23 May

Japan Itinerary

map_of_japanJapan is the last place to visit in our current itinerary. I say current itinerary because, although we have a plan as to where we want to go, the itinerary is certainly subject to change. A plan is only necessary to know what we are deviating from should we change our mind. 

Japan is expensive. Certainly far more expensive than any of the other countries that we’ll be visiting so, I imagine, that it will take some serious planning to be able to afford it. So this is just a loose idea of where we would like to go – in the end we’ll see what the budget allows.

Japan is also one of the countries that I am most interested in visiting. It offers such a dichotomy of technological advancement and ancient tradition. I think our route will show us both.

We’ll start with the technologically advanced portion of the tour…in Tokyo. Here, Shinjuku Station is the electronically-jazzed, neon over-loaded, crazy-busy Japanese version of Times Square. Two million people a day pass through this square – and they all seem to know where they are going!

Not that Tokyo doesn’t have its share of tradition too. The Tokyo National Museum is here and offers a budget friendly free guided tour. There is also the Imperial Palace to learn more about the Royal Family and plenty of temples and toriis to visit too.

Two food favourites will be visiting the Tsukiji Fish Market early in the wee hours of the morning and then one of the many yakitori-ya’s late in the evening for a bbq snack and a beer (Anthony Bourdain loves these back alley watering holes!).

And we haven’t even touched on sumo, Harajuku, Kabuki theatre, shopping, and baseball…all that only if we could possibly navigate Tokyo’s extensive subway system…wish us luck!

We’ll leave Tokyo (maybe by bullet train?) and head into the countryside to see the other side of Japan. The goal is Kyoto, but first we’ll head to Fuji-Hakon-Izu National Park where Mt Fuji looms in the horizon. It is possible to climb Mt Fuji!! I’m not sure the weather will be permitting in May but maybe we can get part way up anyway. The park itself is beautiful, complete with hot springs, lakes and plenty of hiking paths.

Kyoto is the old capital of Japan (and was the capital for more than 1000 years). It shows the more traditional side of Japanese life with traditional architecture, temples, shrines and palaces. Here, it is possible to visit the Gion District to see geishas on their way between teahouses and stay in a traditional Japanese ryokan inn with shoji screens and futons.

As I said at the beginning, Japan is expensive. If anyone has any suggestions, recommendations, hints, tips or tricks as to how to visit on a backpackers budget, please let us know.

09 May

Indonesia Itinerary

map_of_indonesiaIndonesia is a country of 17,000 islands! Of which we plan on visiting 5…maybe.

Bali is the main reason for visiting Indonesia. A small island that, although it has grown in popularity, is still laid back and relaxed.

There is Kuta in the south leading to the Bukit Peninsula which houses the luxurious tourist resorts in a manic whirl of activity. It is unlikely we will see much of this part of the island as it will be out of reach of our backpacker budget – but maybe a visit just to see how the other half lives.

Lovina is likely more our style. A string of villages along the nothern coast that are laid back, relaxed and low budget. Gazing out to the Indian Ocean from our classic ‘hut on the beach’ with barely a care in the world.

Ubud is the artsy, crafty, hippie heart of Bali. I think I will love it as I like it when there is plenty to see and do, but also lots of places to relax and just take it all in. There is also plenty of hiking around Ubud – out into the countryside to see the spectacular views of the rice paddies  and temples.

And then there is Gunung Batur. A volcano in the center of Bali that must be climbed to catch the first glimpe of the sun at sunrise. I love volcanoes, and the thought of being able to trek around it, and climb up it is exciting – apparently there are even heat vents!

Lombok is just to the east of Bali. It is, apparently, even more relaxed and laid back than Bali. There are more volcanoes here to explore, but likely we’ll stay on the western side of the island and primarily use it as a jumping of point to the Gili’s.

Gili Air, Gili Meno and Gili Trawangan are a trio of idyllic islands of the north western coast of Lombok. I think this will really be the ‘getting away from it all’ locale. White sand beaches leading to snorkelling off the coral reefs and swimming in the crystal clear water…really, does it get any better than this?

