Seattle: T Minus 1 Week
Follow along here as we finalize preparations for our journey around the globe. \240Countries to visit include: Chile, Argentina, New Zealand, Fiji, Japan, Thailand, Lebanon, Israel, Jordan, Denmark, Scotland, Finland, France, Spain, Italy, Portugal.
Corrina’s gonna be in charge of photos, Will’s in charge of writing.
Both in charge of drinking wine.
Flight’s out at 10:45 tonight so we’re swinging up to the Observatory bar at Smith Tower for a send off cocktail before more send off drinks at Club SeaTac. \240Seattle skyline never disappoints.
Sitting in the Santiago airport with a minute to download some thoughts and recap of our past few days in Santiago.
We flew in to Santiago Arturo Merino Benitez International arriving just as the night sky descended on the city. Our first item was transportation from the airport to the hotel in Las Condes. \240We’d heard from friends about taxi mafias hiking up prices on tourists, running faulty meters, no meters, etc... so when on a layover in Mexico City we opted to try out an app called, Blacklane. \240Basic black car + driver service where you’re greeted by the driver at the airport and escorted past the pushy cab drivers. \240A little bit more expensive, but way worth it to expedite that process. \240Plus the guy ripped us to the hotel at nearly 100mph which was awesome. \240Two quick pisco sours and we were off to bed.
The next two days were spent exploring the city via subway during the day and not-so-legal Uber during the evenings (more on that later). \240Santiago’s subway system was fantastic and even though it was crowded at times, everyone is extremely polite and any woman or elderly person will enter the subway car without and immediately be offered a seat by someone else.
Stops included the old town center, Plaza De Armas for the National History Museum, the massive General Cemetary, and the Museum of Human Rights. \240The most interesting of which being the Human Rights Museum, shedding light on Chile’s regime of dictatorship under Pinochet and his subsequent human rights violations.
Late afternoon intense heat meant that the 2km walk to the hotel from the nearest subway station was nasty, sweaty, and a test of deodorant. \240Fortunately, LimeRides have moved into Santiago and provide a great electric scooter service which made zipping home a breeze.
Our evenings were spent trying as many pisco sours, empanadas, and ceviches as possible, followed by diving into some of the city’s fantastic nightlife varieties. \240On recommendation from our server at La Mar, we first visited a speakeasy style bar named Room 09 appropriately hosted by an hilariously over the top gentleman layering on the accolades of the hidden rooftop gem. We rode to the top in an elevator that moved at less than a snails pace and shook something violent. \240However, the bar itself was far less stress-inducing. \240Drinks were served with a similar flair and definitely lived up to the host’s hype. \240Not to be missed if you’re in the Bellavista neighborhood.
Our server also invited us to join him and his girlfriend at “Club Orixas” later for some drinks and dancing. \240We opted to check it out with the caveat, “If it sucks, we bail? Yep.” It didn’t suck. \240The doors opened into a raised bar mezzanine with tables and plenty of people enjoying themselves. \240But the real action was below as a hundred people bounced along to the salsa reggaeton combo. \240As we greeted our server, Kenyo, he told us to look behind us. \240About 20 women were lined up in flamboyant, bedazzled salsa outfits and making their way onto the dance floor. \240We’d arrived just in time for the weekly salsa dance off between rival gangs. \240We faked it with the best of them and no one seemed to notice two gringos on the dance floor once everyone crowded in. \240(Maybe they weren’t rival gangs, but it’s more fun if they were). \240Some hours and one busted heel later, we made our sweaty exit and headed home to beat the sunrise.
Catching an Uber is an easy and quick way to get around at night, but the only hiccup is that someone has to ride in the front because Uber isn’t technically legal yet, so drivers can have their cars impounded by police if they’re found to be collecting a fare without a taxi license. \240I guess an Uber driver got shot a few months ago at the airport when he tried to evade a policeman. \240Our last driver informed us if we get pulled over, we have to say we’re best friends with him so he doesn’t get arrested on the spot. He seemed like a cool dude though, so it was easy to get behind.
Anyway, we’re off to the Atacama desert now where reception will be spotty. \240We’ll check in from the airport on our way to Mendoza after.
Some sort of Jets vs. Sharks thing going on.
