Monthly Archives: December 2012

Gili Air and Senggigi, Lombok

After 3 nights of being lulled to sleep by a chorus of “geckkkkkkkk-ooohhhhhh”, “geckkkkkkkk-oooohhhhh” we traded in our geckos (and kindly ceiling bat) in Amed for a rousing and intense chorus of “COCK-A-DOODLE DOOOOO” at 4:30am. We left Amed via Amed Sea Express which I “recommend”  if you want to have a 45 minute heart attack and then later feel sheepish about being that scared. Sure, we arrived safely. They had life jackets, used GPS, and had safety radios. However, a 19-year-old was driving our  20 passenger speedboat making an open ocean crossing, so it’s bound to be bumpy and a little panic-inducing. During our journey, you could tell who had read about this company and who were sitting in their seats enjoying the ocean spray.

With Bali behind us (much to Dave’s delight) we arrived on Gili Air and immediately had large beers with lunch which was a) NOT nasi goreng (HOORAY!!!!) and b) at Freedom Beach Bar, which became our happy hour spot of choice on the island. Every day (a few times a day, even) we greeted the owner with his guitar with a smile as we walked past.

Dave spent a lot of time in the hammock

Dave spent a lot of time in the hammock

We stayed at Coconut Cottages in one of their Jasmine cottages. It was a bit dark, and the salt water showers got old after a few days, but Kamil the owner was an affable, kind guy who was fun to chat with. A long-time resident of Gili Air (he said he arrived when he was 9 and spent his childhood and adolescence hanging out with Australian surfers) he was also a healer. He treated me for “stress” by having me sit down in the lobby with my eyes closed. He put his thumb on my forehead and then began to wiggle it in a tiny circle for about 2 minutes. It got VERY hot and after he was done he told me that the heat was stress releasing. He also said I needed more treatments. It had helped him overcome his shyness, he said. It’s hard to imagine him as a shy guy. He also made me a shell necklace which I wore the entire time we were there.

Dave liked this guy's strut.

Dave liked this guy’s strut.

Coconuts was right on a village in the island and a coconut plantation. Chickens ran around everywhere (the roosters were CRAZY loud) and there was a rumored Komodo dragon on the premises but I was actively avoiding him.

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Gili Air was like nowhere we’d ever been before. There are no vehicles on the island — only bicycles and cidomo (horse carts which had a vaguely Guatemalan flair).  You can walk around the Island in just over an hour and the place is just chill beyond belief.

OEvery day we’d wake up, have breakfast in the cafe, and then Kat would go to yoga at H2O Meditation Centre (REALLY loved this place — very friendly, great easygoing vinyasa classes suited to a variety of levels, and excellent instructors) and Dave would hang out in the hammock. Then we’d get ready for the beach, pick up some snorkeling gear, and eat lunch with our toes in the sand. We’d beach until about 5 and then head home to shower and then head back out for happy hour/dinner. We’d be asleep by 10:30 and ready to it all over again the next day.

Poor Dave couldn’t snorkel, really– glasses got in the way of a mask. I hadn’t really snorkeled before and was blown away by what I saw. The water in the Gilis is so clear, so warm, and so blue you can see EVERYTHING. I saw the whole cast of characters from Finding Nemo (mostly Dories!) and even saw a HUGE sea turtle. I would swim around and then find my way back to Dave and tell him about all the things I saw. He is really over me talking about that sea turtle but it was CRAZY to see it like, 5 feet from people swimming and munching around on the coral reefs.

We were ready to head out after 6 days on Gili Air, though. It was super fun but we were ready for some more comfort — and a hot, freshwater shower. We took the “shuttle bus/ferry” you see advertised all over the island which was arranged by our guesthouse. It was a decidedly “Asian” experience.

