Sunday, September 25, 2011

the big trip wrap up:

Wow, I can't believe it's all over! So here it goes, our attempt at a whole trip wrap up!
We both agree that this trip is probably the best thing we have ever done since getting married. We have no regrets at all, and would leave tonight and do it all over again if we could.
The aim was for both of us to have a bit of a break, get re-inspired, have an adventure and most importantly have lots of fun. The trip met all of these and more. We experienced and saw places we had always dreamt about, met new and amazing people, ate and drank and ate all sorts of incredible delights and, of course, experienced intriguing and exciting cultures first hand.

If you are thinking of doing a bigger trip (or any sort of trip for that matter), we can't urge you enough to go and do it! You'll have no regrets whatsoever. Promise.

where we went

























did everything go to plan?
Pretty much everything went smoothly, but there will always be little hiccups along the way - that's just part of the whole experience. We originally planned to visit Syria and Kazakhstan too, however it was too dangerous for us to visit Syria and we didn't get enough time in the end to visit Kazakhstan. We also had a brief hospital visit in Jordan to fix up some bites we received and which got infected, but nothing major other than that. We felt completely safe 99% of the time. Looking back on our travels, its pretty incredible how everything fell into place and we got where we wanted without any major issues.

at the Red Sea - that little bandage on Andy's knee stopped us swimming for three days! (you can't see mine)

is there anything we would we do differently next time?
We wouldn't change much except take a few items that would have been handy or fun. We loved EVERY country we visited, and would seriously do the same itinerary again!

A few things we would take next time:
  • a portable printer, so we can print and give people the portraits we took
  • Andrew would take a skateboard
  • more money!
Oh, and we would go for longer!

Kashgar, China




where will we travel to next?
As Andrew is a keen surfer, and with there being no surf whatsoever on this trip, I have promised the next trip will involve surf.
So a few options include Indonesia, East Timor or Central America.

But we're super keen to visit West Africa (especially Mali), India, Sri Lanka and Iran. So who knows...
Philippines




our top five's :
In no particular order, here are a few of our highlights...

gemma

countries:

  • Lebanon - the people, the food, the architecture, the shopping, the list goes on... I can't wait to go back!
  • Uzbekistan - a mixture of the beautiful architecture, bazaars filled with stunning textiles, it's silk road history and the hospitality made this country unforgettable.
  • Kyrgyzstan - I fell in love with epic landscape and nomadic way of life. Being able to stay in a yurt was also I dream come true.
  • Turkey - Such a great combination of culture, history, landscape, sea, food, shopping and super friendly people.
  • Philippines - Palawan is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been! Incredibly beautiful. Would love to go back and explore of the Philippnes 7000 islands.
Beirut, Lebanon



cities:

  • Beirut, Lebanon - loved the shops, architecture the food and this is where we met some of the friendliest people ever.
  • Kashgar, China - a dream come true to visit this city. When in the Old Town I didn't want to leave. It was magical.
  • Bukhara, Uzbekistan - when in Bukhara it felt like we had gone back in time, with the incredible architecture that was hundreds and hundreds of years old. It is a beautiful town with same amazing shopping too.
  • Beijing, China - a bit of a surprise, but we had so much fun in this city. An amazing mixture of the historical old and futuristic new.
  • Istanbul, Turkey - when you see that skyline at dusk, with the call to prayer sounding in the background, it sends chills down your spine.






meals:
dumpling soup, China





moments:
where we slept under the stars, Philippines





shopping:

  • Panjiayuan antique markets, China - we spent hours here trawling through all the amazing wares for sale. Great shopping!
  • Saifi village, Lebanon - Some of the coolest boutiques and fashion we saw on the trip. Wish we had more money!
  • Bukhara bazaars, Uzbekistan - Uzbek suzanis, ceramics, jewellery, antiques and carpets from all over the country were all on sale here. 
  • Istanbul, Turkey - even though it's a tourist haunt, the grand + spice bazaars are so much fun exploring and are a must visit.
  • Kochkor, Kyrgyzstan - felt heaven!