Aftermath of a good night
3 days in the Atacama Desert
Where to begin with the action packed time spent in the Atacama. \240Let’s start with the climate since that was at the forefront of our minds as we boarded the plane from Santiago. \240The Atacama (as all the tour guides will tell you 436 times) is the driest place in the world. \240The two best analogies we heard during our time there were 1) The amount of rainfall accrued across the Atacama in a year accounts to the height of a flea egg. 2) It would take 100 years to fill accumulate the vertical volume of water for a cup of coffee.
Needless to say, they’re proud of being able to survive up there given how dry it is. \240I don’t blame them either. \240It’s intense. \240The town of San Pedro de Atacama sits at about 2600 meters or 8000 feet for those of us still refusing to switch to metric. \240The Atacama also plays a gracious host to the worlds most intense UV radiation. \240So you’ve got high altitude, severe dryness, and the high probability of melanoma if you’re outside without sunscreen even when it’s cloudy. \240Don’t think we could’ve picked a more romantic spot for a honeymoon right?
Yet, after we lathered up with SPF 50+, drank 5 liters of water (only seeing a cup of it come out the other side), and booked some excursions, the true beauty of the Atacama and Altiplano revealed itself. \240The days were long and filled with climate extremes. \240Sun rose early, set late and made for stunning sunrises and sunsets. \240Each turn through the winding foothills of the Andes unleashed a breathtaking new vista. \240It’s truly a place unlike any other in the world.
Our hotel had it’s own excursion booking service so we opted to try it out for the sake of convenience even though the price was a little more expensive than what we might’ve found after the 20min walk into town. \240We booked a tour of the Valle De La Luna, Chaxa Lagoon, and some morning yoga starting the next day. \240After a dunk in the pool, some more vino and dinner, we turned in after a long travel day. \2409am the next day we walked to meet our yoga instructor. \24015min later, still no instructor so we headed into the excursion office to check things out. \240“Oh yea, uh...he’s not coming in today” was our greeting. \240“Also, I know we booked those things yesterday, but since you’re the only two people who want to do them, we can’t go because we need four people.” \240To be honest, the yoga felt like a hard force so we were fine with missing that, but the excursions were definitely a bit of a bummer. \240We left Helpful Harry at the excursion desk and wandered the 20min dusty road into town.
San Pedro de Atacama (SPA) is most definitely a tourist town. \240Following the dearth of tourists in Santiago, the experience drastically shifted. \240It’s a town filled with four things. \240Hostels, tourism companies, bars/restaurants, and dreaded out white dudes with billowy pants (Pai, Thailand 2.0). \240That being said, SPA does all of these things extremely well. \240We opted to walk the main drag once to see all of our options and the initial pass yielded salesmen at every doorstep, offering tour services, bicycle rentals, trekking gear etc...
We settled on Flamingo Tours due to his laid back sales pitch, “If you need any information, c’mon in, if not hope you have a good day!” Vincent, the French expat, booked us a day and a half of excursions with the sunset tour of Valle de La Luna and the full day tour of Atacama Lagoons and Alitplano lakes the next day. \240Both were spectacular. \240The photos below won’t do it justice, but we’re happy to have them to jog our memories later on.
The Valle de La Luna tour is a popular one and for good reason. \240Mercedes Sprinter vans with groups of 18-24 shuttled in and out of the national park with ease and efficiency. \240The first stop was a river-carved cavern at the edge of the park. \240There was a group in front of us going through the cave so we waited until they were far enough ahead and then followed them into the depths of the rocks. \240Turns out, it wasn’t rocks at all, but massive salt deposits through which rivers used to run thousands of years ago. \240Dust and wind wear made the cavern feature appear as stone, but spraying some water on the wall and licking it proved once and for all, we were clambering through a giant salt crystal. About halfway through our group ground to a halt as we had run into the tail end of the group in front of us. \240We waited a few minutes for them to move on and then started again. Same thing happened 5 min later, and 5 minutes after that. \240Then, we reached the exit we saw why. \240Exiting the tunnel, hikers were faced with a steep jagged salt/rock face that required a mildly decent level of flexibility. \240About halfway up the face, an elderly woman flanked by two tour guides strained to make each step. \240She was beet red, grunting heavily, and both guides were practically dragging her up the wall. \240Presumably, she’d been struggling with each tight squeeze and incline/decline in the cave. \240Her husband looked on despairingly until she reached the top. \240Our group scrambled up behind and Corrina jumped in to offer our water as the other guide tried to regulate her breathing. \240Turns out, the woman was 85 years old (way past recommended age for the excursion). \240After a while, she regained some semblance of wherewithal and rose to her feet. \240Her husband joked sheepishly, “I’ll probably be divorced by tonight”
Throughout the rest of the days, we had similar breathtaking experiences punctuated by moments where the costs of missteps was clearly evident. \240Hungover compatriots on tours succumbing to altitude sickness, blistered faces of those too cool for sunscreen, a badly dehydrated traveler at the end of a tour who’d apparently brought 1/4 the recommended supply of water, etc...