We arranged for a cidomo to the port. Then we boarded a wooden boat with an attachable motor which took us to Bangsal, Lombok. What was never explained to us is where to get the bus. There is a bus station, but it was about half a kilometer from the port. We were directed by a police officer (after shaking free from a variety of scammers) to a cafe which we did not like the looks of. We refused to buy food/drink which irritated the whole cafe who spent 30 minutes staring at us and smoking cigarettes. One dude came to chat with us but I didn’t really trust his intentions. Finally, a shady dude in a beat up van picked us up drove us about an hour to the Sheraton, Senggigi. That’s right, after our adventures in beaches and relaxation, we retreated into luxury for one night at Lombok’s only five star resort. We spent a whole day online catching up on 8 days worth of internets, taking hot freshwater showers every hour on the hour, and slept like rocks instead of beaching it or hitting their nice pool.

Then we took a car to the brand new Lombok airport which was about an hours’ drive from Senggigi beach. There isn’t much about this new airport online – flights are mostly domestic and only serve Kuala Lumpur and Singapore internationally. When our car pulled up we were overwhelmed — hundreds of people were outside camped out selling things. We had to say no to about 20 “porters”. We couldn’t find the check-in counters! It was more like a train station than an airport. There were tons of sales counters outside and a guard asking for “tickets” where we could see bag drop off. After a little walking around and a coffee inside a shop with a door to keep the fray at bay we figured out you just show the guard your itinerary and then you can proceed to check in. Add plenty of time when you fly through here — no one is in a hurry. Check in lines were 20 minutes, customs lines were 20 minutes. The only short line was for the departure taxes (which are 100,000 IDR per person for international flights). The airport has four gates and once you are through check in there is a food court, indiomart, and a few other stalls so don’t think outside is your only food option. Also get used to Indonesians not being sure about how to properly wait in a line or to listen to any flight attendant instructions. Once we hit the ground in KL, half our plane was up and getting their bags. The crew had to get up and get them all to sit down again.

We write this from Melaka, Malaysia. Happy Holidays! We’re back to KL for New Years and then off to the Cameron Highlands and Penang!

 

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Off the Grid in Amed — 3 nights on Aas beach

After 4 nights in Seminyak and 4 nights in Ubud, we were off the grid entirely while on the sleepy northeastern shore of Bali on Aas beach near Amed. Staying at Meditasi bungalows where Elizabeth Gilbert of “Eat, Pray, Love” fame pronounced this low-key and low-maintenance hotel the most romantic place ever. I rolled my eyes at this testimonial but amid the frangipani and hibiscus bushes its hard not to agree. The legendary Smiling Buddha runs a hilarious yet completely chilled out spot where signs proudly announce, “No TV, no Internet, no stress”.

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We read books, took naps, made a new friend from DC (hi Gabby!) and took (Kat, at least) Hatha yoga classes (but sat out headstands). There is nothing like shavasana listening to the waves knowing that you are going to walk 10 feet back to your room, take a cold shower (no hot water here!) and march right back to the main pavilion for happy hour.

Eat, pray, love missed key priorities like “Eat, beer, mango lassi” or even “eat, wonder what your friends are doing today, laundry”. Kat was into it and was ready to sing kum bai yah and dreadlock her hair. Dave was going to murder someone if there wasn’t some internet in his life soon. Smiling Buddha was just smoking cloves and asking us to come back when we had a baby. We laughed nervously and jumped into a car which took us to the scariest 40 minutes on the water that either of us has ever experienced but that’s a story for tomorrow.

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Since we didn’t do anything really of note except relax, read, swim and eat, here are Facebook status updates / tweets I would have sent if we were within 3G network coverage:

Note to self, outdoor bathrooms in Bali– while beautiful– are unlike the novelty of an outdoor shower down the shore #shavedmylegsbyflashlight ”

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Oh– is this why we call geckos, ‘geckos’?” during a chorus of weird Stephen Hawkings-sounding “gekkkkkkk-oh, gekkkkkkkkk-oh, gekkkkk-oh” cries

Yes, that was a lizard that ran out of the closet and out onto the porch #baliproblems

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Just read the worst book ever, “Bergdorf Blondes”, by Plum Sykes. It was awesome. #guesthhouselendinglibrary

Watching a lightening storm miles away at sea #iendrighthere

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New least favorite insect– those stupid flies that come out after the rains — #gross

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGetting there:

we were lazy and hired a car for the day. It was about $45USD for the drive and part of that was the “eh, whatever” factor.

