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    Bohol and Panglao

    Even though we would have, we weren’t able to book a full week in Moalboal. We decided to spend the last two nights of our vacation on the island province of Bohol.

    Getting from Moalboal to Panglao took an entire day. I was hoping we’d be able to catch a ferry out of Oslab, but with it being Easter weekend, we were told the smaller ports would be crowded and unreliable. We hired a taxi for 1500PHP (around $30) to drive us three hours to Cebu City. From there, we purchased ferry tickets to Tagbilaran. The ferries had already sold out of the earlier time slots. After a few hours wait, we took the 2.5 hour ferry ride east to Tagbilaran. It was dark by the time we got there.

    We stayed at Momo Village on Panglao Island, just off the southwestern tip of Bohol. We found and booked the place through AirBnB. (Get $20 off your first stay with AirBnB!) Momo Village was AWESOME. The owner, Ana, was so hospitable. Believe the reviews – her cooking is incredible. Momo Village had a five-story tower with a room on each floor. We stayed in the very top apartment (which was originally never meant for guests, but was Ana’s husband’s art studio). The view was amazing.

     

    Momo Village Tower

     

    The mosquitoes weren’t awful at that time of year, but we needed the windows open to keep the room cool. So we put up the mosquito net to avoid creepy crawlies on us while we slept:

     

    Momo Village top room

     

    View from Momo Village Tower

     

    View from Momo Village Tower

     

    Purple leaves plant

     

    Ana’s husband had several beautiful driftwood pieces around the property:

     

    Driftwood sculpture

     

    After a delicious breakfast, we rented a motorbike from Ana and set off to explore. There was an option for a full-day tour around the area, but our time was limited and there were only a couple of places we wanted to see.

     

    David on Motorbike

     

    Leah store

     

    A holy week procession:

     

    Holy week parade

     

    Our first stop was the Tarsier Sanctuary. These nocturnal primates were mostly sleeping, but we caught a few with open eyes! They were cute little guys. A few fun facts:

    • They grow to just over 6 inches and weigh between 2.8–5.6 oz.
    • Tarsiers are able to rotate their heads 180º to compensate for their immovable eyeballs.
    • They are carnivorous primates. They eat insects, spiders, lizards, and birds.
    • Their third finger is the same length as their upper arm.

     

    Tarsier monkey

     

    Tarsier monkey

     

    Tarsier monkey

     

    From there, we went to the Chocolate Hills. There are over 1,200 of these natural land formations. Unfortunately, no chocolate was involved. The mounds get their name from their brown appearance during the dry season. Apparently the limestone mounds were formed ages ago by the uplift of coral deposits and the action of rain water and erosion.

     

    Chocolate Hills sign

     

    Chocolate Hills

     

    We had lunch at the restaurant at the Chocolate Hills. The quality wasn’t amazing, but the prices weren’t bad and we were super thirsty and hungry.

    We stopped by White Beach, but were too disturbed by the super old white men with teenage girls and left soon after. We’re talking girls probably younger than their daughters. Eegh.

    It was a long day on the motorbike. David did a great job of driving. We both did a great job of sweating. The showers we took that night were some of the most needed and refreshing ones we’d had in awhile. We ate dinner that evening at Momo Village. I’m telling you – probably the best meal you can have in Bohol!

     

    Sunset in Panglao

     

    David and Leah at sunset

     

    Our time in Bohol was short, but I’m glad we were able to explore it for a day! Ana drove us to the ferry port early the next morning. We took the ferry back to Cebu City and a taxi from the port to the airport.

    Travel Note: When flying out of the Cebu Airport, there is an airport fee of 750PHP per person (about $16). You must pay this before you go to the gate area, so keep some pesos on you!

    I claim our first Asia trip (outside Korea) a success! 🙂

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    Lunar New Year in Gyeongju

    Working at an international school is fun for many reasons, one of them including regional holidays off of work. Lunar New Year was the second week in February, and we traveled southeast with some friends to Gyeongju (경주). Lunar New Year is one of the biggest holidays in Korea. Often, people travel from Seoul to their hometowns to spend time with extended family. Thanks to a friend, we were able to get standing room tickets on the KTX speed train. We left Saturday morning and two hours later arrived in Gyeongju!

    Gyeongju is an important historical city. It was the capital of the Silla kingdom which ruled about two-thirds of the peninsula between the 7th and 9th centuries. Today, it’s no longer the capital, but a smaller city. There are many historical sites, which is a draw for tourists.

