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Finding The Best Place To Stay In Pai Is A Piece Of Cake

 Soi One Bedrooms – Best Place To Stay In Pai

Soi One Bedrooms, pai, pai accommodations, boutique thailand

We were sitting in our hotel room in Pai (pronounced “Pie” and called “Pai Town” by some), listening to the strong patter of rain and the thunder of the storm passing through the mountain town. We had made it back from sightseeing just in time, with only minimal soakage (luckily we had our ponchos with us) and we were pumped to spend some time in our air conditioned, clean, beautifully decorated boutique room we splurged a bit on for the night. We needed it though. As sad as it may sound, after almost 3 weeks of travelling, staying in hostels, hutongs, even a beautiful guesthouse, we had yet to have a really good shower. We needed to feel clean, refreshed and relaxed. So when we met the owner of one of the cafes in Pai where we stopped in to do some work and grab a caffeine boost and he mentioned his four bedroom boutique hotel, we decided that if we could afford it, and they had an available room, we would book it for the next night. Luckily, Sunday nights are their slow nights and they had one room remaining for us to book. As we walked into our room we realized that we have probably stumbled upon the best place to stay in Pai.

 

The Room

SOi One Bedrooms, Soi One Gold Room, Pai Boutique Hotel, Best Pai Accommodations

So there we were, freshly showered, feeling clean and probably smelling better than we had in weeks, kicking back in what felt like complete luxury. We were in the Gold Room of Soi One Bedrooms. One of the aforementioned four rooms, the Gold room is the only one with two twin beds, rather than one large bed, and had a small patio out front with a seating area.  The room was nicely decorated with various artistic touches throughout. From the handmade, colourful lamp shade hanging from the ceiling, to the beautifully crafted pillows on the wooden chairs, the decor fit wonderfully with the room and the feel and vibe of the hotel and of Pai. Perhaps it was the fact that we’d been travelling so long, but not only was it decorated well, it smelled amazing. We were impressed with the cleanliness of the beds, the room and the washroom and were almost brought to tears when we tried the shower and found it had hot water and good pressure.

Soi One Bedrooms, Soi One BOutique, Soi One Gold Room, Pai Accommodations, Best Pai Hotels

There was even a mini-fridge, kettle, coffee mugs and enough outlets to charge all our gadgets. It took quite a bit to get out of the hotel room once we were there. We wanted to enjoy the comfort and feel of the room but knew we only had that last night in Pai to wander and explore. So we went out that night and relished the thought of being able to rest our head on a comfortable pillow, in a nice room, with a hot shower awaiting us in the morning. We did contemplate staying just one more night, but all the rooms were booked and judging by our experience, we expect they fill up fast!

Soi One Bedrooms Bathroom, Soi One Bedroom, Pai Accommodations, Best Pai Hotels, Pai Boutique Hotels   Soi One Bedroom, Soi One Bedroom Gold Room, Soi One Boutique, Pai Boutique, Pai hotels, Pai Accommodations

 

The Property & Reception

Soi One Balcony, Soi One Bedrooms, Pai Accommodations, Best hotels in Pai

The property itself felt like a little oasis with a small central area enclosing the staircase to the upstairs rooms and a small dining area for the attached restaurant. The two workers at reception were incredibly friendly and helpful and went above and beyond to accommodate and assist us with all of our needs. It’s our experience that in general people in Thailand are genuinely willing to help, but these two exceeded our expectations. We checked out a little early to head back to Chiang Mai and the lady at reception offered not only to hold our bags, but to use her personal umbrella to get to a restaurant for breakfast in the rain! She then provided us with large black garbage bags to cover up our backpacks for the long ride through the mountain in the event the rain began again.

While we didn’t patronize the restaurant, or the spa/massage parlor affiliated with Soi One Bedrooms, the areas looked inviting and clean. Had we planned to stay longer in Pai, we definitely would have made an effort to dine at the restaurant and maybe even venture to the spa for a Thai massage.

Soi One Front, Soi One Bedrooms Front, Pai Accommodations, Best Pai Hotels, Best Accommodations in Pai

 

Overall, this was a hotel we were tremendously glad we were able to book and would definitely go back if we had the opportunity. It was located right on the Pai walking street and off of one of the major bar streets, which was great even if it was a little noisy until 11pm. Since it was in the heart of the city, and walking street, there was a ton of things to do and see right off the front steps including restaurants, bars, walking street vendors, souvenir shops, coffee shops and convenience stores. There were several scooter rentals nearby for those that took the bus in and wanted to explore outside the city to the many viewpoints, waterfalls and other attractions Pai has to offer. (Drivers beware: there are a lot of people driving scooters for the first time in Pai and we saw many a bandaged and wounded Pai tourist.) We were pleased at the great value we received for our money. The only real downside was there were only 4 rooms so even though, like most places in Southeast Asia, you can get almost half price for a walk-in, it fills up fast and you aren’t guaranteed a room if you don’t book in advance, But if you’re lucky enough to get a room, you wont be disappointed because in our opinion it’s the best place to stay in pai.

Click here for Soi One’s latest prices and more info.

If you can’t get a room at Soi One during your stay in Pai, don’t worry, there are many hotels in Pai to choose from, just check out How We Slice It – A Guide to Pai. Part One: Where to Stay for a couple great options, or find Pai hotels by visiting our friends from Hotels Combined and they will defiantly help you out for your search for some great accommodations.

We Also have other information that you might want to sink our teeth into… like “How To Get From Chiang Mai To Pai” and “What To Do In Pai” when you get there.

When In Pai… You Must Eat Cake

 

Pai Siam Bistro

Pai Siam Bistro, Best restaurants in Pai, Best coffee in Pai, wifi cafes in Pai, Soi One Bedrooms

A visit to Pai Siam Bistro was what started the change in our plans and lead to our stay at Soi One Bedrooms. Walking down the street in Pai, we were looking for a place to escape the walking street for a moment, grab a coffee to refuel and get some work done. We happened across the entrance to Pai Siam, first enticed by the “gelati” stand out front but drawn in by the look and appeal of the narrow bistro. Sitting down at one of the tables we were immediately given a menu offering a range of tasty sounding food and coffeehouse style drinks. Opting for a hot and a cold cappuccino, we signed on to their free Wi-Fi and settled in to do some work.  Incredibly comfortable, with a great ambiance, this bistro was the perfect spot for us. We took a moment to enjoy the handmade lampshades decorating the space and the soft bluesy sounding music playing in the background.  The lampshades are made and sold in the partnering and attached shop next door and add some crafty elegance to the bistro.

