Asia here we come, right back where we started from…

One month from today will be our “last day in Australia for a while.”

4 and a half weeks. 
31 days.
744 hours.
44,640 minutes.

Who’s counting?

It’s a strange feeling to know that in in just a few short weeks, everything we know – our comfort zones and safety nets – will be stripped from us. We’ve had so long to prepare, yet it still hasn’t sunk in.
What will we miss? What won’t we miss?…

It’s a big bag of mixed emotions when we think about how we feel about departing Australia,  and “going home” [in a sense] to Asia.
There is this extreme excitement that is, some days, simply uncontrollable. We frolic about, skipping rather than walking, with this joy that I can not explain. 
Other days, we feel filled with a worry, or a fear of the unknown; For our health, for our safety… 
We’re nervous too. It’s hard to pin-point exactly what that’s about.
And, we’re a little stressed: We’ve got 4 VERY busy weeks left of work, a house to move out of, our lives to pack up into boxes and backpacks, and a heap of loose ends to tie-up.

I look forward to soon being able to write non-mundane, rather; exciting and interesting blog posts about fascinating places.

Even more so, I simply look forward to experiencing Asia.

I have a feeling this trip is going to open up doors that right now, neither of us can imagine.
We’re off to Asia again, which in a way, feels like where we started from.

 

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Reality: The Count-down is On!

It’s official. In exactly two months from today, we will be on our way to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Two months from today marks the true ‘beginning’ of our journey; we are so excited and, not gonna lie – a little bit nervous about what we will experience… but at the same time, we couldn’t be happier.
Our to do list is growing, but at the same time, we’re starting to tick more and more off as the “important tasks” like applying for visas, booking remaining flight paths, organising travel insurance and enduring those all important travel injections, start getting done.
Em started a packing list yesterday, and quickly felt overwhelmed by the amount of stuff we’re going to have to carry around. “Seriously, do we even need that?!” is becoming a familiar question…
Jake’s baby – aka his car, is up for sale. Anyone looking for an amazing, almost new, well looked after car?
We stored a lot of our goods already at our parents homes, and our wardrobes are looking bare due to the large amount of clothing we culled recently.
Yet, we are still (well, Em is – Jake might have some slight hoarding tendencies), overwhelmed by the amount of stuff we still actually own! Again – “Seriously, do we even need that?!”
It starts becoming real, doesn’t it, when the count down is on. With just a few more shifts at work, resignation letters start getting written, our life starts getting packed into boxes and the car is up for sale. And fuck! – we bought daggy travel sandals! You don’t get much more real than that in our opinion! (We kid, we kid…)
The next two months are going to go so quickly, and there feels like so much to still organise. And then we start thinking about how much we are going to miss our family, friends, our annual trip to Wangaratta Jazz Festival we love so much and Melbourne in general.
Bittersweet though – we’re about to embark on a journey of a lifetime: and without a reminder of home, what would travel be? We know to, and are reminded to appreciate everything even more so.
We can’t wait for this trip – it’s been our main topic of conversation and, for the last 6 months our lifestyles have been adjusted to scrimp and save, and work towards and for this trip.
We want this.
We know it’s going to be so amazing, so challenging, so life changing in so many ways – we’re just not sure yet how. There in lies the beauty of travel, and we are so excited, and feel so privileged to be able to do this.
2 months.
8.5 weeks.
59 days.
59 sleeps.
1416 hours.
…and counting down.
Malaysia, Sri Lanka, India, Nepal, Burma, Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, Borneo… Here we come.

Daggy Sandals, Baggy Pants… and Nepal thrown in for good measure!

Jake and I spent 6 weeks wondering about Cambodia, Laos and Thailand in a pair of black Havianas, that by the end of the trip, were pretty well worn, filthy and on their last legs. Not to mention; our feet were in poor form after hiking, biking, waterfalls, dirty backroads, 12-hour walking sessions and god-knows what else we stepped in, with only little pieces of rubber to protect our feet…

In the last part of our trip, Jake broke one of his thongs (flip-flops/slippers – we call them ‘thongs’ in Australia) and we spent a good few hours wondering about the little market bazaars trying to find him a new pair. Normally, this would’ve been an easy task, but when you have size 16 feet, even more so, when you have size 16 feet in Asia, this task was impossible, and he spent a week or so walking around with his heels hanging off the back of the (tiny in comparison) thongs. Em found it funny, Jake probably just found it uncomfortable.