Highlights at the hotel included a pool + set of jacuzzi’s that no one seemed interested in except us, high altitude desert stargazing, intense thunderstorms, a 40 person group of 40-60 year old French travelers on a company retreat completely taking over the bar and starting their own dance party, and a stray dog who decided we were the coolest people in town and followed us around for 3 days.
If there’s ever a chance to make it up to the Altiplano/Atacama, don’t skip it.
Cactus flowers abound closed up at night and opened with the sun
Porotos, enough for 3 people but for the price of a Happy Meal.
Dune of Valle De La Luna
Corrina saving the day
Top of Valle De La Luna Cave
Base of the dune hike
Sunset @ Coyote Rock (named because it looks like a place Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote would live...no joke)
Chaxa Lagoon with Flamingos in Distance
More salt flat lagoon
Strict trails through the national parks
Road heading up into the Altiplano
Top of Piedras Rojas overlooking salt flat
Garden gnome spotting
Beach hike where one of our fellow travelers succumbed to altitude sickness
36 Hours n Mendoza
We continued the South American tour with stop 3 out of 6 in Mendoza, Argentina. \240Although it’s an international flight, Mendoza is just a quick jump over the border from Santiago to the tune of 1 hour and 20min. \240We arrived at the Calama airport with barely an hour to spare before the plane took off, but it didn’t really matter. \240We were through security in 5 minutes, and on our way to Santiago without breaking a sweat. \240We had a long layover in STGO and sat watching a group of 8 Norwegians crush 30 beers, pound 6 bags of McDonalds, and take open mouth naps which, combined with a couple movies, was enough to pass the time.
Flying into Mendoza is something to behold. \240We landed right as the sun was starting to go down and cruising over the vineyards and farmland as golden streaks began eminating from the cloud shrouded mountaintops was absolutely special. \240We’d reached a point in the trip where miles earned on previous purchases for our honeymoon started to pay dividends. \240A fantastic hotel right in the middle of Mendoza cost about as much as a couple nights in a Motel 6 in the MidWest. \240We spent our first evening walking the Ave Sarmiento until we found a ‘parrilla’ (steakhouse) to gorge on beef, red wine, roasted vegetables, and honestly the best grilled chicken either of us have ever had...(sorry, Dad).
Waddling home, we wandered into the casino attached to the hotel. Once inside we gleaned that hands were played for barely a dollar and Corrina quickly made fast friends with a stalwart old lady feeding Corrina all the tricks of the trade to Argentinian blackjack. \240Turns out it’s just the same as regular blackjack, but if you’re covincing enough, you can have the dealer pull back a potential bust card just by saying “no I didn’t mean to hit”. \240The Doble Bruja as we named her, convinced Corrina to double down everywhere with the sweet baritone only a lifetime of cigarettes can produce. \240
The following morning, we shook off the fog and set about getting ready for a winery tour. We’d set up a tour + lunch + wine tasting at Bodega Ruca Malen a couple weeks earlier after doing some research and the next morning we caught a cab 30min out of town for our 12:30 reservation.
Highlights included an all Spanish tour that we both comprehended about 90%, 7 different wines, a Chardonnay cocktail, an absolute stunner of a tasting menu, and a price tag about 5x less than what it would’ve cost in the States.
