Archive

June 2017

Browsing

New Orleans: Legends of Pirates, Ghosts, and Voodoo Queens

Without a moment of hesitation, I can name New Orleans as my absolute favorite city in America.

Sure, you might have heard some negative perspectives on it – people often say it’s dirty and full of drunk tourists.

And they’re right – but there is so much more to it, if you can get away Bourbon Street (not that Bourbon Street isn’t a great time).

This is a city full of culture and superstition. If you are attracted to cities with a little edge, a little mystery, and a little myth, New Orleans is sure to deliver. You’ll get rich histories, scandalous tales of pirates, plenty of ghost stories, and a touch of Voodoo. As soon as you arrive, you’ll know there is no other city like this in America.

I am always seeking the stories behind a city, and these are some of my favorites from New Orleans.

Let’s Start with Some Pirates

When New Orleans was still a French Territory, it was known to be a haven for the pirates of the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea. The most well-known pirates to make appearances in these legends are Jean Lafitte and his brother Pierre. Law enforcement was lax during this time, so pirates took advantage of this port city to take care of their business on land.

Jean Lafitte

“Pirates Alley,” a small road running between St. Louis Cathedral and the Cabildo, is rumored to be where the Lafitte brothers conducted some of their nefarious business. People still report seeing Jean Lafitte’s ghost strolling the alley from time to time – along with haunting a few local bars.

Of all the places in the city, why would a pirate feel most comfortable by a church and the governor’s offices? Perhaps it’s because Lafitte is said to have formed an unlikely partnership with Andrew Jackson during 1814’s Battle of New Orleans against Britain.

Although the pirate certainly didn’t respect the laws of any country, he saw Britain as his ultimate enemy because their navy was after his ships. He also used his cooperation as a bargaining chip when trying to negotiate the release of his brother from prison.

A Few More Ghosts

There are ghost stories around every corner in the Crescent City. Here are just a few:

Bottom of the Cup Tea Room – You’ll find a heartbreaking story here – a woman fell in love with a man of a higher station. He asked her to prove that her love was genuine by going to the roof, stripping off her clothes, and waiting for him. He did not come for her, but she stayed all night, falling ill because of the cold and dying. The man was overcome with guilt and killed himself. Now both ghosts continue to haunt the building.

LaBranche Building – Once owned by a wealthy plantation owner, his wife became enraged when she learned of his mistress after his death. She invited the woman over, then held her hostage and killed her. The wife died many years later, and the ghosts of both women continue to haunt the building – spending eternity unable to escape their greatest rival and enemy.

St. Anthony’s Garden – These grounds have seen much blood spilled and many lives lost to duels of the past. It is said to hold several unmarked graves that cause a shiver to run up the spine of those walking across.

For more haunts and ghost stories, check out our self-guided supernatural tour of New Orleans.

Don’t Forget the Vampires

There’s a reason why so many Vampire movies and novels are set in Louisiana. These creatures of the night commonly appear in New Orleans folklore, thanks to the strong influence of French culture.

One of the most famous legends surrounds a man named Jacques Saint Germain. He was rich and mysterious, always throwing grand parties with tons of food – but never eating a bite himself.

After one party, a woman reported that he tried to bite her neck, causing a struggle in which she fell off his balcony. She was not seriously injured, and the police immediately headed to Germain’s place to investigate.

They found that he had vanished, along with all signs of the evening’s party – aside from many bottles of wine. Upon closer inspection, they discovered the wine was actually human blood.

New Orleans Voodoo

You’ll definitely stumble upon a few Voodoo shops while exploring New Orleans. These old beliefs and traditions are alive and well in the Crescent City.

It’s important to remember that, although some businesses might use Voodoo culture to intrigue tourists, many locals take these practices very seriously. If you’re curious about this side of the city, be as respectful as possible.

Voodoo is a religion that began in West Africa and made its way to New Orleans through the slave trade. Louisiana Voodoo is now its own tradition, which borrows some of its symbols and customs from Catholicism, specifically Catholic saints. Voodoo rituals are typically elaborate prayers to spirits and ancestors who might intervene in the lives of humans when petitioned.

New Orleans was the home of famous Voodoo Queen, Marie Laveau. Her tomb attracts many visitors hoping to leave a gift and gain the favor of her spirit in the afterlife. After a gift is left, the visitor knocks three times on her tomb.

Gifts left at Marie Laveau’s tomb

Have you ever been to New Orleans? Did you immediately fall in love with its Gothic charm, or were you turned off by the constant partying in the French Quarter? What is your favorite American city and why?

The Drink, The Drunk and The Hangover of our Travels

If we’re going to talk honestly, we have to admit that one of our top priorities when arriving in a new city is to have a great night out.

We love to see what kind of party we can find in an unfamiliar place, and get a taste for whatever drinks are cheapest or most popular with the locals.

While seeking out unknown, cheap drinks, we’ve definitely stumbled upon some horrible concoctions along with a few hidden gems. Either way, they usually create hilarious moments and great stories to recall the next day – along with more than a few debilitating hangovers.

Cheers!

Below we talk about some of the drinks, the stories, and the aftermaths.

The Drink:

Baijiu (China)

Baijiu is a Chinese liquor made from grain. It’s a white clear alcohol and is usually between 40 – 60% alcohol content.

