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Goodbye 2011: Our year of travel in pictures

dani & jess at doi suthep temple chiang mai

Another unforgettable year is coming to an end – this time it is our second year as full-time travelers! We’ve literally been around the world this year and, rather than rattle off a list of everywhere we’ve been, this Goodbye 2011 post will highlight our favorite pictures of the year, starting in Central America and ending in Thailand after stints in Europe, the U.S. and Canada.

January 2011

As we mentioned in our Goodbye to 2010 post, we began the year at Lake Yojoa in Honduras, where we were the only guests at our hotel. 2011 started out as laid-back as can be…

January Lake Yojoa HondurasFor more January highlights, check out our Facebook album Best of 2011: January (Honduras & Nicaragua).

February 2011

Shortly after the start of the New Year, we moved on to Nicaragua – and fell head over heels in love with the country. The picture was taken in Masaya, just outside of Granada…one of Nicaragua’s most visited cities. Throughout the country, the horse and buggy is still a common and totally valid form of transportation – alongside cars, buses, SUVs, motorcycles and bicycles.

february nicaragua masaya church &horse carriageFor more February highlights check out our Facebook album Best of 2011: February (Nicaragua & Costa Rica).

March 2011

After three relaxing weeks in Costa Rica we made our way to Panama and were most impressed with the Casco Viejo area of Panama City (check out our picture post of Casco Viejo). We resisted actually picking up a Panama hat, but couldn’t resist photographing them. Panamanians have certainly got style!

March Panama hats in Casco Viejo panamaFor more March highlights check out our Facebook album: Best of 2011: March (Costa Rica, Panama & Germany).

April 2011

Going from six months in the developing countries of Central America to visiting the mighty castles of Germany was an extreme contrast. This is what we love most about our nomadic lifestyle! At the end of the month we completed our first year on the road (find out how much we spent in one year of travel here).

april neuschwanstein castle bavaria germanyFor more April highlights check out our Facebook album: Best of 2011: April (Germany, Austria & Italy)

May 2011

In Spring we traveled in Europe, from Germany and Austria to a few weeks in Tuscany. While we were both blown away by the romance of the countryside, the taste of the wine and the warmth of the locals, it was the pizza…the glorious pizza…that became the highlight of May 2011 for us.

may italy montaione pizzas & wineFor more May 2011 highlights including Jess with a group of aliens in Spain, check out our Facebook album: Best of 2011: May (Italy & Spain).

June 2011

In the first week of June, we went on our first ever cruise and followed that up by reaching 400 days on the road! Just a week later we would discover a city that could possibly, one day, be called home: Lisbon, Portugal. The Portuguese capital just ticks so many boxes – laid-back, sunny, warm, good (and cheap) coffee, beaches as far as the eye can see, plenty of history and oozing with charm. What struck us most was how similar Lisbon is to San Francisco. We spent three fabulous weeks here in June (despite a near heart attack experience that still has us cracking up).

june portugal lisbon tram 28For more June highlights, check out our Facebook album: Best of 2011: June (Spain, Corsica, Portugal).

July 2011

From Lisbon we flew directly to Toronto to begin an entirely new North American chapter of our travels. We spent six weeks house-sitting outside of Ottawa. These weeks were filled with exploring adorable villages, peaceful sunset bike rides, evenings in the jacuzzi and hanging with the friendly neighbors drinking great Canadian micro-brews.

july kemptville ontario sunsetFor more July highlights, check out our Facebook album: Best of 2011: July (Canada).

August 2011

August was truly an unforgettable month that brought us through Montreal, Quebec, Boston, and the start of our NYC2NOLA road trip through New York, Philadelphia and Washington DC on our way down to New Orleans. While we loved the freedom of the open road, it was our four nights in New York that dazzled us the most. There is just something about this concrete jungle that gets us every time.

For more August highlights, check out our Facebook album: Best of 2011: August (Canada & USA).

September 2011

After four weeks and over 4,000 miles we finally made it to New Orleans in September. What we found when we arrived is a city with style, individuality and people with a zest for life and love of music like we’ve never experienced before. We could easily spend more than a week in the Big Easy…in fact we toyed with the idea of a few months here sometime in the future, too. On September 13th, just before reaching Chicago, we hit 500 days on the road.

september New Orleans voodoo skeletonsFor more September highlights, check out our Facebook album: Best of 2011: September (U.S. Road Trip).

October 2011

And then we flew to the other side of the planet – for our first trip to South East Asia! We started in Thailand, and it was definitely a relief to gaze out at this crystal blue water after a few chilly weeks in Chicago and Colorado!

thailand long tail boats phi phi lei islandFor more October highlights, check out our Facebook album: Best of 2011: October (Chicago, Colorado & Thailand).

November 2011

After finding a good place to settle down to work in the northern Thai city of Chiang Mai, we hopped a series of buses and boats to travel around northern Laos for the last two weeks of November. While the two countries have their similarities, we were struck by how much simpler life in Laos is compared to fast-paced and modern Thailand. We have learned so much since arriving in Asia, especially about Buddhism – and have become accustomed to sharing our daily lives with the hundreds of monks populating cities and villages across the Buddhist nations.

november young monks luang prabang laosFor more November highlights, check out our Facebook album: Best of 2011: November (Thailand & Laos).

December 2011

The last month of 2011 marked a major milestone for us, as we hit 600 days on the road! In some ways it feels as though we have just started traveling. Looking back at everything we have done in these six hundred days truly feels like an accomplishment. One lesson we have learned is that in order to be happy as nomads, we need to know when to take longer breaks and relax. That’s why we booked ourselves in to an apartment in Chiang Mai for one month in December. We love this city, as it has everything we could ever need or want. We celebrated Christmas with friends, went on hikes, spent time with elephants, eaten endless veggie cuisine and learned so much about Thai culture and tradition.

december moat at sunset chiang mai thailandFor more December highlights, check out our Facebook album: Best of 2011: December (Laos & Thailand).

Happy New Year 2012 to all our readers!

We would love for you to tell us about your travel highlights for 2011 in the comments below – we’re always on the lookout for new locations about where to travel next!

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Goodbye 2012: Our year of travel in pictures

dani & jess indian train station

2012 was an intense year of travel, filled with ups and downs for us like never before. We ‘only’ traveled through 10 countries this year in an attempt to better balance the travel with the work that keeps us on the road. We made countless new friends, spent months on the beach and discovered places that will forever have a special place in our hearts – check out our top 5 destinations in 2012 and top 5 beaches in 2012 if you missed an inside look at those. Above all else, it was the year of the beach housesit for us, with six housesits in six different countries and we even published a book about it to help others Break Free.

It’s still hard to believe we are still on this great adventure, so as we did in 2010 and 2011, we wanted to highlight our year of travel in pictures of our third year as nomads!

