Bali, Indonesia

Bali, Indonesia

Apr 9-May 8, 2019

Time to slow it allllll down…. This is the place we’ve come to recharge and just be. Catching up with ourselves, blogging, writing, reading, video editing, sleeping, just being and reconnecting with my heart. Traveling, while I’m so grateful to be able to have this experience, is exhausting! I’m going to create a few blog posts on how we decided what method of travel, where we decided to go next, how long we decided to stay in places, etc… all of this takes brain power and is something that Luc enjoys but also, there are so many options and sometimes we take the cheapest (usually walking and bussing) and sometimes we take the easiest (plane). But Bali is a break from the fast travel and a rest before Australia where we have volunteering lined up, traveling in a van for 5 weeks around the coasts of Australia and lots of discovering.

I was really excited to go to Bali. It’s my second time being here. I came here 20 years ago with my mom and her friend for 10 days. I was excited for the beauty of it, the massages, the avocadoes, the beaches, and the people. What I wasn’t afraid of was getting sick. Last time I was here I came down with a terrible fever and all associated issues with food poisoning or a parasite/bacteria so was really worried about that. I’m writing this after 26 days and (knock on wood) we’re still totally fine.

I really feel that Bali is one of the most beautiful places on earth. Everywhere you look it’s stunning and breathtaking. Avocadoes aren’t what they used to be. I can hardly find them anywhere. They are still big but not as in abundance as before. I’ve had two massage since being here and I think that’s my fault for not putting time aside for that. Must get one more in before I leave here. And the people are so kind and beautiful.

Legian and the Fancy Hotel: Element

Not much to report when arriving. It was dark, the taxi drivers at the airport are pretty aggressive (I told one to leave us alone he was that in our face). We stayed our first night in a little place with a nice pool in Legian. It was nice to get our footing and hit a bank to take out some money.

Then we moved to Ubud where our 4th fancy hotel was. This was an eco-hotel and a little bit on the lower end but still really beautiful and the breakfast was out of this world. We checked in and just spent the day at the hotel enjoying the pool and room. We met some people from the States who also are super savvy with their points and told us about all the amazing places they have stayed for free. They earn points with work so that gets them to more places than us.

In the morning we did some yoga at the hotel (I hurt my neck… sigh….) and Luc took off on a bike ride to explore the rice terraces and discover Luwak Coffee. Vivi and I played in the pool some more.

It’s always a nice transition when you start your new country with a fancy hotel to get your bearings and not feel like you have to start exploring and discovering immediately. You actually feel like you need to take some moments of relaxation and moments of research to study where you want to go next.

Ubud: Bali Sunshine Homestay

We booked a place for a week called Bali Sunshine. We picked a place with a pool as we thought that there would be families and kids there. Turns out that it’s the low season and we were the only ones there. Hmmm… but the place was stunning. We upgraded to a room beside the pool for an extra $6/night. Luc is still sore about that. But I wanted to be beside the pool so we could just walk out and take our coffee, or write a blog, do learning time or watch Vivi play in the pool from the room.

Only thing was that this place backed onto a rice field which was stunning but also bug infested where we found cockroaches, crickets, spiders, ants, lizards. When the room is only about 400 sqft that’s a little piece of shared space with a lot of bugs.

The other things was we were located about 6km’s away from Ubud. So really out in the sticks. But being in the sticks has it’s pluses. We frequented the same two restaurants for a week and got to know the staff and the menus. The pool was wonderful so we really enjoyed our time in there. And I got to learn how to ride a scooter!

For the most part we hung around the pool while Vivi swam and did learning time. We ventured out 2 times on scooters to visit a waterfall, Luwak coffee farms, rice terraces, Pura Tirta Empul and eat lunch (where I got stung on the toe but I was assured from a local it was not a hospital visit I needed) in one of the most beautiful restaurants I’ve seen (the view was incredible). All of those places I mentioned were absolutely stunning. It was like candy for my eyes everywhere. Being on a scooter is so much fun! Vivi would ride on the back of Luc’s as I was super nervous and to be honest, if we crashed, our insurance wouldn’t cover us so we needed to be hyper focused. I made sure that we went out on our first ride on a Sunday, when there wasn’t much traffic. I also didn’t want to go too far for the first go. I love it so much I want to get a scooter now when I get home. Preferably an electric scooter so there’s less pollution.

