The Studio Ghibli Museum, a Magical Journey

First off, let us tell you that getting tickets to the Ghibli museum is hard, so when we snagged some for our visit in April 2017, we were over-the-moon excited! We have wanted to visit the Ghibli Museum in Japan since our first trip to Tokyo in 2014 and as we arrived at the front gate of the museum the wave of happiness washed over us. It was a long time coming and now we have arrived.

Let’s bring it back to the question of “how” to get a ticket for the Ghibli Museum. Tickets are by reservation only and must be purchased ahead of time. No tickets are sold at the museum in person. There are three main ways to get tickets ahead of time.  

1. Lawson’s official online ticket store (english version) – At 10am, Japan time, on the 10th of the month, tickets for the the following month go on sale (i.e. on March 10th, tickets go on sale for April 1st – April 30th). These tickets are limited in number and sell out very quickly. We made sure we were up and online to secure our tickets. There was a lot of frustration as the website could not handle the volume of people who were trying to attain tickets. However, after 20 stressful minutes, we finally secured our tickets. COST: 1,000 JPY each ($9 USD)

2. Sales by the JTB sales offices located overseas – A limited number of tickets go on sale through these locations at the first of every month for the following 4 months. (i.e. on January 1st, tickets go on sale for the entire months of January, February, March, and April). We never had luck with this because the tickets were always sold out due to the limited number available through JTB.

3. When in Japan only, you can buy them at the Lawson convenient stores through a machine. We tried this back in 2014 and it was funny trying to figure it out. When we did figure it out, we realized they were sold out. Our advise is to buy them WAY ahead of time using method 1 or 2.  

There is one strict rule you MUST know before entering the museum. The person who purchased the tickets is required to be present with a print out of the ticket and a passport proving your identity. It MUST be a passport, because they match up your passport number with the number you provided to them when purchasing the tickets.   

With our passports in hand and our print outs checked, we could start entering the museum. As we entered, we were greeted by the nicest people at the front counter. They gave us our official tickets, which were cuts of film strips from a Studio Ghibli film, and reminded us that no photos were allowed once inside the museum, however photos could be taken in outside areas. The reason no photos are allowed inside is because they believe that the museum should be about transporting you into the magical world of Ghibli without distractions to yourself and to others.

Following the rules, we packed up our cameras after a quick photos of our tickets and transported ourselves into the wonderful world of Ghibli. Good thing there was no time limit to our visit, because we would spend the next few hours taking our time to immerse ourselves in the experience.

Stepping into the main atrium was magical. Everywhere you looked was made to put a smile on everyone’s face. From the stained-glass windows, donning characters from various Ghibli movies, to the bridge spanning across the second floor, the attention to detail was spectacular.

The first room on our tour was all about motion in films. The highlight in the room for us both was the live stop motion display where clay figured were posed on a wheel that spun very quickly while strobe lights flashed at a fast pace giving the figured that appearance of movement. Everything has already exceeded our wildest expectations.Stepping into the main atrium was magical. Everywhere you looked was made to put a smile on everyone’s face. From the stained-glass windows, donning characters from various Ghibli movies, to the bridge spanning across the second floor, the attention to detail was spectacular.

Included in the Ghibli museum ticket is admission to the museums animated short film. These shorts have been produced for and shown only at the museum. These films are rotated between throughout the year so there is always a good reason to come back and watch more. We were lucky enough to see “Water Spider Monmon.” We were oohing and aweing just like the all of the other kids and adults.

After the movie, we decided to head up to the rooftop to get whatever sunshine was left for the day since the rain was supposed to roll in soon. The way to the roof is via the third floor up an outdoor spiral staircase. The rooftop is one of the few places where photography is allowed and good thing because who wouldn’t want to take a photo with the Robot from “Castle in the Sky”.

