Rewind 2016

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There’s a sweet noise on the small crowded streets surrounded by flats in all colors of the rainbow and there’s a smell of pizza and oven baked goods coming from all around and all you can hear is Italian words and the face of Gianni, that Italian elderly owner of a traditional pizzeria makes you feel strangely at home. We celebrated the coming of 2017 in Naples, Capri and Procida and as we look forward with curiosity and anxiousness to the year to come we look back with wonder and we are grateful for an incredible 2016

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with leprechauns, Irish pubs and songs, Guinness beer and trips to the Titanic in Dublin and Belfast

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Scandinavian snow, perfect muffins, athletic people going out to ski by metro in Oslo

12744163_818590741602818_1679290715306204204_ntraditions, family time, colorful clothes, days of joy and celebrations at our best friend’s wedding in Jaipur, meeting up with old friends for precious stolen moments of happiness

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Milan Duomo, pizza and pasta with a heavenly taste, espresso, chilling in parks, polenta, discovery of the Navigli area

img_20160520_152111img_20160520_191659wandering the shores of Como Lake and enjoying breathtaking views of Brunate in Comoimg_20160521_095903unexpected trips to Sighisoara and Brasov

img_20160507_211445_edit_edit1beer gardens, charming coffee shops, Berlin wall, relaxing parks, strolls amongst restaurants and pubs of all nationalities just to charm any food lover in Berlin

img_20160815_180024_hdrbeach days and live music at the Black Sea

img_20160730_163533_editday trip to Negotin, Serbia just to have one Serbian beer

img_20160722_142418pagodas, Shan food, night markets and organized street quarters in Yangon

img_0518img_20160918_122523_editboat trips, traditional rowing fishermen, floating markets and lifetime friends in Inle Lake

img_20160920_084311img_0533sunset, sunrise, pagodas, temples and history in Bagan

img_0869img_0884gold leafs, temples, the best Shan food, monks, longest wooden bridge in Mandalay

img_20160924_141903img_20160924_172918the Grand Palace, new friends, live music, sweet memories, Same Same t-shirts and the best foot massage in Bangkok

img_20160926_135550_edit_editdays of shared thoughts, incredible views, swims, beach strolls, Rum Cola in the charming solitary Duli Beach resort in Philippines, El Nido

img_1254img_1294days of chilling and relaxing in Jaipur and Delhi making plans for future adventures

img_20161114_231850_editRoyal Palaces, Christmas trees, pierogi, beetroot soup, large café latte, Christmas markets in Warsaw

15349820_1019346348193922_3613498593471740022_nChristmas market madness in Bucharest with the view of the Parliament House, hot spiced wine and the best atmosphere to wish for

15380714_1020952261366664_6606025568305505877_n15492319_1025481797580377_6451251349531931751_nChristmas parties with memories of childhood and priceless friends

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family and friends time colored in green, flowery, sunny, snowy surroundings to adapt to the seasons but at all times packed with an overload of joy and happiness to last for a lifetime

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Past year has thought us that we are never alone as we carry with us all the family and friends, present or past, imprinted on our skin and it takes nothing more than closing our eyes for one second to feel them all around us. We’ve lost good friends and gained new friends and family just to remind us one more time of how precious every day we receive is and that it’s up to us to not let it waste and fully live every single second of it. We hope in a happy and peaceful 2017, a year of expressing less and feeling more, of being true to ourselves and the others, of taking leaps of faith without a net, of putting dreams into reality today rather than tomorrow, of carefully using the chance given at each and every new day, of still wondering at everything around, new or old, beautiful or less beautiful, of searching for more balance in life, of still believing.

Letters from Myanmar – Yangon

This is Burma and it is unlike any land you know about” Rudyard Kipling, Letters from the East (1898)

Myanmar is referred to as Amarapura, the Land of Immortality, Yadanarbon, the Land of the Gems and Suvanabhomi, the Golden Land. And we are off to discover how each and every of this skilfull names suit Myanmar and breathe from each of its corners. First stop of this ride Yangon.

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What we did

Shwedagon Pagoda

The Golden Pagoda dates back to 588 BC and it is said to be the oldest stupa in Myanmar if not the world. The complex o Shwedagon Pagoda is accessible on four majestic stairways. The stupa is 99m height and is encircled by the sequence of the planetary posts each representing a day of the week along with its associated heavenly body and animal (in Burmese astrology Wednesday is divided in two, thus resulting eight “days” in total). Around the terraces you will find a replica of the Buddha’s Tooth (a copy of the original held in Kandy, Sri Lanka), the Magic Ruby Enshrined Buddha, the Child-clutching Brahma, a reclining Buddha and plenty more.

