Auckland and the first wonder of the trip: the Waitomo glowworms

This was a trip that I had been dreaming about for years, one of those epic adventures on the same scale as hiking in Nepal, driving through African reserves, backpacking across Southeast Asia, or sailing in Polynesia. Landing in Auckland, the largest city of New Zealand (though not the capital, that honor is reserved for Wellington), I looked ahead to an unforgettable road trip. The plan was simple: get in through Auckland, near the north tip of NZ’s North Island, get out two weeks later through Queenstown, near the south end of the South Island.

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Kinabatangan on our own

A Kinabatangan river cruise is one of the most typical activities in a Borneo trip, one of the few remaining real opportunities to experience the jungle and its wildlife. The most common way to do it, and at first glance the only one, is to join an organized tour from Kota Kinabalu or Sandakan. But we were coming from Semporna (from our diving and island hoping adventure), and we prefer to travel independently… and as cheap as possible. The basic 2 day / 1 night tour to Kinabatangan goes for over MYR 1,000 (over $300) per person! There had to be a better way.

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The best view in Sabah, Borneo

Back from our unforgettable liveaboard in Sipadan, we found ourselves in the harbor town of Semporna, Borneo, with no specific plans. The area is known for its paradise islands, with white sand beaches and turquoise waters, but unfortunately, most of these have been taken over by all-inclusive luxury hotels, like the spectacular Kapalai. The weather was also not looking particularly good, but we were resolved to explore at least a bit of this rather unknown area.

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4W driving in Fraser Island

Fraser is the world’s largest sand island, and one of Australia’s premier adventure destinations. Accommodation on the island is very limited (and quite expensive), and roads are almost nonexistent. So the most typical way to visit is on a self-driving 4WD camping trip, be it as part of a guided group (in which case you are clustered with other travelers), or on your own. If you’ve read this blog, you’ll know which option we chose.

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How to visit the Cu Chi Tunnels on your own

The Cu Chi tunnels are one of the best known “tourist attractions” in South Vietnam. And I put quotation marks because the tunnels are much more than a museum for the enjoyment of national and foreign visitors; they are raw history of Vietnam’s war times. The local people of Cu Chi started digging this 250km network of connecting underground tunnels during the French occupation in the 40s and continued in the 60s, when they were used by the North Vietnamese to fight the American/South Vietnamese army. The tunnel system comprised not only corridors, but also all sorts of rooms (sleeping, dining, hospital, storage), booby traps, air filtration systems, etc., and was estimated to have hosted 16,000 people. The history of the tunnels is fascinating, a classic example of a guerilla resisting against a military superpower. The US launched massive bombing campaigns against the tunnels and sent several infantry divisions to try to find the entrances and force the Viet Cong out, but failed repeatedly. Being a history enthusiast, I definitely wanted to see this site during our trip to Vietnam, even more so after our day getting educated about the war in Saigon.

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From Yangon to Bagan by train

Bagan, the most famous archaeological site of Myanmar can be reached by a 1 hour flight from Yangon… or by an 18+ hour tortuous train ride. That’s the transportation we chose, to save some money and get a broader perspective on the country. The train was departing every day at 4pm, and we got our tickets in advance, at the basic booking office diagonally opposite from the Shangri La Hotel.

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How to plan a trip to the South Pacific

The South Pacific islands are one of the most desired and challenging travel destinations. Most people believe they can’t afford to enjoy places like Bora Bora or Fiji, and it’s true… unless you plan smartly.

Picking a destination in the South Pacific

First, let’s take a look at all countries and territories (a total of over 20,000 islands) that compose the three key regions of Polynesia, Melanesia and Micronesia.


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Visiting St. Petersburg on a day trip from Moscow

St. Petersburg can be visited on a day trip from Moscow – a long but worth it trip. There are several train options, including the high speed but expensive Sapsan (3hr 45min), check out We chose a slow, sleeper train, which is not only cheaper but also helps you save two hotel nights. The 4 bed compartment at ~$50 per person was functional and clean, even had a few nice details like snacks.

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