Monthly Archives: July 2011

Tarzan in Thailand

Well, Coley and I thought that we left all the extreme adventure activities back in New Zealand, but I guess we were wrong. During our time in Chiang Mai we unexpectedly decided to partake in a once in a lifetime opportunity to zip line through the 1500-year-old Mae Kompong jungle in northern Thailand. The Flight of the Gibbon experience is advertised as the best attraction in Thailand and “perfect for extreme fun lovers.”  We were sold.

We were booked on the sunrise experience, so we arrived at the Flight of the Gibbon office bright and early after an hour drive up the mountain on the windiest roads imaginable. They got us set up with a harness and helmet and we met our two Thai guides for the day named “Big Daddy” and Joe. We were lucky that our group was comprised of us and seven of our new friends that we met in Thailand earlier in the week. Finally, we were driven high into the canopy where we walked to the first platform and were ready to go.

Since this was a last minute decision we honestly didn’t know much about it and thought that we would get to go on maybe three different zip lines if we were lucky. Well, we were pleasantly surprised to discover that we’d be spending 3 hours soaring through the rainforest on three kilometers and 39 different stations of zip lines.

We started out with a few short lines and worked our way up to the longer and obviously more awesome ones. As we made our way through the course, first Joe would zip to the next platform and Big Daddy would stay with us to hook us up and send us down the line one by one. The funniest part of zip lining was the landings on the next platform, most of which were not too graceful. Joe (who was nearly 5 foot tall) would try to catch us as we came flying towards him, sometimes at ridiculous speeds and sometimes backwards or sideways. On some of the lines we would fly into nets and then climb them up to the platform like we were in some type of obstacle course. Another nice surprise was that there were many different types of lines and ways we could fly across. There was a two person (“honeymoon”), a few abseil (“mission impossible”), a head first (“superman”), a zigzag swing, and even an upside-down line where we hung by our feet.

The zip lining experience is called Flight of the Gibbons because there is a chance that during your time in the jungle you can see gibbons, which are apes native to Southeast Asia. The only time we’ve seen gibbons before was on Planet Earth so we were really excited about this possibility. We were told that our chances of seeing one might be slim since it is currently the rainy season in Thailand. However, we were extremely fortunate that we spotted a father, mother, and baby gibbon hanging out in a tree above us. The gibbons are known for their loud hooting calls, which are oddly enough quite similar to the “woo” sound we make as we’re on the zip line.

Coley and I both agree that this was hands down our favorite activity we’ve done on our trip thus far because it was a perfect combination of thrilling and fun without being too scary or life threatening. It was also an incredible experience alone to spend three hours in a jungle and see a family of gibbons in the tree above us. Lesson of the day: sometimes the best adventures are the ones you didn’t plan.


Awesome Eats Aussie Edition

We brought you the best of the best eats from New Zealand, so here’s our top tasty treats from Australia.

#1: Pancake Manor

Are you a breakfast person? You’ll love this place. If not, Pancake Manor will turn you into one. Flip right through the lunch menu items and go for the gold: perfect pancakes in epic proportions. With flavors like Black Forest Cherry, Bavarian Apple, and Bananarama, be prepared to be “wowed” with breakfast delicacies that will fulfill your appetite and your sweet tooth. Pancakes aren’t your thing? There’s always “The Ultimate” crepes. Pancake Manor regular Adam Hutchinson said the joint is open 24 hours and a popular spot for late night drunkies. Way classier than Taco Bell, right? Kim and I were sad to leave Pancake Manor behind in Brisbane but to our excitement found Pancake Parlour in Melbourne. More fantastic flavored pancakes topped with heaps of ice cream. Lovely.

#2: Koko Black

A dream come true for chocoholics anywhere. After hearing from a Melbourne local that it has “hot chocolate to die for” we made it a priority to find this slice of heaven called Koko Black. Here’s a challenge: try not to drool when you look through the menu. The beloved Belgian hot chocolate (also available in flavors like chilli, chai, and hazelnut) shared the page with “spoil” treats including chocolate cake, shortbread cookies, chocolate mousse, ice cream, and divine individual chocolates. After one sip of the Belgian hot chocolate, it became clear why the chocolate parlor was packed. As if the sweet treats weren’t enough to lure you in, the décor of Koko Black matched the items on the menu perfectly-rich and luxurious. Perfect pick for a romantic evening with a significant other or for a girl’s afternoon.

#3: Lord of the Fries

A Melbourne staple that claims to have the “best fries you’ll ever try.” Its niche? Authentic international sauces to top your cone of salty potato treats. From the thirteen flavors available, Kim and I tried Persian, Vietnamese, and Thai . Persian is an aioli garlic mayo sauce, and Thai is a golden satay sauce. Our favorite? The sweet chili mayo referred to as the Vietnamese sauce. A little sweet, a little heat, a lot of goodness. Open to the wee hours of the a.m. for your late night fry fix.

