Our time in Thailand was filled with some major highs and some of the lowest moments of our journey.
We’ve been to Thailand before and this is the 3rd time for me, but this would be the longest either one of us would have spent in Thailand. Our plan was to travel from north to south and use 3 places as a home base so we weren’t constantly traveling. When you are nomads it’s nice to have some extended period of stability. That was the plan.
With any thoughtful plan, expect to adjust as life throws you a curveball. As we landed in Chang Mai I felt really ill with extreme fatigue and weakness that I’ve never felt before. I thought maybe after months of not working out, lots of fatty foods, and irregular sleep had caught up to me in some way. I was sure some rest in Chang Mai would cure it, but as I rest more, the worst it got. After visiting an elephant sanctuary were I felt my chest pounding and my body giving out on me, I needed to figure out what was wrong. Nothing like this has ever happened to me. Isabella and I were both really worried. Was I having some form of a heart attack? Every bad thought race through my mind, especially since we were not sure how to deal with the situation in a foreign country.
We both kept an active monitor of my condition and noting any changes. We didn't want to be surprised, especially since we didn’t know how to reach emergency services or communicate with the local people. We had to figure out how to visit a doctor, maybe a specialist, along with a bunch of other things as well. We had plans to travel around northern Thailand that we had to limit. Our apartment stay was coming to an end and we needed to figure out how to extend without moving while I was in this state. We wanted to see a doctor before we move on to potentially more difficult regions for healthcare (or determine if we need to head back to the States). And I was also worried about going to a hospital in southeast Asia as my experience when I was backpacking through Vietnam many years before was not good. Where do you even start to find an English speaking doctor and specialist in Thailand?
We were surprised. Many Thai hospital sites were in English and you can make an appointment from the site, including picking a specialist. There were expat sites that gave feedback on doctors. It seems like many doctors spoke English. But how much will everything cost? We have international health insurance, but it was essentially catastrophic coverage with high deductible. And I wanted to do a comprehensive cardio check-up, which in the US would cost thousands of dollars. When we got to the hospital a cardio nurse checked me in, went over cost for different service upfront, and discussed what she thought would be best, which we could adjust based on the doctor's consultation. I was shocked. The price for a full suite of tests, including some very expensive ones, came out to be about the price of a fancy meal on an evening out. It was affordable. What was even more extraordinary was the experience. There was always a nurse or a guide to help you around the hospital so you don’t get lost when doing the tests. The facility was modern and quite nice. They were in constant contact with me on ETA for different things and was apologetic when the doctor was only 5 minutes late. The doctor was friendly, candid, and world-class. I am sure not everyone's experience is like this, but it was pretty perfect.
The diagnosis was a little embarrassing. My cardiovascular system was extraordinary healthy. I knew that this could be a potential outcome. If that was the case, then what I was feeling was likely a consequence of my flu I had a month before. The doctor also confirmed that it is common people have these type of symptoms after a severe flu. So after being cleared physically and it allowed me to start being active again, pushing through the extreme fatigue whenever I felt it. After a short period of working out and being active, I quickly recovered. Knowing is half the battle.
After recovering and adjusting to the remaining time, we traveled to Phuket and Bangkok. We explored different islands, learned freediving, visited many temples, and ate a lot of amazing food (check out our video blog here). Thailand is not only a beautiful place to visit (checkout pictures above), but it has great modern infrastructure. I guess that’s why there are so many expats living there.
This is why we are so behind in our videos and blogging last month and of course Isabella caught a cold just a week back. So we continue to be behind. Life of a nomad isn’t always just amazing sunsets and beautiful places. 😉
Even if you are familiar with Japanese culture, it might be a shock the first time you visit Japan (photos above are from all over Japan) and Tokyo. Even the second time around it was still true. I’ve been to Japan and Tokyo many years ago and this time living here for a month gave me a new appreciation for the Tokyo life, which I didn’t get from a shorter visit.
