Central Java, Indonesia

We flew from Vietnam –> Java, Indonesia to crash the end of our good friends Mark and Becca’s honeymoon. We originally had no plans to visit this part of SE Asia during our trip planning, and our experience and time spent in this fascinating part of Indonesia surpassed all expectations. Java is the most populous island in Indonesia (and the entire world), home to over 141 million people. It’s historically, culturally and economically the most important of Indonesia’s ~13,000 islands. We spent our time in the Yogyakarta region, which is considered the cultural and artistic heart of Java.

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Before meeting up with the Leows, we stayed in an ecolodge located in a small village called Tembi south of the city of Yogyakarta. Our little wooden bungalow opened up to these scenic rice fields that produced delicious brown rice that we ate at the ecolodge restaurant. It was a quiet and peaceful place.


Yogyakarta is a fascinating city not well known to the western world – it’s renowned as the center of education and classical Javanese art and culture. It is also the only part of Indonesia that is governed by a pre-colonial monarchy, the Sultan of Yogyakarta. We spent a few hours on our first day wandering around, discovering interesting artwork and sites throughout the maze of narrow streets and alleys.


The local people were incredibly friendly and eager to show us around. This tiny, adorable little man walked us around for over two hours where we saw local art galleries, underground tunnels and colorful alleys.


We immediately noticed a specific type of artwork that was visible everywhere – Batik. Batik is a technique of wax-resist dying applied to cloth. Javanese batik specifically has a long history with diverse patterns influenced by a variety of cultures, and is the most developed in terms of pattern, technique, and the quality of workmanship in Java. It’s a meticulous and time-consuming process to produce these unique pieces of art and it was cool to see so many artists showcasing their work on the streets and make-shift galleries inside their homes.


We actually made our first art purchase which you can see below. This piece features the nearby Mt. Merapi volcano and took one week for the artist to create with natural indigo and jackfruit dyes. Because it’s dyed into the cloth, we can fold it up easily into our suitcase 🙂 After we met up with the Leows, the four of us coined the term “batiking” which is basically exploring hidden art shops and looking for the best batik art. Between the four of us, we walked away with a nice collection of authentic batik art pieces to adorn the walls of our future homes.


It was such a treat to see Mark and Becca as they are not only familiar faces, but two of our closest friends from San Francisco. We met them at Prambanan, a 9th century Hindu temple complex just outside of Yogyakarta. Although the majority of modern day Indonesians are Muslim, it has been a historical melting pot for various religions including long periods of Hindu and Buddhist kingdoms. Prambanan is the ancient remains of a time when both Hindu and Buddhism religions were fighting for influence and control. It was a beautiful place to explore with old friends.


Central Java is not a common stop for western travelers, so fair blonde women appear exotic and rare to the locals. Jenny has been stopped a few times throughout our travels to pose for pictures but things hit a new height in Java. Especially because the blonde factor was multiplied with fellow blonde haired Becca, we must have been stopped by over 20 groups of Indonesians asking for photos with these western celebrities!


On our last two nights, we checked out of our ecolodge to wrap up our Javanese adventure in Borobudur. The landscape and surroundings were vibrantly lush and green.


Borobudur is a massive Buddhist temple built in the 9th century that follows Javanese Buddhist architecture, which blends ancestor worship and the concept of attaining Nirvana which is represented by the upward journey from the base of the temple to the top. It is the largest Buddhist temple in the world and is absolutely stunning. We woke up bright and early to climb the temple and enjoyed a spectacular sunrise.


At the top of the temple, you have a panoramic view of the surrounding area of lush jungle, Mt. Merapi and a majestic layer of morning fog. It was a remarkable site.


The whole experience felt sacred as there were many monks meditating and praying around the temple as the sun rose and bathed the temple in light.



And…we got to do this two of our favorite people in the world 🙂


The active Mt. Merapi volcano in the distance


Borobudur temple from the ground


We spent the rest of our time in Borobudur with Mark and Becca – playing cards, eating delicious Indonesian food, and enjoying being together after many months apart.

After Java, we had a quick two nights in Singapore before heading to the islands of Thailand. Our friends Byron and Elle live in Singapore and graciously hosted us, and although it was POURING rain for most of the time we were there, we enjoyed having an excuse to chill at home, play with their dogs Baxter and Jackie Moon, and listen to records. They also gave us quite the foodie experience with all of their restaurant and cuisine choices.


Byron is Kevin’s friends (Sebastian) older brother, and is the founder and CEO of Coconuts Media, an online media company covering stories from all over southeast Asia. Sebastian also works for the company, and was the star of one of their recent documentaries called “Highland”, a piece on the marijuana awakening in Thailand. Note – this was picked up by Netflix and is available for your viewing pleasure!


The days are starting to go by even faster. Next stop – Thai island paradise!

Vietnam – Hue, Hoi An & Ho Chi Minh City

Check out our post from northern Vietnam here.

After spending Christmas in the north of Vietnam, we hopped on a plane and headed down the coast. We had a quick stopover in the city of Hue, and then drove south to the city of Hoi An for 3 nights. Continuing south, we hopped on another plane that took us to Ho Chi Minh City for our final 3 nights in Vietnam. Here’s what our route looked like:

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Hue is a coastal city with an interesting (and somewhat odd) atmosphere, with lots of restaurants and bars catering toward western tastes and nightclubs blasting music into the street. Given that Hue is a somewhat small city and didn’t seem to be on too many backpackers’ agendas, we expected it to be more quiet. The city has some interesting history as it was the seat of Nguyen Dynasty emperors from 1802 to 1945, and has a vast, 19th-century citadel, surrounded by a moat and thick stone walls. The city was also the battleground for the Battle of Hue, which was one of the longest and bloodiest battles of the Vietnam War.

