2016 – A Year of Ups and Downs, and Friends

Una BaufalaTravels and AdventuresLeave a Comment

Koh Tub Thailand - 2016

Year 2015 was uneventful. We stayed in Fuerteventura, Canary islands for a few months and then the rest of the year we spent in the Netherlands – working and saving money.

The, 2016, on the other hand was completely the opposite – we traveled a lot and there were many beautiful and also hard moments. Because of that now looking back it even feels that more than a year has passed.

Meeting Agate Lase and her husband in India

Meeting Agate Lase and her husband in India

Returning to India in January

This year started completely differently.

We spent New Year’s Eve on the plane, on our way to India. But on the very first day, during the first hours in New Delhi, we almost got scammed in a… tourist office. First days back in India were tough. We were constantly questioning ourselves – was it even right decision to come back to India?

In India we met Agate, who moved to India not long ago.

Fifteen days later Kaspars’s parents and brother joined us. And for three weeks we traveled together. We spent some time in Delhi, we went to Agra, Mumbai and Goa. In total we spent 10 days in Goa. We swam, relaxed on the beach, ate delicious sea-food, tried out various water activities.

The best part about it was that Kaspars’s parents loved it. They loved craziness and chaos of India. Here it’s important to mention, that for Kaspars’s dad it was his first ever time abroad.

Una taking a selfie in front of Taj Mahal

Una taking a selfie in front of Taj Mahal

Another Month and a Half in Goa

After Kaspars’s parents left, we spent in Goa another month and a half.

We spent a lot of time working on our blog and looking for another opportunities, how to earn money online. Kaspars did some freelancing. Another part of the time we were exploring Goa. Most of this time we spent in Southern Goa, but we went also to Northern Goa.

Now we know for sure – Southern Goa with its beautiful (and often quite deserted) beaches is our paradise.

Una and Petronas Towers Malaysia

Una and Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Meeting Friends in Malaysia

After almost two and a half months spent in India we moved on – to Malaysia. We felt like it was enough of India for us. Don’t get me wrong – we love Goa. We would happily live there. But at that time we wanted to see something else, something different. And at the same time, we didn’t want to see anything else in India.

It wasn’t our first time in Malaysia. And it wasn’t our first time in Kuala Lumpur.

We spent the first 10 days in Kuala Lumpur. For the second time I was celebrating my birthday in this modern Asian megalopolis. Only this time my finger wasn’t fractured, haha.

Taiping was our next destination. There we met our friend Clive. And after some days in Taiping we went to Langkawi island, where we rented a room in our friends’ apartment for one month. It was our third time on this island, but still there were places we haven’t seen before.

Our plan for Langkawi was similar like for Goa – to stay put for a while and try focusing on working online.

In Langkawi we met few more of our friends.

Koh Tub Thailand - 2016

Island hopping – Koh Tub, Thailand

Meeting Friends & Celebrating New Year (Thai New Year) in Thailand

And again, meeting friends.

Langkawi island is just a short ferry ride away from Thailand. It is possible to get a visa on arrival in Thailand, if you are coming by a Langkawi – Satun ferry. So why not go on a short trip to Thailand and visit friends? Yes, why not? So we went to Thailand.

In Krabi (Thailand) we met long term travelers from Latvia, Harijs and Karina, whom we met also in India. And we met Karlis and his family, Latvian family who had moved to Thailand for a year. But all together we celebrated Thai New Year (aka Songkran). Actually there were 2 more Latvians. Because there we met with one more couple from Latvia, who were traveling around Southeast Asia at that time. That was cool!

Thai New Year (Songran) now is our favorite celebration. It’s so much fun. And locals accept you as a friend. Awesome!

On our way to Krabi we also visited Trang and its waterfalls. And in Krabi we went on an island hopping trip to few paradise islands.

Driving scooter in Cambodia

Kaspars driving a scooter through rural areas near Kep, Cambodia

Exploring Cambodia in April

Who goes to Cambodia in the middle of April? Right, no one. Because it’s super hot in Cambodia in April. But it didn’t stop us.

During the month that we spent there again we met friends. Kaspars’s ex-colleague with her family now is living and working in Cambodia. And she helped us with few ideas where to go and what to see in the country. Thanks to her we went also to Koh Rong Samloem – a paradise island of Cambodia, about which we didn’t know a thing before.