Pai Siam Bistro outside, Pai Siam Bistro, Pai Siam Pai, Best cafe in Pai, Best restaurants in Pai

Pai Siam Restaurant, Pai Siam Cafe, Pai Restaurants, Best Pai Coffee

Our drinks were great. The smiley face in the hot cappuccino was a cute touch that had us chuckling. At a second visit the next day, we tried out an iced latte as well which was just as delicious. It was a great place for us to get work done and then just relax. Unfortunately we did not get a chance to try any of the food on the menu but we heard a series of compliments regarding the food from customers sitting around us on both visits. A neat aspect of this restaurant was the handmade lampshades (such as those in the room at Soi One Bedrooms). Like we mentioned, these were made and sold at the shop next door but all the lamps on display at the bistro were also available for purchase! It’s a great theme that flows between all the properties. We liked it so much here that we included it in our Top 5 Cafes In Northern Thailand post… well deserved.

Pai Siam Coffee, Pai Siam Restaurant, Pai Siam Cafe, Pai Coffee, Best Pai Restaurants,

While sitting there, we started chatting with a very friendly man from Scotland whom we later found out owned the bistro (and Soi One Bedrooms) along with his wife. Engaging, warm and fun we enjoyed talking to him and learning a bit of his perspective on life as an expat for 15 years and his growing business in Pai. The bistro was fairly new, opening just a short time ago and complemented his boutique shop next door. We started eyeing their gelati stand again from our seat and were told by the owner that they had a selection of freshly made cakes and desserts in the display at the front. Taking a peek at the assortment, we were told the rainbow crepe cake was a must-try. So of course, we did! The many layers of rainbow coloured crepes were held together by some type of cream cheese frosting and topped with jam and a scoop of ice cream. The combination of the flavours were perfect and we devoured it pretty quickly. Definitely one of the best desserts we’ve had in a long time.

Pai SIam Bistro, Pai Siam Cafe, Pai Siam Restaurant, Pai Siam Crepe Cake, Crepe Cake, Best restaurants Pai

We feel our visit to Pai was enhanced by our stay at Soi One Bedrooms and the coffee and dessert was a topping on the Cake (see what we did there?) from the little bistro called Pai Siam. Sure, we would have had a blast whether we stayed there or not, and there is a lot to do and see in and around Pai, but our night in the nicest hotel in pai, our smiley faced cappuccino and our delicious and unique crepe dessert made it extra special and extra memorable.

Click here for Soi One’s latest prices and more info.

Take a look at the map below to see how to get to Pai and where Soi One Bedrooms is located.

 

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The Ancient Lost City of Wiang Kum Kam

Discovering Chiang Mai – A Tour of Ancient Ruins

We decided to extend our stay in Chiang Mai an extra day before heading to Pai.  We had met up with an old friend of Macrae’s who was in Thailand for a week with some friends the night before and were invited to join them to watch a Muay Thai fight the following night. So while we knew what our plans were for the evening, we hadn’t figured anything out for the day. We mentioned our lack of plans to our host, Bob (whom we found on Airbnb), and he told us about the ancient temple ruins not too far from where we were staying.  He said they had uncovered and restored them several decades ago and were now accessible to the public but since it covers such a wide area, they have horse drawn buggy rides for 300 Baht ($11 CDN). So, with his directions and instructions, we set off to explore.

Wiang Kum Kam sign, Wiang kum kam, chiang mai ancient ruins

His directions were clear and we found ourselves following signs for Wiang Kum Kam, the ancient city we knew we were looking for, but missed the driveway for carriage rides and instead turned into the gates for a temple. There were ruins in view immediately as we turned down the first street to the temple. It was one of those perfect mistakes. One that turns out to be for the better despite any initial concerns.

Wat Kum Kam Ruins, Wat kum kam, wiang kum kam, acnient ruins chiang mai

Not only did we not have to pay the 300 baht for the ride, but we had accessed the small village and could now explore at our leisure on our scooter. We enjoy the adventure of discovering new things on our own and taking our time to do so, so this ended up being the perfect way to see the ruins.  We also ended up being able to see more ruins than the carriage ride would’ve taken us to (we met someone who was taking a carriage ride and he said they had only seen a handful).

Wiang Kum Kam, Chiang Mai Ancient Ruins, Chiang Mai Temple, Wiang Kum Kam Temple Map     Wiang Kum Kam, Wiang Kum Kam Horse Ride, Ancient Ruins Chiang Mai

It was pretty incredible to see ancient ruins, picture how they must’ve looked when they were at their prime and even how it must’ve looked when they were found. You could see on some areas how deep they had to dig in order to unearth the ruins and it must’ve been incredible to discover them hidden amongst the trees and shrubbery.

wiang kum kam, wat temples in wiang kum kam, chiang mai ancient ruins    wiang kum kam, streets of wiang kum kam, chiang mai ancient ruins

According to the various information sources, signs and centres, and what we were told, the city of Wiang Kum Kam was the capital of the Lanna Kingdom before the King declared Chiang Mai as the new capital in 1296. Wiang Kum Kam was abandoned and flooded several times and finally, buried metres under the ground. It wasn’t until 1984 that the ancient city was discovered and restoration began.

Wat Chang Kam, Wiang Kum Kam, Ancient ruins Chiang Mai   Wat Kan THome, Wat Chang Kam, Wiang kum kam

The first ruins we came upon, Wat Chang Kam or Wat Kan Thome, is situated in a small square with stalls of souvenirs sold by Buddhist monks, a temple that was in prayer when we arrived, and some other buildings of worship. This was the area we initially drove into off the main highway before delving further into the village.

Wat E-Kang, Wiang Kum Kam, Chiang Mai Ancient Ruins  Wat E Kang, Wiang Kum Kam, Chiang Mai Ancient Ruins

Wat E Kang, Wiang Kum Kam, Chiang Mai Ancient Ruins    Garden at Wat E Kang, Wat E-Kang, Chiang mai ancient ruins, wiang kum kam

Wat E-Kang, so named by the locals because of the many monkeys (Kang) that once inhabited the area when the ruins were shrouded in trees. The study of the soil here was what started the study into the flooding of Wiang Kum Kam. Ancient artifacts found in this area date back to the 16th and 17th centuries A.D.

 

Wat pupia, wat pupia ruins, wiang kum kam, chiang mai ancient ruins  Wat Pupia, Wat Pupia pedestal, Wiang Kum Kam, Ancient ruins chiang mai   Wat Pupia, Wiang Kum Kam, Chiang Mai Ancient Ruins

Wat Pupia was named by the locals as no official name was found in any historical documents. The excavation and restoration started in 1985 and ended in 1986. Despite the belief that there are other buildings and components to this site, excavation could not continue due to land disputes. It is believed this temple dates back to the 16th-17th centuries A.D.