After our fun on the roof we headed back to the second floor to continue looking through more of the most amazing permanent and special exhibitions. The special exhibition when we were there was “All Aboard! The Cat Bus to the Ghibli Forest.” It was incredible. We entered into the room and realized we were inside of the famous Cat Bus from “My Neighbor Totoro”. Other amazing features in the room was an eight-foot tall model of the mechanical castle from “Hal’s Movie Castle.” You could even peek right in the windows a see Calcifer burning in the chimney. 

From the second floor we made our way out to the Straw Hat Cafe for a snack. As with any museum, the prices were slightly higher than eating at a cafe elsewhere, but we couldn’t say no to a chance to get the full Ghibli experience. The “Porco Rosso” sign outside let us know the menu for the day, good thing there was an english menu inside. We each ordered a coffee and a shared a piece of cake. The late had a super adorable hat sprinkled on it in cocoa and the cake was topped with a Totoro flag, sheer perfection! 

Our final room in the museum was Miyazaki Hayao’s studio, he is the director of the Studio Ghibli films. Every surface of these few rooms were filled to the brim with sketches, painted layers of favorite characters, fully realized designs, and much, much more. We were kids in a candy store. Our appreciation for the magic that is created by Studio Ghibli has grown so much. It is absolutely amazing how kids and adults can be transported into wonderful stories that teach us about ourselves and the world around. 

Before leaving the museum, we made our way up to the gift shop on the third floor to look around. We ended up buying a few little things we had not seen for sale anywhere else to commemorate our journey into the magical world of Studio Ghibli. This is an experience we will cherish forever. 

We are two en route for more magical moments.

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Top 10 free or cheap things to do in Bangkok

Bangkok is such a fascinating city. With sprawling, traditional street markets full of some of the world’s best street food to cutting edge modern skyscrapers and malls with all of the new world comforts, It is the epicenter of where East meets West. We spent a combined 10-days in Bangkok exploring every nook and cranny, some more than once, and put together this list of our top 10 free or cheap things to do!

1. Chatuchak Weekend Market

Cost: FREE – This is the place to be on the weekend! It’s one of the world’s largest weekend markets with over 8,000 stalls. The market open from 9am -6pm on the weekend and we spent nearly the whole day exploring each and every corner.  It had everything from books, food and clothing to any souvenir you could ever want to take home.

2. Chinatown

Cost: FREE – We love a good Chinatown and Bangkok has one! During the day, the hustle and bustle is shopping through the vendors with bulk items and unique individual finds. While at night, it’s all about the delicious street food culture and bright lights.

3. Wat Pho

Cost: 100 baht ($3) – One of the main tourist sites in all of Bangkok is Wat Pho and what’s great is it is so cheap to feast your eyes on her beauty. It is one of the most important temples in Thailand because of its connection to King Rama I, said to be the founder of Thailand. Wat Pho is also home of the world famous Reclining Buddha which is one of the largest in Thailand laying at 15 meters high and 46 meters long. Very impressive to see. 

4. Rooftop Bar Drinks

Cost: 180 baht ($5.25) per pint of beer – Bangkok has a beautiful skyline with some really unique buildings. Our favorite was the MahaNakhon building which looks like it is being digitally created. The best views of this and the city are from Cloud 47. We loved it here because they allow casual attire and the cocktails are nearly half the cost than some of Bangkok’s other rooftop bars, not to mention, it really does have the most superb view. We went an hour before sunset so we could enjoy the skyline day, dusk, and night! 

5. Wat Arun (Temple of the Dawn)

Cost: 50 baht ($1.50) – This was one of Kevin’s favorite places to visit because of how many wonderful things were around the temple complex. While the central Khmer-style tower was under construction, we could still see the beauty of the painted porcelain all around. Next to the temple is the Ordination Hall which is guarded by two guardian demons. An easy 2.5 hours was spent in awe of all the details. 

6. Foot Massage

150 baht ($4.35) – After walking all over Bangkok it was time to pamper ourselves. Everywhere you go in Thailand you see foot massage places. Some look seedy like you might catch something if you take your shoes off while others are packed, so you know it’ll be above board. We chose the 30-minute foot massage which included a leg rub and smooth oils. We were in heaven.

