Our day Hiking in Cinque Terre, Italy

Cinque Terre is a national park known for picturesque villages that dot the coast line of the Ligurian Sea. We were based out of Florence and since we were so close, we knew we had to visit! Join us as we skip down the coast on our Cinque Terre adventure hiking along the Azure Trail.

For this this journey, we decided to take a tour with Walkabout Florence because of the amazing reviews we read and the fact that parts of the trail are still not in the best condition since flooding in 2014 and we didn’t want to be in over our heads for a nice day hike. At the end of the journey we were not disappointed with our decision! 

To start our adventure we arrived in La Spezia to catch the train into the Riviera coastline of Cinque Terre and start our journey on the Sentiero Azzurro cliffside hiking trail that connects the main 5 coasts cities of Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, and Monterosso. Note: € 13 per person is the cost of a day pass for access into Cinque Terre which and includes unlimited train travel between all of the cities and La Spezia. There are other options you can find here if you are staying longer than just a day.

Once inside the national park we skipped Riomaggiore, the first town on the path, and started in Manarola. Our guide let us know that the trail between the two is still a mess.

Manarola is the oldest of the towns and is known for it’s surrounding wine vineyards that product fantastic vino. As we started to ascend the hill, the picture perfect view of Manarola came into view and we already knew this was going to be a fantastic day. 

The next stop on our adventure was Corniglia. To get there we hoped on the train for one stop and then made our hiking journey up 386 stairs, zig-zagging back and forth until we finally made it to the town. Corniglia’s charm comes from the narrow winding streets full of cute shops, cafe’s, and art galleries. At the end of the town was a viewpoint with sweeping views of the Ligurian Sea. We decided take a seat at a restaurant with a view, grab a glass of local wine with pesto and anchovies bruschetta bites, then listened to the sounds of the crashing waves.  

This next hike was the longest journey we took along the Azure Trail. It is one one of the best maintained portions and anyone with a medium level of skill could easily take this hike. Along the way we were treated with olive tree groves, plums from a wild fruit tree and the most fantastic views of the coastline.

Just over 90 minutes later, we arrived at our third town of the day, Vernazza. It is incredible how the town hugs the cliff as it stretched out to a point and is crowned by the ruins of Doria Castle. This is one of the smallest towns on our adventure so after wandering through the colorful streets we grabbed a drink, sat on a bench to people watch, and relax.

The farthest town in Cinque Terre is Monterosso. This was probably our least favorite town of the day. It felt like a port town a cruise company would build catering to party-going patrons. We were not totally in the mood for bars playing dance music and baking in the heat under colorful umbrellas so we ended up making our way into old town to see the church of San Giovanni Battista, a 12th-century monastery with a memorable black and white facade. After a quick stop we found a cafe and grabbed a cappuccino. 

We all know the saying “save the best for last” and there was no better proof of this than when we arrived in Riomaggiore, our last stop for the day. The most incredible moment was when we rounded the corner to the port and was greeted by the most fantastic view of brightly colored homes layered on top of each other. The energy was infectious was being sunbathed, cliff jumped, and swam in crystal clear water. 

As the day drew to a close, we took the train back to La Spezia and bussed it back to Florence. The end came too quickly and we wished we could have had more time to enjoy Cinque Terre. We are thinking a future extended trip may be in the cards. 

We are two en route for future adventures in Cinque Terre.


Our night in a Buddhist Temple

While spending three weeks hopping around South Korea we had the incredible opportunity to stay in a traditional Buddhist Temple about 3-hours outside of Seoul, tucked away in a valley of the Sobaek Mountains.

South Korea has many different temples that offer a temple stay program. The programs are meant to help people center themselves spiritually while learning more about the Buddha’s teachings. We ended up doing our temple stay at Guinsa Temple which practices Cheontae Buddhism, a sect of Korean Buddhism derived from a form of Chinese Buddhism called Tiantai. We were eager and excited to learn more about this form of Buddhism as well as clearing our minds and centering ourselves. We hope you enjoy this journey with us.