In Cambodia for the first time we bought a motorbike. But… a day later we crashed it into a car. Nothing serious, but because of that we decided to abandon an idea about traveling in Cambodia on a motorbike. We had a great time in Cambodia later, nevertheless.

And here we made another decision – we are going for a few week hiking adventure in Nepal & we are going to Russia for a month. Actually idea about going to Nepal was there for some time. We even had tickets to Kathmandu. Only they were from Delhi, India. And we weren’t planning to return to India. So we just cancelled them and bought new ones. Because it was also cheaper this way.

In Phnom Penh we obtained Russian visa.

Nepal Himalayas

Near Thorung La pass, at 5416 meters above sea level

Hiking in Nepal During the Monsoon Season

At first we were thinking about hiking to Everest Base Camp.

But then, after reading some blog posts about hiking Annapurna Circuit Trek, we decided to go for Annapurna instead.

In total we spent in Himalayas three full weeks. We accomplished Annapurna Circuit trek. It was hard, but not as hard as we thought before, when were only reading about it. Even though we were quite worried that we will not be able to cross Thorung La Pass, which at the altitude of 5416 meters, is one of the world’s highest mountain passes – we still went on this trip.

And we are glad that we did. Because it was amazing! Not only we succeeded to accomplish the trek, but we also didn’t feel miserable while doing it. I guess, we are in not that bad shape.

This trip definitely was one of the highlights of the year.

Baikal Lake Russia

Lake Baikal, Russia

Traveling by Train to Lake Baikal & Hiking in Siberia, Russia

After amazing month in Nepal came the same as adventurous month in Russia.

We visited Moscow and few more bigger and smaller cities. We traveled on Transsiberian Railway for several days and several thousands of kilometers.

In Novosibirsk we met Eugene, our Russian friend with whom we met in Malaysia, and who now took two weeks off to travel with us to lake Baikal and few other places.

If I need to mention one of the highlights, then it’s Olkon island. On Olkhon it’s easy to forget, where you are. Because you kind of know, that you are in Siberia, but fields around you remind you of Mongolia and water is as blue as somewhere on the coast of Mediterranean sea. Magical place.

Rural Latvia

Rural Latvia

A 2-Week “Vacation” in Latvia and 2 Weeks in the Netherlands

During our hiking trip in Nepal we made a decision to go to New Zealand at the end of 2016.

Our plan was as following – after traveling to Siberia go to Latvia to visit family, head to Netherlands for 2-3 months to earn extra cash and leave for New Zealand at the end of the year.

We booked tickets from Russia to Latvia and to the Netherlands. We found a job in Amsterdam. But then plans changed. Because New Zealand’s Work & Travel visa quota finished (only 100 Latvians every year can obtain it) and we weren’t able to apply for it.

The two weeks we spent in Latvia were fun. We traveled a bit and met our parents, relatives and friends. Kaspars cycled from Riga to Balvi (his hometown). It was a tough journey – more than a 210 kilometers. That was also the first time, when he cycled this much. But he did it.

And we also decided to go to the Netherlands nevertheless. To work for as long as it feels good.

At the end… we quit our job in Amsterdam on the second day.

We didn’t like that job so much, that we left it (and an apartment provided by the company) without even knowing, where we gonna move next. Holland is an expensive country. And Amsterdam is one very expensive city to live in. But in an hour we found a solution – our friend living not far from Amsterdam invited us to stay for a while.

We stayed with her for few days. And flew to… Lisbon next.

It felt bad to be in the Netherlands this time. And it felt bad even to think about applying for something similar, for some another manual work. So we looked for another opportunities in the South of Europe. But when we asked our friends, whom we met in Goa this February, if they can recommend us some cheaper rental apartment in Portugal – they invited us to come and stay with them.

Praia do Bom Sucesso

Praia do Bom Sucesso – Central Portugal

Three Months in Portugal

Tough at first, our 3 months in Portugal were very productive.

Beginning was tough – because we couldn’t find any job in Portugal. We tried fruit picking twice. But we didn’t have too much luck with it. Once it was only for 3 days, second time – 1 day. However, having a lot of free time and stable internet connection we did very well with writing, both for our blog and also few other resources. And we both started to work for one international company.

Kaspars was working for them occasionally for several years, but I got hired only now.

After 2 months in Portugal we were ready to move on. We had a job, which we could do from anywhere, and we had saved some more money again. We wanted to return to Asia. And Malaysia seemed like a good starting point once again. Because we know it very well. And if something goes wrong it’s a country where we are sure we can “survive”.