7. Khaosan Road

Cost: FREE – Khaosan Road is known as the backpackers district of Bangkok so you know it’s a lively place to see. Because it is full of like-minded budget travelers, this is the place to find a good deal. Trinkets are cheap and the beers are even cheaper! Nighttime is when Khaosan Road truly shines. 

8. Eat Street Food

Cost: 50 – 200 baht ($1.50-$5.75) – Thailand is known for having the world’s best street food so it would be ashamed if you didn’t try it all! Most street food like Pad Thai and Thai Basil Chicken will run you around the 60-100 baht ($1.75-$3), while other signature dishes, such as, Tom Yum Goong or Pineapple Fried Rice will set you back 200 baht ($5.75). Be sure to check out our favorite Thailand street foods

9. Take a boat down the Chao Phraya River

Cost: 15 baht ($0.45)– Hop on the boar with the orange flag and you are in for a cheap and fun experience. Not only is this the fasted and cheapest way to get into the old town of Bangkok, it give you some of the most incredible views! 15 baht is what they charge no matter how long you ride it, so why not use the opportunity to see the city through the eyes of a local. 

10. Wat Trai Mit

Cost: 40 baht ($1.20) – This is a stunning historic Buddhist temple just on the edge of Chinatown. It is adorned with fantastic guilding and houses the infamous 5.5 ton (11,000 pound) 18 karat gold Buddha statue with the most fascinating history. For over 200 years it was plastered over in stucco and no one knew it was made of gold until one day it was discovered by accident.

Of course there are many more things to do in Bangkok we did no mention here due to their cost. However, we would recommend doing each. #1 – Go to a Calypso Cabaret Show, costs 900 baht ($27) and features amazingly talented transgender artists dancing and lip-syncing for their lives. #2 visit the Grand Palace, costs 500 bath ($14.50), it’s filled with a lot of history and has some top-notch architecture. 

We are two en route for free or cheap explorations 

THE UPDATE: What’s in our Backpack:

When we left for our world exploration adventure we did a lot of research, thinking, and list-making about what we were going to put in our 46-liter backpack. After 9-months of traveling we have made some discoveries of things we needed and didn’t have, as well as, things we rarely used. Still feeling we chose the right bag, here is an update on what is now in our backpacks.

(click here to see what we originally decided to pack)

MISC ADDITIONS:

  • 1 x Note pad – It’s been great for taking notes about everything
  • 1 x Adult coloring book and set of map pencils – adult relaxation time! (ended up sending it home because we wanted to get the weight of our bags down to 9 kg)
  • 1 x Smaller Sling Bag – sometimes our 12-liter day packs are too big for just the essentials

SHIRTS

  • 3 x T-Shirts
  • 2 x Collared Shirts – Had 3 but realized we didn’t wear them as much as we did back home.
  • 3 x Tank Tops – Started with two but we added one since we have been in a lot of summer places!
  • 1 x Long Sleeve T-Shirt

JACKETS

These take up almost half of our bag…really wish we didn’t have to have these for the few times we were in cooler places. Probably would have bought when we needed and donated so we had more room in our bag…still debating whether to send clothes home. 

  • 1 x Hoodie (both got new ones 8-months into the trip)
  • 1 x Synthetic Down Jacket
  • 1 x Rain Jacket

PANTS/SHORTS

  • 1 x Jeans
  • 2 x Long Pants (zip-off) – had to replace 1 pair of pants (one pair was ruined because Kevin ironed his synthetic pants)
  • 3 x Shorts – We had 2 pair but added one – we are in more warm weather places
  • 1 x Comfy Shorts (for lounging around) – Added 1 pair of comfy pants, for the lounging times
  • 1 x Rain Pants –  We have been fairly lucky with the weather and haven’t needed to use them but a few times, probably would not have packed them. (sent home)

