Saturday, July 30, 2011

Kitsch and Culture in Tokyo, Japan

I was watching a video on youtube the other day in which some British kids decided to document their visit to the US by going to WalMart. They showed processed lunchmeat which already had cheese in it, iced tea in what they called gasoline bottles, and rifles. What a nice video of America. Yes, those things exist, and yes they're gross, or violent, or in the case of the iced tea, totally normal in my opinion. But it's kind of mean to show that and not the beautiful things you can see in America, or the great food that can be found in gardens and at farmers markets. Why do I write the aforementioned in a Tokyo blog post, well, because Tokyo is kitschy, which I personally think is excellent, but it's not really a nice word, and I also hope to show the beauty beyond the kitsch.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Incongruous City of Beijing

Our first lodging in Beijing was in a traditional area that hasn't yet been disassembled and turned into high rise, high density housing. It is an area of small alleys (Hutong) and roads just large enough for a single small car to pass.  An area where real people still live, kids play in the streets, and tourists are few and far enough between that the store owners don't speak much English, and consequently weren't keen to rip us off. Though not high rise, the housing is much more high density than most westerners would tolerate. As we soon found out, the ample public bathrooms were for the locals who apparently don't have toilets or showers in their homes. As we were told, it's a charming place to see old Beijing, save the occasional whiff of the commode.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Yangshuo's landscapes are amazing

From Hong Kong we went to spend a week in mainland China in an area known for its landscapes, and we were not disappointed. Since it's the mainland, getting there for cheaper involved leaving Hong Kong by train to Shenzhen, where we passed the border, then taking a cab to the local airport, a plane to Guilin, and finally a couple of buses to reach Yangshuo. The funny part is: this was the quick way that involved taking a 1.5 hours flight instead of a 9 hours train.

The trip was worth every minute though as the area is truly gorgeous and offers tons of things to do if you like the outdoors.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Hong Kong doesn't feel like a metropolis

From Bangkok we moved on to China. Our first stop was Hong Kong. Even if the British have "given Hong Kong back" to China, it's still very much its own entity with its own government and rules and so it's nothing like the mainland. For one, there is no censorship of any kind. So it's pretty much a different country.

We spent a few days there and were generously hosted by Fred, a friend from my early college years who moved there at the same time I moved to the US, and who I had not seen in 10 years. On top of being our host he was also our guide through a few areas of Hong Kong and a wealth of information about the way things work there. As always, it was really awesome to be able to hang out with someone who actually lives in the place we visited. You get a much more intimate look at the place.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

More to see in Bangkok

We stopped twice in Bangkok. Once at our arrival from India, before Cambodia, and the second time as our last stop in Thailand after Ko Phangan. We stayed several days there but feel like there is still many things to see there (and I'm not even talking about all the temples).
After several months of traveling we've realized that we like to discover big cities by wandering around semi randomly. It's not a very effective way to visit a place but it's a great way to discover great neighborhoods or fun alleys. For example our first day there we just started to walk in the general direction of chinatown. We ran into a beautiful temple before following the river.

Hijinxs ensue in Ko Phangan

From the far north of Thailand we then went pretty far south to one of the many paradise islands Thailand has to offer. We were looking for something nice (which also means touristy) but where we could feel at home too. We opted for Ko Phangan, an island off of Ko Samui and were not disappointed!

One of the islands claim to fame is its full moon parties that are supposed to rage all night. Even though we were nowhere near the full moon, we made sure to stay far from the area where the event takes place so we would be away from the most touristy part of the island.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Back to old habits in Chiang Mai

After our stint in Laos we went to the north of Thailand to visit Chiang Mai. As we had done in Luang Prabang, we arrived there without a place to stay. We knew of one that was well rated and cheap and got dropped in front of it. In this case the place was sadly overpriced and not really good so we took our bags and walked around in search for a place to stay. After looking at a few guesthouses we found a good one and settled down. This is fairly easy to do since we're traveling in low season and most of the places have rooms available. It often allows us to get a cheaper price than if we booked online. We only do it in small-ish, easily navigable places where many hostels and guesthouses are available within walking distance of each other.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Fun in Luang Prabang

Now that you have an idea of what Luang Prabang is about, I'll talk about our activities there. Due to plane schedule conflicts we stayed a whole week in the area. That makes it the place we've stayed the longest, even longer than Rishikesh. There was plenty to do though.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Discovering Laos

and some thoughts about South East Asia

After Cambodia we wanted to make our way to Laos. The big question was to decide where we were going and how. Ideally we wanted to see the south first and then make our way to the north. However it was one of those moments where it paid to be realistic. We didn't have that much time to visit the country and trying to do both would have been really pushing it, so we decided to skip the south and spend more days in the north, in Luang Prabang. We had made the same kind of decision in India where we skipped a place that seemed really appealing, but we never regretted it. Feeling rested and not too rushed is really important. We haven't regretted it this time either.