So yesterday, we made an exectutive decision to buy those daggy heavy-duty travel sandals. Yes, we know, we know… We know we’re not the only farangs to be wandering about in these bad boys around Asia town, but it didn’t stop us from feeling like we’d aged about 30 plus years in a matter of minutes… Em’s refusal to try them on without socks didn’t help to make the fashion statement any more stylish.

The boy at the shop laughed and kindly said “you know, you are welcome to try them without the socks on…”
Em’s face was priceless; a look of horror, as was her response “…I’m sorry, I just can’t…” Em hates feet with a passion, and the suggestion of taking her socks off was akin to that of being asked to get naked infront of everyone in the shop.

Still, after winging, moaning, deliberating over ‘should we, shouldn’t we…’, Em laughing/dry reaching at the sight of Jake in a pair of sandals, and complaining that ‘I never thought I’d do this, I never thought I’d ever wear these…’, yes, we bought them. Em claims she heard her wallet crying as she handed over her VISA.

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Sandas in hand, we walked silently amongst the busy shoppers. No doubt, we were in shock. We know, we know – slight over-exaggeration, but true. With that, it was on to our next stop – to buy some travel pants. Em got a pair that ticked every box.

Quick Drying? Tick.
Light Weight? Tick.
Non Crease? Tick.
Suitable for travel/hiking? Tick.
Daggy? Tick.
Ugly? Tick.
Baggy and Un-flattering? Tick.
Unattractive? Tick.

Jake bought some new underwear; his friend’s wise words echoing in his mind. “You’re going to India, man. Sometimes, underwear means the difference between getting to the toilet in time, or feeling the shit trickle down your leg.” – Charming, yes. True, yes, probably. We better stock up… sigh.

With the shopping done, feeling defeated and happy with our purchases at the same time (read: Hideous shoes to make us look even more like rich farangs, baggy pants for India to hide Em’s legs from unwanted attention, and underwear to help control things just that little bit more when we are shitting ourselves…), we went home.

Whist strutting about in our sandals, Jake in his new underwear and Em in her baggy pants […what!? You don’t do that…?] Em had a sudden thought.

Why aren’t we going to Nepal? What reason do we have not to? We’re there, near the border, why not just skip accross for a week or so?

So with a little more strutting about in our sandals and baggy pants/underwear, a little research and then dinner out at ‘Old Faithful’ with our friends who have been to India and Nepal in the past, it was decided what we should do.

So, cheers guys! Jake and Em are proud to announce the following:

We own daggy sandals that scream ‘rich farang’…
Em owns a pair of quick-dry, non-crease, light-weight, hideous baggy pants…
We’re well stocked-up on underwear for our trip…

And were off to Nepal! Fuck yeah! Country number 8 – Welcome to our list…

Budgets, Bookings, Backpacks and Borneo!

It’s ticked over to April and that means there is less than three months until we depart! It’s actually becoming quite daunting to think this is all happening so soon! We leave for our big trip in a mere 88 days!

There is a lot to organise, and we just gave our selves a whole lot more to plan, becuase as of today we have added Malaysia, Borneo to our itinerary! Exciting stuff!

Our new itinerary is as follows:
Melbourne – Malaysia, KL – Sri Lanka – India – Malaysia, KL (transit) – Burma – Thailand – Vietnam – Malaysia, KL (transit) – Singapore – Malaysia, Borneo: Kuching – Malaysia, Borneo: Kota Kinabalu – Malaysia, KL – Melbourne.

It feels as though we made all these ‘to-do’ lists months back but haven’t really made much more progress since then – like we made all the plans and haven’t put anything into action…
However, that isn’t actually quite the case.

Here’s a bit of an update as to where we are with our current travel plans. It’s interesting to see what we have actually done, and what we still need to do. It feels like all we’ve done in the past few months is add to the list, rather than cross things off – it keeps growing!

Important Stuff:
– Open a bank acount and commit to a set amount to deposit each week
– Start a budget – a work in process.
– Save like never before – a work in process.
– Em: finish your studies before June! – Two electives complete, two half-complete, and one still to start.
– Jake: finish your thesis before April! – He’s being a big slacko.

