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W5: Who, What, Why, When and Where?

An introduction to us and our RTW plans.

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View Thanh and Mark's RTW Adventure 2009-10 on malmn's travel map.

Montréal, Canada
July 22nd, 2009

Hello to you and welcome to our little place in cyberspace!

We figured we would introduce ourselves and our trip using the good 'ol reliable W5:

WHO?

We are Thanh Nguyen, and Mark Lemoine. We are a young couple, in our thirties, from Montréal, Québec, Canada.

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Thanh went to Concordia U. She loves her family, a good laugh, great food, lululemon, and her make-up. She speaks Vietnamese, French and English.

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Mark went to Mount Allison U. He loves Thanh, his passport, OKA cheese, HD TV, and the Montréal Canadiens (he loves his family too!). He speaks Québecois and English. GO HABS GO!!!

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WHAT?

This late July we are embarking on a nine month journey together casually travelling around the globe. Although it looks like we may spend most of our time in Asia, especially South East Asia, we still like to call this adventure our “Round The World” (RTW) trip.

Friends and family are welcome to join us!

WHY?

Globetrotting for months, even years at a time is a dream that we share together, and luckily we now find ourselves with the opportunity to do it.

We are both are very passionate about travelling and we have visited over 30 different countries and territories combined. We have loved all the different and exotic places, people, cuisine and cultures we encountered. Before losing our jobs this past spring (donations welcome!), we had often discussed the idea of travelling abroad for a long period of time, perhaps even settling and finding new employment there.

Yes, we are both fortunately/unfortunately, victims of the world’s economic recession. Until this spring, Thanh was working as an aerospace engineer for a large international aerospace technologies company. I, along with my parents, were forced to sell our chain of 14 car rental franchises this summer, which we owned and ran for over 19 years. Since we both lost our jobs at the same time, we see this as the perfect opportunity to ‘backpack’ and not just vacation.

So, considering that we are both passionate globetrotters and that we presently have no commitments (no job, no mortgage, no kids), we figured we might as well make ourselves happy, live out our common dream before resuming our careers and life back home together next spring.

WHEN?

Beginning July 25th 2009 to, unfortunately no later than, April 1st, 2010.

First it must be made clear that we LOVE warm weather and have always wanted to completely escape the crazy, cold Canadian winter. We essentially planned this voyage during this time period in order to (for once on our lives!) avoid the snow and deep cold, which usually occurs between mid-October to early April.

Another important reason explaning our return date is the fact that Thanh has been anointed to be her cousin Priscilla’s maid of honour next summer, therefore she must be back in Montreal to help the future bride prepare for the nuptials.

We have also assumed that the funds budgeted will not be sufficient enough to continue support us past the month of March. So for now, we have ourselves a timeframe and budget (please see our 2nd blog entry) that we are comfortable with to explore the world

With all that said, although we plan to come back home in the spring, in order to extend this adventure we do plan to have our résumés on hand if we ever chance upon a permanent, or short-term job opportunity while we are roaming around.

WHERE?

See the itinerary of this trip, and details about each destination.

Now who knows if we’ll actually make it to all these places, but the locations in bold are pretty much guaranteed that we will be going simply because we have our hearts set on them (and in a few cases our flights!). Except for the ones in July, August and September, none of the destinations are definite, so basically beginning in October we are free to go anywhere, at anytime. We consider ourselves very open minded and flexible regardng our plans.

To simplify things, we listed the main cities and countries we expect to visit. We mostly plan to spend our time in rural, quiet, “off the beaten track” types of places, so that we can better get acquainted with the local culture and food, and also save money.

JULY 2009
Montreal, Canada
Rehoboth Beach, USA
Wildwood, USA
Philadelphia, USA

AUGUST 2009
Ottawa/Chelsea, Canada
Mirimichi, Canada
Moncton, Canada

Halifax, Canada

SEPTEMBER 2009
Vancouver, Canada
Tokyo, Japan
Kyoto, Japan
Nara, Japan
Osaka, Japan
Hong Kong, HK SAR
Macau, Macau SAR

OCTOBER 2009
Guangzhou, China
Zhongshan, China

Nanning, China
Hanoi, Vietnam

NOVEMBER 2009
Luang Prabang, Laos
Vientiane, Laos

Savannakhet, Laos
Pakse, Laos
Siem Reap, Cambodia

DECEMBER 2009
Phnom Phenh, Cambodia
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