So to be truthfull, we didn't discover Laos as much as we discovered Luang Prabang, this charming old french colonial town by the Mekong river.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Raiders of the lost Cambodian temples

From India we flew into Bangkok for a couple days while waiting for our friend Jeri who was flying from the US for 10 small days just to visit Cambodia with us (Thanks Jeri!). Once with her we flew into Siem Reap, Cambodia, where we would spend the next week visiting the many temples around, including the world famour Angkor Wat.
Siem Reap is definitely geared towards tourism generated by the temples. The center has many restaurants and bars for tourists and what the city lacks in local charm, it makes up for in comfort and easiness.
During our 6 days there, we visited temples every other day, and hung out, ate, swam and got massages (for the ladies) the rest of the time. Taking the time to relax and visit with Jeri was a great luxury.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Rishikesh, the yoga capital of the world and the hardest place to find a yoga class

The 4 meter Hanuman in front of our Ashram

You may or may not know that I became a certified yoga teacher in San Francisco last year.  It was 6 months of 13hours of yoga a week, plus a full time job at a start up, which is of course, more than a 40 hour work week.  I don't know how many times I said, "thank god it's yoga and I'm relaxed when I'm done with the class", because I wouldn't have made it through.  What does this have to do with travelling you ask?  Well we decided to visit India, and it happens to be the birthplace of yoga and where yoga is mainly taught 1:1.  How fortuitous.  I knew immediately that I wanted to study for at least a week while there.  I was so excited and began researching it months before we even bought our first plane ticket.  I quickly found the self proclaimed yoga capital of the world was Rishikesh and it was to become the longest stop on the trip.  A whole week in one town, something we haven't done yet.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Delhi, Agra and some tidbits about traveling

As I explained in a previous post, our first stop in India was Delhi for a couple days while we were getting our bearings. We first stayed at the Hyatt with some free nights I had left, so that we could transition smoothly. Funnily enough, we felt a little out of place there. We landed late at night from Singapore and took a taxi to the hotel. More than a taxi, it was a beat up old piece of junk and as we were pulling up at the Hyatt we had trouble suppressing a smile. The car didn't quite match the standing of the place.
Once in there, we were apphaled by the price of the food and different buffets. Definitely not what we're used to, and not in our budget. It was actually quite amusing as we felt like clandestine passengers on the Titanic.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Exploring forts and temples in the deserts of Rajasthan

Before leaving Udaipur we took our first luxury trip by renting a car with driver and A/C for the day. Things are so cheap here that it costs the same as it would to just rent a car in the US, and trust me, you need the driver because you don't want to drive in the madness here!

It took him 5 years to grow this awesome 'stache

We took it to visit the fort of Kumbhalgarh and the beautiful Jain temple of Ranakpur. It was only a 300kms loop (190miles) but with the shape of the roads it took all day.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Stepping into the world of Aladdin

When we arrived in India we spent a couple days in Delhi, first at the Hyatt to transition slowly (I still had some free nights from all my trips to LA when I was working at MySpace) and then with a friend, Arti, who very generously hosted us in her house.
We didn't really visit Delhi then as we mostly planned the first legs of our Indian trip, so I'll talk about Delhi in a later post.

Our first real stop was Udaipur, in the state of Rajasthan, land of the maharadjahs, big palaces, Aladdin and Ali Baba. Udaipur is known for its huge city palace situated on the border of the lake Pichola, and its romantic setting. It has been a great first stop for us, and even if we didn't do a lot each day, tired as we were by the heat, we really enjoyed our stay there.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

On our way to India

After the Gili island, we slowly made our way to India, trying to transition ourselves from a peaceful island to the craziness we'd been told to expect. This path first took us to the heart of Bali in Seminyak, close to the international airport, where we re-encountered traffic and people.