SHOES

  • 1 x Hiking Shoes
  • 1 x Flip Flops – Replaced after 8-months

OTHER CLOTHING

  • 2 x Swim Suites – Added 1 pair, because they were awesome and had to have them
  • 5 x Underwear
  • 5 x Socks
  • 1 x Hat
  • 1 x Belt
  • 1 x Gloves – Rarely use, probably would not have packed since we do not go to many super cold places (sent home)
     
  • ADDITIONS
    • 1 x oversized Scarf – great to use as a sarong for temples and scarf for chilly weather
    • 1 x beanie – the UK got a little cold and it was worth the few dollars. (sent home in summer)

ACCESSORIES

  • 1 x Travel Towel – rarely use because places provide them, but they are super nice when we do need them
  • 1 x Sleeping Bag – After 11 days we got rid of them (we knew we would)
  • 1 x Handkerchief
  • 1 x Sunglasses & Case – Lost and replaced multiple pairs…Kevin looses his all the time.
  • 1 x Water Bottle – Our collapsible one finally bit the dust. Currently using normal water bottles to refill.
  • 1 x Bag Rain Cover
  • 1 x Lock
  • 1 x Security Cable
  • 1 x Digital Bag Scale
  • 1 x Multi-Tool Carabiner
  • 1 x Eye Mask – rarely use (sent home)
  • 6 x Ear Plugs 
  • 1 x Waterproof Bag
  • 3 x Ziplock Bags 
  • 15 x Clothes Pins – a few broke along the way, but these were life savers for laundry days
  • 1 x Clothes Line
  • 1 x Sewing Kit
  • 1 x Toiletries (all the goodies)
  • 1 x Electric Shaver
  • 1 x First Aid Kit
  • 1 x Wine Bottle Opener – Spain’s equivalent to the TSA confiscated it from us saying it was not approved to travel with. It was a sad day.
  • 1 x Collapsible Silicone Cup 
  • 1 x Business Cards
  • 1 x Journal – Just purchased our second journal because we filled up our first one
  • 1 x Pen – We have back ups for when the ink runs out
     
  • ADDITIONS
    • 1 x electric hair clippers – we cut each others hair 95% of the time to save money

ELECTRONICS / GADGETS

  • 1 x Phone  (Brad’s phone died and we are still figuring out if we need a second phone for him during the last few months of travel)
  • 1 x Computer
  • 1 x External HDD 
  • 1 x Ethernet Cable
  • 1 x Camera, Extra Battery, & Extra Memory Card
  • 1 x GoPro, Remote, & GoPro Stick – Have never used the remote. We can get an app on our phone to use so the remote is obsolete (sent remote home)
  • 1 x Mini Tripod  (replaced with a new know 9-month into the trip, Kevin’s b-day present)
  • 1 x Rechargeable AA Batteries
  • 1 x Universal Power Adaptor – LIFE SAVER: It has worked beautifully. It also has two built-in USP ports. Only in South Africa did we have to purchase a separate plug adaptor.
  • 1 x Headphones
  • 1 x 2-Way Audio Amp (so we can listen to the same thing at the same time)
  • 1 x Jambox MINI
  • 1 x iPod Nano – LIFE SAVER: For those long, long journeys on busses and trains it is essential for listening to a good book or rocking out to music (plus side, it doesn’t kill our phone battery)
  • 1 x USB Car Charger & USB Battery Pack
     
  • ADDITIONS
    • 1 x computer mouse – Brad hates using a track pad when playing some computer games
    • 1 x external hard drive – we take A LOT of photos!

5 Steps to see The Great Barrier Reef on a Budget

Before we left on our trip around the world we made a list of “must sees.” One must see that was on the top of our list was The Great Barrier Reef, a 2400 kilometer long stretch of thousands of coral reefs and hundreds of islands.  Thousands of fish, mollusks and starfish, multiple types of turtles, dolphins and sharks all call this wonderful place home. (click here to see 25 of our favorite great barrier reef photos we captured when exploring)

Now, it’s hard to speak about anything in Australia and associating it with the word “budget” because nothing comes cheap in the land down under. However, we were able to minimize our costs by following a few simples steps.