 

Wat That Kaow, Wiang kum kam, ancient ruins thailand, ancient ruins chiang mai   Wat That Kaow, Wat That Kaow Buddha, Wiang kum kam, Chiang Mai Ancient Ruins   Wat that kaow, Wat That Kaow ruins, Ancient ruins chiang mai

Wat That Kaow (or Wat Thatkao) was named after the formerly lime plastered, white coloured pagoda. Facing the east, this temple has a bell-shaped main pagoda and according to the excavation in 1985, a Buddha image was found and presumed to be the original Buddha image. The current Buddha image was donated by the locals. The temple ruins themselves are dated around the 15th-16th centuries A.D.

Wat Phaya Mangrai, Wat Phra Chao Ong Dam, Wiang kum kam, chiang mai ancient ruins   Wat Phra Chao Ong Dam, Phaya Mangrai, Wiang Kum Kam, Chiang mai ancient ruins

Wat Phra Chao Ong Dam or Phaya Mangrai is a set of ruins, adjacent to eachother, so named because it was found with a bronze Buddha image in the area (Phra Chao means the Buddha image in some dialects in the North).  This temple is dated to the 15th-17th centuries A.D.

Wat ku magluer, Wiang kum kam, chiang mai ancient ruins   wat Ku Magluer, Ancient ruins, chiang mai ancient ruins, wiang kum kam

Wat Ku Magluer used to be a mound with a big Magluer tree. Several important artifacts found at this area are pieces of a lime Buddha, pieces of a bronze Buddha images and a bronze miniature Chedi. This temple is dated between the 16th-17th centuries A.D.

 

wat kumkam teepram, wiang kum kam, chiang mai ancient ruins

This temple is near Wat KumKam Teepram and marked as Wat KumKam Teepram No.1. There is apparently no record of this temple in any historical documentation. The villagers call it by the name Ton Khoi after a type of tree that grows in the area. This temple has been dated to the 16th-17th centuries A.D.

wiang kum kam, wiang kum kam sign, ancient ruins directions

We didn’t end up seeing all the Wats (temples) posted on the signs along the drive but we saw a fair number. The surprising thing we noticed was that there was not a lot of people or tourists visiting any of the ruins. In fact, when we first pulled in through the gates to the first ruins where the present-day temples were, we thought they must be closed for the day. It was deserted save for a few monks and some vendors. At the ruins themselves, we saw one horse-drawn carriage, a small tour bus with a group of tourists, and two fellow scooter drivers. That was it. This seems to be a little known, hidden gem in Chiang Mai and we would definitely recommend a visit through, especially since at least for now, you’ve got them all to yourself.

road in wiang kum kam, road around the ancient ruins chiang mai

The drive through the village was a truly unique one. Seeing the living, breathing village surrounding the long-forgotten ancient ruins, driving through the streets with random ancient temples scattered between the houses and people, it was this juxtaposition of thriving life with the crumbling, faded ruins of life-past that really made this place truly special to visit.

Comment below and tell us about any “hidden gems” you’ve found while travelling.

 

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Doi Suthep Mountain Thailand: Free Things in Chiang Mai

There’s Beauty and Adventure in Chiang Mai For Free

We’ve been on what you might call a shoestring budget. Sure we want to see all that we can, and often times you have to pay in order to do it, but with trying to maintain a strict budget, we sometimes have to forgo some of the more expensive options.  With this frame of mind it made it easier to notice, starting in China with the Black Bamboo Forest, that sometimes the most amazing experiences, the most relaxing, adventurous and beautiful times, cost little to nothing.

This was the case here in Thailand, when we decided to drive up the mountain from Hang Dong District to Mae Rim and Doi Suthep. It only cost us about $6 for the day for the rental bike and $3 in gas for a full tank. We were told there were many attractions to see along the way, the Chiang Mai Zoo and Aquarium, the Tiger Kingdom, Elephant Parks, The Palace and some temples and we thought we would make the drive and see what we wanted to stop at along the way.

The skies were blue with white clouds and we figured it would be a good day for a ride. Loong Kum, or “Uncle” as we call him, told us not to worry because there would be no rain. So, we traded our ponchos for extra water in our backpack, strapped on our helmets and started off on our rented motorbike to explore the mountain.

 

Once on the road to Doi Suthep the way quickly became an uphill winding drive. It felt very much like driving in a rain forest or jungle and it was surprising how lush and green the vegetation was. There are a couple lookout spots on the way to the first tourist area by the base of the temple.

doi suthep ountain, doi suthep view, chiang mai view,

The view was gorgeous and even though it was a partially cloudy day we were still able to see down to the city below. There was an artist set up, doing charcoal caricatures of those who wanted to pay and had mentioned that he thought it was going to rain. Still seeing blue skies and with “Uncle’s” forecast in our minds, we didn’t think anything of it and headed up the mountain once again.

 

We stopped a little further when we came across a little waterfall and couldn’t resist taking a moment to snap a few photos and enjoy the sound and view of the water.

doi suthep mountain, doi suthep waterfall, doi suthep view, chiang mai waterfall

Driving further up the mountain, we finally reached the base of the temple. Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is a Buddhist Temple located near the top of Doi Suthep Mountain. The legend of the temple is that King Nu Naone of the Lanna Kingdom placed what was thought to be a holy relic (a bone from Buddha himself) on the back of a white elephant. This elephant climbed Doi Suthep, trumpeted three times, and then died. It is there that the King built the temple, seeing the elephant’s death as a sign. If you want to climb to the temple from the base, prepare yourself for 309 stairs.

 

If not, you can take a shuttle bus or a cable car. Important to note is that proper attire is required so be prepared to have knees, shoulders, and chest covered for both men and women, and no tight clothing for either. We opted to visit the temple another day and instead walk around the shops and food stands that lined the street and the interconnected streets behind.

 

Doi Suthep Mountain, DOi Suthep Monk, Doi Suthep Temple, Wat Phra That Doi Suthep

Walking around the little village was a lot of fun. It was quite touristy though with lots of souvenirs for sale and although we didn’t plan on buying anything, Macrae tested his skills at bargaining with a few of the shop owners. The shop owners were unwilling to budge from their initial prices and it’s obvious that since this was a main tourist location, they knew they could get the price they want from another tourist eventually.

 

So we kept going and ventured off the main road and explored the side roads where little shops popped up here and there between houses and other village buildings.  We took our time, enjoying the walk, each other and the area around the temple’s base before hiking back up to our bike to continue on our way.

