Sunset at Tanah Lot, a Bali must-see

We landed in Bali not knowing where each day would take us. Something we found out quickly was Bali public transportation is not well connected or easy to use. What was easiest for us, and very affordable, was to hire a private driver for around $35 for the day and see multiple sites at our own pace. After asking around we quickly found out from locals and other travelers that seeing Tanah Lot at sunset was a must, so we put that on our list for the day!

Tanah Lot is rock formed just off the coast of Bali, Indonesia. At low tide, the temple is most easily accessible. Build on Tanah Lot is a Pura (temple) said to have been from the 16th-century. The temple is built in honor of the Balinese sea gods. 

Tanah Lot is one of seven sea temples that litter the coast of Bali. In addition to Pura Tanah Lot, we were also about to see Pura Batu Bolong. While this temple is not as iconic as Tanah Lot, it was a treat to be able to see another one of the sea temples. 

We made our way down to get a closer look at this beautiful Hindu site. We were not able to go onto the top of the rock to see the actual temple, just onto the stairs. However, before being able to enter the steps of the temple we had remove our shoes and receive a blessing to prepare us to enter the holy site.

The blessing is called a rice blessing. First, water is sprinkled across your forehead with a brush, then rice is placed on it and finally, a plumeria flower place behind your ear. Kevin decided to partake in the blessing.

Brad decided to sit it out to relax and do some people watching. It didn’t take long for Kevin to receive the blessing then walk up the 25-steps and see the ocean go off into the horizon. 

For the next hour, we wondered around the rocky coastline enjoying the views of the ocean. As we wandered around, waited for the sun to go down, we came across the best little spot to enjoy the sunset from. 

As the sun went down we realized why seeing the sun set over Tanah Lot is a must-see when visiting Bali, Indonesia. The way that the sky turned beautiful shades of purple and orange were a real treat. 

An added bonus to where we decided to enjoy the sunset from was there were stagnate pools of ocean water left by high tide which allowed for some of the most beautiful sunset photos. We love the way Tanah Lot and the sunset reflect off the water. We are so glad we listened to other’s advise and made it to see the sunset over Pura Tanah Lot. 

We are two en route for more must-see sites

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Singapore Day vs. Night

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

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

We are two en route exploring Singapore 

In search of the Sahara

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

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

DAY 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DAY 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DAY 3

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

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

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

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

We are two en route to search for more journeys  

Discovering the Ancient Ruins of Polonnaruwa

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

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

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

1. The Royal Palace Grounds

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

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

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

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

2. Quadrangle 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. The Outskirts

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

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

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

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

4. Northern City

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

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

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

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

5. Gal Vihara

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

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

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

We are two en route to more ancient discoveries

Adventure to Ireland’s Cliffs of Moher

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

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

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

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

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

  O'Brien's Tower
O’Brien’s Tower

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We are two en route for more Irish adventures.

Traveling with my “best friend”

Through the perspective of Kevin

 Seesaw fun at Hobbiton in New Zealand, 2016
Seesaw fun at Hobbiton in New Zealand, 2016

Brad and I are traveling to Marrakech, Morocco today and I am a bag of mixed emotions. The fact that we are going to Africa for the first time is a dream of mine. I can not wait to see the markets, mosques, and overall culture for Morocco. The food excites me. The weather excites me. The prospect of riding on a camel in the desert excites me. It’s hard to put into words how much I am looking forward to this so here is a picture to emote my feeling of elation.

 Having a great time in Tokyo, Japan. 2014
Having a great time in Tokyo, Japan. 2014

I can’t help but feel a little saddened that Brad and I will not be traveling as husbands. Starting in Morocco and following us for a lot of the next part of our journey around the world, Brad and I will have to travel as “best friends.” We have had to do this in the past when visiting countries where it was not legal to be gay. In some parts of the world if we traveled as husbands we could be arrested or persecuted because of this. However, we have to respect the laws and customs of the places we visit and adjust ourselves accordingly.

We are not a very PDA (public display of affection) couple to begin with, however, we have had to practice reeling in all of the little things that could be an easy give away. Anything from simply saying a quick “love you,” “hey babe,” or “muah” to gestures like a light touch on the back, talking with my hands, or having a fun moment when playing chess in the park.  

This is a reminder to all of our LGBTQ friends and straight allies that in the world today, we are not all equal. We are still persecuted by people who hate us because of who we love. We are still told by some friends, family, politicians and religion that they do not accept us because of who we love. We are reminded everyday that we have to take precautions and be careful.

 Copenhagen, Denmark. 2016 pride celebration
Copenhagen, Denmark. 2016 pride celebration

I am so thankful that Brad and I are getting to travel and experience the world together even in parts of the world that do not accept parts of who we are. I am lucky enough to have a best friend like Brad to travel the world with. I am hopeful that one day being gay will not have to be something to hide. With that being said, as with anywhere we travel to in the world, we will continue to be safe, respect the laws and customs of the country, and soak in every moment of the journey!

 Iceland 2016
Iceland 2016

Urban Art Around Europe

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

Reykjavik, Iceland

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

Brussels, Belgium 

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

Oslo, Norway

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

Berlin, Germany

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

Prague, Czech Republic

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

Stockholm, Sweden

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

Frankfurt, Germany

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

Paris, France

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

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