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Johannesburg – Our Welcome to South Africa

After spending 6 weeks in Europe, we bid goodbye to snow, heavy jackets, bratwursts, museums and lots of history. Reflecting back on the last 40+ days, we’ve had many incredible…

After spending 6 weeks in Europe, we bid goodbye to snow, heavy jackets, bratwursts, museums and lots of history. Reflecting back on the last 40+ days, we’ve had many incredible experiences, stories to tell and memories etched – that will never be forgotten for lifetimes to come.

Our next 3 weeks takes us to possibly one of the most colorful continents in the world: Africa. We revel in the reality that we are now in closer proximity with wildlife and the climate is comfortably tropical. Having spent a week here, it has dawn upon us that South Africa has its surprises. Contrary to what we assumed, the average standard of living is alarmingly high (for example; a simple dinner will set us back R180/MYR90). Also, getting connected to the worldwide web is a scarcity, in some cases it would costs us a bomb to get dial-up. Can’t expect much being surrounded by dense forest, mountainous boulders and gorgeous coastlines.

Our first few days spent at Johannesburg was relatively chilling (in a relaxing way, not in a cold way!). We rented a car, drove around the city, made friends with friendly locals, walked through their markets and watched a lot of talk on TV about the coming World Cup. We stayed at Mbizi Backpackers in Johannesburg. Great location, feels like home and extremely spacious – which is what we love! They even have a huge pool to dip ourselves in!

Johannesburg  (19)Johannesburg  (11)Johannesburg  (20)

One place was worth our visit was the Apartheid Museum. Walking through this museum and memorial site dedicated to the cruel and inhuman regime (of white-only dominance) reminded us of our visit to Dachau, just recently. The segregation of communities and the nation just because of colour, skin or origins – were badly astonishing. Happened only in recent history that laws were passed for ‘white-only’ areas, ‘white-only’ benches/chairs, beaches, toilets – the list goes on. People who stood against this white ruling regime were arrested and tortured (mostly politicians). The most famous captive was Nelson Mandela, who eventually became the President of South Africa in 1994. His autobiography, Long Road to Freedom is definitely worth reading.

Johannesburg  (15)Johannesburg  (14) Johannesburg  (13)

Visiting the Apartheid Museum help put images and experiences to the words in the Mandela’s autobiography. Following the trail of this inspiring and humbling history throughout Africa, we will be visiting Robben Island in a few weeks time.

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My Dream (Bucket) List

The Ardent Traveler is feisty about her craving to see the world before she turns old and grey. She’s painstakingly created a (growing) list of destinations to visit, myriad cultures…

Mount Pinatubo

The Ardent Traveler is feisty about her craving to see the world before she turns old and grey. She’s painstakingly created a (growing) list of destinations to visit, myriad cultures and adventures to experience and landscapes to behold.


  • Milford Sound, New Zealand
  • The Great Barrier Reef, Australia
  • Taj Mahal, India
  • Petra, Jordan,
  • Colosseum, Italy
  • Table Mountain, South Africa
  • Kilmanjaro, Tanzania
  • Uluru, Australia
  • Dead Sea, Israel-Jordan-Palestine
  • Grand Canyon, USA
  • Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
  • Amazon Jungle, Brazil
  • Machu Picchu, Cuzco, Peru
  • Iguazu Falls, Brazil
  • Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
  • Kruger National Park, South Africa
  • Daintree Forest, Australia
  • Swaziland
  • Angkor Wat, Cambodia
  • Alcatraz Prison, San Francisco, USA
  • New York, USA
  • London city
  • Masai Mara, Kenya
  • Cliffs of Moher, Ireland
  • Ancient temples of Borobodur, Indonesia
  • Terracotta warriors of Xian, China
  • Bhutan
  • The Acropolis & the Parthenon, Athens, Greece
  • Matterhorn, Switzerland
  • The Pinnacles, Australia
  • Uluru (Ayer’s Rock), Northern Territory, Australia
  • Stonehenge, Salisbury, United Kingdom
  • Paris, France
  • Hong Kong
  • Egypt and the great pyramids
  • Highlands of Sarawak, Malaysia
  • Wadi Rum, Jordan
  • Lake Titicaca, Peru
  • Kakadu National Park, Australia
  • Rome and the Vatican, Italy
  • Atacama Desert and El Tatio geysers, Chile
  • Yosemite National Park, California, USA
  • Fiordland, South Island, New Zealand
  • Mayan ruins of Tikal, Guatemala
  • Angel Falls, Venezuela
  • Salar de Uyuni salt flats, Bolivia
  • Moai statues on Easter Island, Chile
  • Terraced rice paddies of Bali, Ubud, Indonesia
  • Buenos Aires, Argentina
  • Timbuktu, Mali
  • Puerto Princesa Subterranean River, Palawan, Philippines
  • Lhasa, Tibet
  • Sri Lanka
  • St Petersburg & Moscow, Russia
  • Tasmania, Australia
  • Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada
  • Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada
  • Torres Del Paine National Park, Chile
  • Cedars of Lebanon, Bcharre, Lebanon
  • Mount Ararat, Agri, Turkey
  • Lake Baikal, Russia
  • Kazakhstan
  • Mongolia
  • Guilin – Yang Shuo Hills, China 
  • Danum Valley, Sabah, Malaysia
  • New Guinea, Indonesia/Papua New Guinea
  • Christmas Island, Indian Ocean, Australia
  • Cape Point, Eastern Cape, South Africa
  • Giant’s Causeway, County Antrim, Northern Ireland

