I can’t hear you, I’ve got a slug in my ear!

In honor of Abe’s latest video (which you’ll need to scroll all the way down for) , I’m taking you all back in time, to our time down under. I hope you enjoy this trip down memory lane.

Aside from the disappointingly disgusting vegemite (really though.. wtf?), Australia was stunning. We spent weeks wine tasting in Margaret River and Adelaide, sneaking up on roos and koalas in Kangaroo Island, beaching and walking around in Sydney, and finally scuba diving at the Great Barrier Reef in Cairns.

Wine tasting in Margaret River
Wine tasting in Margaret River

It was nearly perfect, really. Except for when something fishy happened to Abe’s ear during one of our scuba dives. And it may or may not have been a slug.

Here’s how the story goes (I’ll try to keep it short, in the interest of my Saturday night plans). After one of our breathtaking scuba dives, Abe got a bad ear ache. A local Cairns doctor diagnosed the issue as an ear infection and gave him antibiotics. Which normally should have cured the issue.

Koalas in Kangaroo Island
Koalas in Kangaroo Island

But by the time we got to New Zealand, the pain had gotten worse. Abe made an emergency doctor’s appointment through our local airbnb host, and the M.D. seemed preoccupied but wouldn’t give Abe any information… instead, that sneaky woman just handed Abe a sealed letter to give to a specialist. Obviously we opened the letter (who wouldn’t?) and it turns out she suspected there may be a slug (!!!!!!!!!) inside his ear.

So for 2 days, we squirmed wondering whether there was an eerie (hah!) flesh-eating bug in Abe’s ear. Turns out though, the doctor was an idiot: it was ‘just’ a very bad infection. We did get pretty scared, but jumping out of a plane put that fear into perspective. We’re both ok, obviously.

Anyways, I can’t possibly tell you all of our Australia and New Zealand stories in one post, so I’ll just let the star of the show speak for itself. Hope you enjoy Abe’s latest masterpiece below (or see the high res here):

 

Mesmerizing Myanmar

Dear friends,

We’ve been back for months now, and life is basically back to normal. Abe and I are back in the work routine, and we’ve just bought a house (yay!!) which we’ll hopefully move into at the end of June.

I’m excited to share Abe’s latest video. It’s focused on our time in Myanmar, which I wrote about a few months ago. It’s weird for me to see the footage many months after it all happened, and to think that only 5 months ago we were still traveling full-time. I absolutely love seeing these new movies and remembering the excitement, the beauty, and all the funny stories… What an adventure it was.

Well, I hope you enjoy the video as much as I did. And I’m not saying this just because he’s my husband, but Abe really is very talented :) See it below, or click here to view the high res version.

Our Time in Thailand – a video

By the time Abe and I arrived in Thailand last September, I was already pretty far behind with my blog upkeep. You can tell, because my blog posts started including pictures from several different countries in my desperate attempts to catch up.

As a result, you didn’t get to hear about our awesome Thai cooking class in Chiang Mai, our kayaking adventures in Koh Samui, our volunteering with elephants or the sketchy ping pong show invitations in Bangkok. Luckily, Abe documented it all, and he’s just finished his latest video masterpiece.

So, with no further ado, here is a peek into our 3 weeks in Thailand. Check it out below (or see the high res version here):

Chaotic India – A trip down memory lane

We returned to the US in November, our world travels officially over. And, since some of you have asked: Yes,  it’s been a weird transition. Abe is already back at work, and I’m about to be. It’ll be strange going back to a working life routine after a year of being utterly, completely free. But don’t feel too bad for us: we have exciting adventures coming up, starting with buying our first home!

Taking 2015 off to travel was probably the best decision Abe and I have made. We discovered so much… And Abe filmed it all!  We skied the St.Moritz mountains, learned to surf in Costa Rica, wined and dined in Argentina, cruised among penguins in Patagonia, got a tan in Rio de Janeiro,  flew a hot air balloon in Turkey, boated through an ice lagoon in Iceland, danced the night away in Mykonos, ate apfel shtrudels in Vienna, cruised the Baltic with Abe’s parents, nearly fell off the cliffs of Moher in Ireland, and had hundreds of other adventures.