    Where We Stayed
    We rented an AirBnB cabin with two other couples. The owner, Minmook, was a wonderful host. He went above and beyond! He made multiple trips to pick us up and drop us off at the house, take us to a grocery store, and get us to the bus stop. He brought by fresh fruit on multiple nights. The guys got to chat with him and hear his interesting story. Minmook lived all over Korea, built the three houses on his property, and recently started a blueberry crop. Though the house is a little out of the way, we highly recommend it! (It’s an easy ₩5,000 taxi ride to the main bus stop and attractions.)

     

    Gyeongju sunset

     

    Gyeongju sunset with hanok roofs

     

    Boys grilling meat

     

    We tried Hwangnam bread, which is original to the region. The pastry is filled with a dense, sweet red-bean paste. It was first baked in 1939 and is now sold throughout Korea.

     

    Traditional Gyeongju bread - Hwangnam bread

     

    Korean fish and bowls

     

    This was the commons area where we cooked, ate, hung out, and enjoyed the firewood stove:

     

    Cabin stove and room

     

    The house had two bedrooms. One had a Western style bed, and the other room used the traditional Korean mattress pads called a yo. David and I stayed in the mini-living room and also used a yo. The bedroom areas had ondol heated floors, which made for some cozy sleeping:

     

    Sleeping floor mats

     

    One day, we visited Bulguksa Temple (불국사), a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Admission cost ₩5,000 for adults.

     

    Travel friends

     

    Bulguksa walkway

     

    Iron dragon door knockers

     

    Bulguksa Hanok roof

     

    Bulguksa Seokgatap tower

     

    Prayer rocks:

     

    Balanced prayer rock stacks

     

    I found a cross!

     

    Bulguksa cross detail

     

    Bulguksa architecture and roofs

     

    Bulguksa Hanok roof

     

    Child with a bird water pipe

     

    The next day, we decided to hike to the Seokguram Bell Pavilion, which we could see in the distance from our house. We went way off the beaten path and walked up and down some major hills. My phone said we climbed 155 flights! We also took a wrong turn so our hike ended up being over five miles. But we enjoyed the company, sunshine, and fresh air. When we got to the bell, we only stayed five minutes because we saw the bus and didn’t want to wait another hour to get back into town.

     

    Hiking buddies - selfie in mirror

     

    Seongdeok stucture

     

    Ringing the Seongdeok bell

     

    Though there was a lot more we could have seen in and around town, our weekend was perfect. It was a relaxing retreat to be outside the city.
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    Paris: Our First Evening

    Spring Break Day One: Paris 
    As we planned for this spring break, we knew it would be our last Europe trip for a while. We considered several options, but decided to travel to France and Italy. (It’s been one of my dream trips!) Over nine days, we explored Paris, Venice, Florence, and Rome.

     

    Flying over land

     

    We left Ankara early Saturday morning, and landed in Paris around 5:30 pm. We used the metro to get to our “hotel”, then dropped our bags and headed out to explore. We were a 15 minute walk from Hôtel de Ville, Paris’ city hall. (Every time we passed it, the Cruella de Vil song came to mind.)

    We weren’t planning on it, but Notre Dame was open and there was a free organ concert inside. We didn’t stay long and visited again on Monday during the day time.

    More of our trip to come soon!

     

    Hotel de Ville

     

    Notre Dame at night

     

    Notre Dame doors

     

    Notre Dame Cathedral

     

    Notre Dame - Jesus on Cross

     

    I am the way which seeks travelers

     

    Leah and David outside Notre Dame

     

    Paris lights over the river

     

    Where we ate
    We grabbed dinner at La Taverne de la Huchette. They had a fantastic €14 menu including an appetizer, main dish, and dessert. David ordered mussels that were coated in the most amazing cream sauce. We thought the food was very good for the price.

    Where we stayed
    We used AirBnB and spent three nights at KOKO Maris, a tiny studio apartment in the wholesale district. We liked the location, and I’d recommend it for a short stay in Paris. It was very basic, but worked for us. It was originally an office space that was converted into apartments. Know that the bathroom had little ventilation and there was some black mold. Other than the bathroom, it was a clean, efficient little space.

    We love using AirBnB, and highly recommend it. People list their rental homes all over the world. Sign up at this link and you’ll get $25 off of your first AirBnB stay!

     

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    SB14: Zagreb, Croatia

    We traveled with four friends around Croatia and Slovenia during spring break! We flew into the capital city of Zagreb on a Saturday afternoon.

     

    Zagreb market

     

    Where we stayed
    We found an awesome attic apartment on AirBnB (alliteration much?) for two nights. It was an easy walk from the city center in a calm little neighborhood. It was a great space and we recommend it if you’re looking to spend a few days in Zagreb. The day before we left ended our third quarter at school, so we were happy to simply relax on Saturday. We had brought an HDMI cord, connected our laptop to the TV, and watched some movies. It had a great little kitchen and we made a couple of meals there. (At the end of our trip, we spent one night at Design City Hostel. Don’t stay there, especially if you only have girls in your group. It’s a corporate building that was converted into a hostel. It’s not in a good location, the sheet were dirty, and it was super creepy.)

