Grand Cayman – New Year & Baby Moon

The Cayman Islands weren’t on our short list of places to visit but you become very limited on options when you have a very specific time frame to travel and are trying to avoid Zika. When we found out we were pregnant we immediately began thinking about where we could go on a “babymoon”, the last trip before we became a family of three.  We needed to travel over the holidays and wanted to go somewhere warm. We narrowed it down to the Caribbean where there were three islands that were Zika free. Of the three islands, the quickest for us to get to was the Cayman Islands so we made the plans to be there over New Year’s.

Seven Mile Beach – Calico Jacks

Most tourists end up staying on Seven Mile beach which is a stretch of white sand beach that is covered in hotels and condos. We ended up staying at a great Airbnb in Bodden town which is about halfway between Seven Mile beach and Rum Point, another popular tourist destination. You could drive around the whole island in about 2 hours so it was a good place for us to be so we could be close to Seven Mile but off of the beaten path.

Beach and Ocean View from our AirBnB


Baby Conch


Most of our vacation was spent relaxing, exploring the island, and eating at some great local restaurants. A few of our favorites were:

  • Heritage Café, a local joint serving fresh fish either Cayman style, coconut, or pineapple.
  • Kaibo Beach bar, a hipster restaurant and beach bar near Rum Point. They had a great view, food, and drinks.
  • Casa 43, a great Mexican restaurant near Seven Mile beach, they have a great tequila selection, awesome snapper ceviche.
  • Czech Inn, this restaurant is getting a call out because it was right across the street from our Airbnb, was byob, had fresh fish and jerk chicken, and we ended up eating her 4 times.
  • Rankins Jerk, a jerk shop in Bodden town where mostly locals visit. Great jerk chicken and worth the trip from Seven Mile for some local food.


Heritage Cafe – Photo courtesy of one of the locals

Dan ended up diving two days while we were there. The island has over 200 dive sites and some beautiful coral.




Another must do is to go to Stingray city, a sand bar off of the island where you can swim with stingrays and hold them! We took the sunset cruise out there which was good choice because you miss the cruise ship rush and get to sail back during a beautiful sunset. While we were on the island we saw 3-4 cruise ships a day and the locals said there could be up to 7 in the harbor at once.

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Being limited on the amount of scuba diving we could do since Dan was the only one diving, we were searching for other activities and found the Cayman Crystal Caves. They have over 100 caves and currently only 3 are open to the public. The best one is the last cave that has an underground lake.


See the tree frog? 

We ended up driving around the island exploring and stumbled across a set of concrete sculptures that someone has put up in their front yard.  Don’t forget to drive on the left hand side of the road! Also driving around you can appreciate all of the massive homes on the island. Apparently Grand Cayman doesn’t have property taxes so you can plant your money here in real estate.


Just one of the many luxury homes..

Top 5 things to do in Grand Cayman:

  1. Have a drink at Kaibo beach bar
  2. See the Cayman Crystal Caves
  3. Dive one of the 200+ dive sites
  4. Swim with the Stingrays
  5. Eat fresh fish and conch fritters or jerk chicken at a local joint



Mojito’s on the East End – Tukka Restaurant


Cartagena – Caribbean Columbia

Cartagena is a beautiful colorful city on the Caribbean. It was the richest city during Spanish rule because all of the gold and jewels from the Incas were sent here before being put on ships back to Spain. The old city is a UNESCO world heritage site and is surrounded by a huge wall. Because of all of the money in the city the Spanish wanted to defend the city to the max so the wall was built along with multiple fortresses.



Cocktails on a rooftop bar at sunset. 

We spent 2 of the days in Cartagena on the Islas del Rosarios which is a cluster of islands about an hour boat ride from the city. We decided we needed to take a vacation from our vacation/traveling and just relax by the pool before heading back to the states. The Islas del Rosarios is surrounded by a protected reef so we got a few more dives under our belt. Our favorite dive was a night dive where we saw a ton of lobsters and crabs. Then at the end of the dive we turned our lights off and got to see the bioluminescence in the water.


Another one of the highlights was during dinners one of the guests would play the guitar and sing traditional Spanish songs. It was such a cool experience. Then on the last night the owner of the hotel shared a bottle of rum and Cuban cigars with all of the guests and the musician to thank him for playing. He also invited us all down to the lagoon near the hotel because it was one in five lagoons in the world where you could see great bioluminescence.



Heading back to the city we had a pretty epic boat ride where the driver seemed to only drive the boat at full throttle over enormous waves. All of the passengers in the back of the boat were soaking wet by the end of the ride. Dan and I lucked out and only got a little wet. During this ride Dan coined the term #backlivesmatter so more attention would be put towards passengers at the back of the boat.



Once back in the city we spent our time strolling the beautiful streets and city walls. At night the city really came alive with street musicians, dancers, and a male Shakira impersonator. These performers would rotate down the plazas to each of the restaurants. So each night you could sit on the patio of a restaurant on the plaza and have free entertainment.