We ate all of our meals at the Smiling Buddha restaurant and averaged about $30/day there.

We paid $30/night for our bungalow with cold water only.

Hatha yoga classes were 100,000 IDR and included some laughing yoga which was new and suuuuuper crunchy of me.

Indonesia Part I — Bali (Seminyak & Ubud)

Hello from Senggigi, Indonesia on Lombok Island. We spent the past 16 days trekking through Bali and Gili Air Indonesia. During a large part of that time we had no internet connection whatsoever, so the next few posts were written several days ago but will be posted now. Tomorrow we fly to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia where I assume the internets will be fast and plentiful. So, please to enjoy the first of our Indonesia posts below:

We didn’t really know much about Bali before we came. To be honest, after two weeks on the island, I’m not sure I know much about it even now. I know even less about Indonesia as a whole. Going to Bali and saying you’ve been to Indonesia is basically like saying you’ve gone to Hawaii so you’ve seen America. The people and the religion on Bali are different (Balinese are almost entirely Hindu, whereas Indonesia is Muslim). This difference manifests itself in untold numbers of ways and permeates daily life. Making matters more difficult is that fact that Balinese Hinduism shares some of the larger elements of Indian Hinduism, but a great deal of the major elements of it differ greatly from that of India’s, having been infused with centuries of local customs and traditions. So, in conclusion, Bali is a land of contrasts. Thank you.

Little offerings to the gods like this are literally outside of every store, restaurant, gas station and house. People make new ones every morning.

Little offerings to the gods are literally outside of every store, restaurant, gas station and house. People make new ones every morning. Gods, apparently, enjoy rice, flowers, incense and cigarettes.

We went straight from the airport to Seminyak, an upscale beach town and we checked into our lovely guesthouse where we quickly made friends with other guests and the owners. Bali was the first time either Kat or I have been below the equator and literally the first thing we did at our guesthouse was flush the toilet. I can confirm that, indeed, the water does go down the drain the other way here.

Seminyak is pretty much like any other beach town. Laid back vibe, strains of Bob Marley drifting in from beachside bars. Of course, this has its downside. Just a kilometer or two down the beach from Seminyak is Kuta, which can only be described as Australia’s Cancun. They come by the tens of thousands laying waste to the land. I like drinking and beaching as much as the next guy, but there’s a right way and a wrong way to do it. I can say that being a pasty Australian teenager in a Bintang tanktop walking down the street with a beer in hand and a conical hat on your head, yelling at locals is definitely the wrong way. It was interesting to be American here as the “ugly tourist” stereotype is an Australian, not an American. When told we were from America, Balinese typically had one of two reactions: 1) “Oh, America. Big country! Very far!” 2) “Oh, you know Obama? He my uncle!” Cue UPROARIOUS LAUGHTER. I will say that the Balinese people are a delight. Always quick with a smile and a laugh, there is an undeniable joy about them

We wiled away our days in Seminyak just lying on the beach, eating standard beachside tourist fare (typically Nasi Goreng or Mie goring – fried rice and fried noodles, about $3 per plate). For $2.50 per person you could rent beach chairs and umbrellas for the whole day. Seminyak beach is without a doubt the most beautiful I have ever seen. Wide, super fine sand, stretches on for miles. It was great and I was sad to leave.

Yeah, I guess this is an OK beach if warm water, clean sand and beautiful sunsets are your thing.

Yeah, I guess this is an OK beach if warm water, clean sand and beautiful sunsets are your thing.