Rolling in style
 Seminyak is supposed to be a slitghtly less crazy version of Kuta, with a little less tourists but still great big beaches perfect for surfing.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Fast times at superslow Gili Air

When we left Lovina early, we took a car to a small harbor town called Amed, then a boat to the Gili Islands, off of Lombok. Out of the three islands, We chose Gili Air due to the overwhelming number of friends who recommended it, and we were not disappointed. After settling down at out hotel by the ocean, we both had the same thought: "This is the paradise we were expecting in Lovina."

The island is very small (we walked around it in 1:10hr) and as far as we could tell there are no vehicles on it, save for small horse carts used to carry stuff and people around. As a consequence there is no road, but just a dirt path. It's impressive how the absence of vehicles just makes everything more peaceful.

Friday, April 15, 2011

The route to forgettable Lovina

After Ubud our next step was to be Lovina, an area that had been recommended as a place to relax and not do anything. We picked a guide from Ubud to drive us all the way to Lovina with a couple stops along the way.

The first spot was a big temple area by the lake Beratan, up the mountain from Ubud, and almost halfway to our destination. The area is very pretty, with a couple of temples located on their mini islands only a few meters away from the side of the lake. These are dedicated to the dead and have usually 7 roofs to symbolize the 7 steps the dead have to go through before being completely let go. The process is supposed to take 5 years. As you'll notice, one of those even has 11 roofs. I asked if it took longer to go through that many steps, but it seems like it's 5 years all the same.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Strolling through rice paddies in lovely Ubud

Right after saying our good byes to Australia, we were ready to say Hello to Bali. Almost everybody had told us to avoid the south area of Kuta, as it's just a big touristy area so we did just that and went straight for our first destination, Ubud. It's a town situated inland, slighly up the mountains and surrounded by rice paddies.

Welcome to Ubud!

We could quickly tell that if the town's original economy was based on agriculture it is now very much centered around tourism. You can still find some paddies in the middle of town, but chatting with the locals we learned that they are becoming rarer over time while hotels, stores or restaurants are being erected.
No to worry though, if the main roads of the center feel very much tailored to us, westerners, Ubud is still very much a beautiful authentic town. There are no big buildings and a lot of the accomodations have you stay within a traditional family coumpound. One doesn't need to go far from the center to really be immersed in the country.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Kakadu was wet - and random thoughts about Oz

From Cairns, our last stop was Darwin, at the extreme north of Australia, and more precisely the National park of Kakadu (awesome name for our french readers, I know)
The aboriginal Australians have inhabited this area for over 1000 years, and it's a place where you can see part of their culture. It seemed very promising if not for one problem: the wet season lasted a little longer that usual and 90% of the park was still flooded and inaccessible. The good news for us was that, since we only had one day to spend there anyway, the choice was easily made and we didn't have to worry about what to see.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Looking for Nemo at the Great Barrier Reef

From Tasmania and Melbourne, we took a plane up to Cairns, the main base to go explore the barrier reef. As we boarded the plane we realized that we probably wouldn't need any sweater anymore until the end of the summer in France, since most of the places we are scheduled to go to have temperatures that wil be 30C degrees at the minimum.

Our favorite underwater animal

We were not in Cairns for long and the core of our adventure there was the 2 days we spent aboard the Encounter boat. We chose this option because we didn't want to fly in for just a single day of snorkeling or diving. The problem is that the reef is out to sea and you need a boat to take you to the different places to be able to admire the underwater sea life. Denise chose to do one dive and snorkel the rest of the trip, which means that she'd have the opportunity to snorkel 6 times over the 2 days. I chose the full scuba diving introduction, which means that I went diving a total of 5 times, always with an instructor, but without really taking any class. Since we had only two days we couldn't do a certification course which takes 3 days minimum.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Cute animals save the day in Tasmania

Tasmanian devil. It is actually yawning after waking up

It may surprise many people, but after 4 days spent in Tasmania, our main thought is that we could have skipped it and used the time for something else. Of course the fact that we got rained on 3 days out of 4 didn't help, but that's not the main reason.
Truth is, Tasmania is a very green, pretty, wild area, and if you're only visiting Australia it's different enough from the rest to justify the jaunt. I think our problem is that we had come from spending 3 weeks in New Zealand, which is renowned because it's very green, pretty and wild... So after that Tasmania didn't really phase us ("poor little rich kid" I know).
But all is not lost. As the title says, cute cuddly animals saved the day!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

What's not to love in Melbourne?