When we arrived, we were greeted by a massive amount of beautiful lanterns. We later found out this was because the Buddha’s birthday was in a few days. We were thrilled to have the colorful lanterns playing off the brightly painted temple buildings.

First thing on the agenda after checking in was a little arts and crafts. We made paper lotus lanterns and prayer beads. The lotus flower is very important to Buddhists, symbolizing purity of the body, speech, and mind, while the prayer beads are sometimes used to count the number of mantras recited, much like a rosary in the Catholic faith counts the number of Hail Marys repeated. 

After arts and crafts, we were taken on an official tour of the Guinsa Temple complex. We saw the buildings where we would share meals, where the monks lived, where evening and morning prayer would occur, and the Great Teacher Hall, a three-tiered pagoda at the top of the complex. The Great Teachers Hall and surrounding grounds were decorated with larger-than-life paper lantern figures in celebration of the Buddha’s birthday. 

Up at the top, we were challenged to calm our minds and take in the beauty around us. The valley was so beautiful as the various building dotted the landscape. We were already transported into a world so different from ours. 

At the sound of the bell, we knew it was time for evening prayers. Our group gathered with the monks and other practicers of Cheontae Buddhism and began chanting and praying inside of the prayer hall. The praying was very hard at first. It consists of repeatedly standing, then falling into a kneeling position, followed by bending over and placing our hands and forehead to the floor, after which raising back to the kneeling position, then coming onto our toes as we stood, hands in the praying position with our palms together at chest height, and finally ending back in the standing position. We did this for what felt like 100 times in 60 minutes. Fortunately, it became less difficult each time since we were falling into the groove and the moves became more natural. 

Next on the agenda was dinner. The Guinsa Temple serves hundreds of simple vegetarian meals three times a day for free. We joined in to eat with everyone else regardless of religion or ethnicity. One cool things we learned was that all of the food, from the vegetable to the kimchi, were cultivated and made by the monks. 

Following our meal, we had a little free time before meeting back up with our monk to learn the art of meditation. Meditation is more than sitting in silence, it is a means of transforming the mind into being mindful. It helped teach us concentration, clarity, and positivity. It also helped us ask questions about ourselves and begin to become aware of those things that may be causing us hurt. 

One of the ways were were taught to meditate was to sit in the full lotus position. We were instructed to sit with our legs crossed with both feet resting on top of the opposite knee, just like you see the Buddha doing in statues. This was difficult for us, so we adopted the half-lotus position, where only one foot rests on the opposite knee while the other was on the floor, much easier for a novice. The monk then when around straightening our backs to the proper posture. This definitely showed us we are in serious need of working on having better posture. Another form of meditation we learned was loud chanting. This was not our favorite because we were focusing on saying the words properly, rather than being mindful. After meditation, we played a few trust games to bring the night to an end.

Now that night as fallen, we headed out to see the temple gloriously illuminated. All of the lanterns were magical. We hiked our way from our dormitory through the complex in awe at all of is lights and we had it all to ourselves!

One of our favorite lanterns was the dragon outside of the prayer temple that provided us a light show. It dazzled us as it constantly changed colors from a crisp bright white to a fabulous rainbow array. It a real treat to explore the temple complex at night.

The next morning we had 3am prayer in the temple. This time Brad slept in and Kevin went alone to repeat the chantings and kneeling ceremony. It was way easier this time around. After morning prayer, it was back to the room for an additional few hours of sleep before waking up for another simple vegetarian meal. 

After breakfast, we joined back up with our monk and took a nearly 2-hour meditation walk through the mountains. It was a cleansing time where we pushed away all thoughts that came to our mind and just took in the silence and surroundings. It was so relaxing and cathartic. Note: all of the picture were taken on our walk back to the temple. We were not meditating at this time. 

