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Monday, March 21, 2011

Big Wrap Up

Here we are, 18 countries later and about a month after arriving back in Canada, and still without a general wrap up for the trip. Reason being, it wasnt easy to figure out what to put in, leave out, and agree on for any list we thought might be interesting. We finally have one put together, although I am sure as soon as it gets posted, there will be things we think we should add to it. For now, this will have to do.

Best Cities: Berlin, Budapest, Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong, Beijing, Istanbul

Worst Cities: Warsaw, Alexandria, Cairo, Xi'an, Bangkok

Best Food: Vietnam, Germany (Whod have thought that!), China (for Jarret)

Coolest Experience: Dead Sea, Crawling through the Cu Chi tunnels, A day with the Elephant Mahouts, PANDAS, Euroleague ball in Istanbul

Most moving: Dachau, S21 Prison (Cambodia), Agent Orange exhibit (Vietnam)

Friendliest people: Hoi An (Vietnam), Laos, Cambodia, Jordan

We would go back to: Honestly, almost every place we went to we would revisit, but if we had to choose a short list, this would be it: Hungary, Germany, China, Malaysia, Bulgaria, Vietnam

Biggest regret: Going to Alexandria instead of Luxor, Not having enough time in Malaysia, Not getting to see more rural areas like Guilin/Yuangshou in China, not having more time period!

Biggest Disapointments: Weather in China, Group tours, Memento Park, Terracotta warriors

Why dont we have: Better transit, Quiz nights, more happy hours for booze, Asian soups that arent laced with salt, a bigger variety of street food, toll roads

Worth the effort: The warsaw rising museum (you must do the video that shows how much of the city was destroyed, brutle), COPE rehab centre in Vientiane, Big Brother Mouse in Laos

Lived up to the hype: Petra, Pandas, Hong Kong

Most random thing: hitching a ride to Amman in jordan with a guy who sets us up with a friend for a drive to the Dead Sea, only to discover that we had already talked to him about taking us to the Dead Sea before we left for Petra!

Best airports: Koh Samui, Singapore

Worst airport: T5 in London

For now that will have to do, cant really think of anything else to list, and if I try to hard I will get depressed and end up at the airport on another plane. We will write a post soon on what it is like coming back home and readjusting. In the meantime, if you ever have the chance to do a trip like this, dont put it off or think you cant do it, make it happen. It ended up being better than we thought it could have been and has us thinking of doing another one in a few years. Go away, live, experience, learn and enjoy.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Asian Analysis

Travelling through Asia (well, south asia and china) had a much different feel to it than going through eastern europe. It felt more like Latin America...laid back, more relaxed, chilled out vibes. It definitely felt more like a vacation. That isn't to say that it wasn't tiring at times. Extremely long and uncomfortable bus rides, persistent touts, and difficult sleeps all occurred numerous times, but all in all it was a great great experience that served to solidify the fact that there is so much to see out there we have to go back! For now though, the best we can do is wrap up our time in Asia in one of our lists.

Best of: Public transit (in every major city the subways were amazing and efficient), food, budget airlines.

Worst of: Harassing tuk tuk drivers, Western fast food joints, Bus rides in Laos.

Best cities: Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong, Beijing and Hoi An (more of town but lets go with it)

Worst cities: Ho Chi Minh, Xi'an

Best Beaches: Phi Phi (Thailand), Mui Ne (Vietnam) - two totally different vibes, both good

Best Food: Vietnam, Singapore

Best attraction: For us, probably the Pandas

Friendliest people: Laos/Cambodia - really really great people

Yes please: Transit

No thanks: Bus rides in Laos/Vietnam

Most frustrating: China (still didnt diminish our time there though)

Where does your dollar go further: Close call, but we think you can get more for your money in Vietnam. Cambodia and Laos are cheaper, but once you get up to 20 bucks a day, Vietnam gives you more bang for your buck.

Pleasant surprises: Vientiane and Siem Reap. Two places where we were not expecting much but that delivered loads.

What is with...the Indian restos in Laos? Seriously, Nazim has like a chain of ten through the country, and even tiny little Vang Vieng had 3!

Biggest disappointment: Not being able to get to the rural areas of China or more of Malaysia. However, this was easily offset by the knowledge that we will totally be going back to China in the near future and will get to see the places we wont. FYI - We think October is prob the best time to go if your thinking about it.