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Sule Pagoda

Sule Pagoda is right in the centre of the British style organized streets in Downtown Yangon. Local tradition says that the pagoda was built during the lifetime of the Buddha himself. The pagoda is reachable on four staircases located on each cardinal point. Entrance for tourists is 3 USD and the view is especially beautiful in the afternoon when the sun sets.

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Downtown Street Wandering

Downtown is a display of colonial architecture with entire streets and houses all lined up like in the 19th century.  There are shops and street vendors on all the streets between the 19th Street and the Pansodan Street.  In the evening street food stalls and street “restaurants” with plastic tables and chairs are lined up on both sides of Mahabandoola Road and the streets between 32nd Street and 18th Street with all sorts of barbecue, noodles and fruits.

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Bogyoke Market

Foreign-friendly market built in 1926 covering everything from souvenirs, gems, jewellery, clothing this bazaar looks like a must for shopaholics.

Where we stayed

We stayed at Clover City Centre Hotel Plus. Small entrance lobby with reception at the third floor but otherwise a great spot for a short stay in Yangon. Room was big and clean. Air-conditioning working properly; TV with a few channels, water and coffee complimentary and the well needed safe. Location is great on 32nd Street which makes you stay 5 minutes away from Sule Pagoda and walking distance to 19th Street (one one side) and 50th Street (on the other side).

Where we ate

We went to 50th Street for pies, Bar Book for coffee, 19th Kosan Street for beer, the Black Hat for dinner and live music and 999 Shan Noodle Soup for the best noodles soup in town. Click here for more details on our eating & drinking in Yangon experience.

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What we think about Yangon people

We loved the people in Yangon. They seemed nice and honest and did smile a lot. Most of them wear the traditional longyi – the sarong like lower body garment worn by both women and men. Thanka (the bright yellow face paint) is also usual in Yangon. Kids are curious like in all places and do expect people in the pagodas to ask for pictures with you :p.

Click here for some Tips & Tricks of Yangon

Click here for our Top experiences in Yangon

For more photos of Yangon just click here for our Facebook page.

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When a lake is your home, Tonlé Sap

There is water and vegetation everywhere the eye can see. The boat moves further and further into the heart of Tonlé Sap Lake towards the floating villages carrying with it our curiosity for life on water and flashbacks of the troubled Vietnamese and Cambodian history.

Cambodia, Tonle Sap

Cambodia, Tonle Sap

Tonlé Sap lake is definitely special; it is not only the largest fresh water in South East Asia with a flow changing its direction twice a year but is also home to many ethnic Vietnamese and Cham communities living in floating villages around the lake. More than 3 million people live around the bank of the lake 90% of which earn their living through fish catching and agriculture. Cambodia, Tonle Sap

The village we are in is home to 1,280 people most of which live under the poverty limit. The floating houses are small usually with one or two rooms. Three rooms are an exception. Bamboo pillars support the floating houses and make it easy for the house to be moved from one area to another during the rainy season.

Cambodia, Tonle Sap

Cambodia, Tonle Sap

There is a sense of community in the floating villages. You can find the usual Asian floating markets with boats going from one house to the other carrying all types of supplies for the people in the floating houses, small floating shops, floating Catholic church, floating school and some bigger platforms with serving tables and snacks for the tourists. Although some floating houses are connected to electricity most of them have no electricity and use power batteries. You can even find floating platforms to charge batteries.

Cambodia, Tonle Sap

Cambodia, Tonle Sap

People on the lake usually don’t pay taxes and eat what they can catch or grow. Crocodile and fish industry is developing as the people raise them around the floating houses to make money to survive. Tourist scams are also a way of making money.

Cambodia, Tonle Sap

Cambodia, Tonle Sap

The water in the lake is used for drinking and cooking as well as for washing or sewage. Bottled water is a luxury.

Cambodia, Tonle Sap

Cambodia, Tonle Sap

Life expectancy on the lake is short; 54 years or so. There is no doctor in the floating villages and only very limite medical care. Child birth is high but more than 12% of the children die before the age of 5 and many of them drown afterwards on their way to school when their small row boats capsize.