Dinner later that night was another parrilla with a stupid good steak, stupid good bottle of wine, and again for a fraction of the cost of the US. \240Topped off with a massive thunderstorm and torrential downpour for dessert. \240We sat in the alcove balcony and watched the streets flood while lightning and thunder flashed and roared all around us. \240Great opportunity to really savor the last dregs of a bottle. \240Once it had quieted down, we headed home.
Mendoza was beautiful and we both agreed to return as soon as possible. Next up was the bustling Buenos Aires.
Entrance to Ruca Malen Winery
Weekend in BA
Continuing our short stint in Argentina took us to Buenos Aires for the weekend. \240A stark contrast from the mellowed lifestyle of Mendoza, Buenos Aires provided a massive lively atmosphere that definitely will call us back to explore more of the city than we were able to discover in a weekend.
Flying into AEP airport drops you right on top of the city and skimming the National Stadium while cruising past apartment buildings offers a great view into how expansive that city is. \240It makes the Los Angeles sprawl seem small in comparison. \240Similar to Santiago, Buenos Aires was in the middle of a heatwave. \240It didn’t daunt us from leaving the A/C in our hotel to hop on the subway and start exploring. \240First stop was the Recoleta Cemetary, final resting place of the BA elite and famous. \240Similar to the Santiago Cementario General, ornate family tombs weave a veritable neighborhood with streets and alleys leading to different sections of the cemetary.
The cemetary was probably the best part about our first day, as we proceeded to get stonewalled with closed restaurants, wrong turns, out of order subway lines, and unreal amounts of sweat. \240As we hit the last kilometer of our walk back to the hotel, the clouds formed over head and started raining. \240A great finisher to what could officially be dubbed as a “bad travel day.” \240Oh well. \240Bound to happen eventually.
It would all be turned around after a jump in the pool and a venture up to the top floor of the hotel to check out the bar. \240Stunning views, epic sunset, quality cocktails and off to bed.
Day 2 was quite the reversal. \240We set off with a solid plan in mind, some stops to hit, and all the subway lines were running which made things even easier. \240The neighborhood of Palermo was recommended by just about everyone who’d been to BA that we knew so we hopped on the subway to check it out. \240The day was filled with eating, shopping, drinking, sightseeing, graffiti musing, etc... \240All in all a much more vibrant and easy-going experience lodged right in the middle of chaotic Buenos Aires. \240Definitely a gem of a neighborhood. \240After some milanesas and schops, we headed home to throw out our dirtiest of clothes and pack some (thankfully) fresh garb for the next few weeks.
While we only got to spend a couple days in BA, we’ll definitely be back sometime and wanting to check out the legendary cowboy market on the far west side of the city.
Patagonia and Torres del Paine
After the hustle and bustle of BA we were ready for something a bit more remote. \240After hearing rave reviews about Torres Del Paine national park in Chile, we couldn’t wait to check it out.
Long story short, TDP and Patagonia didn’t disappoint. \240We’d heard about a geodesic dome resort in the middle of the park but unfortunately it was booked. \240Corrina did some digging and found Garden Domes just outside Puerto Natales, the jumping off point for all excursions into the park. \240
Built by a Spanish speaking Filipino with an amazing knack for warmth and hospitality, Garden Domes might be the gem find of the trip. \240The property has 3 domes shown below plus an outdoor wooden hot tub, mini cabins and communal domes for eating and gear prepping. \240The sunsets were amazing, the treks unreal, and the small town vibe of Puerto Natales was great.
Garden Domes had an endless amount of trekkers and travelers passing through including and executive chef for a cruise line, a Kiwi/Australian couple who stayed at the same AirBnB we were due to stay in a week later, and a French flyfisherman named Didier who fed everyone at Garden Domes with his massive salmon caught off Rio Serrano.
We spent days in Patagonia reading entire books in one sitting, touring glaciers, cruising to Estancias by boat, shuttling around to stunning view after stunning view, and really appreciating being somewhere it wasn’t 90+ degrees and humid as hell.
Garden Domes in Puerto Natales
Traffic jam on the way to the airport.
Didier and his salmon
Garden Domes visitor, Canela, spent the day with us reading in a field.
Southern Ice Fjords from airplane on the way in.
