Our Fave Five: Top 5 Cities We Visited

Sometimes a single city can make a trip somewhere worth every penny spent. The most important thing for us was how a city’s energy felt when we explored the tourist hot-spots as well as the off-the-beaten-path local hideaways. Interestingly enough, some of our favorite cities are not from our overall favorite countries. Additionally, going through the cities we visited, we quickly found out that narrowing the list down to a top five was nearly impossible. With that being said, we attempted the impossible and here are the five cities that stood out above the rest.

1. Kuala Lumpur

Kuala Lumpur is the capital city of Malaysia and is one of those places that is easy to feel like home. We spend the second most time of any city in KL and loved every minute of it. The shopping is world-class and the food is full of flavor. We enjoyed all the modern amenities of the west but still had that South East Asian flavor we love.

2. Prague

If you were to ask us to pick one word to describe Prague, it would have to be “Magical!” One of the things that stands out about Prague is having the ability to get lost down narrow streets where discovering enchanting buildings is where memories are made. Prague, Czech Republic is not to be missed. Check out more fairytale photos from our night around Prague.

3. Kyoto

Japan is one of our favorite countries, so it’s no surprise that one of her cities made this list. What we love about Kyoto is the history. For over 1,000 years it was the capital of Japan making the town a living museum. With hundreds of temples and shrines, three palaces, and a multitude of culinary delights, Kyoto of a city we will visit for the rest of our lives. Want the best hotspots for viewing the cherry blossoms in Kyoto? Click here to check it out.

4. Seoul

How can the city that gave the world the song “Gangnam Style” not be amazing? Seoul, Korea fed more than just our desire to dance around like PSY, it fed our bellies with some of the world’s best street food scene. Couple delicious cuisine with eye-popping modern buildings and we had the receipt for a good time!

5. Edinburgh

Edinburgh has that relaxed vibe you would get from cities like Austin, TX, Berlin, Germany or Portland, Oregon. The people were amazingly nice and the city was jam packed with the perfect blend of nature, culture, and that flair the Scots are known for.

 

Because it was so difficult to pic just five cities, we thought it was worth mentioning five honorable mentions.

  1. Berlin, Germany (see how to bike around Berlin in a day)
  2. Santorini, Greece
  3. Marrakesh, Morocco (check out Bahia Palace)
  4. St. Petersburg, Russia
  5. Barcelona, Spain

We are two en route to add more favorite cities to the list

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How we spent 36 hours in the UAE

The UAE (United Arab Emirates) is best known for the larger than life skyscrapers that litter the skyline in every direction. It’s also known for being luxurious and expensive, two words that are a backpacker’s worst nightmare. In order to keep our budget in check we downed some coffee, put on our running shoes and set out to see the UAE in 36 hours. Enjoy the journey!

Hours 1-5

Our overnight flight landed in Dubai at 5:00am. As with most overnight flights we did not get any sleep. We made it through customs and into the taxi line to make our way to the hotel to drop off our bags and see if we could check-in to our room early for some shut eye. It turns out it was going to cost us $100 USD to do that, not in our budget.

We figured out the public transit system and boarded a bus to Jumeirah Beach to feast our eyes on the Burj Al Arab. It was the perfect place to kill some time and even take a nap until 10am (the time where we could check in at no charge).

The Burj Al Arab is the only 7-star hotel in the world. This luxury hotel is uniquely shaped like a sail and is built on the ocean at the edge of Jumeirah Beach, a white sand beach with crystal clear water. Talk about picture perfect!

Hours 5-8 

Finally, we could check-in to our hotel room. We hopped on a bus and slowly made our way up to the hotel room like zombies. We showered off the overnight travel and took a 4-hour power nap!

Hours 8-10

Feeling like normal human beings now, we made a spontaneous decision to hop on a 2-hour bus from Dubai to Abu Dhabi which only cost about $7USD each way. There is not much to see out of the window between the two major metropolis cities besides desert, so we buckled up, put on some music and got a few extra hours to recharge.

Hours 10-15

After arriving at the Abu Dhabi bus station, we hailed a cab, surprisingly inexpensive in the UAE, and headed to the Grand Mosque. The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is one of the largest mosques in the world, topped with 82 white marble domes, so you can imagine how awe inspiring it was from the moment we arrived. A bonus was it’s free to get in and see!

As we explored around the Grad Mosque grounds appreciating the level of design and detail put into it, we noticed there was an upcoming free cultural tour. We thought, “What the heck” and joined in. The tour was the best thing we could have done. The guide took us around the Mosque explaining more about Islam, the design of the building and the meaning behind the elements incorporated into the Mosque.

One of the coolest things was when the man took us into parts of the Mosque only accessible when with a guide. We even got the opportunity to get up close and personal with the world’s largest carpet!