Cambodia, Tonle Sap

Cambodia, Tonle Sap

Moving to the city is hard if not close to impossible since this people lack money or even citizenship to allow them to be properly integrated into society. Most of the people in the floating villages are stateless Vietnamese with no papers to account for their names or their origins. Targets of mass genocide during the Khmer Republic and Khmer Rouge governments like so many other Cambodian people, expelled from the country in the 1970s just to later return to a home that no longer had room for them, the story of the people around the Tonlé Sap Lake is not an easy one.

Cambodia, Tonle Sap

Cambodia, Tonle Sap

Sitting on the terrace of one of the floating houses tasting for the first time snake soup two small boys approach us to show off with their plastic toy guns. Innocent, playful and full of life just like the kids back home. Just that these ones live on small boat houses, learn how to row a boat before learning how to write, have no drinkable water or medical care, have crocodiles as house pets and are destined to live a nomad life floating on water.

Cambodia, Tonle Sap

Cambodia, Tonle Sap

As our boat takes us into the sunset to Siem Reap leaving behind the floating villages we carry with us the small happy faces of the two little boys. We repeat in our minds that less is more, we dream of better times for these kids and pray for the lake to keep them safe and their inner happiness to provide shelter in the darkest of the storms.

Cambodia, Tonle Sap

Cambodia, Tonle Sap

More picture from Cambodia on our Facebook page.

More on the history of the Vietnamese Cambodian people in this touching article Hope Floats.

Cambodia, Tonle Sap

Cambodia, Tonle Sap

Romantic City of Lakes or the Venice of the East

Do you want to hear a story about that small island?” my friend asks as we cross over Pichola Lake in Udaipur. The small island with a courtyard is the keeper of a story about a tightrope walker (natani). It is said that Maharana Jawan Singh of Udaipur promised a natani half of his kingdom if she succeed in walking over the lake on a rope that was suspended above the water. When it was apparent that she was about to succeed one of the Maharana’s ministers cut the rope and the girl fell in the water and drowned. Before drowning she cast a spell on the Maharana’s family that of not having any direct descendants or heirs. Spell or no spell six out of seven of the Maharana’s descendants were adopted sons.

Udaipur - View from City Palace

Udaipur – View from City Palace

We reached Udaipur (also called Romantic City of Lakes or the Venice of the East) after more than 9 hour drive from Jaipur and landed right in the middle of a Muslim festival. The streets were more crowded than the usual crowd in India – cars, scooters, rickshaws of all sorts, pedestrians, flags, festival arrangements.

Udaipur

Udaipur

While sipping our coffee on the rooftop terrace of our hotel we absorbed the city that was unveiling in front of us. A labyrinth on hills, small streets intersecting even smaller streets, typical Indian houses tall with rooftop terraces put together like domino pieces, painted in light blue and white, Indian ladies appearing from a window or an a terrace here and there carrying about their normal chores and in the middle of it all the Jagdish Temple blissfully located inside the labyrinth like a sweet escape from the madness outside.

Udaipur

Udaipur

We had less than 2 days in Udiapur so our plan included no plan. We left it all to our feet to carry us around and to the city to uncover its mysteries.

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Udaipur

We went wandering the streets amongst houses decorated with wall paintings displaying colourful and elaborated portraits of men, women, elephants and deities…

Udaipur

Udaipur

We mingled amongst the people praying in the Jagdish Temple – an impressive temple built in 1651 well decorated in a way that reminded me of the temples in Khajuraho and with an open air praying area resembling the Balinese Hindu temples..

Jagdish Temple

Jagdish Temple

We got lost in the rooms of the well conserved royal City Palace and admired the panoramic view overlooking the city and the Pichola Lake. Built in 1559, the palace is considered a fusion of Rajasthani and Mughal architectural styles. Legend says that the location of the palace was actually pointed out to the Maharana Udai Singh by a hermit that he found meditating while he was hunting in the Udaipur hills…

City Palace Udaipur

City Palace Udaipur

City Palace Udaipur

We chilled in a small coffee shop on the shore of Pichola Lake admiring the impressive Lake Palace. The formal royal summer palace a Taj hotel since 1971, the Lake Palace is both a royal abode and luxury hotel, loved by people like Vivien Leigh, Queen Elizabeth, the Shah of Iran, the King of Nepal or Jacqueline Kennedy and depicted in several movies amongst which the 1983 Octopussy – Bond series…