The Drunk:

We can thank this drink for bringing us together. We had known each other a couple weeks, but we hadn’t had the confidence to make a move yet. After a few baijiu and cokes at a party, Simon gained the courage to tell Kristin that he wanted to “snog her face off” – despite our many coworkers lurking around, eager for gossip. A few more drinks found us running around Canton Tower, shouting nonsense, and lying down to snog on the street.

The Hangover:

We were sick but happy because we had revealed that we liked each other. Cute. 🙂

Grateful for that night 🙂 

The Drink:

Tsingtao (China)

We also came across Tsingtao in China. It’s China’s second largest brewery, produced in Qingdao in the Shandong province. Its alcohol percentage is said to be around 4.5%. Tsingtao is seriously cheap, but be cautious before you overindulge.

The Drunk:

The scene was Simon’s birthday party at his apartment in Guangzhou. Downing several Tsingtao, he was quickly a state. When the party ended, we headed out in search of any bar or club we could find.

New to China and quite drunk, we barely knew where we were, much less what direction we should be heading. The taxi driver decided to take advantage of this situation. He took his time driving around, taking so many turns, we felt certain we were on the other side of the city. Our fare was about three times more than we would have expected, but we were dropped off at a club (Nova) so we were happy.

And we had an amazing night. We couldn’t wait to go back to that club again. The only problem? We had no idea where it was and couldn’t remember the name. The taxi ride was so long and complicated – we were sure we’d never find it again.

But we still searched. For months. It was the legendary club, lost to us forever.

Until, one day, Simon was walking to the metro and he noticed a door. He remembered that door. It was the club – literally only a 2 minute walk from his apartment.

The Hangover:

Horrid! I’ve never experienced anything like it. It made me delusional, gave me an unbearable headache, and made me so ill.

H2O needed for Kristin.

The Drink:

Leo (Thailand)

Leo is a pale lager beer brewed in Bangkok by a brewery called Boon Rawd. Its interesting logo is a leopard – although I thought it was a tiger for years.

The Drunk:

Where to start! Honestly, Leo is such a staple of our lives, I can’t pick just one story. Many fun nights have been spent drinking “just one more.” We love sitting around a table of new or old faces, casually ordering drink after drink. I’ve made great friends this way – there’s something about having a few Leos together that makes new friendships form, even with people we previously found boring or a little annoying.

Leo has made Simon do some strange things as the night gets later – for example, he suddenly seems to despise wearing clothes. Especially while crossing a specific bridge on our walk home – this is where the stripping usually begins. There are a couple stray dogs snoozing away up there – one in particular does not find Simon’s nudity amusing. While these dogs usually ignore us passing by, this one will bark at Simon ferociously until we are off the bridge.

Leo can also turn him into a bit of a kleptomaniac. One morning we woke up to a traffic cone in our kitchen. The pillows from our condo’s lobby are also frequent victims of this behavior.

Don’t worry – everything gets returned eventually and this phase has mostly passed now. Simon still likes to bring home random gifts while drunk off Leo, but he pays for them honestly now. His newest game is to buy Kristin gifts at 7-11 that he has picked at random while closing his eyes. (Sometimes the gifts are pretty good, too. Sometimes they are ridiculous and cost several hundred baht.)

More Leo stories include falling in a hedge, literally crawling home on all fours, and throwing wet toilet paper at our windows – something we have affectionately named “soggy boggies.”

The Hangover:

It’s brutal. Your mouth stays dry forever. Water starts tasting like syrup. Some symptoms may even linger into a second day. One regrettable Leo hangover occurred on Christmas Day 2014. Simon’s friends were enjoyIng Christmas lunch together, but he locked himself in a toilet stall and sat on the floor for 30 minutes feeling miserable. It was the worst hangover of his life.

Our lovely cone.

The Drink:

Sangria (Oman)

Obviously sangria is not local to Oman, but in a country where alcohol can be scarce and expensive, we were thrilled to find these pitchers at a Mexican restaurant in Muscat. Who knows what exactly was in them – but they were strong.

The Drunk:

The sangria was so sweet, and each glass went down so easily. We didn’t even notice an effect, which is always when you know you’re in trouble. Because eventually it will hit you like a train – and it did.

By the time we left the restaurant, the streets were empty and there wasn’t a taxi to be seen. After stumbling around pathetically for a bit, we found a 19 year old boy from Iran who was willing to drive us back to the other side of the city (endless gratitude to him – he humored us by engaging in our silly drunken conversation with a smile, and he wouldn’t even accept payment).

We immediately climbed in bed and passed out. It should be noted that this bed was not in a hotel room – a friend who is currently living in Oman let us crash in his room while he stayed at his girlfriend’s.

Which makes the next part of the story that much worse.

An hour later, Kristin woke up to find Simon standing at the window. A little confusing, but she assumed he was looking at the moon or stars for some reason – we don’t get many clear night skies back in Bangkok.

Then she heard the telltale sound and realized –

Simon was pissing all over the floor. Not just the floor, but his backpack, and every article of clothing he brought for the trip.