#4: Issus Café

This low-key café is nestled sweetly in the middle of Center Place laneway of Melbourne. Serving up lattes, sandwiches, breakfast, and most importantly- homemade ricotta cheese donuts. These bad boys are fried to golden perfection and topped with heaps of powdered sugar. The warm chocolate sauce and strawberry compote compliment the dish fantastically. So good we made Issus our café of choice for breakfast the next morning.

#5: The Soup Place

While dining at Issus Café one day, we noticed a teeny restaurant tucked away in Center Place with a line out the door and half way down the street. Obviously, when we see a line like that filled with Melbourne locals, we knew we had to check it out. So cleverly named “The Soup Place” this gem offers a huge variety of hearty and healthy soups. They are all made daily free of preservatives, colors, and additives. Kim asked to have the best selling soup and was served a huge bowl of Spicy Moroccan Chicken soup.  To compliment the soup, they also offer fresh (and free!) olive bread. Great choice for a cold winter afternoon in Melbourne. Luckily, “The Soup Nazi” was nowhere to be seen.

#6: Manly Grill

Did we see a kangaroo in Australia? Only on our plate. Kim and I had the opportunity to try a kangaroo fillet at Manly Grill in Manly, Australia. So, what is kangaroo like? It’s a very gamey meat best served medium rare. The taste is most comparable to a super lean steak. One bonus about switching up a normal steak dinner for kangaroo is the great nutritional value. Kangaroo is high in protein and iron, low in fat content, and big in flavor.

Now that we’ve left behind traditional Western style cuisine in New Zealand and Australia, it’s time for Thailand and Laos to bring full on flavors at ridiculously low prices. Yum!

Q&A #3

Lattes & Laneways

Over the past few days, Coley and I have dedicated a good amount of our time to simply exploring Melbourne, Australia. Our favorite discovery of the city is the unique and charming laneways where we passed the hours drinking lattes and people watching in this intimate atmosphere. Melbourne’s laneways are basically narrow enclaves winding in all directions throughout the city which are filled with one-off boutiques, street performers, graffiti art, distinctive galleries, tiny cafes, and hidden bars. The best word to describe the culture of laneways is “artsy.” These laneways are hidden gems in a big bustling city. You can be walking down busy Elizabeth Street and turn into an alley way and BAM it’s like you’re in a whole other world. It’s an interesting experience to be so relaxed, sipping a latte while hundreds of people pass you by only inches away. Today while returning to our favorite laneway in Center Place, we stumbled upon a high fashion photo shoot in session. You just never know what you’ll find in the laneways.

They come in all shapes and sizes. Some are elegant and enclosed, some trendy and alternative, and others are adorned with the most stunning and creative graffiti art one could imagine. Instead of trying to ban urban graffiti, the Melbourne city council has actually allocated a few specific laneways with a street art permit where artists can just go crazy. This is best showcased on Hosier Lane, our absolute favorite bluestone cobbled laneway, completely covered in stencil work, light boxes, graffiti, and hole-in-the-wall cafes. Even the garbage cans and dumpsters are decked out in graffiti. We spent hours wandering through this alley and admiring the art. So whether you go for a coffee or to check out the high quality graffiti art, Melbourne’s laneways cannot be missed.

Q&A #2

The Secret Revealed

After following our travels for the past few weeks, some of you may be wondering…how can two college students possibly afford to travel the world for 7 weeks? Well, get out a pen and paper because we’re about to let you in on our secret. No we didn’t win the lottery, we don’t have trust funds, and trust me, we’re not rich. If we can afford to travel, so can you. Here’s the magic formula:

Travel = save + sacrifice + budget.

1. Save

Well, having a job and income is step one of this component, so if you don’t have one you might want to work on that. If you’re looking to take a longer, multi-country trip like us then we might recommended 2 part-time jobs (or 3 or 4…). When your boss asks who wants to go home first, resist the temptation because that extra half hour or work can really add up. When you get those annoying texts and emails from your coworkers about picking up shifts, pick them up. Also, ask around to see if you can make some extra cash by babysitting, walking dogs, or even house sitting. Sure, it might suck to work a few weekend nights, but trust me, when you’re having the time of your life traveling, it will all seem worth it.

Just because you receive a paycheck from work doesn’t mean you have to run out every Friday and spend it. Save it (or plan to save a certain percentage from every one). You know the extra cash you get around holidays or your birthday? Save it. Do you have any clothes, old textbooks, or random junk lying around that you don’t use? Sell it, and then save the money.

