Month Four…er…Five

Life in Asia took over so we fell behind again! The last time we wrote an update we had just finished trekking in Nepal and were on our way to South Korea. At the end of May we flew from Kathmandu to Seoul via Hong Kong, where we had our first experience with gruel during our layover. It wasn’t so bad.

[ptcPhoto filename=”Gruel.jpg” title=”Congee” caption=”Okay, it’s called congee” position=”center”]

What Have We Been Up To?

We spent a month in Korea and fell in love with the country’s culture and food. It was a little shocking for us to land down in a place where everything is so tidy and modern – we weren’t sure what to expect and were pleasantly surprised. Sam was a little ambitious with our itinerary there, which had us hopping from city to city at a breakneck pace. Within four weeks we scooted around Jeju island, tried our hand at archery, cheered at a baseball game, saw temples and palaces, strolled through parks, and shopped our way through a lot of markets. So by the end we had seen a lot, but we were a little burnt out from doing so much in such a short period of time.

[ptcPhoto filename=”EricKnight.jpg” title=”Yep” caption=”We still had time to do that” position=”center”]

Last week we made some new friends in Busan when we tried out couch surfing for the first time. They made us feel right at home, and we appreciated having a kitchen (and a dog!) for a couple of days. After Busan we took an overnight ferry from South Korea to Japan. Leaving made us a little sad, so we sought solace in big platters of sushi.

[ptcPhoto filename=”Sushi.jpg” title=”Sushi” caption=”It reminded us that Japan has amazing food too” position=”center”]

Our Japanese tour began in Hiroshima, and now we’re in Osaka for a week. Fourth of July was less than stellar since we couldn’t find an American bar (despite going over to the “America Mura” neighborhood, complete with its own statue of liberty). We did find a British pub and good beer, so it wasn’t a total loss.

[ptcPhoto filename=”4th.jpg” title=”4th of July” caption=”Those might be forced ‘I’m homesick’ smiles” position=”left”]

Over the next few weeks we’re trying to slow it down a little so we can really enjoy each new place. Also, it gives us a chance to actually unpack our bags and do laundry sometimes.

What’s Next?

Our friend Jelmini is visiting! He’ll fly over to meet us in Tokyo at the end of the month, and we plan to hike Mt. Fuji together. He can only visit for a short time and wants to see China as well, so at the beginning of August we’ll already be flying over to Beijing to see the Great Wall. We’re really looking forward to his visit, both because we miss him and also because our togetherness is starting to fester. Just kidding, we’re doing well, but we do spend way more time together than can possibly be healthy. Jelmini, get ready to be the center of attention, and for whirlwind tours of Tokyo and Beijing!

Month Three: Wrapping up the Subcontinent

Today marks our 100th day of traveling! We’ve been in Nepal for the last few weeks and it’s been a great place to recharge and do some writing for the website. After moving so quickly through India, we’ve been happy to stay put and take some time to explore the cities of Kathmandu and Pokhara.

[ptcPhoto filename=”SamEricBoda.jpg” title=”Boudhanath Stupa” caption=”Enjoying the Boudhanath Stupa in Kathmandu” position=”center”]

Health Matters

Unfortunately all of our good luck ran out and we took turns being sick this month. That put everything on hold for a good ten days, so some of our time in Nepal was spent inside of hotel rooms watching The Amazing Race and working (did you notice the new Trip Stats page and icons on the front page?). Sam made it through the month without anything gross happening, although Eric did have a run-in with a very hungry leech up in the mountains.

What Have We Been Up To?

Trekking in the Annapurna region of the Himalayas for a week gave us a chance to unplug and get some much-needed fresh air and exercise. Sometimes the lodges up in the mountains don’t even have electricity, so internet wasn’t available anywhere. We did a lot of reading, planning, and battling ferocious and terrifying mountain insects. Sam saw a chicken get slaughtered in one of the villages, and may or may not have cried a little (but wow, is real free-range chicken delicious!).