Lake Palace

Lake Palace

We watched traditional Rajasthani dances…

Udaipur

Udaipur

We took a boat ride to the Jag Mandir Island at the Lake Garden Palace. Currently a hotel and restaurant often used for royal weddings and parties the palace used to be a summer resort and pleasure palace for holding parties by the royal family. The palace served also as a refuge to asylum seekers amongst which the “father” of the Taj Mahal – Emperor Shahjahan when he rebelled against his father…

Jag Mandir

Jag Mandir

We shared memories and dreams, gossips, jokes, laughter, hidden tears on a rooftop terrace overlooking the Pichola Lake with small fires to warm the night and good wine to warm the hearts…

Udaipur - Rooftop

Udaipur – Rooftop

As we listen to the story of the natani our feet carry us through the small streets of Udaipur on a quiet January night. It’s well past midnight and there’s no tuk-tuk to take us to our hotel so we walk. No soul around, no bird, no wind, no move…just the footsteps and voices of three friends talking life. And as we get closer and closer to our hotel and to our imminent goodbyes we know that we are meant to meet again on the streets of Udaipur. Just like the legend says “See Venice and die, but see Udaipur and live to see it again and again”.

City Palace Udaipur

City Palace Udaipur

Click here for our Top 10 Udaipur.

For more pictures check out our Facebook page.

Top 10 Udaipur

  1. Wandering through the small streets between the decorated houses;
  2. City Palace;
  3. Jagdish Temple;
  4. Jag Mandir;
  5. The Lake Palace;
  6. Cruise on the Pichola Lake;
  7. Enjoying a nice dinner in one of the rooftop terraces overlooking the Pichola Lake;
  8. Seeing a show with traditional Rajasthani dances;
  9. Enjoying breakfast in the coffee shop on the shore of the Pichola Lake with butter sandwich and a good coffee;
  10. Panoramic views from the City Palace.

Cu Chi Tunnels, South Vietnam

You can kill ten of my men for every one I kill of yours, but even at those odds, you will lose and I will win”. This is what Ho Chi Minh was saying to the French in the late 1940s.

It was our first day in Ho Chi Minh City (better known to us as Saigon) and we were off to visit the Cu Chi Tunnels. The tunnels were located some 65 km away from Ho Chi Minh City and their construction started somewhere in the late 1940s during the war against the French. The tunnels were dug by hand or with rudimentary tools and were gradually expanded by the North Vietnamese and the Viet Cong troops (supporters of the communists in South Vietnam) in the early 1960s as the United States increased their presence in Vietnam. It is said that the tunnels had around 250 km running from the outskirts of Ho Chi Minh City to the Cambodian border.

IMG-20130921-00486_collageThe tunnels were divided in 3 levels going up to 12 meters in the underground. Some complexes had even four different levels with secret trapdoors separating them. The different levels held headquarters, kitchens, storage areas, living areas, hospitals, meeting rooms, rooms for making weapons or traps.

Hospitals were actually small spaces (the size of half a room in a flat) were wounds were treated superficially due to the lack of medicines and proper operating areas. In the sleeping areas people were usually sleeping in hammocks to avoid the humid and warm soil and the vibrations from the continuous bombing. In the kitchens meat and vegetables were cooked; most often, due to the lack of food, people in the tunnels were eating tapioca (sweet potato) which was nourishing and easy to cook. The air in the kitchen was taken out through special air tunnels meters away from the actual kitchen in order to lead the enemy away from the actual tunnel entrances.

IMG-20130921-00509_collageAn old Vietnamese adage says: “When the enemy is at the gate, the woman goes out fighting”. We learn from our guide that women were of crucial importance to the war. In the tunnels women were mainly in charge with cooking, preparing the maps of the tunnels and guiding the fighters. Outside the tunnels they were fighting alongside men. During the war women learned to fire weapons, lay traps, serve as village patrol guards and intelligence agents, recruit people or keep the supply lines flowing.

IMG-20130921-00514_collageWhile visiting the Cu Chi Tunnels we got to go through the small entrance doors of the tunnels (spider wholes), squeezed through 20 meters of dark, humid and warm tunnel, visited hospital rooms, meetings rooms, eating areas, were presented with all kinds of traps and fired guns with live ammunition in the firing area; all this with a sound of automatic guns and bombs around.