If you don’t already have one, we also recommend setting up a savings account specifically for your travel funds, and tell yourself that once money goes in, it doesn’t come out until the trip. It’s much harder to spend money that you can’t see.

2. Sacrifice

Sure, we know some people can’t function without their daily Starbucks fix or have a nervous breakdown from not visiting Nordstrom once a week. We’re not saying to go cold turkey and cut out anything that’s not necessary for survival. It’s just about finding a balance of how often to indulge and enjoy these daily luxuries. However, if you really, truly are interested in traveling you’ll need to closely monitor your spending and make sacrifices in your life. That way you can have enough money to indulge while abroad. I mean, isn’t much cooler to eat gelato on the streets of Italy then on your couch at home? If you’re serious about it, you need to make a travel a priority in your life. That is key. For the past year, Coley and I have made this trip a top priority in our lives. Numerous people have said something to us along the lines of, “I could never afford to take a trip like you.” Well, we did the math and want to put some things into perspective for you:

5 beers at a local bar = 1 zorbing experience

1 Apple iPad (16gb with 3g service) = 5 weeks accommodation in New Zealand

1 large Starbucks coffee everyday for 1 year = 1 roundtrip planet ticket to Australia

2 pairs of jeans from Express = 1 bungy jump + pictures and video

2 movie theatre tickets = food in Thailand for a week

$5 fast food runs 2 times a week for a year = 1 week boat + accommodation island hopping trip in Fiji

Dinner at a sit-down restaurant + tip once a week for 1 year = black water rafting + mud bath and spa + skydiving + elephant trekking + glacier hiking + zip lining + scenic helicopter flight

You get the idea…pretty shocking right? It’s amazing how much money you can save when you make a few sacrifices.

3. Budget

The final component is budgeting for your trip and actually sticking to it (or under it) on the road. I think there’s a misconception that traveling is a glamorous and expensive affair. We’re walking proof that it is possible to travel on a ridiculously cheap budget. During our time in New Zealand, we spent $4.50 a day on food and drinks (yes, that’s for 3 meals a day) because we limited the amount of times we ate out and instead went grocery shopping and cooked for ourselves. Personally, we like to keep our food budget low and our adventure budget high, but this just depends on your personal preference and travel style. By staying in dorm rooms in hostels and with family and friends in some cities, it was possible for us to keep our accommodation budget low and actually slightly less expensive than the price of rent + utilities of an apartment back home. You read that right, depending on your destinations and budget, life on the road can sometimes actually be cheaper than life at home.

So now that the secret is revealed, when’s your next trip?

New Zealand in a Flash

Nom, Nom, Nom New Zealand Style

As our time in New Zealand comes to an end, it seems only fitting to look back on some drool-worthy moments we experienced in kiwi country.

Yum #1: Fergburger

This place is infamous. Ask anyone for a food recommendation in Queenstown, and you’ll hear the resounding response “Fergburger.” Serving up dishes such as the “Cockadoodle Oink” and “The Codfather,” it is a packed house any day of the week at all hours of the night. Kim and I had the luxury of visiting this popular joint twice while in Queenstown. Round one we tried the Bombay Chicken sandwich topped with mango chutney and smothered in aioli sauce, and round two was the Cockadoodle Oink sandwich sporting bacon and avocado. Huge portions, great fries, crowd favorite.

Yum #2: Kaffe Eis

Best. Gelato. Ever. Seriously, Italy should be worried. Kim and I managed to conquer the following flavors during our time in Wellington: golden kiwifruit, forest fruit yogurt, bon bon, caramel, chai, pannacotta, mixed berry, passionfruit, caffe latte, chai (take two), coconut, and chocolate. Whether it’s in a cup or a cone, the only word to describe these decadent treats: heavenly. Next time I see a shooting star, I’m seriously wishing for a Kaffe Eis opening in Chicago.

Yum #3: Cookie Time

Warm cookies in a variety of flavors. Insanely good. Gives Mrs. Fields a run for her money. Stop by during cookie “happy hour” and get two for the price of one!

Yum #4: Golden kiwi fruit

Everyone knows the kiwi fruit from back home–furry skin, green on the inside, tart taste. Well, the golden kiwi fruit is like the awesome cousin of the green little guy. Smooth outside, golden inside, and deliciously sweet.

Yum #5: L&P

This Kiwi classic is a soda with loads of fresh taste. The L&P stands for “Lemon & Paeroa,” and the drink began back in the early 1900s when local blokes found an underground spring in Paeroa, New Zealand. The taste could be compared to a mix of ginger ale and lemonade. Sorry friends, but this baby can only be purchased in New Zealand.

Overall, it’s been quite the treat sinking our teeth into the sweet, salty, and savory dishes of New Zealand. Now we’re off to see what culinary delights Australia has to offer.

Q&A #1

Up Up & Away