At the top of the mountain, we were encouraged to meditate anyway that made us comfortable. We both laid down flat on our backs with the morning sun beating down on us and fell into a calming state of meditation. This was much more comfortable than straining to sit upright. 😉 

The last thing we did during our temple stay enjoy a tea ceremony with our monk. This was our favorite part of our journey. We learned the importance of the ceremony while being able to ask the monk any question we wanted. This was the most educational part of our stay. We learned so much more than just the tea ceremony and about Cheontae Buddhism, we were able to look inside of ourselves and learn more about us. 

We are two en route to enlightenment 

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.

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 

Angkor Wat in Detail

The Angkor temple complex is massive. To be exact, it is the largest religious complex in the world. When we first thought of Angkor, we only thought of the quintessential image of Angkor Wat, but to our surprise, there was so much more. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is the largest religious monument in the world and easily provides 2-3 days of exploring!

We wanted to share some of our favorite spots from our couple of days exploring the Ancient City of Angkor.

1. Angkor Wat

This is the quintessential image when you think of Angkor Wat, which makes sense because this is the temple named Angkor. We got up at 4am in order to get the the temple for the sunrise. We were so excited to get a front row seat to see such a wonderful site. 

 Angkor at sunrise was picturesque.
Angkor at sunrise was picturesque.
 A lot of people show up to sunrise! We were so glad we got there early.
A lot of people show up to sunrise! We were so glad we got there early.
 We came back later in the afternoon. It was the perfect selfie lighting in front of the lake. 
We came back later in the afternoon. It was the perfect selfie lighting in front of the lake. 
 Beautiful details. 
Beautiful details. 
 We could look at the bas reliefs for hours.
We could look at the bas reliefs for hours.

2. Bayon

We call this the temple of faces. There are 54 towers around this temple, all with  4-sided bodhisattva faces as the tower top, representing the divine observation of Cambodia’s four directions. It was for sure a temple that got even more interesting as we took a closer look.

 From afar it's hard to tell there are 216 bodhisattva faces. 
From afar it’s hard to tell there are 216 bodhisattva faces. 
 Up close bodhisattva
Up close bodhisattva
 No matter where you stand, someone is looking at you.
No matter where you stand, someone is looking at you.

3. Ta Prohm

The ruins of Ta Prohm was one of our favorites. It is known as the “tree temple” because it is covered in Knia trees which have overtaken the temple ruins. This is what was so attractive to us. Everywhere we looked was a photo op we did not want to miss. We can see why parts of Tomb Raider was filmed here. 

 Knia tree growing over the temple.
Knia tree growing over the temple.
 Kevin between the Knia tree roots.
Kevin between the Knia tree roots.
 Is this a stegosaurus?  
Is this a stegosaurus?  
 This Knia tree was insane! 
This Knia tree was insane! 

4. East Mebon

Our tuk-tuk driver, Mr. Chee, called this the Elephant Temple. We loved it because #elephants! This temple is not very big, but the guardian elephants scattered throughout the temple are impressive and make it worth a look. Additionally, we noticed the stairs were huge and found out this is because ceremonies with elephants would happen here and elephants have a big step. 

 Khmer style symmetrical architecture.
Khmer style symmetrical architecture.
 Very large steps!
Very large steps!
 One of the guardian elephants.
One of the guardian elephants.

5. Neak Poan

Neak Poan was fascinating! First, we took a stroll across a huge lake to get to the Buddhist temple. The mirror lake was perfectly still and you could see every reflection. The clouds felt like there were all around us. Once you get across the lake, you get to see a quaint Buddhist temple sitting in the middle of a smaller mirror lake. Scerene indeed.

 Kevin in front of the mirror lake.
Kevin in front of the mirror lake.
 Stump and cloud reflections.
Stump and cloud reflections.
 Buddhist temple in the central pond.
Buddhist temple in the central pond.

6. Preah Khan

Because Preah Khan is located at the far end of the Angkor complex there were almost no tourists when we were there. This nearly forgotten temple is tucked away in the jungle and reminded us a lot of Ta Prohm. We took our time and got up close and personal with this temple.

 Overgrown knia tree
Overgrown knia tree
 Brad through the window.
Brad through the window.
 Kevin exploring the small corridors. 
Kevin exploring the small corridors. 