We stayed at Bali Sunshine for a week and it was just what we needed to chill and actually be on vacation.

Ubud: Dewa Bungalows

We moved for 5 days into the centre to be around some more people and see Ubud a bit more.

Dewa Bungalows was where we chose to stay. We met a really nice Aussie couple at the pool where Vivi got to play Uno with the woman and we asked a lot about Australia. We also got to connect with other people (which we love), tell our stories, listen to their stories and I got to talk about the Camino as Nicola was thinking of doing it as well. They are also on a 1 year trip around the world just starting out.

We arrived on Thursday in the early afternoon and I had a couple of places I wanted to visit. An eco-store and the post office to pick up stamps. We also needed to visit the bank. We left Vivi back at the room for a bit while we set off in the run our errands. By the time we got to the bank, most of them were closing (2:30-3pm). And the following day, it was a bank holiday so they weren’t open. We walked from bank to bank. Some banks were already closed, some banks were just closing and some wouldn’t take our credit card to give us cash advances. You would think that an ATM was a good idea but we wanted to take out more than an ATM would give us and more importantly, they don’t work with our Visa card. NONE OF THEM DO. So we tried our MC. That didn’t work too. Last resort (because of the incredible bank fees) our bank card (that worked but would only give 300. We were stuck: we would need to leave one day later and wait for the bank to open on Monday. I guess it’s not so bad when you’re stuck in paradise.

The next day we walked to a nice walking area. We tried to get there early enough in the day but it was already blazing hot. We found the cheapest Bali swing ($5 vs $15) we had seen and Vivi went for a swing. Then I took off to walk to another eco store that I wanted to visit.

We met back at this really expensive cool restaurant where we got fancy juices.

The next day was a day at the hotel and Luc hiked to the Volcano! We didn’t want to get up at 2am – nope not interested. We just lounged, washed laundry in the sink, and I went to my first grocery store in what seems like 3 months. I spent an hour in there just looking around at all the cool stuff. It felt like a new world to me. So tired of doing my food and beverage shopping in 7/11s and Circle K’s. I found S & V Kettle Chips for $8 a bag!!! I almost got them. I also had a reflexology treatment.

Amed

We hired the guy who we rented a room off of to pick us up and take us to Amed. Amed is a slow little diving and snorkeling area on the northeast side of Bali. We booked for 3 nights and stayed for 8 we loved it that much!

It’s 2.5 hours from Ubud to Amed and the drive is worth paying $50 to get there. We had a room right beside the pool (there are two pools) with a view to the ocean. The ocean is quite far away to see (only 8 mins to walk to) but so beautiful. Again not many people staying at this hotel (it started to pick up before we left). But the cleanliness and the staff make the stay here so worth it.

Last month they had a 6.8 magnitude earthquake and it rocked and rolled a lot of stuff. The pool that we swam in got a leak from it. It was a little unnerving to live in a tsunami zone for 8 days and even more when we moved into a red zone for a couple of hours (where if the active volcano erupts we were goners) but I kept telling myself that we can’t live in fear or we’d never leave our house.

Luc signed up for 4 dives and 1 night dive and Vivi signed up for her first diving! I couldn’t believe at 8 years old they will take a kid into the ocean with dive gear. She was nervous and excited and probably one of the most proud moments of my life (right up there with taking her first steps). I actually cried. She did two dives with Julien who was excellent with her (and with me the nervous mom). She was so proud of herself. She did really well equalizing her ears and breathing all the time. She only went to 4 (5.5) metres deep but it was enough to get a taste of diving and she loved it. She cried the next time we were at the dive shop and she couldn’t go (It’s expensive!). I’d love for her to go diving in Fiji when we’re there (they also let 8 year olds go) but it’s even more expensive there.

3 mornings I got up at 5:30 to watch the beautiful oranges and be there when the sun came up. It was exquisite. One morning Luc joined me.

Once when Luc did two dives, Vivi and I hired a guy for $15 to take us snorkelling around where he would be. I wasn’t confident enough in the water with Vivi to do it alone and to be honest didn’t know what to do it I got into a current. I’ve had some experiences with rip tides in Australia and also getting rescued by the coast guard when I was in my teens. So some of my past definitely lives in my fears now. The snorkelling was awesome! We saw 2 turtles: one on the sea floor and one that was swimming with us. Vivi and I fell in love. It was just too bad that there was also a plastic bag swimming with us at the same time. We also saw many fish, coral, a snake, a sea cucumber, and dolphins from shore!