JANUARY 2010
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Singapore, Singapore
Jakarta, Indonesia

FEBRUARY 2010
New Delhi, India
Agra, India,
Varanasi, India

MARCH 2010
Mumbai, India
Cairo, Egypt

Alexandria, Egypt

If we get lucky, and money and time permits, here are other places we would love to add to our itinerary (in no particular order):

Moscow, Russia
Istanbul, Turkey
Athens, Greece
Helsinki, Finland
Venice, Italy
Hamburg, Germany
Munich, Germany
Paris, France
London, England
Dublin, Ireland
Madrid, Spain
Lisbon, Portugal
Casablanca, Morocco
Tunis, Tunisia
Zanzibar, Tanzania
Machu Picchu, Peru
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Manus, Brazil
Isla los Roques, Venezuela
Havana, Cuba
Cancun, Mexico

And much, much more….

This was a pretty long blog entry…

- Thanh and Mark

Note: We will attempt to keep this blog, Bloggin’ N Globetrottin’, alive throughout our big adventure. Our idea is to keep in touch with our friends, family and share our experiences with them through this site. We will update this blog and answer you guys as often as we can. As many of you may know, internet access is not always easy when travelling to exotic places, so we would ask you to please be patient with us.

Posted by malmn 11:40 Tagged round_the_world Comments (1)

Budgeting for our RTW Trip

A final entry before heading out on our voyage!


View Thanh and Mark's RTW Adventure 2009-10 on malmn's travel map.

July 23nd, 2009
Montréal, Canada

Bonjour!

After reading our first entry we assume that some of you may have thought; “Wasn’t there also in H when were taught the W5s?” Indeed, we were also instructed to remember H, for HOW? So, that brings us to the topic of our second blog…how much is this RTW extravaganza going to cost us, anyway?

Besides homesickness, and health & safety issues, our (at least Mark’s) major concern is not having enough funds to last us until next April. With that in mind we know that we must spend conservatively and we need a budget in order to avoid the horror of running out of moolah and being forced to return home in the middle of January or February when it’s freakin’ minus twenty degrees Celsius outside (yes, you read that right: -20C!) …now that would be really depressing!
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Now here is a little budgeting planning theory brought to you by Mark:

After having laid out a rough itinerary and timeframe (please see blog entry numéro uno), we then assumed that we have the ability to pay for a budget to mid-range style long-term trip, with a few luxuries here and there along the way (hopefully). After determining that aspect of our travels and carrying out the proper research, we identified our major fixed expenditures such as flights, passport & visas, travel insurance, and vaccinations and our major variable costs such as other transportation (bus, train, etc.), accommodation, meals, cultural & social activities (cooking class, scuba diving, partying). In order for the budget to be dependable, it’s crucial to estimate each of these costs as accurately as possible. Furthermore, there are several other important criteria (some obvious, some not) that will influence the total price tag of our trip, and we considered these in our budget. They are;

- length of trip (number of days)
- each country’s cost of living (very important!)
- exchange rates
- proximity between nations
- type of accommodation (budget, mid, high)
- modes of transportation chosen (flights, rain, bus, public transportation)
- transportation to and from airports and bus stations
- amount of cultural & social activities (partying) partaken
- friends and family that can receive you
- number of people your travelling with
- international bank fees
- international calls (cost and frequency of)
- supplies
- shippping home articles
- replacing broken, lost or stolen items
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It’s worthwhile mentioning that we do not have actual RTW tickets. We came very close to buying a pair from Star Alliance (which by the way, is cheapest RTW ticket around) but in the end we preferred the luxury and freedom of buying our tickets along the way. We feel it is still more flexible and adventurous this way. This also see this as an opportunity for us to experience different means of transportation, like long haul ferries and trains, which should allow us get closer to the local people and their way of life. Most importantly, after our extensive research, the RTW ticket didn’t seem offer a significant enough price advantage for the destinations we are headed for. In the end, RTW ticket or not, we will attempt to fully circle the globe in one direction (west) and touch as many continents as we can along the way, hopefully making this a real round the world trip.
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So there ya go. Another long blog by us (actually Mark). Hopefully you found it informative, interesting, and entertaining. Please let us know.