Back from the Great Ocean Road we settled down in Melbourne for a couple days before our next joint to Tasmania. We also spent an extra day there after Tasmania. We timed it all in a way that made us be there over the weekends, which gave us the opportunity to see the city bustling with activity.

As we had read, Melbourne is a city where people love shopping and it's apparent as soon as you step downtown, where it's shop after shop after mall after shop. It is pretty impressive. Given that we still have 3 months of travel ahead of us, shopping wasn't really an option (we did a little bit of window shopping though) so we focused on the next best thing: eating and drinking!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Great Ocean Road deserves its name

From Sydney we flew into Melbourne and took a car to the Great Ocean Road, that spans a good part of the coast between Melbourne and Adelaide. We didn't have time to go all the way there but drove through the first 300kms and had a blast.
We've lived for a long time in California, near the Highway 1 which is revered for its coastline. Shortly before leaving the US we were talking about it and how it is pretty much the same for a long time. I'd have to add that it doesn't quite compare to this Great Ocean Road.

After landing late because of our first (and hopefully only) missed flight, we picked up the car and drove to Lorne, which was pretty much the beginning of the road for us.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Life seems so hard in Sydney

Our first stop in Australia was Sydney. Everybody knows the iconic opera house, which represents Sydney as much as the Eiffel tower is an icon of Paris. What many (including us) don't know is that Sydney also houses fantastic beaches and a great no-stress vibe.

We spent only 3 days there but got to do a lot. Of course we almost immediately went towards the quay and got a look at the opera house. Strangely, I didn't completely feel like I was in Sydney until I had seen this iconic building. I wonder if it's the same kind of effect the Eiffel tower has on people visiting Paris.

Our walks around allowed us to discover a ton of eating options, and the density of the downtown area.

Random thoughts about NZ and more challenges

New Zealand, it's over!
Here are some final random thoughts that came to us while traveling New Zealand, but that were too short to justify a post.

- Here they write with a "pin" and use "tin" dollar bills. What a funny accent!
- It is very, very hard to find free WiFi while it was everywhere in Peru. When you pay, it is also very expensive.
- They need more men in Wellington. There are way too many cute women walking around
- We are a pretty good team while driving here. I drive and Denise tells me to "keep left" every time I enter a new road, just to make sure I stay on the right side, which incidentally is the left side here.
- We see a lot of French travellers, as expected, but boy do we see a lot of Germans too
- Among all those who travel, French have the worst english accent, me included
- As we meet people we realize that 6 months of traveling is nothing. Many (young) travelers are on the road for at least a year (but few go through as many places)

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Choose your beautiful landscape in Fiordland!

After Wanaka we went to the far south west part of New Zealand, known as Fiordland, which houses many beautiful sheer mountains, fjords and lakes. Our base for most of the time was Te Anau and the beauty started on the drive there, right after passing Queenstown, which we would visit again before leaving New Zealand.

On our way to Te Anau

Te Anau is a small town right by a lake surpisingly named "Lake Te Anau". It's not a huge tourist destination in itself but the stepping stone to reach the famous Milford Sound.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Hiking glaciers on the west coast

Our next stop was Franz Jozef, a city based at the bottom of two glaciers, the Franz Jozef Glacier and the Fox Glacier. The amazing thing about them is that they come all the way down in the valley, almost to sea level. It is a rare sight, so rare in fact that when Abel Tasman was sailing along the coast when discovering New Zealand, he thought that they were weird low white clouds stuck in the valleys, instead of huge chunks of ice coming down from the mountains.

We decided to go on a full day hike on the glacier and were pretty excited about it as last time we came we weren't able to get on the glacier. The full day hike allowed us to go pretty high up and see strange formations, caves, and crevasses.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Farewell Spit: a strange name for the end of the world!

After the Marlborough area, we moved west to the famous Abel Tasman national park. It is famous for its beautiful coastline, great weather, great hikes and kayaking. It is indeed one of the first areas of New Zealand that really developed kayaking as a way to explore its beauty.
We started our visit of the area by going to a place beyond the park, very much like the end of the New Zealand world, called Farewell Spit. It is this remote and beautiful coast that mixes big empty beaches with an air of apocalypse, with sheer cliffs straight down to the ocean.
Through a couple pretty short hikes we first went to fossil point and its deserted beach.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Marlborough: Drink and hike responsibly

After a rough ferry ride from Wellington to cross over to the south Island, we arrived in the Marlborough area, famous for its wineries (mostly whites like Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Gris) and the beautiful marloborough sounds coastline. We went back to a hostel we had really liked 5 years ago and set out to take the day and visit the wineries to do some wine tasting. I say 'we' but in that case it was mostly Denise who did the tasting, while I was doing the driving. Given that she's a lot more into wines than me, it made sense.

