To Veg or not to Veg

Before we started this big trip, I put a lot of thought into eating vegetarian while traveling. While some countries allowed for easy access to vegetarian cuisine (India), others created a mental stomach ache (Kazakhstan). While technically it is possible to eat pure vegetarian food anywhere, it might result in a diet of plain rice or bread in some places. For me, that wasn’t the most attractive option either, since the nutritional value of a rice-only diet isn’t exactly ideal (I also don’t believe in constantly taking vitamin supplements on the road, as some travel books and online resources suggest). …

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    East of Wallace’s Line

    Indonesia is incredibly wide and diverse. From the eastern islands of Sumatra and Java, to the vast forests of Kalimantan and on to “K”-shaped Sulawesi, Halmahera and eventually to Papua, the last frontier. These last few weeks we ventured east of Wallace’s famous line, demarcating the transition zone between Asian and Australasian flora and fauna. Alfred Russel Wallace was a trapper and an explorer. His famous book “The Malay Archipelago” made his reputation. Though Wallace likely came to conclusions about origin of species through natural selection first, he always gave the credit to his contemporary and friend Charles Darwin. Traveling …

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      Rookies. Absolute Rookies.

      After 6 months on the road, you would think we have graduated from being travel rookies. We’ve seen many places, booked many flights, caught many trains, buses, ferries, negotiated and haggled everything from taxis to food costs. We’ve slept in tents, yurts, hostels, B&Bs, lodges, hotels, and monasteries. We’ve gone from 3000m altitude to sea level, temperatures from 0 to 40 degrees with and without 100% humidity, in rainy season, dry season, shoulder season, summer and fall. We’ve managed to travel in countries at impossible times – elections and strikes in Nepal, rainy season in Malaysia, Christmas in the Philippines, …

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        Trip Report: South and Central Vietnam

        Trip Report, Vietnam and Cambodia January and February 2014 Vietnam is without a doubt one of the most comfortable, if not the most comfortable place in South East Asia to travel. Hotels are clean, very modern and most feature excellent breakfast buffets. Vietnam is a great place to bird in general because of the variety of birds and habitats. Many trip reports detail the number of endemics in Vietnam, especially the Laughingthrushes, and information is fairly easy to find before visiting. The birding sites are very well known throughout the country and most are easy to reach with public transportation. …

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          The $ Effect

          One of the most confusing things while traveling is dealing with different currencies. Dollars, Pesos, Ringgit, Dong, Rupia, Tenge, Som, Riel and Rand have challenged us to some mental money gymnastics. Vietnamese Dong proved to be especially challenging – it’s just got too many zeros (1$ = 21.000Dong). So coming into Cambodia it could seem like a blessing that the country uses the US-Dollar as an official currency. They do have their own (Riel), but it is mainly used for small transactions and fractions of the Dollar. Hotels and stores will always quote in Dollars. But here is the tricky …

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            Less is more

            Vietnam is coming to an end and our last main stop here was the Mekong Delta. This area is the rice bowl of Vietnam, there is a lot of agriculture here. It is also the most densely populated part of the country. It has seen a fair amount of war, but these things are not visible anymore today (except for the odd war-related museum or the occasional monument). The Mekong area with its orchards, floating market and river cruises also makes a very popular day-trip from nearby Ho Chi Minh City. In order to avoid the tourist masses, we chose …

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              The Tipping Point

              Hoi An is probably on every classic Vietnam itinerary. The old merchant city is a gem in the region and it is easy to see why. The old buildings have a Venetian charm (and the city gets regular floodings each rainy season). The lanters create a romantic feel and the river is lined up with pretty boats. The food is legendary. But then there are the tourist masses. And the souvenir shops and tour agents. The everyday tourist madness is a bit annoying and sometimes hard to stand – especially for us, since we have tried to stay somewhat clear …

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                Thien Buddhism for Beginners

                It took me about 30 minutes to work up the courage to call. “Hello. Do you accept guests to learn about Zen meditation in your monastery?”. There was a giggle at the other end of the line and the woman hung up. Great, that didn’t quite work out. I had read online in a travel forum for Dalat that you can visit Truc Lam monastery to learn about Zen Buddhism (or actually, Thien Buddhism, as the Vietnamese form is called). Ten minutes later I got called back. “Simply come in the morning and you can stay with us.”, instructed one …

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                  Good Morning Vietnam

                  From the mountains to the jungle, Vietnam is a place of beautiful mystery, though we haven’t quite gotten to the bottom of most things. But we still have a few weeks before our visa runs out. Overwhelmingly, people have been incredibly friendly and welcoming in Vietnam, the landscape is stunning, and the food is a delight. Of the countries we have travelled in so far, Vietnam might just offer the best value for money. The hotels are inexpensive but very plush, and almost all include an incredible breakfast spread. In Dalat, located in Vietnam’s southern highlands, Manuela and I rented a …

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                    Trip Report: La Mesa Eco Park, Quezon City, Manila, Philippines

                    January 9-10, 2014 Birding in Quezon City at La Mesa Eco Park (Total Species Seen 23) Collared Kingfisher Common Kingfisher Spotted Wood-Kingfisher Philippine Hanging Parrot Philippine Pygmy Woodpecker Olive-Backed Sunbird Yellow-Vented Bulbul Large-Billed Crow Red-Bellied Pitta Oriental Magpie-Robin Eurasian Sparrow Cuckoo Dove Black-Naped Oriole Brown Shrike Zebra Dove Emerald Dove White-Eared Brown Dove Tawny Grassbird Striated Grassbird White-Breasted Waterhen Chestnut Munia Ashy Ground-Thrush Scaly Ground-Thrush Be Sociable, Share! Tweet

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