Sukhothai

The ruined capital, Sukhothai, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site constructed over 700 years ago. The word Sukhothai means “rising happiness” and is regarded as the blossoming of a unique Thai artistic identity. Here we saw Buddha figures, gravity warped towers and brick stupas.

By day, we roamed and relaxed in a park and were thankful for the free admission (due to the mourning of the king). However, by night, the relics came alive. Between December 3- January 3, the main chedi and stupas are sprinkled with candles and decorated with colorful lights. As music played it was easy to get lost in the magical and romantic scene of twinkling ruins.

Vote: What’s your favorite Buddha photo below?


Wat Si Chum

Wat Mahathat

Chiang Mai

Nick and I spent a week climbing and eating in Chiang Mai. It was relaxing spending a few days in one place and we were able to celebrate our own unconventional Christmas.

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At my previous job in Colorado, my company sponsored 2 strong climbers from Chiang Mai that I continued to stay in touch with. During our visit, we met up and it was a blast to some familiar faces and get some local insight. Although they had to work, we had fun climbing with their friends.

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Heading to Crazy Horse Buttress

We climbed 6 days at Crazy Horse Buttress, the rock 21 miles outside of the city. The rock was limestone (as all rock is in Southeast Asia) although extremely diverse. We climbed a dirty 4 pitch route up through a cave that rewarded us with a view and various other sharp overhanging routes. Of the 30 plus routes we climbed, our favorite routes were on heart wall which had sustained climbing up to 30 meters.

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Abort mission … bees!

Nick and I decided to take a rest day on the 26th and celebrated Christmas! We spent the morning at a Thai cooking class (Asian Scenic Thai Cooking School $28) and ended the evening with a Thai massage (Lila Thai Massage $7). At the cooking class, we visited the local market and picked up foreign ingredients that I’ve never seen before (eggplant the size of a pea, coriander leaves, kaffir lime and tamarind sauce). We picked herbs and vegetables from the garden and before we began to cook were treated with an appetizer. This dish was called Meang Kim or Thai welcome snack as it’s traditionally used to greet guests. A dish with diced shallot, sliced lime with the skin, roasted peanuts, toasted coconut meat, ginger, chilies, betel leaves and sweet syrup (palm sugar, ginger, water, salt and shallot) were placed in front of us. We were told to fold the leaves to form a cup and place all of the ingredients inside. We drizzled the sweet syrup on top and ate it in one bite. As we slowly chewed we could taste all of the flavors at once. It was spicy from the ginger and chilies, bitter from the lime and betel leave and sweet from the toasted coconut and syrup. It was fascinating as I’ve never felt all of those sensations in one bite.

After, we began to cook. We made pad thai, cachew and basil stir fry, spring rolls, green curry, red curry, panang curry, massaman curry, mango sticky rice, deep fried bananas, and bananas in coconut milk.

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Nick vs. Stacia (spring roll challenge) … not even a competition

I’ve only ever made Thai curry from store bought curry paste, so it was interesting to make it from scratch. Did you know red curry paste and green curry paste use all of the same ingredients (kaffir lime skin, shallot, garlic, turmeric, coriander seeds, ginsing, lemongrass and galangal), only different chili peppers? Green curry uses fresh small young green chilies making it more spicy and red curry uses dried large red chilies. Did you know the only difference from red curry and panang curry is that panang curry uses peanuts to take away some of the heat? And Khaw Soi (northern Thai curry served with egg noodles) is red curry with added chili oil and curry powder. Masaman curry (which has more Indian origin) is made from dried red chilies, peanuts, star anise, cinnamon, cardamom pods, kaffir lime skin, shallot, garlic, turmeric, coriander seeds, ginsing, lemongrass and galangal. We had a blast at the cooking class and though it was money well spent.

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Making red curry paste

There are so many markets in Chiang Mai, morning markets, night markets, Saturday markets, Sunday markets, night bizzares, etc. Nick and I explored as many as we could and ate our brains out. We also ate at Chun Kurn, a classy vegetarian buffet that I’d highly recommend and A Taste of Heaven. We had a blast in Chaing Mai and are heading Sukhathai then Myanmar before returning to Southern Thailand. Happy New Year!