January

We started the new year in Chiang Mai, Thailand, a city that we grew fonder of than we had expected! The night markets, the temples, the many coffee shops and so many new friends made the city a special place for us. When we left in January, we didn’t know it yet at the time, but we would return for a housesit a few weeks later.

monks at chedi luang

February

We moved on to Malaysia at the end of January and spent a month exploring the Cameron Highlands, the beautiful island of Langkawi and Kuala Lumpur, where we housesat for a moody cat. Our favorite spot in Malaysia? Georgetown, the main town on Penang, an island just off the coast in northern Malaysia, where we jumped right into the incredible Thaipusam festival.

georgetown mosque at night

March

In March we finally visited Cambodia, a country we were both excited to visit. It was heartbreaking to see what the people went through under the Khmer Rouge, but heartwarming to see how warm and positive they were despite of the cruel happenings in their recent past. The famous Angkor Wat ruins were a must of course, but we much preferred small towns such as Kampot and Battambang and were taken by surprise at the great beaches on the south coast. Cambodia turned out to be one of the highlights of the year.

battambang alms giving ceremony

April

Culture shock! We drove to the airport in Cambodia in a tuk tuk, and when we landed in Singapore we hopped on one of the most modern and definitely the cleanest metro system in the world. Singapore is filled with skyscrapers and streets lined with mall after mall, so different to most of South East Asia. But we enjoyed the city a lot, from the glitz and glamor of the Marina Bay to the neighborhoods that give Singapore true charm, like Chinatown, Little India and ‘Little Arabia’ Kampong Glam.

singapore

May

At the end of April we flew from Singapore to India, where we spent five weeks exploring the south. We had a blast cruising on the backwaters in Kerala, but when Jess got rammed by a cow in Goa, our travels there ended quite abruptly. Maybe 2013 will be the year we return to see the rest of this fascinating country?

indian family in hampi

June

There was no better place for Jess to recover from her accident than in Tucson, Arizona. A couple we housesat for in 2010 asked us back to care for their house and dog again, and the warm, dry weather and gorgeous pool was perfect, plus every time we are in Southern Arizona, we are blown away by the sensational desert scenery.

jess sunglass reflection saguaros

July

We jumped up to Denver for a week for Jess’ best friend’s wedding, and then moved on to Mexico for yet another housesit. We didn’t know anything about the small town on the Caribbean coast before we went there, but we ended up having eight amazing weeks in our remote little beach house.

mahahual beach mexico

August

After finishing up the housesit and escaping a hurricane, we returned to one of our favorite cities in the world: Mexico City. We had spent two weeks there in 2010 and were happy to discover even more cool areas of the mega city. We also made a trip to our most loved taco place and stopped at the craziest bakery in Mexico!

mexico city taxi

September

We had planned to spend time traveling in Mexico, but when we were contacted by a couple in Costa Rica for a housesit near one of our favorite beaches in the country, we couldn’t resist. In September we flew to Costa Rica, lived in yet another beach house, cared for an adorable dog, and saw some of the most remarkable sunsets of the year!

sunset nosara

October

During our six-month stint in Central America in 2010, we had seen much of Costa Rica already, but had missed the area of La Fortuna so we headed up there this October. We visited everything La Fortuna is famous for: Volcano Arenal, massive waterfalls, we hiked in the National Park and enjoyed some luxurious hot springs. We were surprised at just how much we liked La Fortuna and Arenal.

volcano arenal with clouds

November

We were originally going to start here in May 2010, but finally on 1 November 2012, 2.5 years later, we arrived in Buenos Aires. We think it might be a good thing we didn’t begin here, because we may have never left! Both Jess and I fell in love with Buenos Aires: the culture, the food, the architecture and the people. The six weeks we spent in the city were unforgettable, which got Jess wondering if it would be as magical again when we go back.

san telmo market mates

December

As they seem to always do, our plans changed once again and instead of traveling down through Patagonia, we were accepted for another housesit in Santiago de Chile, where we have been lucky enough to spend the holidays with a pair of Scottie dog brothers. It was just too tempting to have our ‘own’ apartment in order to finish our first book after months of hard work!

santiago and andesPatagonia will still be there in 2013, when we hope to travel through the rest of South America and then maybe Europe? We are both already looking forward to writing our Goodbye 2013 post next year to find out what plans change, which ones stay the same, and what part of the world we discover in 2013!

Happy New Year everyone!

Thank you for following our journey and we wish you a travel-filled year 2013!

Looking for ideas on how to Break Free in 2013? Pick up a copy of Break Free:: The Ultimate Guide to Housesitting to find out how housesitting can help you afford the trip of a lifetime!

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Easy-breezy Island Life: Highlights of a Malta Road Trip

malta road trip

“Don’t drive in Malta”.

This is a warning I kept hearing whenever I mentioned I wanted to see some more of the island by renting a car for a day, so that I could explore the beaches that Malta is famous for, the little fishing villages, scenic cliffs and coastal views. A Malta road trip seemed like such a good idea, at least in my head.

Road Trip Malta

I decided to ignore the well-meant advice and the stories about the horrible Maltese drivers and rented a car anyway. Having driven in Rome’s mad traffic, in Mexico and in Argentina, I figured driving in Malta would be just fine. Driving on the left side of the road also can’t scare me anymore after driving in Central London, so I was just silently praying all the crazy drivers would stay at home while I would be speeding cruising down the narrow country roads.

While Malta has a pretty good public transportation network, driving yourself is still better – you can stop whenever and wherever you want, even if it’s just a quick photo stop, you don’t have to rely on the bus schedule, and you can also visit places that aren’t covered by the buses. I only paid €22 for a 24-hour rental, and you can add pick-up for an additional €10 (and drop-off for another €10). Even if you pay for pick-up, drop-off and the rental, I think this is an extremely affordable price, even more so if you share the costs with someone.st julians bay at sunset maltaI had asked for the smallest car and this is what I got:driving in MaltaIsn’t this the cutest car?!