Step 1. Find a Cheap Flight in

Like all countries we visit around the world we always look for the lowest cost way into a country. To enter Australia, we flew on a budget airline, one-way, from Bali, a relatively close country. Because we were already so close this kept our cost down to $208 USD per person. A great deal, we thought, since flights from the states are easily five times this price. We saved even more money because our flight was the overnight red eye and there was no need to pay for lodging that night. Of course the consequence of that it we were super tired when we arrived into Cairns.

Step 2. Transportation to and from the Airport

Cairns is a small city and there is no public transportation directly linked to the airport. We often times find that it’s the same price as public transport and cheaper than a taxi to take Uber or Lyft into town, however, these companies do not operate in Cairns. It always amazes us how hard it is in some cities to get to and from the airport. With some quick research we found that the easiest and most affordable way to make the 3 kilometer journey into town is with the Cairns Backpackers Shuttle. They have a backpackers special that will take you to and from your Cairns CBD accommodation for only $10 AUD return. Be aware this has to be booked online at least 24-hours ahead of time.

Step 3. Affordable Accommodations

Cairns has accommodations that cater to the budget conscious individuals to the travelers who want to live in opulence while on vacation. Cairns is also an infamous backpacker friendly city. It seems like we are not the only people who have the dream of snorkeling or diving The Great Barrier Reef. We stayed in the Parramatta Park neighborhood which is known as Backpackers District because of the high concentration of hostels and guest houses. We stayed at Ryan’s Rest and was able to snag a private room with a shared bath for $38 USD per night. The backpackers district is also within walking distance of Reef Fleet Terminal, where all the tour boats depart from.

Step 4. Cook Your Own Food and Drink Wine

A cheap meal in Australia is around $15 AUD ($12 USD) per person, add a drink on top of that and expect a hole to burn in your pocket. This can quickly add up when eating three meals a day. Our advice is to head to the grocery store and stock up on the grub. In Australia, often times grocery stores are found in shopping malls. By doing this we were able to get our meal costs down to an average $5 USD per meal while still having a full belly! Going out in Cairns is another way to spend your budget fast. However, we did find that wine was good and cheap. So if you want to have that glass of wine with your meal, drink up! Cheers!

Step 5. Select the right The Reef Tour

This is where the bulk of your budget is going to go and that’s okay, you did not come to see The Great Barrier Reef and not experience it’s wonder. There is a plethora of companies that operate one, two, even three day tours of the reef and islands that accompany them. We opted for the 1-day snorkeling reef experience with Compass Cruises for $109 AUD ($84 USD) per person. Compass Cruises’ boats are slightly older than some of the others we saw on the dock but it’s not the boat we came to see.

When we arrived we found out that our older vessel was broken down and that we had been “upgraded” to another company with a nicer boat so unfortunately we cannot let you know how the boats were for Compass Cruises. What we can let you know is the crew was spectacular since they followed us over to our new ride for the day.

Our day on board was fantastic. We started with complementary tea and coffee. As we sipped our mugs on the way to the outer reef, the on board marine biologist gave a presentation explaining the reef and wildlife we could possibly see. Our excitement began to build!

After an hour journey we made it to Hastings Reef, a part of the outer reef. It was time to put on our sexy stinger suits (a one piece) and jump in to feast our eyes on The Great Barrier Reef! From the moment we entered the water we were hooked. We had over three hours of snorkel time in the water at Hastings Reef. Kevin was even the last one out of the water, he never wanted to leave. In the hours spent snorkeling we saw so much!  

Lunch on board was top notch. We feasted like kings while we headed to Jorgensen Patch, our second snorkel location. Here the waters were a little rougher and the reef deeper. We had do to a lot more free diving style maneuvers to get up close and personal with this beautiful work of nature. It was worth every moment since we were lucky enough to see a sea turtle! Cue the excitement dance!

After an hour of snorkeling we were properly tired for the day and headed back on board for the complementary wine and cheese on our way to the harbor. From the sunny weather to the attentive crew, we could not have asked for a more wonderful day of snorkeling The Great Barrier Reef.