Nighttime is when the city really comes alive. The streets fill with tourists and locals, street performers, and horse drawn carriages. We took one of these carriages around one night. It was actually real affordable for a 20 minute ride where the driver tried to explain in broken English what the sites were. It ended up being a really cool way to see the city at night.


Since Cartagena is on the coast we had a bunch of great seafood including some delicious ceviche. We ended up going back to the Cevicheria twice during our stay. The Cevicheria was also visited by Anthony Bourdain.


Top 5 Things to Do in Cartagena:

  1. Take a boat trip to the Islas del Rosarios
  2. Sit on a patio sipping a mojito watching the street performers
  3. Get a horse drawn carriage tour of the old city
  4. Wander the city walls during sunset
  5. Eat ceviche

Montevideo, Uruguay – Meat and Mate

Montevideo is the capital city of Uruguay and only a 1 hour boat and 3 hour bus ride from Buenos Aires (BA). A lot of portenos (Buenos Aires residents) board the boat on the weekends to head to the beaches of Uruguay. We decided to head to Montevideo after discovering that it was a pretty simple trek from BA. You would think that with Uruguay being so close to BA they would be very similar but that was not the case. Uruguay has a very strong African influence and is bordered by Brazil on the west so there was a lot stronger Latin flavor to the city. The first night we arrived we heard drums down the street so we went outside to investigate and found a troupe of 30 drummers and 20 dancers heading towards us. Apparently they were practicing for Carnaval so we got to stand on the street with the local and get a sneak peak of the show.

Practicing for Carnaval on the street in front of our apartment. 

Montevideo seems to beat to the rhythm of its own drum (see what I did there?) where the people set their own schedules lunch in the afternoon, dinners not until 10pm, and dancing at 4am. I now know how they can stay up until the sun comes up. They are continuously drinking a caffeinated tea called Yerba Mate. You see most locals carrying around thermoses and mate’s with bombillas sticking out of them. Mate’s are the vessels that the mate is served in and the bombilla is the straw. These three accessories are crucial to drinking Yerba Mate because the Yerba Mate is a loose leaf tea that you pour into your mate, add hot water from your thermos, and sip through your bombilla. The Bombilla is a metal straw with a filter at the bottom that filters your Yerba Mate. You also have to carry around a thermos because the Mate (cup you are drinking from) only holds a small amount of water and mate so you are continuously filling and emptying. The locals especially liked to sit by the river on La Rambla during the weekends and evening sipping mate.

Montevideo is covered in street art. Here is an example of some of the better works.


Another Uruguayan specialty is the Chivito. The Chivito is the ultimate fat kid meal and a heart attack waiting to happen. We ordered the complete plate which consisted of a pile of French fries, potato salad, and a small green salad topped with a steak, ham, cheese, and an egg. It was delicious but I could definitely feel my arteries clog a little while eating it.

This is a chivito. Largest pile of french fries topped with meat, ham, cheese, and eggs.

A similarity between BA and Montevideo was the love of grilled meat. The Mercado del Puerto is an awesome market that is filled with Parillija’s. You pull up a chair, sip some medio y medio (half white wine have sparkling) or litres of beer, and order delicious grilled meats and vegetables. The chorizo we had here was the best probably ever. The Mercado del Puerto is also great because it is surround by local artisans selling awesome crafts so you can eat your heart out and then wander around the city shopping and looking at the beautiful buildings and striking street art/graffiti.

Parrilla in the Mercado del Puerto.

Another market worth checking out is the newer Mercado Agricole there are some neat souvenir shops, a food court, brewery tasting, and Materia. Dan and I got the skinny on how to drink Yerba Mate so Dan could use his newly purchased mate and bombilla that he picked up at the Sunday outdoor market.


Dan and I didn’t end up staying up until the sun came up but we did check out a cool live music and tango venue Baar Fun Fun where we got to listen to some authentic music and tried uvita which is a sweet wine drink. They have different acts every night so it is worth checking out the schedule before heading over.


Uruguayan craft beer.

On our last day in Montevideo we stopped to check out the Museo de Andes 1972. This museum outlines and pays tribute to the survivors and casualties of the 1972 Uruguayan airplane crash in the Andes. The museum tells the story of how 15 people not only survived a plane crash they survived 72 days above tree line in the snow covered Andes. Their story is amazing. The plane that crashed was carrying a Rugby team and their friends and family. In order to survive that had to resort to eating the dead. It’s a great story and the museum was well done. Definitely recommended if in Montevideo.


Top 5 things to do in Montevideo:

  1. Eat Chorizo and sip Medio y Medio at the Mercado del Puerto
  2. Wander the colonial streets looking for street art and appreciating the architecture
  3. Sip Yerba Mate with the locals on the Rambla
  4. Visit the Museo de Andes 1972
  5. Try a Chivito at one of the local diners

Buenos Aires – European City in South America

We spent about 10 days total in Buenos Aires and still feel like we didn’t even come close to seeing the entire city. There are so many cool neighborhoods and places to see the city will definitely keep you busy. The first half of our visit was spent in the Recoleta neighborhood and the second half was in Palermo. We would definitely recommend the Palermo neighborhood over Recoleta because there are a lot more restaurants nearby and it seems like the happening place to be. Recoleta was nice because it was near some of the main sites and really close to a subway line.