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The tunnels that are part of the visit were enlarged to fit the tourist; the initially tunnels and entrance doors were smaller since the Vietnamese people could easily fit whilst the enemy could get stuck. Tunnels were so small that they only went one way; once you were in the tunnel you couldn’t go back just straight up to the next door or level.

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The Cu Chi tunnels did not go unnoticed by the United States. Several major campaigns were launched to search out and destroy the tunnel system of the Viet Cong including dropping bombs, flushing the entrance of the tunnels with gas, water or hot tar, tossing grenades down the holes to crimp the opening, training the so called Tunnel Rats to enter the tunnels and fight inside. Towards the end of the war the tunnels were so heavily bombed that became hard to use. But by that time they have served their purpose – that of protecting the North Vietnamese units and allowing them more time to fight, prolonging the war and increasing the American costs and casualties until their withdrawal towards 1975. It is said that around 45,000 people died defending the tunnels.

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As we are driving away from Cu Chi tunnels I can’t stop thinking of those times of war that we had a glimpse of and the strength a person has to have to fight a war, to protect his/her family, to survive while leaving underground for weeks or months at a time of non-stop bombing and countless deaths of close ones. Maybe it all comes down to what you believe you can do and how long you can keep the hope alive. Ho Chi Minh warned that if the Americans “want to make war for twenty years then we shall make war for twenty years. If they want to make peace, we shall make peace and invite them to afternoon tea”. Incidentally, the Vietnam War lasted for 19 years, 5 months, 4 weeks and 1 day.

You can read more technicalities about the Cu Chi Tunnels here http://web.mst.edu/~rogersda/umrcourses/ge342/Cu%20Chi%20Tunnels-revised.pdf

You can find here our Tips & Tricks.

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Tips & Tricks Cu Chi Tunnels

When visiting the Cu Chi Tunnels keep in mind some tips from our own experiences. As always, feel free to jump in and add any advice to the below:

  • wear clothes and shoes that are appropriate for walking on soil and knelling through the tunnels;
  • before going inside the spider wholes estimate whether you can actually fit and be prepared to use some strength to push yourself up when is time to go out;
  • if you have difficulties with closed or dark places skip the spider wholes and the tunnel walk; tunnels are dark, narrow, not that high and warm;
  • choose carefully the length you want to visit in the tunnels; we went inside the tunnels for about 20 meters and exited (there are exits along the tunnel); the part we did was narrow but you only had to kneel to be able to walk through the tunnel; other parts of the tunnel require you to actually crawl in order to be able to advance and there is no turning back once you entered the tunnel;
  • although we couldn’t say we would try this again, consider trying the firing area for the experience; it was our first time firing a gun and we tried the M-16; the firing area is noisy (even with the protective earphones), no explanations are provided just a man putting it’s hand behind your shoulder and screaming “fire”; it’s all done in less than 30 seconds but the experience it’s sure to stick with you forever;
  • try the tapioca (sweet potato); we loved it.

Flying Kites in Jaipur

Fact: the largest kite ever flown is 25,475 m long and 40 m wide. Curiosity: there is at least one Kite Festival every weekend of the year in some part of the world.

First day in Jaipur at the end of 2014 started with my first experience of flying kites.

DSCF9616_collageUp we were on the rooftop of my friends’ home which happened to be also the tallest house in the neighborhood. There is no age or gender for flying kites; everyone can do it. And on that particular sunny Sunday of the last week of December the entire neighborhood was out on the rooftops; parents, grandparents, children relaxing in the sun, watching the kites or indulging in the game of flying kites.

DSCF9614It was a good time to practice for the biggest Kite Festival in Jaipur happening on 14 January. On the Festival of Mankar Sankranti the Pink City turns all colorful with beautiful kites in the sky and people pray to the sun god to bless them with good health, wealth and good crops. Before the Kite Festival the market place of Jaipur is filled with kite makers and sellers. The kites are available and named according to different colors and size some of the common names being aadi, guddi, tukkal, addha, pauna, panni, etc.

