After our return from our 1 year travel ‘Footprints Across Asia‘, we were bombarded by a slew of questions from our friends, family members and readers. So we decided to collate all the most commonly asked questions into this post for those that are curious 🙂
1. What was our most dangerous moment?
Our most risky situation was probably when we went on an unguided trek in Kyrgyzstan and it started to snow really heavily. We could hardly see clearly with the snow constantly hitting against our eyes and face! We really thought we wouldn’t be able to make it to our end point, but well, we were kinda of stuck in the middle and there was no turning back.
Actually the real danger was not the blizzard, but the part where we hitchhiked with a bunch of woodcutters. We didn’t think much at that point of time as we thought anything was better than trying to trek in this blizzard. But….after 5 mins, they stopped for a break at their lodge where we had tea and some bread. Just kinda scary now when we look at it in hindsight. Us alone in the middle of the mountains with a group of men in their lodge…hmmmm. Check out our full story on our most dangerous trek to Altyn Arashan and bumping into unexpected visitors.
2. What was the route that we took for our 1 year travel
We wanted to do an East to West trip where we will get to experience both spectrum of cultures, religion and history. That was how we decided to start in China and to travel towards the west to Turkey. Also, we wanted to do an overland trip where we skipped the planes and crossed borders instead to get from one country to another.
Overall we covered 12 countries in total, averaging about a month at each place. China, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Iran, Armenia, Georgia, Turkey, Greece. Check out our highlights of each country here!
3. Did we encounter any setbacks?
Of course we did! Aplenty in fact. But ultimately it’s really how you deal with it. Not just when you travel, but in life in general. We were less than 2 months in our journey when Daniel started experiencing excruciating pain in his left lower jaw. It caused him so much pain that it started giving him migraines. I felt so helpless looking at him in pain.
We were in Inner Mongolia then and thankfully it’s still part of China and the locals spoke Chinese. So in the end we visited the local dentist who eventually advised that Daniel should extract his infected wisdom tooth. So yes, Daniel had his wisdom tooth extracted in Inner Mongolia!
On a side note, it was really cheap! It only cost him $50 to remove 1 wisdom tooth which would have cost $900 in Singapore! But then again, Daniel said that the extraction was really painful! Compared to my experience in Singapore which was almost pain-free!
This is me in the photo below, bedridden for 2 days. I was blind for 2 days! It was horrible and scary! And all because I stupidly went trekking for 8 hours on snow without any sunglasses to protect my eyes from the snow glare! So yes, my eyeballs were kinda of fried from the rays that were reflected back into my eyes.
Especially at night when I slept, my eyes just kept tearing and the next morning, my eyes would have swelled up so badly that I couldn’t even open them for a second. Any slight glimmer of light would cause a searing pain in my eyes. I just basically slept for 2 whole days straight, waking up only to have my meals and to answer nature calls . Thankfully my eye sight was fully restored after the 3rd day. What a fright.
Tip: Always wear eye protection when trekking on snow for long hours! 80% of the sun’s harmful UV rays get reflected back into the eyes which makes it much easier for your eyes to get burnt!
4. How much did we spend in total?
We spent about S$10,000 each for the entire 10 months for 12 countries, averaging about less than S$40 per person per day. As you can see from the chart below, we spent the least on food. In fact, on most days we merely survived on bread. Check out our post on why travelling budget is not for everyone!
5. Did we fight?
Which couple does not fight? But I guess we’re considered quite fortunate because we quarrel a lot less as compared to other couples. Throughout our entire 10 months of facing each other 24/7 while travelling, we didn’t have any major argument but of course we had our fair share of minor tiffs.
But that also doesn’t come easy. Both of us had to put in effort and to meet each other halfway. Especially when travelling, we have nowhere else to run to when we face any problem between us and we’re forced to settle whatever issue we have with each other face to face. We find that travelling helps build a much stronger relationship based on brutal trust and honesty between us and it definitely brought us much closer together. Read our post on 10 reasons why you should travel with your partner!
