Chilling in Varkala.

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We decided to head down South, to chill at the beach, get some sun and drink some beer. We managed to find a beautiful house, hidden in the palm trees and surrounded by the sea.

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The only thing missing was a braai area, so I built one ……

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Varkala is famous for the cliff’s overlooking the beach and an array of Ayurvedic treatments and plenty of shopping.

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We hooked up with Michele and Ev, whom had flown over to India to Celebrate her 40th birthday and made it a truly South African, Indian experience, including a lot of rum cocktails, as well as cutting half my finger off with Alistair’s very sharp knife.

Our house was between a temple and a mosque, religion in stereo. The temple was celebrating Shiva’s birthday in style, with loads of music, food and one of the loudest fireworks displays in the history of modern man, starting at 05h00. We had a great day sampling the local food, getting henna tattoos and meeting the locals.

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The kids also really enjoyed getting into the Indian lifestyle…

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And now the adventure continues as we head to Sri Lanka for Ronelle’s mom’s 60th birthday.

Adrift in Tokyo…

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I think we crossed the Rubicon with our kids on just getting to our hotel in Tokyo. A four-hour flight, one hour train into Tokyo central station at 18h00 on a Friday with 2 million fast paced people and then a small connection to Hatchibori, our home for 6 days, all in minus degree temperatures in South African Winter clothes. All in all it took us about 12 hours of planes, trains and walking to finally get to a hotel that, to say the least was crap.

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Try swinging a cat in this room!

 The hotel room was so small that it made our Hong Kong accommodation look like a palace.  It’s difficult to describe how small they can actually make a room and call it a room, including miniature bath..

Normally the kids sleep on the floor, with some pillows and blankets, but this hotel was literally so small that there was not enough space on the floor for two babies to sleep on, so we ended up four in a bed for five nights. Not very romantic, but sake and beer helped us through.

Our planning for Japan was sketchy at best. Ronelle’s dad had told us to expect some cold, but we weren’t prepared for the complete white out of Tokyo and the biggest snowstorm in 20 years.

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 Our first port of call was the local shops to stock up on Winter clothes and we managed to find a really cheap place, like Ackerman’s to get kitted out. Finally, we were ready to start our Japanese adventure.

We started off with the iconic Shibuya crossing in the middle of Tokyo.  A real travel experience, with millions of lights, local food and some very exotic sights, including a miniature dog that Kerala fell in love with. (To take home, not to eat)

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We managed to visit Disney World before the storms hit and as expected, it was a kids dream. The local Japanese kids all dress head to toe in Disney clothes and are part of the occasion. Although, initially some of the queues were very long, as soon as we got into the children’s zone, it was quite empty. They have really created a place that is not reality and must be printing cash on a daily basis.

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Then the storm hit. I’ve lived in a few places that have snow, but haven’t seen anything like it before. Complete white out and freezing cold! Not ideal to be in a 12 square meter room with two energetic kids.

We braved the cold and hit Legoland, a childrens Lego paradise. We managed to catch two 4D movies. For those of you who haven’t seen a 4D movie before, it includes some of the real things happening in the movie, like rain, snow and wind in the movie theatre.

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After Legoland, we were snowed in for two days, with train delays and really deep snow. After leaving our cramped hotel we just jumped on our first bullet train headed for the countryside.

PS: We didn’t mention the food! Its amazing. Tell that lady at Weight Watchers to come and get us!

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Mount Fuji in the snow

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It’s been one of my dreams to see Mount Fuji and the train journey into the mountains was one of life’s highlights. Everything was white which just added to the experience. We ended up staying in a traditional Japanese hostel, owned by an American, sleeping on futon beds and visiting sushi bars.

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Sushi bars, I wish I could explain the sushi bars we ate at – in short, you log on to a computer at your table, ad any food you want and a little trail comes along a rail with it, just beautiful!

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As you can see below, Mount fuji is amazing, especially with the snow and we had a great time making snow angels.

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Memoirs of a Geisha in Kyoto

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We’ve pretty much started judging hotels by the size of the floor area, as the bigger the area the more space there is for the kids sleeping area, lego construction zone, Kerala make up boutique and picnic area. The Kyoto Century hotel ticked all the boxes with a floor are the size of Newlands rugby field compared to that excuse for a hotel in Tokyo.

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Kyoto is a tourist meca and everything is made easy, including the busses, which come equipped with a Tourism Radio knock off. We started at the area of Gion, famous for the geisha girls (see Memoirs of a Geisha)

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If you’re ever in Kyoto, it’s worth a visit. Overall my favorite place in Kyoto was Fushimi Inari-taisha shrine and the food markets.