 

 

Thailand During Rainy Season – It’s All About Murphy’s Law

Phuping Village, Bhubing Palace, Doi Suthep Mountain, Doi Suthep Village, Doi Suthep Palace,

The drive from the base of the temple became a little steeper, with a lot more bends in the road, but the bike we were on handled it well and we had Macrae at the wheel so it was not an issue. Perhaps the neatest part of the trip was when we realized we were driving in a cloud. We stopped to enjoy the moment and the thought of being high enough on a mountain to be surrounded by cloud cover.

 

A little ways further and we reached another tourist stop, Bhubing Palace, or Phu Ping Palace. This winter palace for the Thai Royal family boasts beautiful gardens. We again decided to leave this tour for another day when it was less overcast and when we were up for some tourist activity. Instead, we walked through the adjacent Phu Ping Village which sold clothes, crafts, souvenirs and food. Again, we rambled along the side streets exploring and enjoying the different shops and things for sale.

      

It was as we were heading back to our bike that it started to rain. We had noticed signs of some rainfall as we drove up the mountain, but it had looked as though the rain had passed and we would be okay. For two weeks we had diligently lugged our two ponchos with us everywhere we went. We were prepared. But the one day we decided to leave them at home was the one day we actually needed them.

DOi Suthep Cloud, Doi Suthep Mountain, Doii Suthep Temple, Doi Suthep Palace

The rain only got worse driving down the mountain.  We stopped several times with other bikers to seek some shelter in the large overhanging trees but it didn’t really seem to help and it didn’t look like the rain was letting up any time soon. So we opted to keep driving, hoping to outrun, or drive past, the rain.  About 5 minutes into it, our plan worked, the rain had stopped. But only until we reached the base of the mountain.

Our hour long drive (or at least it seemed like it) from the mountain base to where we were staying in Hang Dong was a wet, cold and windy ride, but all we could do the entire way home was laugh, make jokes and shake our fists at “Uncle” for being a typical weatherman and getting it wrong.

By the end we looked like drenched rats pulling up to our guesthouse. Uncle shouted out to us and our host translated. Apparently Uncle joked that he thought we’d come back and kill him for telling us it wasn’t going to rain. They all had a good laugh at our waterlogged state. But then again, so did we.

Comment below and let us know when you’ve encountered Murphy’s Law while travelling.

 

 

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10 Things to Know About Beijing

The Capital of China – An Experience in Extremes

It’s always hard to describe a place to someone who hasn’t been there, but with Beijing, we don’t believe there could ever be the words, pictures, or videos, to fully explain what it is like. It is a full sensory experience. The sights, sounds, tastes, smells and tactile sensations are constant and overwhelming. The combination can be disconcerting and sometimes incredibly frustrating and at the same time fascinating and thrilling, all in one.

Like we mentioned in our post about the Beijing Night Market, it seems as though the unexpected exists around every corner. Every turn presenting a surprise and usually an unbelievable experience. Here we were in a world so incredibly different it was difficult to fully comprehend what was going on at any given moment, and while we were excited for the adventure, we were quickly worn down by the inundation of extremes.

The above video gives a good visual of what you will see and experience, but we’ve also put together a list of 10 things we feel are key to know about visiting Beijing.

From the budding in line to the sound of horking and spitting to the constant pungent smells, if you are planning on visiting Beijing, are interested in what it’s like or if you are already there and just want to know you are not alone in how you feel, the following will help explain exactly what it’s like to visit Beijing.

1. Don’t be afraid to push your way through crowds and lines.

night market crowd, night market beijing, wangfujing street beijing, beijing attractions

You may feel rude but from our experience it is just customary there to do what you have to do, to get where you need to go. There are so many people in Beijing, 19.6 million as reported in 2010, that you have to be assertive and sometimes a little aggressive in order to survive. The concept of “a personal bubble” seems to be a vague and uncommon concept. If you don’t want someone to bud in front of you in line you are going to have to get cozy with the person in front of you.Stand as close as you can to avoid someone sneaking their way in. If there is an opening in a line or crowd, someone will fill it so be prepared to wait if you don’t seize the opportunity yourself.

beijing subway, crowded subway, Beijing subway car,

In the week we were there, we were bumped, budded, and squeezed out of our turn in line. A split second of inattention and a new person would have stepped in front of us. So we adapted and learned fairly fast. There’s no need to be rude, but you definitely need to assert yourself in crowds and in queues. The exception to this rule is the subway. Generally, guided by markings on the floor, people stand to the side in a line and wait for people to exit the train before boarding in an orderly fashion.

2. Don’t be discouraged about asking for help.

It may be hard to find help and you may not get an encouraging response with the first person you ask. Like our experience on our way to The Great Wall, those that will help you will go out of their way. Often times it is just a language barrier so your best bet is with the younger locals as they have probably had more experience and practice speaking English.  If you are looking for directions, or any other kind of help, keep asking until you find the answer you need. There will be someone willing to help.

3. Make use of the subway system.

beijing transit, beijing subway, subway car

As we mentioned before, the subway system is incredibly easy to navigate once you understand how it works. The transfers for each line are visibly marked, numbered and colour coated. All stops and transfers are translated in English, both on the signs and on the announcement system on the subway trains themselves. Don’t be intimidated by the seemingly fast paced crowds and network.

beijing subway map, beijing transit, beijing subway, getting around beijing

This system will get you pretty much anywhere you need to go in and around the city and will save considerable amounts of time and money if you are considering taking a taxi. We paid under 50 cents CDN per ticket with unlimited transfers. One thing to note is that most hours are rush hour, so it can get busy and finding a seat is a rare (and exciting) occasion.

4. You will start getting used to the cultural differences.

beijing 711, asian 711, beijing 7/11

Or at least we feel like we started to become immune to many things by day 5. It is a pretty significant culture shock coming from a Western country. You will experience the following in large doses: the almost constant sounds of horking and spitting; the sounds of honking; the sounds of audio voice recordings broadcast in a loop; the smells of sewage and, in alleys near public washrooms, fecal matter; the smell of stinky tofu; the sights of many dogs and many dogs peeing; the sights of many, many people.

beijing alley, beijing hutong, chinese traditional house

You will also experience, in equally large doses: the sights of little children with rips in their pants, squatting on the sidewalk to pee, or poo; the sights of smog, pretty much all day, everyday; the feel of people walking, on bikes, or scooters brushing past you as you walk, the feel of other people bumping into you in crowded areas and on subway rides. But it is all part of the experience and eventually some of these start to fade into the background of the city.