We spent one morning walking through the citadel, which was a very impressive ancient city.


After we finished up our time at the citadel, we began our drive down the coast toward Hoi An. On our route we stopped at Marble Mountains, which is a cluster of 5 marble and limestone hills featuring nice walking paths with temples, lookouts, and caves.


The drive from Hue to Hoi An is said to be one of the most beautiful drives in all of Vietnam. Unfortunately we ran into a bit of bad luck with weather, and our scenic drive turned out to be more like a foggy ride.  You win some, you lose some!


As you can see, the views were… nowhere to be seen!


Hoi An was one of our favorite stops in Vietnam. The Old Town of Hoi An was a trading port dating from the 15th – 19th centuries, and over the years there were all kinds of people living in Hoi An and operating the trade industry. Influences from Japanese, Chinese, Portuguese, French, Dutch, and Indian have all blended together to create a tasteful and beautiful mix that can be seen in the architecture, food, and culture. This charming city is noted as a UNESCO World Heritage Site given how exceptionally well-preserved it is as a historic South-East Asian trading port.


Silk lanterns are an iconic to Hoi An and can be seen all over the city, which most likely stems from Chinese and Japanese influence during the trading days. The lanterns make for some beautiful scenery.


Aside from the history and aesthetics, there are lots of other awesome things about Hoi An, such as the DELICIOUS FOOD. Hoi An is said to be Vietnam’s food capital, with everything from food stalls to sit-down restaurants all serving fresh and locally sourced food. It is also the home of the Banh Mi sandwich, which is a product of French colonialism and a great example of foreign influences blending into Vietnamese life.


Here’s a plate of of some more tasty bites from a walking food tour where we sampled 60 different dishes! Learning more about Vietnamese cuisine was interesting and impressive – there is such a huge variety of flavors and dishes, each with a unique cultural profile.


There are lots of street vendors all over Vietnam selling what we like to call “jelly drink” which is a combination of shaved ice, sweet milk (mixtures of milk, sugar cane juice, coconut milk), and various types of tapioca goodies. It may not look appetizing but we swear, it’s delicious.


Kevin loved taking down these sweet and refreshing concoctions on hot days whenever we found a vendor that looked like they had clean ice.


Another cool thing about Hoi An is that the city is home to lots of talented tailors who can make clothing to order for very reasonable prices. One day we showed up at a tailor and had our measurements taken, and within 24 hours we picked up perfectly fitted clothing that we had ordered. Jenny got a dress and Kevin got a few short-sleeved collared shirts with funky colorful prints (also known to our friend group as “Pataguccis”).


Hoi An is a wonderful city because it is a rich blend of charm, genuinity, and history. We loved our time there and wish we could have stayed longer than a few days.

Ho Chi Minh, formerly called Saigon, is the largest city (population-wise) in Vietnam and is packed with people and motorbikes. After spending time in a quiet and relaxing place like Hoi An, it was a big change to drop into the hustle and bustle of this big city. We spent our time here walking all through the city, trying different foods, and checking out museums.


While the Vietnam War is a difficult part of our history, we never once felt that the Vietnamese people held a grudge against America. Everyone was very friendly and welcoming, and was excited to hear that we were from California. We spent some time at  the War Remnants Museum and learned more about the painful pastimes of the war which offered a different perspective of the war from the Vietnamese pov.


As always, we tried lots of food too. This Thai Pizza was made of a crispy rice crust and peanut sauce:


More Banh Mi sandos… because you gotta try at least one in every city.


We happened to be here for New Year’s Eve / Day, and were not sure what to expect. The city showed up though, bringing out all the stops with an outdoor live music act by a Black Eyes Peas cover band and a huge firework show. We had a blast singing and dancing along with all of the local people who were out to celebrate. The amount of people on motorbikes was crazy… the city roads actually turned into literal parking lots, with people out of their cars and off of their scooters, walking around and chatting with each other.


On one of our days we took a trip down to the Mekong Delta, also known as the “rice bowl” of Vietnam, where the Mekong River approaches and empties into the sea through a network of distributaries. It is thought that extensive human settlement has existed along the delta as far back as 4th century BC and that civilization after civilization used the delta as a bustling trading network. We took a canoe ride through the channels and observed local villages performing their craft specialty, from honey & pollen making, to coconut goodie manufacturing, to snake wine creating (yes, huge jugs of rice wine with cobras soaking inside).


Here’s a photo of a big happy Buddha we saw on our way back to Ho Chi Minh 🙂


That wraps up our time in Vietnam – what a fascinating place to explore! This country felt like a travelers’ dream with so much to offer, being rich in culture, history, cuisine, and breathtaking natural landscape.

Next up, we are crashing the Leow honeymoon in Central Java!

Vietnam – Halong Bay, Ninh Binh, Hanoi

Vietnam is a long and skinny coastal country, providing travelers with an adventurous and diverse route from north to south or vice versa. We flew into the northern capital of Hanoi and made our way down south to Ho Chi Minh City (the locals still call it Saigon) in a little over two weeks. We did a lot in this time so we’re going to break things up into two posts.


