Jan 19, 2016

Two Friends Quit Their New York Jobs To Spend Seven Months Backpacking Across Asia (45 Pics)

By on Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Our first stop in Tokyo. This was Japanese efficiency at its best — skip the waiters, go right to the ramen vending machine to place your order.
Tokyo arcades are as common as Chase Banks are in New York City. Kids and businessmen alike blow off steam at these overly stimulating technology playgrounds. Eye enlarging is an automatic Photobooth enhancement, but we didn't realize it until we had stared at the photo for a few minutes.

Here we are at Fushimi Inari Shrine, Kyoto, Japan, where there's a path lined with thousands of holy torii gates.

Spinning a row of Japanese bells in a Kyoto temple for good luck.

This path in the back of Adashino Nenbutsuji Temple, a Buddhist temple in Kyoto, leads through a bamboo forest.

Even Kyoto's cemeteries are beautifully zen.

We snapped this near the border between North and South Korea. On the near side are South Korean soldiers; those on the far side are from the North.

Next stop: China. The Great Wall of China is touristy, but it's a requisite stop on a trip to China.

In Chengdu, China, ear wax removal is a common beauty treatment, just like a massage or haircut.

One of the most strenuous treks we took was in Emeishan National Park in Sichuan, China. While walking up the seemingly endless steps on remote Mount Emei, we saw few other humans but plenty of monkeys.

There's a bridge at the start of the trek up Mount Emeishan. We asked an elderly local Chinese woman to lead us across the bridge. She led us to safety while viciously throwing rocks and jabbing her walking stick to scare away the monkeys.

After one of many long journeys on local trains in China, we're happy to be on our feet and off the rails.

On the long distance trains in China, it's best to sleep on the top bunk (third bed up) to be as removed as possible from the commotion. Anything goes when you're the only Westerner on a 21-hour train ride.

Bamboo raft guides wait for tourists in Yangshuo, in northeastern China.

In Hong Kong, there's an elaborate laser and lights show over Victoria Harbour every night at 8pm. A total of 44 buildings participate in the synchronized Symphony of Lights show each night.

Sa Pa is a rural, mountainous area in northern Vietnam. We stayed with a family in Sa Pa. Here's our home stay mother knitting a scarf for her daughter.

In Sa Pa, Vietnam, we helped our home stay mother cook dinner using her stove. We slept on a bench covered with blankets, and woke up to chickens and pigs wandering through the hut. Her toilet is mother nature.

While driving in Da Lat, Vietnam, we ran out of petrol for our motorbikes. After wheeling our bike to a local's house, someone came to our rescue with a soda bottle full of petrol. If we could have communicated in Vietnamese, we would have said thank you. Instead, a simple bow did the trick.

And we were happy to get back on the road.

Here we are in the beautiful, touristy town of Hoi An, Vietnam, where we embarrassingly fell off our motorbikes in the middle of a 5-way intersection. Luckily some kind locals came to the rescue. In this area, tailors are everywhere. You can get a custom suit — or any article of clothing — tailored from scratch. Jen paid $60.

We spent New Year's Eve in Ho Chi Minh City (formerly known as Saigon), Vietnam. The streets were packed. This is the same street where we saw Adrien Brody drinking a $0.50 draft beer on a typical Vietnamese street stool.

We met a young entrepreneur (around 12 years old) after a long day of touring temples in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. He sold some of the best iced coffee we've ever tasted out of a tuk tuk, and he'd deliver it to your house with just a phone call.

We spent one day teaching English to village kids who want nothing more than to learn at a donation-based school in Cambodia.

Angkor Wat, Cambodia, is the largest religious monument in the world. These Buddhist temples are an explorer's playground.

We watched the sun rise over a temple in Angkor Wat, and spent all day "temple hopping"— riding in a tuk tuk from temple to temple.

Si Phan Don (The 4,000 Islands), in the south of Laos, is exactly what it sounds like.

You can travel from island to island over bridges like this in the 4,000 Islands.

Snake Whiskey is a common drink in Laos. It's whiskey that is infused with a dead snake and herbs.

In Vang Vieng, Laos, there are zip lines and rope swings across the Nam Song River. Drunk tourists used to swing across the river on these until too many people died in one year. It's temporarily shut down.

There was great street food in Yangon, Myanmar.

A Buddhist monk looked out over the ancient city of Bagan, Myanmar.

In Bangkok, Thailand, we tried blackened scorpion on a stick.

And Pad Thai for just $1.

We helped bathe rescued elephants in Chiang Mai, Thailand. There was so much love in this elephant sanctuary.

We took an authentic Thai cooking class in Chiang Mai. The instructor taught that the way to get the most flavor into your food is to move your hips while you cook.

Preparing for the biggest Full Moon Party in the world in Koh Phangan, in southern Thailand.

We took a leap in Maya Bay, Thailand, where "The Beach" was filmed.

We also camped overnight in Maya Bay.

We visited a "free" beach (no rules, only hippies) in Tonsai, Thailand, where we witnessed the most beautiful sunset we've ever seen.

At this enchanted forest full in Bali, Indonesia, monkeys are known to attack tourists for food — which is why we stood far away from the guy playing with one.

A sunrise hike up Mt. Batur volcano in Bali, Indonesia. Feeling on top of the world, physically and mentally.

In the small village of Port Barton in the Philippines, our boat captain came on a raft to take us across the river. The charge: $0.50.

During an all-day snorkeling trip in El Nido, Philippines, we feasted on a seafood lunch made from scratch.

We took a coffee break on our mountain motorbike adventure in Lombok, Indonesia, and came across this cow.

In Gili Trawangan, an island in Indonesia, there are no cars or motorbikes. The only way to get around is by foot or bicycle.


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