August 2019 - March 2020
  • Day212

    Final thoughts...

    March 29 in Canada ⋅ ⛅ 7 °C

    It is late March and we are home in Yellowknife reflecting on the spectacular things we experienced while away. During our travels, there were things we definitely missed about Yellowknife such a our access to the vast outdoors, having some many great places to run, our house, coffee shops, and most of all, our friends. We consider ourselves so incredibly fortunate to have been able to travel the world with our family but live in a country that so many people we met along the way, wish to travel too. We are love Yellowknife, so it was great coming home, albeit slightly earlier than planned.

    We had initially planned on travelling to South Korea as as our final destination, but since we had been following the coronavirus since the third week of January when we were in Malaysia, we quickly realized we may need to change our plans. While in Taiwan, we were quite certain our trip to South Korea would have to change. It was an incredibly stressful time as David and I were reading the news and travel advisories obsessively each day to ensure we were keeping our family safe, making appropriate and timely decisions, and hoping the financial impact would not be too great for us. It is nice to be home and read the news on the coronavirus and not think, "well yesterday's decision is moot and we need to get home now!"

    However, as Neve continues to point out there was a good thing that came out of not going to South Korea. We were able to change our flights with Delta from Toyko, via Detroit en route to Toronto and visit with family. We arrived on March 7 and spent the first week with my dad and the second week with David's parents. We arrived back in Yellowknife on March 21 just before the NWT border closed.

    So to close our blog, here are some random or maybe not so random final thoughts;

    One of the best things we packed at the very last minute was a roll of Tuck tape. I laughed at David as he tossed it into his backpack, and yet it fixed so much - a hole in a jacket or long johns, apply tuck tape, need to wrap christmas gifts, fix a dropped stick of deodorant (who breaks deodorant and who fixes it - we'll leave you guessing), need to mail a package from Vietnam to Yellowknife, wrap the shit out of it in tuck tape.

    The best place we visited - Budapest - if this city is not on your bucket list, we highly recommend you add it. Sophie says EBC - but that's not for the faint of heart nor a relaxing destination.

    The hardest thing about deferred leave according to Sophie and Neve - all of the horrible hikes and runs I made the girls go on.

    Most rewarding experience: Everest Base Camp - yes, we had to be helicoptered out, but we saw Everest and not many people can say this.

    Most thrilling experience - Nam Pha Pa Yai (Thai climbing camp) - having to take a 20 foot high zipline, 40 meters across a murky river - despite two attempts, I never did make it across.

    Favorite airline - Qatar Airlines!!

    Best restaurant: Himalayan Java in Nepal - so good after Everest Base

    Best food: Japanese food along the Kumano Kodo, but the Parisian crepes and baguettes are a close second.

    Favorite run: For Neve it was the 10 km Thai race, but for the rest of us, it was running uphill to a beautiful castle during our Visegrad run - the medals were pretty awesome too!!

    Most relaxing place: Langkawi, Malaysia (Sophie). For the rest of us it was Budapest - so many great coffee shops to visit.

    Best horse races - Budapest. Can you tell we really loved Budapest!!

    Funniest moment - Sophie demonstrating a bottle lid kick in Singapore to our friends Alex and Marshall and accidentally kicking an innocent male bystander who was not her dad.

    I hope our blog has inspired you to travel the world, or if that's not possible, your own country or community. Travel makes our lives richer, it enriches our connections with others and broadens our view of the world. But most importantly in our opinion, it teaches compassion and empathy, something that is so important. I think the coronavirus has shown us how small the world is and how interconnected we actually are and hopefully in the not to distant future, we'll all be able to explore again.

    Clarinda, David, Sophie and Neve

    P.S. This blog post has no photos because we had our minds on getting back to Canada and taking a final photo completely slipped our minds.
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  • Day188

    Tokyo - Day 1

    March 5 in Japan ⋅ ☀️ 2 °C

    For our first day in Tokyo, we did a shopping day. We started by going to Shibya crossing, one of the busiest crosswalks in the world. Half a million people cross per day. We went up to the second floor of a building to the starbucks to watch all the people cross. It was crazy how many people there were, even though there weren’t as many people as usual. I can’t even imagine how many people there would be on other days.

    After that, we went into a huge department store. There were all kinds of things including kitkats, tea, kitchen supplies and little knick knacks on 5 different floors. It was really loud with music being played and flashing lights everywhere. It was kind of distracting. We bought some more flavored kitkats.

    For lunch, we went to the Kawaii Monster cafe. Normally we would have needed reservations, but it wasn’t as busy as usual, so we just went in and got a table. There were strobe lights and flashing colorful lights everywhere. There was loud music playing and crazy unicorns and bunnies hanging from the ceiling. There was a big spinning cake in the middle of the floor, and one of the back rooms had giant macarons on the ceiling. There were women who worked there in cosplay costumes. We all ordered a burger, which came looking like a little monster. The bun was purple and it had eyes and horns made of chocolate. The burgers were so good.

