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

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Singapore Day vs. Night

Singapore is one of those great Modern Asian Cities full of tall buildings with fantastic architecture, gigantic malls around every corner and lights on everything when the sun goes down. Singapore is equally as beautiful during the day as it is at night. Which do you prefer?

Both day and night were spectacular to see, however, to us the night takes the win! What do you think?

We are two en route exploring Singapore 

Thai Street Food, enough said!

Part of experiencing Thailand is eating the street food! Out of everywhere in the world we have visited and all the travelers we have had the honor to meet, everyone is in agreeance that Thai Street food is the best in the world. From hot and spicy to sweet and savory here is our picks for the best of the best in our Thai street food experience.

1. Tom Yum Goong Noodles

Tom Yum Noodle is a very popular dish in Thailand. With its intense flavor combination of sweet, sour and spicy it’s hard not to love.

2. Pad Thai

Probably the most well-known Thai dish, Pad Thai is a staple of Thai street food. It is a combination of stir fried noodles, fried egg, shrip, firm tofu, tamarind pulp, fish sauce, garlic, pepper, and red chilis poured over flat rice noodles. Often topped with fresh shallots, peanuts, sprouts and banana blossoms.

3. Chicken Stir-Fry in Oyster Sauce

This is a simple chicken and vegetable stir-fry tossed in oyster sauce and served with steamed rice. Anyone could make this is about 3 minutes which makes it the perfect on-the-go street food. 

4. Pineapple Fried Rice

Probably the second most well known Thai dish with expats. This dish is the perfect balance of sweet and savory. Generally this dish is served in a pineapple half filled with rice, shrimp, pineapple, cashews, garlic, onion, red chilis, raisins, egg, and peas that have been tossed in soy or fish sauce. 

5. Khao Pad Gong

Khao pad gong is another simple street food dish. It’s a basic stir-fry with the addition of tomatoes, cucumber and coriander leaves. Ofter served with fresh shirmp you have to open yourself. 

6. Thai Basil Chicken

This is the dish to go for in order to feel the heat! It’s a simple mix of chicken, basil, shallots, garlic and fresh cut red chilis tossed in a fish sauce and served with steamed rice. The fresh cut red chilis are everything you want for a powerful punch of intensity.

7. Mango Sticky Rice

At first we didn’t know what we were going to get when we heard we had to try “Mango Stick Rice.” However, this Thai dessert is so delicious in every bite. It is fresh cut mangos eaten with sticky rice topped with coconut milk and sometimes rice crispy or toasted sesame seed.

8. Thai Rolled Ice Cream

Ever since we saw a video of someone making Thai tolled ice cream, we knew we had to find some!  It is milk with you choice of flavors and fillings stirred and chopped with metal spatulas on a frozen slab. It is then spread into a thin sheet and scrapped off into rolls and packed into a cup. It was then topped with whipped cream, more goodies, and sauce. Delicious! 

9. Coconut Ice Cream

This is exactly what it sounds like! It’s the perfect blend of cream and coconut ice cream served in a coconut half and drizzeled with chocolate sauce and coconuts. 

10. Pint of Chang Beer

No street food list would be completed without enjoying a golden pint of Chang beer. It’s cheap, good and cleaner than the water, so drink up! Cheers!

We are two en route for more enjoying more of the worlds best street food

25 of Our Favorite Great Barrier Reef Photos

One of the natural wonders of the world is the Great Barrier Reef. This 2400-kilometer (1400 mile) beauty stretched from Australia’s east coast to the southern coast of Papua New Guinea. It has some of the most diverse and unique sea life in the world. It comes as no surprise that feasting our eyes on this natural wonder was on our “must see list” before we took off on our world tour. Armed with our GoPro Hero+ (classic), we dove in and explored the reef. Here are 25 of our favorite photos.   

 Us starting our snorkel adventures!
Us starting our snorkel adventures!
 All the beautiful color of the corals
All the beautiful color of the corals
 We found Nemo! 
We found Nemo! 
 Kevin with a Jelly 
Kevin with a Jelly 
 Loving all the unique corals
Loving all the unique corals
 One of our fish friends
One of our fish friends
 Loved this guy. He was so cool. Reminds us of Little Shop of Horrors. 
Loved this guy. He was so cool. Reminds us of Little Shop of Horrors. 
 Our Sea Turtle buddy.
Our Sea Turtle buddy.
 Exploring the reef with fish 
Exploring the reef with fish 
 Great textures all around
Great textures all around
 I really cool long yellow fish
I really cool long yellow fish
 These coral moved with the currents. So memorizing!
These coral moved with the currents. So memorizing!
 Going to school with the fish.
Going to school with the fish.
 Free diving through these big caves in the reef was super cool
Free diving through these big caves in the reef was super cool
 More amazing textures under the sea
More amazing textures under the sea
 Another great school of fish in one of the reef caverns
Another great school of fish in one of the reef caverns
 The colors were WOW
The colors were WOW
 The lone fish who caught out eye
The lone fish who caught out eye
 Brad found a Jelly!
Brad found a Jelly!
 Quinessential coral
Quinessential coral
 Cool fish hanging out over the coral
Cool fish hanging out over the coral
 The reef went on forever!
The reef went on forever!
 Moody Blues on this coral
Moody Blues on this coral
 Kevin down in the reef. Thumbs up!
Kevin down in the reef. Thumbs up!
 The boat, the Ocean, the Great Barrier Reef... we couldn't have asked for anything else.
The boat, the Ocean, the Great Barrier Reef… we couldn’t have asked for anything else.