Halong Bay – Vietnam is home to a wealth of both cultural and natural attractions and Halong Bay is undoubtedly one of the most famous (and also most visited) sites up in the north. Halong Bay, or Bay of the Descending Dragon, is a magnificent bay of dramatic limestone cliffs that rise from the South China Sea. These beautiful rock formations were created over millions of years due to tectonic forces…or you can believe local legend that the limestones were formed by a family of dragons spitting jade into the sea 🙂

We took a 3 day / 2 night boat cruise through the bay that slowly cruised around this amazing landscape.


Some parts of the bay were PACKED with cruise boats and small boats with day-trippers from Hanoi. On our second day, our boat took us to a more remote and quiet part of the bay where we explored a local floating fishing village by kayak. We always love seeing simple, pure and natural lifestyles existing in this crazy world of technology.


As Halong Bay is one of the most popular attractions in Vietnam, the natural beauty of the landscape has been a bit overrun by tourism. This was very visible during parts of our visit, especially the stop at the famous Sung Sot cave shown below. The amount of people in the cave was crazy… as you can see. Nonetheless, Halong Bay is one of the most remarkable and beautiful landscapes we have ever seen.


Ninh Binh – From Halong Bay, we took a terrifying bus ride to Ninh Binh province, a more off the beaten track destination also known as “Halong Bay on land.” Ninh Binh feels like rural Vietnam with lush rice fields, farming families and stunning limestone formations that rise from the ground. We stayed in a lovely little guesthouse run by Ms. Phong (below) and her family. During our trip, we learned that Vietnamese women are incredibly enterprising, hard working and overall just badass. They are on top of everything and keep the country running. Seriously, don’t mess with Vietnamese women.


We rented bikes to explore the nearby rice fields.


And climbed some STEEP stairs up a mountain to catch a sunset.


At sunset, flocks of birds migrate through the below valley. We saw multiple groups of cranes and other birds cruising between the mountains along the water – it was really majestic.


Our highlight in Ninh Binh was a boat tour through the Trang An grottoes, where they filmed the most recent King Kong movie. We arrived at the grottoes early in the morning to beat the crowds of tour buses showing up from Hanoi and fortunately, we were one of the first boats on the water. It felt surreal and peaceful as we glided through glassy waters between giant limestone valley.


Do you see the little entrance in this formation? Our small boat would slip into this opening and navigate through a tiny path and we’d pop out on the other side. We did this for four hours – it was a very cool and fun experience.


Our boat also made a few stops to see old Buddhist temples that have been built on some of the larger limestone formations.


Ninh Binh is home to Hoa Lu which was the capital of Vietnam in the 9th and 10th centuries. The ancient city is still well preserved and is surrounded by rice fields and limestone peaks.


Hanoi is the vibrant and lively capital of Vietnam that is home to over 7 million people. It is considered one of the most beautiful colonial Indochinese cities and is renowned for AMAZING FOOD. The old quarter is a chaotic blend of endless street vendors, motorbikes and people somehow moving and existing harmoniously. The streets really do feel alive. We spent our time getting lost in alleyways and eating lots of delicious street food.


Bun Cha – a Hanoi local favorite of grilled pork, noodle and vegetable all  mixed together with a tasty fish sauce. Obama tried this when he visited in 2016, therefore some locals now advertise this dish as “the Obama dish”.


The street food scene in Hanoi is incredible and a lot of fun. Whenever we would see a long line or crowd of locals hovering around a food stall, we would follow suit. Kevin found this porridge lady in a crowded alley. If you don’t know, Kevin is a soup guy and especially loves porridge…can you see the happiness on his face 🙂


…more street eating


Papaya salad with dried beef and peanuts


Lemongrass skewers and Vietnamese rice pancakes


Hanoi Egg Coffee – it is exactly what it sounds like and it is delicious!


We spent Christmas in Hanoi so we decided to splurge and use points to book a nicer hotel. We may or may not have told them it was our honeymoon in hopes of getting an upgrade… let’s just say that feeling a little extra special on Christmas helped with our homesick feelings of being so far away during the holidays 😉


To our pleasant surprise, Hanoi was very lit up for Christmas and everyone was out in the streets celebrating. There is a cathedral in the old quarter that was built in the late 1800s during the French colonial times where a Christmas celebration was put on, complete with the re-enactment of the birth of sweet baby Jesus. Street vendors were selling Christmas-themed goodies, and the entire old quarter was packed with people, both tourists and locals. Considering that Vietnam is a majority Buddhist country, we asked some locals why there was such a large production for the holiday, and the answer was simple: Vietnamese people love any excuse to party.


For both of us, this was our first time being away from our families during the holidays. We miss our parents, siblings, little nieces and nephews, friends and of course…Bernie. Lord do we miss that dog! As we spent Christmas in a faraway and exotic land, we spent time to reflect and appreciate how fortunate our lives have been and how lucky we are to have the ability to take this type of trip – to experience so many different types of people and cultures continues to make impact on us. Seeing the life differences yet human similarities across the world has shaped a lot of perspective for both of us. We hope that our future children and generations after them will have the same opportunity in this crazy and beautiful world we live in.

Adventures from central and south Vietnam coming soon!