Visiting 5 islands out of the 17,000 hardly allows us to say we’ve visited Indonesia at all. But these 5 will offer all that we are looking for…and may entice us to come back one day and visit more.

25 Apr

Vietnam Itinerary

map_of_vietnamIt’s getting harder and harder to develop itineraries. It’s hard to think of being in Vietnam one year from now when we’ll be in Peru in 5 weeks!

And so our plan is pretty loose. We’ll spend about three weeks here but will have to keep on the move as we plan on seeing the country from the top all the way to the bottom. Apparently there is a train system that runs most of the way…I love traveling by train!! Read More

04 Apr

Laos Itinerary

map_of_laosOf all the countries we’re planning on visiting, I think Laos is the most ‘off the beaten track’. Having only been open to tourism for 20 years, it’s not a huge tourist destination but those that have been seem to fall in love with it, and the people. 

We’ll start by crossing from Northern Thailand into Huay Xai, Laos. Most people don’t stay here more than a couple of hours, but I’ve heard there is some good trekking out of here and a chance to interact with gibbons just a little north, so maybe we’ll hang out for a couple of days before heading east to Luang Prabang by boat.

When I was first researching about traveling in Laos, I read about a ‘slow boat down the Mekong river’ and thought it sounded oh-so-idyllic-and-peaceful. I imagined lounging and chatting with a few other tourists and locals while watching the scenery slowly float by, arriving in Luang Prabang relaxed and rested. Good job I kept reading and researching! The ‘slow boat down the Mekong river’ may be slow but it is anything but peaceful and relaxing – typically it is a long, narrow boat stuffed with as many as 100 or more tourists and all their stuff. It still might be the best way to get there, but it’s best to keep my expectations in check!

Luang Prabang isn’t that big (pop. 26,000) but it is a central trade hub between Laos, Thailand and China and, with it being a UNESCO World Heritage site, there will be plenty to see. This area is also good for trekking (with elephants maybe?), white water rafting and cycling. It might be nice to get on a bike again!

My original plan was to leave Luang Prabang and continue east overland to meet up with the Vietnamese border but I have not found a good route between Luang Prabang and Hanoi. It doesn’t seem that many people do it and those that have tell tales of horrid bus rides and poor infrastructure. So now I’m thinking that we’ll head south to Vientiane and fly from there to Hanoi.

As we head south to Vientiane, we’ll have a chance to see the Plain of Jars. Quite literally a plain, meadow-like area strewn with massive stone jars. Another one of earths mysteries like Stonehenge, or the Moai statues on Easter Island – huge structures carved out of rock and no real explanation.

Vientiane is a larger city and most sites are centrally located so it is a city for walking. We’ll visit the National Museum and the Buddha Park, but mostly it’s just chilling that gets done here – Laos has a distinctive slow pace. The Phu Khao Koay National Park is just outside of Vientiane. There is trekking here with the added draw of seeing elephants, gibbons, asiatic black bears, tigers and leopards.

Laos sounds like an amazing place to visit, relax and enjoy. It might test our travel abilities but, by then, we should be pretty travel savvy and be up for the challenge.

21 Mar

Thailand Itinerary

map_of_thailandWe come into Thailand after India. As I’m unsure of how I will feel about India, I’ve designed the Thailand itinerary to allow for some decompression which is, I’m told, what Thailand is all about.

We plan for 5-6 weeks here so there is plenty of time to settle in and to move around. We’ll fly into Bangkok and spend just the minimum amount of time to get our bearings and make travel plans for heading south…to the beaches.

Reading the guidebooks, and talking to friends who have been there, shows that there are countless beaches to visit. It is nearly impossible to choose while reading a guidebook sitting thousands of miles, and a number of months, away. We’ll need some local and traveler expertise while on the road to help us make the final decisions. Although it seems that one can’t go wrong by choosing any of them.

There are a few ‘must sees’ it seems. The island of Phuket, the Phi Phi Islands and Krabi draw many people to their shores – there must be a good reason for it. Beaches, parties (although we are a little long in the tooth), snorkeling, rock climbing and general ‘chilling’, all have appeal.

