Dog Sitting in Armidale, Australia

Since the Asia phase of our trip was considerably more expensive than either of the other two phases, we knew we would need to find opportunities to save money. We loved WWOOFing, but we wanted a more relaxing experience to finish off the year. Rory and Gen, the friends we made in Korea, told us about TrustedHousesitters which they had used in many countries during their travels. When we saw them in Tokyo, they were spending a week in an amazing apartment looking after some cats. They raved about their experiences so much, we decided to give it a shot. We signed up for an annual sitter plan which would allow us to do house sits anywhere in the world for a year. Rory and Gen got us a referral discount, vouched for us on the site, and supported us through our first few rejections. We were thrilled when Helen and Mike accepted us as house sitters for their brand new four-bedroom house and eleven-year old Golden Labrador, Billy!

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Taking the Local Bus to the Củ Chi Tunnels

We had seen a lot of offers for tours to the Củ Chi tunnels – our hostel advertised a half-day tour for đ400,000 ($17.23) not including entrance fee to the tunnels. After a lot of research, we figured out the vast majority of the tours go to Bến Đình, the closer of the two Củ Chi Tunnel sites. This is how they are often able to do both a Củ Chi tunnels tour and a trip to the Mekong Delta in one day despite the two sites being in opposite directions. As a result, the closer site is allegedly more touristy and crowded than the second site, Bến Dược. It is also slightly more expensive – đ110,000 ($4.73) vs. đ90,000 ($3.87). Fortunately, we had discovered it was possible to visit Bến Dược on our own using the public buses, which would cost considerably less than a tour, and we could avoid swarms of people. Also, we love taking the local buses when we can. 

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Kicking Off Our Vietnam Tour In Ho Chi Minh City

Our rough plan for Vietnam is to work our way up from the south to the north over the course of twenty six days and cross into China by bus at the Lao Cai border crossing after visiting Sa Pa. Our first stop was Ho Chi Minh City where we planned to stay for five days, mostly so we could apply for a Chinese visa. To get into China, we need to get a visa which takes four days to process once the application has been accepted. Even without Jess’s passport snafu, acquiring the visa in the US ahead of time would have been a bit tricky given our bike trip, and since getting our Bolivian visa in Argentina was relatively straightforward, we figured doing this in Vietnam would be fine. Having a little extra time in Ho Chi Minh City would also give us a better feel for life there.

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Singapore

So we left Bali and made it to Singapore, a fascinating city/country. It is famous for being a wealthy shoppers paradise (not exactly our scene), but there are plenty of cool cheap-ish things to fill a three-day stay. The first thing to pin down was accommodation, which can be very pricey. We knew a private room was out of the budget, but Jess really did not want to stay in a pod hotel; she thought it was too much like sleeping in a coffin… so we ended up in a kind of unusual dorm room, a queen bunk bed in a dorm to be precise. Privacy amounted to a curtain on the side of your bed, but it was perfect. We had a busy schedule and didn’t do much there but sleep. 7 Wonders ended up being a clean and comfortable launchpad to go out and explore.

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36 Hours in Ubud, Bali

Ubud is roughly 23 miles from Kuta but it took us almost two hours to get there because of traffic. The streets in Bali are clogged with cars and mopeds and it can take quite a long time to get anywhere. There is virtually no public transportation because everyone has a moped. In fact, Bali experimented with a public bus, but when nobody used it, they cancelled the service. The taxi ride was only 260,000 IDR ($18.20) which felt like a really good deal compared to the 20-minute taxi ride from the airport for which we paid 150,000 ($10.50). When we arrived in Ubud, the taxi driver dropped us off roughly half a mile from our hotel because of the network of one way streets and we walked up to the hotel.

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Relaxing in Kuta, Bali

Since Bali was added to our itinerary mostly because of the weather and the cheap flights, we had opted to only spend five days there. Since we’re not really beach people, we though more than three days at the beach might be overkill, so we split our stay into three days in Kuta where we could go to the beach, surf, and relax and two days in Ubud further north to see temples and rice fields. We’re really glad we did; these two areas of Bali were pretty different even though they had similar cultural feel.

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Relaxing in a Northern Peru Beach Town

Our taxi arrived at the appointed time and whisked us away to the Cusco airport for our flight to Trujillo. This was our first flight since arriving in South America and it was confusing to be in an airport again. We boarded our uneventful flight to Lima and then went in search of the VIP lounge at the Lima airport for our three-hour layover. Eric couldn’t quite believe his eyes when he saw delicious food, beautiful cocktails, and showers, all for free! (Thanks Chase Sapphire Reserve!) It was only 9:30am, but it seemed like a good opportunity to take advantage of a free pisco sour. By 1pm, we had arrived in Trujillo and were taking a taxi to the small nearby beach town of Huanchaco.

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A Final Week in Bolivia’s Capitals

We spent our last week in Bolivia exploring Bolivia’s two capitals: Sucre and La Paz. The two cities have a strong rivalry regarding their status as THE capital of Bolivia. In Sucre we learned the constitution designated Sucre as the capital, but in 1899 the government moved the Legislative and Executive branches to La Paz for economic reasons leaving only the highest courts in Sucre. Sucre claims this makes La Paz only an administrative capital, and Sucre remains the true capital. Officially, Sucre is right but it doesn’t stop the inter-city debate. For us it wasn’t that important since we were visiting both.

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