Asia

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Jordan – the Red Desert

My first impressions of the middle east were formed in Jordan. In April of 2013 Val and I landed in Amman, Jordan’s largest city. We weren’t sure what to expect.  Tremendous hospitality, rich history, and dramatic landscapes are wheat we found there. The kindness of the people is what immediately comes to mind when I…

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Amritsar

The state of Punjab in Northwest of India is the vibrant homeland of the Sikh religion. In the city of Amritsar stand’s the Golden Temple, the beating heart of the Sikh people. It is not only their most sacred site but also one of the world’s great centers of religious tolerance – a rare and…

Delhi

Love it or hate it Delhi has everything. It contains some of India´s most impressive architecture and offers a dazzling array of food, art, religious, and cultural variety. Knowing we would need a place to decompress each day we put a lot of effort into finding a good room. We spent hours but were richly…

Agra

North Central India is plagued by heavy fog in winter. Apparently, Indra, the Hindu god of weather, forgot about our travel plans and sent an extra heavy curtain just as we wanted to go to Agra. Our train was canceled giving us a chance to sample long distance bus travel in India. True to form…

Orcha

Valerie and I travel for extended periods. Time is a valuable and we choose to spend ours traveling. Most people either have time or money but not both, sadly we are no exception.  We go to amazing places but always on a restricted budget, which can be quite challenging. The most unfortunate aspect of this…

Khajuraho

India is overflowing with legendary sights. The erotic temples of Khajuraho are no exception. They appear like a mirage out of the scrub brush, dust, and stunted trees of the arid plane. The audacity and lewdness of what the carving depict the temples is offset by the incredible quality of their craftsmanship and starkly contrasted…

Varanasi

The Ganges is India´s most sacred river and most important pilgrimage. To Hindus dying here guarantees transcendence from the cycle or reincarnation and a direct path to heaven, all sins washed away. Cremation on its banks, even simply spreading ashes in its waters, is auspicious and believed to bring salvation to the departed. Varanasi, perhaps…

Destination India

India had been whispering to us for years. Traces of its influence were everywhere, flavoring everything we had seen in Asia. Travelers told stories of incredible sights, cheap living, and unlimited adventure. Others spoke of a darker side filled with food poisoning, sanity-testing beggars, filth, and frustration. For a long time we didn’t feel ready…

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Leaving Nepal

With two weeks left on our Nepali visa we considered our options. We had to return Kathmandu to get our Indian visas but what would we due while we waited for them? We said goodbye to wonderful Pokhara and returned to the chaotic street of Thamel, Kathmandu’s tourist district. We found a cheap hotel with…

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Annapurna Base Camp

Annapurna is the deadliest of the world’s big mountains. One climber dies for every two that make it to the summit. Avalanches scour the entire standard route. Ed Viesturs, America’s premier high altitude climber and six time Everest summiter, spent 18 hours in the death zone climbing across a nearly flat ridge to avoid this…

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Annapurna Circuit – Part 2

  A road has overtaken the second half of the Annapurna circuit.* A small section, near the trail’s end, remains blissfully free of traffic.  Tate, Jo, Val and I jeeped, walked, and bussed as fast as we could to get there. After two weeks of brown Himalayan desert the sudden green was striking. Flowers adorned…

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Annapurna Circuit – Part 1

After 31 wonderful days in the Everest region we found ourselves back in Thamel, the tourist district of Kathmandu. It is not a relaxing place. Motorbikes weave through pedestrians with horns blaring. An endless stream of touts offer drugs, guides, bus tickets, girls – you name it. Litter is strewn everywhere and stray dogs rule…

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The Three Passes

Having recuperated from the week long trek from Jiri to Namche Bazaar we bid steak dinners and apple pie farewell and continued our ascent into the Everest region. We listened to the peaceful chants of Buddhist monks at the Tengboche monastery. We enjoyed our own private guest house, for lack of other guests, in Orsho…

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Into the Khumbu

Most people fly from Kathmandu to Lukla to get into the Khumbu (region around Mt. Everest). Flights aren’t exactly cheap and the Lukla airstrip’s safety record is pretty spotty. We decided to take a bus to the town of Jiri (a 9 hour journey as death defying as the flight) and walk from there, making…

Destination Nepal

I’ve dreamed of going to Nepal since I was a little boy. By the time I started climbing mountains my teens but I had already read dozens of books about epic ascents in the Himalaya. Their pages had told of incredible suffering, tragedy, triumph and heroism. The Himalayas offer some of the harshest and most…

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September 2012

September was a great month for us this year. It kicked off in Thailand with the arrival of Valerie’s mother Sasa. For those of you who don’t know Sasa (has your head buried in sand?) she’s hilarious and having her with us shed new laughter-packed perspective on some of our favorite Southeast Asian hotspots. Here’s…

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Yala National Park

Waking Val up before 9am can be a dangerous endeavor. Waking her up at 4:15am is downright suicidal. I was willing to take the risk to see Yala National Park. Without much fuss we found ourselves upright on the dark street at 4:45am. A jeep collected us. At the park gate our driver ushered us…

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Ella – Sri Lanka

The central hills of Sri Lanka are home to many small villages. The land is beautiful. Pine trees mingle with eucalypts and other more exotic arboreal species. Smiles are as abundant as the verdant tea bushes that blanket vast tracts of hillside. The town of Ella is particularly charming. Days there are spent walking, eating…