In shock, she raised some protest. This only persuaded him to move on to Kristin’s backpack. That was all the motivation Kristin needed to jump out of bed, basically tackle him, and forcefully drag him to an actual toilet. He was very annoyed – as if Kristin was the unreasonable one in this situation.

The Hangover:

Surprisingly, we suffered no hangovers but plenty of memory loss. Simon remembered absolutely nothing. Kristin had vague memories but thought it was a weird dream – until we realized all of Simon’s clothes were soaking wet and smelling foul. Kristin’s bag was missing but later found all packed up and hidden away where no one could piss on it.

 

Other Escapades:

Vodka and Red Bull in Spain
After a few of these, Simon needed to empty his bladder. Unfortunately, the nearest toilet was through a busy club. Too much hassle! Drunk logic says “It’s okay, just go ahead and piss your pants.” So he did.

Spain made for some great drunk fun.

Whiskey Sours in China
Kristin is excellent at knowing her limit, but she also has a hard time turning down free drinks. One night, she decided that it was time to stop but a couple friends were still in full-on party mode. They kept declaring “just one more, it’s on us.” In return for their generosity, they ended up carrying a sloppy drunk Kristin down the stairs of the pub at the end of the night. She vomited all over them both, while the entire waitstaff watched (along with a few stray customers). She felt okay the next day, but it’s the one and only morning she has woken up embarrassed about the night before.

White Wine in Iceland
We usually do well on white wine. It’s what we drink when we just want one or two on a calm night. But in Iceland a couple bottles had us thinking belly flopping into a pile of snow was a good idea. Luckily, cold weather always makes the hangovers easier to handle.

Here’s to being drunk 🙂 

There’s no denying that a few drinks are always on the agenda when we travel. There’s no better feeling than letting loose at new bars, in new cities, with new people, and enjoying new drinks. Do you find time for a night out when you travel? We’d love to hear your stories!

Celebrating Summer Solstice Around Europe

It’s summer!

For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, the days have become hot, long, and stormy. The Summer Solstice is around the corner, and many cultures are celebrating it, especially around Europe.

The Summer Solstice is the longest day of the year. For months the sun has been setting later and later, and it will be reaching its peak on the 21st of June.

Americans might see the Summer Solstice as an ancient pre-Christian holiday without much relevance today, but you don’t actually have to travel through time to see it for yourself. You can still find it celebrated in various ways in certain countries.

Here are some of those places, and what they’ll be doing:

Greece – Summer Solstice is the traditional New Year’s Day in Greece, and it also used to mark the beginning of the summer Olympic sports. Some Greek locals still take this time to make an annual trek up Mount Olympus.

Russia – The summer festival in Russia lasts three months (May, June, and July), but the largest celebrations always fall on the Solstice. Festivities include ballet, opera, and many other cultural performances. People also stop wearing colors of winter (black or gray), and start wearing bright colors to the celebrate the season.

Latvia – You won’t get a lot of sleep celebrating the Solstice in Latvia. It is traditional to stay awake the entire night before. Friends enjoy each other’s company by a fire. After the sun rises, they’ll collect a bit of morning dew to wipe on their faces. This ritualistic “cleansing” is said to bring luck. During the day, a great feast is held with many traditional foods.

Austria – Fireworks, bonfires and boat rides mark this summer holiday in Austria. Parties take place on land with a bonfire, but many people also board river boats to see fireworks displays as they drift down the river.

Sweden – Solstice is a time for costumes and maypoles during the day, and a giant bonfire at night. Parties continue on for many hours, until the wee hours of the next morning.

Denmark – You’ll also find bonfires around Denmark, with the added tradition of throwing in a witch made of fabric to burn. The witch symbolizes several things: winter, misfortune, and bad spirits.

Romania – The Summer Solstice is one of Romania’s oldest festivals, and it is celebrated with a rain dance to encourage good harvests for the rest of the year.

Iceland – In this part of the world, the summer solstice is about 72 straight hours of sunlight. To celebrate 3 days without any darkness, there is a huge music festival.

England – No one really knows the origin or purpose of Stonehenge, but it does line up perfectly with the sunrise on the summer solstice. For this reason, it is a popular gathering spot for people to celebrate the holiday, usually with a lot of dancing and drumming.

Portugal – In some countries, the old pagan roots of the Solstice are hidden by Christian traditions. For example, Portugal marks it as the birthday of John the Baptist, and it’s celebrated with street festivals and fireworks.

What kind of Summer Solstice celebrations have you witnessed abroad? Are there any fun traditions that we’ve missed? Share below!

Are Popular Cuisines Better in Their Home Country?

One of the best (and sometimes strangest) parts of travelling is trying all the different cuisines from around the world.

While you can find Italian, Mexican, or Chinese restaurants in England or America, the actual food served might not live up to what you’d find in these countries. It’s always fun to try your favourite dishes (and some you’ve never heard of) right from their country of origin.

We’ve visited a number of countries with world famous cuisines, and we’d like to recommend some foods to try, some foods to avoid, and, of course, a nice local drink to enjoy with it all.

 

Chinese Cuisine

Give it a try!

Pigeon – Yes, the birds you see eating crap off the floor are a popular food choice in China. The head was still on the plate, but nobody ate that. The rest of the body was edible and surprisingly tasty. Like all meat, a complimentary sauce goes well with it. I thought it tasted similar to chicken. So if you want to be able say you’ve tried something that sounds strange (but tastes familiar), give this a go.