    In the afternoon, we went to Harajuku street, which is a youth shopping district. There were lots of stores filled with crazy cosplay costumes and giant shoes. We didn’t go on a weekend, but sometimes on weekends, there are people dressed up in costumes and stuff. The style here is very different than the style in Canada, so we didn’t end up buying any clothes. It was a really fun day in Tokyo.

    Sophie
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  • Day184

    Trees along the Kumano Kodo

    March 1 in Japan ⋅ ⛅ 12 °C

    Today we trekked 17 km. Our trek started with a fairly steep 1 km climb and then settled into a downhill. The rest of the day was fairly flat and at times, our route took us through small Japanese villages. We collected 9 stamps today including our Komano Kodo completion stamp. We were also gifted some cookies by an elderly Japanese couple driving along our route who asked where we were from. It was so nice!!

    Because I absolutely love trees, I will post some of my favorite tree photos from today. Enjoy!

    Clarinda
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  • Day183

    Collecting two more Kumano Kodo stamps

    February 29 in Japan ⋅ 🌧 7 °C

    As we have mentioned in our earlier blog posts, collecting the stamps along the Komano Kodo is both fun, but it is also important to collect all of the stamps along the route to ensure we get our completion stamp at the end of our trek. This will ensure that we receive a pilgrim designation. Throughout the day today, it was raining. The rain really started to pick up in the afternoon. However, there were two stamps we required that were a 2 km walk from our Minshuku. Despite the rain, we all put on our rain gear, grabbed our umbrellas and made the trek for two more stamps. I’m so glad we decided to head out in the rain again because it was a beautiful, albeit wet, walk. We again saw huge trees and a beautiful gate leading up to a shrine. It was well worth the walk and we got two more stamps.

    Clarinda
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  • Day183

    Komano Kodo - Day 2

    February 29 in Japan ⋅ ☁️ 4 °C

    Today we woke up and went to the main dining hall for breakfast. For breakfast, on our plates, there was a big piece of smoked fish that still had its tail on it. We weren’t completely surprised, but it was the first time Sophie, my dad and I had fish for breakfast. The fish was good, but I would not eat fish for breakfast on a regular basis. We also had rice, squash, some egg, and miso soup that had a lot of green onions in it.

    Next, we went up to our room to grab our bags to start trekking. The first part of our day was the hardest because it was a 200 m climb up with only a few flat parts. Throughout the day, we saw a lot of cedar trees and still had some uphill parts. Then we stopped for lunch after trekking for 9 km outside of a little convenience store/cafe. We ate our lunch of sushi, a clementine and an energy bar that our home stay had prepared for us this morning. It was very cold and started to rain so we went inside the cafe and had cups of tea and coffee with a small treat. We started out again and got some more stamps and finished our day in a very nice home stay that we don’t have to share with anyone. It has a bedroom, a living room, a dining room, a kitchen, and a bathroom with a shower.

    Neve
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  • Day182

    Food along the Kumano Kodo

    February 28 in Japan ⋅ ☁️ 2 °C

    The food we have had on the Komano Kodo is probably some of the best food we have ever had, so here are some photos to inspire a journey to Japan!

  • Day182

    Kumano Kodo Pilgrimage Route - Day 1

    February 28 in Japan ⋅ 🌙 0 °C

    On February 28, 2020, we set out on a 6 day trek of the Kumano Kodo, an ancient pilgrimage and spiritual route in Japan. From Kyoto, we took two trains (one of which was a bullet train and travelled close to 200km/hour) and one bus to get to Tanabe, the gateway to the Kumano Kodo. What’s interesting, is that the Kumano Kodo is the sister pilgrimage route of the Camino de Santiogo in Spain. If you complete both, you can become a dual pilgrim. The Kumano Kodo has been a pilgrimage destination for centuries and is surrounded by steep mountains. To begin our trek, we had a fairly easy 3.7 km to trek which we began after visiting the Kumano Kodo Kan Pilgrimage Centre. The trail is really well signed in both Japanese and English including signs that say “not Kumano Kodo” to ensure you don’t go the wrong way. Today’s trek had us walking through beautiful cedar forest and we got to see the biggest tree any of us had ever seen. It was amazing! The other neat thing about the trek is that along the way, you collect stamps that you place in a Komano Kodo booklet. In order to become a pilgrim, you need to collect all of the stamps along the way. This earns you a completion stamp and once you have this stamp, you can then trek the Camino de Santiago, and once you have this completion stamp, you get a certificate for becoming a dual pilgrim. Collecting the stamps has been a great way to keep the girls motivated, although honestly, they seem to be really enjoying the trek.

