MitchaRu

Hi we're Mitch & Rupal aka MitchaRu-one year old newly weds who decided to leave our corporate America jobs in Houston, TX for a mid-life retirement to travel the world! We'd love for you to follow our unpredictable adventure #MitchaRu
  • Day84

    Montvale, New Jersey

    March 16, 2017 in the United States

    And just like that, MitchaRu finished their second world trip!

    The experiences we had, sights we saw and people we met will be memories to last us a lifetime. We won't stop traveling as we have so much more to see, but for now we're happy that we were fortunate enough to have the opportunity to backpack around the world!

    Here's a quick recap of some of the highlights of this adventure:

    1 trip around the world
    84 days
    10 countries
    19 flights
    2 nights on a sail boat on the Nile River
    6 nights on an island
    1 bullet train/hot air balloon/stay in a tree house
    52 different beers and plenty of sake
    1 US immigration interrogation upon return
    And 0 regrets

    Now time to think about getting back to reality after having the best time of our lives...
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  • Day80

    Castro Valley, California

    March 12, 2017 in the United States

    Day 80, almost around the world in 80 days...turned out to be our longest day of traveling. March 12th started in Tokyo where we were awoken by an earthquake tremor at 4am from a 5.3 quake in a neighboring State (our first experience!). Later that day we departed at 3pm for a 5 hour flight to Manila, Philippines and then flew 12 hours to San Francisco where we landed at 9pm...still March 12th.

    After a long flight we were exhausted and ready to get on our way, but all of our jokes of "if Trump let's us back in" turned out to be reality when I had to go to secondary questioning after raising some suspicion with our complicated to explain travels. I was taken into a back room where they asked all about our trip and were specifically interested in our visit to Egypt. About 15 minutes later they let us go, but they did take my email and phone number. It's good in a way that they are extra cautious now, but a bit sad to see how unstable our world has become that we're scrutinized for wanting to travel the world!

    Needless to say were jet lagged but excited to see my brother and his family and their new addition Nora. After a stop at In-N-Out burger, we attempted to go to sleep and get back on schedule which didn't go too well.

    The rest of the week we enjoyed playing with the boys and getting to see 5-week old Nora. We celebrated Casey's birthday and also had a wonderful dinner with Uncle Don, Aunt Barbara, and Aunt Fran. It was also fun yet intimidating to get a glimpse of life taking care of 3 children. Certainly challenging but also rewarding as we enjoyed going to their tee-ball practice, dropping Hudson off at Kindergarten, and watching the boys admire and talk to baby Nora.
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  • Day76

    Tokyo, Japan: Part 2

    March 8, 2017 in Japan

    Since we spent a total of six days in Tokyo, we thought it'd be a good idea to split our Tokyo posts into two parts...

    Before we arrived to Japan we were excited to spend a good amount of time in the vibrant city of Tokyo and made a bucket list of activities we wanted to do while there. This included watching a sumo wrestling match (even though it wasn't sumo season) and to take a sushi making class (since we love eating it we wanted to try our hand at making it) - both of which we checked off the list! Unfortunately there were a few things we didn't get to do which included visiting a cat cafe (mostly since Mitch is allergic to cats) and go to see Mount Fuji (although we made a few attempts the weather wasn't on our side). So that only means we'll be going back to Tokyo in the future to check those off the list too!

    Other than the bucket list items and sight seeing we spent our time casually in Tokyo and even enjoyed making a few friends at the local bars who taught us more about the Japanese culture and vice versa.

    Overall, we really enjoyed our time in Japan and Tokyo was bittersweet as it was our last stop before heading back to the US!
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  • Day74

    Tokyo, Japan: Part 1

    March 6, 2017 in Japan

    What's the fastest way to get from Kyoto to Tokyo? Well, the bullet train of course! Traveling at 170 mph we reached Tokyo in 2 hours which would have taken at least 6 hours by car. It was a really fun experience traveling in the futuristic looking train and watching the scenery fly by. We were hoping to catch a glimpse of Mount Fuji on the way as well but unfortunately it was rainy and cloudy that day so we couldn't see it.

    Before we knew it, we arrived in Tokyo where we instantly noticed that the pace of life was different and that the people were definitely living the city life as they rushed by us in the train station. So to fit right in we quickly figured out the public transport system and caught the metro to our hotel that we'd be spending the night at. Although it was a bit outside the main tourist area we wanted to have the experience of staying at a capsule hotel which are popular in Japan. It is a unique setup where instead of a typical room you have little pods only big enough to sleep in. Our pod was a bit bigger than normal so it fit the two of us comfortably and it even had a tv. That evening we enjoyed a few store bought beers and American Ninja Warrior in Japanese while chilling in our pod for our first night in Tokyo!