Our serving of delicious pigeon

If you dare…

Chicken Feet – When it comes to this popular dish, there’s just something that doesn’t sit right with me. They taste very fatty and the texture is too strange. I’m giving this one a massive avoid!

If you see this shape, run! 

My missed opportunity

Dog and Donkey – Where we lived (Guangzhou) there was a joke among locals that they would eat anything with legs except a table, anything in the ocean except a boat, and anything with wings except a plane. Yes, the Chinese seem to eat anything. One night after work I turned down an offer to go for dinner to try dog and donkey. Looking back, I still wonder what that would have been like.

Something to drink?

Tsingtao – Grab one of these cheap beers, but not too many. They can cause hangovers that are beyond words – some of the worst I’ve had! But it can be worth it for a drink that’s tasty and affordable.

Similar or different?

Completely different! Prawn crackers didn’t seem to exist and we only saw sweet and sour sauce once in the year we were there.

 

Thai Cuisine

Give it a try!

Noodle Soups – They may look bland and unsatisfying compared to all the curries available, but these soups are delicious. Fill yours up with noodles, herbs, spices, meats, and veggies. Make it as spicy as you want. Add in a little sauce or a squeeze of lime for extra flavor.

If you dare…

Squid – A lot of menus in Thailand will include squid in their meals. Feel free to skip. It’s just rank – very chewy and more effort than it’s worth.

Do not dare! 

Something to drink?

We have a few cheap options to recommend. If you’re out for a long night, grab a bucket of whatever mixed drink you prefer. Buckets are cheap and great to share with a friend or two.

You should also give sangsom, a local whiskey, a try. It’s cheap and goes well with coke. Kristin mixed it with orange juice once, but that was a fail.

Finally, there a couple local beers, like Singha or Chang. Keep in mind that the percentage of alcohol in Chang changes from drink to drink.

Similar or different?

Mostly different! Some dishes are a good representation, but we’ve found the spices and flavors to be stronger in the country.

 

Indian Cuisine

Give it a try!

A Thali Set – This is a full meal with plenty of variety. You get a curry and several side orders alongside rice or naan. Vegetarian meals are common in India, but you can get your thali set with meat if you prefer. You can also tell the cook how spicy you want it.

If you dare…

Honestly, there wasn’t anything in India we disliked. Everything was delicious, whether we were in a fancy restaurant or somewhere cheaper. By the end of our trip, we had grown a bit tired of curry (and our stomachs didn’t always feel great), but there is nothing we’d tell you to avoid.

Indian flavours made the stomach hurt but we loved them.

Something to drink?

Kingfisher – This is one of India’s best local beers, brewed in Bangalore. It’s reasonably priced and very refreshing when served cold. In a country where alcohol didn’t seem too popular, many places would still serve a cold Kingfisher.

Similar or different?

The same! All the food reminded us of Indian food back home.

 

Mexican Cuisine

Give it a try!

Guacamole – This world famous dish, created back in the Aztec age, is still popular today. Made from fresh, local avocados, no one does this dip better. It went well with every meal.

If you dare…

The spicy salsa – The waiters put down two salsas and warn that one is a little spicy, while the other is extremely spicy. Kristin got the two mixed up, and it was a terrifying moment that took some time to recover from.

Something to drink?

Margarita – Yes, please! We love ordering margaritas no matter where we are in the world, so of course margaritas would make the top of our list in Mexico. Served frozen or on the rocks, be sure to try the different flavors. Some include passionfruit and mango.

Similar or different?

There were some differences, and things definitely got a lot spicier.

 

Italian Cuisine

Give it a try!

Pasta alla Norma – This famous Sicilian pasta is a favourite of Kristin’s, and one she still talks about years later. It has simple ingredients – eggplant, tomato sauce, and ricotta, but there was something about it that made it so much richer and more satisfying than any Italian food from back home.

If you dare…

Octopus – We’d watch out for this seafood ending up in your meal. Maybe we just have something against ocean-dwelling animals with many tentacles.

Something to drink?

Bellini – Definitely try this famous Italian cocktail. It’s made from sparkling wine and a peach additive. You can find it throughout the country, but it first gained fame in Venice.

Similar or different?

The dishes might seem the same at first glance, but something about their ingredients are just better.

 

Icelandic Cuisine

Give it a try!

Reindeer Soup – This is one of the most popular dishes in Iceland. We even found a couple restaurants in Reykjavik that only had two items in the menu – Reindeer soup and a vegetarian alternative. Around Christmas time, some say the locals are willing to queue for hours for a serving in a warm bread bowl.

If you dare…

Fermented Shark – Hands down the worst thing I’ve ever tasted. It was horrible, sickly, vile, and a million other disgusting adjectives. It wasn’t at all what I expected. It was served in a jar, cut into six small cubes. Biting into the first piece was like biting into something that had been pulled right out of the ocean and thrown into a pile of salt. One was enough.

Horrendous!

Something to drink?

Brennivin – Brennivin is an unsweetened snapps that is best downed as a shot. It’s considered a special occasion drink amongst locals. It has a similar taste to vodka. You definitely need to try a shot. After all, isn’t being on a holiday a special occasion for us?