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Cape Town: The Mother City

Hands down, Cape Town is one of the most stunning cities in the world. Teeming with life, myriad of cultures and blessed with spectacular natural beauties, it’s no wonder Cape…

Hands down, Cape Town is one of the most stunning cities in the world. Teeming with life, myriad of cultures and blessed with spectacular natural beauties, it’s no wonder Cape Town is the ‘Mother City’ of South Africa. Extremely different from Jo’burg, Pretoria or Durban, Cape Town has its own flavor and zest. It is the only city in South Africa that can be explored by foot.

Cape Town (3)

As all the other cities in South Africa, Cape Town is busy with roadworks and constructions for the upcoming 2010 Fifa World Cup. Football fever is getting hotter in South Africa with billboards, flyers, t-shirts, ads and announcements everywhere. But I’m sure, football aside; Cape Town has more than enough to impress her visitors. We had allocated more days at Cape Town as it was our final stop before heading home – hence no rush, more fun and a little luxury warranted for a good ending.

Cape Town (43)

Table Mountain is without a doubt one of the famous few mountains known by throngs of people. With its imposing stature overlooking the city, Table Mountain made a good landmark for getting our bearings right around the city. Most people would take the rotating cable car up the peak, instead we decided to hike up 1086m. A continuous uphill climb along rugged boulders and steep stony pathways lead us to the top. It wasn’t an easy climb, especially with the sight of the daunting mountain peak staring down at us – nonetheless we made it with 2 cookies to munch on and a litre of water to drench our thirst.

Flat at the top, hence the name ‘table’, the mountain was particularly unique with sparse bushes scattered at the top. An aerial view of Cape Town looked like a thousand matchboxes neatly arranged. Yet the most impressive sight was the ocean, wrapping the city and extending far beyond the eye can see.

Activities around Cape Town has a lot to do with water, from para gliding, jet skiing, deep sea fishing, surfing and definitely sun bathing on the beach in summer. Buskers fill the streets, umbrellas dot the beach and friends gather to watch live performances in parks, gardens and mini-amphitheatres.

Cape Town (27)

Victoria and Alfred (V&A) Waterfront is a famous summer hangout. The sun-drenched waterfront is an active harbour that overlooks the majestic Table Mountain. The buzz and activity stem from several shopping malls, old warehouses converted into mega stores and decks lined with cafes.

Cape Town (28)Cape Town (29)

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Tsitsikamma National Park

Driving in South Africa has proven to be a rewarding experience with ever-changing landscapes to partake. The popular Garden Route that stretches from Storms River all the way to Mossel…

Driving in South Africa has proven to be a rewarding experience with ever-changing landscapes to partake. The popular Garden Route that stretches from Storms River all the way to Mossel Bay in the Western Cape deserves the rave and praise as the most scenic stretch along our road trip. Views of open vistas, deep gorges, verdant pine forests and endless mountain ranges continuously unravel as we snake through the highway.

