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A round the world trip in more than 80 days.

Why this blog ?

Our aim : travel and discover the world during 353 days and through some fifhteen countries. We are hoping that this blog will allow us to share the experience with our family and friends thanks to the posts and photos that we will be publishing and also thanks to their comments.

Currently ...

now. For the moment, we are gently readapting from nomadic to sedentary life.


Plunging in India, but not in the Ganges.

What a crazy place is India ! We spent our first days in the country with Louella, our lovely couchsurfing host, thanks to whom we have enjoyed a few quite bucolic days in Mumbai (Bombay). Hosting is an art in India : not only did she made us feel at home, but she did not leave for work until she made sure we were properly established at her place and acquainted with Mumbai's public transport system. She also asked a friend to come fetch us at dawn the next day to take us to the city's National Park where there are Budist caves dating from the 10th century carved in the stone. Even her mother, who leaves in the neighbourhood, asked us to come meet her and have breakfast a second time, just in case her daughter had not fed us well enough.

After a couple of days in such a great company, we took a flight to Varanasi (ex-Benares), which is one of the oldest towns in the World, as well as a very important sacred destination for Hindus. Mumbai is bursting with people and the crowds trying to catch the suburban train at rush hour any given day are worse than those on a public transport strike day in Madrid or Paris. However, it still feels relaxed compared to Varanasi. Definitely, the vision of India we had built in our heads, based on our readings and what we had been told by other travellers, felt short of the reality we met at our arrival into this picturesque city.

Narrow and labyrinthine medieval streets are carpeted with cow droppings and other dirt (if it is true that stepping on pooh ensures luck, then we must have cumulated enough for our next three lives, as our hotel was in a badly lighted lane). Monkeys reign on rooftops while cows walk freely in the streets, eating whatever they find. And indeed there are quite a lot of stables built directly inside the city limits. For example, in our favourite restaurant, clean and hygienic as few, located in a beautiful patio with a temple, if you walk just a few steps up to the temple you will discover that a wall separates it from a cow shed.

In the few wider streets, there is a thick and non-stop traffic of rickshaws, bicycles, motorcycles, cars, seller stalls and people dodging each other in a chaotic way and using freely their oversized horn. Quite often a cow decides to have a rest in the middle of the street complicating furthermore the traffic. And cows here are so stolid ! I must admit that coming from Spain I am quite distrustful of them. Indeed, I never thought I would ever in my life dare to get this close to a bull horns as I have here, but since cattle here is so calm and docile it is hardly something one can boast about.

Then, there are the Ganges banks, some hosting burning piers, others piles of laundry being washed and dried, or yet others believers and buffalos bathing and purifying in a water not precisely known for its purity level (I would probably disintegrate if I dared to go in there). Goats go up and down the ghats looking for a shadowed corner or sneaking to steal the death's flower collars. Walking in town you cross a colourful mix made of pilgrims with their heads shaved (both men and women) walking in line, funeral processions, women in sari, men in kurta/dothi, meditating hermits (some with their long hair dressed around the head like a turban), people wearing western style clothes and even a few women in burqa. But the most shocking individual was the hard-core ascetic that we saw going around town as naked as the day he was born.

What we have seen (or rather, what blew our minds) in this first week in India, is enough to write a thousand posts since, as the add says, this is really an Incredible country.


Photos : Hong Kong & Macau

Click on the image below to take a look at some shots we did in Hong Kong and Macau :

HK & Macao

Hong Kong & Macao : a different China

We left the Philippines with a load of sweet memories featuring nice chats with the smiling and friendly Filipinos and impressive scenery. It is definitely a country where would love to come back.

When arriving in Hong Kong, the first thing you will see is a forest of sky-scrapers that at night time, when the lights are on, become the prime touristic attraction. If you add to this dense urban landscape a fast moving crowd, you will definitely think that you are in the middle of a bee-house.

We were also struck by the number of malls and luxury shops : Cartier, Gucci, Vuitton ... You nearly find them in every corner. Full buses from mainland China come to shop in Hong-Kong. We also saw Porsches, Ferraris and BMWs cruising the streets, more than anywhere else in the world. But the serious business here is banking. You will always be a few meters away from one and even a tram station is named after HSBC. Overall, the standard of living is similar to the one in Europe.

Hong Kong was previously a British colony and you can see some remains of that time : Clubs where the high society meets, signs forbidding nearly everything (like in Australia), double decker buses and even the fog is still here. English is still one of the official languages with Cantonese and Mandarin but the vast majority does not seem to master it. But if Hong Kong has a slight Western feel, it made us remember our first trip to China in 2001. In this modern city, you will also find typical Chinese markets where products range from frogs to herbs used in traditional medicine.