Japan is known for being a discipline and respectful society. Although you do feel that presence, it is definitely an incomplete view of this multifaceted country. Today Japan is a vibrant country, evolving with the times and yet still holding on and celebrating its heritage. Although, it doesn’t fear embracing food and culture from around the world. A matter of fact, in each case it brings a very distinctive Japanese twist. Some may argue even better than the original it appropriated from. We don’t disagree.
It’s an expressive society stemming from a culture that values not trying to standout. So, it creates this awkward and amazing individual expression. Sometimes it is seen as playful cosplay, but often it’s a bold statement that is more subtle in fashion, hair style, or make-up. Although you can argue Japan is a conservative culture, there is much more than a fringe that is pushing and transforming the country that is impacting every aspect of life. There’s no place to see that transformation better than Tokyo.
So, what are some things you need to know to visit or live in Tokyo? We covered some of this in our Tokyo video blog and we have some additional complimentary details below.
That's it for our tips. If you have any questions, feel free to comment below. I swear we fall in love with each place we visit. I know both Isabella and I didn’t want to leave Japan and Tokyo. We love Tokyo!
Grocery Beer Price Index: Grand Kirin 330ml 228 yen ($2.11)
After Europe and a short break, we headed to Asia. Our first stop -- Tokyo!
Tokyo has been fabulous! Even for me the second time visiting Japan, there was still so much to discover. So we thought we would make a how-to-survive Tokyo episode. It’s our first “full length” episode. Woot! We are kind of excited about that.
Some thoughts we had immediately landing in Tokyo:
This episode is called “Not Lost in Translation”, but let us know if we misinterpreted somethings and totally got it wrong. 😊
If you like our videos, let us know by subscribing here:
Real-time photos on Instagram of our trip from where we are currently:
After visiting Denmark, we stopped over in Paris for a week.
Paris is one of our most favorite cities in the world. Probably the city we've visited the most in our travels. So this time we spend much of our time exploring the neighborhoods of Paris and hopefully getting a different perspective on the "city of love". Follow us as we do a quick walk through of some of our favorite neighborhoods.
If you like our videos, let us know by subscribing here:
Real-time photos on Instagram of our trip from where we are currently:
Thanks, Vu + Bella
We are still recovering from the flu which is pretty much a global epidemic, but hopefully we are really through it this time. So expect more blogs coming soon! Also in Paris, it was hard to find a local French craft microbrew beer. Although we know there are some, most of the beers were international and the closest was probably Belgium beers, which we love. So sorry no GBPI for Paris.
After leaving the arctic and the northern lights, we look for a little holiday cheer in Stockholm. Stockholm is an amazing place to visit for the holidays! We also hear that Santa Claus is hiding out in Stockholm and we set out to find him and see the city. ;-) Merry Christmas!
The Nordic countries are renown for some of the most balanced governance - better wealth distribution, investment in higher education, more environmentally focused, open and free press, little government corruption, and thriving economies. So, what do you expect when you land in the largest city of the Nordic countries? The bar is set high.
There are certainly classic architecture, amazing monuments, and grand parks. Stockholm has an abundance of museums and theaters. Everywhere you turn is a school. The public libraries and other public spaces are filled with kids “studying”. Then you have the world shaping Swedish brands (IKEA, Spotify, Skype, H&M, Electrolux, AstraZeneca, Volvo) that help drive a healthy Swedish economy. Of course, you have the classic people-centric European city planning (communal plazas and pedestrian and cycling pathways) designed to connect people. So, the city lives up to expectation!
Although with every major metropolitan, there is always an unsavory underside; however, in our brief visit, we were a bit surprised to not really find it. It was a little unexpected.
Here are some unexpected things about the city:
We really didn’t explore enough of Stockholm to truly understand it, but from what we saw as a tourist, Stockholm might be the perfect city. It at least makes us want to come back to see and discover more of Stockholm and Sweden. It’s amazing!
After Tromso, Stockholm was a little friendlier to the pocket book, which was nice, but don't expect a bargain.