But there’s plenty missing from that list of course. So (drum roll please), allow me to present to you Abe’s newest masterpiece: our Indian adventures! Check our our video below, or see the high res here. The dashing Abe look-alike is his brother Simon, who joined us for 2 weeks. Enjoy!

Our Myanmar Trek: A Pain in the Butt

It’s been a long time since I told you about our one-legged Indian hero, and so much has happened since then. We spent 2 weeks in Thailand, 10 days in Myanmar, 3 weeks in Australia, 10 days in New Zealand, and we’ve been in Japan for a week. No big deal.

I’m ashamed for failing to update this blog, but please don’t judge me for it… I get lazy. Let he who has never binged on Netflix for 5 hours cast the first stone.

Now that that’s settled, here are some of our highlights:

Chang Mai, Thailand
Volunteering with elephants in Chang Mai

1) We volunteered with elephants in Chiang Mai, Thailand. We waded through muddy rivers with them, fed them countless watermelons and bananas, bathed them with massive buckets of water, and then rafted down a river. It was absolutely amazing. I actually almost faceplanted in the mud once, but an elephant saved me. True story.

Hiking in Myanmar
Hiking in Myanmar

2) Myanmar was quite the adventure. We hiked through the jungle for 2 days, with an interesting layover. We slept spent the night in a Pa’O tribe member’s home, with no running water, a Buddha shrine that shone its heavenly bright LED lights on us all night, 6 cows, 1 pig, and a half-blind cat. I also encountered the world’s most terrifying bathroom, toilet, spider and mosquito-filled hole in the ground. Plus, strangers sniffed my face and we had the most boring guide of all time. More on some of this later.

Skydiving in Lake Taupo
Skydiving in Lake Taupo

3) We watched Maori people perform the Haka in New Zealand, went tubing in an incredible glowworm-filled cave, and I went skydiving over lake Taupo.

Tubing in New Zealand.. We're the smart-looking ones in the back
Tubing in New Zealand.. We’re the smart-looking ones in the back

Did I forget Australia? Of course not. It’s just that 3 weeks deserve more than a bullet point. We had an amazing time there: We spent our days wine tasting in Margaret River and Barossa Valley, chilling with kangaroos and koalas, beaching in Bondi beach in Sydney and scuba diving at the Great Barrier Reef. What could go wrong?

For some reason, Abe wouldn't let me kidnap that baby koala
For some reason, Abe wouldn’t let me kidnap that baby koala

Well, lots could go wrong. Thank you “friends” (and mom) who posted crap like this before my trip and sent me links about Australia’s killer spiders and snakes. I was constantly scanning for redback spiders, at least until I drank enough wine to temporarily forget them. I hope you’re pleased with yourselves.

Anyways, let’s scuttle over to the star of today’s post. And that’s our trek in Myanmar. I’ll break it down because there’s just too much to say.

Abe watches the sunset from the top of a stupa in Bagan, Myanmar
Abe watches the sunset from the top of a stupa in Bagan, Myanmar

The Trek

I’ll come right out and say it: I’m pretty proud of myself. I went trekking, and that’s quite a feat for me. Though I have a completely unexplainable, unrealistic ambition of hiking the Appalachian trail (go figure… watching ‘Wild‘ probably didn’t help), I actually dislike roughing it for more than a day. I may look like a badass in some blogging pictures, but you ought to know that the internet can be misleading. I’m ok with a tough hike, so long as there’s a promise of wine and a bubble bath at the end. A massage would be nice too.

Starting a rainy trek with high hopes
Starting a rainy trek with high hopes

I digress. We started trekking. I was naively optimistic, despite the fact that it started pouring as soon as we started our first 7-hour hike. I figured things couldn’t get much worse. The rain wouldn’t get me down. But they did, and it did.