At first we weren’t so sure about Buenos Aires because it seemed that too many things were going wrong. First Kristin’s checked bag was lost but was eventually delivered at 11:30pm that same night. Second we were majorly scammed for the first time on our trip. We needed to change money on a Sunday and had been reading that the street exchange rate is a lot better than the exchange rate that a bank will give you so we headed to Florida street where it was recommended by our host to exchange some USD to Argentinian pesos. As you are walking down Florida street you pass people offering you to change money. We ended up selecting a pair of seedy looking dudes to exchange money with. We then walked away from the main street and gave them $200 USD and we got our Argentinian pesos. After Dan and I walked away we had a bad feeling about the transaction and lo and behold when we tried to use the money the cashier took one look at it and new it was fake. We basically bought Xeroxed copies of pesos!! YEA! At first we thought about throwing the fake money away or maybe lighting it on fire but decided against it and will be bringing it home as a souvenir and maybe figuring out some way to use it.

After getting over the initial ass kicking that Buenos Aires provided we ended up having a pretty good time. Buenos Aires is famous for their Parrillas which are restaurants that serve all kinds of cuts of grilled beef, lamb, sausages, and chicken. They usually have an open kitchen where you can watch the meat being grilled. These places are everywhere so we ended up eating at a few different ones during our stay. You really can’t go wrong with some delicious grilled meat, salad, and a bottle of Malbec.

Our two favorites were the Parrilla Pena and Don Julio. Parrilla Pena was a really affordable option near our place in Recoleta. Don Julio was a little bit more expensive but so worth it. This was probably the best steak I have ever had and was perfectly cooked. I had the tenderloin and Dan got a ribeye. Dan also had a Morcilla which is a blood sausage that he said was out of this world.

Oh and I forgot to mention the grilled meat is always served with Chimichurri. I love Chimichurri. The Argentinian chimichurri is a lot different than what we are used to. Instead of fresh herbs it is usually made with dried herbs, is less garlicy, and sweeter from the addition of roasted peppers. Each parrilla had its own version so it was fun to try different types.

Buenos Aires is also famous for the Tango and a Tango show is a must see while in the city. We decided on Tango Porteno which was near Recoleto and was more modern than the traditional shows. We really enjoyed it.

A good way to see Recoleta is to participate in the free walking tour on the neighborhood. We did this one morning and got a good introduction to the city, some history, and overview of the great and differing architecture. Our guide was really fun and played the guitar/sang during different sections of the tour. During the tour we walked by a protest (we saw more than a few during our stay) and the guide proceeded to tell us that there is always a protest in BA and you never know what they are protesting about. The tour ended at the Cemetary Recoleta which is gorgeous to walk through and you can see Eva Perron’s grave (aka Evita).

Another neighborhood worth checking out is the San Telmo neighborhood. It is more hippie than Recoleta and Palermo. The streets are lined with cool antique shops and boutiques. We explored the neighborhood on Sunday when there was a huge outdoor market. People were selling antiques, handicrafts, art, and all kinds of random stuff. The market ended at the Plaza de Mayo where more protests are held and the famous Casa Rosada stands where Evita spoke from the balcony to the Argentinian citizens. Near the plaza is Café Tortoni probably the most famous café in BA. We stopped here to grab some churros and chocolate but they were out of churros!! We ended up settling for the more authentic coffee and medialunas (aka sweet croissants).

There was a cool Jazz bar, Notorious, that we stumbled upon while we were exploring the Recoleta neighborhood. We stopped by one night for dinner and a show. They musicians were paying a tribute to Miles Davis. Definitely worth a stop if you are in the neighborhood.

When we got back from Uruguay we stayed in the super hipster trendy neighborhood of Palermo. We fell in love with this neighborhood. There are tons of cafes, restaurants, bars, and shops that you can walk to and the sidewalks are full of locals milling about. We ended up finding a super cool coffee shop that was only a few blocks from our apartment and ended up heading here every day. It was so great to have a great light roast Aeropress or Chemex coffee (Yea I know. We are coffee snobs.) One day at the shop this guy on a bike showed up serving handmade New York bagels with cream cheese and lox. And he was a Jew from New York living in BA. It is amazing the people you meet while traveling.

On one of our last days in BA we headed to the La Boca neighborhood which is totally worth the trip. The neighborhood is home to the Bocas Juniors soccer team stadium and Caminito a row of buildings painted bright colors where tons of artists hang out. We took a tour of the stadium and were impressed that they don’t let anyone in wearing another teams jersey. The stadium is pretty run down but you can tell that the locals love the Bocas Juniors because people are sporting their colors all over the city. Caminito was fun to tour around and look at what the locals are creating. There were also stands slinging fresh squeezed OJ!



