In the Holy Land – Israel & Palestine, Dec. ’17/Jan. ’18

Howdy folks! (TL;DR: I&P pics here!)

Emily and I spent one and a half months in “the Holy Land,” primarily in Israel, with about one one week spent in the West Bank.

This was my fourth time in this part of the world, and Emily’s first. I was eager to get back to my “first” foreign country, Emily was excited to see what the hell I had been talking about since 2012, and we were both stoked to get a break the heat and humid of East/SE Asia.

And what a break we got! The weather in Israel and Palestine made us feel like we were already back home in a California winter – sometimes wet, often windy, but sunshine more often than not. The similarities didn’t end there, but they were cheek-and-jowl with fantastic differences in food, language, culture, and history.

Emily’s write-up about our time in Israel is a fantastic read for the more emotional side of our trip there. But for some lovely pictures of Tel Aviv street life, the Old City of Jerusalem, the difficult realities of Hebron, and the gorgeous north…click on the link above.

We’re back home in California already, believe it or not, but pictures aren’t done yet! Be on the lookout for pics from Paris very soon.

With love,

E&E

 

Ten Hours in Africa – Addis Ababa, Dec. 16

Howdy folks!

Linked here are photos from our long layover in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital city.

I’ve wanted to go to Ethiopia for years now. Why? The food! Ethiopian cuisine is a colorful mix of fresh salads and flavorful stew all eaten by hand with bits of a flat sourdough bread called injera. Em and I lived down the street from a great Ethiopian restaurant in Berkeley, and in the years we lived there, I tried many of the small businesses opened by California’s small but entrepreneurial Ethiopian community.

Another reason was, surprisingly, jazz. Ethiopia had a “golden age” of jazz in the 1960’s and 70’s, a genre I discovered by chance through the music of Mulatu Astatke. Haunting, rich, and full of awesome harmonies, Ethiopian jazz captured my ears just as spicy Ethiopian berbere entranced my taste buds.

Clearly, I had built this country up in my head. Because of this, I was very eager to see Addis myself, check my assumptions at the door, and experience as much of the city as possible with what little time we had. Our 10 hours there did not disappoint, and we walked away exhausted, full to the brim with food, and eager to return one day when not on our way to somewhere else.

Stay tuned – we’re just 9 days away from the end of our trip. Photos from 6 weeks in Israel are coming soon.

Love,

E&E

Vietnam, North to South

Howdy folks!

Emily and I spent three weeks traveling in Vietnam north to south – from Hànội to Ninh Bình to Huế to Hồ Chí Minh City (AKA Sàigòn).

We knew going in this was going to take our travels off “easy mode.” Whereas we had heard nothing but great things about Taiwan, we had been warned both online and in-person about Vietnam. Were we gonna get scammed? Run off the road by wild motorbike traffic?

Well, it turns out we only got scammed twice (no big deal, honest) and did crash a motorbike once. But otherwise? It was fantastic. These pictures are the receipts.

We’ve only got a week left in Thailand and have some amazing photos to show you. Stay tuned for more! Next stop: Israel.

Love,

E&E

Taiwan 2k17, the “We Are So Behind on Photos” Edition

Howdy folks! We’ve been in Vietnam for 3 weeks, but here’s hundreds of photos from Taiwan. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Hualien! Taitung! Kaohsiung! Taichung! Sun Moon Lake! Taipei (again)! It’s all here and more, plus plenty of pics of Emily’s lovely mother Nancy, who joined us for 3 abso-scooterly wonderful weeks.

Part 1: Hualien-Taitung-Kaohsiung

Part 2: Taichung and Sun Moon Lake

Part 3: Taipei – Round 2

Vietnam photos are coming soon (we survived)! Leaving for Bangkok in just two days; the trip goes ever onward.

Love,

E&E

Top of the Sweet Potato – Taipei Photos

Howdy folks. Ethan here.

TL;DR – Long live Taipei! Long live stinky tofu! Photos here.

If you look at a map of Taiwan, the whole island looks a bit like a sweet potato. At the northern end of that delicious green root vegetable is a big, beautiful city called Taipei.

Em and I had been told a lot of things about Taiwan before we arrived – literally all of them positive. The capital city is wonderful, the mountains are gorgeous, the eastern coast breathtaking, the food to die for…you name it. I had personally gotten a rushed glimpse of Taipei during a long layover back in 2016 and all I had were good memories. Suffice it to say, we arrived with high expectations.

Right off the bat, Taipei started to fulfill them.

Our first week in Taiwan was spent visiting museums, sweating our brains out, eating at night markets, and marveling at the curious mix of China and Japan that Taiwan represents. We also got to welcome the lovely Nancy (Emily’s mom) on our trip for a 3-week jaunt around the island.

And as always, lucky reader, you get to follow along with us! Until our next batch of photos. ❤

Love,

E&E

China Photos – SAR Edition

Howdy folks,

TL;DR – The Brits and Portuguese left some unusual places behind after that weird colonialism phase. See photos here.