The sand in Amed is a black gold sand which is HOT and very interesting. If you go there, Lipah beach seems to have the best beach for sand (not rocks).

Two times we rented scooters and zoomed around the countryside having so much fun. I also got in some shopping and we took out kayaks. These kayaks are from the 70s though and I couldn’t steer it so gave up after falling in and I couldn’t get back on.

All in all most days were spent doing something in the morning and then chilling at the pool in the afternoon. Vivi’s swimming has increased exponentially and she is such a strong swimmer now. It’s incredible to see the transformation she’s taken in the last 10 months with her confidence in the water. She loves her snorkeling mask and spends most of the time under the water. She loves to swim between our legs and her most somersaults in the water is 6! She is a pro diver, front crawl and recently we told her how to do a front crawl into a somersault at the wall, push off and then do front crawl again and she’s mastered that. A swimming group and/or synchronized swimming is something that we’ll be looking into when we get home.

We said goodbye to Amed and the staff at the hotel and we were ready to move on. We absolutely loved Amed but really felt like we were ready to experience something else now. Most times I just feel like we move on before we’re ready but spending 8 days here exploring and breathing and being close to the ocean has reinvigorated me.

Sanur

We jetted into another 2.5 hour drive to Sanur. We had heard that the beaches in Sanur are nice and so we wanted to check it out. We also heard it was good for kids too.

We checked into our bungalow but it turned out that the room we had was the most we’ve paid since Thailand and probably the worst we’ve been in. It smelled old, rotten, moldy, like moth balls. There was mold on the walls that had been painted over and it was nowhere close to the massive pool. The resort (?) was huge with no one around. Everything seemed pretty run down. We asked to change rooms and they moved us to the pool. A step up but still pretty dindgy. Attention to detail = -4. Then after a dip in the warm pool, we went back to the room (37 degrees out) and the AC wasn’t working. A guy showed us 2 more rooms and still no AC working. They said that they would get an engineer out to fix it.

We took off for the beach. The beach is a seaside little area with lots of Bali shopping and it’s a jumping off to Nusa Penida. After walking around and exploring we ate and headed back to the hotel onto to find out that the engineer hadn’t been by and that we could move to a room that we had already checked out and there was no AC. But shockingly there was AC! Thank you universe as I really didn’t know what I was going to do. We stayed two more nights at this place and were happy to leave.

Interlude:

Sanur is a quiet little beachside resort town which I liked. I think I’m just a bit sick of the heat and walking around in it. You know how you get when you know you’re going on vacation and everything at work begins to bug you about 4 days before your last day at work? Well, we’re about 5 days away from cool weather and Australia and I think we’re just done with the tropics. I’m done with eating out and can’t wait for yummy salads that I can prepare, lentils, sandwiches filled with veggies, food I can buy in a grocery store. We’re thinking of going vegetarian or eating meat just one day a week to limit our impact on the environment and just start to get back to basics and flush our body with fresh vegetables and whole grains. It’s going to be cool enough that hopefully I can start running in the mornings and doing workouts outside. We are also looking forward to our first volunteering opportunity when we get to Fremantle. We are staying for free in a woman’s home for 1.5 hours of house and garden work a day. After we leave there, we go down south for a week and check out Margaret River and the wine area. I CAN’T WAIT!! Then back up to Perth to pick up our camper and hit the road up north to Darwin. We’re taking 3 weeks. I’m just so excited about what comes next and the cool weather and salads. When we get to Australia on the 8th it will be 4 months that we have been backpacking.

Kuta and the last 3 days

We grabbed a GoJek to take us to Kuta and checked into a backpacker hostel here. Happy to be around a lot of people and so close to a white sandy beach. We’re now on the west coast so the sunset is profound. There is also an incredible cool pool here with lots of floaties and people to play with. And a slide! As you can tell, I’m writing in the first person so I’m finaly caught up to our travels! This is monumental! But I think this place probably set me back the cost of getting my website free of hackers unfortunately. I realized at this moment that my blog had been hacked so I needed to pay someone over $350 to fix it. Sigh…

We have just been laying pretty low our last few days here. We watched an incredible sunset on Kuta beach and then moved to another hotel closer to the airport. I’m spending my last days enjoying Bali and looking forward to Australia. We went and saw Avengers: Endgame on our last day.