Grocery Beer Price Index: 15.90 SEK for 33cl Bordsol Nils Oscar ($1.92)
Just about a month ago we had a long layover in London. In that 11-hour layover, we actually had enough time to see many of the major tourist attractions. So, what did we do this time?
Being on a budget is really a blessing for us on this visit. It forced us outside the tourist areas and into a neighborhood that we had never explored and saw so much more of what London is about. Walking and exploring the neighborhood is how you really discover the soul of a city. So, we were excited to land in Battersea and wander. From our home base, we spent much of our time roaming Battersea, Clapham, Chelsea, and Westminster. Each of theses neighborhoods (district/city), were so unique. You can see the gentrification and diversity of Battersea and affluence of Chelsea. Clapham was vibrant with young professional, but maybe a counter to Shoreditch edginess and liveliness, which reminded us of home in the pacific northwest. Tip: Eating in the many great takeout (mom-and-pop) places in Battersea is the best way to stay on a budget, but the really amazing things are the owners. They are super friendly and really want to get to know their customers. Each place made us wandering nomads feel like we were at home. That's a win in our book! Oh, they also only accept cash.
We were also able to do a quick getaway to Stonehenge and Bath. We did it on a tour coach versus public train. It allowed us to see the country side and it was in the end cheaper and more convenient. Often people pack their day tours, but we looked for a tour solution that provided us the most free time versus being ushered around and not being able to experience anything. Oh, and we really enjoyed Bath and Stonehenge! Definitely go! Tip: The most common day tour from London is Westminster, Stonehenge, and Bath with a lunch stop, but you are in a constant rush from one place to another with a bunch of driving in between. The Stonehenge and Bath only (no food) trip gives you guided information on the bus, essentially entertaining transportation, but provides free time once you get to the destination, which was perfect for us. We had about 1.5 hours at Stonehenge and 3.5 hours in Bath to do whatever we liked. It was a long day though, starting at 8:30 am and returning around 7:30 pm with traffic. If you have extra time, I would spend a couple of days in Bath.
Although we were in London for more than 4 days, it was fast. We had an American Thanksgiving in London, which was the first Thanksgiving abroad for us, and then dinner and cocktails into the early morning on Black Friday with our friends. No shopping for us. Sites are nice, but nothing beats time catching up with friends!
Grocery Beer Price Index: 2.1 pounds for 500ml Fullers London Pride ($2.75)
We came in late October just as the tourist season began to wane. It was an interesting transition from the hustle and bustle of the crowds and festivities to near silence. There were days in mid-November we would barely see a tourist until a cruise ship would arrive. Some of the restaurants and shops in the old town closed for the season and the ones that were open often adjust their schedule based on the arrival of the cruise ships. The touristy old town goes into hibernation until the spring when the next season starts.
It was definitely an intriguing time to visit, especially for an extended stay. We really enjoyed it!
We wanted to share some thoughts and tips, especially for visiting Split in the fall.
There’s a lot to do in Split and the surrounding area, including many beautiful UNESCO sites, which we didn't cover. Also, there are amazing outdoor adventures and intriguing local foods. For example, if you want a food adventure, right outside of Split there are towns that specializes in frogs and lamb. Split and Croatia seem like an endless adventure. We will be back for sure!
Come to Split and go exploring!
P.S. Sorry we have not provided updates about our boat as we promised, but I did sneak in a photo in the slide show above.
Grocery Beer Price Index: 7 kuna for 500ml Karlovako ($1)
Imagine having to get rid of everything you own. That's what it means to move from a house to a boat. During this transition to minimalist living, I learned a thing or two about downsizing.
The process officially kicked off when our house was sold after listing for only a day. At that moment, there's a real deadline and we needed to move quickly. Where am I going put everything? What to keep? What to bring?
At first, we looked to store the furniture we've collected and love over the years. However, with the buyers accepting our offer on the furniture that meant we didn't have to rent a storage space anymore. That was a great relief! We really hope they love the pieces as much as we do.
