Southeast Asia: Three Favorite Things

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I wouldn’t say that we’ve been *everywhere* in Southeast Asia, but over four separate visits, totaling five months spent in the region, we’ve seen and done a lot. At this point, we’ve been to nearly every Southeast Asian country (we’re only missing Brunei and East Timor.) So what did we like the best?

Three Favorite Cities

  1. Luang Prabang (Laos)
  2. Chiang Mai (Thailand)
  3. Yogyakarta (Indonesia)

Each of these cities has a laid-back, fun-loving atmosphere, and days spent here flew by. We tend towards the smaller cities; Bangkok and Jakarta are not among our favorites (though we love Kuala Lumpur and would choose that as number four.)

The Luang Prabang main drag

Three Favorite Places for Neat Architecture

  1. Bali (Indonesia)
  2. Singapore
  3. Yangon (Myanmar)

Balinese traditional architecture is a blend of different styles, and it is like nothing else in the world. I particularly admired the Hindu temples on Bali, but ordinary courtyard houses were also beautiful. Both Singapore and Yangon have some fabulous old British colonial buildings, as well as Hindu, Buddhist, Chinese, and (in Singapore) Malay-style architecture. The different neighborhoods were fascinating to walk around.

An old British building overlooking People's Park in Yangon

Ruins of the historical center of Sukhothai, the old capital of Thailand

Three Favorite Attractions

  1. Angkor Wat (Cambodia)
  2. Bagan (Myanmar)
  3. The old city of Sukhothai (Thailand)

Hmmm… these all turned out to be sites of ancient ruins. I guess you can tell where our interests lie?

Three Favorite Experiences

  1. Snorkeling in the Perhentian Islands (Malaysia)  The most fish I have ever seen in one place… plus turtles and sharks.
  2. Watching a water-puppet show (Hanoi, Vietnam)  So what if it’s touristy? It’s a really cool show.
  3. Touching a tiger (Chiang Mai, Thailand)  Do I have to explain the appeal of this one?

    Awww!

Three Favorite Foods

  1. Pad thai (Thailand)
  2. Adobo (Philippines)
  3. Banh mi (Vietnam; similar ones in Laos)

We tried making adobo when we got home... it was good, but not as good as on Boracay Island

Pad thai may be an obvious choice, but we never ever got tired of eating it. In the Philippines, each adobo we tried was better than the last. I don’t know how they do it. I asked one waitress about her restaurant’s version; she just shrugged and said “It’s Filipino food.” Which explains… nothing.

Runner-up: Roti canai (Malaysia and Singapore), which we ate for breakfast nearly every day in those countries.

Three Favorite Drinks

  1. Teh tarik (Malaysia, Singapore)
  2. Local coffee, sweetened with condensed milk (Vietnam, Laos)
  3. Watermelon shakes (anywhere there are backpackers)

Teh tarik… how can I explain teh tarik? It tastes like plain ol’ black tea with sugar and lots of milk (think Japanese milk tea) but the process of making it is special. Before serving, it is poured back and forth between two glasses several times, which makes the top nice and frothy, and in my opinion, makes the drink creamier.

Breakfast of champions: roti canai and teh tarik

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Australia: Three Favorite Things

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It’s hard to sum up eight weeks in a country- but I’ll try.

Three Favourite Scenic Spots:

  1. Uluru- obvious. Probably our favorite thing in all of Australia.
  2. The Great Ocean Road, west of Melbourne- especially the Twelve Apostles area. I had seen photos of them but I was completely unprepared for how big they were in real life.
  3. The Whitsunday Islands, particularly Whitehaven Beach

    Bob models a "stinger suit" at Whitehaven Beach

Three Favourite Attractions:

  1. Hunter Valley Zoo. We kept fondly reminiscing about this place for days and weeks after we’d visited.
  2. Horizon the Planetarium, at SciTech in Perth. This planetarium runs the most advanced software in the southern hemisphere- actually, the program is still in beta. We enjoyed getting a tutorial on the southern night sky. Very nice planetarium, interesting movies, knowledgeable staff (and the rest of the museum was a blast too!)
  3. Art Gallery of New South Wales- the free tours here were excellent. If you can’t make the tour, they also offer free audio downloads.  They have a great collection of Australian art.

Three Favourite Foods:

Dip in sour cream, then sweet chili sauce

  1. Potato wedges with sour cream and sweet chili sauce. The best bar snack EVER.
  2. Burgers or sandwiches with “the lot” (the works.) In Australia this means lettuce, tomato, onion, cheese, a slice of beetroot, and if you’re lucky, a fried egg and a slice of caramelized pineapple.
  3. Fish ‘n’ chips. We tried them all over the country, and our favorite was the fried basa in Bowen, Queensland.

Three Favourite Animals:

  1. Little penguins (at the Penguin Parade)
  2. Koalas (in any zoo or preserve)
  3. Tropical fish (at the Great Barrier Reef)

Three Favourite Wineries/Breweries:

  1. Paxton Vineyards
  2. The Monk Brewery
  3. Irongate Estate

Three Favourite Aussie Slang Terms:

  1. Bogan– the Australian version of a redneck.
  2. Budgie smuggler– the very cheeky term for a man’s Speedo swimsuit. Unfortunately, more common than we’d like.
  3. Too easy! This little phrase can be used anywhere, anytime, especially if you are a B&B owner in Townsville.

New Zealand: Three Favorite Things

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When we come home after travelling, a lot of people ask us “How was your trip?” However, most people don’t want to hear any answer longer than “Great!” It’s disappointing to not be able to share details of a trip, but at the same time I don’t want to bore anyone. So in order to sum up our time in New Zealand, we bring you a handy list of the best things we saw/did/ate! They are in order, sort of.

Three Favourite Scenic Spots:

  1. Lake Pukaki- nothing more needs to be said
  2. Tongariro National Park- especially the Red Crater, Emerald Lakes, and Blue Lake, which can only be accessed on foot (or seen from the air by taking a scenic flight)
  3. Kaikoura- the view of the Seaward Kaikoura Mountains rising above the blue sea

Three Favourite Attractions:

  1. Fox Glacier- this could also go under scenic spots, but just looking at it isn’t that interesting. Taking a guided hike and walking on it is much more interesting
  2. Marlborough wineries
  3. Auckland Museum- we thought it was better organized than Te Papa

Meat pies- yum, yum

Three Favourite Foods

  1. Hokey Pokey ice cream
  2. Meat pies
  3. NZ cheeses

Three Favourite Animals:

  1. Kiwis- no, we did not see one in the wild, as we had hoped; but we did hear them screeching in the middle of the night in Hokitika
  2. Seals- easy to spot, and they like to pose for photographers
  3. Glowworms- actually the larvae of a certain kind of fly. In Hokitika, you can see them for free, just 1km north of town. They look like constellations when they’re all lit up