Driving through the area felt very familiar (except for the driving-on-the-wrong-side-of-the-road thing) since we were close to wineries, small hills and nice sun. It's pretty much like Napa valley or the south of France.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Wellington: Food and Free Stuff!

Cable car track and the view from the botanical gardens
We had a whirlwind 2 days in Wellington, we were supposed to have 3 days, but ended up spending the majority of the first day hiking in Tongario National Park and got to Wellington really late in the day. People on our trip kept asking what we were going to do in Wellington.  I kept telling them I was going to drink excellent coffee and eat.  What?  They would say.  I'm going to eat!  So when we got to town, the first thing we did was....EAT.  With recommendation from one of our friend's friends (Charlie, who lived in Wellington for 6ish months) we had a lovely dinner at a restaurant called Sweet Mother's Kitchen.  Incidentally, it had a ton of Cajun food, smothered okra, hush puppies, gumbo, jambalaya, all covered in Saints paraphernalia, and Mardi Gras masks (the walls, not the food).  Yeah.  I think the Kiwis like 'dem Cajuns... it was the second place in NZ that we happened upon that had Cajun food.

Photo challenges galore

We're hard at work to complete the challenges that you've given us, and we're making good progress!

There are many we haven't completed yet but here are some updates, in no particular order.
My friend Matt first challenged Denise to stop  doing easy headstands (I would argue that that one on a kayak was pretty darn hard) and do a real headstand where she doesn't use her hands. It's pretty hard, to say the least, but she pulled it off while we were visiting some wineries, and consequently lightly intoxicated, just to make it harder.
This one is for you Matt

Saturday, February 26, 2011

The volcanic wonderlands of Rotorua and Taupo

Straight after landing in New Zealand we took a car and drove to Rotorua, a volcanic area, still pretty active judging by the fumes, the many natural hot tubs around, and the wonderful smell of sulfur (I say wonderful, not because it smells good but because it allows one to fart, fairly discretely, and blame it on the volcano).
What color would you like your water today?
Rotorua was our first New Zealand home for 2 days. The hostel was very average and definitely below our expectations but the location was pretty central at least.
Around Rotorua we went to visit the thermal park of Wai-O-Tapu. It's a pretty neat park where we got to see many different manifestations of the underlying volcanic activity. If the smell wasn't really my favorite, the many colors of the rock and the water were definitely a highlight!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Photo challenge #0 and #1

Right when we left SF we asked on Facebook if you had ideas of stuff you wanted us to do while traveling, that we should do and take pictures of.

The very first one came from our friend Jacob. This one is actually not even part of the challenge since he made Denise promise him to take the photo, even before we asked everybody else.

The story is simple. He really insisted for her to take his frisbee with us on our trip so that she could play some while in Tahiti. Needless to say, we don't have that much extra space in our luggage, so after much arguing he made her promise she would find one in Tahiti and take a photo to prove she'd done it.
The photo is right here. And you were right Jacob, she's actually pretty good at it.

This is right in front of our pensioin on Mataiva

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Moorea, French Polynesia. No need to look further, it's in your backyard!

We really love our waterproof camera!
After spending some time on an Island of 200 people (see Vince's previous blog post),  we flew back to mainland Tahiti, jumped on the bus in stifling heat to city center in Papete, then took the ferry to Moorea, about 30-40 minutes.  It felt very populated comparitively... The island is bigger than the atoll we were on, but none of the islands there are really very big.  We then arrived at a resort that vaguely reminded me of the Four Seasons, in Hawaii, where we stayed for our honeymoon.  Vince had rented a lovely bungalow, as my belated Valentines day gift, just off the beach with an excellent pool, snorkeling gear, and the requisite terrible resort food.

Monday, February 21, 2011

The little paradise of Mataiva

I call it little because Mataiva is an atoll in French Polynesia, near Tahiti. It means that it's not even an island as it is a ring of sand with coconut trees everywhere and a blue lagoon in the middle. It's a whole 22km round... yeah... little.
Sand, coconut trees, and lagoon
We went there after spending a day in Papeete to wait for the twice-a-week flight that goes to Mataiva. (There are only 200 people living there so they don't really need more than that). That day gave us time to adjust to the time difference. Not that we really had to though. It's only 2 hours of difference from San Francisco but the fact that they get up at 5am there (the market of Papeete even starts at 3am on sundays) makes it that we pretty much kept the same schedule as in SF. Pretty convenient!