The Special Administrative Regions (SARs) of China – both within and at the very fringes of the Middle Kingdom. For six days, Emily and I got one last taste of the People’s Republic in the two places that least represent it – Hong Kong and Macau.

The former we were experiencing or a second time, though this time around we stayed on Hong Kong Island, did more hiking, and generally saw HK’s non-Kowloon side. Macau, though, was a fresh place, and it surprisingly felt very different from both China and Hong Kong. I really liked it, though! (Minus the oppressive heat) See Emily’s soon-to-be-posted take on it soon.

Stay tuned for pics from what is by-far my favorite place on this trip so far – TAIWAN!

Love,

E&E

Ten-thousand Li From Home – Life in Sichuan

Hello e-travel companions,

TL;DR – Omg cute panda pics, cloudy landscapes, and Ethan getting his ears cleaned by a random dude. Pictures here!

Emily and I recently wrapped up three weeks – half our China trip! – in Sichuan province.

Sichuan is China’s “land of milk and honey,” or as it’s better (actually) known in Chinese, the “Land of Abundance.” It’s name Sìchuān (四川) means four rivers, referring to the waterways that have been tamed and diverted for thousands of years to irrigate the broad Sichuan basin. Free from flooding and strong influence from other parts of China, this region has given birth to separate kingdoms, unique languages, and – of course- really spicy food.

Our home base and first stop was the provincial capital of Chengdu. “Oh, Chengdu!” Chinese people will exclaim. “Did you go for the pandas?” No, we didn’t just go for the pandas…but hell yes we saw them and they were hilarious/adorable. But my favorite part of Chengdu was by-far its more laid-back culture, focused – it seems – on tea drinking, river strolling, and overall having a good time (read: eating). The city is large, but not overwhelming, and its public transit system has far surpassed the efficiency and ease of BART in less than a decade. Pair all of this with a wealth of museums, bars, and restaurants…yeah, Chengdu is already up there as one of my favorite cities ever.

However, half our time spent in Sichuan was outside the city – on a farm an hour to the southwest, as well as a brief stay on a sacred mountain to the northwest. Farm life – for me – was stupendous. Not because it was comfortable, but because it was rewarding. I forged lovely friendships with an Israeli couple, a Puerto Rican-American girl, a wild dude from Maine, and several of our fellow Chinese hosts/workers. I help rig an overhead irrigation system, ferried people about on an electric tractor, learned the finer points of wood sculpting (with a power sander, that is)…all around, it was an excellent Workaway.

Our adventure out of these lovely three weeks was…not so stupendous. However, that I will save for another post, because it’s a funny story that some of you may have followed-along with live on Facebook.

I write to you now from a hostel in TAIPEI, AKA Quite Possibly the Raddest City in Asia. But until we get to here, we’ve gotta get through Hong Kong (round 2!) and Macau pics. So! Until next time.

Love,

E&E

Rivers and Roads – Guilin, Yangshuo, and Chongqing

TL;DR – China is hot in the summer; pictures here.

The second half of August found us next to a whole lot of rivers. In Guilin and Yangshuo, where the Yulong and Li meet; in Chongqing, where the Yangtze and Jialing meet. These were hot weeks in the southwest, but life in China doesn’t stop no matter where the mercury’s at.

After taking a high speed train from Guangzhou, we spent a few rainy sick days in Guilin – the center of karst country. As the weather and our health cleared, we bused down to a smaller (yet somehow more touristy) town named Yangshuo. There, we lost half our clothes, rode motorbikes through fields, taught English, and met our favorite Egyptian (shoutout to Mohamed!).

After a few more days in Guilin, we took our first domestic flight to Chongqing. Chongqing is massive, with over 10 million people in the city proper and 30 million in the broader region. In some ways, its skyline and sheer beauty rivals Hong Kong. But life here is pretty laid back, and the cityscape, with all its bendy roads and many hills, reminded me of San Francisco and Haifa, Israel. Here we enjoyed an excellent museum, were taken to hot pot by our lovely AirBnB host and her family, and cuddled a kitten.

We write to you now from Chengdu, after having spent a week on a farm an hour away from this amazing city. Pictures, as always, are on their way. Until then!

Love,

E&E

 

On the Edge of the Mainland – Hong Kong, July 24 – July 30

Howdy folks,

After leaving Japan, Emily and I spent a brief week in Hong Kong before crossing over into mainland China for the first time (our current location: in the forests outside Guangzhou). Check out our pictures here.

Our time in Hong Kong was the first time I experienced culture shock on this trip. Even after the crowds and sheer size of Tokyo, Hong Kong assaults the senses in a way that took several days to get used to. Sometimes pictured but not fully captured in our photos – the frequent smell of sewage, the oppressive consumerism, the trash on the sidewalks, the aggressive touts along Nathan Road in Tsim Sha Tsui, and the large difference in public manners when compared to Japan.

All that said? I found the shock of Hong Kong to be an exhilarating new experience and look forward to going back before flying from Macau to Taipei at the end of September. I’m sure my initial apprehension is nothing a little seasoning from the mainland can’t fix!

Love,

E&E