May 23, 2014

Absolutely amazing...Petra, Jordan

The ancient city of Petra was everything we expected it to be--pure magic. In fact, we cannot wait to get back to the Middle East one day.

It was so magical that my emotions went wild. Once we finally set our eyes on the Treasury peeking out at the end of the Sikh, tears gushed down my face.

Yes it was crowded so if you can peel yourself our of bed at 5AM to beat the crowds and daytrippers it is well worth it. However, sleeping in a bit and exploring Petra in the late afternoon also means cooler temperatures and less tourists.

Travel Tips
*Take the strenuous hike up to the viewpoint over the Treasury. The tricky part is that the map on the grounds doesn't point this out!! (Best to ask a local). We met a Bedouin guy who had a small camp overlooking a cliff towards the Treasury. It was so cool to have this exclusive view! It's a tough uphill climb but definitely worth it.
*We stayed at Saba'a Hotel and it was great! For 25 JOD per night we got our own room, a roof terrace, free breakfast and for a few JOD's they will pack a big lunch for you to take into Petra.
*Entrance fees are pretty expensive and Petra is HUGE. We did the full on 3 day pass and it's worth your while because 1 Day = 50 JOD, 2 Days = 55 JOD and 3 Days = 60 JOD.

May 20, 2014

Jordan!! The Dead Sea & Petra By Night

After our fun, wet days in Bangkok for Songkran, soon we were off to the airport to catch our flight to JORDAN! We had plans to visit Jordan 2 years ago but had to cancel 4 days before our trip due to a family emergency. Ever since then we knew that we had to re-plan our trip and Jordan was almost automatically tacked on to the end of our SE Asian backpacking trip.

And before we knew it, we had landed in the Middle East and were way too excited to see a place we had always always wanted to see: PETRA. 

Because we were strapped for time in Jordan, we arranged a taxi to pick us up from the airport at 6AM and deliver us to Wadi Musa, the main town near the ancient city of Petra. 

But first...floating in the Dead Sea :) with a view of Israel just across the water.

After a little dip (and floating in the Dead Sea was the most bizarre feeling ever!) we made it to Wadi Musa in time to rest, walk around the town and get our first glimpse of Petra by candlelight at Petra By Night.

It was a perfect first day in Jordan and the days that followed were even more incredible. Will be back with more info on Petra soon...but here's a little confession: Jordan became one of our favorite countries we've ever visited.

May 17, 2014

Airbnb Tokyo, Japan #1: stylin' in our Japanese studio were expensive, hostels were even more expensive it seemed but yet again, Airbnb to the rescue!! Luckily we had our friends Ross and Cheryl with us so finding our own private apartment near Shingawa, only a few metro stops from the famous Shibuya crosswalk, was easy.

For only $120 (including fees) a night, we found Keita's apartment. His cozy place is conveniently located near Gotanda station and a plethora of eateries, stores, a few karaoke bars, etc. And by "cozy" I mean cozyyyy! It was a studio with a bed, futon, small dining table, tiny kitchen and bathroom, and a washing machine. I mean this was Tokyo after all, so we weren't shocked by the size.

The best thing about the apartment was Keita himself! Keita was sweet and beyond friendly, brought us a bag of Japanese snacks and sweets and introduced us to his sweet (sleepy) baby boy.

The apartment may have been small but we fried up noodles and beef each night in the kitchen. And the price was cheaper than any hostel dorm rooms we could find anywhere in Tokyo. 

You can't beat it! Listing is here. Thanks Keita :).

May 12, 2014

Songkran in Bangkok

There were a few items on our 6-month Asian backpacking itinerary that were just unnegotiable. One of them was spending Christmas and New Year's in Thailand. The other was visiting South Korea. We never even considered beginning our trip anywhere else other than Nepal--we wanted to dive right into this magical country headfirst, and we loved it.

Possibly the most unnegotiable item on our list was spending Songkran (Thai New Year) in Thailand.

Songkran is a 3-day party extravaganza of water fights and cheap beer...AND SO MUCH FUN.

Ever since we threw tomatoes at Tomatina in Spain a few years back, we vowed to also make it to Songkran one year.

After a lengthy flight from Tokyo, we were back in Bangkok ::siiiigh:: it felt great to be in a familiar place. We were reunited with our favorite street cafe, our favorite pad thai stand and our favorite fruit stand again. 

Only this time, the walk to these places was like a total warzone! The first morning I ventured out to get coffee. I was worried I would get soaked already but Christian 'assured' me that it was too early for the festivities to begin...and then I walked back 30 min later soaking wet (but with coffee!). 

Oh IT IS ON. Slurp, finish our coffee, change into bathing suit and "get wet" clothes, find some water guns and we were right smack dab in the middle of Thai New Year craziness on Khao San Road.

It was amazing.

I felt like a kid!

I giggled like a kid!

It was too much fun.

And just like that, Songkran became some of our most favorite days of our ENTIRE trip.

Planning on going next year? Songkran is every year from April 13th-15th for complete water fighting madness...get that waterproof camera ready ;)

May 7, 2014

Street scenes around Tokyo

No trip to Japan can be complete without a trip to Tokyo! It's amazing how such a bustling city can have the most polite people...I mean even the taxi drivers are polite! Standing near Shibuya crossing and you'd think you would hear the usual city sounds like taxi horns and such...nope! Practically not a sound....

Tokyo was alive and colorful at night, which is when I enjoyed Tokyo most.

Some of the places we were able to tick off our list during our few days in Tokyo: 
*Shibuya crosswalk - it really is amazing to see!!
*Harajuku - I couldn't leave without doing a little bit of shopping Japanese-style ;)
*More and more arcade halls for our little-boys-at-heart Christian and Ross - ok we played too
*Yebisu - Japanese beer brewery
*Lots of spicy Ramen
*Akihibara "Electric" City - really cool neighborhood, especially for the technie nerds ;)
*Aaaaand karaoke...because what else should we do at 2AM after a night out near Shibuya?

May 4, 2014

Nikko, Japan

At about 2ish hours away from Tokyo, Nikko is the perfect day or overnight trip. Up in the forest, the air was a bit crisp and the snowy mountains were in view. Nikko has tons of shrines and quite possibly one of the coolest hostel owners ever (and I mean EVER!).

His name was Hiro. 

Hiro single-handedly manages Nikkorisou Backpackers and is probably the coolest guy we met in all of Japan, and possibly in all of Asia. He gave us a ride to the store, to the train station, to the ATM and prepared a tabletop hotplate for us so we could cook our delicious Japanese beef and noodles in the common room at the hostel--teppanyaki-style!

Even though the hostel clearly states the common room closes at 11PM, Hiro (and quite a few other backpackers who had just returned back from the hot springs--which yes ofcourse Hiro gave them a free ride to) joined us to play Catchphrase for the entire night. 

Then, halfway through the game, Hiro offered to take my friend Ross to the liquor store in the next town to get more sake and Asahi.

We really enjoyed Nikko...but we loved Hiro and his hostel!

Sometimes people make the best experiences, don't you think?