Bangkok and Wonderfruit Festival

After 2 incredible weeks in Sri Lanka, we flew to Bangkok to meet up with Sebastian, one of Kevin’s best friends from home. Sebastian is quite the world traveler and has been living in Bangkok for the past 1.5 years where he works as a producer for a media company called Coconuts. He’s been traveling all over SE Asia recently working on short documentary-style projects.

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It was great to see a familiar face and settle into his apartment for 4 nights where we enjoyed some much needed downtime after the fast-moving adventure we had in Sri Lanka.

Buds Reunited!


Sunset from Sebastian’s apartment balcony


While Sebastian was away at work, we went on a little city tour covering Bangkok’s huge and crazy China Town, as well as the Wat Pho Temple complex. Although we have our own China Town in San Francisco where we’ve spent a lot of time, it was put to shame by Bangkok’s. We’ve never seen so many goods for sale per square foot, and of everything under the sun, including barbecued insects…yum?


One mode of transportation in Bangkok is by tuk-tuk, and some drivers go above and beyond to trick out their rides.


The Wat Pho Temple, also known as the Temple of the Reclining Buddha, was a grand and beautiful place to wander around. It is considered the earliest center for public education in Thailand, and is also known as the birthplace of traditional Thai Massage (which we are VERY fond of).


After Bangkok, we put on our party pants and headed to Wonderfruit, a music, art and food festival in Pattaya which is about 2 hours south of Bangkok. Some of you may know that we LOVE music festivals so we were pretty excited when Seb pitched us the idea. We didn’t know what to expect but Wonderfruit was an A+ production and one of the most impressive festivals we’ve ever attended. The food was delicious, there were tons of art installations and vibey hangout areas, and the crowd was cool. Unlike most music festivals, it was also very spacious so we never had to wait in line or fight for a comfortable place to hang or watch a set.

Here’s one of the many cool art structures that you can climb into and explore. These structures, along with bars and food / juice stations, were spread throughout the grounds. It felt like an adult playground. Our favorite structure to hang out in was a giant tree house – when you climbed to the top, you discovered trampolines and “pods” to chill in.


We also had a nice little crew for the weekend that included Seb’s brother Byron, his wife Elle and their friend Andrew. The six of us had a blast together and stayed out very much past our normal bedtimes 🙂


It poured rain for an hour on the first night so we were soaking wet!


In terms of music, there weren’t a lot of well known artists but we saw some pretty awesome music throughout the weekend such as Wild Beasts, Gui Boratto and Roots Manuva.

Roots Manuva


The best set of the weekend came from a Thai Isaan jam band called All Thidsa. Isaan music is traditional Thai folk, and these guys took their traditional instruments, micd them up and rocked out. The majority of the crowd was Thai, and the vibe they were putting out with their energetic dancing and funky dance circles was electric. Everyone danced around us and with us with huge smiles on their faces. It was an awesome moment and reminder of how many ways we can connect with people from other cultures, all around the world.


It was an exhausting and fun-fueled weekend that provided a nice change of pace from life on the road.


Off to Vietnam for the holidays, but we’ll be back in Thailand in the not so distant future.

Sri Lanka pt 2 – Ella, Kandy, Sigiriya

As we journeyed from the southern coast into the heartland of Sri Lanka, we learned more about the history and experienced a more authentic flavor of the food and culture of this beautiful country. Take a look at our first post on Sri Lanka for a little background and context on where we are.

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Our first destination in the countryside was Ella, a small mountain village that is surrounded by lush hills and tea plantations. It’s known for a laid-back and simple lifestyle with hikes and views of the beautiful natural surroundings. It’s the area we were most excited about it didn’t disappoint 🙂 We loved everything about Ella – the hiking and viewpoints were breathtaking, the food was simple yet delicious, and the people were kind and full of big happy smiles.

Ravana Falls below – we knew we were in for a treat when this was the first thing we saw when “entering” the Ella area.


A big part of our positive Ella experience was our authentic homestay which was situated above the railroad tracks overlooking the village. Our room was basic but we had a balcony that offered an amazing view of the surrounding mountains and valley. It was run by the cutest man named Ruwan who went above and beyond to ensure we were comfortable.

The 3 homestay rooms from the railroad tracks below – we stayed in the middle room!


View from our balcony overlooking the southern valley known as Ella Gap


Here is Ruwan, our amazing host. He’s probably our favorite local of the trip so far.


Ruwan did our laundry (for free) and we got a laugh when we came home after hiking to see it all drying on the roof.


Ruwan is known amongst locals for making a killer breakfast and we can see why. Every morning, we feasted on sweet and juicy fresh fruit and a variety of yummy breakfast dishes. Here’s one of our favorites: a hopper with a fried egg, fresh sambal and daal curry. You roll it up and eat it like a taco…YUM!


One of our favorite days was hiking the trail up Ella Rock which begins with a walk along the picturesque railroad tracks – the tracks are a common walking path for locals moving between villages, to and from work / school, etc.


The path weaved through beautiful tea plantations…


…and after a challenging climb through various terrains, we reached the top, where we  relaxed and enjoyed panoramic views of the area.


As you may have noticed, we love exploring places by scooter and will take any opportunity to jump on two wheels. A trip highlight so far was exploring the Ella region on scooter, where we visited Dhowa Rock Temple, a local tea plantation and the picturesque 9 Arches Bridge.