So long Bali, you are so beautiful inside and out. I hope to make it back to you one day a few years from today to enjoy your beauty once again.

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Northern Thailand

Northern Thailand

Feb 10-25, 2019

Chiang Mai

We arrived into Chiang Mai at our so cute homestay. It was the first time we had a little kitchen in a month! It’s crazy the little things that you get excited over.

We took to the streets to explore. So so so so hot. And the air quality was still the pits – I was beginning to wonder when the air quality was going to get better. After 12 days in Myanmar where it seemed like I was choking on the air, I was craving some fresh ocean breezes. Sadly, we were still landlocked and were to be for another month until we saw the ocean again.

We decided to buy masks given how tragic the air quality was. It’s not any cooler behind a mask, let me tell you.

Chiang Mai is a town that, IMHO, is set for tourists. There’s tourist things everywhere. It also has some pretty incredible temples located right in town which we visited.

The next day, I THOUGHT we had to leave for the Chai Lai Orchid which is a place where we were visiting elephants. We packed everything up (on my order), and we were waiting for the bus to pick us up until the people at the homestay said to us “But you stay one more night!” I finally clued in that we were a day ahead of ourselves. Thank goodness it was Valentine’s day otherwise I’m sure would have hear more from Luc about my grave mistake.

We decided to find a fish spa to pamper our feet. OMG, the fish eating your feet is almost unbearable with the feeling it gives you. I ADORE my feet being tickled and touched but man oh man this was almost too much! Eventually it got better. You just had to power through the feeling for about 3 mins. Later on we headed to the massive night market and wandered around, bought a wet bag that I’d been eyeing up since I say the MM Families in Koh Tao, and also a couple of shirts. Starting to get a bit tired of all the markets that are everywhere. It seems like the market is always a place to “see” in the top 10 things to see in “name the place”.

Chai Lai Orchid

The next morning was the actual day to leave so we packed up (again) and waited for our red truck to bring us to the elephants.

We arrived and I asked if the one day tour could be split into 2 half days which ended up not being an issue. So we immediately got to head to the elephants and feel them. The elephants are like no other animal I’ve ever been near. It’s almost like they are communicating with you on an emotional level. There’s this intense draw to be with them, near them, and it’s almost like they are giving you their love. I can’t really explain it but it seemed like all negative emotions I might have been carrying, just melted away when I was near them.

We did a little walk through the forest where Luc and Vivi rode on one of them bareback. The mahout (elephant’s person) said that it’s ok, as long as it’s not for very long and you’re not on a big heavy metal seat.

After that we went in the water with them. The babies are adorable. Again a truly special experience bathing them and connecting with them. It was fun to watch them play around.

After that we hopped into the back of a truck and headed to the rafting point where we were able to raft down a river with a guide at the front. The scenery was spectacular. The only thing that was a little lame is that you rafted past elephants that were still being saddled up with heavy metal seats where multiple people were riding them. It’s hard to believe that this is still being done even though it’s widely considered poor practice.

The next morning we had breakfast and hopped into the back of a truck again and headed to where we were to do a half day hike. The hike was challenging but beautiful! We got to swim in two different waterfalls and lunch was prepared for us. Our guide made bamboo sticky rice over the fire. So delish! We walked through a  hill tribe where we got to watch them weave and learned a bit about our guides family.

The next day we spent the morning chilling out at the restaurant that is there overlooking the river. The elephants stroll past, there are rafts that float back and it’s just to calm. Chai Lai Orchid is such a special place for me. It’s a place that rehabilitates elephants and gives them a better life but it also is a place where women who have been involved in sex trafficking are able to come and get out of that world, learn English, and train in the restaurant industry to gain further skills. This organization is called Daughter’s Rising. I felt so good being here not only because of the surroundings but also because I felt a little like I was giving back by spending my dollars at this place. You can volunteer here and even take home stray dogs that end up here. I was sad to say good bye but hopefully I’ll be back one day.

We drove like a bat out of hell back to Chiang Mai. Not sure but the driver we had was driving like a maniac. I have such a hard time telling people who drive like this to slow down. I feel like an old lady but I just get so anxious when they are weaving in and out of traffic, pedal to the metal and screeching to a halt. Luc, correct me if I’m exaggerating.