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One of the interesting aspects of travelling with two blonde kids is that people give them stuff the whole time, biscuits sweets, toys, the list is endless. I’m hoping we get to a point where we don’t have to feed them anymore.

Peace in Hiroshima

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Hiroshima is famous for being bombed by the Americans in 1945, but we were pretty surprised by how amazing the city was. We started off by visiting the peace park and museum and it’s a pretty emotional place. Interestingly enough, there were a lot of Americans in the museum and I wondered if they were embarrassed at how their country had acted. Dropping a nuclear bomb is one thing, but the governments involved decided that there would be no warning to the citizens of one of the most densely populated areas of Japan.

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There are always two sides to every story, but a lot of what motivated the US government to drop the bomb was politics with the Soviet Union and I would think with today’s society, this wouldn’t happen again.  I was very surprised by how neutral and objective the content in the museum was, compared to the places we visited in Vietnam, which were still quite anti American.

Happily it seems that the US and Japan are now very strong allies, with the US also having over 80 000 servicemen based in Japan.

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Hiroshima is a buzzing metropolis of bars, restaurants, rivers, boats and wonderful sites. I don’t know if it’s the university students that take the edge of the dour Japanese, or if it’s because of their history, but they tend to live a little more out of the box.

We spent our last day at Miyajima island and explored the area, including the local Aquarium, which is fun, but I don’t think the Japanese quite understand that animals and mammals alike need space, which they don’t get here. Never the less, the dolphins were cute.

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Hiroshima is a place where we could live and by far our favorite Japanese city. It’s a mix of Observatory and Japanese traditions with great food.

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Overall, Japan is an amazing country filled with traditional, really great food and easy transport. The down side is that it isn’t really a kid friendly country.  I think we saw 17 kids on our travels throughout Japan, its almost as if hey hide their children. We heard that the Japanese government has started paying the citizens to have kids, as I think most Japanese men just work, work , work. Japan is incredibly controlled, not just by the government, but also by tradition and respect, which is great, but possibly sometimes goes too far. Would we come back? Yes, definitely, but we would come without kids, as I think it would be a completely different experience.

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Bring on India!

Hong Kong welcomes the Allewell’s

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Its always a mixed bag of emotions when leaving home for such a long time. Leaving loved ones, especially for the kids is difficult.  We arrived early for the airport, kissed the folks goodbye and winged our way to Joberg in anticipation of a very long JHB-Hong Kong flight. Well done to Cathay Pacific, one of the best airlines we’ve ever travelled on, food was great, kids were treated like royalty and the beers were very cold.

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We arrived in Hong Kong as newbies and immediately fell in love with the place. What’s not too like about Hong Kong, except the prices. We arrived during Chinese New Years and had to book a swanky hotel, as all the others were fully booked. We ended up staying at the Bishop Lei  hotel on the 23rd floor with fantastic views of Hong Kong and surrounds.

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The hotel was very close to the Mid level escalators , a fantastic system where you can take an escalator down, or up during certain times of the day. We ended up eating duck, dim sims and corn in Soho the first night, which was amazing. The rest of the time was spent walking the streets, taking open top bus tours and experiencing HK from a traditional Chinese boat.

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Our little babies have taken to travel with vigour! It seems that between myself and Ronelle, we have bred travel babies. They have really enjoyed the experience of Hong Kong taxi’s, eating noodles and roast duck!!

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We left Hong Kong with a tinge of sadness, as there was still a lot to do, but Japan was calling!

With love – The A-Team!

 

Have visa must travel!

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One of the biggest planning nightmares in organizing a trip around the World is the visas, regardless of what passport you have. To give you an example, British passport holders pay R2500.00 for a visa to India and South African’s pay R50.00. Another issue is the date the visa is valid from, hence us not being able to go to England, as the visa being issue in SA needs to be used within 6 months. Anyway, enough of that, we FINALLY have all of our visa’s and the countdown has begun, ten days until Hong Kong!

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The start of a unique journey

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So here it is, the start of an amazing journey with my family. We’ve spent the better part of eight months, planning, strategising, planning and planning. Its no mean feat packing up the lives of four people, leaving a friends and family and walking into the unknown.

There is something to be said about relishing our worldly possessions and reducing our daily needs to one backpack and one suitcase. This is a journey that Ronelle and I have been craving for years and finally its here….the final countdown has begun.