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Trains in Sri Lanka

After a lackluster experience in Kandy we were in search of greener pastures. The train ride through the central highlands of Sri Lanka is as much a highlight as the destination. With this in mind we headed to the station, bought tickets, and boarded a train. Our last train ride, in Myanmar, was one of…

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Kandy, Sri Lanka

Extrapolating from our love of sugar laden snacks that we would love the city of Kandy may have been unwise. We were covered in sweat by the time we stepped onto the busy sidewalk. The smell of exhaust hung thick in the air and horns blared. Our backpacks made us double-wide and hurried pedestrians pushed…

Destination Sri Lanka

We would have been happy to stay in Komodo and dive the days away but our visa was fast expiring. With Valerie’s mother coming in late August we had three blank weeks and no plan. To solve this riddle we asked four questions: Where haven’t we been or should we return somewhere? Are the flights…

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Diving Sipadan

Before we arrived in Semporna, the jumping off point for diving Sipadan island, we’d taken an overnight bus to Tawau, arranged a 60-day visa to Indonesia, and bussed it back to Semporna. We had bloodshot eyes and nowhere to stay. In other words it was business as usual J. We quickly found a great new…

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Destination Borneo

The very name conjures up images of dense jungles, head hunting tribesman, and venomous species at every turn. Once this would have been the case, but sadly one of the world’s most important rainforests is all but gone. Borneo is one of the world’s largest islands. It is home to three different countries: Indonesia, Malaysia,…

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Coron, Philippines

After coming from the tourist centric El Nido it was refreshing to arrive in an actual settlement. Coron is a popular travel destination in its own right, perhaps more popular than El Nido, but the local people still go about their lives with little regard for their snap-happy visitors. Coron’s biggest draw card is shipwreck…

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El Nido, Philippines

El Nido is a small village near the Northern tip of Palawan Island. By Filipino standards it is remote, but its firm established on the backpacker tourist trail has brought abundant accommodation, restaurants, and prosperity to this once sleepy town. El Nido is pleasant enough by itself but the real allure is its proximity to…

Destination Palawan, Philippines

Palawan is considered to be the last frontier of the Philippines. It was long separated from the rest of the country by a 24 hour boat journey. Today it is much more accessible. A cheap flight wisked us to Puerto Princessa, Palawan’s largest city, in an hour. Puerto Princessa, known locally as “Puerto, is one…

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Moalboal, Philippines

The most interesting part of our trip to Moalboal was the ride there. From Oslob we were going to catch two different busses when I realized that many of the visitors had arrived from Moalboal and would soon be returning. I approached a few vans and asked if we could catch a ride. They were…

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Oslob, Philippines

Should we go to Oslob? The question had been plaguing us for weeks. Well, actually just me because when I asked Val if we should go to Oslob she replied, “is that in the Philippines?” It’s a place to see whalesharks. We’d had a lackluster whaleshark experience in Donsol and a thrilling one in Panglao….

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Apo Island, Philippines

Continuing on with our “best of the Philippines” diving tour we boarded a boat to Dumaguete, Negros. It’s a small city whose populations is buoyed by a large university. Pizza places abound in college towns the world over and we were happy to spend a day indulging in baked cheese and air conditioning. We saw…

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Alona Beach Diving

Our first trip out of Panglao was to the world famous Balicasag Island. A 45 minute cruise brought us to this marine sanctuary, just in time to share it with two dozen small fishing boats. Dan’s words rang in my ears “there’s one big difference between conservationist and the local fisherman they want to stop….

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Bohol, Philippines

Bohol lies in the dead center of the Philippines. It has a plethora of attraction such as the chocolate hills, the world smallest primate the tarsier, 16th century churches and abandoned beaches. They were all entiing but we came with a singular purpose – the tiny island of Panglao, off Bohol’s Southern coast. For the…

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Malapascua

Getting here was an adventure. We left Donsol about two minutes too late and the ferry tickets we needed went to the person directly in front of us in line. The next ferry was twelve hours later, and no, we couldn’t buy tickets in advance. Welcome to the Philippines. This turned into something of a…

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Donsol, Philippines

We weren’t to keen on the idea of spending more than a day in Manila but competing with the hundreds of thousands of Filipinos escaping to anywhere within 12 hour of the city for Holy Week was even less appealing. So we waited. Our days in Manila were spent in no less than twelve shopping…

Entering the Philippines

It seemed miraculous to hear the wheels touch down on Philippine soil. Our Malaysian airport foray had proven disastrous but, at long last, we were here. Budget airlines utilize the Clark International, leaving a two hour bus journey to Manila. We changed our Malaysian Ringgits ($) and headed to the ticket counter. Of course, we…

Frantic in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

I’ve heard that bad luck comes in threes.  I don’t know that’s true but it does seem to come in series. I started the week by missing my international flight to Bali. I couldn’t board the plane because my passport was 2,000 miles away living it up in our former rental. Once out of Australia…

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Divemaster: Part 1

Val and I are becoming PADI Divemasters.  For those of you that don’t scuba dive a divemaster is basically a professional dive guide. They are responsible for safely leading divers through the beautiful, yet ever deadly, underwater world. PADI (Professional Association of Dive Instructors) is the largest SCUBA certification agency in the world. They have finely tuned…

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Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

With the DM decision finally made, we headed to our hub in Kuala Lumpur to arrange plane tickets, visas, and shop around for gear that we would need to embark on our new, much anticipated, endeavor. We began this trip in mid-September 2009 with lots of diving on the agenda and DM training as a…

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