It’s one of the phrases I’ve heard the most since my arrival on Belgian soil. It’s a really tough request because where do I start…Those 8 months on the road have passed in what seemed like a blink of an eye. But on the other hand we have seen and done so much that our first week in Africa in October seems ages ago. We would like to use this last post of this trip to look back at some of the many highs of the past 8 months and talk a bit about a number of things that have really struck us. Continue reading
More than 7 years ago in January 2006, my first attempt to travel around the world really started in Thailand and Bangkok. It seemed nice to end my second attempt in the same city. Come ‘full circle and all that…but also returning to my favourite Asian city. I remember back then arriving in Bangkok was a bit like landing on the moon. The humidity, the heat, the noise, the traffic it was all so overwhelming. It was the absolute peak season in Thailand and I was searching for a place to stay for ages. I eventually ended up in some ‘dive’ (crap hotel) surrounded by the biggest ‘white trash’ tourists one can imagine. Despite all that, I immediately fell in love with the super friendly and welcoming Thai people. During the next 4-5 months travelling in South East Asia (SEA), Bangkok (BKK) was often the hub to get from one place to the other (to and from Burma, to Laos, from Cambodia, to the islands of the south) and it became my ‘home away from home’. Continue reading
There was no way that I would finish this world trip without a visit to the foreign continent where I have travelled the most. I spent 5 months there on my 2006 trip and returned nearly every year since then. Home to some of the nicest people in the world and definitely the best food. You probably guessed it, I’m talking about Asia. As we were flying from Australia to Europe a stop in one of the countries of South East Asia is almost mandatory. A look on the map and a quick calculation of the remaining miles on our ‘round the world’ ticket gave us a couple of options. Eventually we chose to fly to the Philippines, the one country in South East Asia (SEA), I had not visited yet. Continue reading
Hands up everybody who can place the islands of Vanuatu on the map or who can tell us why one should go there. Don’t worry if you can’t. Until about a year ago, the only thing I knew about it was that it was not too far from Fiji and that they had some rather bizarre ‘religions/cults’ there. Vanuatu wasn’t on our itinerary until about a couple of months before we left. While finalizing the travel plan, I was going through a book that I had gotten from a friend (thanks Annelies!) some years ago. This interesting ‘where to travel and when’ book lists for every month of the year the best places to visit based on climate and special events. For April or May one of the highlights was Vanuatu. The major event taking place in Vanuatu at that time are the ‘Naghol’ aka ‘land divers’ aka ‘the authentic bungee jumping’. As we were more or less ‘in the neighbourhood’ around that time, we decided to make a side trip from Australia. It would turn out to be one crazy week with much more than only the ‘land divers’ Continue reading
While in Europe spring is finally bringing the first warm days, here on the Southern hemisphere, autumn has arrived. Even though we got much more sun here than we would during an average summer in Belgium, the days are shortening fast and at night the temperatures fall quickly. The colours in the woods are amazing and on the top of the mountains the first snow has arrived. By half May a lot of roads will start to close due to snow or avalanche danger. By June the skiing season will be kicked off all around the country. Everybody is now preparing for winter. For us it was a very strange feeling. We noticed that we also started to mentally prepare for winter, cold and darkness. We started thinking about and planning those activities (like skiing) that make winter a bit more bearable, only to realize that we will soon be in Europe again for summer. It really messes with your head
When people used to ask me what my favourite country was I always told them that I love different places for different reasons but that the most beautiful country is New Zealand. But as memories faded and new places (Himalaya, Patagonia, etc.) were visited, Kiwi land got some serious competition. But in just 3 weeks NZ managed to claim back its spot at the top hands down. The variety of different landscapes in this country is really incredible. From pristine beaches and bays, lush green hills, desert like plateaus to volcanoes, glaciers, fjords and other alpine scenery; NZ has it all on such a small surface. It seems like mother nature has combined all her forces on the land to make it look as beautiful as possible; volcanic activity on the North Island to create volcanoes and geysers; tectonics to push up mountain ranges on the South Island; the full forces of the ocean from all sides to form bays and beaches; and a couple of ice ages to build glaciers that would carve out the fjords. Continue reading
Nearly seven years ago I visited New Zealand for the first time. In a bit less than a month I travelled all around the country on both North and South Islands. A month may seem like a long time but it is not nearly long enough to see the whole of New Zealand (NZ). To everyone planning to go there, I would suggest to foresee at least 1,5 month: three weeks for the North and four weeks for the South Island. If not you will probably end up like me rushing through the country and constantly making mental notes “I have to come back here to do this and there to do that”. The reason why I chose to come back to NZ on this trip was precisely that: filling in the gaps, doing those things I didn’t get to do last time. With only 3 weeks and a pretty long list we would need to be quick and flexible.
“Jacques Brel s’en va aux Marquises” . It was one of the lines printed on a t shirt I received from my father for my 14th birthday. It was one of those shirts with a number of main events that happened in the year of one’s birth. Freely translated it means something like “Jacques Brel is leaving us at the Marquises”. In 1978 the famous Belgian singer died and was buried on the Marquesas islands. At the time I didn’t like that present at all mainly because it was in French and thanks to a not so great French teacher, I really hated that language. But a little older and a little wiser, a couple of years later I found back the shirt and got intrigued about this place where our national icon Brel spent his last years. I looked up what these Marquesas were like and it seemed like an interesting place. Something to visit some day…
As we arrived in Tahiti, I realized this the furthest I have ever been away from home. It is actually about as far away as one can get from Europe. If we fly any further westward we will be closing in on Belgium from the east. So why would anybody want to travel that far to visit some small islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean? I suggest you google ‘Bora Bora’ and choose ‘images’. A number of gorgeous pictures of a lush green island surrounded by a lagoon in all diffent shades of blue; from turquoise, over indigo to navy blue. It does look like paradise doesn’t it? Most budget travellers that come here only spent a couple of days on the main Island of Tahiti and or the neighbouring Mo’orea, tick the box for ‘French Polynesia’ on their ‘travel CV’ and quickly hop back on a plane that will take them to either New Zealand, Australia or Chile/Easter Island. Why this rush? This has all to do with the reputation of French Polynesia of being a ‘high end’, ‘super expensive’ destination.
As a kid I once saw a picture of one of the huge Easter Island statues and I got really intrigued. The picture was part of a scientific article dealing with all the mysteries surrounding the island, its people and the statues. I remember my mom made a summary of the article but unfortunately, I had a lot more questions than there were answers in the article. When some time later I saw those intriguing statues appear again in my then favourite Belgian comic book (Suske & Wiske: De Windbrekers), I decided that someday I would travel to the island to find some answers. A look in my world atlas slightly tempered my enthusiasm as this little island seemed to be a bit further away than let’s say Switzerland where we spent our summer holidays and which already seemed to take ages to get to. But some day… Continue reading