 

Our next stop was Ubud, in the center of the Island. Since Eat, Pray, Love, which has for better or worse caused tourism to explode in Bali, Ubud has been the epicenter for middle-aged women looking to do yoga and achieve spiritual enlightenment. We thought Ubud would be a low key city but it actually was quite bustling with lots of fashion boutiques and cafes aimed at westerners. The place felt entirely inauthentic and at the same time entirely genuine in way that’s difficult to describe. The town seems to be 100% designed for westerners, but you still see Balinese engaging in local ceremonies and customs (of which there are many. There always seemed to be a cremation or a wedding or an infant’s birthday going on somewhere).

We were told there was good food to be had in Ubud, though we didn’t really find it – with one exception. Balinese are famous for roast suckling pig (called Babi Guling), slow-cooked on a spit so that the inside is moist and fall-off-the-bone juicy while the skin is a delicious crunchy crackling on the outside. However, this is only prepared for special ceremonies and you rarely see it on a menu. If you want it, you have to go to a place that specializes in it. We went to the place in Ubud that is known for their roast pig. In fact, that’s all they do. You walk in, sit down on the floor at long communal tables. You can order meat, skin, or meat and skin. Kat and I each went for the latter. Words can’t do it justice. It was amazing. Go eat it. Now.

You can't see the pork so well, but you CAN see Kat enjoying drinking coconut water out of a coconut. Woman goes bonkers for drinking out of a coconut.

You can’t see the pork so well, but you CAN see Kat enjoying drinking coconut water out of a coconut. Woman goes bonkers for drinking out of a coconut.

 

In Ubud we did some traditional touristy stuff. Saw some old temples and shrines, elbowing our way past Chinese tour groups. It was all quite interesting but with so little knowledge of the culture here I can’t say that I feel particularly enriched by the experience. One thing that did enrich me was when I watched Kat slip and fall into the holy fountain at Goa Gajah. That moment I will have forever.

Kat is posing like a boss here, mere seconds after  shrieking and falling into the water.  Everyone stared at us. It was awesome.

Kat is posing like a boss here, mere seconds after shrieking and falling into the water. Everyone stared at us. It was awesome.

 

From Ubud we drove 3 hours to Amed on the northeast coast of Bali for a few days of nothingness. No cellphone service, no internet, no TV. It feels like the edge of the Earth.

Overall, I like Bali but I’m ready to leave. It would be a wonderful place for a vacation or a honeymoon, but it is difficult to really get a sense for what it is to be Balinese and what everyday life is like for people here. I found the food to be generally mediocre (with the exception of that roast pig!) – but is this because the food really just isn’t all that good or because I was eating tourist fare? I asked our driver one day what he liked to eat and he paused and said, “Fruit.” Still, the beaches are lovely and the people are kind. Lacking great infrastructure, the island is bending under the weight of all the tourists that arrive here and you do feel a bit guilty about adding to that, but Bali is just too close to paradise to ignore.

Singapore! Now with Photos!

Singapore was exactly as I’d remembered it from 3 years ago. The pace was still frenetic, the food amazing and the rules OBEYED. The main thing that surprised me about Singapore was how omnipresent Christmas is. For a country that’s only 18% Christian, Christmas was in full effect — Singapore style.

Orchard Road, Singapore’s main shopping street (very much like Oxford Street in London) was fully decked out in lights. There were quite a few displays like this one:

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Still, though, it was difficult to get into the Christmas spirit mostly due to the fact that it seemed incongruous to think of Santa and the North Pole while the 90 degree weather made rivers of sweat pour down my back into my nether regions.

Of course, the real reason we were in Singapore was to eat — and eat we did. We don’t have pictures of everything we ate. Unfortunately, we shoved most of it into our faces before we remembered that we were supposed to be documenting it. Oh well. Your loss. It was all delicious.

ZOMG LAKSA!

ZOMG LAKSA!

Above is the laksa that Kat raved about in her last post.  Looking at this makes me hungry all over again. I could eat this every day.