Next time we update this sucker we should be somewhere in the good ol’ U.S. of A (most likely Rehoboth Beach, New Jersey) and it should be about our actual adventure and not this prep stuff.

Moi, moi! (Finnish for bye-bye!)

Thanh and Mark

Posted by malmn 17:48 Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

USA: Rehoboth Beach, Philadelphia & a hint of New Brunswick

Family, beach, baseball and a little sightseeing.

sunny 33 °C
View Thanh and Mark's RTW Adventure 2009-10 on malmn's travel map.

I have finally decided to join Mark in this blog one month later because, yes, I am a serial procrastinator. “Why do things today, when you”… ah I’ll write the rest later.

As Mark already mentioned, I’m a temporarily retired engineer who loves her family and her Lululemon. I also love food, new stamps in my passport, Perez Hilton (don’t judge) and most of all, Mark.

So 4 weeks ago, we went to Rehoboth Beach, Delaware where Mark got to meet my extended family. He’s already met everyone in Montreal but had yet to meet my family from the US so I was quite excited to show off my beloved. :) Well the excitement didn’t last too long and the whole week was short of a disaster. We all know that Vietnamese traditions and culture are quite different from Canadian’s and though my family from Montreal is traditional, they are still open-minded. The same cannot be said for my family from the US and on our first night there Mark, who is still slowly and curiously learning about my culture, committed a serious “faux pas” in their eyes and they decided, after meeting him for a couple hours, to deem him disrespectful and to ignore him for the remaining of our stay. Without going into details, what he did was so normal that I don’t even know where it crossed the line and became disrespectful but that’s beside the point. The point is that my family wasn’t upset at him but at me because I, a grown 30 year old women with a capable mind and good career (which is on hold, yes I know), didn’t give my boyfriend, an intelligent 33 year old independent ex-company owner, the instructions of the dos and don’ts of how to behave in a Vietnamese family. WHAT?!?! But he’s not Vietnamese therefore didn’t grow up in our culture…but he’s not a child so I don’t want to tell him what to do… but how about getting to know him and his traditions and culture and letting him be his own person instead of imposing our ways on him. I can totally appreciate protecting and respecting our culture, but how about sharing and teaching it and letting others decide for themselves instead of shoving it down one’s throat.

Needless to say, the whole ordeal upset me quite a bit but I wasn’t too sure if I wanted to blog on it until today. As I sit on Mark’s grandma’s couch in Moncton, New Brunswick, I can’t help but think about how I’ve been so warmly welcomed by all his family and friends in the past few days. No one has set expectancies for me and no one has made me feel like I didn’t belong just because I’ve never been to the Maritimes or that I don’t greet people with a warm hug or that I don’t know what Baloney is. Everyone has made me feel so accepted even with my differences and it makes me upset to think that my family from the US didn’t allow Mark to feel that way.

Well enough of that emotional crap. Rehoboth Beach was fun but a tad too touristy for my taste, the beach was nice but a bit too rocky and the waves were too strong. The boardwalk was very fun and my three nephews can definitely testify to that. The things that come to my mind about Rehoboth beach now are: they won’t exchange our Canadian money in any bank, IHOP pancakes are heavenly for the first 2 bites then nauseating after that, Jack Lingo is the coolest name we’ve heard, if you don’t read rental quotes properly you can end up paying 180$ for a couple hours of quad-cycle (cycling thingy that fits four) rental, great Mexican food only cost 4.25$ for a huge plate and why is shopping at Walmart so entertaining?
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While in Delaware, we took a day trip to Philadelphia to attend a Phillies vs Cardinals ball game which made Mark very happy and surprisingly enough I didn’t fall asleep as often as I thought I would. Hehe, no it was quite entertaining and very exciting: 5 homeruns!!! We also had our first local Philly steak at 10AM before visiting the Liberty Bell and other historic sites in downtown Philly. DSC06460.jpgDSC06449.jpg DSC06483.jpgDSC06451.jpg

Now New Brunswick, I think I’m in love… There’s something so irresistibly charming about this place, it’s the slow pace of life and the humble overly nice people I think. People really go out of their way to be nice and helpful, and it’s quite contagious. It’s very different from Montreal. And all the seafood!! I had the best and cheapest lobster in my life and also learned how to eat it just by using a knife, it’s quite an art.