Travel Stuff:
– Travel Insurance – We’re looking into it.
– Get more passport photos taken for Visas, and to have on hand 
– Organise Visas, apply for visas, pay for visas, get visas – This month we’re onto it, and we’ll get our Vietnamese visa whilst in Bangkok.
– Book the remaining flight paths 
– Read like crazy every travel book, forum, guide, article etc… No, Jake, that does not include Manga! – A work in progress.
– Photocopy doccuments for family members and each other.
– Give flight itinerary to family members.
– Read through guide books we purchased, and start planning the routes we want for each country
– Start planning and researching and finding out about the places we want to go to in each country.
– Start making a general time line
– Make a budget for when we are overseas – A work in progress.
– Look at the travel gear we have, and then work out what travel gear we still need. 
– Jake needs new travel shoes. And should probably stock up on thongs/flip-flops-jandals (whatever you call them) for the duration of the trip… size 16/ EU 51 feet are hard to accomodate for when buying shoes in Asia…
– Finalise a Packing list – packing list will be started on this week.
– Pack backpacks

Medical Stuff:
– Dentist Checkups for us both – booked!
– Orthodontist Checkup for Em
– Optometrist appointment for Em
– Travel Doctor Appointment (February)
– Any outstanding jabs to be had, must be endured – Japanese Encephalitis, Flu Shot, Tetanus: Appointments need to be booked for April/May
– Prepare and organise all medication for travel, along with doctors letters etc. Photocopy this stuff too.
– ‘Build’ up a first aid kit
– Em – begin vetetarian diet one month before departure, book appointment with dietition.

House Stuff:
– Organise the sale of Jake’s car – hopefully starting this process this week.
– Sort through our belongings and try to get rid of the stuff that is clogging up so much of our space
– Cull our clothing and wardrobe; give to charity.
– Store our good stuff – thanks mum!
– Try and sell the useless stuff – what we don’t actually need
– Give to the salvo’s the stuff we don’t want to keep and are too lazy to sell… and of course, mostly because we are generous people.
– Finalise and cease renting

Other Stuff:
– Redirect Mail
– Mobile phones – whats happening with them?
– Call Plan International – organise a visit to Em’s sponsor child in India – in the process.
– Buy AU netbook plug
– Quit our jobs
– Keep going to gym – ….shit.
– Em: Have an early birthday party
– Organise a going away celebration with family and friends somewhere.

Items to buy before travel:
– Steri-pen
– Mosquito Net
– Hiking Shoes for Jake
– Adaptor Plugs
– A decent drink bottle for Emily
– New thongs/flip-flops for our trip
– Jake: New pants and shirts for travelling
– Emily: New prescription glasses and sunglasses

Over the next 88 days we have a lot of stuff to keep us busy!… With a bit of luck, we might get most of it sorted!

A Taste of Asia

It’s probably obvious by now, that we love Asia. We heart it with all our might; especially the people, the cultures and the foods!

I was feeling terrible yesterday; homesick for Asia, and as such, just ‘happened’ to end up at the Asian grocery store in the CBD.

Strolling through the isles, familiar smells filled my nostrils and the sight of some of the products made me feel really nostalgic.
I ended up walking out with just a bottle of ‘Oishi Green Tea’, and felt a lot better instantly. This tea had been a staple for us during or Asia trip, and when I fell violently ill for several days, Oishi was the only thing I could keep down. Ever since, I hae had cravings for it.
That, and Yakkult…

All this nostalgia got me thinking about the miriad of different foods (common and not so common) that we fell in love with while abroad.

…In Laos, ‘Laughing Cow’ cheese, baguettes and fruit shakes fast became ‘the usual’, replaced further North with hawker style foods and lots of rice. Oreos – they were our staple snack throughout Laos; cheap cheap and readily available no matter how remote we were. Larp filled with fresh herbs and sticky rice was a dream dish, and warm Lao bread is a must eat if you happen to stumble across it on a menu! (Hard to find!)…
We had delicious smokey grilled chicken on bamboo skewers, and lots of noodle-y dishes, which always left our stomachs satisfied. Often, we washed down our meals with either a yakkult, a cup of bitter, strong black coffee, or a big Beer Lao.

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…In Thailand, we ate copious amounts of cut fruit, whole pineapples and freshly squeezed pommegranate juices. Yakkult, Bubble Cup and fresh Thai iced coffee/tea were our daily drinks.
Insects were a nice experience, but mango and sticky rice was a real treat. Most of our other meals came from hawker stalls, where we stood eating, surrounded by smoke and BBQ smells.

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…In Cambodia, Em fell inlove with a vegetarian hawker food – spinach, garlic and ginger wrapped in a pummelled rice dough and fried until golden brown, and the inside veggies cooked through. The plump stall owner promised, in broken English, he would be in the same spot each night, but unfortunately, was never to be seen again. Crushing.
We came across fresh sun-dried bananas, fresh banana candies, and fresh BBQ’d banana – all were eaten almost as quickly as they were discovered.
Jake salivated over some salty doughnut thing (really, any sort of doughnut), and we found delicious treats and delacacies and random foods on every street corner and at every second market stall.
We gorged on mounds of fresh Kep crab, and still grind our Kampot-grown (and bought) pepper onto our meals.