Tsitsikama (Storms' River) (2)

We stopped over at Storms River to spend a few nights and explore the adjacent Tsitsikamma National Park. Tsitsikamma is a khoi word meaning “place of abundant or sparkling water”. It is hard not realize the expanse of water around this region as vegetation remains fertile and drinking water from the tap is even sweet!

Tsitsikama (Storms' River) (5)

Noted for its spectacular scenic hikes and perfect camping spots overlooking the Indian Ocean, this park is a holiday haven for locals and visitors alike. We spent the day exploring two trails; one to the mountain top and another to a waterfall. The hike into the waterfall was a new challenge, climbing between and on rock boulders, balancing on stony ridges and negotiating loose sandstones.

Tsitsikama (Storms' River) (8)Tsitsikama (Storms' River) (10)

However it was not the final destination that gave us the greatest satisfaction, instead it was the adventure along the journey that allowed us to truly take in the beauty of God’s creation.

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KL To London – 2 Month Adventure Begins!

So we have left on our 2 month adventure and I haven’t had the slightest free time to blog before I left our home country – good ol’ Malaysia. Lots…

So we have left on our 2 month adventure and I haven’t had the slightest free time to blog before I left our home country – good ol’ Malaysia. Lots of spring cleaning, washing, packing and meeting up with family and friends – by golly it seems as if we are migrating but we will be only gone for 2 months!

A snapshot of our journey – “Our Europe trail starts from London where we will celebrate our first white Christmas and experience the irresistible Boxing Day madness to Edinburgh for the countdown into 2010, then moving west to Germany, Austria, Hungary and finally to gorgeous Greece. The next half of our adventure takes us to South Africa traveling from Johannesburg to Cape Town in hope to steal a peek and be in the company of the magnificent Big 5’s and (possibly) camp in the open plains – (that’ll be our ultimate camping adventure!)”

Saying goodbye was the hardest, but an irresistible itinerary awaits us. With lots of hugs and (uncontrollable) tears, Terence and I bid farewell to my family and headed to the boarding room at LCCT. We had looming thoughts of how we would survive the 14 hour flight on Air Asia X. Picked up a few nasty comments about seats being too small and not able to recline fully – we braced ourselves for the worst. Our backpacks were filled with books, Scrabble and a journal to scribble on in case we ran out of things to do.

Much to our surprise – 14 hours flew by quickly with 2 serves of meals, 1 hour of Scrabble, 4 hours of reading and the rest of the time snoozing. The seats were very comfortable and nothing dreadful to complain about. As walked out of the plane and into Stansted Airport, our eyes sparkled at the first sights of snow on the walkway. I bet the workers were cursing and grumbling having to work in nasty weather conditions but there were these 2 Malaysians leaping with joy and tugging at each other for mere excitement at white fluff!

Chern picked us up at the airport and hurried us to catch our bus into London. It wasn’t another hour before we arrived at her home in East London. We retired the night not long after…

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LIFE Questions I Ask When I’m Traveling

For me, travel is a big part of my life. I make time to travel, I save to travel, I work hard to make travel a constant part of my…

For me, travel is a big part of my life. I make time to travel, I save to travel, I work hard to make travel a constant part of my life not because I’m an idealistic dreamer or a vagabond of sorts, but because it enriches my life.

Every time I go on a trip, I feel a surge of excitement, a longing anticipation and quite literally butterflies in my stomach. I’m not referring to just the long extended trips to New Zealand, South Africa or to Europe, but those short trips to neighbouring states or provinces or even exploring my own backyard.


Every time I embark on a new adventure, I bring with me a sense of curiosity, a new wave of wonder and a greater sense of appreciate for PEOPLE – different cultures, varied ways of living and delicate social fabrics that make each people group unique and for PLACES – changing landscapes, awe-inspiring views and a varied scenery. Places always reinforce my appreciation and justifies my awe for the Creator who made them all.

So, many times, I purposely and intentionally disconnect myself from social media just to appreciate the moment. It’s okay if I don’t get the perfect Instagram shot or the ‘in-the-moment’ Facebook video because I’m on journey of growth. When I travel, I’m observing, learning, pondering, penning and hence I’m growing.