DSCF9603_collageKites of all colors and shapes were flying all around (even kites with Bollywood actors J) while everyone was trying to catch the kites around his/her kite. My friends tell me that the point of the game is too fly your kite and cut the kites of the others around and catch them. Whoever cuts the kite of another has the right to take the cut kite. But see, here is another trick, you have to be able to reach the kite that you cut. You can see kids running around the houses picking-up the fallen kites or even people on rooftops with eagle eyes spotting the thread of the cut kite and just catching the kite either by hand or by using a wooden pole.

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DSCF9606Hmmm…now I wanted to get into this game and learn how to play right? The kites we were flying were the size of 2 A4 papers. The thread holding the kite is rolled on a wooden spool with handles on both sides. What you have to do? Pull the thread to one side or the other, roll it on the wooden spool or unroll it and just direct your kite up in the sky. All of this while paying attention to the other kites around you not to cut your kite and trying (of course J) to cut the kites of the others.

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I have to admit I am still very much of a beginner at flying kites but damn it was so fun. And watching a colorful sky makes a perfect day of any day.

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More kites facts:

  • the traditions of kite flying in Jaipur seem to date back to the times of Maharaja Ram Singh II (1835 – 1880), who was an ardent lover of flying kites;
  • the thread used for flying kites is known as “Manja” which is rolled into a wooden spool with handles on both sides called “Charkhi”; the thread is made of fine cotton which is then sharpened using very fine grinned glass powder coating, colors and chemicals;
  • the thread of the kites is actually very dangerous as it can easily slit even the neck of a person; birds are injured and sometimes even people if not enough attention is paid while flying kites;
  • there is a variety of kites or all colors, shapes and sizes; we’ve seen small kites in Jaipur and huge kites in Bali; just google Kite Festival if you are curious to see some designs; we promise you will be amazed by the imagination used to make kites;
  • more adults in the world fly kites than children;
  • large kites were banned in East Germany because of the possibility of man lifting over the Berlin Wall;
  • the world record for the longest ‘kite fly’ is 180 hours;
  • some Japanese kites weigh over 2 tons.

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The voice of Boracay – Ferns Tosco

Do you guys know where and what Boracay is?  Well we admit we knew nothing about Boracay until we decided to embark this September on a journey through Singapore, Indonesia and the Philippines.  Boracay is a small island in the Philippines; so small that its area is of 10.32 km2.  Still, it holds over 350 beach resorts, the best beaches and sunsets we have seen and some of the most amazing people we’ve met by now.

We arrived in Boracay on a Monday morning on a boat from the island of Caticlan following two flights in a row from Denpasar (Bali) to Manila and from Manila to Caticlan.  Once in the small Caticlan airport we booked a fast transfer to our hotel in Boracay.  Maria Torres (a Spanish name for a true Filipino lady) carried as fast as the wind from the airport to the boat that would take us to the beautiful Island of Boracay and than further to our hotel.

 
How does one fall in love with an island it barely knew before?  Well, here comes the subject of this post.  Because this is not a typical post about a location, what to see and what to do or not do; this post is about a beautiful singer we met during our trip that made this Island stick forever in our hearts.  
We found Ferns Tosco in our first night in Boracay.  Wandering on the beach near Beach Station 2 we could hear some live music coming from one of the beach bars. And we figure why not sit down, have a drink and enjoy the music of this amazing girl.
 
It ended up being a memorable night, with great music and good food.  At the end we couldn’t help it and we just had to meet Ferns and buy her album. We were surprised to meet this warm young girl, with big eyes and even a bigger smile, happy to chat with us.

We spent four blissful nights in the company of Ferns Tosco and the Bom Bom Bar talented singers and band members with a combination of Filipino music, Reggae music, oldies but goldies, modern tunes.  We sang along with these guys like we never sang before, we danced on their music in that way…you know…like no one is watching and we made good friends with their tunes on the background.
 
We will for sure never forget that feeling when you have your feet in the sand, a San Miguel beer in your hand, palm trees around you and you just sing “I want to go back to the Island called Boracay…there’s a place that I can call home…
 
For a detailed story about Ferns and how her album was born just click the link below – it’s worth it
 
We say thank you Ferns for sharing with us your love for Boracay and we look forrward to meeting you again in Europe or in the Island, wherever our feet will carry us first…
As for you guys if you became just a little bit curious about this Boracay Island that Ferns is singing so frenetically about stay tuned for our next post where we unveil some tips on how to get there, what to do/not to do, what to expect and what to experience.
 