We are two en route for more photo fun

In search of the Sahara

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Prior to coming to Marrakech, we hadn’t even thought about going to the Sahara Desert. Since we decided to spend two weeks here to “rest and relax” from three months of travel we had plenty of time to slow down and take it all in. A great side effect from settling in for a couple of weeks is the unexpected opportunities that have presented themselves.

After doing a little research and a little haggling we ended up booking a 3-day/2-night excursion from Marrakech to the Sahara Desert for only 600 MAD a person, around $60 American. After spending a lot of time together with other people that booked the trip, we learned most people paid around 900 MAD ($90) per person; we got a great deal for sure! 

DAY 1

It was an early morning the day of departure, up at 5:45, breakfast at 6:30, out the door by 7:00. When we arrived at the Jamaâ el Fna, we were put on a van and we waited. Quickly we learned we were on Moroccan time, which means, no time schedule. Finally, the large van was filled with 19 people and we were on our way!

From the beginning the entire eclectic group clicked. We made friends fast and the laughing began. We were a van filled with like-minded, well-traveled people from all over the world. Countries represented were America (us), Canada, Sweden, Spain, Sicily, England, and Australia.

On the way to our first destination we stopped a few times for photo-ops, bathrooms, refreshments and to just stretch our legs. This was much needed because there would be a lot of driving during this trip. The Sahara is on the other side of Morocco. We noticed that everyone was selling geodes on the side of the road for next to nothing! Kevin knows a lot of designers and clients would fill a suitcase full of them.

After stopping for lunch we headed to Aït Ben Haddou, a Berber city 235km east of Marrakech. Berbers are the tribal people of Morocco. The homes that you see will hold up to 20+ people form a single family. We then took a moment to soak in the sun and enjoy the signs of the city from afar before crossing the “Berber Bridge” to make our way into the city and explore her many winding streets.

Inside the city there were many local families that owned shops and markets. We were invited into a man’s home to watch him demonstrate making sugar art.  He painted sugar with pigments on paper and then cooked it over and open flame to reveal the art.

Back in the van and on the road to Taourirt Kasbah, our next destination. Taourirt Kasbah is a UNESCO world heritage site and is mostly in ruins. We did not go inside, however, after reading many reviews about the place, it’s probably best we did not waste our time. The highlight of this stop was we a local street musician stopped by our group and began to play a song for us. “How are you, how are you,” the title we gave the made up song, became our theme song the rest of the trip, we could not stop laughing with joy.

Our final pit stop was in the Valley of the Roses. It was not the time of year to see anything bloom, however, we were greeted by a beautiful sunset. By this time, we were all a little worn out from a long day of driving. We enjoyed the super moon rising as we made our way to the final stop of the day.

Our accommodation for the evening was a hotel nestled in the Gorges du Dadés. There was almost no light, and you could see the starts very clear. We settled into our chilly room and headed to the bar, time to relax! At the bar and during dinner we began to get past the introductory small talk and have more in depth conversations. As one of our van mates put it, “The universe knew what it was doing when it put us all on the van together.”

DAY 2

Today we got to sleep in until 6:30am, a real treat from the day before (we got jokes). After eating breakfast and enjoying the views from the rooftop of the hotel we headed out for another day of adventure.

Our first stop of the day was in the village of Tingher. Here we toured through a four-family community farm to get an understanding of how they work the land and make a living. Community farms are normal throughout Morocco.

After strolling though the farm, we made our way into the town. While in the town we were invited into a local rug makers home to share tea and learn how his Berber family have been hand making rugs on a vertical loom for generations. Each rug can take up to 6 months to make by hand. The quality and craftsmanship was unreal. Kevin was in designer heaven!

Following this, we decided to purchase a few Keffiyehs, a headdress Berber people use to protect themselves from the sun. This would be needed for the Sahara Desert later. We learned how to properly wrap around our heads and headed to enjoy a fantastic lunch on a great patio with the best of company.

Now that our bellies were full we drove to the Gorges Toudra and took a short hike between the towering walls of rock. The driver said this was like their Grand Canyon of Morocco. It was beautiful.