Similar or different?

Unknown. We’ve never tried (or seen) any Scandinavian restaurants outside of Iceland.

 

Based on our personal tastes we have found way more foods that we like than dislike in all the above countries. Be sure to get out there and try some yourself.

Is there something we’ve recommended that you hated? Or maybe you’re loving squid, octopus, or chicken feet? Let us know your experiences and opinions!

Celebrating Father’s Day Across The Globe

Father’s Day is coming up this weekend, so we decided to take a look at how fathers are traditionally celebrated and honored in different cultures around the world. While many partake in traditions familiar to us – such as giving cards, gifts, and enjoying a family barbecue – some customs take a different turn. Here are some of our most interesting discoveries:

Thailand

We’ll start with our current home. In Thailand, Father’s Day is celebrated in December on the birthday of the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej, a beloved ruler who many see as the father of their nation. While celebrating their own fathers and grandfathers, Thai people will also pay respect to the King and wear pink, the King’s color.

Brazil

Meat is the theme of a Brazilian Father’s Day. Families enjoy a barbecue or they head to a steakhouse to celebrate the men of the family.

Russia

Along with celebrating fatherhood and masculinity in Russia, their Father’s Day is also a time to honor and respect their military.

France

There is some debate on the origins of Father’s Day in France. While some claim it began as a church holiday to honor Saint Joseph, a more cynical crowd claims that the cigarette lighter industry began it to boost their sales. While lighters used to be the traditional Father’s Day gift, today they are not as popular as small drawings or crafts made by children.

Mexico

Meanwhile, Father’s Day might not be quite as relaxing in Mexico City. Men traditionally participate in a 21K race. It is a huge, city-wide event.

Japan

Rather than making cards at school for their dads, Japanese kids will usually make little origami gifts to celebrate this holiday.

Germany

Father’s Day is quite the party for the men of Germany. Instead of spending time with their families, men often have a day out together – no girls allowed. They start with something outdoors, like hiking, and end with a lot of drinking. It’s a day when they are free from responsibilities and are able to let loose with their friends.

Have you ever spent Father’s Day abroad? What kind of celebrations did you see or partake in?

A Southeast Asia Nightlife Guide

Southeast Asia has become one of the globe’s most popular travel destinations, and we can see why.

With unbelievably low prices, even the traveler with the tightest budget can do well here. It also offers something unique for those accustomed to the west – truly foreign foods, cultures, and traditions that will surely open your mind to the many ways people around the world live life.

Finally, if you are looking for fun nights out, Southeast Asia knows how to deliver, on the cheap, with plenty of variety and a touch of madness. Get ready for a crazy night!

Lets get the party started! 

From the 7 countries we’ve traveled around Southeast Asia, here’s what we’d recommend.

Thailand

Bangkok 

Southeast Asia’s central hub offers endless nightlife opportunities, ranging from booming clubs to laid back hole-in-the-wall bars . The city is all hustle and bustle with very affordable drinks.

The most popular tourist hot spots include Khao San Road and Sukhumvit Soi 11, but we’d recommend getting off the beaten path – there’s so much more see! We often find ourselves on Sukhumvit Soi 22. Ce La Vi is a new, fun night club, and there are also old favorites like Onyx, RCA and Demo.

You can also just enjoy the various local bars, easily found in Sukhumvit. Some cheap bars are even set up in stands on the street. Sukhumvit is the center and offers endless opportunities. Check out this Sukhumvit bar crawl. 

The South of Thailand

Tourists flock to the south of Thailand in the masses. Because of this, the islands often have a bad reputation. We encourage you to give this beautiful part of the country a chance – the beaches are perfection and nightlife is always buzzing.

While all islands and southern places seem to offer something a few areas wed certainly recommend are, Koh Phi Phi, Patong Beach in Phuket, Chaweng in Koh Samui and Lonely Beach on Koh Chang. Don’t worry though it’s hard not to find nightlife in the south and for the whole of Thailand to be honest, you won’t be stuck for choice.

Cheers to Southeast Asia.

Myanmar

It’s a bit trickier to find the party spots of Myanmar, but it isn’t hopeless.

The nightlife exists, it’s just a bit more subtle. In Yangon, you can have a good bar crawl near Chinatown on 19th street.

There’s nightlife to be found in Yangon.

We found some great places, including Inya Bar, Cask 81, and TG Bar. Don’t forget Happy KTV if you’re in the mood to sing a song or two!

Keep your tab manageable by ordering Myanmar’s own brewed beer and their brilliant Mandalay rum. But beware that you might find yourself paying for your night in a different way – with a hangover from hell in the morning.

Other areas of Myanmar are more causal, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a nice meal around Inle Lake and a bottle of wine on the breathtaking Ngwe Saung Beach when the stars come out.

Cambodia

In Cambodia, you can jump back into a lively nightlife scene.

We think the best place to start is Pub Street in Siem Reap. It’s easy to see why it has developed a bit of a name for itself amongst tourists. It’s full of bars, dance spots, cocktail bars and restaurants with happy hour drink prices going as low as 1USD or less. Best of all, it stays open until 3 every morning.

Stumble down the brilliant pub street. 