Pad Thai Street Stall

Escaping Ulaanbaatar

Just like any new place, at first Ulaanbaatar is very intriguing. The line between city and wilderness, plethora of “idols” to Chingiis Khan, and transitions between ger district and metropolitan blocks all give the city a unique feel. As stated in our UB post, we had a blast exploring the city, however after our first 3 days we were ready for something new. Unfortunately, we had arranged our trips in the countryside and the Mongolia transportation system works in a way that we returned to UB for a few days and then a week between excursions. We needed to find something to do other than sit around, we needed to escape UB. Fortunately, we found three activities that used up our time in a productive manner and heard of more for next time!

Hiking From Zummond Back to UB

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The first time we arrived back in UB from the north we did an overnight backpack from Zuunmod back to the city. This involved taking the bus from the Dragon Bus Station to Zuunmod (runs every hour for 2,000T). We had previously bought a relatively good map from Seven Summits on the surrounding UB area. From Zuunmod, we hiked 3.5 miles to the  Manjusri Monastery. This was a great spot for lunch among the ruins of the Stalin purged buildings and under a new reconstructed hall. We then headed up into what we thought was pristine seccluded wilderness. However, quickly learned that all the pine nuts that are sold on every corner in UB are collected all throughout this area. Every quarter mile or so there were people pounding trees and grinding the cones. While interesting at first, it did not lead to the naturally experience we were looking for. Unfortunately, I would not recommend this trail to solo female travelers. After 12 miles from Zuunmod we made camp and had a relatively warm night. The next morning we hiked through more pine cone encampments and over into UB at the Zaisen memorial. Overall, it was a great little trek and a good way to get out of UB for 36 hours.

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Lotus Child’s Centre

Before leaving for Ulgii we rented an extra sleeping bag from the Lotus Guesthouse due to the increasingly cold weather. We learned that Lotus is a nonprofit that runs an orphanage in Gachuurt with 65 kids. We thought volunteering here would be a great way to finish up our time in Mongolia and escape the city during the extra 6 days we had before our flight to Vietnam. The bus driver for the students picked us up at 10 am from the guesthouse after his morning runs and picked up the other workers on the way to Gachuurt. We arrived at the orphanage to learn that there was no structure or direction for volunteers so we just began to hang out with the kids.

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We helped 4 twelve year old girls bake bread and muffins for the entire orphange’s weekend breakfast. During the weekend the staff (including the cook) goes back to UB so there were 3 adults (Nick, Stacia and 1 social worker) supervising the kids. Although, they didn’t need much supervision as they cooked, cleaned and looked after one another better than most adults. We were blown away by their independence.

On Saturday, the kids practiced sports for a competition the next day. We helped make pizza, played cards and hid-and-seek. On Sunday, the kids competed against a local Chinese school in football (soccer), basketball, and dance performances. Overall the experience was a blast and it was hard to say goodbye to the amazing kids. If you plan to volunteer at Lotus, be sure to contact us for advice!

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Cheering on the boy’s football (soccer) team at a competition
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Not only did Stacia have a different hair style everyday, but we ate kimchi, pineapple, hot dog, pea, pepper, and ketchup pizza.
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Hide-and-seek champions: Asha & Khaliun
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9 year olds raising 1 year olds

Chinggis (Genghis) Khan Statue

We made it to the 40 meter Chinggis (Genghis) Khan statue (7,000 T pp) with Didi, the founder of Lotus. There was a small museum inside, and although nice, seemed like a huge tourist trap. It was hard going from the Lotus orphanage that is struggling to get by to what appeared to be a giant waste of money.

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Snow on Chinggis’s arm

Other Ideas

Although we didn’t make it to Terelj National Park and Khustain National Park these are suppose to be great ways to get out of the city! We had spent plenty of time in Russian vans and were looking to do something a little more independent. Extreme Mongolia had good deals on climbing in Terelj, but unfortunately they had already stopped the service for the winter.

 

 

Буркiт (Eagle)

After our trek and the usual bumpy ride, we arrived back in Ulgii. That night we stayed at the Traveler’s Guesthouse. Contrary to the name, it is actually a collection of gers in an empty lot next to a gas station. The owner was helpful and we enjoyed showering and relaxing for the night.