7. Terrace of the Elephants & Leper King

When the Khmer armies came back from battle victorious, the terrace of the elephants was where the celebration would happen. The large scale carvings of elephants were unreal. Just past the elephant terrace we came to the Terrace of the Leper King. It is said this is where the king’s concubines lived. What was impressive to us was the entire structure, both inside and out, donned intricate carvings, mostly of women. 

 Terrace of the Elephants.
Terrace of the Elephants.
 Terrace of the Leper King
Terrace of the Leper King
 Terrace of the Leper King carvings.
Terrace of the Leper King carvings.

8. Ta Som

The far end of Ta Som was the East gate. From the front it looks like a normal ruined gate, but one we passed through to the other side, we noticed it was completely covered in a knia tree. Tucked underneath the tree roots was such a wonderful carving. 

 Run-down looking gate.
Run-down looking gate.
 Carvings hiding under the knia tree.
Carvings hiding under the knia tree.
 Knia covering the entire gate. 
Knia covering the entire gate. 

9. Royal Palace of Phimeanakas

The Royal Palace was another part of Angkor that seems to be overlooked by most tourists. It was the perfect spot for a rest. The palace is not overly impressive compared to many of the other more notable spots in Angkor, but once we made it to the top and looked down, we appreciated what the Royal Palace was in its hay-day. 

 The doorways at the top.
The doorways at the top.
 Column remnants.
Column remnants.
 Corridors around the Royal Palace.
Corridors around the Royal Palace.

There were so many more structures, temples, and ruins around the Angkor temple complex than shown in this post. It would be nearly impossible to write one post covering every nook and cranny. Angkor was full of surprises at every turn and we are so happy to have encountered this ancient Khmer civilization up close. 

We are two en route for more detailed travel encounters.

 At the end of days of exploring, our feet were rightfully filthy! 
At the end of days of exploring, our feet were rightfully filthy! 

The Faces of Holi

Holi is a vibrant festival of colour celebrating the victory of good over evil. It is a time to lift up love and mend broken relationships. This Hindu religious festival is celebrated all over the world but no location is known better than India for observing the colorful festivities. Attending Holi was on our must-do list when we left home to experience the world and when we arrived in New Delhi we could not have been more excited!  

We had been looking forward to Holi for months and hit the jackpot with our Airbnb host. He was hosting a Holi party on his rooftop where a group of his friends and their guests came over for a good time. As soon as his friends started to show up, the color came out and we began to play Holi by rubbing color on each other’s hair and face saying “Happy Holi.”

After about an hour, Brad and I decided to leave the safety of our rooftop and venture out into the neighborhood. It immediately felt like we were in the movie Purge Anarchy. We were constantly looking over our shoulders for people who were throwing water balloons at us and shooting super soakers full of colored water. It got our blood pumping. After only two blocks we already had so much more color on us.

We continued to explore the neighborhood, quickly becoming the target of everyone. It turns out that the locals love to bombard foreigners even more then each other. It is definitely a game for them, but we didn’t mind because it meant more color. At one point one guy basically attached Kevin’s face with green color, turning him into the jolly green giant.

When we got back to the roof, the dyes were still flying and everyone was drinking bhang, an intoxicating drink consumed during Holi. Everyone was in a good mood and it was, full-on, Holi magic.

Our next stop was at our host’s brother’s home. As we arrived, more Holi was played, adding shades of pink to the mix of other color. It was great to have some much-needed snacks and moments of uncontrollable laughter.

Our final stop of the day was to the Holi Moo (formally Holi Cow) festival. The festival is where locals and foreigners alike get together for food, song, dance, and playing Holi. With four music stages, we were would not get bored.

Kevin jumped head first into the crowd of dancers, feeling the music, and had a great time. The energy of the festival was rich and full of life. Everyone got involved and no one was left out. It was awesome to see a man in a wheel chair getting the opportunity to crowd surf!