Once we’ve had our fill of the beaches we’ll head back to Bangkok to enjoy the thriving metropolis that it is. Many travelers would avoid the city like the plague, but we enjoy cities and so will spend longer here than perhaps the average traveler might – maybe up to a week. Bangkok has all that any city has to offer with the addition of some wicked markets – the floating market, and the night market. I’m also interested in seeing Wat Po – the reclining Buddha. There is, obviously, much more to see – we have plenty of time to discover all of it.

Once we’re done with the city we’ll head north, probably by train. We’ll be heading to Chang Mai stopping along the way wherever we feel like it.

Chang Mai, Chang Rai and the surrounding areas offer plenty to see and do.  We can explore the ancient walled city in Chang Mai, take cooking classes to learn how to make the amazing food, relax with a Thai massage, visit countless temples and head into the hills to do some trekking.

I’m looking forward to Thailand for the relaxation, easy traveling, the famously friendly people, the great food and the beaches. From what I hear it is a very difficult place to leave.

xxx

07 Mar

India (and Nepal) Itinerary

map_of_indiaIndia is a place that has facinated me for many years. I am, at the same time, excited to finally be going, and terrified of what it holds and how I will react.

Ten weeks is not very long to spend – we have friends that spent 6 months in India alone! So we have limited ourselves to the north for this trip.

A few weeks ago we went to see a talk about trekking in Nepal put on by a local, Vancouver Island fellow. Since seeing that, and reading more about our friends time in Northern India and Nepal, we have pretty much decided to add another two weeks to our time here in order to see a little of Nepal also.

For this itinerary, I’ve dispensed with the route planning and moved more toward creating a list of places that we would like to see. Primarily because it’s difficult to know what the best route might be – although I think we’ll start at the northernmost part simply so that as we move south we can ditch the cold weather gear that we’ll have toted since the beginning – this should be the start of the warm weather! Read More

31 Jan

Turkey Itinerary

Our plan is to start our holiday in Turkey toward the end of September and stay until the end of October – should be almost 6 weeks.

One of our goals is to not be in any one place during the ‘busy’ season, and I think Turkey in October meets that goal (hee hee…’Turkey in October’ makes me giggle as we obviously will not be having turkey that October!). We will be there just at the end of Ramadan, so we will have to read up on the customs and meanings around that, and learn how to be a gracious guest of the country during such a religious time. Read More

10 Jan

Germany Itinerary

map_of_germanyWith only 3 weeks to spend in Germany, we will have to be selective in what we see in order to travel at a relaxed pace, see some urban and country sights, and to include some family visiting in too.

Although we haven’t firmed up plans with family connections yet our hope is that our, and their, travel plans will sync up and we’ll be able to visit with them. We are also still hopeful that J’s parents will be able to join us as they are experienced in traveling here. Barring that though, we will still plan on visiting the same areas as there is much to see and do.

Our focus will be twofold. In the central region where J’s mom’s cousin Frank and his wife Hieke enjoy the Harz mountains from their home in Seesen and in the southeast near Munich where J’s mom’s other cousin Hanno lives in Friedberg. Read More

18 Oct

South America Itinerary

As South America is our first stop, it has been easier to develop an itinerary for.  Being there next summer makes it within reach and, therefore, easier to imagine a plan for.

Now for the caveat…although we have an itinerary, and a general sense of where we might be when, we are also open to any and all possibilities that might present themselves once we are there.  A plan is only needed so that it can be abandoned or altered at any point!

We are planning 3 months to travel through Peru, Chile and Argentina starting at the beginning of June 2009.  Although this does put us into the SA winter season, it fits well with the rest of the trip’s weather patterns and allows us to be in Peru during the best time to hike the Inca trail to Machu Picchu. Read More

04 Oct

Where Will We Go…Building The Itinerary

Well, that’s the big question isn’t it? Where will we go? The world is a big space and, even given a year to travel, we can’t see it all.

As much as traveling the world is supposed to be a serendipitous adventure, for us, there still must be a rough itinerary that blocks out where will we will be and the ‘must sees’ of each area. This was an overwhelming notion for me as it seemed that every time I started I would get bogged down in the details – and I can’t be worrying about little details a year before we even leave!! Read More