What do you know, it’s the girlfriend’s first post, and it had to be an emotional one, how typical. Well I can’t promise that it’ll be the last emotional one neither. I think through our blog, you’ll obviously read about the travelling and sightseeing side, also about the ups and downs of our discoveries of each other while discovering the world and but most importantly, about our greatest passion of all… food!! Don’t be shocked if we start describing to you in details each and everything that we eat. And don’t even try to comment on how we write too much about food, we won’t stop!! And hopefully I’ll be more prompt on my posts in the future.

So a few more days in the Maritimes before heading back home for the last preps before the BIG adventure…

Next blog: All about the Maritimes, mostly New Brunswick.

T & Mark.

Posted by malmn 17:00 Archived in USA Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

One week in the Maritimes

More family, good friends and seafood!

overcast 20 °C
View Thanh and Mark's RTW Adventure 2009-10 on malmn's travel map.

So we spent a week in the super friendly Maritimes, and this was a first for Thanh. Besides a flat tire, it was a relaxed fun week full of good times with friends and family, plus some really awesome food! We manage to visit Moncton, Sackville, Amherst, Miramichi, and Charlottetown.

We left Thursday and we drove all the way from Montreal to Moncton with my grandmother Yvette, and it took us about 10 hours. We went directly to my aunt Marie-Josée’s where I got to play with my cousins a little bit and have a good meal.

Besides Josée, on this trip I was fortunate to see my aunt Sharon, uncle Ron and my very loving grandmother, Iona. We went to visit my grandmother a few times at her new apartment in a senior’s home. It was really awesome to spend time with her.
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On Friday day we went to Sackville to visit my university, had lunch at Mel’s Tea Room, and drove to Aulac to wander around historic Fort Beauséjour. The view over there is absolutely beautiful! We then took the time drive across the border to Nova Scotia so Thanh could say that she has been there. LOL! That night we headed to my good friend Jody’s home in Miramichi to spend a couple of days with him and his beautiful family. Another good friend of mine, Patrick, drove down from Bathurst with his girlfriend Sarah to spend a night with us. We spent that night eating some great Japanese fare (Shabu-shabu) prepared up by Kozue, Jody’s wife. She is a fantastic cook. Thanks Kozue!
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We also visited pretty Charlottetown, P.E.I. for a day, and spent an amazing $42.50 toll just to cross the damn Confederation Bridge. The next day we went to visit the flower pots Rocks, near Fundy. That’s where the highest tides in the world are, which carve some beautiful rock formations.
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We were fortunate to eat some amazing seafood in the Maritimes, including lobster and oysters. Jody brought us to visit his Peat Moss farm and after that we went to the local wharf where we bought some fresh and tasty lobster. MMMM!! It was really amazing! Jody taught Thanh how to eat lobster with only a butter knife, so now she is officially a Maritimer. ;) LOL! A couple of days later, on our last night, Thanh and I went to my parent’s cottage in Grande-Digue to have supper and my mom served us some crazy fresh oysters that she had handpicked herself from the beach right in front of the home. Let me tell you that they were the best tasting oysters that we had ever tasted in our lives! Really! Thanks Mom! XO
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The following day we drove back to Montreal where we had 5 days to do some last minute things like packing, clearing out my apartment, and hanging out with our best friends, and spending time with Thanh’s family before leaving Montreal for seven months.

Before I end this blog, I need to point out that after driving close to 2500 kilometers on this leg of our trip, I can safely state that Ontario drivers are the worst on the planet. I dunno what’s wrong with them, but they’re judgment is seriously impaired and they are very unpredictable and frustrating. LOL!

Our next blog should be from Vancouver, one of my favorite cities.

Salut mes amis! GO HABS GO!!!

Mark

Posted by malmn 17:00 Archived in Canada Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

Vancouver & old friends

semi-overcast 21 °C

Sitting in the taxi driving us to the airport, we just got extremely excited since this is the first leg of our trip that requires taking the plane which also means we won't see the comfort of our home for another 7 months.

For Mark, Vancouver has always been a prime destination in Canada so he wanted to introduce me to it. Also, many of his really good friends have now established themselves in this rainy city and he was really excited to be able to catch up with them.