5. There’s something unbelievable everywhere you go – go out and immerse yourself in the city.

beijing city, beijing city streets, beijing sights, beijing attractions

Whether you are visiting a temple, an historical site, a market or just walking around the streets of Beijing, chances are you will see something unexpected. We found that just wandering the streets or taking the subway to another part of the city had us stumbling upon interesting areas, new sights and some pretty neat things. Just being a part of the city is an experience in itself and it seems like each area has something different to offer.

We found incredible things getting lost while walking the streets, while visiting Tiananmen Square, while walking through parks and while sitting at coffee shops. Beijing is truly a study in extremes and you don’t always have to be visiting a major attraction to see something great.

6. Search online and ask locals for good restaurants.

the brown door beijing, beijing restaurants, best beijing restaurants

We had a hard time finding good food. We’re pretty sure there is lots out there since it seems as though there are thousands of restaurants, but many are without English translations and so we would inevitably ended up going into one of the first restaurants we could find with English or with photos that we could point at to order.

On the last day, we finally went on TripAdvisor.com and found The Brown Door, a restaurant that was recommended. While it was slightly more Westernized Chinese fare, it ended up being delicious and definitely the best meal of our trip. If you want to find good food, look online for reviews or find locals you can ask to point you in the right direction.

7. Plan your sightseeing according to the day of the week and time of day.

Like we mentioned, there are over 20 million people in Beijing and that’s not including the tourists, so if you are looking to cross off certain attractions on your list, plan accordingly. Every day will be busy but weekends will be PACKED, especially when visiting sacred locations such as temples. On weekdays, you will have to navigate between rush hour, and the after work crowds as well as early closing times for many of the sights.

As an example of what we planned, we went to the Beijing Zoo when it first opened on a Friday morning. It started getting busy by mid-day, when we were already ready to leave, so we headed over to the Bamboo park which is more spacious and we ran into few people or crowds. Mondays are a holiday for many attractions. If you are looking to get into a government run building, some of the museums, or most temples, you will be sorely disappointed if you try visiting on a Monday.

Definitely check to make sure you’re planning to visit someplace that is not only open to tourists but has no restricted areas. For example, The Forbidden City is closed on Mondays but you are still able to access the Imperial Gardens and walk around.  Even with many closures, most markets are open on Monday and there are still tons of things to do in the city.

8. Go to the bathroom when and where you can, comfortably.

squat toilet, asian toilet

 

If you can go, go. There are many public bathrooms on the street and in alleys between hutongs but these are not the most pleasant of experiences. There are also many places you may THINK should have a washroom (e.g. McDonald’s) but that’s not always the case. So if you are around a fairly clean and comfortable washroom, try and do your business there.

It’s also always good to keep some tissue to use as toilet paper as many public washrooms do not have any and don’t be surprised to find a squat toilet. Often times, some of the newer washrooms will have one Western toilet, but the majority of the time, if you are using a public washroom, you’re going to have to plant those feet and learn to squat!

9. Learn some basic phrases.

No smoking sign, water buffalo no smoking sign, beijing no smoking

English is not very common in Beijing so it helps to have a few basic words and phrases in your arsenal to communicate with others. There is a surprising amount of English translation on buses, subways and other transit areas and you can usually get by fine in the markets. The communication barrier really exists with interpersonal communication. Knowing key phrases can help when trying to interact in Beijing and you may be able to get by just knowing the basics.

10. It’s important to keep your passport with you at all times.

Security checks are prevalent across Beijing. Every time you enter into the subway station and any major attraction such as temples, etc, you will be asked to run your bags through a scanner. In some areas where military and police presence is high, such as Tiananmen square, you will also be asked to present your passport in order to gain entrance. It’s good practice to keep your passport readily available, and be prepared for bag checks as well having them use metal detectors on the people who pass through the entry ways.

 

Is there a general rule you follow when travelling abroad? If so, comment below and let us know what it is!

 

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Beijing Night Market – A Sensory Assault

NOTE: The Wangfujing Night Market is no longer operating. Closed in 2016, the area is now being repurposed. Here’s what you would have experienced:

Wangfujing Street Night Market – Fried Insects Anyone?

 

We were incredibly happy when we ended up meeting up with our fellow travel blogger/adventurer, Emily, back at the hostel after our day at the Beijing Zoo and the Black Bamboo Park. We had a great time at the Great Wall and were hoping we’d get a chance to say goodbye before she left the following day to continue on her journey in China.

We were all interested in seeing the Beijing Night Market, or Donghuamen Night Market, off Wangfujing street, we had heard so much about and decided to find our way, once again by foot, to this infamous market.

Walking down Wangfujing Street, it was clear that this was a downtown location (although we discovered that there are many downtown looking areas across Beijing). Major stores and brands such as H&M, Gucci, Prada, and the like lined this busy street.

At a particular portion, the street turned into a pedestrian only route with tents showcasing Maseratis and other expensive cars. We turned into one of the smaller streets off Wangfujing and it was here that the experience of the Beijing Night Market really began.

Wangfujing Street, Beijing Attractions, Beijing Night Market, Downtown Beijing    Parking in Beijing, Bikes in Beijing, Beijing Night Market, Wangfujing Street Beijing

 

It was, in one word, chaos. An assault on all the senses. True, much of our experience in Beijing could be considered a sensory assault but this was sensory overload.

Exiting from the main strip of Wangfujing street into the maze of winding and interconnected alleyways, we were bombarded by the sights, sounds and smells of the Night Market.

It was difficult to process exactly where we were. On one street there were souvenir vendors anxious to sell you something and on the next, there were vendors of fabrics, purses, jewelry and pretty much anything you could think of.

All these tables of items lined both sides of alleys anywhere from 7 ft to 10 ft wide and were packed from end to end with people.

snack street Beijing, Beijing night market, Beijing Attractions, Night Market  Beijing Night Market, Beijing attractions, Wangfujing street

We walked around at first in astonishment, trying to get our bearings and adjust to the onslaught. People yelling “hello! hello! do you want [insert any and every item here]?”, the smells of cooking food, stinky tofu and Beijing itself permeating the air, the push and shove of the people trying to get by, and the visual display of goods and art and food and people overwhelmed and enthralled us.

 

Night Market Lanterns Beijing, Beijing Night Market, Chinese Lanterns, Wangfujing Street Beijing

We stopped at a few souvenir stores and vendors to browse and to practice some bargaining. It was surprising to see a price start at 198RMB and be easily dropped to 40RMB simply by saying “too much” and starting to walk away, a few times.

Bartering was pretty big at all the places we went to in Beijing and it is a skill you need to learn fast if you want to get the best deal for what you are buying.

The Beijing Night Market is EXACTLY the place where these skills would come in handy as virtually everything has an initial price, and a significantly lower final price.