Another must is Sihanoukville. After a day at one of the stunning surrounding islands, head down to Serendipity and Occheuteal beaches in the main town where there’s a great range of dance bars, chill out bars, and anything inbetween. It is also becoming a popular location for full moon parties.

Singapore

Singapore is bit pricey compared to the rest of Southeast Asia, and it attracts a lot of young professionals with money to spare – but that doesn’t mean it can’t offer a great night out for a budget traveler.

You can actually find a few good deals at many of the bars and restaurants around Clarke Quey, or embrace the student vibe (and pricing) on Orchard Street.

The best part of Singapore is its stunning skyline – it looks breathtaking at night. Why not blend the views with the nightlife and head to one of the many sky clubs and sky bars around the Marina Bay and the rest of the city?

Some we’d recommend are its first skybar Loof, the famous Ce La Vi chain, New Asia Bar, 1-Altitute and the incredible Supertree, which can be found at the colorful and unique Gardens by the Bay.

Singapore by night is stunning! 

Malaysia

Malaysia is a fairly conservative country, and we had our biggest struggle finding a good bar or club here.

That said, one place we would recommend is Langkawi. This little island is home to some stunning beaches, and when the sun goes down, you can grab a drink and relax by the shore. After the sun sets, you’ll be able to find many booming bars on the island.

Grab a drink by the shore. 

Laos

To be honest, we hated Laos.

Especially the South, where decent nightlife spots are slim pickings. But we do have one recommendation, and that’s Vang Vieng. It’s famous for its tubing, which is a lot of fun. Take a break to grab a beer at one of the many bars on the river, then you can hop back on your rubber dingy and head to the next one. It makes for a great day – we’d never experienced a floating bar crawl.

For safety reasons, it might not get as crazy as it had in past years, but honestly we can’t help but think the new safety precautions are a good thing.

Vang Vieng is the best spot we could find. 

Vietnam

Vietnam is crazy!

It’s crazy in every way – its roads, its pace of life, and, of course, its nightlife.

We loved it, and we especially had a great time in Hanoi. The city center is like a maze at the best of times, and this seems to also be the case on a bar crawl. You’ll find endless streets that suddenly turned themselves in bars as soon as the sun disappeared, just by placing some chairs and stools around.

Our best recommendation is just to head to the Old Quarter and see what you find. But be warned, everything shuts down at 2am. Don’t start your night too late!

Hanoi was great fun. 

Another great Vietnam party hotspot is Nha Trang. Its long stretches of beaches and bars make it a popular stop off point for travelers heading up or down the country.

A couple places we’d recommend are Zima Nightclub and the Rabbit Hole Bar.

We hope you enjoy the nightlife as much as us. 

We’ve only touched on a few areas in each of these countries. There are endless nightlife options in the places we’ve not been to yet, or even in the cities we know well. Living in Southeast Asia for the next year will hopefully give us a chance to explore even more destinations with new places for a great night out.

What would you recommend for us?

The Reason Why I Travel

What exactly do I want from travel?
Why am I doing it?
What do I hope to achieve?
Why do I spend so much money on it and make so many sacrifices for it?
What am I really getting in exchange?

The first time I was asked these types of question, I was arriving home from Rome. But the person asking me to defend my choices wasn’t a skeptical friend or a concerned family member. These were questions I asked myself – and I continued asking myself for many years.

Because, honestly, I didn’t know how to answer.

This had been my third international trip. And it had become, suddenly, unexpectedly, very expensive and stressful. I was coming home broke, sleep deprived after spending several nights homeless, and possibly in trouble at work because I was getting in three days later than planned.

My first few international trips had all been very difficult, in fact.

There was no sugarcoating it. Travel had not been gentle with me. Instead, it had ripped the rose-colored glasses from my face and stomped them to bits almost immediately upon introduction.

It was always, always, always inconvenient. And here I was after my third trip overseas, asking myself: why do you do this to yourself? What are you getting from it?

I knew I wasn’t “finished” traveling – but at this point in my life, I did believe I would be finished one day (maybe after stepping a foot into each continent) and I was looking forward to the relief of that day. Maybe then I could focus on my safer, cheaper, easier hobbies – like reading, writing, or yoga.

So I spent an entire transatlantic plane ride pondering these hard questions. I didn’t find any answers that day.

But maybe now I have a few answers to share.

One note that, of course, I believe travel can teach you many things and make you a better person. I have written about this before – but if I’m being honest, although I appreciate that aspect of travel, it’s not really what drives my need to do it. These are the (kind of quirky) motivations behind my desire to explore the world, but I feel certain other travelers have completely different lists. (And I’d love to see them!)

I’m greedy for every sight, every experience, and every story.

Ever had FOMO? I have something like that – but instead of a preoccupation with what my friends are doing without me, I’m obsessed with what the whole world is doing without me. If I think too much about this, I feel genuine anxiety about how much I will inevitably miss out on. I want to see everything. I want to be everywhere. I want to try it all, understand it all, be in it all.

I’m addicted to the adrenaline rush of new places.