    At the end of each day, we stay in either a Minshuku, which is a family run guest house, or a Ryokan, which are Japanese style inns. Ryokan usually includes an elaborate japanese style dinner and breakfast in the morning. Both have Tatami style mats with futon style mattresses. At the end of our day, we stayed in a Ryokan and had the best dinner ever. The breakfast was also amazing and included dried fish, pickled vegetables, rice, miso soup and some egg. In the evening, we had our first experience with an onsen.

    We will be trekking for 6 days and feel so fortunate to be able to embark on such a peaceful adventure. Tomorrow we will have an early start as the forecast is calling for rain and we have 13 km to trek.

    Clarinda
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  • Day175

    Sky Lanterns

    February 21 in Taiwan ⋅ ☀️ 12 °C

    We took a train trip to the Pingxi region just outside of Taipei the other day. It is a mountainous region that used to be full of coal mines. The first stop was a place called Juifen. There are rumours that the movie “Spirited Away” was inspired when Hayao Miyazaki visited. The town was pretty, but was quiet. The next stop was Pingxi. We had some Taiwanese sausages, they were delicious. We did a hike up to some local peaks. There were some sketchy bits that had ropes to hold on to.

    The final stop was Shifen . In Shifen we released a lantern. Before you release a lantern, you write hopes and wishes on the 4 sides with special ink and a paintbrush. You then take the lantern onto the train tracks with 2 people who work for the place where you buy your lantern. One of them takes pictures while you release it and the other one lights a stack of paper that is placed on the bottom of the lantern. We had a pink lantern which means we will have happiness

    It was really fun to release the lanterns and if I ever went back I would do it again but I would do it at night and try to be there for the Pingxi lantern festival when 1,000’s of lanterns are released into the sky.

    Neve
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  • Day173

    Din Tai Fung

    February 19 in Taiwan ⋅ ⛅ 8 °C

    Last night we decided that we were tired of the food court where we have been eating each evening, so instead we went to a restaurant called Din Tai Fung. It’s a chain restaurant with restaurants in Taipei, as well as London, Dubai and L.A. It was really busy, and since we hadn’t made reservations, we had to wait 15 minutes before we could get a table. Even though it was a chain restaurant, it was pretty nice. The waitress even put jacket covers over our jackets that we had hung on the back of our chairs.

    After figuring out the menu, which was written in Mandarin, we ordered dumplings, wantons, xiaolongbao, noodles, cucumber and cabbage. We also got tea with dinner. We shared all the dishes and they were delicious. My favorites were the wantons, but it was all delicious. We saw another room where they were making the xiaolongbao, which are kind of like dumplings but round and bigger and filled with meat and broth. It was really cool to see them cooking them. One person rolled out little circles, and he did it so fast. To eat the xiaolongbao, you’re supposed to mix ginger with soy sauce and vinegar to make a sauce, then dip the xiaolongbao in the sauce and poke a hole in it so the broth leaks out onto your spoon. I just dipped the xialongbao in the sauce and ate it like that. For dessert, we had xiaolongbao filled with chocolate. It tasted kind of like a pastry with nutella; it was definitely the best part. If you ever go to Taipei or any other city with a Din Tai Fung, then you should have dinner there.

    Sophie
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  • Day172

    A Puurfect morning

    February 18 in Taiwan ⋅ ☁️ 13 °C

    While Taipei has lots to offer, there are also a number of day trips within about a 1 hour train or bus ride from the city. Today, we traveled to Houtong by train to visit the Cat Village. The village is tucked away in the hills of Northern Taiwan and is home to about 200 cats and only about 400 humans. Houtong was a coal mining village until the last coal mine shut down in 1996. At this point in time, the population dwindled to only 100 people. Houtong was home to hundreds of stray cats and in 2008, a local resident, who happened to be married to a vet, began posting photos of the villager’s efforts to look after the strays. This of course attracted visitors and volunteers to help the stray cats. Within two years, Houtong reinvented itself as the Cat Village, with many little shops selling cat themed items as well as restaurants and cafes. Each of the cats is vaccinated and spayed/neutered.

    Houtong is set along the Keelung river, so it is not only beautiful to walk through but while strolling along, you can stop and pet the cats if they let you, sit down and hope they come to you for some snuggles, or admire them from a safe distance. All the cats are super friendly, and for the most part, get along quite well with each other. We did see a few play fight, but I wouldn’t expect anything different with this many cats living together. We really enjoyed our visit and it was super fun going through all of the cat boutiques to check out cat themed items. In the end, we decided to buy cat themed socks and a cat themed reusable grocery bag. It was a puurfect way to spend a morning.

    Clarinda
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