Top 5 things to do in Buenos Aires:

  1. Eat a perfectly cooked steak at Don Julio
  2. See a tango show
  3. Visit La Boca and wander Caminito
  4. Sip a hipster coffee in Palermo
  5. Take a walking tour of Recoleta and end with a café and medialuna at Café Tortoni

Great Barrier Reef and Cairns, Australia – Swimming with the fishes and some Evanyo’s

We were lucky enough on this leg of the journey to have Kristin’s parents, John and Sandy, fly from Denver, Colorado and meet us in Australia! We were able to grab breakfast with them in Sydney before we headed north to Cairns to meet them again and start our dive trip. Cairns is a pretty touristy town that caters to scuba divers and snorkelers wanting to catch a glimpse of the Great Barrier Reef (GBR).


We caught our 3 day, 2 night dive trip out of the harbor in Cairns.  It’s a 3 hour boat ride from Cairns to the GBR and pretty rough so they definitely recommend taking some Dramamine on the way out. Once we got to the GBR we had 3 day dives and a night dive the first two days and 3 dives the last day for a total of 11 dives! The diving in the GBR is pretty easy and shallow since the highlight is the coral reefs and they aren’t very deep. It was also great because the dive company we went with, Pro Dive Cairns, had exclusive access to a few reefs so our group  of 3 had the reef mostly to ourselves. You also got to dive at your own speed because you didn’t dive with a guide and they let you off of the boat with your dive buddy and let you fend for yourselves and navigate back to the boat. As usual my buddy was Dan and he was in charge of the navigating most of the time because I had no idea where the boat was so he got used to understanding my hand gesture of “Where is the boat?” under water.


The coral formations are absolutely stunning. They consist of mostly hard corals and colored stag horned coral spread across the ocean floor.  Another thing unique to the GBR are giant clams that have beautiful bright colored insides. The biggest clam that we saw on our trip was about 4 feet long and 2 feet wide. They are ginormous!  We saw some other large creatures including bumphead parrot fish that were 3 ½ feet long and 2 feet tall and Bryan the large green turtle who we got to visit during one of the night dives.  And I can’t forget the 5 foot long barracuda that was chilling under the dive boat while we were taking our safety stop.


We had some interesting animal interactions during our dives. The most memorable was the cuttlefish that Dan was trying to get to mimic him and when it was no longer interested in playing it changed colors all of a sudden and lunged at Dan’s face. Apparently it was not in the mood to play or it didn’t like Dan who knows. During one of the last dives a smaller reef shark decided it wanted to hang out with us during the dive and we got some great video of it swimming through the coral. A hilarious interaction that we witnessed was one with a pair of triggerfish who were guarding their nest and every diver that swam by was attacked by one of the triggerfish.


The food on the dive boat was actually really good and the crew was super friendly. We were basically eating, sleeping, and diving so there was not really time for much else. Some entertainment was provided by watching the cook clean dishes off of the back of the boat. During his cleaning 20-30 huge fish would swarm the back of the boat to eat the scraps. They were so close that he was almost able to put one of these huge fish in his salad bowl. At night after dinner not only would these big fish show up the sharks would as well. It was a little unnerving to watch multiple large sharks off the back of the boat while you are getting ready to get in the water for your night dive but we survived.


It was great being able to share this amazing experience with Kristin’s parents and to help them check off diving the Great Barrier Reef from their bucket list.

Singapore – Big City Living

Singapore is a crazy big, crazy busy, and crazy developed city-state in the middle of Southeast Asia. It is nothing like any of the other countries that surround it and feels like a big city straight out of the United States or some other developed English speaking country. We were lucky enough to have Dan’s relatives the Kilburn-Peterson family living in Singapore so we used their awesome condo as home base and then took 10-18 day trips around Southeast Asia. This allowed us to bring about half of our gear and come back to a developed country, hot showers, comfortable beds, and family every few weeks. It was also great having Singaporean “locals” show us around the city and take us to the best Hawker markets, sights, and restaurants.

View from Marina Bay Sands. 
Merlion! Thats right people the symbol of Singapore is a mermaid lion and it’s awesome .

Singapore has an awesome food scene from hawker markets to five star dining and a ton of Din Tai Fung’s aka DTF (Taiwanese Dumpling Joint)! Dan and I have been on a mission to go to Din Tai Fung if we have the opportunity because it is only in a select number of countries. So far we have been in Hong Kong, Los Angeles (two locations), Seattle, Kuala Lumpur, and Singapore. The other great thing about Singapore is the hawker markets because Singapore food quality standards are really high so you can eat their street food without worrying about what will happen in the next few hours or next day.  Singapore has large Malaysian, Chinese, and Indian populations so you can have the best of everything here! A few standout meals that we had (other than every time we went to DTF) were the night near the Merlion where we ate Black Pepper Crab, Dan’s bday dinner of Frog Leg Porridge, and Peking Duck and carrot cake (not the dessert) at dim sum. Really all the food was pretty amazing so it is hard to pick favorites.


Eating black pepper crab on the bay.

Singapore has a lot of outdoor activities but most of the time we were there the haze from the Indonesian fires was keeping us inside. When we did get the opportunity to get out and see the sights we had to get to the Skytree’s and cloud forest. The Skytree’s are huge metal trees with a walkway across them that light up and night and the cloud forest is a cool indoor botanic gardens and waterfall. We also had to get to the world renowned Singapore Zoo and it was definitely worth it! Tons of orangutans and other monkeys in outdoor enclosures. Two awesome white tigers and we even got to see the Sumatran spitting black cobra that we encountered on our night walk in Malaysia.