[ptcPhoto filename=”BuddhaEyes.jpg” title=”BuddhaEyes” caption=”Lord Buddha, god of steep mountains” position=”left”]

The Poon Hill loop is one of the easier options for this area, so it’s a good choice for beginners like us. The second day is still strenuous, as it entails walking six and a half miles up 4,600 feet of elevation gain. Beers and dal bhat, a hearty local dish, were delightful after the thousands of stone steps. Hiking so close to monsoon season meant that the skies didn’t always cooperate, but eventually we did get some nice views. We also made a new friend, Alice, who played the ukulele and shared some of her many hilarious travel stories.

[ptcPhoto filename=”EricMountain.jpg” title=”EricMountain” caption=”Snow on the Annapurna Range” position=”center”]

What’s Next?

We had planned to go overland into China next, but given the political climate of Tibet we’d have to fly into the country. If we’re flying anyways, we decided it might make more sense to head east first and go back to China in a couple of months. So this weekend we’ll bid farewell to the subcontinent and fly to Seoul, South Korea!

Month Two

Hello again! Looking back, it’s been a very busy month since we last updated the site and there’s a ton to talk about. India is both exhilarating and exhausting, and by the end of most days we’re dead tired. Between that and intermittent Internet, you may have noticed that we haven’t posted any real articles for some time. Thankfully we just arrived in Darjeeling and we’re staying put for a few weeks in an effort to catch up on writing and take a few deep breaths before heading on to Nepal.

Health Matters

Knock on wood, we’re still in great health other than a couple of short-lived injuries and illnesses. Sam sprained her foot a couple of weeks ago, but it was very minor and has healed well. [ptcPhoto filename=”Durga320.jpg” title=”Durga” caption=”The Goddess Durga, keeping us in good health” position=”right”] Eric hits his head on short doorframes pretty regularly, but so far he’s avoided concussion and just has some lumps up top. Delhi Belly hasn’t been an issue. Sam did have to stop and empty her stomach in a train station on our way out of Varanasi. This drew a few strange looks from the locals…but she felt much better afterwards.

We do have some traveler’s fatigue at the moment. Our longest stop so far was down on the beach in Goa, and moving from place to place every few days takes its toll. Traveling long-term demands more energy than we anticipated. But make no mistake, we aren’t complaining!

What Have We Been Up To?

With the writing spree right around the corner, we won’t go into too many details. Our friend Caroline visited for ten days and we had a great time visiting Delhi, the Taj Mahal, and the state of Rajasthan while she was here. We hope she’ll remember the good times, and not just the culture shock of Northern India. Some other highlights included camel rides, celebrating Holi (the spring festival of colors), seeing a Bollywood film, and making new friends on trains.

[ptcPhoto filename=”IndiaHive.jpg” title=”Beehive” caption=”A beehive at our hotel in Mysore” position=”left”]India has kept us on our toes, and sometimes it seems like just walking outside can prove dangerous. Eric was struck by an auto-rickshaw in New Delhi and Caroline unfortunately had food poisoning during part of her stay. Other daily dangers include loose electric lines, swarms of bees, wrathful cows, packs of dogs, and surly camels.

After six weeks in India, we’re no longer surprised by frequent disregard for public health and safety, herds of wild animals in the street, or seeing people defecate, well…anywhere really. [ptcPhoto filename=”IndiaElectric.jpg” title=”Electricity” caption=”Electric lines, or modern art?” position=”right”] But while we’ve become desensitized to many of her flaws, we’ve also learned to appreciate the nuances of India’s splendor. Varanasi in itself was worth all the dilemmas we’ve endured.

What’s Next?

Nestled in the foothills of the Himalayas, our temporary home of Darjeeling is the perfect place to hide out and do some planning. Next we’ll head over the border into Nepal and visit Kathmandu. We’re really looking forward to getting some exercise trekking the Annapurna Circuit and visiting Nepali villages along the way. In the meantime, we’ll get some work done!