Beijing Bracelets, Beijing Night Market, Wanfujing Street Beijing

After a bit of perusing the stands and wandering between the small roads, we hit snack street. The Wangfujing snack street is a busy, narrow stretch with tons of food vendors.

If you’ve heard about strange fried insects and animals in China, this would probably be one of the places mentioned.

We first passed pretty typical looking foods: chicken skewers, squid and prawn skewers, some dumplings and takoyaki (balls of dough with octopus in the centre). There were stands with candy, nuts and even BBQ quail.

Chestnuts Beijing, Beijing Snack Street, Beijing Night Market

bbq fish and prawns at the beijing street market   BBQ Quail Beijing Night Market, Beijing Night Market, Beijing attractions

Then we hit the creepy crawlies. Rows of fried or BBQ insects and other creatures on skewers. We’re talking beetles, scorpions, crickets, lizards, starfish, snakes and seahorses…

We had heard about these stands and knew what we would be coming across but it was still a shock when we saw them live and up close. Apparently, these stands exist for the tourists with many locals completely baffled as to why anyone would even want to try these critters.

We’ve got to say, we were pretty baffled too, especially when we saw the skewers of uncooked and sometimes live scorpions, but we did see people buying and eating them.

BBQ cockroaches, BBQ scorpions, Fried insects, beijing night market, beijing attractions, wangfujing street

BBQ insects, Fried insects Beijing, Beijing night market, wangfujing street, friend lizards beijing, weird food in China

Carolann had mentioned early on that she wanted to brave the Night Market and try something weird, probably a tarantula, just to say she did. So we hunted for a while among the other fried creatures until we finally found a tarantula on a skewer.

Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take photos of the stand itself, so she decided against the tarantula and we all opted to try something different and fried…

bbq lizard, bbq starfish, Beijing Night Market,

 

No, we didn’t try any of the above fried “delicacies”. Instead, we opted for something a little more appealing and bought some deep fried ice cream.

deep fried ice cream, Beijing Snack Street, Beijing Night Market, Beijing Attractions

This was definitely a better option and we enjoyed the tasty treat as we walked through more of the twisting roads of the Beijing Night Market. We found a street of restaurants at the end of which had a small stage with a performer dressed in colourful, traditional clothing.

street performer beijing, beijing night market, beijing attractions

It seemed as though the things to do and see at the night market were endless and we could have walked around for several more hours without experiencing everything it had to offer, much like our experience of Beijing City as a whole and it’s surrounding areas: An incomprehensible amount of sights, smells and sounds and around every corner you turn, the unexpected.

Comment below and let us know which of the creepy crawly skewers you would choose if you were brave enough!

 

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A Day in Beijing Part Two – Black Bamboo Park

Beijing was one interesting experience. Over the week we were there we went through a wide range of feelings and experiences. Our favourite part of our time there however, were the times we simply walked around and explored the culture and the city. We learned 10 things you need to know before you go to Beijing, and saw a lot of different things, including an interesting night market, some historic landmarks and a few interesting attractions we simply stumbled upon,

Beijing’s Black Bamboo Park – A Photo Tour

After our visit at the Beijing Zoo, we decided we would venture on our own to Zizhuyuan Park, also known as the Purple Bamboo Park, or the Black Bamboo park, depending on who you ask. We opted to find our own way by foot, rather than take the ferry directly from the zoo as we knew it was close by. Asking directions from the tourist information centre at the zoo, we learned it was “down the street”, so we set off on yet another adventure to find a Beijing attraction.

zizhuyuan park, purple bamboo park, black bamboo park, beijing attractions

 

It was a ways down the road, there were no signs in English, and no one seemed to know what popular park we were talking about, but once we hit the black iron gates lined with bamboo, we knew we had found it. The Zizhuyuan park is by far one of the most interesting parks we’ve seen and offers so much to see and do.

Black bamboo park, purple bamboo park, ZiZhuYuan, beijing attractions, beijing parks    bamboo forest, black bamboo park, purple bamboo park, beijing parks, beijing attractions,

Upon entering the gates to the bamboo park, we were immediately met with music and dancing. Many couples and individuals gather together at different places in the park to perform various styles of dances, apparently just because they can.  They seem to enjoy it just as much as those that pass or gather to watch and it was interesting to see how many people were actually participating.

Black Bamboo park, purple bamboo park, gondola ride beijing, Beijing attractions   asian duck, beijing duck, beijing parks, black bamboo park, purple bamboo park   Beijing parks, Duck Pedal Boats, Beijing attractions, black bamboo park, purple bamboo park   beijing fishing, beijing parks, black bamboo park, purple bamboo park, china fishing

The 34.5 acre, 3 lake, two island, expansive park has a host of activities including gondola rides, fishing, an amusement park and some pedal boat rides and there are many busker type performances. We didn’t end up doing anything other than walking but we had a great time watching all the activity around us, the sights and sounds and the beauty of the park. We had been slightly overwhelmed by the city of Beijing and its people and this was a wonderful respite from it all.

beijing gazebo, black bamboo park, purple bamboo park, beijing attractions, beijing parks       Buddha temple, beijing temple, buddha statue, black bamboo park, purple bamboo park

Black Bamboo Park, Purple Bamboo Park, Beijing attractions, bamboo forest  chinese lantern photos, black bamboo forest, purple bamboo forest, beijing attractions

The winding roads took us to tea houses, a worship area, a small market, gardens and many hidden gems along the way. The park seemed to be a popular place for many locals of all kinds but it was large enough that we didn’t feel crowded like in the rest of the city.

beijing souvenirs, black bamboo forest, purple bamboo forest, beijing attractions   chinese market, beijing attractions, purple bamboo park, black bamboo park

chinese jewellery, chinese beads, beijing attractions, black bamboo park, purple bamboo park,     chinese flowers, Black bamboo park, purple bamboo park, beijing attractions

We spent several hours just strolling and taking photos and enjoying the temporary serenity before we had to head back into the bustle of the main streets of Beijing. The Black Bamboo Park is one of the largest parks in Beijing and it was definitely one of the best we’ve seen so far.

Comment below and tell us about a great park you’ve visited while traveling!

bamboo forest, bamboo park, beijing attractions, black bamboo park, purple bamboo park

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A Day Touring Beijing Part One – The Beijing Zoo

The Beijing Zoo: Elephants and Tigers and Pandas, Oh my!