We wish: We had more time there. Indonesia, Borneo and the Philippines were just a short (dirt cheap) Air Asia flight away...next time!

All in all, the places we visited were great and I would recommend all of them for a trip. There is so much to see and do, or not do if you want to chill by a beach, that we cant see how anyone could get tired of travelling here. Each country is different and has tonnes to offer. If anything, its worth it to travel for the food alone. If you are put off by the long flight to get over here, dont be. You could do Thailand, Malaysia or Vietnam in 16 days, and could really see a lot of one of the countries in 3 weeks. If you need a break and see a seat sale, get on that plane and enjoy yourself. You will be so glad you did you will be offering us a finders fee!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Long journey back

Singapore...7pm Thursday night, London 6am Friday morning, Toronto 6pm Friday night. Added all up with the time changes and you are looking at 40 hours of travel.

Started off good in Singapore, awesome airport. Lots of relaxing areas (i know, weird for an airport), free wi-fi, sleeping areas and foot massages.

On to the plane and still not bad. Qantas airlines new A380, Easily the most comfortable plane we have ever been on. Even in economy there is tonnes of room. Serve yourself snack and drink bar, nice big screen in the back of each seat for movies. Service was ok, food not so great, but the comfy plane made up for it.

Arrival at Heathrow, terminal 5 and things go downhill. This was easily the worst airport terminal we have been in the entire trip. So poorly designed, so busy and backed up, 3 bucks for 5 minutes of internet. It was awful. The worst is that it is brand new...definately a lesson in how not to build an airport terminal.

Getting on the BA flight and things sort of even out. We had two seats to ourselves, so that was good. Seats were fairly comfy, but more crowded than Qantas. Service was better and food was better, but the entertainment in the seats was bad. Just a couple movies on play that you couldnt pause or anything and a tiny tiny screen. Still, better than having nothing I guess.

Arrive in Toronto. Customs was a snap we get our bags and head out to see our folks. Home by 7:30-8. A long long trip back and here we are back in Canada. What comes next...well we will see. For now, we will be getting into our new apt that already has our stuff moved in thanks to our parents...THANKS! Then we will see.

Like we said earlier, keep following the blog because we are going to have some major wrap ups that you are not going to miss!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

So long Singapore

Singapore was a good place to end our time in Asia. It had a real blend of Indian, Malay and Chinese cultures that gave us a little reminder of places we have already travelled to. Be forewarned though, if you go to Singapore, be prepared to spend money. It is not cheap, as a matter of fact, it was the most expensive place we have been on the trip. Even with eating at hawker stands (street food) you will be hard pressed to do any sightseeing for less than $100 a day. Enough about that though, lets get to the wrap up.

Best of: Traffic, it is the best traffic of any big city we have been to (they have road tolls, huge duty taxes on autos, and force people to buy new cars every ten years through a license lottery type thing that gets pricey), hawker stands (great food for cheap), night safari, Changi Airport

Worst of: Prices, hippoduck hop on hop off tour (the most unorganized thing ever!)

Best meal: Jarret - Chilli crab, Leigh - Onion and egg dhosa and veggie curry

Worst meal: Jarret - Hainan chicken (cold steamed chicken...), Leigh - N/A
Yes please: Subways (a common theme on this trip...)
No thanks: Prices

Who'da thunk it: Singapore has over 20,000 cabs, and they are cheap to ride! The cabbies must be locals and pass an exam testing their road knowledge. They rent the cabs from a company for between $80-130/day and get to keep what they earn after paying the rent and gas (and prob insurance type stuff).

Whats that smell? If your walking around Singapore outside of the main tourist areas, you are bound to smell durian being cut up and packaged. It really smells pretty bad, especially in 30+ heat. They have them all over south asia, but they were particularly noticeable here.

All in all Singapore was good. Its kinda like a calmer, smaller Hong Kong. You definately dont need more than 3-4 days to visit, so its a great place to add to the beginning or end of a trip to someplace like Malaysia. If you do go, be sure to try out food from a Hawker stand, for very little money you will likely get food that rivals or surpasses any indian or chinese you can get at home in a setting that will really make you feel your doing something exotic.
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