The next morning we drove to Sangsai with Dosjan’s (the owner of Kazakh Tours) brother. He is a very competent and brave (crazy) driver. The eagle festival was very unorganized and felt more like a field day at school than a festival. At first our driver drove around the desert looking through binoculars for eagle hunters. We found some, however they didn’t seem to know where the festival was being held either. Finally, we arrived and soon eagle hunters were riding over the hills in all directions. In all, 50 hunters were present including the famous eagle huntress (Aisholpan). Although it seemed like a tourist trap in the beginning, about 50% of the patrons were locals by the time events began. The events were shortened due to a spreading goat disease which resulted in a low turn out. There were two eagle competitions. One, involved calling an eagle down from a hill to the hunters arm. In the second competition your eagle had to “attack” a dead rabbit that was being dragged behind a horse. The final event was between horsemen. Two riders would grab hold of a goat hide and pull each other (sometimes off their horses or far from the festival) until one let go. Between competitions we looked at souvenirs (bought some eagle feathers) and ate snacks (watermelon, fried dumplings and ice cream). At the end of the competition, a majority of the eagle hunters got very drunk and could barely ride their horses or hold their eagles (a little excitement ensued). Drinking is a very present issue among men in Mongolia.

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Processed with Snapseed.
Due to the goat disease the second day of festivities were canceled, but it worked out for us as we both became pretty ill (with we think giardiasis). We instead spent the day lounging with a brief trip to the Ulgii mosque. Stacia was surprised to see that only men were aloud in the beautiful 2 story congregation room, while the women prayed in a tiny unmaintained white walled room in the back of the mosque.

The next morning we left to stay at an eagle hunter’s home for 3 days. This Kazakh family lives in a stone and mud complex rather than a ger. The family consists of a 55 year old couple, their 29 year old son, 26 year daughter in law, and their 20 day old baby. We were still moving slow and feeling ill as we had just started the antibiotics for Giardia, so we enjoyed the down time. We spent a lot of time “talking” (passing back and forth an old Kazakh- English – French phrase book) and of course, eating dairy products in the family’s living room. The language barrier allowed for a lot of awkward silence!

We learned that the man of the house’s father was an eagle hunter, as is he, as will his son and his newly born grandson. Only the Kazakh people of the West (Altai area) hunt with eagles and they need it to be stated on their license for it to be legal. He started eagle hunting in 1985. Since then, he has owned 70 eagles, however let 48 of them go quickly as they never caught a fox. He keeps a successful eagle for about 10 years. The eagle he currently has he captured when the eagle was 1 and it has caught the following foxes:

  • 2012- 22 foxes
  • 2013- 22 foxes
  • 2014- 44 foxes
  • 2015- 32 foxes
  • 2016- 48 foxes
  • 2017- tbd

He will set his eagle free in 2020 when it hits sexual maturity. He sells the foxes, as they are used to make traditional Mongolian clothing (mostly headwear). The eagle either crushes the heart/face of the fox or suffocates it (this was unclear in our game of charades). His eagle is held in a small shed with little light but room to roam. We were graciously given an eagle blind (the small hat that covers the eagle’s eyes) as a gift.

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Processed with Snapseed.

For breakfast and lunch we ate the traditional stale pastries, varieties of cheese curd, clotted cream, and butter. We drank about 10 bowls of salted yak milk tea a day and had handmade noodle, potato, and sheep soup for dinner. We enjoyed delicious fresh ira (Kazakh yogurt) before bed, as the yaks were milked an hour previously (yaks are milked twice a day). When we were served a communal rice and sheep dinner, everyone grabbed a spoon and started eating. If we even stopped eating to breath we were yelled at by 4 individuals “baloy che” (eat rice!) and when we ask for tea we are basically told we can have more tea after we eat more.