After a few hours of up-beat, heart-pounding music, we decided to find the stage with the jazz and funk music and chill out. 

As the sun started to go down, we left the festival and headed home for the night. Looking back through our photos, it’s so fun to see how our faces changed throughout the day like the horse of many colors from The Wizard of Oz. 

Getting in touch with Indian culture was fantastic and we will never forget our Holi experience.

We are two en route for a more colorful life.

Exploring Jodhpur, the beautiful Blue City

From getting lost down dead ends while wandering the winding streets to spending hours exploring the fort that towers over the entire city, Jodhpur, Rajasthan’s second largest city, is one of those places you can fall in love with at first site, and we did.

Mehrangarh Fort

This impressive fort is the largest in all of India. It is also the defining feature of the Jodhpur skyline. It was built in 1460 and remains one of the finest examples of Rajasthani architecture. 

The Blue City from Above

A quick hike up to the Mehrangarh Fort and you get to appreciate the city of Jodhpur from above. The blue houses are striking from all angles up here. It’s intoxicating to see such a beautiful site. 

The City up Close

Many theories from religious reasons like honoring the god Shiva to practical reason like beating the summer heat, it is still a mystery as to why the city is painted blue. 


One of Kevin’s favorite spots in Jodhpur was the Toorji Ka Jhalara Stepwell. It is an engineering marvel full of character from around the 6th century. We spent a lot of time relaxing around this area because their is a fantastic cafe called, you guessed it, the Stepwell Cafe. The perfect place to grab a beer and enjoy the rooftop views of the city. 

Jaswant Thada Mausoleum

Built in 1899, to honor Maharaja Jaswant Singh II, this tomb is a great place to sit and relax with the locals. The mausoleum is carved out of white marble. I havebeautifully carved lattice screens, perfectly manicured gardens, and a portrait gallery inside of the former Rantore rulers of Jodhpur. 

Umaid Bhawan Palace

This is considered the last great palace built in India. It was build in 1944 and is still home to the royal family of Jodhpur as well as a high end hotel. We were able to tour a very small part of the palace featuring a history of the Maharaja Royal Family, vintage clock collection, and vintage car collection. 

Clock Tower and Old City Markets

The hustle and bustle of the old town is in the market and around the clock tower. Their of many vendors selling everything from fruits and vegetables to trinkets and clothing. There are also a number of antique shops around the square with a lot of fantastic finds. 

Visiting the Locals

One day we took a trip out to visit the various tribes around Jodhpur. A few of the places we visited were a potters house to made potter, a rug weaver to see how flat weaves are made, a textile factory to watch the women hand embroider fabrics, and a local man making opium water (we did not try it). It was so fascinating to get to meet and interact with the locals and get a better understanding about what rural life is like in India. 

Mandore Gardens

On the outskirts of town is a great garden filled with locals playing games, going for a stroll, and having picnics. It was such a local feel walking around and being the only non-Indian in site. Throughout the gardens are ruins of old temples. Too bad they are not properly maintained, it could be a much more beautiful site to see. 

Most of the blogs and guidebooks recommended to spend only a day in Jodhpur. We are so glad we didn’t listen to them and spent three full days getting to know Jodhpur on a more personal level. It turned out to be our favorite city in all of India.

We are two en route for more love at first sight cities. 

10-Day Road Trip around New Zealand’s South Island

Day 1

Our New Zealand South Island campervan adventure begins! We had an overnight flight from Melbourne to Christchurch so we arrived tired. We picked up our campervan and headed out for adventures. We purchased a DOC (Department of Conservation) campervan pass for $40 NZD which gives us free camping at certain sites for 7 consecutive days. SCORE! We drove about two and a half hours from the airport to our campsite. Any further we felt would be dangerous because of fatigue. 

After checking in, we decided we needed to stay awake until at least 20:00 so we were on a normal sleep schedule for the next day. We immediately made coffee on our stove in the rear of the campervan knowing caffeine would be essential. Next, we decided to get our blood pumping and go on an hour hike to see a waterfall.