After Patagonia, we cruised back to Santiago for a 3 day layover while we got set for the second big haul of our journey. \240Waking up the morning of our flight from Santiago > Sydney > Auckland, we found out the plane had taken off 1.5 hours late from Sydney and thus would be leaving 1.5 hours late from Santiago. \240Our connection to Auckland was 1.5 hours after the original scheduled landing which meant unless they would let us out on the runway in Sydney to hop onto a taxiing flight to Auckland, we were gonna miss the flight.
LATAM airlines greeted us in Sydney, kindly directed us to the airport hotel across the street from baggage claim where they’d put us up for the night before we caught the last leg to Auckland the following morning. \240Riding the travel delirium high we puttered around the miserable hotel bar and thought about what to do with our 15 hour layover. \240After deciding that our mutual craving was Chinese food, we typed “Chinese Food and Cocktails” into Google and found a place called Mr. Wong’s about a 10min walk from Sydney Harbour.
Aside from the absolutely wretched woman sitting at the table next to us complaining about how many times she’d been wronged and misunderstood at work, Mr. Wong’s was absolutely awesome. \240If you’re ever in Sydney, we can’t recommend it enough. \240Unreal cocktails, unreal Chinese food, amazing multi-level bar and restaurant, excellent service, and funky hidden location in an alley. \240We cruised down to the harbor after dinner and took the obligatory Opera House photo. \240Then jet lag overtook us and we passed out as soon as we hit the pillows back at the hotel.
An easy breezy morning in Sydney and we made the quick hop over to Auckland where we’d be meeting up with some friends from the States for the first time on this trip.
Zoe and Cory booked out a sweet AirBnB right in Ponsonby (just outside downtown). \240I’m guessing this was the most hipster part of Auckland based on our 3 days there. \240Mainly based on the fact that it reminded us a lot of Capitol Hill back in Seattle and our Kiwi friend, Ash, back home told us we’d come out of Ponsonby with man-buns and too cool attitudes. \240Or something along those lines. \240But it had everything we’d ever need within walking distance of the AirBnb, the weather was perfect, and it made for a welcome respite after multiple days of air travel.
C+Z had just returned from Waiheke Island singing endless praises so we were stoked to check it out in a couple days when we would be done in the city. \240Until then, we cruised the streets of Ponsonby, ate, drank, and went on an amazing fishing trip organized by Cory (big ups). \240Cruising out of Auckland harbor was scenic on it’s own, but adding an awesome day of snapper fishing to the Auckland itinerary was an awesome surprise.
Trips to Piha Beach and the North Wharf we spectacular as well.
As with most quick stop cities so far, we left wanting to do more, but thrilled with out time there and ready to come back as soon as possible!
The boat was actually called the Legasea
Zoe’s sweet and friendly cousins
Keeping an eye on the over board sunscreen
Corrina indeed caught the biggest of the lot
Man. \240Waiheke freakin’ Island.
Only a 40min ferry ride from Auckland Harbor, Waiheke seems a world away from civilization. \240Rolling hills filled with wineries give way to pristine beaches on every coast. \240There’s one main drag with restaurants, bars, winery tour offices, and some shops, but beyond that skinny roads spiderweb all over the island to homes and farms. \240
Waiheke is a popular day trip from the city, but also great for the occasional 3-4 day adventure which is the route we went. \240An added bonus was finding a retro scooter rental outfit just outside town.
So for 3 days we scooted to beaches, wineries, viewpoints, and anywhere else we could find on the island. \240Highlights included: having a kitchen again for the first time since the end of October when the remodel began back home. \240Amazing wineries, specifically Man O’ War and Mudbrick. Horse and tractor races on the beach, random discovery of a nude beach, awesome public transit system on the island, and amazingly hospitable people everywhere we went. \240The time went by at light speed and simultaneously was slow as molasses. \240Can’t imagine coming back to Auckland and not swinging out to Waiheke again.
Corrina woke me up and rushed me for 20 min in order to get this açaí bowl before we left...
Fiji Fiji Fiji Timmmmeeee. \240Bula!
Mudbrick winery and restaurant
Our island cruiser for the week!
Man O’War winery was a hidden oasis. Thank you, Hamish for treating us
A day at the Onetangi beach races.
