My wife and I had a blast visiting nine countries in Asia over the past two months. Now, it’s time for us to turn our attention West to explore Europe. It was only fitting that we made Turkey the transition point of our travels from Asia to Europe, as this country actually represents both continents within its borders.
Per usual, in this post I am going to share some pretty pictures and descriptions about our journey here. But in case you can’t make it all the way through, here is the tl;dr (too long, didn’t read):
Turkey is the best country we’ve visited so far.
I’m surprised myself to be making this statement. Before arriving to Turkey, I didn’t know what to expect largely due to the fact that I was relying on my wife, who is awesome at travel research, and I am lazy. But when we got here, holy smokes. This place has everything that the traveler could want: great food, crazy awesome sites, nice people, easy transportation, relative affordability, exotic look and feel.
Turkey is the whole package. If you need an awesome trip, spend at least two weeks here. Pick up the Rick Steves guidebook on Turkey and get lost in this place. You will walk away feeling completely whole by the experience.
Now, let’s get on to the pretty pictures and descriptions. Here are some highlights from our seventeen days of Turkish delight:
Two months. Eight countries. Nineteen airports.
Time has flown by, I can’t believe that my wife and I are now wrapping up our Asia travels. We’re flying home to San Francisco for a one-week respite and wedding, and then will ship off to Europe for three months.
We capped off our Asia travel in style, spending a week in Indonesia — most of that time in Bali.
Indonesia is so freaking huge. It’s got 240 million people and a gazillion islands, each featuring very unique sets of people and cultures. My wife and I have only seen a tiny speck of the country but we loved what we did see. We’ve vowed to come back later to do a dedicated Indonesian trip where we can take in some more islands.
You gotta visit Indonesia. This place is so freakin’ cool. Here are a few highlights from our trip.
Time is flying and my wife and I are now towards the home stretch of our Asia tour. We intended to finish our Asia travel in Indonesia, but just to mix things up we took a three-day detour to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for an extended layover.
I did not expect Kuala Lumpur (or “KL” as everyone here calls it) to be so modern and developed. It reminded me a lot of Seoul. What’s more, the residents here are really interesting: it’s a predominantly Islamic society, but given the fact that the city is one of the major economic centers of Southeast Asia, many Westerners also live here. Everyone speaks English, and really well too.
The food is great (fantastic melting pot of Malay, Indian, and Western) and the city is nice, but there was something missing for me about this place. To me, KL just felt like another big city and I started to feel bored quickly.
I’ll keep this update brief. Here are some quick highlights from our KL trip.
I’m not a morning person, but this is worth waking up at 4:00 AM.
Westerners don’t often think about Cambodia as a must-see tourist destination. That’s really unfortunate.
My wife and I just spent the last three days in Siem Reap, Cambodia, which was our staging area to visit Angkor Wat along with many other temples in the region. The experience was perfect: few tourists, amazing amazing amazing temples, and a unique and friendly culture.
Go now. See this country the way it’s meant to be seen before it’s too late. The country is still unspoiled, but who knows what it will be like in another 5-10 years.
Here are some highlights from Cambodia.
Vietnam made us nervous.
Not because my wife and I thought we would be in danger or anything, but this was the first trip we ever took where we didn’t plan anything in advance, other than the plane tickets to enter and exit the country. As novice travelers, the prospect of a blank itinerary was a bit nerve wracking.
It turns out that we had nothing to worry about; moreover, I’m now convinced that traveling without an itinerary is actually the best way to travel.
Vietnam is the perfect country to visit without any plans. As a Western tourist, you can get by very comfortably here: decent hotels can be found for under $20 USD/night; meals are normally under $5 USD; transportation is cheap-ish (less than $100 per in-country flight); and Vietnamese people are quite friendly and helpful. We had no problems booking transportation and accommodations on the fly, mostly through the smart phone we brought along. We thought that last-minute planning would stress us out, but it actually allowed us to feel more freedom.
The two-and-a-half weeks we spent in Vietnam went by in snap. We started in Hanoi in the North and slowly made our way down to Saigon in the South. My wife and I saw some amazing stuff along the way.
Here are the highlights of our Vietnam trip.
Yes, I’m afraid that these are my awesome friends. And they are photographing an ice cream burrito.
Food Porn (noun). Definition: Gratuitous images of delicious food that make foodies swoon.
I hate this term, but I hear it all the time because all my friends are foodies. My Facebook news feed is a complete disaster, where I hardly see actual pictures of my friends any more but instead high-depth photos of what they are eating (and increasingly, baby pics — urgh).
To make matters worse, I am guilty of being a food pornographer myself. I can’t resist sharing a good steak picture whenever the opportunity presents itself.
I didn’t have any specific expectations of Taiwan before spending a week here with my wife and several awesome friends. I was pleased to discover that the country is really beautiful, with incredible natural geography, hot springs, and villages. Taiwanese people are also really nice, which was a pleasant contrast to the somewhat cold treatment I felt in mainland China.
But the food in Taiwan—holy crap, it’s good. And cheap. And good. For less than $5 USD, you can eat like a king in this country.
I’m going to do something now that I never expected to do on this blog, which is dedicate an entire post just to food.
If you’re a food lover with wanderlust, I highly recommend taking a trip to Taiwan. We were here for a week, but we could have easily stayed longer.
Here are some highlights from our grand Taiwan food tour.
Jade master carver showing off his sweet jade ball.
China is weird. I can’t decide whether it’s a developing country or years ahead of the first world.
My wife and I didn’t spend too much time in China, we only got to visit two cities: Beijing and Shanghai. Both cities are so different that they could be separate nations.
Overall, I didn’t really enjoy China, but I do think that it’s a must-visit place. The nation offers a glimpse of a past history/culture that is incredibly rich, as well as a preview of what the future will look like for human civilization moving forward.
Here are a few highlights from China.