The next morning the yaks were milked, the animal droppings were collected and the sheep and goats were herded, excluding one unlucky sheep. We learned that in 2016, this family of 4 had butchered 1 yak, 1 horse and 20 sheep. The man of the house brought us into a stone and mud shed where he sliced the neck of the sheep and drained it’s blood. Within an hour the entire sheep was broken down. The lungs would be feed to the eagle, the large intestines were braided and hung (to eventually eat), and the small intestine was coiled into a climbing rope like figure and wrapped in the sheep hide. By the end, their was only a small bucket of waste which mostly consisted of blood, poop and digestives from the stomach. The stomach was washed and would eventually be blown up like a ballon, dried, and used to store butter.

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In the evenings we enjoyed listening to the older man play a Russian accordion, guitar and what looked like a 2 string ukulele. Stacia helped the older woman make bowsak jay (what we have been calling stale pastries) that are delicious when fresh. Nick helped herd yak and we continued to enjoy our last 8 days in Mongolia.

We are flying back to UB on the 22nd and are spending our last week in Mongolia volunteering at an orphanage. Stay tuned!

Xi’an & Guilin

Xi’an

Xi’an is a young city, home of dumplings and noodles. There is an enormous amount of ancient culture and history in the “small” city of 9 million people. The smog is similar to that of Beijing, and the summer months (July and August) are busy with Chinese tourists. As you know, Nick and I are spending most of our time in the cities of China and hitting the major tourist stops. This is not how we will be traveling for the rest of Asia, however beneficial in many aspects.

Weijia – Great “fast food” noodle shop with over 300 locations in Xi’an. It has high quality food and is open 24/7. You can get a meal for 10 Yuan ($1.50 USD) and can easily point to photos to order.

Terracotta Soldiers – With 30,000 visitors a day the terracotta soldiers are insanely crowded but as the locals say “the 8th wonder of the world” and worth the chaos nonetheless. The culture and history of the soldiers in the 3 pits are astounding. With a love for pottery it is remarkable to see the life size soldiers being recreated and sold, especially knowing it took multiple years to create one solider with the technology of 2,200 years past. These soldiers were made during the Qin (Chin) Dynasty, and my family name Chin is now a relatively uncommon name in China. Therefore, it’s interesting to think that although unlikely, my family may have ties to the first emperor of China.

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Although Qin’s clay army remains impressive it pales in comparison to a more recent discovery. Emperor Qin had over 8,000 life sized terracotta soldiers buried to protect him in the afterlife, however 50 years later, during the Han dynasty, 100,000 soldiers, concubines, eunuchs, and animals were buried to protect a later emperor. These were much smaller statuettes with wooden arms. They have opened a number of pits (182 have been found) and although we only saw about 10 other visitors, I can only imagine how popular this site will become in a number of years.

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As a female, I understand that I need to keep an open mind to other traditions and cultures. However, I want to share something that I found extremely interesting. For every 1 emperor (don’t forget we are talking over 2,000 years ago) he would have about 3,000 concubines. It was an honor to serve as a concubine, however when the emperor died, whichever concubine did not have the opportunity to bear a child with him, would be been buried alive to serve him in his afterlife.

Tea Tip – Ku Chao Cha, is a sweet buckwheat tea that tastes similar to Japanese Genmai Cha. This is a must try and available at the Old Xi’an Restaurant.

City Wall of Xi’an – Although touristy, it is worth walking or biking on top of the 8-mile city wall of Xi’an. Enjoy views of the old city and various Buddhist temples.

Tang Dynasty Cultural Performance – Anyone interested in traditional music, clothing, and dance should check this out. Although it’s a little cheesy and overpriced, it may be interesting to some. For us, it felt too expensive.

The Dumpling House – If you have the opportunity to visit a traditional dumping house, be sure to try the 18 dumpling banquet, where chicken dumplings look like chickens, pork dumplings look like pigs, duck dumplings look like ducks and vegetarian dumplings are green. Tip: combine soy, vinegar, oil, cilantro, and chili sauce for the best dumpling dipping sauce.

Daming Palace Ceramics Art Museum – Any potter would be in awe by this museum. We are so lucky to have bumped into the curator who introduced us to the unique properties of Song dynasty porcelains. We viewed ceramics that were 2,000- 7,000 years old and learned how to identify the dynasty the ceramics came from. The most popular, “typical Chinese design”, white porcelain pieces with blue designs, come from the Song Dynasty about 1,200 years ago! All of the pieces have been discovered from mausoleums of various emperors. There is so much talent in the museum and I have such a deep respect for these artists. *We started discussing bound feet with the curator and she was generous enough to show us her ADULT grandmother’s shoe from 1911 (see photo below).