I’m a better person for the travels I’ve done and will be a better person for the future travels that I’d be doing. I’m on a mission every trip, with an aim to GAIN and to GROW.

I’ve scribbled some questions that I reflect on while I’m on the road. I don’t necessarily answer all of them on every trip, but they are at the back of my mind. And for different times and seasons in my life, these questions produce poignant answers. I’m sharing it for the first time here:

  • What am I more appreciative of? What matters most to me?

  • What is happiness? What can I learn from the smiles I see around me?

  • What can money not buy?

  • What is the difference between living and existing?

  • If God made the whole earth and I’m seeing only a fraction of it – there must be more, right? I want to see it! Where next?

  • If not now, then when?

  • Are there things that I can simplify so that my life can be more simple? Am I holding on to something that I need to let go of?

  • When was the last time I stepped out of my comfort zone?

  • What do I have in common with the different people & cultures that I see? Can I celebrate our similarities and appreciate our differences that make this world so unique?

  • Life is sometimes unfair (some have it easy, others have it harder) – but what do I make of it?


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Two Year Honeymoon Around The World… Really?!

Planning the ideal round the world trip (RTW) is no easy feat. Those who have done it will tell you that it takes longer than imagined, more than they budgeted…

Planning the ideal round the world trip (RTW) is no easy feat. Those who have done it will tell you that it takes longer than imagined, more than they budgeted for and it’s harder than just booking flight tickets. Those who have done it will have a list of travel hacks and lessons to share on how to reduce expenses, stretch the dollar and get the most of a destination.

Lovebirds, Anne and Mike Howard have traveled 6 continents, over 32 countries and 302 places, and they chose their honeymoon for their RTW. While most honeymooners don’t think twice about booking a holiday on an idyllic beach and spa-worthy destination, Anne and Mike decided that it was too “normal” and instead they went for the unconventional. They planned a 2-year long honeymoon around the world to celebrate life together. I checked in for a quick chat with them and got some travel tips from the globetrotters.


Ardent Traveler (AT): You guys are probably the only people I know who spent 2-year honeymooning around the world with no break in between. Who’s idea was it?
Mike & Anne (M&A): A German friend-of-a-friend told us he and his girlfriend just returned from a one-year journey around the world. The concept seemed unfathomable yet it affixed itself to our brains. In thinking about where we wanted to spend our honeymoon we didn’t have enough paper to list all the places we wanted to visit and this couple’s RTW kept crossing our mind. Then about six months before our wedding we started seriously talking it out. “We’ve got some money saved, we don’t have kids, there’s a lot of world to see, and we’re only young once…maybe we turn our honeymoon into the greatest excuse to quit our jobs and travel…” Then we set the dream in motion.

AT: You also made a really bold step by quitting your jobs to travel the world. Was it hard for you? Is it workable?
M&A: It was a little scary leaving stable jobs, but the risk of not following our dream seemed far more frightening. Travel is the greatest learning experience imaginable and it can also be a resume builder. Immersing yourself in other cultures and throwing yourself into new environments sharpens your skills from communication to negotiation, problem-solving to global thinking…a good employer will definitely value those skills. Imagine the stories you will have for your interviews when you return home!


AT: Where did you start when it comes to planning a 2-year trip? Which countries to go to:
M&A: Our travel philosophy has always been to go places too far to visit while we have jobs and too rugged to tackle when we’re old. That meant skipping Central America and most of Europe and focusing on all the places we’d dreamed of visiting in South America, Africa, Asia and Oceania. Here is the country by country breakdown:

  • South America: Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, Bolivia and Peru
  • Africa: South Africa, Lesotho, Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania and Kenya
  • Asia: Nepal, China, Japan, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar, Philippines and Indonesia
  • Oceania: Australia and New Zealand
  • Europe: Scotland, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Wales, England, Norway and Turkey

Norway_Hopperstad Stave Church Norway

AT: How much time to spend in each country?
M&A: We aim for 3-4 weeks in each country and 2-3 nights in each location. This is a fairly fast pace in each town but the fact that we get to experience so many regions within each country keeps us energized and excited to keep exploring every single day. With 675 days to travel it actually would have been easy to visit more countries, but we like to stay close to a month in each country so that we can get a stronger sense of the people, customs, and character of a place.