Not pictured...fried goat cheese
Corrina dragged me up at the crack of dawn to grab this açaí bowl
Japan: Tokyo > Osaka > Kyoto > Tokyo
After the stint in Fiji, we weren’t really sure what to expect with jumping back into a major metropolis, especially one where we didn’t speak the language save for “hello, goodbye, thank you very much.” \240Luckily, we’d be meeting up with a friend and some family living in Kyoto and Osaka respectively so we’d have a brief reprieve of gesticulating and pointing at pictures. \240I think if we had to pick three major things to take away from Japan it was, food, positive general population demeanor, and public transportation. \240You could make an argument that 1 and 3 are causing number 2, but it just stood out so much that it’s worth a mention. \240Close runners up would be toilet technology and the strange lack of trash cans yet startlingly clean streets (more on that later).
Food highlights included an unreal omakase dinner in a gorgeous restaurant tucked away up a nameless set of stairs that I can’t believe we actually found, every gyoza possible, okinomiyaki, yaki-udon, blowfish hotpot + sashimi post-onsen, seared wagyu, yakitori chicken ovaries, giant cotton candy, everything matcha, ramen ramen ramen, street meat sticks and Takoyaki balls, 20+ different kinds of sake, enough conveyor belt sushi to burst a belt loop, rooftop cocktails overlooking Yoyogi park, and a grilled fish + rice lunch spot directly across from our AirBnB.
Entertainment included late night karaoke 2x, thrift shopping in Tokyo’s limitless shopping districts, walking as many neighborhoods as possible and learning each one’s identity, hiking the trail of 1000 gates in Kyoto, a retro-arcade bar, awesome Naruto boat tour and onsen visit with Corrina’s aunt + uncle, a cheesy samurai museum with just the right amount of kitsch, and marveling at each piece of technology built around simplifying life. \240Whether it be a self pouring beer, a bum rinsing + drying toilet with an automatic opening function when you approach (seems a little eager), a combo shower/clothes dryer, it’s all crazy.
Public transportation is just stupid efficient. \240I tried to make note of one train, bullet or subway, that was late. \240Didn’t happen. \240Down to the second the rails run perfectly. \240It was almost eerie. Speaking of eerie, the friggin’ trash cans!! They’re literally impossible to find and it feels like you’ve won the lottery when you’re able to deposit whatever crumpled up mess you’ve been carrying around for the last 8.5 hours in your pocket. \240Apparently a good chunk of them were removed in response to a sarin gas attack in the subways back in the 90’s and never replaced. \240So people got used to carrying their trash around and no one litters because...well because littering is littering. \240Feel free to fact check the reasoning, I only pulled it from one blog source quickly.
Japan is truly a special place and we are so grateful to have gotten to spend time with our friends, Kai and Toshi, as well as Corrina’s aunt and uncle. \240They were all amazing hosts and really opened our eyes to the awe-inspiring experience that is Japan.
Mango sticky rice !!
Hellish travel day from Tokyo to Koh Tao. \240Flew out of Narita airport instead of Haneda (where we flew in) which was mistake number 1. \240Located more than an hour outside of the city, it was a $$$ cab ride out there since we didn’t really plan a shuttle or anything like that. \240While Japan Airlines was again spectacular, upon our midnight arrival in Bangkok, we deplaned into a desolate Suvarbhumi Airport. \240Our intention was to head to domestic transfers during our 6 hour layover, but were greeted with a closed domestic transfer desk and spent he next 5 hours laying across uncomfortable chairs in a brightly lit hallway. \240The gate finally opened, we made our way to the plane, and took off for Koh Samui. \240The flight was pleasant enough, but the travel grime was starting to build and we knew a shower was a long way off.
Touching down in Koh Samui, we were met with a tropical humid heat that only added to the growing layers of dried and rehydrated sweat. \240One 40 minute taxi ride later and we were on the other side of the island. \240The time was now 8:30am and we had 3 hours to kill waiting for our ferry to Koh Tao. \240While we waited to board, we chased the shade, found some coconuts, coffee, and mango sticky rice. \240On Hour 20 of traveling, we boarded the ferry and cruised 3 hours through the Gulf of Thailand to Koh Tao. \240Fading in and out of naps, we didn’t really get a chance to appreciate the boat ride until we were pulling into the harbor with crystalline turquoise water below and endless palm trees climbing the hillsides on shore.
