Into Africa

Actually we were thinking about the Toto song… heheh. But then today’s post is really about this giant continent. If one reads our travel handprints page, one might notice that of all the continents (save Antarctica), we’ve hardly touched this one. So it is now with resolve (not a new year’s resolution) that we seek to journey into the continent.

And honestly this is a really diverse continent. From the deserts of the north (Sahara) to the savannah, from lush settings of primary forests to harsh mountain ranges, it has them all. Plus the cultures. Soooo distinct that it defies imagination.

We have friends in South Africa. And for years they had asked for us to visit, to see their beautiful country. Unfortunately one of them passed on a few years back and we regret not having met up with him. Though we might not look like it (heheh), you know you are getting a little on age when you have friends who moved on.

Anyway.

When one talks about Africa, safaris spring to mind. And having read Megan (ESL ventures) and Senja (beatravelling), we got inspired to commence a plan to find our way to Africa. Notice we said ‘find our way’… not ‘a way’…. Because we have concluded some very specific things we want to do and places we want to touch. So what will it be?

With limited time (what’s new), we can only plan a two week journey on each occasion. And we are hoping to exclude flying in and out from the equation. Where do we designate to start? Why the place where we were to meet our friends! That will be good ole Jo’burg… Will we commence it with a tour and then run on our own? Hmm, those are the options.

With so much ideas coming from the ladies who already did the work for us, we can afford to pick and choose. Africa. Bring it on!

Searching a way to Mexico

Two years ago when we first started this blog, we wrote about a dream journey to Mexico (here). We said that if we make that journey, we would be focused on the pyramidal structures constructed by the Mayans and Aztecs. But then in the past 24 months as we continued our research and crafting of an itinerary, our views have changed.

Mexico is not just the land of the Aztecs or Mayans, it is also an eclectic culture of Spanish and local traditions. In a way we had experienced some of that back in our journey to Peru (here), though it also stands unique on its own. That is an example of what we want to see in a country.

And this time we’ve learnt our lesson. We shall not pack all of the journey into two short weeks like we did in Peru and Chile. Because when you only see snippets it makes you want to return. Darn it means budget constraints again… so it would be best to ‘get it over with’. This will be just 3 weeks solely on Mexico. And already that is not quite enough we hear some of you whisper…

Yes we know that.

But as folks who need to work for a living (not living to work heheh), there will be limits to how long we can be away from our jobs without losing it… So here’s to our dream of placing our handprints on Mexico.

We are adamant about getting to Mexico. Have you been there? What would you recommend?

The Caucasus. Could that be next for us?

Recently (well 3 months back), a friend of ours got on a 3-week journey across Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia. You cannot imagine the amount of ‘jealousy’ (heheh) we had when we heard about that. First things that came into our mind was : “oooh it would have been wonderful to get around with your own group of friends“, “why did you not rope us in?“…

So why didn’t she?

For one reason it was a religious group. So we were reticent about joining and she knew that. Second we are completely spent bankie-wise… and thirdly, we are in the midst of a lot of work – officewise and lack of vacation leave days… Thus, the reason we were left drooling over what could have been. Don’t you have those feeling too sometimes?

But let’s get back to the matter at hand. In recent months we’ve heard and read ever so often about red dotters who have been to the Caucasus. And independently too! Now the length of time they spent across the various countries differed, they showed us how ‘old’ we’ve become… whatever happened to that youthful sense of excitement over adventure to get out there?

Shall we consider to take a plane into Baku and then map out a way to Yerevan from there? Or do we need to have detailed plans on the mode of transportation, accommodations and sights prepared before we embark? Lots of questions today. But as you might know (from our past posts) when we blog about it, we mostly actually will do it.

Have you been to the Caucasus countries before? How did you plan you journey?

Cruising with a train

Not the orient express.

We refer, instead to the train service between Tokyo and Hokkaido. It has always been our intent to revisit Hokkaido without flying. The dream was to take a train to Sapporo and pick up the rental and drive all around, especially in summer. Thus we had been doing quite some research into how we will pull this off.