We are two en route for more wonderful budget travel experiences.

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

GUEST BLOG POST: My Gay Night out in Frankfurt by Viaja Bi!

Germany is one of the most advanced countries in Europe and one of the most outstanding about acceptance to LGBT, specially its capital, Berlin. But the gay night in Frankfurt, though much quieter than Berlin, offers its options.

Note that there are two cities called Frankfurt in Germany. A not so well known is Frankfurt an der Oder, which borders the city of Slubice (Poland), in north-eastern Germany, near Berlin. The most famous one is the other, Frankfurt am Main, also known only as Frankfurt, It’s in the central-western area of the country and it is the one I’ll talk about here today.

I visited the city at the very end of January 2015, with my father, in a backpack trip through the four countries bordering the Czech Republic (Germany, Poland, Slovakia and Austria) and paying a quick visit to Hungary! All in 15 days! 

 Happiness on day one of the backpacking trip in Frankfurt!
Happiness on day one of the backpacking trip in Frankfurt!

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Frankfurt was our first stop and at the very first night, a Saturday, I left my dad at the hostel where we were (read here the review) and went to check the city buzz.

My father wanted to go along with me, but as we had arrived that day, walked all day and it was cold outside, he preferred to stay at the hostel and have a well slept night.

My Gay Night in Frankfurt, Germany

“Let’s shake that ass, baby! Ohhh, please!!!”

With a quick research, I tried to list what seemed to be the best options of the gay night in Frankfurt. I got the addresses, put the map on my phone, and there I was facing the German cold with courage. The gay district of the city is the center (Innenstadt), close to the street Alte Gasse.

Despite being a Saturday, do not expect from Frankfurt a very hectic scene. My choice was a circuit near Zeil street, the famous and posh shopping street in town. There’s a block there that brings together several bars and clubs for LGBT between the Alte Gasse and Elenfantengasse streets.

I started at the Central Bar (check the map). The bar was very small and I got the feeling that the people who go there are regulars. I ordered a drink and stayed a while there even though it was a “half dead” environment. It felt super weird. Not the bar itself, but it felt weird to arrive alone in a bar or club in a city where I didn’t live, not knowing the customs, and it turns out to be full of the “regulars.” 

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Gay night in Frankfurt: Kaiserstraße, the street from my hostel

The second bar was, literally next door to the Central Bar, but I cannot remember its name, nor found it in the research. Sorry, honey! As soon as you enter, you go down a staircase and the club/bar is below street level. It was not my scene, so, of course, I would not recommend.

Third place I stopped is called Tangerine and was more like a pub and was, perhaps, the most enjoyable of the three, having a more relaxed atmosphere, not so posh, but not so underground. I remember the clerk to be super friendly and the public more relaxed, although not so full.

It was pretty strange for me that nowhere was busy on a Saturday night, but from what I learned talking to the people there, gay night Frankfurt is really calm. Good for you to know before going out in Frankfurt, I didn’t.

Because I was looking for more upbeat, I felt a bit frustrated. I thought about going to Gibson, a club at Zeil and the most famous the city. It is not totally gay, but has a LGBT night called Delicious. Since it happened to be that night, I said to myself, “let’s go!”… But I was barred at the door! 😮

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It turns out that in Germany, it is common that the security guards standing at the door assess whether or not you can enter the club. I was in jeans and T-shirt, but on a more tidy footprint, and the sweater was smart casual. But he said I was not well dressed enough! It was an outrage, you know, but will I discuss in German? Of course not! My 1 year and a half of German classes helped me to order in restaurants, but not to argue how my presence was renowned and I would brighten up the place. Then I went away, right? LOL

What I had for the night was turn back to the hostel and rest well because Frankfurt is an amazing city (that I loved and want to go back), and has a lot to do during the day. 

Other Frankfurt Gay Night Options

You can’t get to know everything in such a short time, but in addition to the options already mentioned, on my fabulous research I found some other points around the city you can test if you’re there for a longer time. Shall we?