The insistent rain got to me. My feet were sloshing in my shoes. Prickly plants pierced my socks and pants. But then, worst of all, I had a flashback to my Brazilian misadventure. As I struggled to follow our guides, I was alarmed to see a swarm of bees under a nearby bush.

“There’s bees,” I told the guides.

“What?”

“Bees.”

“What?” (obviously, there was a language barrier).

“Bzzzzzz,” I buzzed, flailing my arms stupidly. “Bees.”

“Ok! Walk, you come. Come. Come. Come.”

I trusted them. I figured they knew best. What an idiot. I should have known.  The bastard bees stung me in the butt. That’s right, straight in the ass. And somehow, even with me clutching my butt and howling like a nutjob, the guides looked surprised and asked, “What happen? Let us see.”

No way, bros. No way. You’ve gotten me stung in the butt. You’ve done enough. You don’t get to admire your treacherous work.

A boy sits near a Paho village
A boy sits near a Pa’O village

The universe had had its laugh. And it could have stopped there. But no, it wasn’t done. It watched me as I persevered bravely (heroically, you might say), hiking through muddy paths, one hand shielding my face from the rain and another comforting my aching butt. And then, it snatched away the rest of my dignity.

Within 5 minutes of my painful and embarrassing bee sting, one of my feet got stuck in the mud. And then, the other did too. It was horrible and pathetic: I faceplanted in slow motion. First one knee went down, then the other. Then my shoulder. Then my elbow. (“No, please, not the face, please not the face…” It was a like a gangster movie, with me silently and pointlessly begging the universe to spare me). And then, my face. Straight into the mud.

I’d held back tears until then. I was fine, really, until Abe comforted me (“No paso nada. Un susto, nada mas”). And you know how it is: it’s always tenderness that kills you.

The Overnight Stay

Any decent human being would agree that I’d had enough for a day. But as you might have realized by now, the universe didn’t give a shit.

Our sleeping situation in the Paho village
Our sleeping situation in the Pa’O village. Don’t let Abe’s smile fool you – it was just for the camera.

We arrived at our overnight stay in a Pa’O village, somewhere in the jungle between Kalaw and Inle. And that’s when we realized we’d have no running water, no beds, and no toilets.

Our shower in the Paho village
Our shower in the Pa’O village

Now, I want to clarify something. This year has really changed my toilet standards. I never thought I’d say this, but I would have been ok with a ‘normal’ hole in the ground. I really would have. What I couldn’t deal with was a spider- and mosquito-infested hole, in an area where there is both dengue and malaria. It was the ‘toilet’ of anyone’s nightmares.

I suppose I was lucky though. My food poisoning only started the day after we returned from our trek, so at least I was spared from being sick in that monstrosity.

Don’t worry though, my misadventures had a happy ending. The following day was sunny and we hiked through countless beautiful fields. And, best of all: I got to recover in one of the most unique and beautiful places: Inle Lake.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
A home and it’s reflection along Inle Lake.

 

Happy arriving in Inle Lake after our eventful trek
Happily arriving in Inle Lake after our eventful trek

 

 

A European Flashback

This morning we’re leaving New Zealand and flying to Japan, the last country of our traveling year. Three more exciting weeks to go, and then we’re heading home!

Luckily, we’ll have Abe’s amazing videos to remember all our adventures vividly. In fact, check out his latest video montage, an awesome flashback to some of our travels across Europe (or can see the high res version here):

An Icelandic Video

We fell in love with Iceland a few months ago (check out my blog post if you missed it). It’s truly an amazing place, and I highly recommend a visit.

Abe made a beautiful video of our time there, which you can check out below (or stream the high res version here). There’s quite a bit of kissing, but I refuse to apologize for it. I couldn’t help myself: I had to fight off the cold somehow, and the sledding dogs weren’t always around for a snuggle. Can you spot the seal swimming around the glacier lagoon at the end?

