Browsed by
Category: Nicht kategorisiert

Turkmenistan Travel Tips

Turkmenistan Travel Tips

How to get there?

2015 was our year of visiting some of the most curious countries in the world. After two weeks in North Korea in September 2015 we decided for the year-end to visit Turkmenistan. Continue reading and get our best adventures and travel travel tips for the surreal Turmenistan.

The adventure started already before we arrived in Turkmenistan. First, we have learned that it is not allowed to explore the country by yourself by car in case you do not only want to have a transit visa for three to five days. Therefore, we were looking for a rental car with a driver. Second, the process applying for a visa. Luckily, Turkmenistan has an embassy in Frankfurt. Therefore, we called them to ask for the procedure to apply for a visa. This was one of the shortest telephone call ever since without any “Hello” etc. they told us that we shall look in the internet and hang up.

This is what we did and completed the respective forms and brought them to the mailbox of the embassy together with our passports. After only 10 days we had the passports back in our mailboxes with the respective visa included. Afterwards we have read and also heart from other travelers that we were lucky received a visa since there are only a few granted each year with a minority for tourists.

We have decided to take a flight via Istanbul instead of a direct flight from Frankfurt to Ashgabat. The main reason were the reports about the domestic airline. In Istanbul our flight was departing directly besides the gate where the flights to Kabul departed. Seeing people sitting at the gate in handcuffs was a strange feeling. Chaotic situation also at the Ashgabat airport where it was already hard to get to the luggage strap since it was very crowded with people and suitcases as well as parcels.

Our route through the country

We have determined our route together with Ayan Travel. They have also booked all hotels for us and organized our English speaking driver Dmitri. He has picked us up at the airport and drove us the main attraction during our seven days in Turkmenistan. In the cities we were allowed to walk around on our ones. In general our driver has even not stayed in the same hotel as we did.

Route Turkmenistan by driver car

Before getting back from our trips through Turkmenistan to Ashgabat we always had to stop at a car wash since it is not allowed to have a dirty car in Ashgabat.

Ultimate travel tips in Turkmenistan


We arrived at the airport in Ashgabat very early in the morning. After a short rest in the hotel lobby since the hotel was not really open, we started our exploration of Ashgabat. Ashgabat is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records due to the highest concentration of white marble buildings in the world. The reason is that the president loves the white color.

This is also reflected in the color of the cars. We have never seen so many cleaning crews who clean the sculptures, fountains and the ground (!) of the parks throughout the day. The following picture shows an underground passageway to cross the streets – incredible clean.

Passageway Ashgabat Turkmenistan

Government buildings

Since our hotel Grand Turkmen is located in the city center close to the government area, we explored the area by walking. Unfortunately, we cannot show you many pictures of these impressive government buildings since it is forbidden to take photos of them. In addition, we were asked twice by police men to delete all pictures on our camera. They didn’t let us go without checking our camera by their own. Even stopping and starring at the buildings is forbidden. If you do it anyway, you are very clearly told to move on.

Turkmen architecture

Ashgabat as the white city has a curious architecture. Since we were driving through Ashgabat on 1st of January, the streets were quite empty. Throughout the city statues and pictures from the president are present everywhere.

Arch of Neutrality

The Arch of Neutrality is the highest building in Ashgabat. With its 95 meters and was relocated in 2011 from the independence place to a site at the South of the city. The monument stands on three feet; on its top is a golden statue of the former Turkmen president. Form the top viewing platform we enjoyed a great view over the area.

Independence Monument Ashgabat

The design of the Independence Monument was inspired by traditional Turkmen tents (yurts). Based on the year of independence 1991 the tower is 91 meter high with a golden steel construction on top. The building is surrounded by green landscaping. It encompass 27 heroic statues of Turkmen leaders and a fountain with a statue of Turkmenbashi. The park includes a gigantic replica of the main book Ruhnama. It stands there in bright pink and green that could have been opened.

Wedding Palace

The first five floors of the Wedding Palace are in the shape of a rotating Turkmen star. The remaining five floors are in the shape of a sphere resting on this Turkmen star and surrounded by it are five other Turkmen stars. On both surfaces of the glass sphere are remarkable titanium maps of Turkmenistan.

In addition to the halls for weddings and marriage ceremonies, the building also includes several other units such as a hotel, a shopping center, grooms’ rooms, waiting rooms, cafeterias and foyer rooms.

Turkmenbashi Mosque (outside of Ashgabat)

Turkmenbashi Mosque is approx. 20 minutes outside of the city and is the largest mosque in Turkmenistan. The magnificent building made of the finest marble and granite with an imposing gilded dome was built at the site where Turkmenbashi’s mother and two brothers died in a severe earthquake. The four minarets with the height of 91 meters represent the year of independence of 1991 and are decorated with sayings from Ruhnama (Turkmenibashi’s main book).

Anau Mosque

12 km outside from Ashgabat in the direction to Mary lies the Anau mosque. This mosque was built around 1455 on the ruins of a fortress. The former powerful outlines of the mosque were visible from a great distance. Still today you can see the colorful mosaic decorations. The mosque was destroyed by the 1948 earthquake. Nevertheless, the mausoleum of a sheikh located nearby the mosque serves as a pilgrimage site.