Gay bars in Frankfurt

You can try the Zum Schwejk, which is super traditional, or Babylon Frankfurt, which has karaoke on Wednesday nights. Lucky’s has karaoke on Tuesdays and is known for low prices. Halo is open every day from 8pm and has shows, warming up the gay night of Frankfurt. If your style is more of a pub, worth trying the Birmingham Pub, which is popular with gay clients.

But the Switchboard, besides being a café bar, is also a support site on HIV/AIDS, providing care to the public. On Sunday evenings, the locals usually go for coffee and cake there. During the year, there are some events and lectures.

Gay clubs in Frankfurt

Club 78 plays songs of the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s on two floors and is recommended in the gay night for those who like to party, that’s why they organized a gay cruise last September.

The party Atomic, which takes place on the second Friday of each month at the club Nachtleben, offers a more indie/pop party for a mostly younger audience. Admission is €5.

Delicious, in Gibson, mentioned before, only happens 3 times a year and is your highlight if you want to know the selected people from Frankfurt. Each party has a unique theme with spectacular shows and outstanding production! The dates are posted on the official website.

Not totally gay but still fabulous

The Alte Oper Frankfurt is a historic building in Frankfurt. It is a venue used for musicals, concert and other posh events. Great for a sophisticated gay night out. Also, it doesn’t hurt that it’s very handsome! 😉 

 Alte Oper, Frankfurt, Germany
Alte Oper, Frankfurt, Germany

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And that’s not all! If you want to know more about the gay life and other attractions in Frankfurt, here is the translated version of what I told about Frankfurt at Viaja Bi!.

Hope I had helped you all and thank you guys for inviting me to write here! Loved it! See ya!

Rafael Leick is a Brazilian travel blogger at Viaja Bi! and Viagem Primata. Communication specialist and more than 30 years-old, have lived in London and São Paulo. Follow at Instagram, YouTube and Facebook.

Guide to Visiting the Pyramids of Giza

Today we were reflecting on our day spent at the only remaining wonder of the ancient world. Some people would say that an entire day is entirely too long to spend seeing the pyramids, we beg to differ. Our approach was to take our time, explore every nook and cranny we could find, and soak it all in. Here is our guide on how to visit the Pyramids of Giza. 

Where to stay:

 View from our hotel room. Giza, Egypt 2016
View from our hotel room. Giza, Egypt 2016

The current climate of Egypt can be worrisome and because of this we recommend staying in a western owned hotel as close to the pyramids as possible. We stayed at the Le Méridien Pyramids which is a Starwood property so we knew we could rely on staying there. Most hotels near the pyramids will run you between $45-$75 USD/night. 

How to get there:

You can get to the pyramids by many forms of transportation. We recommend Uber. It’s the safest and easiest way to get there and will only cost you around 130 EGP ($7 USD) each way if you are staying in Cairo. The plus side is you do not have to deal with haggling a price with a taxi and then feeling pressured to tip or navigating the hectic public transit routes. However, if you are wanting to take the bus find the 355 or 357 route and if you are taking the Metro, Line 2 will take you to Giza and from there you would need to walk a few kilometers or hail a taxi. 

Cost to visit:

 Pyramids overlooking the city of Giza, Egypt 2016
Pyramids overlooking the city of Giza, Egypt 2016

The cost to visit is dependent on what you want to do. The general admission into the complex itself is 80 EGP (Egyptian pounds) per person, roughly $4.50 USD, a steal in our opinion.   You will also have to decide right then if you want to go inside the Great Pyramid of Khufu. This will cost you 200 EGP per person ($11 USD). There are some other sites you can purchase tickets to get into at the ticket counter, however, they were not open to enter when we went. We did some asking around and it turns out their is nothing inside of them anyway. The only one worth going into is the Great Pyramid of Khufu.