    The next day we checked out of the capsule hotel to make our way to some more 'normal' accommodation for the rest of our time there. Although it was still small, as are all the hotels in Japan, it was functional and in a well connected part of the city. We spent the afternoon and evening walking around to some tourist sites including the observation deck on the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building where we saw endless views of the city and discovered that Tokyo is actually the largest populated city in the world, the Meiji Jingu Shrine and the Shibuya scramble crossing which is a chaotic but systematic 5 way intersection resembling Time Square with huge billboards and bright lights. It was fun to rush across the street with thousands of other people as soon as the light turned green and along the way trying to avoid running into them as well.

    After all the walking that day we treated ourselves to an amazing kobe beef dinner where we had probably one of the best steaks we've ever eaten in our lives. It was at a small family owned restaurant where we were lucky enough to get last minute reservations and had the best seats in the house; right in front of the stove top griddle where the steaks were cooked in the traditional Japanese way. It was well worth the money and next time we're in Tokyo we'll be sure to go back!
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  • Day72

    Kyoto, Japan

    March 4, 2017 in Japan

    Kyoto is the quintessential Japanese city, surrounded by peaceful shrines yet has a big city feel with pockets of little districts to suit everyone's interest.

    We enjoyed a few days in Kyoto and felt like a local by using the easy to navigate public bus and metro system. Our first stop was the Fushimi Inari-Taisha Shrine, which is dedicated to Inari the rice goddess. This shrine consists of thousands of donated toriis which are a bold orange color. This shrine is popular with tourists and locals alike and we got to see many ladies in their traditional Kamonos (and I even managed to get a picture with one). We especially enjoyed going off the beaten path at the shrine and stumbling across a bamboo forest with massively tall bamboo trees. After the shrine we decided to head over to the sake district of Fushimi which is the home to many popular sake breweries. We learned about the process of making this Japanese rice wine and got to taste some of it too! Hungry after a full day, we ended up having some amazing food at a restaurant specializing in chicken (and had sake on tap) where we were the only non-locals of the night and managed to communicate with the non-English speaking wait staff!

    Before getting templed out, we visited a small sample of the many shrines which included Kinkaku-ji, the golden zen temple, the To-ji temple with a tall wooden pagoda and the red Kiyomizu-dera temple. Aside from temples we enjoyed our time people watching especially on a Friday night at the local arcade. This isn't any ordinary arcade as its not made for little kids but instead adults! It definitely seems that the gaming culture in Japan is a big one as this arcade was full of young adults playing all sorts of video games and most were borderline professional coming prepared with their video game gloves and all. We had a go at a few games but weren't as good as any of the Japanese people.

    And lastly as it's been the status-quo in Japan the food in Kyoto didn't disappoint. We enjoyed more sushi, tonkatsu which is Japanese pork cutlet and fire ramen! Yes, literally a bowl of ramen on fire...just have a look at the picture and see for your self!
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  • Day70

    Osaka, Japan

    March 2, 2017 in Japan

    After a red-eye flight and 24 hours of minibuses, ferries, and planes, we made it to our last country of this trip - Japan. I don't want to jynx it, but I think we saved the best for last.

    While the prices are a bit of a shock compared to SE Asia, they're inline with most US cities, but filled with a lot more entertainment. The people watching and cultural differences has been exceptional. It also helps that sushi is one of our favorite foods back home, so we were excited to escape fried rice and curry after the last few weeks.

    Osaka is the third largest city in Japan and was a great introduction to the country's unique culture and food.

    We enjoyed our ramen experience where you order through a vending machine and then get served from behind a blind counter. This famous restaurant supposedly set the record for serving 6,000 people in one day and I don't doubt it. We also tried octopus balls which were ok, and some delicious tuna, scallops, shrimp tempura, and white strawberries in the local market all of which was just so fresh and tasted amazing.

    Finally on our way to Kyoto the next day we stopped at the Osaka Castle at the recommendation of our bartender (who we met at a bar in a tiny alley that was smaller than the size of most bathrooms). We actually just checked out Osaka Castle from a distance and admired the plum blossoms in the garden which Japan is known for. They were still in bloom but looked pretty nonetheless.

    It's really hard to narrow down these cities in Japan to a few pictures...literally every store or walk down the street could be a full set of pictures!
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  • Day68

    Koh Chang, Thailand

    February 28, 2017 in Thailand

    We made the most of Koh Chang, but it was a far second compared to Koh Kood. There were just a lot of Russian tourists and busy beaches. We probably would have been better off extending our stay in Koh Kood, but we wanted to get closer to our flight out of Bangkok (which still required a 6 hour transfer) and unfortunately we couldn't book another night at the resort we were at on Koh Kood since it was full- I guess that's what we get for booking our hotels only 2 days before we arrive!Read more

  • Day65

    Ko Kut, Thailand

    February 25, 2017 in Thailand

    For our last week in SE Asia we wanted to unwind and enjoy one of Thailand's many beautiful beaches. We chose Koh Kood and Koh Chang since they were relatively close from Cambodia as well as to Bangkok where we were flying out of. Koh Kood was the first stop, a more remote and quiet island compared to the larger Koh Chang island.