Ah, yes, Central Portugal is very beautiful.

But then… just before we left Portugal we lost our jobs. Oops!

Dubai Burj Khalifa

Burj Khalifa, tallest building in the world – Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Bucharest, Dubai and Guangzhou

To make our trip from Portugal to Malaysia more interesting we had chosen to stop in 3 cities on our way.

Yes, we didn’t change our plans and we went to Malaysia, nevertheless. Because we already had booked all the tickets and we had also paid a rent for a month in Kuala Lumpur in advance.

Our first stop was Bucharest. Because that’s where our friends live (again meeting friends). And even more because that’s from where Wizzair has cheap flights to Dubai. Meeting our Romanian friends was nice, but we knew we will meet them again in… Malaysia. What a coincidence? Huh! This really was a year of meeting friends.

We both like skyscrapers. So Dubai always always seemed like an interesting destination for us.

As soon as we found, that for the same money we can get a flight from Portuagal to Malaysia, with a stop in Dubai – it was decided. We are going to Dubai for one day.

Guanzhou came as a nice surprise. We were already booking our last flight, from Dubai to Kuala Lumpur. And there was a choice – several flights for the same price but with different length of layover in Guanzhou. Can we get a free visa in China for such a short time? Turns out – yes. In addition, if you are traveling with China Southern Airlines and your layover time in Guanzhou is 8+ hours, then you can get not only a 24 hour free visa but also free accommodation.

Una in Kuala Lumpur city center

Kuala Lumpur city center

New Friends, New ideas and New Plans

Coming back to Kuala Lumpur was nice. We like this city and we know it very well.

But we knew – we need to find a way to earn money again. That’s what we were ready to focus on again. And that’s with what we failed one more time. We arrived to our room (a room in a private house) to find out, that internet here is limited. The speed is OK, but monthly quota is only 7 GB. Ouch!

On the first week in Kuala Lumpur Kaspars fell in a gutter and cut his leg. It looked very bad at first, but it healed very well.

Funny thing about this situation – when falling in a gutter Kaspars broke both of his old flip flops. Imagine, we walk in the nearest shop to look for a new ones. It was just an ordinary “all in one” mini shop. They have only one pair of flip flops. And they are size 45. Just the right size.

On the second week in Kuala Lumpur we met one guy. He found us on Facebook, when we wrote in a travelers Facebook group, that we are coming to KL and would love to meet with someone. Kaspars was chatting with him on Facebook. And he could give him some good tips about traveling in Malaysia. As it turned out that guy is doing something we both are interested to learn more about – he is earning money with websites.

One thing is to read about it. But to meet someone doing something you want to learn about (and to understand, if your ideas are even worth pursuing), that’s something completely different.

Una on the beach - 4 island tour in Krabi Thailand

On one of the islands – 4 islands tour from Krabi

We Are Organizing a Trip to Asia

On our fourth week in Kuala Lumpur something cool happened.

Our very first We Are From Latvia group tour wasn’t just an idea anymore. There were people, who wanted to travel with us. Actually more than we could take. And we all had bought all the necessary plane tickets. An overland trip from Bangkok to Singapore was going to happen.

Two weeks before that it was only an idea. Maybe we could try and invite people to go on a trip together with us? “Let’s try!”, we thought.

Christmas and New Year on Langkawi Island, Malaysia

Even though I can’t say, that a month that we spent in Kuala Lumpur was bad – it was very good actually – but it was pretty bad financially. As a result now to make our money last longer we are in Langkawi, volunteering at a family owned home-stay, situated in the middle of jungle.

Christmas we spent with our Romanian and Malay friends. And with the same people we are planning a New Year’s picnic on the beach this weekend.

In February we will lead 6 of you, our online friends, on a trip from Bangkok to Singapore. Afterwards – as it looks, we will do the same in Nepal. But in spring we are thinking about going to Latvia for some 6 months. To lock ourselves in a room with a computer and fast Latvian internet, and work, work, work on our ideas.

Langkawi island

Our home until February – Langkawi island, Malaysia

What a year it was! 

Author: Una Baufala

Una is a traveler and travel blogger from Latvia. Apart from traveling and exploring new places she loves to read books. And she adores cats. Together with Kaspars they have been traveling – volunteering – working abroad since October 2013. WeAreFromLatvia.com is where she shares her travel experiences.