Bukhara shopping






landscape:
Kyrgyzstan


architecture:
Petra, Jordan


worst experiences:
  • breaking down in 45+ degree heat in the Talamakan desert, China
  • not being able to swim for three days while staying on the Red Sea due to our infected bites
  • being stuck on the Chinese/Kyrgyzstan border for over six hours
  • Manila Airport 
  • being stuck in a taxi hurtling along the wrong side of the road at 140km/h while the driver is falling asleep (and no seat belts!)
melted road, western China



























andrew


countries:

  •  Egypt it has been a life long dream to visit one of the first civilisations and it did not disappoint. Far better than all the hype, visit everything you can if you do decide to visit, monumental architecture at its best. 
  • Lebanon such a beautiful and varied country that has everything. Amazing culture, coastline and historical ruins. This county sported some of the friendliest and welcoming people we encountered on our travels. 
  • Philippines amazing marine life, perfect water and air temperatures for enjoying and exploring the islands.
  • Uzbekistan - such a great place to experience an amazing history and culture, we felt so welcome. Great architecture, and great to see the restoration efforts as well.
  • Turkey - fish sandwiches, baklava, and of course Turkish delight. Well that is the food but the country has so much variety, a real highlight was visiting the holy city of Urfa -  some of the best and effective public space I have seen. 

Karnak, Egypt





cities:

  • Beirut, Lebanon such a contemporary city, amazing restaurants and food, cool shops. There was an optimistic feeling to the whole city. 
  • Beijing, China had a great mix of old and new parts to the city , I really loved wandering around the hutong areas in particular.
  • Cairo, Egypt - Our amazing guide Mohammed made this experience so much fuller, we came away understanding not just the history of the ancient culture, but modern day Egypt, too. 
  • Bukhara, Uzbekistanjust really loved the heat (40 plus), you had to pick your times to enjoy the beautiful architecture but was really fun.
  • Urfa, Turkey such a cool city we really both wished we could have spent more time here. The stonework was so refined and had an amazing lightness, this was combined with really functional public space. The place just had a really peaceful and serene feeling.
Beijing




meals:

  • La chef - Beirut, Lebanon (best hummus ever , but they wouldn't even give me the recipe)
  • Seza - Beirut, Lebanon
  • Tawlet - Beirut, Lebanon
  • Food a Sawa Camp - Nuweiba, Egypt
  • Any food in China with Sichuan pepper - China

that hummus





moments:
  • Seeing a sea turtle in Palawan, Philippines 
  • The amazing architecture in Uzbekistan 
  • The amazingly friendly people in Lebanon helping us experience their lovely country
  • Seeing the sights in Egypt, fulfilling bit of a life long dream
  • Visiting Istanbul on the last leg of our journey, it was a nice was to finish our travels from where we started
Lebanon


























shopping:
  • The antique market China
  • Beruit boutiques (this is where we wish we had more money)
  • Watching Gemma get swamped by ladies in the Uzbek bazaars
Panjiayuan antique markets, Beijing




landscape:
  • driving down the Karakorum highway in China 
  • the grasslands of Xiahe, China
  • seeing the glaciers in the Pamir mountain range
  • the Nile, Egypt
  • the Dead Sea, Jordan/Israel
the Dead Sea

architecture:

  • the blue mosque in Istanbul, Turkey 
  • Karnak ruins,  Egypt 
  • the Shah-Zinda lane ways and mausoleums in Samarkand, Uzbekistan 
  • Rem Koolhaas's CCTV building in Beijing, China
  • Baalbek, Lebanon
the Blue Mosque, Istanbul

worst experiences:
see Gemma's  : )  exact same.
The taxi ride where I had to spend the whole time making sure the driver didn't fall asleep was pretty bad. 

Next: a post dedicated to all the incredible people we met, a gear post and some photography tips



8 comments:

  1. Best travel blog ever. Don't think you know how unique and descriptive it has been!

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  2. Wow, I just found you blog from - From India. With Love. - and i have soo much catching up to do! I'm super excited! Beautiful blog, gorgeous couple, excellent pictures, and unique places!!!

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  3. Wow, congrats you two! I can't believe that it's all over... it goes by quickly, doesn't it? It was great fun following your trip, can't wait to see what's next!

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  4. I have only just discovered you today from a mention on Design Files (I think!). It looks like you have had an amazing time and I look forward to reading back through your adventures! I also am glad to have discovered another great fellow Aussie blog. Yay!

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  5. So stunning!!! I have wanted to travel through the Middle East ever since seeing my cousins photographs a few years ago. Your photos are so amazing, I cannot wait to see the sights myself!

    I've spent a few months in Central America - I would highly recommend it for your next trip! There are such interesting rich colours, history and landscapes - just waiting for you to capture! Plus it's super cheap living and good surf too!

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  6. Wow. I've just absolutely loved reading along with your adventures and seeing your beautiful photographs. Thanks to you I'm now very intrigued y the possibility of visiting some of the, as I call them, 'stan' countries - particularly uzbekistan - those textiles????? GORGEOUS!

    seriously can't believe your trip has ended. i hope you do something great with all of the photographs - like create a coffee table book!

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