Dhowa Rock Temple is one of the many Buddhist temples that are built into steep rocks or caves throughout jungle. This temple dates back over 2,000 years!


The 9 Arches Bridge is one of the most iconic viewpoints from this region. It was built by the British as they implemented a railroad system throughout the country during colonial times. One of the things we were most excited about was taking the the slow 6 hour train journey from Ella to Kandy which is often referred to as the most beautiful train ride in the world. Against our luck, there was a country-wide train strike that started the day before our departure, so we’ll just have to come back… 🙂


Here is a 7-curry dinner we helped prepare during a cooking class. Curries are: daal, mango, sambal, banana, pumpkin, green bean and eggplant. NOM.




Chicken Kottu – a popular Sri Lanka dish of rotti, vegetables, spices, chicken and egg prepared by chopping and mixing all of the ingredients on a hot griddle with two blunt blades. We went back to the same local Kottu shop 3 times. The below dish cost ~$1.


Another hike that we did one afternoon was to the top of Little Adam’s Peak, which winds through more tea plantations and at the top gives a beautiful view of the village and the surrounding valley.


Kandy is one of the largest cities in all of Sri Lanka and is set on a plateau surrounded by mountains. The city was the last capital of the ancient Kings’ era of Sri Lanka and is the home of the Temple of the Tooth Relic, one of the most sacred places in the entire Buddhist world.

Temple of the Tooth Relic


After a crowded morning at the temple, we spent the afternoon strolling through the Royal Botanical gardens of Peradeniya which was beautiful and full of large exotic trees that we had never seen before.


On our way to Sigiriya, we stopped by The Dambulla Cave Temple which dates back to the 1st century BC.


Sigiriya: We originally did not plan to visit Sigiriya due to distance but almost every traveler we met coming from this area told us Sigiriya Rock is a must-see. Sigiriya (or Lion Rock) is an ancient city that was constructed on top of a towering rock plateau that is ~700 ft taller than the surrounding jungle. It was built during the 5th century and is considered one of the best preserved examples of ancient urban planning with gates, moats, water gardens and housing structures that supported a complex civilization in the heart of the jungle.


The main entrance to the upper palace was designed in the form of a giant lion carved into the rock, whose feet are still preserved today.


After conquering the rock in the morning, we hiked up another large rock formation nearby to the watch the sunset. The path took us through jungly terrain that passed by more buddhist rock statues and caves before reaching an epic sunset location.


The view looking back at Sigiriya Rock in the distance with the sun setting over the jungle was something very special and was a great last moment in Sri Lanka.


Sri Lanka shoots up to country #1 on our list. Hope you visit soon too 🙂

Next stop…Bangkok!


Sri Lanka – Mirissa, Tangalle and Udawalawe

Sri Lanka, an island country located off the southeast coast of India, is a tropical paradise that is relatively off the beaten path from western travelers. It’s been on the Teng radar for a few years and is the country we were most excited to visit during our world trip. Tropical beaches, wildlife, rich culture and history and BOMB FOOD – these are all of the things that have been calling to us from across the world and we’ll have to say that everything lived up to the hype! After spending 2 weeks in Sri Lanka, we are obsessed and keep telling everyone that they need to visit. Here’s why 🙂

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Formerly known as Ceylon (until liberated from the British in 1972), Sri Lanka has been mostly untraveled by foreigners due to a 30-year civil war that only just ended in 2009. Tourism has since then been growing and has accelerated in the recent years as the relatively small island has so much to offer – wildlife safaris, ancient temples, jungle, beaches and rich culture to name a few. Sri Lanka’s documented history goes back ~3,000 years with Buddhist cave temples and other sites still being discovered throughout the jungle landscape. We started our trip along the southwest coast where we spent a week across the beach towns of Mirissa and Tangalle before journeying into the heartland of the country.

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On our way to Mirissa we made a quick stop at the Galle Fort – a fort built by the Portuguese in the 16th century and later revamped by the Dutch in 1649. Sri Lanka’s geographic location and natural harbors made it a valuable port for trade which is why it has experienced multiple western colonizers.


The southwest coast is dotted with wild lush beaches and famous surf breaks. Unluckily, we faced an unseasonal tropical storm which brought some intense rain, flooding and long power outages.

A stormy Mirissa Beach


After spending a couple of days in Mirissa, we headed east to the beach town of Tangalle. We actually stayed outside of the town center in a much more quiet and natural area, near a beach called Goyambokka Beach. Although it was still raining for the first couple of days in our new destination, we didn’t let the weather keep us down and still managed to get out on the rainy days, where we spent our time sitting at beach bars and restaurants to play cards and relax.


On our last day in Tangalle, the sun finally broke through and the sky turned bright blue while we were having lunch on a quiet beach close to our homestay. The locals call it “Silent Beach” and we still can’t find an official name for it online, but it was one of the most beautiful beaches we’ve ever seen. It was glorious to see the sunlight hit the beach and water after seeing a stormy sky for almost a week.


On the morning that we left Tangalle to head to our next destination, we still managed to get in one hour of beach time at Goyambokka Beach, which was a beautiful and relaxing place to enjoy a fresh coconut.


The landscape and natural beauty of Sri Lanka was incredible but undoubtedly, the two things that stand out from our visit were the food and the people. 

