It has been exactly one year since we left on our long-term travel journey. In this period, we already had the time of our lives and we had several crazy experiences along the way. From sleeping on a military base to looking inside an active volcano, find out our best travel experiences of the last year!
The Mongol Rally was the start of the trip and our 2-month journey from the UK to Mongolia and back to Belgium. We crossed all the stans in Central Asia and experienced so many incredible adventures along the way. We are still proud that we managed to make it through the whole trip, across deserts and mountain ranges, with an old Lada.
TAKING THE CASPIAN SEA FERRY
Waiting for a full week in the burning sun in the port of Azerbaijan, to get on the ferry towards Turkmenistan isn’t something that everyone would remember as a good experience. At the time, it wasn’t a good experience. But after almost a year, we often remember it again as a great new travel experience.
SLEEPING ON A MILITARY BASE AT THE TAJIK-AFGHAN BORDER
While we were trying to put up our tent after a long day in the Pamirs, a military guard came by and said that we had to pack up and go, while pointing his gun towards us. When we came back on the main road, two others stopped us, and commanded us to put out the car lights and follow them. It was pitch-black outside, and we were for a second scared for our lives. Ultimately, we arrived at a military base, they pulled some bunk beds out, and we could sleep there under a beautiful sky of bright stars. Apparently, we were sleeping right at the Afghanistan border, and it sometimes happens that they start shooting at each other.
CAMPING NEXT TO A FIRE CRATER IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE
Standing and camping at the side of ‘The Gates Of Hell’ is still, one of the best travel experiences we’ve already had. The whole adventure, from trying to find it in the middle of the Turkmen desert to getting there with a local in his 4×4, made this an incredible journey.
CONQUERING THE WORLD’S SECOND HIGHEST ROAD
The Pamir Highway or M41 is the second highest road in the world, which goes from Osh, Kyrgyzstan to Dushanbe, Tajikistan. Most parts aren’t sealed, and if they are, they’re in a bad state. It goes straight through the Pamir mountain range, along with the borders of China, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. The views are fantastic, the local people are welcoming and always smiling, and it’s a really adventurous journey.
DRIVING THROUGH MONGOLIA WITH AN OLD LADA
With our little red Lada, we’ve made it to Mongolia, and it even survived its rough roads! The most unusual part about riding in Mongolia is that it starts with one road, and splits up into ten paths that all end up on one road again eventually. Riding your own vehicle in Mongolia gives a special feeling, and especially when you do it in an old Lada from 1989.
STAYING ON AN AUSTRALIAN FARM
We decided to do some house sitting in Australia because it was the perfect opportunity to find some work in the area. We ended up staying on a farm where we had to keep an eye on the owners’ dog, a few paddocks with cows and some sheep. Some of the cows got some calfs, and we even had to care for a little lamb that was rejected by its mother.
CAMPING ON A SECLUDED BEACH IN HONG KONG
Hong Kong is called a concrete jungle, with its tall buildings and thousands of small streets. But did you know that Hong Kong has some great beaches too? We hiked a whole day to Ham Tin Beach, where we camped on a secluded white sanded beach.
Here are 15 cool things you can do in Hong Kong if you’re on a budget.
GETTING SOAKED BY A HIDDEN BLOWHOLE ON LOMBOK
There’s a blowhole on the island of Lombok, but it was kind of hard to find… We hopped on our motorbike and heard it should be found along the cliffs close to Pink Beach. When we thought we’d found it, we waited and waited and waited, nothing happened, until… *WOOSH*, the water sprayed all over us!
WALKING ON AN UNCROWDED PART OF THE GREAT WALL OF CHINA
Most people that go to the Chinese Wall go with a big tour bus that heads to the touristic Mutianyu section. Luckily for us, we joined the ‘secret wall tour’ run by Leo Hostel. This was a small group tour that led us to the old remnants of the great wall. Because of this, we and a handful of other people could enjoy the great architecture and serenity of the surroundings.
EXPLORING VIETNAM & CAMBODIA WITH OUR OWN MOTORBIKE
In Hanoi, we bought a motorbike, put a pair of luggage racks on the sides and started exploring the whole country, from the north all the way to the south, and all around Cambodia. We eventually sold the bike in Saigon after two months driving.
CLIMBING MOUNT HUA SHAN
This isn’t just a regular hike, the climb to the top of Mount Hua Shan is also called ‘the world’s most dangerous hike’. It’s known for its vertical ladders, steep drops, and Via Ferratas!
SEEING THE MAGNIFICENT SUNRISE AT ANGKOR WAT
A visit to Angkor Wat is mandatory when you’re in Cambodia. Together with hundreds of other tourists that got out of bed at 3 am at night to see the sunrise, we were waiting till the sun came up. What first looked like a cloudy sky without much sun, soon became one of the most beautiful sunrises we’ve ever witnessed!