Cloud forest


One of the coolest experiences we had while in Singapore was the opportunity to see the F-1 car race followed by the Jon Bon Jovi concert! Thank you Chris and Linda!! The F-1 race track went right through the heart of the city and you got great views of the cars racing by. We also were able to witness one of the attendees jump onto the track during the race and nonchalantly walk against the F-1 traffic (not so smart). Fortunately he was pulled off of the track uninjured. After the race was over there was an included Jon Bon Jovi concert and Jon put on quite the show and played most of his old hits.


Rocking out at the JBJ concert.

Another great experience was the night of Dan’s birthday after we had frog leg porridge. (I know you guys are thinking eww!! But it is actually really delicious!) We went to bar on the roof of the Marina Bay Sands which is this huge fancy hotel on the bay. The bar overlooks downtown Singapore and is so cool because you are having a tasty drink on the top of one of the tallest buildings in Singapore with a killer view.

View of Skytree’s and cloud forest from Marina Bay Sands.
Frog leg porridge!
Just a Lamborghini and Ferrari parked out front the frog leg porridge spot.

Last but not least we have to give a shout out to Maggie and Andrew, Dan’s niece and nephew, who kept us more than entertained and were great hosts while we stayed with them in Singapore. We had a great time relearning the card game Uno and getting tons of “feedback”, getting told many knock-knock jokes (have you heard the one about the interrupting cow?), and spending Sunday lunches at DTF. We miss you guys!!

Maggie is the coolest 4 year old we know. 
Andrew and Kristin selfie with a Linda photobomb

Top 5 Things to Do in Singapore:

  1. Eat at the many Hawker Markets
  2. See the Orangutans at the Singapore Zoo
  3. Get a fancy drink atop the Marina Bay Sands
  4. Stuff your face with soup dumplings at Din Tai Fung
  5. If you are lucky see the F-1 cars race through downtown Singapore

Vientiane, Laos – BeerLao and Boat Festivals

Vientiane is the capital of Laos and is pretty small compared to the other capital cities of Southeast Asia making it a great place to explore, there is plenty to see and you get to know the Laotian culture. We were lucky enough to be in the city during one of Vientiane’s biggest festivals Bun Nam. The streets were packed with people and lined with tents selling all kinds of goods, making food, and running carnival games. During the evening the stages were opened and concerts got going and a muay thai fight started. It was crazy loud because almost every tent had a few speakers either blasting music or egging people to come buy from their stall. It was madness. Along with the crazy party the main draw is the boat race that occurs the next day. The night before Loatians make or purchase little boats made of bamboo leaves, flowers, and candles and take them down to the Mekong river where they say prayers and send the boats into the water. The boats are supposed to carry any bad out into the water and away from you. So of course we had to buy one and send it out into the water (we wished that any bad travel juju would be sent out into the Mekong).

Boat headed to the Mekong.
LIght up boats and fireworks on the Mekong.
Bamboo boats. These are the super fancy ones. Made of bamboo leaves, flowers, and candles to float in the river.
Muay thai fight.
Dan winning at Laos carnival games.

Since Vientiane is pretty small it’s a great place to explore on foot or bicycle. We rented bikes from our hostel and rode around the city seeing the main sites. Vientiane has a replica of the Arc de Triomphe and a large street that leads up to the building that people have referred to as the Champs D’Elysees of the east. (Fun Fact: They built the arc with concrete given to them by the US that was supposed to go towards building an airport.) You can climb to the top and get a good few of the city.

Biking up the asian Champs D’Elysees.
Asian Arc de Triomphe.
Laos monks overlooking the asian Arc de Triomphe.

Vientiane also has a lot of Buddhist temples worth visiting that are within the city. They are beautifully decorated with colorful paintings and statues.



An interesting attraction outside of the city is a Buddha park where someone decided to take a plot of land and put up a bunch of Buddhist or Hindu statues. We took the public bus here so it was pretty cheap to see the park and entrance reasonable so it was worth seeing since we had some time but definitely not on the must see list of Vientiane.




One of the highlights in the city is the COPE visitor center. COPE stands for Cooperative Orthotic and Prosthetic Enterprise and its mission is to provide prosthetics to people who can’t afford it. They started COPE for people who had lost limbs due to cluster bombs but have expanded to helping people with other disabilities. During the Vietnam war the US used cluster bombs to bomb Laos because the Northern Vietnamese were using Laos territory for supply routes and the Laos government was allowing this to occur. The visitor center is well done and isn’t too biased against the US which is refreshing.

On the last day we booked a tour to go trekking in the Phou Khao Khouay National Park. This forest land is about 2 hours outside of the city and is home to many species of animals including elephants and sun bears (which we did not see on the trek (sad face)). Our tour started with a boat ride in a long boat which is super sketch since the boat is so skinny and once all 5 of were in the boat it is only like 1 inch above the water line. Fortunately we did not fall in or get wet. The second part of the tour consisted of trekking through the Laos jungle and through tons of bamboo. Our guide (who was hiking in flip flops) set a pretty vigorous pace so by the time we got to the end of the trek we were all drenched and sweating profusely. The trek ended at two waterfalls and at the second waterfall we were able to swim in the cold water which was amazing after our run/trek through the jungle.