After a few hours exploring, it was time to say goodbye to the Grand Mosque and catch the bus back to Dubai. The two-hour journey back flew by quickly. We were still on a high from seeing such a beautiful site.

Hours 15-24

We made it back to the hotel and crashed. Overnight flights always take a toll on us and we needed some proper sleep to fully recharge for the next day’s full adventure. Fortunately, we had had a hotel points left over from when we were working and had a good hotel pillow to rest our head on.

Hours 24–28 

Waking up feeling refreshed it was time to head out and explore Dubai! Our first stop, of course, was the Burj Khalifa! We booked our tickets a few days in advance because they sell out fast on the day of. Our time to head to the top was 1pm! Can you tell we are excited. The price for the tickets were around $34 USD per person, well worth the experience. 

The main observation deck is on the 124th floor. It is on of the highest outdoor observation deck in the world with some of the most breathtaking views.

The Burj Khalifa is the tallest building in the world, standing at 829.8 m (2,722 ft), which means it towers over all of the other skyscrapers around Dubai. As we stepped up the the edge we looked out onto the modern city of Dubai our excitement elevated. 

All of the buildings looked like something out of Sim City when we looked out of the slits in the observation deck. This give you a great view of Dubai. It is hard to believe that most of the modern dar Dubai was built within the last 15-20 years. 

For an extra $34 per person you can buy a ticket that will get you to the 148th floor observation lounge, however, we didn’t think it would be worth it for us, our heads were already in the clouds from deck 124. 

Looking straight down when you are 124 stories up on an outdoor observation deck can put a knot in your stomach. It’s almost hard to make out the cars, let alone people, from up here. There is also a lounge on the 125th floor you can go up to and get a souvenir. 

Hours 28–29

After spending a few hours At the Top of the world drinking in the magnificent views, we headed back down in the super fast elevator and headed into the Dubai Mall for a cup of coffee and a view of the Burj Khalifa from the outside. 

The Dubai Mall is the largest in the world and is just as fancy as you would think. One of our favorite features in the mall was the 7-story waterfall with life-sized sculptures of men swan diving over the water. 

Hours 29–31

As the sun went down, all the pretty city lights started to illuminate the modern skyscrapers so, naturally, our next stop was do go and see the city at night.

The financial district of Dubai has some of the most unique architectural skyscrapers all highly concentrated. Taking the opportunity to practice our long exposure photography we enjoyed a few hours of picture taking and sight seeing. 

Hours 31–32

It is very easy to visit Dubai and just look at the modern skyscrapers and hang out on the beach (what we have done to this point)… so we decided to take the train to Dubai Creek where the Souks (traditional markets) are located. We didn’t have enough time to walk through them at night or take a Dhow (wooden water taxi) across the creek, but we were able to appreciate the views of the traditional Dubai.

Hours 32–34

Short on time, we headed back to the Burj Khalifa to see the fountain show from The Dubai Fountain. The show rivaled that of the fountain show at the Belagio in Las Vegas, Nevada. 

To us, the most impressive part of the fountain show was before and after when the Burj Khalifa, in all of it’s 2,722 ft, lit up in a spectacular show of lights. It’s indescribable the feeling we got when staring up a the tallest manmade structure and seeing the entire thing light up in every color of the spectrum. 

Hours 34–36

After the show we headed back to get our bags from the hotel and head to the airport, but not before one last view from the top looking back at the edge of the modern city. Who knows what buildings will be built here in the next 15-20 years. 

We are two en route for more fast and fun city explorations

View from the Airplane Window Seat

One of the best feelings in the world is a plane coming in for a landing. It doesn’t matter if it is in a new place to explore or an old favorite, the excitement of knowing we are about to experience new things is thrilling! When going through some of our photos, we realized we had captured moments from our view in the window seat of an airplane. Here are some of our favorites!

 This was a shot taken of the coastline of Australia as we took off from Cairns. Taken in 2017
This was a shot taken of the coastline of Australia as we took off from Cairns. Taken in 2017
 This was our snapshot of Dubai from above at night. We could feel the life of the city even from up here! Taken in 2016
This was our snapshot of Dubai from above at night. We could feel the life of the city even from up here! Taken in 2016
 Flying into Norway was breathtaking from above. We love the little towns that dot the lakes across the country. Taken in 2016
Flying into Norway was breathtaking from above. We love the little towns that dot the lakes across the country. Taken in 2016
 A pic from our decent into the Maldives. All of the islands were unique shapes and beautiful. Taken in 2016 
A pic from our decent into the Maldives. All of the islands were unique shapes and beautiful. Taken in 2016 
 This was from our flight from London back to the United states when we flew over Greenland. It's the closest we have been to this country and it makes us want to go one day! Taken in 2012
This was from our flight from London back to the United states when we flew over Greenland. It’s the closest we have been to this country and it makes us want to go one day! Taken in 2012
 While there are none of the iconic building of Singapore in this photo, we love how the boast fill the port of the island city-state. Taken in 2017 
While there are none of the iconic building of Singapore in this photo, we love how the boast fill the port of the island city-state. Taken in 2017 
 A photo we took of the clouds descending over the rocky mountains on our flight from Dallas to Seattle as we headed to get married in 2013. 
A photo we took of the clouds descending over the rocky mountains on our flight from Dallas to Seattle as we headed to get married in 2013. 