The wonton soup that has ruined wonton soup forever

The wonton soup that has ruined wonton soup forever

Above are two dishes we ate at the Chinatown hawker center (sort of like a large open air food court but full of AWESOME food).  As Kat mentioned in her previous post, we ordered these dishes on the recommendation of the guy in front of us in line. I said to him “Excuse me, what is your favorite dish here?” He broke into a wide smile, “You really want to know?” He talked non-stop for 10 minutes and he even ordered for us in Mandarin. The dish on the left is a beef brisket dish, which was quite good but being the nice Jewish boy I am, I must say that it doesn’t hold a candle to my late great aunt’s. HOWEVER, see that bowl on the right there? Doesn’t look like much, right? Bowl of murky liquid with some yellow-ish things floating in it? That, my friend, is the wonton soup that is the end all be all of wonton soups. The broth was so complex and deep. The wonton skins so fresh and perfectly chewy. The filling so meaty and delicious.  I’ll never order wonton soup again because anything else would just be a poor man’s version of this and will inevitably lead to disappointment.

Chicken Rice -- so simple, but so good

Chicken Rice — so simple, but so good

This is chicken rice, Singapore’s national dish. That’s all it is. Chicken and rice cooked in broth. Yet, there are countless ways to prepare this dish and everyone has their own. I can’t say I’ve experimented enough with it to know EXACTLY how I prefer it, but I definitely intend to find out.

 

Mystery dish

Mystery dish

I have no idea what this is. The guy who we spoke to on line actually bought this for us himself and brought it to us, insisting it was a must have. I can’t even begin to describe this. Like, pillowy gelatinous rice  spheres with some weird chili and kasha grain on top. Mysterious and delicious. Also, the best food is that bought for you by a total stranger just because he wanted to make the world a nicer place for one second. Wherever this guy is right now, I wish him a happy life.

Kacang? More like Ka-ching! Because it's money. Meaning good. See what I did there?

Kacang? More like Ka-ching! Because it’s money. Meaning good. See what I did there?

You can’t see it so well in this photo but that food there is ais kacang. Also, I know it looks like I’m angry at it, but honestly I’m not. I’m still not 100% down with SE Asian desserts. They’re generally weird to me and I just don’t understand why they don’t take to western desserts the same way they’ve taken to things like hamburgers and 7-11’s. At any rate, this is basically just shaved ice with sweetened condensed milk on top and then you dump random toppings all over it. Of course, while in America this would be chocolate sprinkles, in Asia it’s things like red beans, corn kernals, all kinds of gelatinous weird things. I’m not convinced about the corn yet, but it was still pretty tasty.

We didn’t DO much in Singapore. Mainly just walked (and walked and walked and walked because Mrs. Banh Mi has a THING about walking) and looked at stuff. The one thing we did see is the Merlion, sort of Singapore’s mascot. I don’t know why but there’s something about him that’s always spoken to me. So now I submit to you Kat’s merlion photo:

"Look at me! I do things the way you should because RULES EXIST TO KEEP US SAFE."

“Look at me! I do things the way you should because RULES EXIST TO KEEP US SAFE.”

 

And here’s mine:

"Singapore, I love you so much I let your mascot spit in my mouth!"

“Singapore, I love you so much I let your mascot spit in my mouth!”

 

We left Singapore after only a few days and even though we love it there, it wasn’t so hard because our next stop was BALI. Tough life, right?

 

Singapore: Eat ALL the things!

After a 14-hour flight to Tokyo followed by an 8-hour flight to Singapore, we collapsed in a crappy hotel for literally 10 hours with one thing on our jet-lagged, confused brains:

LAKSA

Laksa COULD be my death row meal, if my awesome Aunt Adelyn didn’t make these amazing meatballs stuffed in an olive which are then  breaded and fried. Twice.  It’s a soup with a creamy coconut milk base, dotted with spicy chillies, noodles and brimming with salty cockles (tiny clams) that feel like you’re taking a bite of the ocean for breakfast.