24 Hours after leaving Tokyo, we checked into Ban’s Diving Resort for a week of SCUBA diving and beach time. \240The following days more than warranted the long travel day as we explored the nearby reefs and islands logging almost 20 dives between the two of us. \240The original plan was for Corrina to get her Open Water Certification while I got my Rescue Diver Certification, but she loved it so much she signed up for the Advanced Open Water and started immediately after completing her OW. \240We got the chance to dive together on our last day there, accompanied by Matee, Corrina’s 50 year old Thai dive instructor who showed us all the hidden spots.
A massive spider that I found in our room when we Corrina was in class but never told her about.
Spicy Glass Noodle Salad
Amazing Thai Curries
A “Mexican” restaurant excellent pineapple fried rice
Corrina coming face to tail with 3 massive stingrays on her night dive
The most beautiful soft coral beds ever
Witnessing a massive butterflyfish mating ceremony
Epic Island Sunsets
Spending every day in the water
Re-hashing our dive days together over a cold beer/coconut
Hilarious SCUBA instructors
It felt great to chill for a week in one spot again after bouncing around Japan. \240We closed out our island tour with a 12-hour stay on Koh Samui to clear our safety window and de-nitrogen our bodies before flying. \240More whole fried fish, beach time, and a few mojitos helped to round it all out.
The travel back to Bangkok was much easier the second time around and we spent a couple days walking markets, riverside cafes, rooftop bars, and getting the last Thai massages before gearing back up for our much anticipated stop in Beirut.
Before we left, we visited a restaurant called Gaggan for an esoteric, hilarious, and downright delicious 25-course “progressive Indian” tasting menu. \240With only two out of the 25 courses requiring cutlery, we inhaled, licked, grabbed, drank, and scooped our way through the experience. \240Absolutely not to be missed and really awesome to see the food and beverage scene in Bangkok elevated far beyond the perception of the city.
The stay in Bangkok marked the end to the tropical section of our journey, and the beginning of the final push through Europe. \240Up next, Beirut and then Copenhagen, with 3 weeks of yet-to-be planned travel beyond that. \240Potential itineraries included Finland, Germany, Switzerland, UK, Italy, Spain, and Iceland. \240But we still hadn’t quite figured it out so we boarded our Qatar Airways flight to Beirut on the 15th with only another 6 days planned out.
Happy Spicy Noodle Boy & poodle puff princess
Sitting down to dinner on our last night in Beirut, we had one of the more interesting “Pre-Conceived Notions vs. Reality” discussions as we mulled over our 4-day stay in the city of Beirut.
We’d eaten just about damn near everything we could get our hands on, walked through bombed out and rebuilt sections of the city, befriended an initially gruff baker, found ourselves stuffed to the breaking point thanks to some family friends living in the region, walked the American University of Beirut campus and archaeological museum, explored a winery in the foothills, walked the beachfront, smoked shisha at sunset as surf crashed below us, ridden in maniacally driven taxi cabs, crossed non-stop traffic with the best of ‘em, and toured the most fantastic supermarket of all time.
Beirut met or exceeded every expectation we had when we walked off the plane the first evening. \240Including getting fleeced by taxi drivers at the airport. \240We paid $45 for a taxi from the airport to our hotel on the way in, and about $11 on the way back. \240Definitely figured that would be the case, but we were tired from traveling, just wanted to get to the hotel, and didn’t feel like putting up much of a fight. \240For what it’s worth, we did get it down to $45 from $100 initially. \240The driver gave us the fastest rollercoaster of a taxi ride we’ve ever had, so I’ll justify the extra cost by calling it an amusement park ride.
Once we arrived at the hotel, we were informed by the concierge that we had about 25 messages waiting for us from our friend (and my boss’s mom) Wassilah Haroun. \240In true Middle Eastern grandmother fashion, she just wanted to make sure we were alright, had arrived, and wanted to know how soon we could make it over to their house for a meal.