One Month In: How’s it Goin’?

One month in and we’ve already had a lot of great experiences, from meeting dolphins to riding bicycles around the ancient city of Hampi. Sam finally convinced Eric to grow a beard, so in his own way he’s now competing with the dreadlocked men who roam the backpacker trail.

[ptcPhoto filename=”ericbeard.jpg” title=”Eric sporting a new beard” caption=”Eric sporting a new beard” position=”right”]

Health Matters

Knock on wood, so far we’ve had no major health issues. We haven’t been extremely careful about what we eat, so maybe our adventurous diet at home prepared our stomachs for the onslaught of foreign foods. We have been pretty careful about water though, drinking either bottled water or tap water that we’ve sterilized with our SteriPen.

Our feet are another matter altogether. Sitting in a cubical for 8 hours a day didn’t prepare us for the amount of walking we’d be doing on the trip, so blisters, cuts, and sore muscles greet us with every step. But our feet are getting tougher and calluses are slowly forming in the key spots.

We’ve had the occasional bout of homesickness, which often crops up at breakfast time when we’re thinking about bacon. We’re going through bacon withdrawal! Moving quickly from place to place can take its toll, so we’ve been trying to take breaks when we can. This past week was spent lying on a beach in Goa, which has been perfect.

We’ve only had one minor breakdown so far when Sam accidentally submerged her foot in a hole of unidentifiable, warm, foul-smelling liquid behind a public bathroom at a bus station in Bangalore. Luckily we’re up to date on our Hepatitis shots so it looks like she’ll be able to keep the foot.

What Have We Been Up To?

We definitely don’t miss work, but we’ve had to devise a schedule so we don’t go too long without updating the site. We’ve declared Mondays our website “work days”, assuming the internet gods grant us connectivity. Eric’s MacBook stopped working so our productivity has slowed in recent weeks. Thankfully there are service centers in Delhi where it can be fixed.

[ptcPhoto filename=”mysoreGanesha.jpg” title=”Ganesh the Internet God” caption=”Ganesh the Internet God” position=”left”]

Day-to-day tasks like research and hand-washing clothes take up the time we don’t spend exploring new places. In her role as trip accountant, Sam tracks every rupee spent and has become more insistent about staying on budget. Eric mastered the extraordinarily confusing Indian rail system, so we’ve been taking advantage of trains even though they lumber along at a snail’s pace.

A noticeable development is that even after a short amount of time traveling, we’re finding that things become more and more relative. In particular, the concepts of “clean” and “expensive” have taken on new meaning. We find ourselves thinking things like, “It’s just a couple of cockroaches – no big deal!” and, “The bananas two kilometers back were eight cents cheaper. We should wait and go back there.”

What Have We Been Eating?

[ptcPhoto filename=”SriLankaCurry.jpg” title=”Sri Lankan Curry” caption=”Sri Lankan Curry” position=”right”]

In the past month we’ve enjoyed some amazing world cuisine as well as some bland imitations of it. In general we find that the closer you are to the main tourist areas, the more disappointing the meal. We’re always on the hunt for unapologetic, authentic, local food.

Food in Sri Lanka was tasty but a bit too consistent. Curry and biryani with mounds of rice were often the only choices on the menu, so after a week or so we’d had our fill. Sweet Sri Lankan tea was always around to wash it down.

[ptcPhoto filename=”IndianChiliGobi.jpg” title=”Indian Chili Gobi” caption=”Indian Chili Gobi” position=”left”]

Already we are finding that India has more variety and we’re looking forward to sampling street food once we get to the larger cities. At the moment we’re stuck on Gobi Manchurian (AKA Chili Gobi), a spicy fried cauliflower dish.

Plans

It looks like we’ll be in India for another month or two. In a few days we’re heading north to Jaipur in anticipation of the upcoming elephant festival and Holi, the spring festival of colors. We’re really looking forward to seeing Caroline in Delhi at the end of the month!