We walked a mile in the 100 degree heat still emerging from an ambien haze to find it along East Coast Road. We ate it in silence but the inappropriate rolling of our eyes said it all. You might find laksa somewhere else, but it’s never as good as what we had just enjoyed.

Singapore is hilariously orderly but where things get REAL are the hawker centres. Yeah, you find a table and put your tiny packet of tissues down to reserve your seat and everyone respects that and yeah, you wait in an orderly line to order your food but hawker centres can be a trip. Old ladies screaming in Cantonese, the humming of ceiling fans, the loud chops of machetes ripping off the top of coconuts and lest we not forget — the smell of a wet fish market or wet fish market finds.

We visited Glutton’s Bay, Maxwell, Newton,  and a few no name centers (i.e. we had no idea where they were or what they had but oh look! noodles!).

We have pictures but our wi-fi connection isn’t as fast as we’d like right now (in Bali) so they will come soon but some favorites and memories:

Oddly, Dave is much more chatty abroad than at home. I can’t get the man to call for pizza or ask for directions in the US but take him out of the country and you have a real live chatty Cathy over here. He’d ask anyone and everyone things. Often, I roll my eyes but he asked a gentleman in front of us at at a hawker center in Chinatown and the floodgates of advice, kindness, and suggestions poured open. He ordered for us, checked on us after we sat down, and then brought over a favorite dish of his that he insisted we try as a treat on him. He handed us a packet of glutenous rice, topped with finely minced meat, shallots, and god knows what else. It was like pickled kasha with meat sprinkled with heaven served on a cloud.  I wish we asked his name– his kindness hasn’t been forgotten.  Also we ordered (at our new friend’s suggestion) the won ton soup which has ruined won ton soup for us for life. The dumplings were light, juicy and savory and the broth fatty and beautiful. We fought over finishing the bowl.

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American palate doesn’t dictate Asia as a dessert destination  (with notable exceptions: moochi, mango sticky rice, etc). However we fell in love with ice kachang. Bear with me on the explanation since our photos are missing. Picture a Styrofoam cup with a bunch of sweet red beans, tiny cubes of almost Coke flavored jello. Then add a few tablespoons of corn. Then about a foot high of shaved ice cut so finely it ends up having the consistency of snow for real, not crappy sno-cone snow. Then it’s sprinkled liberally with flavored syrup, drizzled in sweetened, condensed milk and in our favorite instance – covered in peanuts. Are you still hung up on the corn? Let it go. trust me — it was good.

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Iced coffee thick with grounds and sweetened, condensed milk drank out of a bag with a straw is winning.

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Glutton’s Bay was the “touristy” hawker centre we visited. Run by the guy who put out Mankansutra, we like all blind followers of all things Tony Bourdain figured it would be a pretty great evening of food. And it was — it was GOOD– but it wasn’t as mind blowing as some of the other things we ate. I still think of the chicken wings in the perfect chili sauce from there. Everything else I could give or take.

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Carrot cake is a thing. It is not a cake nor does it involve carrots. Discuss.

Instead, it’s everything you want to eat the day after a bender of day drinking (which, Mom, we did not do).  It’s more of an omelet with radish in it and has the consistency of  breakfast potatoes mixed with scrambled eggs. Yum.

So, now we’re in Bali where the mangoes are perfect, our new favorite thing is watermelon juice, and where vegetables exist. Magical place. Up next! What else did we do in Singapore? Dave will reveal all. Otherwise titled, “Why Kat made me walk 5 miles a day in 100 degree heat: a love story”. If I were writing it, I’d title it “the malls I peed in and other landmarks”.

What’s in pack and on my back – Dave’s Packing List

When you start planning a trip like ours, you also start obsessively scouring the internet for blogs of other people have made similar trips. I’d spend hours obsessing over things like “Should I get the underpants that are ‘moisture wicking’ or ‘odor control’ AND WHY DON’T THEY MAKE ANY THAT ARE BOTH?” On this (and many other topics) I would be remiss if I didn’t give a nod to fantastic rtw bloggers Jillian and Danny over at I should Log Off. I found their advice to be invaluable, particularly in my packing decisions.