And we picked up news of this luxurious service that will run the length of Tokyo to the northern most island of the Japanese archipelago. Started since 1-May this year, this new sleeper service (read here) is the epitome of luxury ‘cruising’. Like its cousins in the airline industry, the railway folks are also upping their game. From the article, it would appear there is no shortage of folks who would lap it up. Oversubscribed 76 times when balloted for its first ever journey, it has continued to be popular we understand.

However, take a read about the cost of making this journey first before making a decision to book a pair of tickets. At ¥320,000pp a pop for the train ride (twin share), this could be the cost of an entire travel journey for most people. And meals are not included! Oh the experiences that only money seem to buy… Perhaps we can work part-time on the train, or be stowaways? Sounds like a lot of working on the railroad. All the life long day!

How would you like to pass your time away on this train?

This is not just a ‘Bearen’ place

Just leafing through one of the editions of NatGeo travel magazine some months back, we came across the ‘expeditions‘ planned to the polar region. One in particular caught our eye : the one that covers Svalbard, Iceland, and Greenland’s East Coast.

Coming in at US$14,950pp for the lowest category (of cabin), these journeys are led by a NatGeo expert who Svalbard NatGeo Expeditionworks with the ship’s experienced captain to chart a course for the voyage. You will be in safe hands!

In particular, our interest was piqued by the stop at Svalbard, kingdom of the polar bears. There you can seek an audience with the monarch of the bears provided they are not in hibernation… Seriously, in the capital Longyearbyen, one never venture out of town without your guide who has a loaded rifle cocked at all times for use.

Because in a “Bearen” place like that, one could become bear fodder in an instant. It would be an ignominious way to add to the statistic of chewed up tourists. Ponder that.

We plucked the following from the website:

  • Explore Arctic Svalbard, the polar bear capital of the planet, to observe these majestic creatures in their natural habitat, on the sea ice. Got that.
  • Navigate the arctic wilderness of the Greenland Sea to Iceland’s wild western coast, with expert naturalists and a fully equipped expedition ship—making multiple stops en route completely dependent on ice, wildlife and weather conditions. Ok sounds like fun.
  • Watch for huge walruses, whales, and reindeer, and spot rich birdlife. Woah… Wunderbar!
  • Glide between soaring ice floes, exploring via ship, Zodiac, and kayak. Now that’s super!

Sounds so exciting. Time to save up for it.

Nope, not the average expedition ship where you pay to work… heheh. But no dancers performing evening shows either. Now you know why we categorize this post under “Sweet Dreams are made of these”. Aside from the fact it’s the title of an Eurythmics song.

Obvious question, will you go on this journey if you have the means to do so?

The annual pilgrimage has begun

We are not overly religious just in case you wonder. But you see this word ‘pilgrimage’ aptly describes what we’re about to do. We are once again on a journey to the land of the rising sun. Our annual road trip will begin soon!

But first, Mel will need to pound the corporate floorboard. And while he’s busy doing that, Suan will be setting herself upon the city’s shopping. Look out Tokyo shopping, here comes HRH Suan!

This pilgrimage will take us to the northern coast of Japan.


Toyama (富山市), ~300km northwest from Tokyo will be our base.

Tateyama snowall19
Go there in April!

It will be approximately 2 hours+ of a Shinkansen ride to/from this city on the sea of Japan. We will be making our road trip all along the coast, staying in ryokan onsens. Yes, naked hot baths again! Heheh… If you are wondering, nooooo we are not nudists. Just to clarify.

The last time we came close to Toyama was when we visited the ice walls of Tateyama. We could have continued onto Toyama from the mountain, but that would mean leaving our car behind in Omachi! So, this is in a way, a continuation of that journey.


This will be another epic road trip for us. The day light will be short and the roads fester with snow. However the distances we have chosen this time are short and we’ll have plenty of time to spend at each of our road trip stops.

A journalog cometh soon. Look out for it!