We stayed for 2 more days in Chiang Mai. One day was a planning day, where we’re going next, buying plane and bus tickets, applying for Vietnam visas, and then we got massages…… and Luc got a haircut! FINALLY!!

We had been lugging Vivi’s car seat around with us wherever we go and we’ve used it only a handful of times. Luc and Vivi have been trying to strategically forget it places. I’m getting a bit tired of carrying it but never using it. We’ve been riding on boats, busses, back of trucks, cars without seatbelts, airplanes, rafts, and I can count on one hand, how many times we’ve used it. So I got on a Chiang Mai mom’s group and gave away the car seat. So long and thank you car seat for protecting my little girl.

We stayed at this place in the middle of town that was the smallest place we’ve ever stayed. There was literally 3 beds and just enough room for our bags on the floor. It’s the only place we didn’t get toilet paper and it wasn’t included. Say what?? Luc said the guy could sell the toilet paper on the side and make a fortune. We went to yet another night market and ate street food (it just happened to be sushi on the street).

Chiang Rai

We took a 6 hour bus ride to Chiang Rai and checked into our homestay. Although, the guy who owns the homestay didn’t work out that we would be there so we got a room that was tragic. The bed sheet had cigarette holes in it, no AC and it was just dingy. The next day we moved into the room we were supposed to have. We still didn’t have AC but the bed was much nicer as was the bathroom. The nice thing about this place was that the pool was the focal point of the place so it was easy to chat with other people about where they were from and where they were going. Thailand has soooo many French tourists. We made some jokes about there was probably no one left if France because they were all there! But what luck – we speak French so it was easy to make quick friends!

We explored Chiang Rai in the heat, and visited a hill tribe museum where we learned about hill tribes and the opium epidemic that raged in Laos not that long ago (2012 was when they started to put an end to it). We had hamburgers for lunch and walked through a beautiful flower garden.

I remember the place where we went for my birthday. Luc had gone for a run and spotted it and the food was delicious. I had yet another burger for dinner. These two are starting to make fun of my burger and French fry love. I think already by this time I was starting to get sick of noodles and rice. This became a bone of contention between me and Luc for 2 reasons:

  1. He doesn’t like to spend a lot of money – ever. Many arguments and comments about me spending more than he did on food mostly was beginning to really tear at me. I had spent the last 5 years saving my money for this trip, I’m going to spend it how I want. What I ended up doing was contributing $100 of my own money to make him shut up for a while about me buying western food (always more expensive) and cocktails (they don’t have wine and the beer is like kokanee – gross!).
  2. Street food is always way less expensive so he wanted us to eat this all the time. And it wasn’t good enough that it was sushi on the street, it had to be authentic. This also became a “thing” that we fought about. So many comments and issues about food and money that I just didn’t know would be such a problem travelling.


We’ve always, for the last 15 years, had arguments around food. It’s the most problematic issue in our marriage hands down. Travelling just exasperated this issue. It’s not until we get to Dalat, Vietnam where it comes to a head. More later.

We moved after 3 days into Chiang Rai centre. We had great hopes of meeting up with the MM family but they were all really sick and it turned out that Vivi also got quite sick there with a fever so we never ended up seeing all of them (Luc met up with Cam to go to a night market one night). We visited the clock and did a little meet up at a hostel with live music.

It’s always so disconcerting with your kid gets sick in a foreign country especially when it’s a fever. So we stayed home and just rested while we tried to control the fever. The next day the fever had broken but she was still experiencing issues with the toilet so we tried to wait until we thought she was better before heading out to the White Temple.

The White Temple was pretty incredible to see. It’s stunning and fairly new I think. It’s a little on the bizarre side too.

We went to the hospital after that. Reason being is that I wanted to get Vivi checked and get some antibiotics if she needed it before we left for Laos the next day and we wouldn’t be anywhere near a hospital if she got sick again.

The hospital was AMAZING! So quick, clean, spoke English, and we got the drugs right there so no need to go to a pharmacy. It was a better experience then going to the hospital in Switzerland for my kidney stone. We were able to pay, it was so cheap, and out in a flash. I felt a lot better about leaving the next day to go on a boat ride for two days.