     

    Rental apartment

     

    We were in Croatia during the last few days of March and the first week of April… which I’m pretty sure was off-season as far as tourism goes. It made traveling easy since places weren’t too crowded, but it seemed like nothing was open. Either that or businesses closed really early. We went into the city on Sunday. Most of the museums were closed, but we enjoyed walking around. We poked our heads into the Sunday service at the Zagreb Cathedral (aka the Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary) and browsed the red umbrella-ed Dolac Market.

     

    Zagreb Cathedral

     

    Zagreb Cathedral

     

    Croatia Toy

     

    The skies were clear and the weather was warm. We soaked up the sunshine as we wandered around the streets and parks.

     

    Park bench

     

    Statue with lipstick

     

    We wanted to go inside the National Theater, but alas, that too was closed:

     

    National Theater

     

    Spring tulips in Zagreb

     

    Park by the National Theater

     

    Before we traveled to Croatia, we discovered the Triposo app (available for Android and iOS). It taps into WiFi even if you’re not connected to a network and updates your location on a map. It also lists recommendations of things to see and places to eat and has a currency converter built in. (It’s available for other countries, too. Definitely check it out before your next trip!)

    The other landmark we were sure to see was the Church of St Mark:

     

    St. Mark Church in Zagreb

     

    The roof has the medieval coat of arms of Croatia, Dalmatia and Slavonia on the left side, and the emblem of Zagreb on the right. There was a man with a crazy huge lens and fancy camera who stood near us. I asked him if I could see his photos. He didn’t speak English, but he figured out what I was saying. From what I could make out, the tiles were either round or hexagonal and were layered kind of like fish scales.

    Day one and two of break were really relaxed. We didn’t have much of an agenda for Zagreb. We approached this trip a lot differently than we had other trips. We didn’t pre-book most of our lodging and we finalized our travel route once we were in-country rather than before. We felt really free because of this, but we ran into some challenges, too… More on that soon!

     

    Here’s a recap of the trip:
    » Day 1 & 2: Zagreb, Croatia
    » Day 3: Bled, Slovenia
    » Day 4: Ljubjlana, Slovenia
    » Day 4: Škocjan Caves Park, Slovenia
    » Day 5: Krk, Croatia
    » Day 6: Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia
    » Day 7: Split, Croatia

     

    Weekend Trip to Bodrum

    We had a 3-day weekend last weekend and took a quick trip to Bodrum, Turkey! Bodrum sits on a gulf that’s part of the Aegean Sea. We left Friday evening after school and flew back Monday.

     

    Map of Ankara to Bodrum, Turkey

     

    We rented a house with three of our friends in a neighborhood just outside of Bodrum called Bitez. Our friends discovered the website Airbnb and used it in some of their recent travels. People can list a room or their house on Airbnb. Sometimes the owners are in the house when you’re there, sometimes not. There are places to rent all over the world! We found a house and it ended up being a lot cheaper than staying at a hostel. We loved having a place to ourselves. It had three bedrooms, a little kitchen, and a living room area. We had breakfast on the roof Saturday morning. Here was the view from our bedroom window:

     

    View from window in Bitez

     

    And here was our morning breakfast view:

     

    View of the sea

     

    We took a dolmuş into the Bodrum city center to check out the town. The weather was gorgeous our first day – sunny and mid-60’s! There was lots to see around the port.

     

    Bodrum palm trees

     

    Sailboats

     

    Fish for sale

     

    We toured around the castle (also known as the Bodrum Museum of Underwater Archaeology). It was a beautiful place to explore! We got there a little late in the afternoon, so we had to rush through to see as much as we could before it closed at 4:30. I’ve heard it said the cure for anything is salt water: tears, sweat, or the sea. There’s something so calming about watching and smelling the water!

     

    Bodrum Castle Museum

     

    View from Bodrum Castle Museum

     

    There were different exhibits about underwater excavations and the history of the area.

     

    David as a statue

     

    Inside the castle gardens we saw PEACOCKS! I love peacocks. I’ve had a fascination with them every since I was little. My older brother’s high school girlfriend owned peacocks and she would bring me feathers. So pretty!

     

    Peacock

     

    Friends in the Bodrum Castle Museum

     

    After the castle, we snacked on hamsi at one of the restaurants along the water and then headed back to Bitez. (We did a lot of eating and reading over the weekend at the house!)

    While we were walking around, we saw this sign and realized we were in town the same time as the event. Oh goodness, wait till you see the pictures and hear about what we saw:

     

    Camel Wrestling sign

     

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