We arrived on Wednesday afternoon and were picked up by Pat & Sarah (our super nice hosts for most of our stay in Vancouver). It was cool since I just met them a couple weeks ago on the East coast during our trip to the Maritimes and now we get to spend time with them on the opposite coast of the country. Pat & Sarah live in the Kitsilano area of Vancouver which is this super cute neighborhood right next to the beach. After settling in, Mark and I went to have this delicious lunch at this trendy and casual vegetarian joint called The Naam. We were then joined by Pat for a long walk along the beach to Granville Island which has tons of interesting little shops and an amazing food market. We also got to enjoy a little sake tasting at the only sake maker in North America. We called it a day after a couple boiled corn and episodes of Entourage.
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The next day, we woke up early and had breakfast at this Vancouver staple called Sophie’s which was voted best breakfast by the locals many years in a row. We then hopped on a bus towards downtown for a long stroll to sightsee but also to run some errands we didn’t have time to do back home. I was amazed at the number of restaurant that downtown Vancouver boasts and how the majority of them are Asian, especially Japanese. Having already been there, Mark takes me to this Isakaya style Japanese restaurant, Guu, for lunch. It was chaos; not only was the place jam packed of mostly Japanese people on their lunch break, but also the staff’s continuous screaming of welcomes, orders and thank yous definitely added to it. The food was simple but extremely tasty and I guess it’s always a good sign of authenticity when you see mostly Japanese people in a Japanese restaurant. With our stomach satisfied, we headed back home for a much needed nap. That night we (us & Pat, since Sarah was at work) decided to cook a delicious dinner of sockeye salmon with pineapple salsa, asparagus and wild rice. We ended the night with a few beers an almost endless conversation about human’s purpose on this earth. Oh lord…and to think it all started by us talking about how Pat took a year off of works a few years back.

Friday started with a long walk back to Granville Island for a crepe breakfast at the market which was decent but nothing spectacular. On our walk back home I stumbled on this little shoe shop and finally found some TEVA flip flops, I’ve been looking for those suckers for months. For lunch, all four of us went to this fantastic hand-made ramen restaurant, Kintaro, and waited in the apparently-normal lineup. An enormous bowl of ramen in miso soup with bbq pork later, I rolled myself out of the restaurant and we went to see the sights around the Vancouver Convention Center. Costing around a billion dollars to build, this building is quite impressive by its size but also by its roof covered with green space. We parted ways with Pat who had to return to work and then Sarah drove us to see the Stanley Park and its popular totem poles and we also got a glimpse of the University of British Columbia. We all went home afterwards to rest before our Indian dinner with Ed & Laura. Ed & Mark have been really good friends since they were 14 and Laura is Ed’s lovely wife. All five of us (Poor Sarah had to stay behind since she was feeling really sick) had an amazing Indian dinner at Chutney Villa and then headed for a psychedelic Radiohead Laser Show at the Vancouver Space Center. It was such a unique experience that Mark and I won’t soon forget.
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Saturday was our first rainy day since we’ve been to Vancouver but we wouldn’t let it stop us from attending the fair at the PNE (Pacific National Exhibition) with Ed & Laura. We arrive onsite to find out that parking fees were outrageous but the people who lived around the site were out on the streets trying to rent out their personal parking spot for a lesser fee. We agreed to rent the spot of this lovely old Chinese woman who was waving at us across the street from the fair entrance. But as soon as we agreed, she told us to follow her and started running, and running , and running… Ten minutes later, we couldn’t even be mad at her for making us park so far from the site, we were just so impress that such an old lady had the stamina to run for so long. This fair was like any other fair, with its greasy foods, sketchy rides, market that sold all kinds of gadgets, an animal farm, and what we enjoyed the most, a Superdogs show. We ate very healthy that day downing some fried jalapeno peppers stuffed with cream cheese, fried Mars bar (oh yah, as in the chocolate bar in a batter and then fried), fried Oreo cookies (mmm…), a poutine, a beef sandwich and the best scone I ever had. We also bought a candied apple but thought it was wise to keep it for another day. We returned to Pat & Sarah’s and past out after a couple episodes of Eastbound &Down (hilarious!!).
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After only a few days in Vancouver, I’m definitely sold on its charm (Mark knew I would be). I love the beaches, the active lifestyle of the locals and their health consciousness, and the gross amount of Japanese restaurants it has to offer.

We have a few more days in Vancouver and then Japan…
Thanh (for Mark & Thanh)

Posted by thanh13 17:00 Archived in Canada Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

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