REFLECTION:

  • Thailand is beautiful and set up for travellers. It’s fairly easy to get around Thailand and most people speak English. Getting money out of ATM’s was impossible for us (and we are later finding out it’s hard in Bali as well) not sure why. We have Visa and MC and they both don’t work. Also, in Thailand, not many places take credit card to pay for things (restaurant, shopping, etc…), it’s few and far between so we always needed to go to a bank to get money out.
  • We’re learning more and more about each other… The hot is really taking a toll on me and Vivi. Luc seems almost unfazed. For me and her it’s just becomes so intense that it’s hard to even see straight. There sweat pouring out of my face and it doesn’t stop which is nothing like I’ve ever experienced and it’s so uncomfortable.
  • I’m super surprised by the air quality here. I couldn’t imagine living here full time given this. It also makes me so grateful for living on the West Coast of Canada.
  • I love watching Vivi as she learns, explores, and meets new people. She’s such a great little backpacker and super resilient. She tries new foods, new things, and is absolutely fearless.
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Istanbul, Turkey

Istanbul, Turkey

October 16-21, 2018

Kidney Stone Watch: 
A little nervous about leaving to go to another country not knowing what’s going on inside me. I vow that as soon as I get back I’ll get checked at a hospital in Switzerland. During this time away the pain and discomfort comes and goes and starts to become a little more regular. It starts to feel like I have to go to the bathroom more frequently. It’s super annoying and really fatiguing.

Before we even left for Turkey, we were faced with the possibility that I might not be able to go to Turkey because we didn’t realize that I needed to have an extended permit from Switzerland before I could return back from Turkey. If I didn’t get the permit before we left, then it was possible that I wouldn’t be allowed to go back into Switzerland even though my Swiss passport carrying family could.

This caused some sleepless nights for Luc as he was a bit stressed about the timing (we’d also been through the exact same issue last time we came back from Egypt and the guy at immigration almost didn’t let me back into the country). We came up with a back-up plan that he would go and visit his friends there and I would travel around Switzerland with Violette for a week.

None of that happened because the permit showed up while we were at Europapark. Turns out we didn’t even need to do all that worrying because when I went through immigration on the way back, the woman didn’t ask for it at all.

We started our journey on Turkish Airlines. One of the best airlines I’ve been on. I would say, think about how good planes used to be 20 years ago and Turkish Airlines is that. Great meal, screen with new movies, blankets, head phones, a toy for the kids. Great customer experience.

We arrived at the old airport and the airport was so smooth on our arrival. Our luggage came as soon as we get to the conveyor belt. #perfection.

The first thing I notice is Istanbul is massive. The city sprawls and sprawls. There’s signs everywhere. Shops, houses, hotels, apartments for as far as the eye can see.

We arrived at our hotel which looked online a lot better than what we actually are greeted with. I’m not disappointed, I’m just a little surprised at how the photos can look so much better. The breakfast is out of this world (we sample it in two days). It really has everything you could want. EVERYTHING.

We take a walk to the beach which is just around the corner but it’s cold. Like 12 degrees cold. Now I’m a bit disappointed. When I was on the camino, Luc was trying to organize this trip… I was tired of visiting big towns and really just wanted to be near the ocean and near some peace and quiet. Luc on the other hand wanted to visit a big city! So we compromised and got a hotel by the beach so we could venture into Istanbul. I would say that he won out as we couldn’t really spend any time at the beach as it was too cold.

The next morning, we met up with Can (pronounced John) and Christina his Canadian wife. When Can was in Canada studying, he met Luc and Christina. They have two girls who speak Turkish and English and are about the same age as Vivi. So Vivi became instant friends with them. So nice for her as she had spent the last 3 months without any English speaking friends. I didn’t realize it but this family would be our tour guide for the entire time we were in Turkey! So incredible that they showed us all around and gave us really a locals tour. We are so incredibly grateful for the time we got to spend with them and the time that they spent with us.

They picked us up from our hotel and took us to a typical Turkish breakfast. This breakfast consisted of everything you can imagine: cheese, French fries, meat, tea, fruit, veggies, pickles, olives, bread, croissants, sauces… we ate and ate. This is where I tried my first Turkish coffee – STRONG!

We went with them to a market by their house and Luc bought a belt that was way too small and paid full price (ask Luc about this story).

We then headed to Can’s restaurant. This place is AMAZING! He has a full restaurant and also 20+ little wooden yurts that people can go BBQ their meat. There is also a fireplace that you can enjoy. No where to sleep unfortunately LOL! Since Can owns the restaurant the food was plentiful and sooo good. We ate like kings until we couldn’t eat anymore. It was so delicious.