With the Gorges Toudra in the rearview mirror, we journeyed on to the much anticipated Sahara Desert. You could visibly see the landscape changing with every kilometer we drove closer. When we arrived, the mood was nothing short of ecstatic. We put on our backpacks, hopped on our camels and rode off into the sunset over the Sahara Desert. An incredible experience.

An hour and a half passed before we made it to our camp site for the evening. We unloaded into the tents and explored around before dinner. Dinner was a family style traditional Berber dinner with chicken tajine, bread, rice and after dinner fruit.

After dinner we decided to hike up the tallest dune next to the camp to see the desert at night. The dine was a lot taller then it looked and the hike was hard because of the unstable sand but euphoric when reached the top. Because of the light form the super moon, we were able to see the desert go for what seemed like forever. This was one of those moments to never forget.

The hike back down was a lot easier with the momentum of gravity. We gathered with the rest of the group around the fire and listened to the two Berber men playing songs for us. We were all having such a great time, we even got up and dance around the fire while clapping our hands to the beat. The perfect ending to a fantastic day.

DAY 3

We woke up to see the sunrise. We decided to hike back up the tall dune to get the best view of the sun showing its face for the first time today. It was so peaceful and picturesque.

With the sun in the sky it was time to gear up, hop back on the camels, and head to breakfast.

On the 12-hour journey back to Marrakech we retraced our path that lead us to the Sahara. We made a few stops along the way through the twisty and mountain roads, but all-in-all we hunkered down and powered through to get back to Marrakech.

Our journey to the Sahara was long and it was full of all sorts of wonderful sights along the way. This was a journey we will never forget.

We are two en route to search for more journeys  

Discovering the Ancient Ruins of Polonnaruwa

Sri Lanka has been full of surprises. It was never on our “must visit” list of countries. However, when taking a gap year to see the world we knew we would have to be open to going where the cheap flights, busses, boats, trains or cars would take us. We are so glad that one of those flights landed us on this special tear-drop shaped island off the Southern coast of India. 

One of the major highlights of our trip to Sri Lanka was getting to explore the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Polonnaruwa, we know, it’s a mouth full to try and say. Polonnaruwa is a city in the North Center Province of Sri Lanka. At one point, like many other cities in Sri Lanka, it was the capital of the country. In fact, it is the second most ancient capital. Today it is a mass of ruins crawling with cute little monkeys and travelers like us exploring the past. 

We decided the best way to explore this city was by our favorite means of transportation, the bicycle. We would recommend this. For only 300 lkr per person (about $2 USD) we set off to explore the ruins…or so we thought. At the entrance we were turned away because we did not have a ticket. It turns out that you have the by the tickets from the Archeological Museum 1km back into town. After shelling out 3750 lkr ($25 USD) each, we biked back to the entrance and started to discover the 5 areas of this wonderful ancient site. 

1. The Royal Palace Grounds

This part of the city contains the Royal Palace, Council Chamber and the Kumara Pakuna (bathing pool). They say first impressions are all you get and we were wowed. 

The Royal Palace was thought to have been a 7-story high palace in it’s time but now only stands as a three story ruin. Records saw there use to be up to 1000 rooms in this grand palace. A fantastic way to start our exploring.

The Council Chamber was where the King’s throne use to be. As you walk the few flights of stairs you are greeted by two stunning carved lions.  

We would not suggest taking a dip in the stagnant bathing pool, however, it was awesome to see the remnants of how this civilization would gather in communal bathing. 

2. Quadrangle 

The Quadrangle was one of our favorites. The entire area is sacred ground so we had to remove our shoes and hats. Shoulders and knees are not supposed to be shown either, so out of respect, people will wrap a scarf around their waist or throw a shawl over their shoulders. Sri Lanka is a hot country and the ground you are walking on is stone and gravel, so at times we would need to find a shaded spot to cool our feet off. 

The vatadage in the Quadrangle is an 18 meter round relic house. Their are four entrances that lead to the central chamber which houses four Buddha statues. At the base of the northern entrance is a moonstone that is the best in all of Polonnaruwa.

The Thuparama Image House is one of the few buildings where you can see a roof still intact. This building has survived for over 900 years and takes some maintenance to keep up appearances. 

Atadage Dalada Maligaya is where the Tooth Relic of the Buddha was kept in Polonnaruwa. This would have been a very sacred place where people would have come to worship and meditate. The Velikkara pillar of inscription tells the story of protection of the Relic of the Tooth. 

Sathmahal Prasadaya is the most popular square shaped stupa in all of Sri Lanka. It’s seven-stories high and is a defining structure in the Quadrangle. 

Nissanka Latha Mandapaya is a building featuring fine stone carved pillars shaped like a stork topped with a lotus flower. They are a fun and unique feature in Polonnaruwa. 