Still adjusting to the time difference, we were up pretty early one morning and decided to venture out to the opposite end of the subway system to where we knew there were a few tourist attractions. Since the zoo opened early, and Carolann loves elephants, we decided to head there first. Zoos aren’t our favourite places, and before we got to the Beijing zoo we had forgotten how hard it is to witness animals in captivity, but we had wanted to see the Giant Pandas (and of course the elephants) and with our limited time, we made the decision to check it out. We used a site with all the tourist information for Beijing to find all the information for the zoo we needed.

A few subway line transfers and we arrived at an already busy front gate. Purchasing our tickets proved to be an education in “queue etiquette” in Beijing, which is pretty much: move into any opening you can and take advantage of every opportunity to move yourself up in line. We learned fast and managed to get our entrance tickets, including admission to the panda house, fairly quickly. What surprised us was the price of admission. For a single entry with admission to the Panda House exhibit, it only cost 20RMB which is approximately $4 CDN. That made the cost of our entire trip, with subway to and from the zoo, come out to about $5 each!! They have one of the largest aquariums as well but we decided not to include that as part of our visit that day.

 

beijing zoo, beijing tourism, things to do in beijing, beijing panda house

Beijing zoo entrance

beijing zoo, things to do in beijing, beijing tourism, panda house,

Gotta see the elephants!!

panda house beijing zoo, beijing zoo, panda house, beijjing tourism

Entrance to the panda house

beijing zoo, blown sugar art, beijing tourism

Blown sugar art

The park is pretty expansive and colourful with lush greenery and many traditional Chinese buildings, statues and decorations throughout the winding roads. We strolled along the river, watching the ferries and boats go by taking zoo-goers on rides to various places, and stopped in at the different animal habitats along the way.

 

panda house, beijing zoo, things to do in beijing, panda stuffed animals   bear statue, beijing zoo, zoo photos, beijing attractions

beijing zoo, lion statue, Beijing tourism, things to do in Beijing

One of many statues decorating the park

beijing zoo ferry, beijing zoo, beiing attractions

One thing we noticed was that despite the signs instructing visitors not to feed the animals, many people ignored these postings and fed some of the animals various vegetables.  No one stopped them so we aren’t positive the zoo wasn’t selling these somewhere, we just didn’t see anywhere to buy feed.  This upset us both so we opted to visit only a few more before heading out. What did help us feel better was that it seemed as though all the animals were in good condition and there was always feed (from the zoo) visible in each habitat.

Gazelle, beijing zoo, beijing attractions,  ostrich, ostrich beijing zoo, beijing zoo, beijing attractions

snubnose monkey, beiing zoo, beijing attractions   zebra, beiing zoo, beijing attractions

Two of the last areas we visited were the tiger and the giraffe habitats where we managed to get a few amazing photos of each.

Giraffes, Beijing Zoo, Giraffe love, Beijing attractions   tiger photo, siberian tiger, beijing zoo, beijing attractions, beautiful tiger photo

The panda house exhibit was actually split into two areas, one was exclusively for the Olympic Games panda and boy did he have it made! An entire habitat to himself, with all the platforms, stairs and toys he could want.  The other pandas didn’t have it too bad either. The final habitat we visited was the elephant habitat. They had a decent sized area to roam in and around but it’s always sad to see them (as well as any animal) in captivity.

olympic panda at the beijing zoo   elephant photo, beijing zoo, beijing attractions, asian elephants

We were going to take the ferry from the zoo to a popular Bamboo Park nearby but decided we would save the money and create our own adventure getting there, just like we did to get to The Great Wall!

See our post for the rest of our day, where we will take you with us on a walk through the Bamboo Park!

 

beijing zoo, playful elephant, asian elephants, beijing attractions, elephant photo

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Climbing the Great Wall And Tourist Scams

The only thing harder than climbing the Great Wall is ordering dumplings.

Our first full day in China had us learning many a lesson about the tourist scene here in Beijing. The learning curve is steep and it is definitely not without stumbles but we managed to navigate our way to, and from, the Great wall with only a few “tourist bruises”, a great story to tell and one amazing memory of travelling to the Wall.

We met a fellow travel blogger/backpacker who was also on day one of her own journey (see Emily’s blog here) and started discussing possible ways to get to the Mutianyu portion of The Great Wall. At the hostel in Beijing we are staying at, there are guided tours but we were hoping to spend less and also wanted the adventure and challenge of getting there ourselves.

After researching the route and suggestions from other bloggers, all three of us set off to find our way to the Wall. From what we read, it was possible but tricky as scams and money grabbing schemes are common, so we knew we would very likely run into a few snags along the way. And we sure did!

Lesson #1: Don’t Act Like Tourists (Even Though It’s Obvious)

It started out pretty smoothly. We knew we needed to get to Dongzhimen station to catch a bus. Easy enough. We’ve only been here a short time but the subway system is pretty simple to learn once you’ve tried it and seen a map, so we knew how to navigate to get to the line transfers we needed.

Our instructions told us to catch the 916 bus to Huairou so we made our way to the bus transfer and found the line we needed. We hesitated. Just a moment where we opened a map and all three of us looked at it with concern, like we didn’t quite know where to go. And that’s all it took.

We were instantly approached by a woman claiming she could take us to bus 830 that would get us to Mutianyu quicker than the one we were waiting for. We followed at first but remembering that the lady at the reception desk at our hostel confirmed our directions for us, we quickly decided that even if it was quicker, we weren’t going to risk it.

We never did see bus 830 on route to the Wall but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist or wouldn’t have gotten us there faster, we just don’t believe that’s the case. We opted for the way we had researched and got back in line for the 916.

        Mutianyu Great Wall, Guides at the Great Wall, How to get to Mutianyu

Lesson #2: Don’t get off the bus.

Three stops and an hour in and a man steps on the bus, walks up to the three of us and says this is the stop for Mutianyu. Now, we know for a fact this is not the stop the directions indicated and we wouldn’t have gotten off the bus, but two Chinese girls on the bus with us spoke to the man and told us the taxis weren’t running from Huairou (the station we needed to reach).

They said they’d get off the bus with us so we could go together as they were headed there as well. As the bus drove away and we listened to the one girl and the man, who we learned was a taxi driver, talk to each other in Chinese, it became increasingly obvious that this was one of those scams we had read about and by the sound of the girl’s tone, she was not happy about it.

It would have ended up being a scam and we would have had to pay significantly more. While we wouldn’t have gotten off that bus without the girl, she ended up saving us money and time in the long run by negotiating with the driver and ensuring we all went in the “cab” together.

She was incredibly helpful making sure we got our tickets and gave us instructions and directions for getting back. It was quite the contrast in attitudes to see one person working so hard to work their scheme and another fighting so hard against it. While we don’t appreciate being taken advantage of, we also don’t fault someone for wanting to make a little extra cash, and we sure are thankful for having someone who just wanted to help.