    Getting there required a 5AM departure, 3 different taxis, a ferry, and another infamous border crossing, but it was totally worth it when we arrived on the beach for sunset after a 12 hour journey!

    We didn't do much on Koh Kood other than snorkel, eat, drink, and relax. The snorkeling from our resort was surprisingly good. We saw lots of coral, fish, sea urchins, a pufferfish, a stingray, a cuttlefish, an octopus, and crabs. We also went scuba diving for 2 dives one of the days. The coral, small fish, and colors were all very nice but we didn't see quite as much as we have on some other dives in the past. Either way it's always a peaceful experience to see the ocean below and experience nature the way that very few get to enjoy.

    Koh Kood might be one of the few remote islands left in Thailand and we were glad to be able to enjoy the pristine blue waters almost all to ourselves! Oh and it cost less than any 3 day beach vacation in the US.
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  • Day62

    Siem Reap and Angkor Wat, Cambodia

    February 22, 2017 in Cambodia

    Temples, cathedrals, mosques, monuments, shrines...we've seen a lot over the last few months of traveling and we've learned that we enjoy them...but we also learned that we don't need to see them all. Angkor Wat was the one you can't miss in this category when you travel to Southeast Asia so this was pretty much our religious site grand finale for this trip.

    It is the world's largest religious monument stretching 402 acres built by the Khmer Empire. Most were originally Hindu temples but later converted to Buddhist and some back and forth again by the ruling kings through history. Interestingly, India had a large influence in SE Asia, and particularly in Cambodia starting around the first century, which is evident in many of the carvings and details in the temples.

    We woke up at 4am to see the sunrise at the temple and avoid the crowds. While the sunrise was beautiful, the crowds were still in full force and somewhat took away from the experience- but I suppose that's a bit hypocritical to say as a tourist. We did the short circuit tour with a guide who was a monk in his earlier life. It was a solid 10 hour day but many people spend multiple days there and still don't see it all. It was worth spending the extra money for a guide as he provided a lot of insight to the temples' religious history and into the modern day culture which we learned there is still tension between Cambodia and its neighbors Vietnam and Thailand who have abused the Cambodian people through history by taking their land and even seizing control of Angkor Wat at one point in time and still calling it a creation of their people.

    The temples were all impressive and reminded us of some of the detailed carvings from India and the size and magnitude of Egypt. Over the last one thousand years since their creation they seemed to have held up well. Our favorite was the "Tomb Raider" temple which is overgrown with giant trees. The roots of the trees flow between the sandstone bricks and are slowly destroying the temple, but it makes for one of the coolest man-made/mothernature combinations you'll ever see.

    After a long and very hot day in the stagnant Cambodian heat we recovered in our Hostel's pool. Siem Reap was an interesting city with a lot of tourists, backpackers, expats, and plenty of entertainment along Pub Street with clubs, karaoke bars, and mobile bars blaring YouTube music videos and pouring cocktails from their bicycle carts.

    Although our visit to Cambodia was short we felt like we saw what we needed to and got to check another country off the list!
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  • Day60

    Phnom Penh, Cambodia

    February 20, 2017 in Cambodia

    To get to Cambodia's capital from Vietnam, we took a bus across the border. The border crossing was quite the experience as we waited in a large open warehouse building that looked like it was decorated for Halloween with the amount of spider webs hanging from the ceiling. The only system that existed was to push your way past the cluster of people and hand your documents with some money inside to the immigration official in order to quickly get a stamp to cross the border. We paid our bus representative $2 each for this "expedite" service as did all the other passengers on the bus however I think he pocketed all the money or didn't pay enough since our group was the last through but not the last to arrive. Once that experience was done, we got back on the bus for a few more hours of driving. It was evident that the countryside of Cambodia was quite a bit different from anything we saw in Vietnam, almost reminding us a bit of India. The poverty was visible where as in Vietnam it wasn't noticeable even in the rural parts; maybe a clear difference between a socialist community and a democratic one.

    Once we arrived to the city, we were aggressively harassed by every tuk tuk driver for a ride, more so than any other country we've been to, so we refused out of principle and sat down at happy hour for a few beers at 75 cents each and then walked off the beer on our way to our hotel.