 

Chaotic, Overwhelming, Incredible India

I’m sitting in a monsoon downpour in Chiang Mai, Thailand right now, and I’ve decided it’s time I told you about our trip to India.

Abe enjoyed it, but didn’t love it as much as he’d hoped. He didn’t like how we didn’t feel safe while we traveled through Delhi, Agra, Jaipur, Jodhpur and Varanasi. How we feared for our lives every time we got in a car or tuk-tuk as they swerved and honked their way around bikes, dogs, cows, cars, potholes, and countless other obstacles (and we did get in a crash, so our fears were well-founded after all). How we got squashed by hundreds of sweaty Indian men in the subway (ok, I’m the one who didn’t like that). And he felt that people were constantly trying to scam us out of tiny amounts of money.

 

{The sunrise illuminates the buildings and ghats along the Ganges in Varanasi}
{The city wakes up as the sun rises over the Ganges in Varanasi}

But I loved it. I loved how different India is. How colorful. How spiritual. How it’s so utterly unique from anything else I’ve ever seen or experienced. Yes, it’s smelly, it’s dirty, it’s chaotic and it’s overwhelming. And yep, I spent several days with food poisoning, and even ended up taking antibiotics because of it. But it’s incredible and beautiful, and I’m so glad we went.

 

Blue City Jodhpur
{Overlooking Jodhpur, the blue city}

I could write an endless post chatting about the blue city of Jodhpur, the awe-inspiring Taj Mahal in Agra, the Swaminarayan Akshardham in Delhi, our cooking adventures in Jaipur or the amazing relationship people have with the Ganges in Varanasi. But I won’t put you through that. Instead, I’ll share a couple fun anecdotes from our travels. Oh, but before I start (that’s right, I’m just getting started), please warm up by watching this video. You’re welcome for that.

 

{Lots of love at the Taj Mahal, Agra}
{Lots of love at the Taj Mahal, Agra}

 

{Hanging out at the Pana Meena in Jaipur}
{Hanging out at the Pana Meena in Jaipur}

#1: We are the monkeys

So, I kinda felt like a movie star in India. You know, the kind you vaguely recognize – you can’t quite put on your finger on where you’ve seen them but you think they’re probably famous so you stare and discreetly take a selfie with them in the background just in case. Abe and Simon (Abe’s brother, who joined us in India) were my dashingly handsome but slightly less famous co-stars.

{The boys pose with a couple at the Taj, who didn't care that the palace wasn't in the shot}
{The boys pose with a couple at the Taj, who don’t care that the palace isn’t in the shot}

As we learned, most Indian people rarely see white foreigners and they find us really interesting. Indians have different cultural norms, so they find it perfectly ok to make intense eye contact even when you give them your best stop-staring-at-me-I-can-see-you look.

So the whole time we were in India, people wanted to get their pictures taken with us. At first I thought they were just approaching with their cameras because they wanted us to take their picture in front of the Taj Mahal. But nope. They wanted us in the picture. If the Taj happened to show, that was just a plus. How could I not develop a diva complex with that kind of attention?

 

{A baby monkey feeds from his mom at the Monkey Temple in Jaipur}
{A baby monkey feeds from his mom at the Monkey Temple in Jaipur}

Anyways, that brings me to Jaipur. We visited this amazing monkey temple, aptly named for the thousands of monkeys that call it their home. We hired a weird local guide who seemed convinced that he could speak to the monkeys (who knows, maybe he could) and exclaimed “LAH!” and “AWH!” at regular intervals while giving us peanuts to feed to his furry friends. At one point, as we were trying to entice the monkeys to climb on our shoulders, we realized that they were becoming increasingly nervous and reluctant to approach. They guide confirmed it: “They’re getting nervous because of the people.” The people?