I was happy when my friend Umei decided to join me on my Malta road trip. It didn’t take us long to get to our first stop: Marsaxlokk, a traditional fishing village in the south of the island. I fell in love with it the minute we got out of the car – look at these colors:maltese fishing villageThe bay was filled with little fishing boats, called luzzu, which are known for being painted in bright colors and always having a pair of eyes on the front – supposedly to protect them from bad luck and the dangers out at sea.Malta luzzu boats in MarsaxlokkWhile the village seemed sleepy and laid-back when we visited it, Marsaxlokk is buzzing with people every Sunday, when a fish market takes place here. Fishermen arrive with their fresh catch in the port where dozens of stalls sell the seafood right on the spot.Malta MarsaxlokkSimilar to the medieval city of Mdina, I had the feeling I was stepping back in time here.driving in maltaIt felt like not much had changed here in the last few decades – the village seemed to be exactly the way it was in a time before TVs, cell phones and the internet (if you blocked out the tourists who were sharing their experience with the world via Instagram and Facebook).Marsaxlokk

Stop number two on our Malta road trip were the Dingli Cliffs, to take in some of the island’s spectacular coastline. The Dingli Cliffs are the highest point in Malta, at 253 meters (830feet), and you can usually look out over the Mediterranean for miles and miles. When we were there it was slightly foggy, but we still got a sense for how majestic the cliffs are, and loved the surrounding countryside that was filled with spring wildflowers.dingli cliffs maltaIf you want to discover more of this area, you can take a Segway tour that allows you to glide along the cliffs, while you learn more about the history and the nature of Dingli, and it includes stops at some of the landmarks around here, like the Magdalena Chapel, Palazzo Verdala and Palazzo Girgenti, and the Boschetto Gardens.Dingli MaltaHere it is not uncommon to see horse-drawn carriages, old-fashioned traveling merchants and village people who still travel on foot.malta road tripEven though the cliffs were stunning, we also wanted to see some of the amazing beaches that we had heard so much about.malta mellieha bayMalta is known to have some of the clearest waters in the Mediterranean, and when we finally reached Mellieha Bay, I wish it would’ve been warmer already so that I could’ve dipped more than just my toes into the crystal clear water…malta road tripWhen we got to Golden Bay, clouds had started to cover the blue skies, but I could still imagine how gorgeous this place must be on a sunny summer day.malta road tripWe had reached the northernmost point on our road trip – which was nearly the northernmost point of the island! Malta is just so compact that you really can fit in most of the island in a daylong Malta road trip.malta st julians bay boatBefore heading south again, we stopped at a roadside stall that wasn’t much more than a table with a couple of boxes of strawberries on it – some of the biggest strawberries we’d ever seen! We couldn’t resist and had to pick up a box. They were the perfect road trip snack.driving in MaltaWe couldn’t pass through Mosta, one of the bigger cities on the island, with a population of nearly 20,000 people, without stopping at the Mosta Dome (also known as the Rotunda of Mosta), which is not only the third-largest unsupported dome in the world, but is also home to the Miracle Of Mosta: In 1942, during World War II, a 200kg bomb was dropped by the German Luftwaffe over the church in which 500 people were hiding and did NOT detonate. Mosta Dome is impressive, but Mosta itself was also really pleasant.driving in Maltamosta church domemosta maltaOn the way back to Valletta we passed through St Julian’s just in time to see Spinola Bay lit up during the twilight hours. St Julian’s is one of the most popular holiday spots on the island, with lots of hotels and restaurants, and we joined the wandering tourists for a stroll along the promenade where the gorgeous LOVE sculpture has become a popular place with lovers, who ‘lock’ up their love here.st julians bay love sculpturemalta lovelocks st juliansIf you are planning a visit to Malta, I highly recommend renting a car and seeing the island that way – at least for a day or two. Driving in Malta didn’t feel scary at all, and is also doable if you’ve never driven on the left side of the road – just be extra vigilant.

Places you should include in your Malta road trip: Valletta, Mdina, Mellieha Bay, Marsaxlokk, the Dingli Cliffs and St Julian’s.malta road tripst julians bay at night

Malta road trip

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Views from above: Singapore

singapore skyscrapers

Whenever we get to a city, the first thing we do is get as high up as possible – to the top of a tower, skyscraper or hillside in search of the best views from above. This helps us get an idea of how the city is laid out, its actual size, and most importantly creates a huge respect for the city, its skyline and the buzz of the people living and working on its streets. Before arriving at our hotel in Singapore, we had already researched the best places for a stunning view of Singapore from above, and knew that this Asian metropolis has a wide variety of these vantage points. Read on to find out the best ways to take in Singapore’s skyline:singapore sunset from top of marina bay sands

Where to get the best views of Singapore

The Singapore Flyer

If you like Ferris wheels, you will love The Singapore Flyer! The tallest in the world, the Singapore Flyer towers over the city at 165 meters tall, a full 30 meters higher than the London Eye. Our time up in the Flyer was an incredible 30 minute vertical tour of the city. We must have shot 200 pictures while in our massive pod.

singapore flyer The wheel is located on the Marina Promenade on the South Eastern side of the Marina Bay, in walkable distance from the Marina Bay Sands Hotel. As the cabin moves higher and higher, the views over the city evolve: first you have terrific views over Marina Bay, then over Singapore’s Grand Prix Circuit, over the Eastern part of town and over the Strait of Singapore with its countless freighter ships coming and going.
singapore flyer viewsWhile we were in town, we were curious about a strange construction down near the water as well. Those of you on your way to Singapore now can visit what we later found out is a $1 billion construction of gardens, which look like they are straight out of Alice in Wonderland. Actually a conservatory with 226,000 plants and flowers from all around the globe, it is also home to 18 ‘Supertrees’ which serve as vertical gardens, collecting rain water and generating solar power, and acting as the venting ducts for the conservatory.

singapore flyer view over gardens by the bayThe Singapore Flyer also offers a longer time on board with a truly special dinner… the world’s best sky dining. You will spend an hour rotating twice while enjoying a world-class 4-course meal in a private gondola.

marina bay sands viewHighest point: 165 m (541 ft)

Price: S$29.50

Information: www.singaporeflyer.com

Singapore views

Marina Bay Sands Skydeck

It is a strangely beautiful architectural masterpiece and we just loved staring out at the Marina Bay Sands from everywhere else in Singapore.
marina bay sandsBut some of the absolute best views of the city are to be had on top of this building itself – from the Skydeck. The 340m-long SkyPark that tops the three towers is home to the highest infinity swimming pool in the world, and the world’s largest cantilevered platform (which is the 67 meters worth of overhang you see that makes the Skydeck almost look like ship sailing in the air.

marina bay sands There are several ways how you can access the Skypark. You can stay at the hotel, which in addition to views, gives you immediate acess to the infinity pool as well. There is an observation deck, but we figured that instead of investing S$20 for views only, why not grab a drink at the Sky on 57th restaurant instead. Sure, a glass of the house red costs $20, and a Singapore Fling is $18, but it’s the same price as the Observation Deck and there is nothing quite like having a drink at sunset looking out over the Marina Bay…

cocktails and sunset at marina bay sands
views over SingaporePlus, keep an eye out for celebrities while you’re here. The rich and famous love this hotel just as much as everybody else and Marina Bay Sands has hosted a long list of famous guests.