Vientiane also had some pretty great food. There is a good mix of western food (when you need a break from Asian street food), street food, other Asian foods like Japanese and Vietnamese and Laotian cuisine. One of our favorite Lao meals we had was at Lao kitchen where we had Laab and this crazy stew that had buffalo skin and pepper bark. Even with the crazy ingredients the stew was pretty tasty. All Laotian food is served with super sticky rice that they serve in a wicker basket. You take the sticky rice and dip it in your food and eat with your hands.  As for drinks the Laotians basically only drink two things BeerLao (90% of the country prefers BeerLao as drink of choice) or rice whiskey. We ended up trying some rice whiskey and it is straight fire water, definitely have a chaser if you ever end up ordering it!

Here is our ride to the airport.

Top 5 Things to do in Vientiane:

  1. Rent a bike and tour around the city
  2. Eat traditional Lao food at Lao Kitchen
  3. Drink a BeerLao while watching the sunset over the Mekong
  4. Take a tour outside the city to see the countryside
  5. Visit the COPE visitor center

Ubud, Bali, Indonesia – Balinese Culture and Tibetan Bowls

After getting our chill on in Gili Air we headed to Ubud, Bali to experience the Balinese culture. Ubud is the “love” section of the book Eat, Pray, Love so there are a lot of restaurants etcetera that use that to their advantage but most of Ubud was awesome to visit even though it was pretty touristy. The city somehow was able to still feel authentic and real even with the tourists.

Balinese door with offerings out front. Everyday the Balinese make these bamboo boxes full of a little fruit, rice, and flowers as offerings to the spirits.

You can’t go to Ubud without going to yoga or meditation classes. We ended up buying a 3 pass to the Yoga Barn and did two Vinyasa classes that really kicked our butts and we were sore for like 3 days. We also were able to take a Tibetan Bowl Meditation class. This was probably one of the coolest things we did. During the Tibetan Bowl Meditation you lie on your back in a circle of people with your head towards the center of the circle and in the center there are the Tibetan bowls. The meditation is an hour long and you sit there while the leader gongs the bowls in a pattern. After the meditation is over you feel like you were sleeping but are unsure if you were actually sleeping (maybe that is what happens while you are meditating??) Basically it was a crazy experience and both Dan and I felt totally weird afterwards and unsure of what just happened. We also definitely want to do it again.

Getting our yoga on at the Yoga Barn. You definitely can see the best of the best Yogis at a yoga class in Bali.

We ended up taking a bike cycling tour so we could see the outside of Ubud and the rice paddies and smaller villages that surround the city. The tour started at the Mount Batur volcano which is still active today. From the volcano we went to a store where we were able to taste Luwak coffee and see the Luwak. A Luwak is a possum like animal (technically in the feline family) that eats the best Arabica coffee beans. The beans are then digested/fermented in the digestive tract and pooped out. The locals call it a catpoochinno (hee hee!). Those pooped out beans are then cleaned, roasted, and sold for exorbitant prices, $8 for a cup of coffee and $30 for 50 grams. Don’t get me wrong the coffee is good but it definitely not worth the price.  After the coffee tasting we got on our bikes and started the 2 hour downhill ride where we got to visit a Balinese home and see the beautiful rice paddies.

View of Mount Batur. The lake around Mount Batur is believed to be a holy place by the Balinese.
Rice Terraces.

The tour was great because it was a downhill bike ride which is totally Kristin’s speed but also was really informative. We learned a lot about the Balinese culture and family. The Balinese are Hindu but have a unique form of Hindu that is blended with their traditional Bali religion. They believe that all things have spirits so every day they make offerings to temples, scooters, entrances to homes, businesses, etc. These offerings are believed to fend off bad spirits. The Balinese also believe in reincarnation and don’t celebrate their birthdays but celebrate their lives every 6 months. It was really cool to see a totally different culture and religion and learn about how they do things so differently.

Balinese mini temples with intricate carvings.

One of the other forms of Balinese culture is Balinese Dance. We were able to see a show one night that included multiple forms of dance and music that was super interesting. I loved the brightly colored costumes and gold headpieces.


Legong Dance.
Legong Dance.


Barong Dance. The Barong is the magical protector of Balinese villages. As “lord of the forest” with fantastic fanged mask and long mane, he is the opponent of Rangda the witch, who rules over the spirits of darkness, in the never ending fight between good and evil.

Another tourist attraction in Ubud is the Sacred Monkey Forest which is basically a forest where 5 troupes of Macaque monkeys live and there are a few temples to visit. You get to feed the monkey’s bananas and they will climb up onto you in order to get them. It was pretty fun to just sit there and watch them monkeying around (see what I did there??).

Monkey eating banana.


Dan swinging from banyan tree vines.