 

{Feeding monkeys at the Monkey Temple in Jaipur}
{Feeding monkeys at the Monkey Temple in Jaipur}

And that’s when we noticed. We had a crowd of about 20 Indians behind us. They weren’t watching the baby monkeys like us though. No. We were their spectacle. And that’s when we realized: We were their monkeys.

 

#2: Why did the one-legged man cross the road?

Our guide in Varanasi summed up the traffic situation perfectly: “You need three things to drive in India: good breaks, good horn, and good luck.”

{Or you could take the metro, if you'd rather...}
{Or you could take the metro, if you prefer…}

It’s hard to do justice to the insane Indian traffic. It’s not just that the roads are bad, flood easily, and that goats, cows, and buffalo disturb traffic regularly, but the drivers are also pretty special. There’s no respect for lanes, traffic lights are suggestions, Tuk Tuk drivers stop to take leaks en-route, and the biggest vehicles always have the right of way.

Motorbike Jodhpur
{Motorbikes in Jodhpur… Is anyone watching the road?}

We had a cab driver in Delhi who embodied every aspect of driver oddities: he was a overly friendly yet pushy, drove in a terrifying way and overcharged us for the ride. This guy referred to himself as Doctor Taxi Driver (and printed this honorary title on his business cards). He insisted on waiting for us everywhere we stopped during an afternoon in Delhi, ignoring our adamant refusals by simply repeating: “I am not compelled to you, you are not compelled to me” as if that explained everything. Doctor Taxi Driver drove without windshield wipers in torrential rain, literally swerving between lanes using only other drivers’ honks as guidance. I honestly believe that he dodged cows and dogs out of sheer luck because his windshield was so opaque with the rain that we couldn’t see a thing. To further enhance our experience, he covered the running meter with a cloth despite our complaints because “the light hurt his eyes.” Unsurprisingly, when he removed the cloth with a flourish at the end of our ride, the fare was unusually high.

{Buffalos stop traffic in Jaipur}
{Buffalos stop traffic in Jaipur}

Now that you have a glimpse of what it’s like to be a passenger on an Indian road, try to imagine something even scarier. Crossing that road on foot.

Road crossings were downright terrifying in Delhi, even more so for Abe than for me. He operates under the belief that cars won’t stop for him (probably due to his Venezuelan roots) whereas I tend to optimistically assume that they will (likely because I’m Swiss), which terrifies Abe even more. It feels like every little road crossing in our lives was just practice for the ultimate challenge we faced in Delhi: crossing the insanely busy road near Chandni Chowk market.

It was kind of like a scene from a terribly boring action movie: There we were, struggling to cross a seemingly impassable road. Suddenly, just when the situation seemed most dire, the most unexpected hero appeared at an unusually slow pace: it was a one-legged man, hopping to our rescue. Seeing us dither helplessly, he put his best and only foot forward and hobbled along, stopping tuk-tuks left and right with angry shouts and gesturing aggressively with his crutches. He yelled something in Hindi at us when it was time to make a run for it, then shouted again when we had to stop. Somehow, miraculously, the unexpected hero granted us safe passage. Once he ensured that he had completed his mission, he welcomed a tip and then self-appointed himself as our guide despite our objections and stalked us somewhat creepily for the next half hour.  The End.

Fear not though, there’s plenty of potential for sequels. We were also flashed by a fellow train traveler, scammed by a Brahman in Varanasi and harassed by lonely puppeteers in Jaipur. But those stories for another time, maybe over a glass of wine when we get back in November. Until then, Namaste!

Sunrise yoga on a rooftop in Varanasi, overlooking the Ganges
Sunrise yoga on a rooftop in Varanasi, overlooking the Ganges

Baltic Cruise Video

Now that we’ve finally finished planning our trip (check out our complete itinerary here!), Abe’s had much more time to work on his video compilations. You heard a little about our Baltic cruise in my last post, but Abe’s amazing (and dance-filled) video definitely brings our Viking adventures to life. Check it out below, or see the high res version here. It might be his best one yet!