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Muslim Quarter – A bustling pedestrian street with tons of street food (lamb, sweet sticky rice on a stick, Turkish ice cream, taffy, pomegranate juice, and fried crab).

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Guilin

Although China is often associated with rice, it is only the primary crop in the south. Here they use rice flower to make a variety of noodles, deserts and buns. The Chinese cook similar foods in the north, however they are made with wheat.

Zhengyang Pedestrian Street- I found the most unique fruits in Guilin and enjoyed eating jackfruit, mangosteen, durian, rambutan, passion fruit, longun, and “Guilin yellow berries”. Unfortunately, we missed lychee season by 1 month. We strolled down the pedestrian street while munching on fruit and Nick enjoyed bbq oysters. The end of the street leads you to a lake and pagoda.

Yangshuo – We enjoyed views of stunning limestone karsts on a 4-hour boat ride from Guilin to Yangshuo; iconic to the Chinese landscape, these same mountains adorned my childhood from the walls of the home where I grew up. The town of Yangshuo is small, however definitely targeted toward tourists. Nick and I have researched this area, as it’s known for it’s climbing. We plan to return to southern China at the end of our trip to climb in Yangshuo and later visit my grandparent’s village.

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Cloud 9 Cooking Class – Exploring the local market was quite the experience. As a vegetarian, it was definitely hard seeing the dogs, rabbits and other local livestock being butchered. However, the actual cooking class was a blast, and Nick even managed to make good-looking food.

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Guilin Tea Science & Research Institute – Outside Guilin, we visited an organic tea plantation where every step of the production process is done traditionally by hand. This is a must do for any tea lover. We sat in on a traditional Chinese tea ceremony and enjoyed Osmanthus tea, Liu Bao Compressed Tea, High Mountain Yellow Tea and a variety of oolongs. Do you know it takes 50,000 tea needles to make a half-kilo of white tea? I’ll make a more detailed blog post specifically detailing this process later, because everyone wants to know more about tea, right?

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Yao Mountain – This is the highest peak in Guilin, reaching 903.3 meters. If you want some exercise, take an easy and straightforward hike up to the top. Don’t bother paying to take the gondola up, in the end; it’s all targeted toward tourists. However, it was enjoyable watching over 200 people take photos of and with Nick, the white guy, also referred to as a “hello”. Maybe I should start a business, 10 Yuan for a photo with Nick?

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Beijing

Highlights of Beijing 

There is so much to do in Beijing and as usual with travel you only have so much time to explore. We chose to do most of the tourist highlights in Beijing as they are so important to Chinese culture and political history. We were not expecting Beijing to be so crowded as the weather is very hot in July, however we soon discovered that it was tourist season for the Chinese because students are out of school. The public transit is very reliable and we felt safe the entire time. Taxis were cheap, Uber was easy and the subway was extremely clean. People were very friendly but very few spoke any English. Feel free to just scroll for pictures as we all know that’s the best part!

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Tiananmen Square and The Forbidden City 

Both locations were very busy but the process for buying tickets and navigating the area was very simple and streamlined. It was interesting to see how important these two sites were to the Chinese for both spiritual and political reasons. Many people travel very long distances to see the tomb of Mao and to take pictures with his portrait in the background. Many people also struck the door on the gate to the Forbidden City with coins until it stuck without sliding. They did this to bring good luck to their family.

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Portrait of Mao
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Forbidden City

Summer Palace

The Summer Palace is gorgeous and relaxing. Spend time reading or walking as it is the only nice to get out of the city and in nature. If you want to splurge rent a peddle boat on the lake. The lake and mountain are both man made for the palace.
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Pandas! I would obviously rather see animals in the wild and I understand the controversy of zoos, but I had to respect the effort being done to protect pandas in a developing country. With the limited time we had we wished we had spent it some where else in the end.
Great Wall (Mutianyu Section)

Everyone goes to the Great Wall, but after we saw pictures of how busy it was in other sections we were so glad we made it to this one. It was more expensive and hard to get to as there is no public transit. Sharing a über and hiking instead of taking the gondola can make it much more reasonable. Bring lots of water as they will rip you off at the wall! The wall is very well maintained near the gondola but walking left up large hill allows views of what it really looks like after thousands of years!