Highest point: 191 meters (626 meters)

Price: S$20 for the skydeck, or the price of a drink at one of the rooftop restaurants (starting at around S$8, or $18 – S$20 for a cocktail or glass of wine)

More information: Skypark Observation Deck
singapore at night from marina bay sandsIf you’d like to combine views with a fancy dinner, here is TimeOut’s list of Singapore’s 20 best rooftop bars and restaurants.
dani & jess at marina bay sands

The Mount Faber Cable Car

The Singapore cable car connects Mount Faber with Sentosa Island, with a short stop at Harborfront. Start at Mount Faber – the views from the mountain are fantastic! Watch cars drive along the curvy road hugging the bay, and look a bit further into the distance to count dozens of freighter ships waiting to be allowed into the harbor.
singapore harbour and skyline from cable carSpot some of Singapore’s creative architecture in the new apartment buildings near the ocean, and of course one of Singapore’s main tourist destinations, Sentosa Island, where you land on your final approach.

singapore cable car views The ride is short. It takes about 10 minutes to cover the roughly 1,000 meters (3,280ft) between Mt Faber and the island. To spend more time in the sky, opt for Sky Dining, which will give you the privacy of your own cabin and a romantic fine dining experience during the sun set (S$168 per couple for a 3-course dinner, S$218 for four courses.)

singapore cable car to sentosa islandHighest point (on Mount Faber): 93 meters (305 ft), during the ride 60 meters (197 ft) above the sea

Price: S$29 (round trip), Super Saver Night Rider: S$35 per couple  for a round trip incl. popcorn and soft drinks

More information: Singapore Cable Car

singapore cable car views

Tiger Sky Tower on Sentosa Island

Once you have arrived at Sentona Island, hang out for a while. Tour the free cable car museum for an interesting history of how the cable car has improved over the years. Make no mistake – Sentosa Island is essentially a resort, with two golf courses, two 5-star resorts, a Universal theme park, underwater world, dolphin lagoon and several other attractions, but you can spend a day on the beach here facing the ocean and blissfully ignore the busy city behind you.

sentosa island beachSentosa Island is also the best place to look at Singapore from outside of the city, by taking a trip up the Tiger Sky Tower. Not only does this offer views over Singapore’s skyline, but you can see everything on Sentosa Island and the small islands beyond. On clear days you can even see Malaysia and Indonesia. The Tower is actually a big round cabin that ascends the column of the tower slowly while turning, providing 360 degree views.

sentosa island view from cable carIf you don’t want to use the cable car, you can also walk to Sentosa Island from Harbourfront (the walk takes about 30 minutes) or take the monorail.

Highest point: Observation deck, 110 m (360 ft) above ground

Price: S$15

More information: The Sky Tower closed permanently in 2018.

sentosa island and freighter ships from cable car

Have you been to Singapore? What is your favorite spot for views of Singapore’s skyline?

 

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A taste of Singapore…our first impressions, observations and a few interesting Singapore facts

singapore sunset from top of marina bay sands

Singapore was a bit of a mystery to us before our recent visit… how is that some countries in South East Asia exist in messy, varying stages of development and Singapore boasts incredible architecture, essentially no crime and one of the most resilient economies in the world?kampong glam with sultan mosqueThis stark contrast really smacked us in the face, flying straight in from Cambodia. Singapore is a city-state (like Monaco or Vatican City), but really just feels like a cosmopolitan mega-city, whereas even in Cambodia’s largest city of Phnom Penh we witnessed remaining signs of rural life. Where much of Cambodia has dirt roads, Singapore has highways. While Cambodians haul livestock on mopeds, Singaporeans haul iPads in brand new Mercedes.

The disparity was shocking, but it was not difficult to jump right in to urban life. We had always heard that Singapore was this kind of Asian wunderkind and can confirm the rumors to be true. One of our first observations about Singapore: The public transportation system is modern, clean and on time.

Another fascinating Singapore fact: 5.8 million people are successfully housed in high rises across only 272 square miles. There are no homeless people, at least none that we saw and we did some definite exploring outside of popular spots like Marina Bay in the week we were in town.singapore factsIn fact, we probably walked an average of 10 miles a day while in Singapore, not including our strolls through the twenty or so mega malls that line Orchard St. There are enough touristy things to do to keep visitors busy for weeks, including highlights such as the Singapore Flyer observation wheel, countless museums, the popular Singapore Night Safari, beautiful Botanical Gardens, Chinese Buddhist and Indian Hindu temples, and even a Universal Studios Theme Park.

We couchsurfed in a friendly neighborhood, made it out to a farm, went to the eccentric Haw Par Villa, Sentosa Island, but no matter how much we took in, many of my questions about Singapore were left unanswered. For now, we want to take you on a quick photo-tour of this magnificent city, share some of our first impressions and observations about Singapore.

Singapore facts
Arab Street, Singapore

One of our favorite neighborhoods was Kampong Glam, Singapore’s ‘muslim quarter’ – there are mosques, muslim schools, arabic cafes and along Arab Street, you can find Persian rug stores, burkah shops, Turkish cafes and Egyptian restaurants. The whole area is filled with colorful Chinese shophouses, the streets are lined with palm trees and cafes spill out on the sidewalks.kampong glam lampkampong glam street

Palm tree-lined street in Kampong Glam

singapore muslim wedding
A Muslim wedding at the Sultan Mosque
Singapore facts
Turkish influences in Kampong Glam

This neighborhood has loads of street art, colorful murals and mosaics.

kampong glam muralkampong glam street artstreet art in kampong glamWe loved that the traditional neighborhoods like Little India, Chinatown and Geylang Serai remain much the way they always were, despite more and more skyscrapers going up in downtown Singapore, billion dollar hotel projects, futuristic eco-gardens and the newly designed Marina Bay Promenade.

Singapore observations
The Marina Bay Sands Building and Singapore’s mascot, the Merlion.
singapore at night from marina bay sands
Singapore’s skyscrapers at night

singapore skyscrapers

esplanade singapore
Singapore’s futuristic Esplanade Theater

singapore esplanade theater

singapore marina bay sands
More futuristic architecture: the lotus flower-shaped Arts & Science Museum in front of the Marina Bay Sands Hotel Casino

singapore with flyerWe loved that there were still old-fashioned ice cream vendors at Marina Bay, despite the modern buildings and the revamped promenade. We had to of course try Singapore’s special ice cream sandwich: mango ice cream in white toast.

singapore ice cream sandwichWe found that Singapore in general seems to have a sweet tooth – there are hundreds of bakeries around town – much to Dani’s delight…cream puffs singaporeStarbucks in Singapore has some of the most delicious cakes we’ve come across, better than most Starbucks cafes around the world for sure…peanutbutter cake in singaporeYes, there are plenty of Starbucks, Coffee Bean and other coffee shops, but we loved that there are just as many traditional Singaporean coffee houses, where coffee is still made the old-fashioned way.