Gal Potha is the “Stone Book” which tells of King Nissanka Malla (1187-1196). It describes his life as the ruling king and why he was eligible to be king of Sri Lanka. The stone is 26’10” x 4’7″ and weighs around 25 tons. Pictures is the side showing a beautiful carving of two elephants showering the Hindu goddess Lakshmi. 

3. The Outskirts

These few sites were a little off the beaten path but we had bikes so it was not a problem hitting all the spots. 

Shiva Devale No. 2 is the oldest structure in Polonnaruwa and is virtually unchanged from when it was constructed.

Manik Vehera is one of the oldest stupas (a domed shaped structure erected as a Buddhist shrine) in the ancient city. It is small compared to the other stupas in Polonnaruwa but still packs a punch. 

The Pabalu Vehera stupa is one of mystery. It is unknown when and who built this unique shaped building. Traditionally stupas have only four image houses surrounding them, however, Pabalu has nine.

4. Northern City

The largest area in Polonnaruwa is the Northern City. Here is where you will find notable sites such as Rankoth Vehera, Kiri Vehara, Alahana Pirivena, and Lankatilaka temple.

Ronkoth Vehera is huge. It’s a 54 meter high stupa whos name translates to “Golden Pinnacle Stupa.” It is one of the most iconic stupas in Polonnaruwa.

Lankatilake temple houses a colossus size carving of the buddha. The power of it’s grand scale is matched by the remaining walls surrounding the sacred ground. Across are the monastic ruins of Alahana Pirivena where the monks would have lived.

Kiri Vehera, or “the milk stupa,” is only 30 meters tall but is hundreds of years older than the more recognized Rankoth Vehera. It is estimated to be from the 6th century BC. 

5. Gal Vihara

The final area of the ancient royal ruins of Polonnaruwa was a site to be seen.

Gal Vihara is a buddhist rock temple with four buddhas carved from a single piece of granite rock. It is considered the best example of carvings from it’s time. 

Not knowing what to expect as we rode the bus from Dambulla to Polonnaruwa turned out to be an awe inspiring experience. Even though the day was scalding hot and at times we felt exhausted by the sun, we had a fantastic time in Polonnaruwa. 

We are two en route to more ancient discoveries

Adventure to Ireland’s Cliffs of Moher

We started our journey waking up at 5:45am to get ready and head out the door by 6:15. Its times like this where we are glad to have perfected the “shower and go” routine. After walking 20 minutes to St. Andrew’s Church in Dublin to catch our coach we departed at 6:40am. 

On the way to the cliffs we passed by a large field where they filmed the scene in Braveheart where the Irish army runs down and join the Scotts! Where’s the blue and white face paint when you need it. As we continued or trek onward we had a proper Irish soundtrack in the background, fiddles, flutes and all. The tone for the day was set. 

A few hours later we made it to the Cliffs of Moher! It was a spectacular day with clear blue skies and shining sun. A day like this is a rarity in Ireland and one we would relish in. Upon arrival we set off on a 45 minute hike along the cliffs. 

  The view we were welcomed to as we waled up to the Cliffs of Moher
The view we were welcomed to as we waled up to the Cliffs of Moher
  The view we were welcomed to as we waled up to the Cliffs of Moher
The view we were welcomed to as we waled up to the Cliffs of Moher

The first stop on our hike was O’Brien’s Tower. It was built in 1835 as an impressive tea house. It is now the tallest point on the cliffs and is used as an observation tower. Near here the cliffs rise around 214 meters (702 ft.)

  O'Brien's Tower
O’Brien’s Tower

After a quick stop at the tower we continued on our hike. At some points we were hiking right along the edge of the Cliffs. Every now and then our breath was taken away with those picture perfect moments. 

 Brad hiking along the edge. 
Brad hiking along the edge. 
 Views as we hiked
Views as we hiked
 Came across this on our hike
Came across this on our hike
 Look how tiny those people are in the distant on the edge
Look how tiny those people are in the distant on the edge

The path was a slick and muddy so we both got a little mud on our hands, down the legs of our pants, and a good amount on our shoes. They say not to get too close to the edge because the cliffs can come crashing down, but we couldn’t resist. 

 Kevin dangling his feet over the edge
Kevin dangling his feet over the edge
 You wouldn't want to fall off the cliffs 
You wouldn’t want to fall off the cliffs 

Even with a slip here and there, we had such a blast. We made sure to take our time and enjoy the scenery. The end of our hike came to a crux with a view we will never forget.  

 The day was so clear you could even see the Aran Islands off in the distance. 
The day was so clear you could even see the Aran Islands off in the distance. 

After spending some time relaxing with a great view, basking in the sun, and listening to the waves crash against the cliffs, we made our way back to the start. It was time to hop on the coach and head off for more sightseeing. 

We are two en route for more Irish adventures.