The food in Ubud was really good with a focus on local ingredients including tons of vegetarian options, fresh juices, and great coffee. There is even a pretty decent sushi restaurant. One of the restaurant highlights was a great restaurant called Locavore where we went for lunch on our last day in Ubud. This place was unreal. They only have two menus, Herbivore and Omnivore, and you get to choose either 5 courses or 7 courses. We chose one of each of the menus and went for the 7 courses because why not?? The food was fresh, locally sourced, and really creative. It also ended up being like 15 courses because there were 4 amuse bouches and 4 desserts (on top of the two desserts included in the courses). The only caveat is that it was a lot more expensive than the other restaurants ($50/person) but I think it was totally worth it.

Cucumber deliciousness at Locavore.
Omnivore Menu. Overall Omnivore beat out the herbivore menu.

We were lucky to be in Ubud after a full moon because that is when most of the Balinese celebrations occur. We got to see the temples dressed up for the celebration and the locals bringing offerings to and from the temples. The local women carry the offerings, basically a giant cake stand stacked with fruit, on their heads. They are so good at this that we saw more than one local women balancing an offering on her head while texting with both hands.

Village temple dressed up for ceremony.

Ubud was a great place to experience the Balinese culture. The people here were so friendly and welcoming definitely a place we would recommend people to visit!

Top 5 Things to Do in Ubud:

  1. Get your hippie on at a Tibetan Bowl Meditation class.
  2. Treat yourself to a 7-15 course dinner at Locavore.
  3. Cycle through the rice fields.
  4. See a Balinese Dance performance.
  5. Grab an Indonesian or luwak coffee outside of a temple at night and watch the locals carry offerings on their heads to and from the temple.

Gili Air, Lombok, Indonesia – White sand beaches and white tipped sharks

We have made it to Southeast Asia and the second section of our trip! Our first stop in Southeast Asia was Indonesia. When researching where we wanted to visit in Indonesia we realized that Indonesia is a huge country and we weren’t going to have enough time to see everything we wanted so we settled on visiting Gili Air, Bali, and Flores (Komodo). After visiting this part of Indonesia we know that we will definitely be back in the future.

Watching the sunset over Bali’s volcano Mount Batur.

Our first stop on our Indonesian adventure was visiting the island of Gili Air. The Gili Islands are three tiny islands about a 2.5 hour fast boat trip from Denpasar, Bali. We chose Gili Air because it is more laid back than Gili Trawangan and more exciting than Gili Meno. The island doesn’t have any motorized transportation so the only ways to get around the island are to walk, bike, or take a horse cart. There isn’t much to do on the island except scuba dive, snorkel, and relax on the beach so don’t head here if you are looking for a busy bustling city.

Horse Cart the only way to get around.

We were really excited to visit the islands and Indonesia because it is known for its amazing coral reefs and fish. The diving on Gili Air was really great and we were able to see tons of coral, turtles, schools of fish, and sharks!

Because we couldn’t spend our entire trip scuba diving we also rented bikes one day and “biked” around the island. It takes about 45 minutes to bike around the island and could be faster but half of the island doesn’t have a great bike path and you are forced to push your bike through thick sand instead of riding it. Needless to say we probably could have walked around the island more quickly!

Bike riding/pushing around the island. Only 1743 kilometers back to Singapore and 0 kilometers to Paradise!

Another night while we were on the island we took an Indonesian cooking class and learned out to make an Indonesian dessert (Kelopan), yellow curry, mie goreng, peanut sauce, chicken taliwang, and gado-gado. Indonesians make their peanut sauce in a flat mortar and pestle and it is awesome. We are definitely going to bring back some chicken satay back to the states. The best part of the cooking class was when we were making the mie goreng (fried noodles) and had to add the “white pepper” from Lombok. The instructor told us to taste the “white pepper” which he thought was a mix of coriander and white pepper but once we tasted it we really knew what is was, delicious MSG. You can’t make real misa goreng without the MSG it is just not the same. The Indonesian’s also have an awesomely named condiment called Kecip Manis (pronounced Ketchup Mayonnaise) that is kind of like a sweet soy sauce. If you want the recipes there are on their website.

Big spoon battle at Gili Cooking Class.
Finishing up the yellow curry.

While on Gili Air there was a full moon and the island gets a little bit busier for the full moon parties. Since we had to leave the next day we didn’t party until the sun came up but we did have an awesome dinner on the beach at Scallywags. Indonesia is awesome because the food is really affordable and even at a nice dinner we only spent like $40.

You can also get really great fresh seafood on Gili Air and a lot of the restaurants have daily catch fish outside their restaurants so you just walk up pick your fish and they grill it for you and serve it with rice and vegetables. Dan said he had the best grouper he ever had at one of these restaurants, Wiwin Café, and it was only 100 IDR or about $7.

Local caught fish, calamari, and shrimp. That delicious spotted grouper was our dinner.

Gili Air was a great place to chill out and enjoy the beautiful crystal clear water and white sand beaches. You can see from the rate of construction that this island is not going to be the quaint quiet island for long so get here before it gets too busy and loses its charm.