While in Hong Kong, we took the opportunity to visit the neighboring Macao that has been returned to China in 1999 after 400 years of Portuguese domination. After a one hour ferry ride, it is quite a change of scenery. The Portuguese is second language (although so little spoken as English in Hong Kong), you find some nice colonial buildings and you can have some “pasteis de nata” (egg tart) nearly as good as the ones you can get in Belem, near Lisbon. Even Tea has not been safe from the colonial influence, it is not drunk plain like in the mainland but mixed with a lot of milk. When walking in the old city of Taipa, we had sometimes the feeling to be in the “Barrio Alto” of the Portuguese capital.

Macao is as well the gambling capital of Asia. Since 2004, more money is played here than in Las Vegas. Some of “Sin City” Casinos like the Wymm and the Venezian, opened branches over here. Most of the players are coming for mainland China and complimentary shuttles are running 24/7 from the border to the Casinos.

Overall, it was a nice week where we saw two of China surprising sides : Ultra-capitalism said with a British accent and gaming with a taste of olive oil. Thanks as well to Emmanuel (a friend from the University), Delphine and their son Antoine who hosted us brilliantly and helped us decipher a little bit this small part of the world.

Here we are on board the plane taking us to our next destination that will be our play ground for around 40 days : India. According to many travelers we have met, it is the ultimate test for any backpacker ...


The places visited in The Philippines

View our itinerary in a larger map

Photos : Luzon North and Manila

Click on the image below to view some additional photos from the Philippines :

Philippines - Luzon North & Manila

Philippines : Luzon North and Manila

Since the beginning of our trip we have the feeling that time flies away. In the Philippines, this impression has become even stronger. We have spent 21 days in the country, enough to give us an overview, but there are plenty of areas that we have left unvisited. And to think that some people hinted, while we where getting ready for the journey, that a year is too long and after a while we would get bored ...

For the second half of our stay in the Philippines we focused on the northern part of the archipelago's main island, Luzon. We landed in the midst of a popular “fiesta”, saw a body-building competition, visited an old Spanish colonial town where buildings have miraculously survived 20th century misfortunes. We spent a few nice days with Barnabe (one of Karim's university buddies), Mathilde and their two daughters in Baguio, thanks to whom we learnt many things about day to day life in the Philippines.

We could not live the 'Cordillera' region without visiting the rice terraces, beautifully carved on the mountain slopes more than 2000 years ago and still in use. Having been quite isolated historically, some others ancient customs and believes have survived in these mountains, like the one consisting in hanging coffins on rock walls or disposing them at cave entrances. Truth to be told, this practice has become mostly obsolete in the last decades due to the influence of new churches investing the area : the village where we saw this original burial tradition has become the head of Anglican church in the Philippines in the last decades.

The last two days in the country were marathon-like. First of all, it took us 12 hours by bus to go through the 300 km separating us from Manila. That left us with only one day to fit in all that is worth visiting in this chaotic city. Supposedly a day should be more than enough to go through all the highlights, but we got sidetracked from our original plan. By the time we returned to our itinerary, walked around Chinatown's busy market and visited the neighbouring black Nazarene church, we had not a lot of time left before nightfall and had to rush through the remains of the Spanish colonial neighbourhood, after which we felt so beaten that we decided to retreat back to our hostel.

We had started our city tour by the Chinese cemetery, a curious place where mausoleums have built-in toilettes and even mail boxes and where the dead live in much more luxury that their living neighbours. Our guide, a very nice chatty man, told us about some cock-fight competition taking place nearby. Since cock-fighting is so popular in the Philippines we went to have a look. We were expecting a gloomy place where we would not be welcomed, but instead we were directed to the roosters owner's corner who installed us a very privileged spot, right next to the ring. A combat is won when a cock kills the other, which in general does not take more than a couple of minutes. It can be quite a bloody affair, but I must admit that being close to the action I found it less disgusting than bullfights. Anyway, for us the show was as much in the noisy crowd as in the ring, looking at the frenetic arm waving of the public signalling their bets and of 'casadores' (bet takers) taking them before each match, or in the money bundles flying from one floor to another afterwards.

Filipinos use the Latin alphabet, eat with spoon and fork rather than with chopsticks, have adopted quite a few Spanish words into their local languages, serve local culinary specialities with Spanish name, and Hispanic names abound both for people and for towns. Add to that a subtropical climate, a tanned-skin population and godly decorations and messages in transports. All this factors ringed a bell in our brain and explain somehow why, the first days after our arrival, we had the feeling to be back in South America, somewhere between Ecuador and Bolivia. We are pretty sure that in our next destinations, Hong Kong and Macao, we will not suffer from this kind mental slips.


Photos : Visayas and Bicol

Click on the image below to see some pictures we took during our 10 first days in Philippines :

Philippines - Visayas, Bicol