The Food – We ate rice and curry everyday and it never got old. For breakfast we would enjoy a feast composed of a variety of dishes such as hoppers (cup-shaped pancakes), string hoppers (rice noodle), coconut roti, dhal curry, sambal, fruit and sweet pastries. For lunch and/or dinner, we would typically be served ~6-10 different curry dishes (mostly vegetarian – dhal, eggplant, green bean, mango etc) along with a healthy serving of rice or fresh rotti. Everything is made to order fresh. We would often order off the menu and then see a young child run out the restaurant and come back with a bag of eggplants and green beans 5 minutes later. Here’s an example of one of the many rice and curry meals we enjoyed…YUM!


And here’s a satisfied Jenny after devouring her food 🙂


The People – Sri Lanka is a mostly buddhist population (70%) and the religion plays a visibly important role in the country and culture. The people we met were extremely friendly – it’s the type of place where everyone waves at you and says “hello” with a big smile. We were able to get to know the local people more so than other places we’ve travelled because every accommodation we stayed in was a home-stay – we basically stayed in a room on the property where the family also lived. It was a fun and natural way to interact with the local people, learn more about the island’s history and also enjoy some home-cooked meals. Especially as we moved away from the city, we marveled at the simplicity of daily life and how happy the locals appeared.

Monks in training in Udawalawe


Owners of a local beach bar we frequented in Tangalle:


Our amazing home-stay hosts in Tangalle – Surunga and is wife Niroshi. They looked after us well, and Surunga gave us tours in his tuk-tuk on rainy days:


Udawalawe – Sri Lanka is wildlife lovers’ paradise – there are leopards, elephants, monkeys, birds, and crocodiles to name a few. Most of you probably know that Jenny has a BIT of a thing for elephants so the opportunity to see them in the wild was a big deal.

The most famous destination for safaris in Sri Lanka is Yala National Park, known for its high concentration of leopards. We heard it was becoming overly crowded so we instead headed to Udawalawe National Park, an area known for its healthy elephant population. The owner of our home-stay was also a safari operator so at 6am, we hopped on his covered truck and he drove us around the park for ~5 hours.


Within 5 minutes of entering the park, we spotted a group of elephants grazing and we parked right next to them. These magnificent creatures are truly mesmerizing to be around in the wild. For their size, they are so quiet and peaceful, and move around  gracefully.


Throughout the day, we saw multiple herds of elephants and it was wonderful to see that all of them had many young and baby elephants in tow 🙂


We also saw tons of other wildlife such as water buffalo, crocodiles, jackals, monkeys, peacocks and many exotic birds.


Our guide told us that there were ~500 crocodiles living in this lake! We were able to observe a few with binoculars that were laying on the opposite shore. 


These were our home-stay hosts in Udawalawe. The husband was also our safari operator:



We hope you’re starting to think about Sri Lanka as one of your next travel destinations! We fell more and more in love with this amazing country over the course of two weeks.

Stay tuned for our next post as we journey into the cultural heartland of Sri Lanka 🙂

London, England

After 2.5 incredible months in Europe, London was the perfect place to wrap up our Euro-tour before heading to Asia. London is the capital of England and hosts the largest population in the United Kingdom, and is a city that feels full of life and excitement.

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Since both of us have visited London before, we didn’t do as much sight-seeing as we normally would and only saw some of the top London highlights. The BEST part about our visit was that we got to catch up with a lot of family and friends, which was exactly what we were craving after being away from home for so long. The majority of our time was spent in local neighborhood pubs, delicious restaurants and beautiful parks with wonderful company.

The sights that we did see were some of London’s finest:

The Palace of Westminster (commonly known as the Houses of Parliament)


Buckingham Palace


The obligatory phone booth picture (with a view of Big Ben in the background, who is getting a facelift at the moment):


Platform 9 3/4 at King’s Cross Station, where young witches and wizards catch the Hogwarts Express!


Beautiful fall colors throughout Green Park and St. James’s Park


As we mentioned earlier, most of our time in London was spent catching up with family and friends who either live in London or just happened to be in town at the same time. We were so fortunate to feel right at home in a place so far from San Francisco.

On our first night we stayed with Regan (Kevin’s friend from highschool) and her husband Charlie. Kevin’s brother Jeff was also in London for work trip, and the 5 of us enjoyed a delicious Sri Lankan meal together at one of Regan and Charlie’s favorite restaurants.


Jenny’s stepbrother Dan, his partner Liria and their ADORABLE two-year-old son Benji live in London and were nice enough to host us for 4 nights. Although we stole Benji’s room, we made it up to him by eating imaginary meals in his play kitchen and letting him apply Jenny’s makeup for her!

Dan and Liria took us out on the town for lots of fun, including a Winter Wonderland Festival with rides, live music and mulled wine, and a pub crawl hosted by one of Dan’s friends. We loved hanging out at their home, playing with Benji, and spending time with the three of them!


It was a great time of year to walk around London neighborhoods in the evening as there were colorful lights and decorations around every corner in preparation for the holidays.


For 2 nights we were hosted by Jenny’s friend Juj and her husband Pat. Jenny and Juj met 9 years ago when they were in the same study abroad program in Sevilla, Spain, and have been great amigas ever since. Juj and Pat have been living in London for the past couple of years, and they took us around to a bunch of their favorite spots. From delicious restaurants to lively pubs (and even an underground wine cave pub – pictured below!) we ate and drank our way through London with these two. We also strolled through the parks and did some sight-seeing together. We loved every minute of it!