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…In Singapore and Malaysia; dahl, roti, naan and teh tarik were readily available, and were a daily feast for us. Nasi Lemnak saw Em devour blue coloured rice, and the pineapple cookies were so delicious!
Chendol and Ice Kechung were savoured treats, with joy in every spoon of the grass jelly and weird beans.
Banana-leaf meals were a real experience, and downtown China Town and Little India let us explore more of what the countries big cities had to offer.

…In Japan, everything we ate was a piece of art and tasted as such; amazing – it’s impossible to say what the best meal there was; there were too many to count!
But, it was those little things – the egg cubes on a stick, the sushi rice triangle-shaped snack things, the interesting flavoured ice creams, conveyor belt sushi and sheets of sea weed that were our ‘go-to snacks.’
Green tea and Royal Milk Tea from a can, hot or cold, were the drinks of choice.
The tempura melted in our mouths, we drooled over the okonomiyaki frying on hotplates infront of us, the takoyaki balls were incredible, and the ramen left us slopping and slurping….

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…Come to think of it, really we have had hardly any mediocre or ‘bad’ meals whilst travelling in Asia. Food was, and is a rich experience for us, and something we really enjoy exploring. It is important to us to see and taste  local flavours and traditions; to eat what the locals eat (within reason – no beating snake hearts for us, thank you). Meals bring people together. Many times, eating and sharing a meal was an unforgettable experience: from simple grilled street food skewers to a Japanese banquet.

We honestly can not wait to see and taste more of the foods of Asia.

We’d love to hear from you: What were your favourite foods and ‘go-to’ snacks, drinks, sweets and meals whilst you were travelling the globe? What foods and drinks would/wouldn’t you reccomend?

Happy eating. 

Home is… Where Your Backpack Lands?

I’ve always sort of liked change. Although I love my comforts, and am pretty habitual at times, I find it easy to frollic from here to there, adjust to new, places, homes, jobs, people, surroundings…I get bored of things quickly; they seem to become mundane and I crave new things to keep myself enthused.

Perhaps that’s why I crave travel so much; I have a severe case of wanderlust that keeps me needing more and more of it, to keep me on my toes; to challenge me at every turn, to shock me and surprise me, to educate me, and to excite my senses constantly.

I’ve always thought of Melbourne, Australia as home; Jake too – we were born here, and we love our beautiful big city. We love it’s old buildings and sprawling gardens, it’s passion for food and for good coffee. We love it’s sporaddic four-seasons-in-a-day weather (most of the time), it’s rumbling trams, and spectacular Flinders Street Station. We love black-coat clad commuters in the Winter, and hot beach days and gelato in the Summer (mmm…maybe not so much Jake, with his fair skin, but I do!). We love the various markets, the festivals and events, and the live music scene that never stops. We just love Melbourne. It’s our home…

But, then again. So is my backpack. I love that sensation; your backpack is bulging – you prepare yourself for the lift onto your back. Knees bent, you brace yourself, arm through one strap, then comes the all important lift swing and you heave and haul it onto your back. Other arm through, wiggle wiggle wiggle, adjust yourself and shake a little, then stand, hitch your pants back up, make yourself comfortable and clip yourself in for support. I love my backpack; it feels good, and it makes me feel all the more like a traveller, not just at heart but in reality too.

It feels so good, when hot and sweaty, tired from travelling and untimely, overcrowded transportation, crowds of people and little sleep, you enter your new hostel for the first time…check in, find your dorm and dump your pack down. You’re home…for now. It’s nice. Even if there are sometimes strange types of dorm mates and ‘not so nice’ rooms… it’s all part of the experience, and it makes you more grateful and appreciative of the ‘better’ homes..

Well, at least that’s how I feel.

As long as I’ve considered Melbourne my home, I’ve considered somewhere else home too. Everywhere else; wherever I go, I make it home. In the past I sometimes mightn’t have liked it as much as other homes I’ve been to, but… still.

Knowing in a few short months we are leaving Melbourne behind for some time, I think we are loving it even more!… or at least, appreciating it more-so. But, I don’t think you can really ever stop being a Melbournian, regardless of where you go. So, we’ll take her with us when we leave, and make Sri Lanka our home… and then India for a few months… and then Burma, then Thailand again. Then spend some time at home in Vietnam before going home to Malaysia and Singapore. Finally, I think we’ll end up dumping our packs back down in old Melbourne town, and be able to say “we’re home”.

Where is home for you?