The next day was a day for exploring Istanbul. We drove there and the traffic was INSANE. Took us about 1 hour to drive 30km. 10 lanes of traffic but in actual fact only lines for 6 lanes. People were on their phone while driving and people were weaving in and out of traffic. For some reason I just can’t come to terms with how other people in other countries drive. Not sure I ever will.

We visited the Blue Mosque that was under construction and the under ground city. It’s not really a city but a water reservoir with many many pillars. We also walked to the Grand Bazar which really is GRAND. HUUUUUGE. Luc and Can got matching knockoff Jack Wolfskin jackets (#bromance?). We also had a really great lunch with a flaming pot!

We spent about 2.5 hours to get home as traffic was really bad.

The next morning, Can took us to have a typical Turkish pasta/dumpling dish called Manti out in the hills of Istanbul. These tiny little dumplings are boiled and then a cream sauce is poured on top. Absolutely delicious.

We then drove out to the Black Sea. It was a really windy day and the waves were immense. It was stunning and beautiful to see the power of the sea. It was also our first time seeing so much garbage on the beach in real life. We looked through the plastic to see what we could find. Small pieces of everything from all sorts of different places. So sad to see so much plastic. To be honest, this also was our first experience with so much garbage everywhere all over Turkey. I think I’m becoming a little desensitized to all the garbage as we’ve been travelling.

A few other things I noticed at this point in my trip is there are soooo many dogs and cats everywhere in Turkey. What Can told us is that they are all stray but that the municipality feeds them and looks after them. This is how they look after their animals rather than putting them in places like the SPCA. It’s an interesting way to look after the animals. I remember when we were in Cuba, the strays there were in really bad shape. So skinny and sick and no one looked after them. I think Turkey’s way of dealing with it is better than Cuba’s but I’m still surprised by it because there are just so many.

Another thing: this is the place where men come to get hair implants and women come to get nose jobs. I was again surprised when I saw the first man with tiny red dots on the back of his head and the front of his head and a big white headband around his head. Then I started to notice these guys everywhere. Then the women who’s noses were wrapped in bandages. We wondered when we saw a man with the distinctive headband and a woman with the bandages walking arm in arm if they got a 2 for 1 deal.

That night Luc went to the barber shop! He got a much needed haircut, his eyebrows threaded, a straight razor shave and the hair inside his ears burnt off! We each got a massage which was really enjoyable. We compared afterwards and our masseuses each got on top of us to work our backs. That was new for both of us. After that I took the girls to the pool and we played around only getting in trouble once.

The next day Can picked us up and took us to one of the most famous streets for shopping. We just window shopped mostly.

Following that we drove along the coast. I didn’t know this but Istanbul has a river that runs through it and on one side is Europe and the other side is Asia. I don’t think there’s anywhere else that is split between two continents. As we drove along the coast, we saw many Embassies and expensive houses. It reminded me of Cannes, France. While we were driving we saw a car get rear-ended BADLY. The car was turning left into a gas station, and a car came up behind her and he probably was texting because he didn’t step on the brake at all. I would say he hit her from behind going at least 60km/hour. She had her indicator on which is a small miracle because no one uses their indicator there. (This was at the same time as Kashoggi being murdered in the Saudi Embassy so this was really big news in Istanbul.)

Then back to his restaurant for the afternoon and dinner again. Stuffed again.

Then I had the pleasure and honor of being able to celebrate a birthday for Can’s aunt. All the women gathered around and ate 3 cakes and danced a Turkish dance. All the men went to the river to drink and smoke.

After that, Vivi got to have a sleepover at the girls house. It was such a nice way to end their time together. After 4 days together they had become really great friends and just loved to play and hang out together.

The next morning we met up with the girls at the beach and rented a bike that takes 4 people to ride along the sea. We ate some baked goods and said out goodbyes. Can then took us to the airport.

Next time I do want to check out other parts of Turkey where it’s a bit warmer and less noise. I heard that Turkey has some very different parts to it that are really culturally different.

I’d like to thank Can and Christina once again for being amazing hosts and making our visit to Istanbul and the area so full of fun and culture. It’s wonderful to have to local people show you around and take you to so many awesome places. Thanks you so much and make sure you let us know when you’re coming to Canada so we can show you around and we can hang out!!

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