I want to not look like a gap-year backpacker on this trip, but some of that will be unavoidable. Really, I just wanted to pack the bare essentials. There are two pieces of advice that is uniform across the internet on this topic:

1) If your pack is too heavy, it WILL make you miserable

2) You’re going to Asia — not Mars. If you forgot to pack something, you can buy it on the road.

With that in mind, here is everything that is going into my 44 liter pack:

Tops and bottoms

5 pairs of underwear from Ex Officio. These guys are amazing. Moisture wicking, don’t appear to smell. Extremely quick drying. This is critical gear for SE Asia.

Two pairs of shorts, two bathing suits, one pair of extremely light quick dry pants from Salomon (are actually very well cut and quite slim in the leg)

One long sleeve thin fleece (for over air-conditioned trains, buses and planes), my beloved DC United soccer jersey which is a very light long-sleeve moisture wicking deal. 2 cotton t-shirt for beaches and sleeping in. 5 short sleeve quick dry moisture wicking shirts in a variety of styles and colors (one polo, two half-zip, 2 t-shirts)

In the blue compression sack is my rain jacket and the rain cover for my backpack. I’ve got extra space in it to use it also as a laundry bag.

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Footwear

One pair of Toms for being able to walk around fashionable areas of a city and not look like a backpacker. One pair of crap flip-flops for grungy bathrooms and beaches. One pair of Keen Newport H2’s, which are frighteningly ugly, but extremely comfortable, light, and let my feet breathe.

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Technology

Live without the internet? If I can’t see videos of turtles farting in bathtubs or pictures of babies in monocles, then that is not a life worth living sir. We’ve got a kindle, ipad, laptop (Acer Aspire One – weights about 3 lbs), my old crap jailbroken and unlocked iPhone 3G, an ipod, a international plug adapter, a monster outlet extender that can turn one outlet into a charging station for 3 standard plugs and two USB devices, In the black bag is where we keep all the related cords and chargers for these devices.

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Miscellaneous Stuff

Ahhh, now the fun begins. Here we’ve got: an inflatable travel pillow (a komfort kollar. Amazing so far), a deck of cards, earplugs, a small repair kit for my glasses, an athletic glasses strap, a combination lock, a caribiner that also has a compass and a thermometer in it, a DC United patch that I SWEAR I will eventually sew onto my bag, a headlamp, a one liter nalgene bottle, a pacsafe cable lock so we can secure our bags, a travel towel, a leatherman tool, my Rx sunglasses and a spare pair of regular glasses, a Steripen for sterilizing water on the go, a travel blanket.

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Toiletries

Just your standard bunch of travel-size toiletries in the clear bag. In the mesh bag is some fabreze and some liquid soap to use to wash our clothes out in sinks. There’s also an electric beard trimmer there. As a bearded man (most of the time), this is the one luxury item I’ve allowed myself. It’s not heavy but every ounce and inch counts when I’ll be carrying everything on my back for the foreseeable future. On the left is my REI Flash 22 backpack. This is what I use most days to just walk around after we’ve stashed our big bags at the hostel. It folds up into itself into a little pouch about 5 inches by 3 inches for easy storage.

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Packed up

Here’s what it looks like when it’s all packed up. The big bag weighs about 22 lbs, the smaller one I’m guessing is about 5 lbs.

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All You REALLY Need

Of course, this is all just STUFF. It’s replaceable. Something, or likely, SEVERAL THINGS will get lost or stolen or broken on this trip. Before I left, my former boss who had taken a trip like this himself gave me some great and freeing advice. He said, “You can have all the stuff you want, but all you really need is money and a passport. With that you can do whatever you want.” Of course, I’d make an addendum to that — all I need is money, my passport and OF COURSE Mrs. Banh Mi by my side!