I am not an adrenaline junkie at all. I hate roller coasters. I was terrified out of my mind when I tried cliff diving. Although Simon will probably attempt to get me to go skydiving one day, I cannot imagine ever being able to jump out of a plane. The one adrenaline rush that I’m addicted to? The feeling of being surrounded by nothing familiar and having no idea what’s going to happen next. I think I actually need this feeling regularly. Healthy or not, it’s an unfightable addiction.

I want to be invincible, and I want to prove it.

Clearly, travel does not always lead to the most peaceful situations. But now I find myself a bit disappointed when a trip goes smoothly 100 percent of the time. I want to be challenged. I want to be uncomfortable. I want to be thrown into an impossible situation and then come out the other side unscathed. Not because I have superhuman bravery – I actually think I’m an annoyingly fearful person – because I want to repeatedly show myself that I can be scared but still push forward and do whatever I want. I will allow myself to be scared, but I will not allow myself to think for a second that fear should hold me back. I want to be free of all those limits, and travel has been the best way to keep giving myself this lesson.

Nothing tastes sweeter to me than feeling rootless and free.

Only a rare handful of people have understood this peculiarity of my personality. Rather than seek out security, I am resistant to it. Nothing sounds worse to me than rooting down. Freedom is one of my most powerful motivators, and flying halfway across the world at least stretches out those roots, if it doesn’t break them completely. I feel the most at peace when I look at my small collection of possessions (everything I own can now fit in my two carry-ons!) and think about how quickly and easily I could go anywhere in the world. By having no home, I can have any home. I am building my life everywhere and nowhere.

I strangely relish the feeling of loneliness.

A common question for long-term travelers is “don’t you get lonely?” Of course we do. I was also lonely sometimes at home in my “real” life. There is no path that makes you immune to loneliness – no matter how large your family or social circle. But loneliness on the road is different. I can sit in a coffee shop surrounded by foreign words, not another other English speaker in sight, and I’ll feel completely, thoroughly alone – and I enjoy it. I love it. In these moments, my time is only mine. My thoughts are now for me and no one else. It sounds silly and cheesy, but this is how I can become my own best friend. This is how I learn that I love my own company and that I can find everything I need in myself, in the simplest of ways, no matter where I am or who I am with.

I want things that can’t be taken away from me.

Every time I step outside of the airport in a new country, I feel the greatest surge of satisfaction. Something has been added to my life that will never leave me. No matter what I’ve sacrificed to get to a new place, no matter how much I’ve spent, or what goes wrong, or whether I’ll love it or hate it or grow bored with it by the next day, I will have always been here. Becoming attached to material items makes me nervous – I don’t want too many things that I could lose or damage, but the experiences I have traveling are priceless because they are a sure thing. Mine forever. Untouchable.

I would love to hear your reasons for traveling. Can anyone relate to my thoughts? Anyone have their own motivations to share? Comment below!

The Different Types of Travellers – From One Extreme to the Other

When you live abroad or travel full time, you become part of a new, very close-knit community.

It’s a community of expats and travelers, and at first you might feel like this is the secret to finding your very best friends – everyone will be just as eager for adventure as you! Just as excited about the cultures of the world! They’ll be fun-loving, flexible, and full of curiosity!

But as months pass and those careful small talk conversations evolve into ones with more meaning, you might be surprised about how much variety there actually is among the people you thought would be perfectly suited for you.

Yes, everyone is very unique and generalizations are never perfect – but for simplicity’s sake, let’s agree that there are a few different “types” when it comes to travelers. Some we love! Others might inspire a bit more eye rolling – and we’re sure they’re rolling their eyes right back at us for their own reasons.

So let’s break it down:

The Complaints You Don’t Care About

We’re starting here because it’s something we are definitely guilty of – lest anyone think we’re setting ourselves as above the rest.

Trying to keep a smile on your face and a happy thought during a 12 hour bus ride? Well, good luck if you’re sitting next to us. We’re going to be in a foul mood, and we’re going to talk about it.

You’d think we’d eventually realize that traveling will always include, well, traveling.

But no. We do not accept it. We hate planes, buses, trains – maybe we’d be happy with a teleportation device. But probably not if we still had to go through customs.

Sorry (not sorry) for spreading our negativity around – we just have to vent it out sometimes.

We get that some people don’t like our attitude. But sometimes our fellow travelers join in, we all have a laugh, and the time passes by much quicker.

The Good Side – We’re easy to read! No one is going to struggle to guess our mood – we’ll definitely let you know.

The Bad Side – All that moaning might not be the most pleasant thing to listen to on your red-eye flight. Oops.

We could get an award in moaning when it comes to transport. 

Just Keep Smiling 🙂

On the flip side, we have our arch nemesis, the traveler who is going to be positive no matter what.

Let’s be honest, these people aren’t going to appreciate us much, and they are definitely going to annoy us in return.

Positivity can be a great thing! If you’re always angry, then the problem is probably you – not the country you’re in or the people you’re with. But, it’s also okay to experience a range of emotions and form an opinion or two along the way.

Constant positivity just isn’t real. Traveling will expose you to a lot of different situations and experiences. Some are going to be amazing. Some will be hilarious, confusing or humbling. Some are just going to suck. And we like a traveler who tells it like it is.

Of course your opinions are biased toward your own culture. We get it, everything is relative, there is no “good” or “bad,” one culture is no better or worse than another.

