped there could have been more, as we arrived on a period when the project was going on its summer break and there were a bit more free days.

Everything from living to cooking to toilets and building were organized in a "natural/organic" way to minimize waste and recycle as much as possible.

There were people from all walks of life, so the group was very diverse. I think everyone shared a concern for the environment and the well-being of themselves and possibly for all humankind. The environment at the project was very open and accepting. People could try new things, talk, share and do things without having the fear of being judged. Nobody was gossiping or talking behind your back. The environment was almost overly positive.

We had our first experiences of participating in a ceremony at a monastery, giving an offering to the monks, having a real Thai massage and really meditating for the first time. I must say we both enjoyed the Mindfulness project very much. We wish we could have come earlier, because the stay seemed very short (9 days). I think we could have gained even more.

Still, despite the short stay there are some take home lessons.

  • We will try to keep/learn meditation
  • Edda will start learning yoga a bit and Christophe will keep doing stretching & back exercises
  • We will try to be mindful about the food we cook and eat.
  • We will try to be patient and more kind towards each other, and not make the other person small
  • We will try to be less judgemental about basically everything and share our kindness & smiles with the world

Now we are heading towards Myanmar and Canada, but hopefully the next years will present us an opportunity to visit the Mindfulness project again and stay for a bit longer.

PS: We didn't really manage to take any photos, so huge thank you to everyone for sharing :)

large_DSCF8552.jpglarge_P1060527.jpglarge_P1060518.jpglarge_P1060487.jpglarge_P1060459.jpgThai people are small but powerful <img class='img' src='http://www.travellerspoint.com/img/emoticons/icon_wink.gif' width='15' height='15' alt=';)' title='' />

Thai people are small but powerful ;)

hula hooping in the dark

hula hooping in the dark

IMG_1504.jpglarge_P1060303.jpgP1060285.jpgmaking plaster

making plaster

We found rge cutest puppu

We found rge cutest puppu

large_20160528_080751.jpgAt the monestery

At the monestery

Sharing food in a temple

Sharing food in a temple

IMG_1455.jpgOur toilet block

Our toilet block

Morning meditation

Morning meditation

Our accommodation

Our accommodation

Building a foundation

Building a foundation

Plastering

Plastering

large_IMG_1431.jpgPlastering harder

Plastering harder

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Posted by cjfvdk 21:01 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Malaysia - Summary

Malaysia is a refreshingly modern and hassle free stop in SEA. The food, souvenir and public transport prices are same for everyone (not 10x times more for tourists), so you don’t need to bargain and triple check everything. Of course there will always be people who’ll try to get your money, but it’s significantly less.

The buses are luxuriously big with comfortable seats and working A/C. Traffic is not as horrible, and there is all sorts of food (chinese, malay, indian and western) to choose from. Of course it’s slightly more pricier than some other SEA countries, but here you usually get what you pay for.
You’ll manage with English in most places and need to learn a few words of Malay if you want to get out of the big cities. Majority of people are muslims, so that shows in the daily routines and behaviour. And yes, that’s why alcohol is not very cheap either.
We interacted mostly with Chinese people and had the impression they are quite well educated, entrepreneurial and have a will to take the country forward.

Our favourite spots:

  • Melacca - Be there for the weekend markets. mmm… such great food
  • Penang - just for chilling out and also good food
  • Ipoh - Definitely visit the Perak cave temple
  • Cameron highlands - escape the heat and hike up the picturous tea plantations

There were not really dislikes. Even Kuala Lumpur was allright :) We especially recommend a visit to the Muzium Negara to learn about SEA and Malay history.

What is missing maybe, is a very beautiful beach and something really exciting to do (after Indonesia Malaysia seems almost a bit boring). Maybe these things can be found in Borneo, where we didn’t go this time.

Malaysia tour

Malaysia tour

Posted by cjfvdk 19:14 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

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