AT: Budgeting?
M&A: We did our 675-day trip around the world for just under $40 per person per day, including flights, ground transportation, food, lodging, activities, gear…the works. This is an average of the pricier countries like Japan, Australia, and Norway (~$75+ pppd) with the less expensive places like Bolivia and Southeast Asia (under $20 pppd). We learned all sorts of ways to save money with mileage hacking, homestays, and tons of other travel tricks to to keep our budget low and fun levels high. You’d think we were millionaires (far from it!) but traveling around the world turned out to be less expensive than just the mortgage on our apartment.


AT: I’m sure you stored a million memories from the epic trip. Was a particular event or destination that you would call “life changing”?
M&A: I think the overwhelming kindness of strangers impacted us profoundly. Like the time our motorbike broke down in rural Thailand and a family picked us up and took us into their home for two days, making us a bed in their living room and cooking us three meals a day. Or when we asked a local guy directions in Hangzhou, China and when he couldn’t explain it in English, he took the bus 20 minutes in the wrong direction to make sure we got to our destination safely. Incredible instances of kindness happened to us in ALL 33 countries and these experiences always remind us to be open-hearted and pay it forward.


AT: Tell me a funny story from your travels… One that you will tell your friends over dinner and have a good laugh:)
M&A: We were driving in the mountains above Colca Canyon, Peru when we see a big group of locals all in traditional garb throwing a party in the middle of the road. We creep forward thinking they’d move to let us pass but instead this lady knocks on our window and says in Spanish, “Come dance! You can’t pass until you dance!” The next thing you know Anne is being pulled out of the car into a circle of elderly ladies doing a Peruvian jig. Mike is being poured mystery shots from a communal jug and sent to play in the band. We rocked out with our new best friends well into the evening…it was the best traffic jam we’ve ever been in.2-peruvian-dance

AT: After your 2-year honeymoon, did you settle back into a regular job? What happened after the big trip?
1-htlogosmall21M&A: Well…we may not be done with our honeymoon just yet. We are currently planning a road-trip honeymoon to all 50 states…as an interactive travel show. We are actually in Hollywood right now pitching the show, and continuing to focus on HoneyTrek. Basically it’s a one-on-one service (via skype) where we share our best tips and takeaways from our 675 days on the road. From how to save thousands of dollars on flights to backing up a terrabyte of photos from a Vietnamese internet cafe. We want to give more people the confidence and skills to mobilize their own epic journey. Even if you are even remotely thinking about long-term travel, please reach out to us at

AT: As a frequent traveler, share with me some tips or travel hacks that will help reduce travel costs.
M&A: School yourself in the art of mileage hacking. We read books, blogs, and even signed up for a course to learn how to maximize our miles and we were able to earn 430,000 frequent flier miles in the eight months leading up to the trip. It was no small task but considering it saved us more than $9,000 in flights, it was well worth it! One thing that can help keep your miles organized is (paired with a detailed excel spreadsheet)…and we have tons of tips on the topic and actually offer a Trip Coach mileage hacking course specifically for if you want to know more!

Bhaktapur Nepal

AT: Can travel be sustainable? What are your thoughts after visiting 6 continents, 33 countries and 302 places?
M&A: We know people who’ve been traveling for as long as 18 years! There all sorts of ways to travel affordably or make a living on the road; plus, the cost of living in the vast majority of the world is cheaper than the States– so if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere! With an open-mind and an adventurous spirit, long-term travel is entirely possible and a pretty amazing way to live.

Special Discount
Planning a RTW soon? Thinking about it? Get the best advice for that ideal trip. Honey Trek is giving a special discount to all Ardent Traveler followers. Get a 10% discount off on any of the Trip Coach courses. Simply write this code: “ArdentTraveler10%” when registering for the course and you enjoy the discount.
Let’s Chat With is a new series of light hearted, down-to-earth, personal interviews with people I’ve met or connected with along my journey as a traveler. These are people who have piqued my interest and have an amazing tale to tell. I hope that my conversations with them will inspire you, challenge your perspective on life and feed that wanderlust within you.
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