Destination: Trans-Mongolian Express and South East Asia...


I'm delighted to introduce you to Claudia author of the travel blog designclaud who I met virtually during a blogging e-course. Claudia is an interior architect from the Netherlands. Just to clarify (because I was curious), an interior architect is a European designation for a designer who draws architectural plans, as well as interiors design.

Claudia is an addicted and passionate traveler. She and her boy friend have spent nearly two years on a whirlwind world adventure. More on that later. Let's get to know her first.

Q: Dogs or cats? Dogs.

Q: Tea or coffee? Coffee In the morning and after lunch. Tea after 4 o’clock!

Q: Spring or fall? Spring, more sunshine!

Q: Beach or mountains? Difficult question. Mountains intend to impress me more.

Q: Favorite city? At the moment, I would say Hong Kong, Singapore or Sydney.

Q: Funniest travel experience? When you travel through South East Asia you shouldn’t be afraid of dirt and filthiness. One night, we ended up on the streets of a small town in northern Vietnam where we found a Bia Hoi. This is a place where you can drink very cheap beer for about 20 cents. The beer is brewed daily. It’s best to drink it that same day. So we started with some beers, and some more beers until I had to go to the toilet. I never thought about the toilet until that moment. When I asked the owner where it was she pointed to a canvas that was set up as a small little space. I walked in and got the biggest scare of my life. In the middle of the canvas was a big bucket, almost filled to the limit with pee and other disgusting items. This was NOT where I wanted to let my pants down. So I walked to the other side of the street where I saw a small cart on wheels. Again, in Asia anything could be a toilet, so I hoped this was one. I opened the door and saw the exact same thing; a bucket but this time with a small hole and a hose to the drainage of the street. I climbed in the small cart on wheels and closed the door tightly. The cart moved while I was trying to not touch anything and get over with it all. Eventually I survived and only touched the heck to open the cart and close it. I can’t believe I did it; it must have been the beer that gave me courage.

Q: Best meal you’ve ever had? Again, such a difficult question. The Vietnamese are such good cooks, so I would go for a fresh spring roll in Hanoi.

Q: Where have you traveled? Do you have time? Haha, it’s a long answer. After travelling through Australia on my own about 4 years ago, I was hooked. After 8 months I went back home and started saving money again. My boyfriend and I decided to travel around the world for two years. We started in Moscow and saw Russia by the Trans-Mongolian Express for a month. The train took us through Mongolia, where we stopped over for a month. Beijing was our last stop on that adventure. Next, we went to Hong Kong, the Philippines, Japan and South Korea, back to China and then took a train to South East Asia. We went to Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Malaysia. In Singapore we decided to take a break on Bali to relax for a few months.

Q: Where you stayed? Oh, we stayed at so many different places. We slept in trains, buses and planes. In yurts in Mongolia, dirty hostels, fancy apartments in Japan. Japanese guesthouses with matrasses on the floor, tents, camper vans, villas and even in the back of a boot.

Q: Where you shopped? Everywhere, especially in South East Asia. Everything is so cheap and handmade that you have to buy it. We’ve sent many boxes home with souvenirs we loved from Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand. If you are looking for great shops, you definitely have to go to Singapore and Tokyo. Best shopping ever!

Q: A few of your favorite things? I have some favorites that I intend to keep for the rest of my life. For example, the Vietnamese crockery we bought in Hoi An. Three boxes full of porcelain arrived safely in the Netherlands after three months. Also the decorations we bought in Bali are waiting at home and are just so gorgeous. I love a house filled with stuff from all over the world. Stuff that has memories and a story.

Q: Favorite points of interest? During almost 21 months of travelling I’ve seen many interesting places that I would love to revisit one day. Places that inspired me and amazed me like the Water Temple in Bali or the temples in Siem Reap. These are places and architecture that is so different from what we know in the western world. That is what amazes me -- new experiences and a new world.

Q: Favorite place you visited? Bali. We stayed in Bali for three months. And they were the best three months ever. Bali is a very special island because of its people, religion and nature. The people are incredibly friendly, sweet and generous. The Hindu religion is inspirational with its traditions, ceremonies, clothing and other decorations. And of course the nature in Bali is very unique. The island has volcanoes that have erupted a few times in the past. Some of the beaches of Bali are therefore black, but you will find lots of white beaches as well. Around these volcanoes the Balinese have created gorgeous scenery with their rice fields and palm trees. It’s just magnificent.
A good place to stay in Bali is Canggu. It’s still a bit under developed, but within the next few years will be a tourist place. So go there before it all disappears. I also loved Ubud, it’s very spiritual place, but also has lots of tourists and the additional shops for them. 
On Sunday night you should go to Deus in Canggu. They have the best live music on the island, a great place, an awesome shop and good food!
I always ate at local restaurants (warung) because their food is just the most authentic and the best. But, there are lots of great restaurants run by western people. For example, Betelnut in Canggu has great food and a gorgeous terrace overlooking the rice fields.
Surf spots are very popular in Bali. Go to Canggu, Kuta or the peninsula where you can surf at Uluwatu. Lots of surfers there!

Q: If I were to do it again, I would? Definitely make a few different choices. I wouldn’t change the places we went to, but would set off on the journey differently. For example, choosing themes and objects to photograph. Document more about my travels. Use my film camera more. When I look back on this trip, I realize we were so new to this. It was so overwhelming that I didn’t capture the experience at first the way I would have liked to.

Q: Where to next? So, after 20 months we are reaching the end of our around the world Part 1 trip. We’ve got one month left in Fiji and California before we fly back to Amsterdam. For how long -- who knows?

Q: Please share some of your travel tips.

1) Do NOT plan too much before you leave. People intend to book the trip, book the hotel, book the transfer, book the food and leave no space for any spontaneous things. The thing is, when you plan everything and you bump into nice people, a good offer or a better hotel on the way, you can’t change anything anymore. Even in high seasons, it’s not necessary to book ahead. This is what they tell you on the Internet, but it’s not true.

2) When traveling for long periods, luggage is important. Pay more for good quality and travel light. Don’t buy a big suitcase or a backpack that is twice your size. The less you take, the better off you’ll be. I recommend packing a week and a half’s worth of clothing. Wash and wear again. One of our best purchases was a combi bag from Osprey. It’s a backpack and a trolley – the perfect bag!

3) Don’t book anything with travel or touring companies. Often they cost too much and if you do a bit more research, you can plan it yourself for half the money. Every time we do book a trip with a travel company, we are either disappointed by the service and quality or we find out that we could’ve planned it ourselves.

Like most travel bloggers, Claudia is an amazing photographer. Here are some photos of the sights and people she captured during her trip.

{water tower temple in bali}

{claudia and her boyfriend in front of the water temple}

{on top of the volcano batur in bali}





{little india in singapore}

{china town in singapore}

Thanks for sharing your wonderful travel experience with us, Claudia. I hope you’ll come back to tell us about Part 2. I know there will be one soon.

Be sure to check out Claudia’s blog. If you’re planning a trip, chances are she’s already been there. She has many valuable travel tips. My favorite column is “A room to sh*t” where you can see a photo of the water closet she used in Vietnam. 

1 comment:

  1. Gorgeous photos. How adventurous...wish I could embark on 2 years around the jealous.


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