After the falls we came back, took showers and cooked dinner. With our bellies full, it was going to be harder to stay awake for a few more hours. We decided to watch a movie involving extra-terrestrials (always keeps us awake). Finally, 20:00 hit so we rolled down the shades and swan dived into a wonderful deep sleep. Day one was a success. 

Day 2

We woke up refreshed and drove towards Mt. Cook. On the way we stopped several times to take photos around Lake Tekapo, a stunning turquoise glacier fed lake. We arrived at our campsite, parked, geared up and headed out for our 3-hour return hike on the Hooker Valley Track. 

On the journey we crossed over multiple suspension bridges with stunning views of rivers. One bridge even gave you a great view of the Mueller glacier and lake. Along the way, it started to get very cold, rainy and windy. Fortunately, we are prepared for weather like this! 

Finally, we reached Mt. Cook. Wow! It was well worth the small hike there. On Mt. Cook is the Mt. Cook glacier and at the base is the glacier lake with large chunks of ice floating about. 

After returning to our camper, we cooked dinner and watched the stars come out. It was amazing to get to see the milky way! We were too busy being in awe to take any photos of that! 😜 Happy day!

Day 3

Today we woke up to heavy rain in Hooker Valley so we checked our weather apps and found that Cromwell, New Zealand’s wine country, was the only region of NZ that was supposed to have beautiful weather, so of course we headed that way because who doesn’t love wine?

As we headed towards the grapes we stopped in Lindis Valley for a quick hike. The landscape was so beautiful! The mountains looked like they were covered in basil seeds and flanked us on all sides. 

When we made it to Cromwell we drove around through wine covered hills and found a great winery to do a tasting. This part of New Zealand is known for its world-class Pino Noirs so of course we had to try them. However, because of the sunny summery warm weather, we felt a white would be best! 

After relaxing for a few hours with a bottle of Pinot Gris we made our way towards our Queenstown campsite. When we arrived it was raining heavily, which made for a fun dinner cooking experience! With dinner done, we curled up with a cocktail and watched a movie. Perfection!

Day 4

Today was a beautiful day. The weather was sunny with a high in the low 70s, Brad’s idea of summer! Since the sun was smiling, we felt it was perfect for an all-day hike. 

We made it to Roys Peak just after eating lunch on the banks of Lake Wanaka. We started the first half of our 16km journey up the mountain and quickly found out the incline was steeper than we thought. Fortunately, the weather was perfect and the views, while hiking, went from great to amazing so more frequent stops were a must for more fabulous photos!

After 4-hours challenging ourselves on this uphill battle, we finally made it to the top! It was the first time either of us had been at the top of a mountain and could see nothing but other mountain tops all around us. We were on top of the world and we had it all to ourselves. 

Pushing through the pain, we let gravity take hold of us as we made our decent. The downhill journey only took us 2-hours. When we made it to the bottom we opened the back of the campervan and cooked a large, well deserved, dinner consisting of rice and spicy chicken curry. We had left over tortillas from last night’s tacos, so we improvised and used them as naan. Yum! 

Day 5

Today was the day for Milford Sound! We woke up and made the five-hour drive to see it. Along the way, we made multiple stops for photo opportunities. 

Some of the coolest pictures we took were just random moments of Kevin yelling, “Pull over, I have to take this picture” as Brad swerved to the shoulder. A really neat detour was the mirror lakes. There was a slight breeze in the air, so it wasn’t still like glass, but the view was nothing to complain about. Only a little ways away and we would be to Milford Sound!

When we arrived, Milford Sound was very misty and visibility was super low. Fortunately, we had plenty of time to walk around and explore. We ended up cooking some spicy chilly for dinner and waited for the sun to go down. 

As the sun began to fall and the mist rise, the true beauty of the mouth of Milford Sound showed itself. With no one else around, we headed off road and walked right to the edge of the water and enjoyed the views all to ourselves

On the way to our campsite for the night we made a few more little stops while we still had light. Laying in our campervan looking through the moon roof at the stars again was a magical ending to this wonderful day.

