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Our location as of 10/2/2012

Madison, WI, USA
Last updated 10/2/2012
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Trip Recap

Top ten experiences?

Nikki:

  1. Going out for sushi and a jazz/funk concert in Tokyo with Yoshiko and other couchsurfers.
  2. The Gracia festival in Barcelona with Jordi and Tanit.
  3. Celebrating New Year’s Eve on the beach in Ko Lipe, Thailand.
  4. Hiking in the Swiss Alps.
  5. Hiking in the Tiger Leaping Gorge, China.
  6. Driving and hiking in the Coromandel Peninsula, New Zealand.
  7. Hanging out with friends and family in the beautiful Cinque Terre, Italy.
  8. Seeing the Great Wall of China.
  9. Scuba diving in the Andaman Sea.
  10. Oktoberfest in Munich.

Brad:

  1. Diving in the Andaman Sea, Thailand
  2. Hiking in the Tiger Leaping Gorge, China
  3. Walking the Great Wall of China
  4. Seeing the Gobi Desert, Mongolia
  5. Climbing on ancient Angkor Wat temple ruins, Cambodia
  6. Hiking in the Swiss Alps
  7. Hanging out with friends and family in Cinque Terre, Italy
  8. The Gracia festival parade where devils shot fireworks at people in Barcelona, Spain
  9. Eating sushi and seeing jazz in Tokyo, Japan
  10. Watching a baseball game in the cheering section in South Korea

Bottom ten experiences?

Nikki:

  1. The infamous cat bite in Gili Trawangan and its aftermath.
  2. Getting sick in Sengiggi, Indonesia.
  3. Getting an ear infection in Thailand.
  4. Getting sick in Kep, Cambodia.
  5. Getting sick on the plane ride from Hong Kong to Seoul.
  6. Being stuck in Ulaanbaatar while waiting for our Russian visas.
  7. Walking around in Phnom Penh.
  8. Wandering around, trying to find a place to stay in Ko Phi Phi, Thailand.
  9. Missing friends and family.
  10. Getting lost all the time (although you do get used to it).

Brad:

  1. Nikki’s rabies scare in Indonesia
  2. The train strike in Italy
  3. Almost having nowhere to stay in Ko Phi Phi, Thailand
  4. Rainy weather ruining or short stay in Macau and Hong Kong
  5. United Airlines losing Nikki’s mom’s bag, and our new clothes
  6. Waiting for our Russian visas in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia
  7. Catching fever in Vietnam
  8. Commuting on bus between Hangzhou and Lin’an, China
  9. Getting a Chinese visa in Bangkok, Thailand
  10. The nasty food and airag in the Mongolian countryside

Top three meals?

Nikki:

  1. Mama Naxi’s family dinners in Lijiang, China. Steamed rice with bowls and bowls of different stir-fried seafood, meats, and vegetables.
  2. Sushi in Kanazawa, Japan. I can still remember how fresh and amazing the shrimp and eel was.
  3. Our dinner at the Good Luck Thai restaurant in Hong Kong with Sid and Rad. Great food and company.

Brad:

  1. The claypot place in Yangshuo, China. Between that and the dumpling place, we ate there every night. The claypot was hot, extremely spicy, and delicious.
  2. Sushi at the place Yoshiko took us in Tokyo, Japan. It may have been on par with other sushi we had in Japan, but I loved it so much because it was my first time eating nigiri rather than maki and it was with great company.
  3. Portuguese chorizo at Fernando’s in Macau. We ventured to the opposite side of the island on a rainy afternoon because Anthony Bordain went here and loved it, and I’d totally agree this was amazing. Finish it with an original egg tart from Lord Stow’s bakery down the street.

Bottom three meals?

Nikki:

  1. The “goatsickle” in Mongolia. It was very sweet of our driver to buy them for us, but I wish he hadn’t bothered.
  2. The chicken in Tai Shan, China.
  3. Very sour dairy products in Mongolia.

Brad:

  1. The infamous “goatsicle” in Mongolia. Sorry Gana, I purposely “accidentally” dropped it on the ground because it was so bad.
  2. Our awful and expensive dinner atop Tai’shan.
  3. Our very first meal in Southeast Asia in Kuta, Bali. We wanted to go to an “authentic” place and ended up with very substandard food for Indonesia.

Top five countries?

Nikki:

  1. Japan
  2. Italy
  3. New Zealand
  4. Thailand
  5. China

Brad:

  1. Thailand
  2. Japan
  3. New Zealand
  4. Belgium
  5. Italy

Favorite place we stayed?

Nikki: My favorite places were all when we were guests in people’s homes. Besides that, Traders Hotel in KL was awesome and so was the guesthouse in Amed, Bali when we had our own balcony overlooking the ocean.

Brad: Traders in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Worst place we stayed?

Nikki: The room at the top of Tai Shan, China was pretty bad. I also remember some small and dirty places in Cambodia.

Brad: That dump in Sengiggi, Indonesia. A hot, mosquito-infested, and no running water room was not the best place for Nikki to get really sick.