Now that all the big items were taken care of, sorting the rest should be easy right? Umm, not really. The reality struck when we realize EVERYTHING needed to fit in 3 bags weighing 20 kg/44 lbs each and 1/3 of a single garage for storage. From then on, every day after work and weekend was about sorting closets of clothes, deciding what household items stay, packing tubs to give away, and boxing all the essentials and documents etc. That felt like forever, but it was about two and a half weeks and we finally had to leave our West Seattle home.
While it was a super exhausting process, when we finally moved into our apartment, it was quite liberating. Everything seemed a little simpler, easier perhaps. It's pretty neat I have to say.
If you ever want to give this a try for your house, closet or garage, here's what I've learned that might help...
Maybe this is not for everyone, and maybe having less will become more in other ways. We will see!
ps, can't believe it's been 3 months and going!
One day and 3 countries, we woke up the next morning with church bells and the sound of a choir from our apartment. We are in Split, Croatia! First, we wanted to say thanks to our friends who have generously hosted us and shared their daily lives with us over the last 3 weeks. We will miss you! You made our road up to our departure easy.
On the day we departed, we woke up at 7am and after clearing the grit from our eyes, we found ourselves at a local coffee shop. That’s what you do in Seattle. We were sipping coffee only a few feet from the Space Needle watching torrents of rain come down as a crazy low pressure blew through with 50+mph gusts. We cherished every minute of the place we called home for so long. It was unusual weather, but a common fall day. That was essentially what the rest of the day was like for us.
We boarded a Norwegian Air flight by early afternoon with a one-way ticket out of the country. This was the first time we’ve ever bought a one-way ticket. It was a weird feeling not to know when you will return. The overall first leg of the flight was uneventful other than boarding was all at once versus the anticipation (and annoyance) of getting your row called. We generally don’t get too anxious about boarding, but we were flying with all our possessions we will take for the next 3 years, which included a couple of carry-ons. Norwegian Air had amazing prices, but we didn’t know what was included in terms of luggage. We had spent most of the previous day packing down to 3 check-in duffle bags and trying to get the weight to meet the airline's requirements. It was more time consuming than we thought. We had one bag of clothes for each of us and one for gear like cameras equipment. We had anticipated to pay nearly $400 for the check-in bags and were very happy to find out that everything was included. We didn’t know what category ticket we bought as it’s not detailed anywhere on our tickets or receipts. The amenities on board were rather nice for a low price provider, including good seats and a multitude of old movies and a few new ones that I didn’t mind watching. It wasn’t the most amazing, but it was good. My expectations were low. There was some confusion around food as I got a meal, but for some reason, Isabella did not. We just purchased some food for her and made it work. Can’t get too wound up about these things when you are traveling.
We arrive in London bright and early with very little rest, but the plan was to spend the 11-hour layover mostly in London and not at the airport. What can you do in London in that time? For us it was just simple sightseeing, people watching, and eating. We walked around 10 miles through the city and pretty much saw most major attractions. What struck us is how new good old London was. When you look at the skyline, it was essentially a city of construction cranes. It made Shanghai's building boom in the early 2000s look pale in comparison. We were out early before the tourist and thought the season was over, but London by noon was teeming with so many people that it was hard to move around the major sites. That was also on a windy and rain day. Somehow the same weather we saw in Seattle was also in London, but no matter what, London was still as grand and pomp as ever. It was a great layover city.
We arrived late in Split with the weather still dry and warm. We finally escaped the weather that was notorious in the previous two cities. It was now well over 30 hours since we had any real rest. We would get waves of sleepiness that shut us down, but were only a few minutes from our apartment in the center of the old town. The place was right within the Diocletian Palace. The major tourist gate to the palace was closed and we had to walk around the walled city and down alleys to eventually find our apartment. A place we will call home for at least the next month.
It was nice to wake up to people singing, but I will admit that I could have used a bit more sleep. However, we were excited to start the first day of our adventure abroad!
P.S. Over the next few days we will be visiting our boat and enjoying the city and the surrounding sites. Look forward to sharing some details about our boat and how we made this happen.