Friday, February 11, 2011

On the road again

One of the beautiful sunsets over San Francisco

I'm writing those lines in the Air Tahiti Nui plane that is taking us from Los Angeles to Papeete (Yeah, I think we picked a good first stop). But it is so much more than just those destinations. It is also taking us from San Francisco where I've lived for 10 grand years and Denise 7, and the USA which is also Denise's home and became mine. And it is bringing us to a big trip, which is sure to amaze and test us, on our way to France, a place that even for me is very much foreign. I've never worked there and haven't lived there since I finished school. I can't imagine how much more daunting it is for Denise, who accepted to try this adventure with me. If that's not love... I don't know what is.

The last months and weeks have been pretty much a whirlwind for me. I've worked all the way until the end, with only one day off before my vacation (terrible, i know :). We moved out of our apartment 2 months ago already and most of our belongings are on a ship, somewhere on the ocean on their way to France. We've been couch surfing for a month, thanks to wonderful friends that have very generously hosted us as we were hopping from house to house every 3 or 4 days.
With all this: work, moving around, trying to plan the rest of our trip, closing all our bills, selling my motorcycles, changing addresses, doing the taxes... I haven't really realized we just left this place for good. I think it's going to take some time, especially since it's gonna be a while before we reach France itself and have to look ahead again.
Saying goodbye to all the friends has been very real though, but I've been living in a foreign country for so long, away from some of my friends, that I just assume I'll see them again, and again, and again... It is reassuring, but goodbyes have never been my forte. Denise found the right way to do it: "See you soon in France!" she says, and I sincerely hope we get to see many come visit us. We'll definitely do our best to come visit SF again (and the famous 5 weeks of french vacations will definitely help in that regard) but the move will be a strange time.
Today is the first day of a very different time in our lives. I know there's a lot of good awaiting us, and god knows where we'll be 10 years from now. One thing is for sure... I have no idea. It's scary, but maybe that's ok.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Iguazu Falls are huge!

Denise and some of the falls
 From Buenos Aires we did a quick jump north to Iguazu Falls. The weather up there was way hotter than anything we got so far. It wasn't quite as humid as in the amazon thankfully, but the sun was pretty unforgiving.

The falls are right at the border between Argentina and Brazil. A bigger part of them is in Argentina but a very dramatic fall, known as Devil's Throat, is more easily visible from the Brazilian side. Looking at both options the infrastructure on the Argentinian side is a lot more developped with many walkways and view points, and even a 1km long walkway above the water to reach the Devil's Throat. We decided to start with that side. Unfortunately we didn't get the time to make it to the Brazilian side as well afterwards, since it's actually 1 hour later in Brazil and it's a 50kms drive to go from one side to the other.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Buenos Aires, the comedy of errors. Looks like Paris but sounds like Argentina

I loved Buenos Aires.  Maybe it's because it looked and felt like Paris (in most places) but a little more gritty.  Maybe it's because it had almost all the modern conveniences of a developed country, but probably it's because we had such an excellent hostess (Katixa Aboitiz) and great travelling company (Jamie Ruth).  We were welcomed to the Aboitiz household in a lovely suburb just outside the city, where we were given our own private suite (usurped Katixa's bedroom), had 2 excellent homemade meals with great wine (thanks Sean) and dinner table conversation that was even better than the food.  Katixa was such a trooper, she stayed up late with us every night and woke up early the next morning for a full day of work.
 We were there for 2 full days, and didn't quite get everything we wanted to done.  It was 2 exasperating days, a comedy of errors....

Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Amazon: It's better than National Geographic

Welcome to the Amazon!
(edited by Denise)
We just got back from 5 days in the Peruvian Amazon and returned to Cusco with many fun memories.
The trip included a plane from Cusco to Puerto Maldonado (far east side of Peru), a 3 hr boat ride (with a breakdown in the middle) from Puerto Maldonado to the first lodge, Refugio Amazonas, with an overnight stay there. The next day we took the boat again (which was 3.5 hrs late) for a 4hr ride to the second lodge, deeper into the Amazon at the Tambopota Research Center (aka TRC). We stayed 2 days at the TRC then had another night at the first lodge.