    The following day we visited S-21 and the killing fields which are now educational sites capturing the genocide of the Khmer Rouge. In less than 5 years during the late 1970's, this political party led by Pol Pot was responsible for around 2 million deaths in a country with only 8 million people. The Khmer Rouge wanted to reset their society to what they called "year 0", free of modern influences and back to the old ways of farming instead of city life, so entire cities were relocated to rural areas where high production rates were demanded with harsh living conditions. A monetary system was no longer used and any intellectuals were considered threats to their vision, so anyone with glasses or a doctor or lawyer or other threat was detained, interrogated, and tortured in places like S-21 which was an old school turned into a prison. Once the prisoners admitted to usually a false accusation, they would be sent to the killing fields to be killed.

    The killing fields captured the reality of the crimes since they have built a mausoleum that houses the piles of bones and skulls collected on site. Nearly every skull in the monument had a missing chunk of bone since the victims were generally killed by blunt force to the head. Bullets or other means were not used since that would be too expensive and loud.

    All around the site there were craters in the ground which were the mass graves found that still unearth remains from the victims today. The Khmer Rouge would kill an entire family that was a threat, with one of their slogans being "to dig up the grass you must remove even the roots", which led to probably the saddest part of the tour, the killing tree. This was a tree where babies would be killed by being struck against the trunk of the tree, which is now dedicated in memory to the youngest victims.

    Both sites were disturbing but preserved with pictures and artifacts to allow us to learn about this horrific time in Cambodia's history. The most shocking part to us was how little this is talked about in the US and how recent this atrocity occurred. The fact that a quarter of a nation's population was killed less than a decade before we were born in an era with modern communication is still a bit unreal. We're glad we were able to learn more about this and hopefully pass on the awareness to those reading our posts!
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  • Day57

    Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Vietnam

    February 17, 2017 in Vietnam

    After exploring some of Northern Vietnam we wanted to visit Ho Chi Minh City in the South to better understand the Vietnam War. We were interested to see the War Remnants Museum as well as the Cu Chi tunnels that the Viet Cong used against the South Vietnamese and US troops.

    The museum was interesting, although it was a bit one-sided, again with propaganda. There were many photos capturing the war, pieces of shot down planes, and a disturbing exhibit on Agent Orange; a lethal chemical used by the Americans which was probably the most tragic and scarring remnant of the war.

    The following day we took an adventure to the Cu Chi tunnels on a two hour moped ride each way. The ride there was just as memorable as the tunnels, since over an hour of it was fighting the city traffic, which I now can say my moped driving skills are nearly ready for the ultimate test--traffic in India. Once we got to the tunnels we learned more about how the tunnels were made and designed and then got to crawl through them, although they were made larger so tourists could fit through easier they were still very narrow and tight. The number and length of tunnels, the self sufficient underground city, the bamboo spear boobietraps, and the psychological aspect of hiding underground during bombings were all much more real after crawling through a few of them. On the way back we stopped at a small village convenience store for a cold drink since it was so hot and met the owner who introduced us to his mother and daughter who were all so sweet. When he found out we were from America he was so happy and even told us that he loved the US which we were surprised about seeing that we were only a few miles away from the tunnels which represent a dark period in Vietnam history. This positive US sentiment was surprisingly consistent throughout all of Vietnam.

    With the rest of our time in this fairly modern city with French influence we did what we enjoy the most; exploring the local culture. We finally got to try Pho after our third attempt, sipped on some Siagon craft beer that was pretty good, and got another massage since they're so affordable!

    This was our last stop in Vietnam and we're happy to say we really enjoyed our time there. The country has vast history and natural beauty which caught us by surprise. Until next time Vietnam...
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  • Day56

    Hai Van Pass, Vietnam

    February 16, 2017 in Vietnam

    Before returning our rental moped we decided to do something a bit more adventurous and took a ride on the scenic Hai Van Pass. This popular costal road winds through the mountains and offers some amazing views of Vietnam's natural beauty. It was fun hanging on to Mitch as he took the sharp turns and passed other mopeds doing the same thing as us. We stopped several times for pictures and eventually made our way down the other side of Hai Van Pass where we stopped at a roadside restaurant for a quick seafood fried rice lunch before making our way back to Danang.

    Once we got into the city of Danang we drove around quickly to visit the Dragon Bridge before returning the moped and making our way to the airport. We thought we'd be late but instead it was quite the opposite since we had another 7 hours to spare due to our flight being delayed! This airport delay was the most memorable yet because not only did we wait forever to board, but once we did we didn't take off for another 2.5 hours because passengers had snuck onto the flight at the gate and they didn't have an accurate flight manifest. This resulted in multiple recounts, showing boarding passes multiple times and eventually a roll call of all 180 passengers on board! We were more entertained by the lack of management onboard while others were just flat out angry. Oh and I got to make friends with the Vietnamese lady next to me who didn't speak any English but kept talking to me, we even took a selfie together which I think was her first ever!

    We finally made it to Ho Chi Min City at 2am tired and exhausted from the really long day of adventures!
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