Getting around inside:

 Kevin navigating the Pyramid complex. Giza, Egypt 2016
Kevin navigating the Pyramid complex. Giza, Egypt 2016

Once inside be prepared to be harassed relentlessly by people claiming you have to show them your ticket (which you don’t), vendors trying to sell you post cards or souvenirs (which you don’t need), guides selling their services to take you around the complex (wikipedia knows more then them), and men on camels trying to sell you a camel, horse or buggy ride around the complex (maybe later). 

 Solace from the peddlers trying to sell us nonsense. Giza, Egypt 2016
Solace from the peddlers trying to sell us nonsense. Giza, Egypt 2016

After shaking off all of the people, we decided to first explore on our own by foot. We are both in good shape so taking on the task of walking the very large area of the pyramid complex was not intimidating. This also gave us the opportunity to get away from the crowds hitting the “hot spots” and the vendors that accompanied them.

 Horseback riding around the Pyramid of Giza complex, 2016
Horseback riding around the Pyramid of Giza complex, 2016

Other ways you can get around are by camel, horse, or carriage. At one point we ended up taking a ride on two Arabian horses for the experience. It was the best way to get back to the beginning of after we had walked across the entire complex. The cost for any of these forms of transportation should be 50 EGP ($2.75 USD) per person. Never more! The ride will usually include a stop at some photo destinations along the way. Of course we tipped the guide afterwards to thank him for a fun experience.  

 Hanging out at the Sphinx. Giza, Egypt 2016
Hanging out at the Sphinx. Giza, Egypt 2016

5 Dos and 5 Don’ts:

It is easy to fall into the tourist trap so here are the dos and don’ts to follow when visiting. 

THE DOS:

  • DO bring food and water. The pyramids are in the desert which means you will dry out quickly. With all the people who will pester you through the day, none of them are food vendors so be sure to pack a lunch or bring snacks for when hunger hits and water for the thirst.
  • DO wear a hat or sunscreen. Unless you want to hang out in the shadows of the pyramids all day, you will encounter a lot of sun. SPF is your best friend for a long day at the pyramids.
  • DO go inside the Great Pyramid of Khufu. Climbing inside the inner chamber was a fun experience. This is the only time you may be at the pyramids so be sure to enjoy every moment.  
  • DO ride a camel, horse, or carriage. It seems touristy (and it is) however, the guide will take you out to the best photo spots and you will enjoy the wind blowing through your hair. 
  • DO take lots of photos! 
 Brad from inside the Great Pyramid of Khufu
Brad from inside the Great Pyramid of Khufu

THE DON’TS:

  • DON’T under any circumstance rush your visit. It’s easy to take a few pictures from the vantage points and say you have seen the pyramids, but truly experiencing them will be an everlasting memory to cherish.
  • DON’T climb on the pyramids. There are no climbing signs everywhere but people ignore that and crawl all over them. Respect this world wonder so they can be around another 4500 years.
  • DON’T let the harassers peddling stuff ruin your experience. As long as you do not say anything back to them and walk away, they will not bother you any longer. It felt like they had their own “turf” and once we got a certain distance they would stop following. The also are very intense near the entrance, as soon as you get away from that, they are fewer and farther between.
  • DON’T talk to anyone other than who you are traveling with. Usually you will be asked 1000 times “Where are you from?” The second you answer, they will continue to talk to you and give you advise, information and directions. They will expect a tip even after giving you information you did not want.
  • DON’T ride a camel, horse or carriage if it looks like the animals have been mistreated. We know it’s hard to tell sometimes, but when it is an obvious situation of mistreatment, find another person with a better treated animal. 
 Hieroglyphics from a tomb in the Pyramids complex. Giza, 2016
Hieroglyphics from a tomb in the Pyramids complex. Giza, 2016

At the end of the day the most important thing to remember to to enjoy the moment. Let the fact that the pyramids you have seen on TV, watched in Movies, and read about in books are within arms reach.  

We let our time at the pyramids wash over us and soak into our memories forever. We hope that they will be here for our grandchildren to see and enjoy just as we have. 

We are two en route to soak in life’s most amazing moments