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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Walking the Abel Tasman, NZ

In the year that we live in Australia the rich cuisine and its exotic, allergy-inducing pollens were not kind to our bodies. Or perhaps it was the 60+ hour work weeks we imposed on ourselves for 11 months. Either way when we showed up to New Zealand with plum bodies in far from optimal condition….

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Destination New Zealand

It’s been almost 3 years since I’ve seen “the mountains”. The mountains in SE Asia were covered in jungle, with spiders the size of my face. We climbed a mountain in Tasmania which, though somewhat satisfying, it didn’t really scratch the itch. Growing up in the Pacific Northwest gave me a thirst for the hills,…

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Finishing Up, Tasmania

With just a few days left in our Tasmania our focus finally shifted from the natural to the human. A night tour of Port Arthur, Tasmania most notorious labor prison, gave us a taste of history and spirituality. We were led along by the light of candle lanterns as our guide told us a stories…

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Cape Huay, Tasmania

Wineglass Bay had spoiled us.  We found ourselves thinking we’d had hit the apex and that it wouldn’t get any better. We were wrong. Cape Huay is a vast coastline of sea cliffs that tower up to 1000ft above the sea. This is the home of the Totem Pole, a needle-thin spire that is completely surrounded by…

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Wineglass Bay, Tasmania

There’s a hole in the ozone layer above the deep Southern Hemisphere. Dan and Ally paid heed and fastidiously applied sunscreen throughout our Tasmanian holiday. Val and I were not so disciplined, and unfortunately this bit us square on the ass at Wineglass Bay. We’ve been to some pretty spectacular beached in our travels, enough…

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Bay of Fires, Tasmania

The Bay of Fires is a Tasmanian rite of passage. The beach, or rather beaches, stretch along the Northeastern coast and derive their name from orange lichens that cover granite boulders. Upon arrival we were surprised to find that many of our neighboring campers had stayed put for nearly a month, but after a few…

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Cradle Mountain, Tasmania

Cradle Mountain When we arrived in Launceston, Tasmania’s second largest “city”, we thought we head straight to a trailhead and climb a mountain. A few hours of Tassie’s notoriously winding roads later we realized that was a bit too ambitious. The mood was somber as we pulled into a campsite for the night, none of…

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Destination Tasmania

Our plan to go to Tasmania was hashed spontaneously over a Thai food dinner and two rounds of drinks.  We were with our friend Dan Benyon when his girlfriend Ally Kalls came to meet us, or rather collect him. She was exhausted after a long shift but her eyes still lit up when she realized…

2011: The Lost Year

Late 2010 brought the unfortunate, perhaps inevitable, death of our blog SCUBAbackpackers.com. Our adventure across Southeast Asia was already changing when we arrived in Komodo, Indonesia to become divemasters. Learning to guide in the underwater paradise of Komodo National Park meant staying in one place for a while. As we completed our course and employed…

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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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Penang, Malaysia

Here we are again, painlessly over the border and back in Malaysia. The free 3 month visa on arrival certainly contributes to the ease of entrance. Ushered into the country in the back of a minivan, our driver delivered us safely into the heart of Georgetown on Penang Island. Having no clue as to where…

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Contrast – Bangkok

Flying into Bangkok was a shock to the system. Sure only 28 days had elapsed, but what a difference those 28 days had made to my outlook. I couldn’t help but be struck by the modernity, efficiency, and general cleanliness of everything. Cleanliness? Bangkok? Really, it is true. During the taxi ride that would eventually…

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