Singapore observations

Singapore factsA well known fact about Singapore is that it is sometimes called ‘the police state of South East Asia’, or the double entrende ‘FINE city‘ and for good reason. There are many laws that are strongly enforced with huge fines, like up to $500 for eating or drinking on public transportation. Just in case you are nervous about breaking a law, don’t worry, as there will most definitely be a sign for that. Contrary to popular belief, gum-chewing is no longer illegal but you can’t buy it in the country. However, the rules do seem to actually work here: Singapore is by far the cleanest city we’ve visited in South East Asia, and where we felt the safest.

sentosa island beachWho would have thought that Singapore has gorgeous beaches like this? Sentosa Island is the perfect getaway from the city – just a short 10-minute gondola or metro ride across the bay.

Singapore observations
View towards Sentosa Island from the Singapore Cable Car

The creepiest place in Singapore? Definitely Haw Par Villa, founded by the brothers who invented the infamous Tiger Balm (read more about it here.)

haw par villa singapore 10 courts of hellhaw par villa singapore feetless ratOverall, we loved how colorful Singapore is – no matter which neighborhood we strolled through, the houses were always painted in bright colors, like here in Clarke Quay.Singapore factskampong glam bullchinatown singapore

Colorful Chinatown

colorful building in singapore

We also loved the many hawker food stalls all over Singapore and in the food markets, as well as the busy street markets.Singapore observationsSingapore observationsAuthentic Indian Idli in Singapore

dani & jess southern most point of asiaWe made it to the southern most point of Continental Asia!

 

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The Vintage Cars of Uruguay

uruguay classic cars colonia del sacramento

When we landed in Uruguay, we knew it would be similar to neighboring Argentina, just with a stronger Gaucho culture, better beaches and an even bigger obsession with their maté tea. All of these held true—especially the fact that they never leave the house without their maté.

But who would have thought Uruguay would remind us more of Cuba at times than Argentina! It sure did, though, with thousands of gorgeous vintage cars rolling through the streets like a moving antique car fair or open air automobile museum.

vintage car colonia

A History of Vintage Cars in Uruguay

In North America in the summer, you’ll often come across vintage car shows, with dedicated owners waxing and relaxing while onlookers admire and consider paying large sums of money to pick up their own vintage car. In Uruguay, the roads themselves are the car show, driven by regular janes and joes who have had these cars in their families for generations.

montevideo vw beetleuruguay vintage car

There is just something so perfectly fitting about these cars that represents the overall feeling of life in Uruguay – proud, timeworn, defiant, dignified and adorably dilapidated.

While some cars definitely look used and abused, many are as pristine as in their heyday. There is a sense of nostalgia overload with these gorgeous old-timers parked along the streets of villages that also appear unchanged since the cars first pulled up back in the 1930s, 40s and 50s.

uruguay classic car colonia del sacramento

uruguay classic car

It was during this era that Uruguay experienced a major economic upturn, exporting beef and wheat to sustain Europe throughout both World Wars. With money lining their pockets, Uruguayans proudly began opting for more expensive imported cars, and not just for special occasions or the very rich. Imported Rolls Royces and Bugattis were even used to make deliveries or left to rust on the side of the road in favor of the latest model.

That is, until the economy completely crashed in the 1960s and car imports stopped almost entirely. Uruguayans maintained their love of cars and began preserving their cars to last for decades, and even have a special word for these cars now – ‘cachilas’.vintage car n uruguay

uruguay vintage opelIn particular we loved the two classic cars parked in front of the El Drugstore restaurant: a 1930s Citroën sprouting trees and flowers and a 1920s Ford Model T, which has been remodeled into a dining car, for diners to eat at a little table inside the car.

uruguay vintage Citroen Traction Avant with treeuruguay Citroen Traction Avant colonia de sacramentouruguay ford model a dining car colonia

These cachilas have been passed on to sons and daughters, who passed them on to their sons and daughters, many of whom are still driving them around today. Those cars that don’t run are often still shown love, re-purposed as artistic displays, like many of the cars we saw in Colonia del Sacramento.

It didn’t take long for word to get out about Uruguay’s vintage vehicles and in the 1970s, collectors from as far as Japan, Europe and North America flocked to Uruguay looking for rare models at much lower prices.

uruguay vintage car coloniaThe cars of Uruguay, while vintage, can not really be considered antiques. These are living, breathing automobiles that have been consistently in use for over 60 years now. Antique might however be a word used to describe the mechanics who so lovingly restore them. Essentially car historians themselves, the older generation of mechanics have been pouring their hearts in the cars of Uruguay for decades.

The mechanics teach the younger generations the steps to repair the cars, but swear that only the older mechanics can truly keep the vintage cars in tact. Possibly a case of intertwined souls of the cars and the mechanics who have so long loved them?

vintage car uruguay

uruguay vintage ford truck

montevideo vw beetle green

Vintage cars have a very special place for everyone in the country, so much so that they are declared by the government to be ‘historic patrimony’. What this means is that a permit from the Commission on Historic Patrimony is required before a car can be shipped abroad that was manufactured before 1940.

This assures that the streets of Uruguay can continue to hark back to the golden era and its car culture for decades to come.

uruguay vintage army jeep

 

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The Grand Finale of my Philippines Trip: El Nido (Part I)