Day 6

Today was a more relaxed day. We woke up to a little rain so we headed south to get away from it. Stopped for lunch along Lake Te Anau then went to the DOC (Department of Conservation) information center to see what new adventures we could find in Southland and Otago. 
We continued south east and took our time admiring how different New Zealand looks down south. 

We decided to call it an early day and head straight for our campsite. The campground was the most amazing yet. We were at Purakaunui Bay, steps from the beach with towering cliffs to one side and forest to the other. It was spectacular. 

After some food and wine, we relaxed and watched the sun go down. We were even lucky enough to see the amazing milky way again! Mother nature at its best!

Day 7

Our road trip today took us along The Catlins Heritage Trail and part of the Southern Scenic Route. 

We first journeyed to Waikawa Harbour for beautiful views while we chowed down on PB&J sandwiches. Next up was Curious Bay which was so incredible! It’s a 180-million-year-old ancient fossil forest with petrified trees from the Jurassic era.

We hung out waking the shores for a few hours admiring them while listening to the huge ocean waves crash against the cliffs. 

We then made our way to slope point and did a quick 20-minute hike through a sheep farm to the southernmost point of New Zealand’s south island. 

Continuing east, we made it to this lighthouse on Waipapa Point. Talk about a quintessential looking lighthouse. Hung out for a bit exploring the beaches nearby and saw a few sea lions hanging out on the beach! So, cool!

Our last few stops of the day were the 22-meter-high McLean Falls and the three-tiered Purakaunui Falls. We then headed back to our beach side campgrounds for the evening. Our New Zealand road trip has been so amazing so far!

Day 8

The pretties just keep on coming! Today we drove west and north along New Zealand’s scenic coastline. Our first stop was and hour hike to Jack’s Blowhole, a 55-meter-deep crevasse 200 meters from the ocean. It was a sea cavern that the ocean eroded to the point of it collapsing. 

Our next destination was Nugget Point. We came here to see Tokata Lighthouse but ended up falling in love with what laid beyond. These beautiful rock formations were giving us life! We love how they, so perfectly, trickle away into the vastness of the ocean. A real surprise and a fantastic treat. 

Next, we journeyed along the coast north, past Kaka Point and Dunedin City, to our campsite for the evening. This site was nestled in Trotters Gorge. Could not have asked for a better day.

Day 9

The Otaga Peninsula was our main goal today. We drove the winding roads along the beautiful coastline for almost an hour before heading a little inland and uphill to get to our hiking location. When we made it to Sandymount, we drank in the views overlooking part of the peninsula and knew this was going to be a pretty place for a hike. 

Our first stop on the hike was lookout point, the top of the hill. The view was obstructed by all the shrubs around so we didn’t spend too long there. Next, we made our way down and hiked along the edge of the mountain overlooking Sandfly Bay. An ironic name, since sandflys have been biting at us for the past 10 days. Who knew flies bit! 

As we continued along the edge of the mountain we came around to Lovers Leap, a bridge like rock formation over the ocean. We were the only ones there so we took our time to enjoy the peace. 

After our hikes for the day, we decided to head back into Dunedin. The city is a small town with a few spots to see, like the train station and church, but other than that not too much. We walked around looking at the art galleries, gift shops and street art. We settled in for a craft beer at a local pub in the city center while we charged our laptop and watched the locals stroll by.  

Day 10

Today was the last day of our New Zealand South Island Road Trip before spending a few days in Christchurch then leaving. 

We woke up and started our 5-hour journey back to Christchurch. We figured we would make a few detours along the way to see random things that may have caught our attention but we quickly found out there was not much between Dunedin and Christchurch to see. We powered through the book we had been listening to and finished it as we made our way home. 

Reflecting on our journey around the South Island was a bittersweet moment. We loved all the beautiful things nature provided for us but we are excited to continue onward. Two more days in Christchurch then off to Sydney! Cheers! 

We are two en route for future road trips. Kia Ora

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