 

Dumplings in China, Great Wall of China restaurants, Mutianyu Great Wall, Dumplings and Noodles

Lesson #3: When Ordering Dumplings, Make Sure You Know How Much You’re Ordering.

The three of us were pretty hungry by the time we made it to the first entrance to get to the Wall, so we stopped in a dumpling restaurant. The waitress didn’t speak English but we tried hard to communicate that we wanted 3 pork and chive dumplings and 3 pork and shrimp dumplings.

We weren’t sure she had completely understood what we had said and were proven correct when we received three of each alright. Three plates of each for a grand total of 60 dumplings. We were shocked at first and a little upset because we weren’t convinced she didn’t “confuse” our order on purpose, but our frustration quickly turned to laughter at the absurd number of dumplings set before us.

We decided to make light of the situation, pack up a to go bag, pay our bill, and take the dumplings with us. Before we left Macrae joked in English/make-shift signing that since we bought so many dumplings, maybe we could take the chopsticks for free. She smiled and agreed, so we are now travelling with our own set of chopsticks.

mutianyu village, mutianyu great wall, stone carvings china

Lesson #4: Climbing the Great Wall is not a piece of cake but it is definitely worth every step.

After lunch we headed, on foot (instead of buying a shuttle ticket), the half hour walk from the first gate through the village of Mutianyu, to reach the stairs that would take us to the Wall.

Once there we started our climb to the top of the mountain and the Wall itself. It was not an easy task. Steep staircase, after steep staircase, we seemed to be climbing for hours but in reality it was probably only one.

By the time we made it to the top we were sweaty, exhausted and had drank more than half of our water. It was hard to focus on much else but the fact that our legs hurt, until we took the final step onto the Wall and got our first real glimpse of the view. It’s one of those views that no lens could ever capture to its fullest extent but regardless, you keep snapping photos in the futile hope of getting just one that may do it justice.

 

Great Wall Selfie, The Great Wall of China, Mutianyu Great Wall, Climbing the Great Wall

Lesson #5: Tours cost 280 Yuan (aprox. $40 USD). Finding our own adventure is priceless.

We walked along the Wall for a while before heading back down and making our way back to our hostel. The route home was somewhat less eventful since we knew the buses we needed to take and ignored all offers of a “taxi” ride.

Looking back on the day it was completely exhausting, filled with the unexpected, and one of the best days ever. It was only the first day of our adventures but we definitely learned and experienced a lot and it is a day we won’t soon forget.   

One Modern Couple Visiting The Great Wall Of China Mutinyu

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What It Means For Us to Pack Up & Go – Part 2

 

We touched on three of the common questions we’ve received when describing our decision to travel full-time: “What about money?”, “So, you are quitting your job?”, and “What about your apartment and things?” There are two additional questions we seem to receive quite frequently as well and we will attempt to answer them now.

What about your relationship? Won’t it be a big stress?

one modern couple, funny face, couple photo,

We certainly don’t have all the answers and we definitely can’t see into the future but what we do know is that every stage of this process has been something we’ve done together and has enabled us to spend time growing closer and strengthening our relationship. Our passion for travel is something we have shared all along and building the blog started as a hobby building websites together. With that in mind, we both hope and feel that the rest of our ventures and travels will continue to follow in that vein and will serve to strengthen us as a couple.

Having said that, we know that for a relationship to work you have to put work into it. Both of us will have to put in the effort. Staying in love and making a relationship work doesn’t happen through magic no matter where you are or what you are doing, and we both acknowledge that fact. Yes, we are stirring the pot up a bit by putting ourselves in a position where we will face obstacles and challenges that we will have to work out together but we believe that this will only lead us to grow stronger.

What about your family?

OneModernCouple & Aunt, missing family, One Modern Family, One Modern Couple, Aunt

In our post Living Life Without Limits – Packing Up, Selling Off and Heading Out, we touch on the fact that it’s tough to leave family and friends but that it helps to have multiple forms of communication available no matter where we are.  It does help to know we will be able to talk to our loved ones in some form, but it in no way replaces real interaction, so of course we will miss them terribly and we will think of them often, but we know this is something we need to do to fulfill our lives as individuals and as a couple.

Many of our friends and family don’t want us to leave but they are supportive nonetheless, and we are grateful for that. It’s never easy being apart from those you care about but as time goes on we believe we will learn to maximize the quality of our time when we are together and take advantage of every opportunity we can to call, email, Skype, and the like, while we are away.

 

We posed all of these questions, and more, to ourselves while we were making our plans and hope that after these two posts we have given a good idea of how we finally arrived at our decision and shown that what we are doing involves a lot more thought, discussion and effort than just deciding to “pack up and go”.

Comment below and let us know what would be the hardest thing, for you, about packing up and leaving.

 

Now Boarding – The Start Of Our New Lifestyle

macrae at airport

Only 12 more days before we leave! We’ve officially launched our site and it’s almost time to pack our bags and fly out. Which begs the question: where are we going?

With our hearts set on seeing the world, we really had no place to start. What we did know is that we wanted to begin our journey in a location that was gentler on our bank accounts but still provided great travel experiences. We also wanted to make sure we were able to stay for a longer period of time to allow us a chance to adjust to our new lifestyle. We narrowed our focus to Southeast Asia and the countries that offered longer stays for Canadian travellers. From Taiwan to Phillipines, Vietnam to Cambodia, we researched countries, read other blogs and perused photos. What our decision came down to was…elephants.

Carolann’s favourite animal is the elephant and one of her top bucket list items has always been to travel to an elephant sanctuary and spend time, up close and personal, with them. So when we received a recommendation for a sanctuary in Thailand we decided it would be the perfect place to start. We applied for, and received, our travel visa for Thailand which allows us a two month stay. We fly into Chang Mai, in the north, and from there we will decide how long we stay before heading south.

Before we fly to Thailand however, we opted for a quick, one week stay in China. What initially began as an idea to pick a flight with a layover in Hong Kong for dim sum, evolved into a desire to see the Great Wall (thanks to one hour where Macrae was left alone with a Lonely Planet travel guide for China). We leave Canada for Beijing and intend to visit a couple parts of the wall and as much of Beijing as we can within the short period of time we are there.

Our travels after Thailand are still unknown, even to us, but we know we want to see much more of Southeast Asia before moving on to another continent. We hope you follow us on our journey through our blogs and photos and share our excitement as we travel.

Have you been to China or Thailand? We’d love for you to comment below and tell us where you’ve been, what you think we should see, where we should eat and any other recommendations!

Airplane Window