sunset

El Nido was one of the two places I was looking forward to the most on my Philippines trip (the other one was Boracay), as everyone who had been there was raving about the unspoiled beauty of the deserted islands off the coast of Palawan, the island El Nido is located on.El Nido PalawanAs I was holding on for my dear life in the van that took me up to El Nido from Puerto Princesa, Palawan’s main airport, I was praying that it would live up to my high expectations, but since Palawan had recently been declared the most beautiful island in the world, I was pretty confident that it wouldn’t disappoint.el nido beach viewWhen I booked my flight to Puerto Princesa, I wasn’t aware that it would take another 5-6 hours to get to El Nido from the airport, which would make this a 16-hour travel day starting in Dumaguete 6am in the morning and reaching El Nido 9pm at night. The hours in the van were some of the most horrible driving I’ve experienced so far, even beating the van driver from Laos to Chiang Mai who fell asleep halfway through, forcing one of us passengers to take over the wheel.bacuit archipelago shell philippinesThis driver surely saw the narrow winding mountain roads of Palawan as his own personal race track, and several times when he accelerated before a sharp turn I was convinced we’d shoot over the guardrail into the woods.el nido las cabanas beachAgainst all odds we made it to el Nido alive, and I realized mistake #2: not booking a hostel in advance. My driver took me to a number of places, all of which were full, and just when I was about to give up hope and thought I would have to spend the night on the beach, I lucked out and got the last single room in a hostel.el nido with boatsWhen I went to explore the town the next morning, I wasn’t all too impressed, to be honest. The beach seemed dirty, and while others might find the ramshackle buildings charming, I just found them.. ugly.el nido kayakBut nobody comes to El Nido for the town. People come here for the Bacuit Archipelago. The archipelago is made of 45 islets, most of them nothing more than limestone karst cliff outcrops surrounded by crystal clear water, some of them boasting secret beaches or hidden lagoons. What all of them have in common is that they offer some of the best snorkeling in the country.bacuit archipelago island hopping tourThe best way to see as many of them as possible? Go on an island hopping tour. There are four different tours which can be booked just about anywhere in town, creatively titled Tour A, B, C and D. The tours are all pretty similar: the boats leave El Nido around 9am and get back around 5pm, include a lunch and 4 to 5 snorkeling stops.bacuit archipelago boatWhen I researched the various tours to decide which ones to go on, I had found that most people were recommending A and C, so those were the ones I went on (I would have loved to hop on all four tours, but El Nido is not the cheapest place to hang around in, and it’s probably good that there is no ATM in town, forcing you to leave when you run out of money).bacuit archipelago boatsI decided to start with tour A and on a rather cloudy morning I hopped on a little Filipino fishing boat to cruise around the islands.seven comandments beach philippinesOur first stop was the 7 Commandment beach, a small sandy beach, fringed by palm trees. The snorkeling area was small and I almost didn’t go in the water because it was still overcast and I thought I might even be cold. But I am so glad I eventually did go in! There were already more fish in this little spot than I had seen in all four of my snorkeling stops in Apo Island. It was like a beautiful underwater plant garden, and I would have been satisfied staying here all day, laying out on the gorgeous beach and going for an occasional snorkeling dip, but this was only stop 1 of 5.Bacuit Archipelago underwaterThe second stop was already our lunch stop, and we spent well over an hour on a tiny strip of sand beach, and the crew was preparing lunch (lots of fresh fish, rice and fruit) while we were sunbathing and snorkeling. The snorkeling area was much bigger than on the first beach, and I loved the marine life here. You could snorkel all the way out to a massive limestone rock that stuck out of the ocean if you were a good swimmer and see plenty of fish everywhere around you.Bacuit Archipelago underwater PhilippinesAfter lunch (very filling if you’re not a vegetarian; leaving you starving if you’re a vegetarian), we moved on to our third stop, a hidden lagoon that we had to swim into, entering via a small hole in the rock. Getting there was a bit difficult because it was extremely rocky – we were all wearing our flip flops or water shoes and were still struggling. Here I could see why Alex Garland’s The Beach was apparently inspired by his time in the Philippines (even though the book is set in Thailand).bacuit archipelago lagoonHe was probably trying to keep the real beach a secret, but in this case, when five boats get there at the same time and fifty people try to make their way in there at once, it is a bit underwhelming. Only at the end, when everybody else had left and the lagoon was almost empty, I came to appreciate the stunning beauty of it with the towering limestone rocks towering high above me.bacuit archipelagoNext was an absolutely stunning stop: First we cruised in a big circle through the Big Lagoon, only open to the ocean on one side, and surrounded by massive limestone rocks on all sides. After that, we stopped outside the lagoon to snorkel in what is best described as a real-life aquarium. The coral, the plants, the fish – so so many fish – it truly felt as if someone had dropped me into an aquarium. I could’ve stayed there forever.Bacuit Archipelago underwater snorkelingThis was only my first island hopping trip in El Nido, and it didn’t disappoint. I was already looking forward to my next one!

For more impressions from Palawan and practical information on how to get to El Nido, where to stay, what to do and other things you should know before you go, check out Part II of this post: The grand finale of my Philippines trip: El Nido (Part II)

bacuit archipelago lagoonbacuit archipelago beachbacuit archipelago philippines

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El Nido

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A stroll through Casco Viejo, Panama’s historic quarter

Casco Viejo Panama

When we arrived in Panama City, the first buildings that came into view were modern monoliths like we hadn’t seen since Mexico City eight months earlier and seven countries to the north. Panama’s capital has a skyline to rival most major US cities, and being located right on the water, the sight is breathtaking. Panama City streetHowever, as contemporary as these skyscrapers and super condos are, they are the exception to the rule here in Panama. Put simply, the rest of Panama could not look more different than this area of the capital. Only a few minutes away from the  skyline so reminiscent of New York City, however, you enter a completely different world: Casco Viejo, Panama’s historic quarter. Casco Viejo churchDeveloped in the early 16th century, Casco Viejo is the oldest neighborhood of Panama City, set on a little peninsula bordered by the ocean on three sides. Casco Viejo is as antiquated as the skyline is modern.

Casco viejo buildingsCasco viejo streetThe flair that Panama City must have had in the late 19th century is still tangible when strolling between the colonial buildings and church ruins. In the well-maintained or newly renovated buildings, it is easy to imagine the bravado that must have been racing through the city’s veins, the amount of confidence Panama must have had in the late 19th century at the prospects of the prosperity to come, thanks to the construction of the Panama Canal, which would cement the city’s and country’s place on the world stage.
Casco Viejo alley
Casco viejo buildings
Casco viejo ruinToday, however, that mix of former greatness and crumbling buildings reminded us, although neither of us have ever been, of what Havana, Cuba must feel like. In contrast to other colonial towns in Central America, the buildings in Casco Viejo are considerably higher and have between two and four floors instead of only one.

Casco Viejo buildings
Havana Viejo in Casco ViejoOn a stroll through Casco Viejo, you will see several 15th century churches, green plazas and several grand buildings which house embassies and government bodies. Considerable funding, both national and international, has been invested in renovating Casco Viejo, which was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1998. Casco Viejo pink buildingThe area has started to flourish once more, and high-end hotels and restaurants (see below) have moved in, as well as some mid-range spots we fell in love with including Caffe Per Due, an Italian restaurant with to-die-for pizza, or Café El Vienna, a German-run coffee house (the latter has sadly closed since we visited).
Casco Viejo building & street
Casco Viejo PlazaDespite World Heritage status, until just a few years ago, tourists were advised not to visit Casco Viejo. The area was dodgy, thefts and muggings occurred, and most of the buildings were run down and abandoned. In 2005, a tourism police force was put into place to reduce muggings and theft, and the number of crimes has been declining ever since. Casco Viejo building & street

Whether it is because of the heavy police presence in the area or despite it, Casco Viejo feels very safe today. While we love exploring off the beaten path, there are some sincerely shady areas in Casco Viejo (multi-storey makeshift shanties and such) that would be better to avoid, especially at night.Casco Viejo arcades

Most of Casco Viejo’s buildings have had a fresh coat of paint slapped on, several have undergone major renovation, and the area has now been converted into one of the most well-preserved colonial towns of Central America. Casco Viejo churchThe influence of the Europeans is ever present and the high buildings, featuring the typical Spanish window shutters and grand French balconies, but the combination of renovated and run-down means you never forget that you are in Panama. Balcony Casco ViejoFreshly-painted iron-gated balconies feature colorful flowers, while right next door, it is the colorful laundry which catches your eye as it hangs over the old rusty balconies which seem as though they could collapse at any moment.Casco Viejo old building balcony
Casco Viejo old building balcony
casco viejo old balconySome buildings seem one breezy day away from falling down, but seen through the eyes of the temporary traveler, the buildings add to the neighborhood’s charm.