Yummiest Chinese Treats

We are happy to the sky and back to be sharing with you our first guest post and we send all our love to the amazing Agness from www.eTramping.com who has agreed to share with us some insight views on the Chinese sweets.  So here we go:
Got a sweet tooth and China is next on your bucket list?  I have some good and bad news for your then. The bad news is that Chinese sweets are not very sweet. In fact, they might be a bit tasteless for those who love sugary desserts. The reason being, Chinese try to be healthy and stay slim so they avoid sugar. They prefer spicy food over sweet treats so most of Chinese desserts are savoury and contain red bean filling. The good news is that you can treat yourself with many different goodies here without gaining any weight. Guilty free pleasure! Moreover, you can discover many different flavours of fruits, veggies and a great combination of fresh ingredients.
Chinese locals snack a lot on fresh fruits, jelly, red beans, bread and cakes from time to time. They eat everything in moderation so they stay healthy and slim all year long. The list of all my favourite Chinese desserts is way too long to share it with you here, so I decided to pick up the most delicious ones you should definitely taste when you visit the Land of Dragons:
#1 Street donuts.
Street donuts are obviously sold at the street food vendors, but you can also get them in big supermarkets and most of local restaurants. They are deep fried and look exactly like the Western donuts, but they are filled with red bean jam and honey, thus they are much healthier and not that super sweet. Chinese do not sprinkle them with caster sugar, they use coconut powder instead. Having one is a must when visiting Beijing. In order to make it even more tasty, you can order a local flavoured yogurt served in glass jars. 

Donuts
 
#2 Dumplings filled with fruits.
Fruity baozi are extremely delicious and they can easily satisfy your sugar cravings for all day. They are filled with strawberry, peach, raspberry or blueberry jam and honey and steamed so it’s a light snack to have on the go.
Baozi

Fruity baozi

Chinese dumplings
 #3 Candy fruits.
They are called tanghulu and you can spot them everywhere in Beijing, Shanghai or Guilin. Shiny and long candied fruit served on bamboo skewers can certainly be a yummy dessert. You can choose your fruits from blueberry, pineapple orange to grape and cherry tomato. Healthy, affordable and sweet – what else could you ask for?
tanghulu

tanghulu
 #4 Sweet bread.
Chinese are obsessed with sweet bread and buns. They like it steamed and filled with custard, mung bean paste or jam. My favourite one is sesame bread with pieces of raisins and nuts inside. So delicious!
Sweet bread

Sweet bread
#5 Ice cream.
Chinese ice cream dessert cannot be compared to Western styled goodies – way too watery, but if you feel like having something fruity as a snack and you don’t fancy eating sweet things, you should definitely have one scoop of them – strawberry and banana flavours are the yummiest. 
Ice cream
  #6 Pumpkin cake.
Pumpkin is eaten all year long in China, not only for Halloween. Therefore, some locals come up with various pumpkin cake recipes each year which are healthy, nutritious and yet slightly sweet. Sweet Chinese fried pumpkin glutinous rice cake is definitely my favourite one. It’s soft and it has a jelly texture that melts in your mouth. Surprisingly, it’s sold in the street hot and sprinkled with nuts. 

Pumpkin cake
#7 You tiao.
You tiao are traditional fried breadsticks – one of the best breakfast options on the cheap in China. They have golden brown skin, they are deep fried and taste awesome with some sesame oil or melted chocolate.
You tiao

You tiao
#8 Sticky rice in a leaf.
In China, it’s very common to have glutinous rice filled with chicken, Chinese mushrooms, Chinese sausage, red bean paste and nuts for your dessert. Steamed sticky rice is wrapped in a lotus leaf wrap, it’s soft and extremely delicious!”

Sticky rice in a leaf

 

Sticky rice

 Agness and Cez are best friends and travel companions from Poland. These two are sharing their budget travel tips on how to travel the world with $25 in your pocket. Since 2011, they have been travelling the world while teaching English in different Asian countries such as China, Thailand or Cambodia. They are both photography passionate obsessed with Chinese cuisine and culture. More about them on www.eTramping.com

Agness and Cez of eTramping – Da Lang, Dongguan, China
 
 
More pictures of Chinese treats below:
 
A local rolling a cake
Bakery display
Cake shop
Chinese tea
Chinese teahouse
Jam filled dessert in Beijing
Chinese Herbal Tea
Jelly Cake
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Cookies with nuts, sesame and dried fruits