Top 5 Things to do in Gili Air:

  1. Scuba Dive – If you aren’t certified this is a great place to learn.
  2. Eat freshly caught grilled fish on the beach.
  3. Walk/Bike to the other side of the island, find a cabana and a cocktail, and enjoy the view.
  4. Watch the sunset over volcano on Bali.
  5. Get a Balinese massage (maybe everyday) there are only like $9 USD for 90 minutes.

Tokyo, Japan – Into the future

Japan is awesome! The people are super friendly, the food is fantastic, and it is a developed country where you feel like you are in a different world. We didn’t know if our journey was going to take us to Japan but we are so glad that we made it work and my brother Jack was able to join us.  We spent a total of 12 days in Japan and visited Tokyo, Hiroshima, and Kyoto. The only issue we had was it rained almost every day in Tokyo because a tropical storm was passing through but other than that the trip was great.  The rain wasn’t the end of the world because there are a lot of indoor activities in Tokyo.

Busiest street crossing in the world. 150 people/second at rush hour.

We felt like we really did a lot while we were in Tokyo. We went to the neighborhood of Akihabra also known as “nerd city” where there are a ton of arcade games, nerds, and buildings filled with magic cards, action figures, and manga. We of course had to play some arcade games and found an awesome game that was basically dance dance revolution for your hands. We also went to the Harajuku neighborhood in order to see the “Harajuku Girls” and other interesting characters but I think we either missed them or none of them were dressed up during the day. And you can’t leave Japan without visiting at least one karaoke bar. We only karaoked for a half hour because those places are pricey but we did our best and crushed out some American songs including Top Gun’s Danger Zone.

Akihabra rain getting our gaming on.
So serious. In the zone gaming.

Japan is known for its amazing shrines and temples so we made sure that we hit a few while in Tokyo. We visited the Sensō-ji Buddhist temple that includes the Thunder Gate which is an icon of Tokyo. We also visited the Meiji Shinto shrine and witnessed a wedding going on. The Meiji shrine has these huge gates that mark the entrance to the shrine.

Meiji Shrine giant gate.

Since the rain was putting a damper on our outdoor activities we decided to see a few shows while in Tokyo.  We went to the Kabuki theater which is a traditional Japanese theater where there actors are only men so the men end up playing women which can be pretty funny. We were lucky that they allow you to buy tickets to only one act because by the end of the act we were about done with Kabuki theater and pretty much falling asleep.

Kabuki theater.

The other show we booked was the Robot show. If you guys have seen Anthony Bourdain’s Tokyo episode he goes to this show and raves about it. We also thought it was pretty amazing. Its giant robots of snakes, sharks, normal robots, loud music, and scantily clad ladies. So all the makings for an epic show. You also are not allowed to stand up during the acts because you might get hit in the head by one of the robots.

Robot show!!


Once the rain cleared we went to the top of the Tokyo Sky Tree which is the 2nd tallest building in the world and has an observation deck where you can really see how huge Tokyo is. The city is massive.

View of Tokyo from Tokyo SkyTree.
Hello Kitty Tokyo SkyTree

Now on to the good part..all the delicious food! That is one thing we are going to miss when we are back in the states bomb Japanese food oh and the vending machines. There are vending machines every 20 feet or so with water, soda, coffee and a lot of the restaurants have vending machines to order your food. You put the money in the machine, select what you would like to order, and out comes a ticket that you hand in when you get inside. This method is genius! Most ramen shops order like this so you can just check out the pictures of what you want and push a button then voila ramen, fried chicken, or gyoza (or all three). That is another thing I need to mention, the Japanese know how to fry a chicken and I had some of the best fried chicken of my life in Japan.

One of the other epic meals we had was a Japanese BBQ joint where you grill your own meat at the table. The reason it was so epic was because of the quality of the beef. They had a selection of 6 types of Kobe beef that was unreal. These beef just melted in your mouth. Amazing. That is one of a ton of things the Japanese have figured out is doing something right and the high quality of food.

Check out the marbling on that bomb Kobe beef. nom noms.

And you can’t leave Tokyo without visiting the Tsukiji Fish Market. We were too lazy to get up that early and see the actual auction happening (we watched a you tube video instead) but we headed to the market for breakfast and had some delicious breakfast sushi. We also had arc clam for the first time which ended up being pretty good.

Tsukiji fish market.

Randomly we ended up going to Tokyo’s Oktoberfest. Yes you read correctly we were at a Japanese Oktoberfest. Since we were missing Oktoberfest in Breckenridge we thought this would suffice and make it 7 years in a row we have been at Oktoberfest! The Tokyo Oktoberfest doesn’t really compare with the Breckenridge version but did have way more German beers that we were able to try.

Random Tokyo Oktoberfest. Who knew we would find Oktoberfest in Japan.

Top 5 Things to Do in Tokyo-

  1. Eat fresh fish at the Tsukiji Fish Market
  2. Go to Robot Show
  3. Buy something from a vending machine (preferably ramen)
  4. Play video games at Akihabra
  5. Karaoke

All in all Tokyo was amazing! Now off to Hiroshima and a ryokan/onsen in Kyoto.