Casco Viejo old broken building
Casco Viejo Balcony with Teddy
Casco viejo doorThe indigenous Kuna women arrive in the early mornings, in their traditional dress, to set up their market stalls near Casco Viejo’s waterfront, where they sell their famous and unique hand-made ‘molas’ (clothes in Kuna language) and blankets in the typical bright colors. Kuna Woman in Casco ViejoOver in the business district, where people identify more with the U.S. than with their own Panama, the Kuna presence is nearly non-existent, just one example of how the two areas of Panama City feel like two entirely different worlds.Casco Viejo Kuna marketEnd your stroll with a walk along the promenade, which offers marvelous views of Panama City’s skyline, especially at night. Pick up a Panama hat (you’ll never find them cheaper – surprise, surprise – than here in Panama) and other souvenirs.Panama hats in Casco ViejoGet yourself a raspado, or shaved ice topped with fruit syrup and condensed milk, from one of the food carts and try to gobble up your ‘snow cone’ before it melts in the hot Panama sun.Ice man

 

Where to eat in Casco Viejo:

    • Caffe per due (Av. A, Casco Viejo) – Beautiful Italian restaurant with scrumptious pizza and pasta dishes
    • Tiempos Specialty Coffee (inside the American Trade Hotel) – fantastic specialty coffee shop, great for breakfast.
    • Nomada Eatery (inside Luna’s Castle Hostel) – bohemian coffee shop and restaurant with fresh food and tasty cocktails
    • PalettAmerica (Calle 8a Este) – ice cream parlor with amazing exotic fruit flavors 
    • Casa Sucre (Calle 8 y Avenida B) – cozy coffeehouse with delicious breakfast and coffee
    • Restaurante Santa Rita (Av. Eloy Alfaro) – excellent fusion of Spanish tapas and Argentine parilla: meat dishes, sea food & fresh fish, tapas
    • Mula Bar (upstairs at Tio Navaja restaurant) – lovely cocktails in an intimate setting
    • Fonda Lo Que Hay (Calle 12 Este Entre Avenida Central & Avenida B) – unique Panamian dishes with a twist. Run by one of Panama’s most famous chefs, Jose Carles, who also runs Donde Jose (see below)
    • Donde Jose (Av. Eloy Alfaro) – Panamanian cuisine, prepared and served fine dining style in a beautiful setting.
    • Tantalo – thriving rooftop bar & restaurant atop the Tantalo Hotel. Elegan fusion cuisine and a fab happy hour.
    • The Dining Room (inside the American Trade Hotel) – Most elegant restaurant in Casco Viejo.

El Cafe Vienna

Where to stay in Casco Viejo:

Budget:

  • Luna’s Castle Hostel – backpacker hostel in an old refurbished French-colonial mansion. Terrace, hammocks, communal lounge. Bed in a 10-bed dorm from US$16, including breakfast
  • Vive Casco Antiguo – Small but stylish apartments with one bedroom, fully equipped kitchen, washing machine and TV, and a balcony. Apartment per night from US$65
  • Magnolia Inn – beautiful Inn in a wonderfully renovated French-colonial villa with terraces. There’s a shared kitchen and a shared dining room. Dorm beds from US$14, private double rooms from US$80

Mid-range:

  • Tantalo Boutique Hotel is located right in the heart of Casco Viejo. The contemporary artsy rooms have a balcony, the hotel has a fantastic restaurant and rooftop bar. Double rooms start at US$80
  • Villa Palma Boutique Hotel: Small boutique hotel in Casco Viejo that combines traditional elements with modern features. There’s a sun terrace with a hot tub, and the hotel has a restaurant and bar. Double rooms start at US$108 per night.

Splurge:

  • La Concordia Boutique Hotel is a small hotel with stylish, beautifully designed rooms (including standalone bathtubs) and a lovely terrace. Some rooms have a balcony. Double rooms from US$204, including breakfast
  • Central Hotel Panama: Modern hotel behind a historic colonial facade. Features an outdoor pool and a spa center, including a sauna and fitness center. Double rooms start at US$170, including breakfast.
  • American Trade Hotel – right in the heart of Casco Viejo. Guests can enjoy an outdoor pool and rooftop sun terrace, a gym, a restaurant and there is a jazz bar onsite. Rooms are modern and stylish, bathrooms come with a rain shower head. Double rooms start at US$249 including breakfast.

Panama city skyline

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My Journey Through the Philippines in Pictures

sunset

This is my very last post about the Philippines – at least for now. I am sharing my island hopping journey in pictures, and I hope that these photos will convince you to visit the Philippines. I’m already daydreaming about my next trip to this gorgeous country, and I can’t wait to visit all the places I didn’t make it to the first time around.bohol rice fieldsWhenever people ask me about my favorite places in South East Asia, I can’t stop gushing over the picture-perfect beaches I visited, the lush green islands with their scenic rice fields and softly swaying palm trees, a stark contrast to the urban sprawl of Manila which is rapidly turning into a modern, advanced city; rivaling Singapore and Bangkok with the number of skyscrapers and shopping malls that continue to emerge in the ever growing capital. When I sat in one of Manila’s third-wave coffee shops, located in one of the shiny fancy malls, after returning from Palawan, I couldn’t believe that a day earlier, I had shared the road with ox carts and that I didn’t even have cell phone reception in El Nido – now I was surrounded by people who were all glued to their smartphones again.visit the philippinesThe many faces of the Philippines were fascinating, the marine life breathtaking, the people welcoming and kind. But I’ll let the photos speak for themselves – visit the Philippines virtually through my pictures:flying into manila philippinesIt all started when I flew into Manila, and the capital couldn’t have been more surprising – I expected to hate it because everyone who had visited the city seemed to thoroughly dislike it. Read more about my time in Manila here: Living it up in Manila
bonifacio global city manilaFrom Manila, I flew to Boracay, because I was craving some beach time. I had been wanting to visit Boracay, famous for its ridiculously pretty White Beach, for years, and this travel dream finally came true.boracay island paradiseI spent hours just staring out at the water, listening to the sound of the softly clashing waves. For the first time in months, I was able to relax 100%.boracay white beach6As if a stunning 4-kilometer long beach with soft, powdery sand and crystal clear water weren’t enough, Boracay also boasts some of the most memorable sunsets I’ve seen anywhere in the world. Every single night! Read more about my time in Boracay here: Debauchery in Paradise: Letting loose in Boracayvisit the philippinesMy next stop was Bohol, a short flight from Boracay, which I added to my itinerary to meet these little guys:tarsier bohol philippinesTarsiers! The other attraction Bohol is famous for are the oddly shaped Chocolate Hills. I should have stayed longer to check out some of the beaches, but I was told there are nicer beaches in Siquijor, a nearby island reachable by ferry.visit the philippinesYou can read more about my time in Bohol here: Tarsiers and chocolate hills in Bohol
bohol rice fields philippinesSiquijor was the one place in the Philippines that exceeded my expectations – by far!visit the philippinesIt might have been the witchcraft (which Siquijor is famous for) that charmed me, or simply the incredible natural beauty of the island. Read more about this magical place here: Searching for magic in mystical Siquijorsiquijor waterfall philippinesFrom Siquijor, I took a ferry to Dumaguete, where I based myself to do what would be a highlight of my trip: Swimming with sea turtles in Apo Island! I 100% recommend adding Apo Island to your itinerary when you visit the Philippines.
sea turtle apo islandFor the stunning underwater life in all its glory, have a look at my Apo Island gallery on Flickr.