We also had a good (immature) laugh about the name of a neighborhood pub in Juj and Pat’s neighborhood of Islington… tee hehe 🙂


Kevin’s former employer AdColony also has an office in London, where some of Kevin’s co-workers are based.  One day we visited their office and went out to lunch nearby in Shoreditch.


Last but not least, we were lucky enough to overlap with our good friends John and Anna who were in London for Thanksgiving (John’s older sister lives in London and had just welcomed a baby girl into the family). Kevin and John grew up together and have basically been like brothers since they were kids. We were very grateful that they, along with John’s parents, invited us to join them for Thanksgiving dinner, which was a delicious and comforting treat before heading off to Asia.


Food, wine, history, beaches, scooters, mountains, bikes, lakes, friends, family, road-trips, trains… We made some amazing memories during our Euro-trip. Here are some fun facts from our journey so far:

  • Days in Europe – 75
  • Countries – 10
  • Destinations where we stayed overnight – 22
  • Top highlights so far:
  • Amount we talked about Bernie – all day, every day
  • People we have seen – 22 friends/family total!
    • John & Anna (Croatia & London)
    • Jenny’s Mom & Stepdad (Tuscany)
    • Jenny’s Dad & Stepmom (Dolomites & Slovenia)
    • Jenny’s stepbrother Dan, Liria & Benji (Tuscany & London)
    • Charlie (Budapest & Vienna)
    • Marcus & Cory (Munich)
    • Regan & Charlie (Budapest & London)
    • Kevin’s brother Jeff (London)
    • Pat & Juj (London)
    • Kevin’s co-workers Andrew, Paul & Andrea (London)
    • Mr. and Mrs. Sweazey (London)
  • Time spent apart – 0 minutes… (but seriously, 0 minutes)
  • Times we have regretted our decision to travel – ZERO!

Next stop… Sri Lanka!



Amsterdam, Netherlands

We ended our European tour with a week in London visiting family and friends but not without a quick adventure to Amsterdam. We both visited this fascinating city during our time studying abroad but we were excited to experience it together.

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Originally a small fishing village, Amsterdam became one of the most important ports in the world during the 17th century through the diamond trade. Today, it remains an economic hub in Europe and has become famous for tourist attractions such as the canals, Red Light District and coffee shop culture. Visiting again as adults, we found that it was a city that we could absolutely live in. The architecture, canals, cleanliness, food, and biking being the main mode of transportation were all very impressive. Even in the winter, it’s hard not to appreciate how unique and beautiful the city is at every turn.

We spent our first full day walking around the canal district and hanging out in cool coffee shops.


We spent an afternoon in the very impressive Van Gogh museum –  one of Jenny’s favorite artist.


And on our second day, we took a bike tour (no one else showed up so it was a private tour!) to explore more hidden parts of the city with a local – and very, very stoned – Dutchman named Jack.


Wrapping up our last day, we did a wine and cheese tasting where Jenny got her last cheese fix before heading to Asia. If you haven’t noticed…Jenny LOVES CHEESE. The favorite of the 10-cheese tasting was a French blue cheese called Bleu des Causses, which was surprising because neither of us typically like blue cheese. YUM!


And of course, we walked through the Red Light District, which was….interesting.


Last stop, London before heading to Asia…which were very very excited about 🙂

Sevilla, Spain

After catching a bus from Faro, Portugal, we arrived in Sevilla midday and were greeted with sunshine and citrus trees. Sevilla, located in the Andalusia region in southern Spain, is the 4th-largest city in the country and has a distinct personality with its laid back lifestyle and authentic Spanish flare.

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This stop on our trip was not originally planned and was a special one as Jenny studied abroad in Sevilla in college. In fact, both of us studied abroad in Spain (Kevin in Barcelona) and we agree that our experiences living in Spain sparked our love and passion for traveling to new places and experiencing new things.

Sevilla is a beautiful city with its colorful buildings, intricate tile adornments, orange fruit trees, and old narrow cobblestone streets, not to mention the Guadalquivir River which runs right down the middle of it. It is a great place for meandering in the warm weather, which is exactly what we did for most of our time there.


Sevilla Cathedral – the largest gothic church in the world and the home of Christopher Columbus’s tomb.


The official motto of Sevilla is “NODO”, which is believed to signify the Spanish “No me ha dejado”, meaning “It [Sevilla] has not abandoned me”. Legend states that the title was given by King Alfonso X, who was resident in Sevilla and supported by the citizens when his son tried to seize the throne from him. You can spot this symbol all over the city (as shown in the picture below) as well as on Christopher Columbus’s tomb in the Cathedral.


The signature type of food in Sevilla is tapas (small plates) accompanied by a frosty Cruzcampo, the local beer. One of Jenny’s all-time favorite tapas from her study abroad experience is Tortilla Española, which is a potato and egg omelet normally served with aioli sauce. Some other good tapas to try are croquettes, sliced ham, and the restaurant’s daily rice special – normally it will be a delicious mixture of rice and seafood.


Of course we can’t forget the beloved churros with chocolate for dessert!