Weirdest thing?

Nikki: We saw so many weird things, I don’t even know where to start.

Brad: We saw a lot of strange stuff. I’d say it’s a tie between the Capuchin Monastery in Rome and penis park in Samcheok, South Korea.

Most interesting thing?

Nikki: Mongolia interested me the most. The history of the country, the rise and fall of the Khan empire, and the nomadic culture were all really interesting to learn about.

Brad: Mongolia. The fact that people still live a nomadic lifestyle on what might as well be the Moon is amazing. Their customs and way of life was very interesting.

Biggest regret?

Nikki: Not renting a llama for a hike in Kaikoura, New Zealand. We read about a farm that provided llamas to carry your bags for a day of hiking, but at the time we decided it was too expensive. Now I wish we would have done it, even though it would have been really silly. Also, I wish we would’ve gone to Laos.

Brad: That we didn’t get a motorcycle license before the trip. There were a lot of places in Southeast Asia we wanted to go but couldn’t get to because our travel insurance wouldn’t cover motorbike disasters. And SE Asia’s not a great place to learn how to ride a motorbike.

Top five beaches?

Nikki:

  1. Gili Trawangan, Indonesia
  2. Whitehaven Beach, Australia
  3. Cathedral Cove, New Zealand
  4. Ko Lipe, Thailand
  5. Ko Mook, Thailand

Brad:

  1. Whitehaven Beach, Australia
  2. Gili Trawangan, Indonesia
  3. Rabbit Island, Cambodia
  4. Byron Bay, Australia
  5. Ko Lipe, Thailand

Top five cities?

Nikki:

  1. Tokyo
  2. Barcelona
  3. Hong Kong
  4. Sydney
  5. Amsterdam

Brad:

  1. Tokyo, Japan
  2. Barcelona, Spain
  3. Sydney, Australia
  4. Hong Kong
  5. Amsterdam, Netherlands

Favorite museum?

Nikki: The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. It was depressing, of course, but also very well-done and informative. I think I learned more there than I did in all the other museums put together. I wish everyone could spend an afternoon there.

Brad: Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. Very powerful, sad, and informative.

Most helpful thing we packed?

Nikki: Probably my headlamp. We had lots of late nights or early mornings when we needed to pack or unpack our bags in the dark without waking up the whole dorm. Plus, some of the places we went didn’t have street lights, so a flashlight was pretty essential at night.

Brad: My camera. Many other travel blogs say not to bring such a big camera, but I wouldn’t have gotten the shots I did with a point-and-shoot. It was bulky, but I’m really glad I brought it along.

Thing we wished we had packed?

Nikki: I really wish we would have taken a pair of travel speakers. We thought about it, but decided they would take up too much room and that we wouldn’t use them enough to be worth it. It turned out there were many, many times when one of us said, “Too bad we can’t listen to some music now.” They definitely would have been worth the space they would have taken up.

Brad: An unlocked cell phone. I had my iPhone, but it was locked to AT&T and the power button was broken, so it was only useful when connected to WiFi. There were many times we needed to call hostel, hosts, and businesses and we couldn’t.

How does your view of the world now compare to how you saw the world before you started?

Nikki: The world is somehow both more complicated and more simple than I realized. On the one hand, there are all of these other cultures that are so unique and confusing to outsiders, but at the same time people all over the world enjoy pretty much the same things: spending time with loved ones, eating good meals, playing games, enjoying nature and beauty. I don’t understand how everyone can be so alike and yet so different.

Brad: The world is much larger than I ever thought. We traveled for a year and barely scratched the surface on what there is to see. It’s also a lot safer than I imagined.

What did you miss the most while on the road?

Nikki: Pizza. (And maybe my family.)

Brad: Family of course. While in Asia, I missed good western food.

From the places we visited, where would you most want to live for a year?

Nikki: I know I was only there for 14 hours, but I would seriously consider Dublin. Of the places I’ve seen a little bit more of, I think Barcelona or Tokyo would be at the top of my list.

Brad: Japan

Tips for other world travelers?

Nikki: Don’t be afraid! Just go have an adventure!

Brad:

  • Get an unlocked smartphone and buy cheap prepaid SIM cards in the countries you visit. Even if you don’t have a data plan, with a smartphone you can download maps and travel articles of where you are when you have WiFi. Skype is a great, cheap way to call home.
  • Pack light. The longer you travel, the less you need, because you’ll be doing laundry and running out of shampoo pretty soon anyways.
  • Learn Hello and Thank You in the local languages. For 80% of travel, that’s all you’ll really need. Pantomime and picture menus go a long way, and English really is the universal language of travel.
  • Get a motorcycle license before going to Southeast Asia. Motorbike, though dangerous, is the best way of getting to the beautiful countryside. In many countries, it’s illegal to drive one without a motorcycle license, which isn’t a problem with cops, but is for travel insurance.

1 comment to Trip Recap

  • Lisa

    So very proud of you guys, and so very happy to have you home!!!!! Thanks so much for taking the time to write such an amazing blog. I feel like I have learned alot about so many different cultures!

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