underwater world apo island philippinesThe next island on my itinerary was sadly not just a quick ferry ride away – instead, it took me nearly 16 hours to get from Dumaguete to El Nido, and the trip there included buses, a ferry, a minivan, a plane and a taxi.bacuit archipelago viewpointMy destination was worth the strenuous travel day though: Palawan, the crown jewel of the Philippines. In my opinion, you can’t visit the Philippines and NOT go to Palawan.island hopping el nidoI could go on and on about the incredibly picturesque beaches and lagoons of the Bacuit Archipelago off the coast of El Nido, but I let the pictures speak for themselves.visit the philippinesEl Nido was indeed the grand finale to a fabulous journey, and you can read more about it (and marvel at more photos!) in these two articles:

bacuit archipelago boatFrom Palawan I flew back to Manila for a few days of city life after weeks of island and beach hopping, and got to know fancy speakeasy bars, indulged in scrumptious vegetarian food (a rare find on most of the islands I went to) and visited the historic district of Manila, Intramuros, before boarding my plane to Bangkok.intramuros manilaConsidering that the Philippines consist of more than 7,000 islands, I feel like I only got a small teaser of the country, but I couldn’t have asked for a better introduction to the country.visit the philippinesIf you’re considering visiting the Philippines, check out my budget breakdown: How much does it cost to travel in the Philippines?, which also has some travel planning and money saving tips.el nido sunset

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visit the philippines

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Love lockdown on the Brooklyn Bridge

brooklyn bridge lovelocks

On our first ever visit to the Brooklyn Bridge in 2009, there were no locks hanging off every hook and in every nook along the bridge like there were four years later, when we returned to NYC in 2013.
brooklyn bridge new york

This isn’t because it was illegal to lock your love up on the bridge in 2009 and that it was legal in 2013. In fact, the rules haven’t caught up to the trend in New York or around the world. Over the past few years love locks have been popping up on bridges and fences in major cities everywhere. We most recently wrote about an entire fountain covered in love locks we spotted in Montevideo, Uruguay.

But New York is a city that has our hearts, which meant it was most fitting for us to lock our love up right here, on the Brooklyn Bridge.

dani and jess lovelockThe trend seems to have taken off first in Italy after the release of the 2004 movie, Tre Metri Sopra il Cielo, based on a 1992 novel by Federico Moccia. The film included a scene where a couple ‘locked’ their love forever by locking a padlock on a bridge and tossing the keys into the river below to symbolize their eternal love. This took place on the Ponte Milvio bridge in Rome, which then immediately became a popular meeting point for couples making their own eternal declarations of love.

brooklyn bridge new york love locksNot long after, love locks started to appear in other places from Korea to China to Australia, Germany or Serbia. We came across them for the first time when we hiked in Cinque Terre in northern Italy, where ‘The Path Of Love’ is covered in love padlocks from couples from all around the globe. Interestingly, Wikipedia has an entry listing all of the world’s popular love lock spots.

Brooklyn Bridge Love LocksIn Paris, the city of romance, the Pont des Arts bridge has evolved into a popular destination for proposals, engagement photo shoots and newly-weds, with the couples adding a love lock to the bridge on their special day.

brooklyn bridge new york love padlocks dir gehoert mein herzIt didn’t take long until the trend had reached North America – the Brooklyn Paper reported about the love lock appearance for the first time in April 2010, just a year after we had walked over the Brooklyn Bridge for the first time.

brooklyn bridge new york love locks and skylinebrooklyn bridge with lovelocksAlthough New York might not hark of the romance of Paris, the phenomenon has most definitely spread and couples are marking their engagements, wedding and declarations of eternal love by locking their own padlocks to this famous landmark.

Brooklyn Bridge Love Padlocks New YorkThe locks themselves range from ordinary padlocks to colorful ones with engraved dates and names.

brooklyn bridge new york love lock steffi danielSo far, the padlocks on the Brooklyn Bridge haven’t reached an extreme like on Cologne’s Hohenzollern Bridge, which holds over 40,000 (!) love locks. But there are at least a few hundred now.

Brooklyn Bridge Love PadlocksWhile this love lock gesture is utterly romantic, it’s not quite legal. Supposedly there is a sign on each end of the sidewalk over the bridge that says “Attachment of any sorts to this bridge structure shall not be allowed.”

brooklyn bridge new york love padlocksWe have crossed this bridge several times and neither of us have seen the sign – otherwise we might not have added our very own padlock to the collection. While it seems as if the authorities turn a blind eye to the locks on the pillars, benches and railing, the many locks that are added to the street lights are removed regularly, to ensure the safety of the drivers who pass below the lamps. You can see how this lamp poll was pulled down by the weight of love…

brooklyn bridge new york love locks lamp poleA lamp pole being overloaded with love locks has happened before – at the most famous of the love lock bridges, the Ponto Milvio in Rome. The lamp post that was covered in locks partially collapsed in 2007, which resulted in the removal of the locks and the introduction of a €50 fine for anyone trying to add a padlock to the bridge.

brooklyn bridge new york love locks lamp poleWhile there might be some naysayers who feel that the locks disrupt the natural look of the bridge, the two of us, romantics that we are, think that it is a beautiful gesture for lovers to promise everlasting love to each other in such a simple, yet public way.

Love Locks Brooklyn BridgeSymbolic gestures of love seem to appear less and less today with people acknowledging anniversaries in status updates on Facebook and e-cards replacing thoughtful love letters. That’s why we personalized our own padlock with Dani & Jess on the front and our nicknames on the back, locked it on the Brooklyn Bridge and threw the keys into the water below.

Brooklyn Bridge Love Locks

Update: New York City eventually did get sick of the Brooklyn Bridge love locks. All of the love locks on the bridge were removed in 2016.

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