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Great Wall of China

Wangfujing Market

Last minute decision to go on our last night and so glad we did! So many weird and delicious foods to choose from. It looked sketchy but did not bother our stomachs. We did not have the courage to try any bugs or reptiles yet! Sorry, but here is a hint of what we saw: scorpion, tarantula, cicada, centipede, gecko, snake, starfish, seahorse, cricket, mealworms, lizard, and starfish.

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Temple of Heaven

We were fortunate to get a mini lesson on tai chi in the park. Very beautiful and nice to get out in the green after the city. Check out the old men working out and swinging upside down on the park bars. So impressive!

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Drum Tower and Hutong 

Hutong is the old quarter of the city and is a sneak peak into how people have lived for hundreds of years. If you can try to get a meal with a local family or least tour a courtyard. While it might look like a run down neighborhood it was clear the people loved and cherished the homes their families had owned for generations. This was definitely a highlight in Beijing.

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Courtyard in Hutong

Feel free to contact us with any questions on Beijing and thanks for checking out our blog!

What to Pack for a Year in Asia

No matter who you are, where you are going or for how long, everyone requires different supplies. Nick and I spent a year in Asia and had to pack warm clothes and camping gear for Mongolia and cool clothes and climbing gear for Southeast Asia. Again, you have to pack what makes you comfortable, but here are some helpful tips and our favorite brands. Always remember, you can leave items behind and pick up new treasures. Be flexible.

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Guidebooks – Lonely Planet is our favorite, and they have great phrasebooks too. Remember to do research before you leave (checkout guidebooks from your local library to save money) or download the electronic versions to save space when packing.

Packs – Try on various packs to see what works best for you. I am carrying a Deuter Traveler 55 L +10 L daypack. This backpack has the ability to zip up into a duffel, zips around the bag for easy access and has an attached daypack. Nick is using the Osprey Aether 85L with a small daypack that straps onto the front. He also purchased a Sea to Summit waterproof duffel / rain cover to use when flying and in rainy weather. Don’t forget luggage tags so you can track down lost luggage.

*Both of our bags weigh 35 pounds, however as we travel we will constantly be gaining and shedding weight.

Clothing – Always think about how you can layer your clothing and try to wear loose fitting clothing. If you wear leggings, make sure you have a tunic or something that covers your butt. I favor merino wool as I love the natural benefits of wool and synthetic quick drying materials as washing will be frequent.

4 pants – 2 Outdoor Research trekking pants, leggings, and rain pants.

6 tops – 2 merino wool tank tops, 1 merino wool short sleeve shirt, 1 linen tunic, 1 Patagonia sun shirt, and 1 fleece

2 jackets – 1 down puffy and 1 rain jacket

2 shoes – Chacos and trekking boots

1 black patagonia maxi dress

3 of each underwears – 3 Point6 merino wool socks, 3 exofficio underwear bottoms, 3 sport bras and 2 bathing suits.

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Accessories – sarong, bandana (use over your mouth for pollution, over your eyes to sleep or as a wash cloth), fake wedding bands, and a watch.

Med Kit – We are brining 2 small med kits. 1 kit has individually labeled and bagged emergency items we hope to infrequently use and the other has easily accessible compartments for frequent use.

Emergency Med Kit –

Emergency- Quick clot EMS rolled gauze, scissors to remove clothing, Latex gloves, ammonia inhalant, large emergency trauma dressing, and burn gel.

Survival – Whistle, lighter, hand warmers, peanut butter, waterproof matches, wax treated cotton balls, aqua tabs, compass, and a foil blanket.