There’s definitely a lot that we left undone. \240We left the music, dancing, nightlife scene totally untouched. A huge misstep and not a common oversight for us, but we finally succumbed to a serious bout of jet lag on a Saturday night. \240The Mediterranean Sea plays such a huge role in defining Beirut, and aside from walking it’s shores, we didn’t make use of water taxis, fishing, or any other mode of hydro-tourism. \240The recent history of Beirut and Lebanon is filled with strife and tribulation, but also with a beautiful desire to rebuild, reimagine, and retain everything amazing about the Lebanese culture. \240Everywhere we went, we were met with “You are welcome”, specifically meaning, “you are welcome here in Lebanon”. \240 We’ll never forget it and we can’t help but feel connected to this amazing city as we watch it shrink away through the airplane window. \240If we’re not back within the next decade, I’d say we’d be doing ourselves a huge disservice.
Madrid + Rioja
From Copenhagen, we’d debated two travel paths. \240One would lead us back South to Italy, and the other farther East to Spain. \240Eventually we settled on Spain with the added bonus of exploring the Rioja wine region, which we were familiar with, but had never visited. \240Neither of us had been to Madrid, and we had recommendations aplenty for any number of days we chose. \240Our trip would have us in Madrid for 4 days, off to Rioja for 3 days, then back to Madrid for one final evening before heading to Scotland.
Much like Copenhagen, we found ourselves enamored with Madrid from the first moments we started walking around the neighborhoods. \240We stayed in Chueca, home to many restaurants, bars, and easy access to all forms of public transit. \240Just a twenty minute walk to the city center, or a 30min subway ride to farther attractions, it was the ideal location to hit as many items as possible during our stay.
Museo de Bellas Artes for religious paintings galore, but interspersed with some nice modernist pieces. \240Good collection of Goya work.
El Cisne Azul for the most amazing octopus, mushrooms, scrambled eggs of all time. \240Had to go back again and again
Late lunches in the outdoor seating of every plaza we could find
Sherry and Mojama (cured Tuna) at La Venencia
Espresso and Jamon everywhere
Multiple massive food vendor markets for pintxos and Sangria
Botanical Gardens of Sabatini
Clubbing at Teatro Barcelo
Sunday flea market “El Rastro”
Walked in and out of Plaza Mayor faster than anything else. \240While beautiful, it was so jammed full of tourists and street performers it hardly seemed like a good way to spend time when there was so much else to do.
The Madrid subway system was excellent and spiderwebbed its way through the city providing us the opportunities to check out as much of central Madrid as possible.
Train to Zaragoza and then to Haro.
Haro was about as drastic of a vibe change that we could’ve gone through after lively Madrid. \240Known as the capitol of the Rioja region, Haro is a booming small medieval town centered around the massive production of wine that takes place there during the high season. \240That is not when we were there. \240While we had amazing weather without a cloud in the sky, it still was pretty chilly and we kept the warm clothes at the bottoms of our bags.
We found an awesome apartment/hotel that had been renovated into completely modernized interior and technology, but retained the exterior facade of 18th century stone work. \240We were a minute walk from the main town plaza, and a 10 minute walk from the “Vino Vegas” of Rioja wineries. \240Each winery grows their grapes throughout the region, but they all have “Bodegas” in the town of Haro. \240Within a quarter mile radius, you can walk into the tasting rooms of a half dozen winemakers. \240One our first day we ventured into: C.V.N.E., Muga, R. Lopez De Heredia, and Rioja Alta. \240Each one has a different flight option or winery tour and needless to say after 4 wineries in as many hours, we were headed back to the hotel for a siesta.
We spent the next full day hiking through the vineyards outside of town and then resting our legs in each sun-soaked patio with a glass of wine and a pintxo. \240Food highlights were deep fried and jamon wrapped asparagus, anchovy stuffed pickles, zapatillas, quail egg and pepper skewers, and every manner of cured meat you could imagine.
The town was definitely sleepy in the offseason, and out of all our travels, Haro seemed to be the place least happy to have tourists, but maybe it was because we were encroaching on their down time. \240Regardless, we had an amazing time and would definitely come back during the harvest season in late summer/early fall.
Glasgow + Edinburgh
London, the final stop!
Lisbon, by accident