The old town centre of Sevilla (where the cathedral and Alcazar gardens are located) is easy to explore by foot. However there are some other areas that are definitely worth visiting outside of the centre, and a great way to do so is by bike. One of our days we rented bikes and spent our time appreciating the incredible Plaza de España, winding through the Maria Luisa Park, and relaxing on the river bank.

Plaza de España:


Maria Luisa Park:


Guadalquivir River chillin’:


Our Sevilla visit may have been quick, but it was packed with memories both new and old. We were bummed that we didn’t have time to visit Barcelona to give Kevin a chance to re-live his study abroad days, but we both knew that this would not be our last time in Spain, a country we both hold close to our hearts.

Next stop… London + Amsterdam, our last stops in Europe before heading to Asia!

What we’re reading:

Kevin – Lonesome Dove

Jenny – Girl on the Train

Portugal road trip – Southwest coast

After four days in Lisbon, we rented a car to embark on a 1-week road-trip down the southwest coast of Portugal. The coastal route from Lisbon to Faro only takes ~5  hours so actual time in the car was minimal, giving us more time to explore beaches along the way. We stayed in 4 different towns and were fortunate to have warm days and clear blue skies the entire trip – we literally did not see a single cloud all week. Below is our route – again, we used one of our favorite travel blogs (Geeky Explore) for our research.

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Our trip went through 2 distinct regions – the Alentejo and the Algarve. The Alentejo, the western side, is less developed and has a very wild and rugged feel to the coast and countryside. The Algarve, the southernmost region, is well known to travelers and recognizable with its dramatic cliffs and limestone rocks that surround bays of turquoise waters. The Alentejo region, often overlooked by tourists who head straight to resorts in the Algarve around Lagos, was our personal favorite. We found beautiful beaches, natural parks and a raw coast line that felt untouched and undeveloped.

Our new whip – a Renault Clio which we loved.


We were traveling during off-season (November) so most of the beaches we encountered were COMPLETELY empty with the exception of a few surfers here and there. It was a little too chilly to comfortably swim in the water but the sun was warm and the skies were clear 🙂

Praia (beach) Do Portinho Arrabida:


A beautiful sunset at Praia Da Comporta


You don’t often hear people raving about Portuguese food but we loved it! Throughout our trip, we feasted on fresh seafood – below is a Portuguese seafood rice pot and a local dish of clams + pork…NOM.


The little towns along the coast were pretty empty and most shops were closed for the off season, but you can use your imagination to picture how charming these little towns would be during the summer. Here’s the town of Porto Covo and it’s beach…again empty except for us!


Kevin’s hair goes full Alfalfa and rogue sometimes in the salty wind…


As we drove further south and closer to the Algarve region, you can see a noticeable shift in the coastline as the cliffs become steeper and you see more rocks rising from the ocean.


Although we were moving quite fast, we enjoyed 3 peaceful nights on a really cool eco-farm called Vida Pura. The property was 100% self-sustainable with cats, dogs, donkeys and ducks roaming around and fresh produce from their garden. We stayed in a funky bamboo room and laid by the wood-burning oven to keep warm at night. They also had an awesome yoga deck that was a perfect reading spot. It was incredibly peaceful and their WiFi didn’t really work so we felt relaxed and unplugged 🙂


Our favorite beach was Praia Da Amoreira, with its rolling sand dunes leading to the beach and the Aljezur river flowing into the ocean. We spent the early afternoon walking up and down the sandy river and along the beach.


Praia de Arrifana – famous surf break where we sat and watched surfers shred dangerously close to rocks along the beach.


Lagos is probably the most well known city in the heart of the Algarve coast. We were a bit sad to see the over-development in the area (lots of huge hotels and abandoned construction projects) but the coastline is absolutely stunning with its rock formations, cliffs and endless coves of turquoise bays.


On our last day, we rented paddle boards at Praia de Benagil (outside of Lagos) to reach the famous Benagil beach cave. Most people arrive at the cave via boat tour but are unable to get out and enjoy the beach. On our paddle boards we were able to land on the beach and hang out inside the cave, which was unlike anything we’ve ever seen.


We don’t have any pictures from our 1 night in Faro but we wanted to share a funny experience. On our last night, we walked into town for dinner and passed by a little hole in the wall restaurant where an elderly man was singing loudly (and beautifully) in the doorway. We couldn’t resist the urge for a charming “local” experience which is right up our alley so we walked into this tiny mom & pop restaurant. BOOM. We walked right into the twilight zone. The TV was blasting some soap opera, there was a clutter of bottles and ashtrays at the first table and we were greeted by an older woman who basically stumbled into us and wreaked strongly of booze. Picture someone completely blacked out drunk and multiply that by 10…this was her. She clumsily seated us at our table before stumbling away. We were next greeted by the elderly singing man who also smelled like a bottle. It was clear that he was also black out drunk. We both looked at each other and were wondering “what the hell is going on and who is going to cook?” We quickly regretted our decision but felt awkward leaving since we were the only people in the restaurant. We finally walked out after they told they only had ~3 dishes available from their menu. Phew…disaster averted for our last meal in Portugal. We had some good laughs reading reviews on TripAdvisor about this restaurant that seemed like it was either amazing or terrible, depending on whether or not the entire crew would be hammered and able to function.

Our time in Portugal was incredible and ranks up near (or the very top) the best experiences we’ve had in Europe. We say this about almost every destination, but we really do hope to come back to Portugal, especially the Alentejo coast.

Next stop…Sevilla!