Prescriptions – See your doctor for what best suites you, however consider Malaria meds, altitude meds, antibiotics (wound, GI, and respiratory), pain meds (for my herniated back), yeast infection meds (incase you take an antibiotic) and of course, make sure you are up to date on all vaccines. We went to our local VNA, which has a travel department and got all vaccines that were recommended (Japanese Encephalitis, Rabies, Typhoid, etc.)

Preventative- World Health Organization oral rehydration salts, Probiotics, and Emergen- C

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Everyday Med Kit –

Medications – Aleve, Immodium, DayQuill and NightQuill, Dulcolax, Peptobismol, and Pepcid AC

Accessories – Thermometer and eye drops

Skin Care – Hydrocortisone cream, anti itch (Triamcinolone Acetonide), and antibiotic ointment (Mupirocin)

Wound Care – Various Band- Aids, blister specific Band-Aids, tweezers, razor blade, butterfly bandages, Moleskin, gauze, alcohol prep pads, and a small roll of duct tape.

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Camping – International MSR WhistperLite stove, MSR micro Water filter, cooking pot, sporks, fuel can, tin mug, Therm-A-Rest Z-lite sleeping pads, Nalgenes, MSR dromedary, knife, Big Agnes lightweight tent and sleeping bags (Steamboat, represent).

Climbing – 2 black diamond harnesses, 1 60 m rope (70m is not necessary and a 30m is good for most), 13 quick draws, 1 guide ATC, 1 GriGri, 1 ATC, comfy multi pitch shoes, tight single pitch shoes, 2 anchor systems and chalk bags. *We are fortunate enough to have people meeting us in Vietnam with our climbing gear, however look into ways to store your gear when it’s not necessary (hostels, lockers at airports or expensive shipping). Anyone have any suggestions how to trad climb in Asia, as the gear was too heavy for us to bring.

Sleep – Earplugs, sleeping bag liner, mosquito net, pillowcase, inflatable neck pillow (great for long bus or train rides).

Electronics – Camera (GoPro and Refurbished Leica D-Lux), phones, charges, extra batteries, goal zero battery pack, solar charge, and laptop (I choose to bring it to keep our blog up to date and edit photos).

Safety – Locks, rubber door stop and pepper spray.

Toiletries – Quick wick towel, Dr. Bronners (all in 1 soap, shampoo, conditioner & laundry detergent), contacts, 2 pairs of glasses (make sure you have access to your prescriptions), contact solution, contact case, retainer (we are nerds), 2 pairs of glasses, tooth paste, 1 shared toothbrush (we have no hygiene standards), floss (the dentist told us to floss more), Ben’s bug spray, hand sanitizer, hair ties, brush, nail clippers, wet wipes, and sunscreen.

TIPS & TRICKS – When you are doing a homestay it is always nice to be able to give something back. Nick and I are brining toothbrushes (Global Grins) and maple candies. We are also bringing a fabric Frisbee, hacky sack and a small photo album to create shared experiences.

* Don’t pack prescription pills in bottles; pack them in small zip lock bags with your prescription label visible inside.

* If you have bad eyes, pack 2 glasses in 1 case. I brought my glasses, a backup pair, prescription sunglasses and sunglasses and fit them in 2 cases.

*Make copies of your passport photos to bring with you, and remember, you will probably need 2 photos per visa.

*A lot of my friends who have spent long periods of time in Asia suggested we buy cheap fake wedding bands as some hotels and hostels won’t house single females or non-married couples.

*Spray key clothing items with permethrin spray (insect repellent) – good for 6 washes

* In order to utilize space, don’t forget to use packing cubes (we like Eagle Creek) and stuff your trekking boots.

* Cut the handle off of your hairbrush to save the absolutely necessary 2 inches of space…or not.

* Wrap duct tape around your Nalgene for emergencies.

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Before You Go…

Vaccines, prescription medications, visas, evacuation insurance (MedJet Assist), and Google Drive. Make a checking account with Charles Schwab (no ATM fees) and apply for a Chase Sapphire credit card (no foreign transaction fees).

Create a Google Drive folder that you can share with your family. Include copies of important documents, visas, flight receipts, a budget, prescriptions, and an itinerary. Before you go, download these documents to your device so that you can access them even when you don’t have access to wifi. You can store photos on this drive so you never have to worry about losing them.

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