But I’m still going to be unhappy when customer service is slow, when buses are late, or when I can’t find any food I like. And that’s okay. We can voice a complaint and then move on. Everyone will be fine.

I really believe that us travelers are living the dream! But not every single moment is the dream.

The Good – A positive person can be a very laid back and flexible travel companion.

The Bad – Too much positivity and it just becomes an act. Not everything is good, and it puts pressure on other travelers to also pretend they love things that are actually torturous. A good ranting session can sometimes relieve stress!

But Home Is Better Because…

It’s always confusing to run into this one. They seem to have very little interest in other countries and they talk only of home.

We can’t really know what they are thinking, but we suspect they are only traveling in order to impress others. Deep down they must be counting down the days until they finally get back to their old familiar lives.

Because whenever something bad happens (and something seems to happen every day to these types), they lament that it wouldn’t have happened back home. They never got food poisoning back home. They wouldn’t have been targeted by a pickpocket back home. All the taxi drivers back home are honest, pleasant people who appear as if by magic whenever needed and always know the best route in any weather, traffic conditions, or zombie apocalypse that might occur.

Everything reminds them of home. Their new friends will get stuck in endless one-sided conversations about the way things would be done, organized, or handled back home.

Home, home, home. So why did they leave?

The Good – Honesty is always appreciated, in our opinion.

The Bad – But if we’re being honest, we just don’t understand how these people decided to start traveling in the first place. If it’s not what makes you happy, find what does!

Some experiences simply can’t be compared to home.

Keepers of the Sacred Itinerary

We don’t care how cliche or overhyped they are – we always want to see the top tourist hotspots when we’re traveling.

But we don’t need to see every single monument, museum, or historical site a city offers. And it can be difficult to travel with those who do if it means a packed itinerary, planned down to the minute, with little room for resting, wandering, or spontaneity.

There are (at least) two sides to every city. The tourist trail is one part, and we appreciate it. But we also find value in the day-to-day life and routine of the locals. You aren’t going to find that rushing from the Eiffel Tower to the Louvre to Norte Dame.

While we like to prioritize a couple famous sights, we aren’t brokenhearted if we don’t see everything in the guidebook.

The Good – These travelers are excellent planners and they are probably very organized and knowledgeable.

The Bad – This travel style is just exhausting. You’ll see a lot, but will you enjoy it?

The Wise Men (and Ladies) of the Road

These are the travelers who claim to have “found themselves” during their journey. Maybe they’ve learned to be less hung up about time. Now they stop and smell the flowers. They aren’t materialistic anymore. They’ve gone vegan. They have let go of society’s beauty standards and live more authentically now.

Travel can definitely be a life-changing experience, and we can’t deny that our own experiences have influenced who we are today.

But sometimes it makes us cringe a little when fellow travelers are talking this way at a tourist-filled full moon party or a bar street without a local in sight.

It gets even worse when someone starts setting themselves up as an expert about a country they’ve only been in for a week. The longer we stay in a place, the more convinced we become that the local culture is too complex for a foreigner to truly understand.

And how often has someone given us a warning (or an enthusiastic thumbs up) about a place – only for us to experience something completely different when we arrived there ourselves?

A little humility is nice in a traveler. Your understanding will always be surface level, and it will never really be your place to dissect a culture that isn’t your own. If this is unappealing to you, the travel lifestyle might not be for you.

The Good – The ability to adapt to another culture is great, and an interest in self-growth will always serve you well.

The Bad – An interest in a new culture is okay, but it’s overstepping to proclaim yourself an insider.

Here’s a few more that you may have come across.

The Bragger – This traveller has done everything – jumping out of planes, exploring deep into caves, trekking through rainforests – and they want to tell you all about it. Have your own story to share? You’ll quickly be interrupted because he’s done something similar – but even more epic! And that’s only if you can get a word in to begin with.

The Paranoid – You might wonder what this person actually does when traveling. They won’t use taxis (they’re all trying to cheat tourists), they won’t take a bus to the next city (they drive too dangerously), they won’t go out after dark (they’ll probably get mugged), they won’t eat the local food (it’s not clean).

The Hippie – They’re so deep. So enlightened! They learned it all from their time exploring temples/monasteries/ashrams (or their friend’s time, or their friend’s cousin’s girlfriend’s roommate’s time). But thinking about what they said later – it doesn’t actually make sense. It sounded great, but it was just trendy words, spiraling around, arriving nowhere. Maybe the original message was life-changing. But it’s been watered down to nothing by the time it reaches your ears.

The Soapless – Something about traveling seems to make certain people doubt their usual hygiene routine. Is this really considerate when you’re sharing a room with 20 strangers or crammed into an overnight bus for the next 8 hours?

The Spender – The one that blows all their money in one day. By day five they are calling their parents to send an emergency transfer of cash – or even worse, they are on the streets begging for plane money from the locals.

Which of the above are you?

But every type of traveller has one amazing thing in common! They have enough adventure in them to get on the plane in the first place.That can never be knocked, and we’ll always admire it. No one is perfect. We are all a certain “type” from time to time, and others will get annoyed by our contrasting perspectives or habits.

What type of traveller are you? Have we missed a key type? Do you think we’ve got a type all wrong? Let us know!