SWIMMING WITH PLANKTON
Swimming with the bioluminescent plankton on Koh Rong was a wonderful experience. They are abundant in the warm waters around the island, but you just couldn’t see them everywhere. We went to Long Beach -where it’s completely dark at night-, hopped into the water and started moving with our arms and legs. Suddenly we were surrounded by thousands of little blue lights in the water.
EATING A FRESHLY CAUGHT KAMPOT PEPPER CRAB
If there’s one dish that we won’t forget very quickly, then it would most definitely be the Kampot Pepper Crab we ate in Kep! The Kampot Pepper is a truly delicious green pepper, which is used in the most expensive restaurants around the world. We ate a freshly caught crab (the owner went into the water to get the crab out of the fishing net) for less than $10!
BEING AT BOROBUDUR BEFORE THE CROWDS
Borobudur is a little bit the Angkor Wat of Java. This temple complex is the largest Buddhist monument in the world. We were standing at the front gate before it even opened so were with the first that got in. Most tourists arrive with the tours around 10 am, so witnessing the temple at the break of dawn was a beautiful sight.
CELEBRATING NEW YEAR’S EVE IN HO CHI MINH CITY
We celebrated our last night of 2016 in a very different way than we would do in Belgium. In Belgium, we would just countdown at a friend’s place and head down to the club afterward. In Vietnam, we came together on a square with thousands of other Vietnamese and expats to party and countdown towards 2017. After that, we ended up on a party on the top floor of an abandoned building.
SEEING WHALES IN THE WILD
The coast of Western Australia has one of the longest whale-watching seasons in the world. For Myrthe’s birthday, we decided to do a whale watching tour on a catamaran in Albany. During this 3-hour tour, we saw multiple whales with their babies swimming past on just a couple of meters from the boat.
BOTTLE FEEDING A LAMB
During our house sitting on a farm in Australia, a newborn lamb was rejected by its mother. After trying to reunite them multiple times without success, we decided to save it from starvation and hypothermia. We bottle fed the little one for a whole week until the owners came back home.
BEING INVITED ON A WEDDING PARTY IN VIETNAM
During our stay in Hoi An, there was a wedding party planned at our guesthouse. We were there for two weeks already, and the owners invited us to join in on the party. That evening involved in a lot of beer drinking and singing karaoke.
HITCHHIKING THROUGH THAILAND
Most travelers would never think about hitchhiking in Thailand, or any other Asian country. But by hitchhiking through the country, we got to meet so many friendly locals that we otherwise would never meet. It gave us a lot of cool experiences and we are still in contact with two guys that gave us a lift for 10 hours.
BATHING IN A NATURAL HOT SPRING DURING SUNRISE
We woke up at 6 am and took our motorbike for a 30-minute ride to a hidden natural hot spring in the mountains of Pai. We had the hot springs completely for ourselves! Relaxing in that hot water while the sun was coming up from behind the hills was a special experience.
HAVING A DRINK ON A HELIPAD ON THE 34TH FLOOR
We met up with our friends Remy & Lena in Kuala Lumpur, who were backpacking around Malaysia and Thailand for a month, and decided to go to a bar on the 34th floor. When heading up the stairs, you end up on the roof, which was actually a heli pad. It’s still even in use!
BEING INVITED FOR LUNCH IN A HOUSE OF THE HMONG HILL TRIBE
Being invited into someone’s home if you don’t really know them is always a bit special. And especially when it’s with other cultures. It gives a unique way on seeing how other people live. When we were driving our motorbike while exploring the hills around Sapa, we ended up in a small village of the Hmong hill tribe. One of the women that sat outside, weaving traditional clothing, invited us inside and offered us tea and lunch!
LOOKING INSIDE AN ACTIVE VOLCANO
Also on Java, we got up in the middle of the night to start the hike in the hope to see the sunset behind Mount Bromo, Indonesia’s most iconic active volcano. Unfortunately, it was too foggy because of the rainy weather. Afterwards, we walked all the way towards the volcano over the sea of sand. We were there all alone because all the tourists make the trip with a tour in a jeep. Standing on the edge of the volcano, looking into that big hole and seeing the white smoke and activity inside, was really cool!
LIVING THE VANLIFE
If you want to travel around Australia comfortable and still pretty cheap, having a van is almost mandatory to tackle the endless roads in the outback. We’re living in our van on this very moment, and it’s really great!
EATING STRANGE STREET FOOD IN CHINA
Eating street food has always been our favorite thing to do in another countries. It brings you one step closer to the local culture and how the locals eat. Everyone knows that the Chinese have a weird eating habit, and we were curious about tasting some of them. We tried some scorpions, dog, a strange squid dish, and a lot more weird dishes.
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