We are two en route for more airplane window wanderlust 

Urban Art Around Europe

Urban art is fascinating to us. We love how it involves artists from the community to bring new life into the city. For the past three months we have been collecting pictures of some of our favorites from around Europe. Enjoy!

Reykjavik, Iceland

 Laugavegur Street. The main shopping street in Reykjavik, Iceland 2016
Laugavegur Street. The main shopping street in Reykjavik, Iceland 2016

Brussels, Belgium 

 Comic Strip wall art around Brussel, 2016
Comic Strip wall art around Brussel, 2016

Oslo, Norway

 Street art around the corner from the music venue Blå in Oslo, Norway 2016
Street art around the corner from the music venue Blå in Oslo, Norway 2016

Berlin, Germany

 East Side Gallery. Berlin, Germany, 2016
East Side Gallery. Berlin, Germany, 2016

Prague, Czech Republic

 Lennon Wall in Prague, Czech Republic 2016
Lennon Wall in Prague, Czech Republic 2016

Stockholm, Sweden

  Subway art  in Stockholm, Sweden 2016. Check out our blog about more  subway art in Stockholm
Subway art in Stockholm, Sweden 2016. Check out our blog about more subway art in Stockholm

Frankfurt, Germany

 Art across form Frankfurt's main rail station, Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof. 2016
Art across form Frankfurt’s main rail station, Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof. 2016

Paris, France

 One of our encounter with European Urban art. Paris, France next to the Pompidou Museum 2012
One of our encounter with European Urban art. Paris, France next to the Pompidou Museum 2012

Write here…

Our Copenhagen Pride featured on Brazilian Blog!

We are so honored to share our experience at Copenhagen Pride with Brazil’s number one gay travel blog, Viaja Bi! Click here to read all about our fun time! 

Here is a link to the English google translated version for those of you, like us, who can’t speak Portuguese. 

 

How We Balance Down Time and Tourism

Have you ever felt more tired after a vacation? We sure have!

Being on the road we are constantly in new places with new sights to see and it is easy to fall into the habit of constantly go-go-going. We have found that it is important to balance the continual urge to see it all with the need for down time. Much like being at home, we sometimes need breaks during the day, relaxing evening, a good night sleep, and “weekends” to unwind from a week of doing.  

 Relaxing on the Black Sand Beach, Vík, Iclenad, 2016
Relaxing on the Black Sand Beach, Vík, Iclenad, 2016

We have learned how significant regular breaks during the day can be. Not only do we get to rest our feet, but we get to rest our minds. An easy way for us to do this is to find a café, have a cup of coffee, and people watch. Sitting in silence and letting our mind slow down gives us a second wind for more sight-seeing. 

 Coffee Date. Oslo, Norway, 2016
Coffee Date. Oslo, Norway, 2016

Every night cannot be a night on the town.  Sometimes the best remedy for a long day is a relaxing evening. Dive into a good book, relax in a park, binge watch a tv show, or even nodding off into an early sleep. 

 Kevin relaxing while listening to a good book. Ålä, Sweden, 2016
Kevin relaxing while listening to a good book. Ålä, Sweden, 2016

Another way we have learned to balance our downtime with our tourism is by allowing ourselves to not set wakeup alarms and simply sleeping in. Before traveling the world, we always heard how not getting enough sleep can effect many aspects of your life and it is very true. A good night’s sleep is essential for a good day of sight-seeing.

 Seeing the sights after a good night sleep. Iceland, 2016
Seeing the sights after a good night sleep. Iceland, 2016

Too many consecutive days of being on the go can lead to getting burnt out. After a few weeks of not having a day off from traveling and sight seeing it was time for us to take a weekend. Two consecutive days of hanging around with nothing planned was pure bliss. It reinvigorated us. From that point on we decided that allowing ourselves to have weekends was one of the most important ways of balancing downtime with our tourism. 

 Enjoying a weekend with nothing planned. Copenhagen, Denmark
Enjoying a weekend with nothing planned. Copenhagen, Denmark

We had to let go of being on a schedule to see everything, rather, experience the place we are visiting. A good way to do this is to balance being a tourist with simple being someone living on the move.     

We are two en route for balanced travel.