6. How did we manage the language barrier?
In fact, the only country that we could understand the local language was when we were in China. For the rest of the countries, we were mostly communicating via elaborate pantomime. Also, you soon come to realise that you don’t need to speak each other’s language to feel the warmth and genuine compassion between both parties.
In the photo below, we were staying with a local family in Uzbekistan and the family members couldn’t speak English at all. Yet we felt a bond so strong that when we parted, the grandmother gave us such a warm hug that we felt like we knew them since forever!
When we were in Iran, we stayed with a local Iranian family and spent 5 days with them. Again, both sides couldn’t speak each other’s language (except for the father who could speak some basic English), but yet we felt so close to them. If you can look closer at the photo below, all 3 of us were holding hands while walking to the market.
7. Which was our favourite country?
We both agreed that Iran left the strongest impression on us. Iran is a really interesting country, very different from whatever the media has portrayed it to be. The first city that we visited happened to be Mashhad, the holiest city in Iran. That really gave us a huge culture shock, but a pleasant one nonetheless.
The people in Iran were extremely friendly, genuine and curious! We felt like celebrities when we were there! Every moment there will be someone asking us for a photo, or asking us what was our name, etc. We have never received such overwhelming attention in our lives before!
Iran felt very surreal too, a huge part of it was so pristine, untouched and void of tourists! The photo below was taken at Qeshm Island, which was in our opinion one of the most beautiful places that we’ve ever been at. Its natural geology formations were breathtaking!
8. What’s there to do at Central Asia?
To be honest, we also asked ourselves that question before we embarked on our Footprints Across Asia journey. We had no idea what’s there to do at Central Asia and we could hardly find any information about it online!
So us being the curious explorers, we just had to head there to find out for ourselves what exactly was there to do in Central Asia. And boy were we blown away. There are 5 “Stans” in total that make up Central Asia, namely Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan. There was just so much to do in each country and each “Stan” had its own characteristics and flavour. For example, Kyrgyzstan is really good for trekking and other outdoor activities such as skiing/snowboarding, while Uzbekistan is renowned for its awe-inspiring architecture. You have to visit each “Stan” to understand what we’re talking about!
Read our post here to find out more about the 5 “Stans”!
9. Is Iran safe?
It is definitely safe. Of course, there are perhaps certain areas in Iran that are still quite unstable and should be avoided. But generally most it is really safe and the locals were extremely helpful and friendly! We spent 30 days in Iran and it still ain’t enough! We wished we had more time to spare in Iran though. It’s very common to receive invites from locals to have tea with them or to even stay a night at their place! We had to turn down some of these offers due to time constraint.
Even as a female traveller, I felt that the Iranian men were generally very respectful towards females. Overall we didn’t encounter any “danger” in Iran and had only positive experiences! 🙂
10. Were we used to the food? What was the strangest food that we’ve eaten?
Thankfully both Daniel and I aren’t very picky eaters and we do not have any dietary restrictions. Because due to language barrier, most of the time we do not understand what the menu says and we’ll just randomly point at something on the menu and order that. That’s also the fun part actually, you never know what they’ll end up serving you! You could just have ordered yourself a plate of sheep’s brain! haha!
The most exotic thing that we’ve ever tasted was probably sheep’s brain. It was served chopped up in bite size mixed with tomato based spaghetti. Actually, it tasted kind of nice, you wouldn’t even know you’re eating part of a brain if we didn’t tell you! It tasted similar to boiled egg white.
Bread is also the staple food in Central Asia, Iran and Turkey. So it kinda became our staple too. Sometimes for lunch, we’ll both just share 1 piece of bread (they’re really huge!) and it’ll only cost us less than a dollar. Plus bread kept us really full! The bread in these countries tasted really good though, especially the freshly baked ones. It’s usually crispy on the outside, soft & fluffy on the inside. Yummy!