Nisa fortress (UNESCO World Heritage)

Parthian Fortresses of Nisa was founded in the third century BC and was the most important city of the Arshakid Dynasty. Many temples and palaces, treasuries, reservoirs, warehouses and houses were built in Old Nisa. The powerful fortress walls, nine meters thick, were fortified with forty-three tall towers.

Erbent Desert Village

On our way to Darvaza we stopped en-route at a traditional desert village (Erbent Desert Village) to see the everyday life if Turkmens living in the desert. The people are living the traditional way in a clay house with a yurt next to it. The village is famous for felt products in particularly high quality. Honestly, we felt unwell walking through this small village since we do not believe that they are used to tourists and we didn’t want to bother them in their daily life.

Darvaza (gateway to hell)

The reason for this crater is not sure but the most probable cause is that during drilling for natural gas the stone collapsed. There were fears that toxic gas would leak out, endangering nearby settlements. To avoid this, it was decided to set it on fire. Against the assumption that it will turn off after a couple of days, it is burning for decades already. Another possibility is that the crater was formed naturally, possibly by a lightning strike.

The crater with its diameter of 70 meters is not easy to find since no signs are available. But our driver Dmitri was used to drive tourists to this hot spot so it was no problem for him to find the way.

We spent the night nearby the crater in a traditional yurt so that we had the possibility to walk in the night to the crater. This was also the reason why we stopped on our way to the crater to collect some wood. Dmitri prepared on the fire a dinner with traditional salads for us inside of the yurt. Since it was end of December it was pretty cold so that the fire inside the yurt had to burn the whole night.

Kunya Urgench (UNESCO World Heritage)

After that quite short, freezing night in the yurt we spent the next morning with Dmitri in the car. Our target for the day was Kunya-Urgench located in the north-western part of Turkmenistan. The ride of  around 300 km went quick by as the roads were pretty good and without much traffic. Kunya-Urgench as part of the Turkmenistan UNESCO world heritage sites was an ancient regional capital as part of the Achaemenid Empire and saw its golden times between the 11th and 16th century.

The site contains a series of well-preserved monuments like the 60-m high minaret, a mosque, mausoleums and remainings of a caravansary. Especially Paul who is a big fan of Islamic architecture went absolutely crazy. He was jumping from one monument to the next, taking tones of pictures and it was difficult to get him back to the car.


Continuing our journey to the city of Dashoguz we could see the boarder fence to Uzbekistan. At that point we had no idea that two years later we will be exploring Central Asia exactly on the other side of the fence during our world trip. Since we did not had time to visit this city we can only show you pictures from our hotel and the breakfast room where we also tried to get a dinner.

Izmukshir and Shassenem fortress

On our way back to Ashgabat we stopped at Izmukshir and Shassenem fortresses what is part of the tentative UNESCO World Heritage for the silk road in Turkmenistan. The fortresses just lies 25 km to the south-west of Dashoguz in the desert.

Only ruins of ancient the fortress city are visible that are mainly covered with sands. The fortress ruins are located in the territory of the historical and cultural reserve Kunya-Urgench. The ruins show how huge the fortresses must have been in the past.


Abiverd medieval fortress

Before arriving in Mary we stopped at Abiverd medieval fortress. Abiverd was once an important trading town and a key link on the Silk Road between Nisa and Merv. Abiverd in its heyday had a sophisticated system of water supply, produced highly regarded pottery and minted its own coins. The present-day site offers only a hint of these past glories but the many splits on the ground give an impression of the richness of the town.

Impressions from the drive to Mary

The pictures in the middle shows a truck with the main export product of this area – cotton – and world’s largest yurt.


Mary formerly known as Merv is the central city for cotton and natural gas production. The ruins of the ancient city Merv are located nearby. The ancient city of Merv was an oasis city on the Silk Road. It was destroyed in the 12th century by the Mongols and again in the 19th century. In Mary we have visited the Gurbanguly Hajji Mosque and made a walk through the city. Of course, we also discovered some examples of the cult of personality of Turkmenibashi.

Merv (UNESCO World Heritage)

In the morning we continued our journey to Merv which is another UNESCO World Heritage site with the official name State Historical and Cultural Park “Ancient Merv”. The site is one of the oldest and best preserved cities in the oasis along the historical Silk Road in Central Asia. During the 12th century, Merv became one of the largest cities in the world with a population of around 500,000. After the invasions by Mongol hordes in the 13th century, the city started loosing its importance and by the 1800s was completely deserted.

During our half-day trip, we had a chance to visit one of the oldest parts of the complex which is the citadel fort called Erk Gala, built in the 7th century BC.

We also visited the Sultan Sanjar mausoleum which is one of the best preserved structures and built around the 12th century. However, most impressive are the so called Great ant Little Kyz Qala with its huge mud brick walls of more than 10m. The former probably served as the semi-fortified home of an important official, perhaps even the governor of Merv. Walking along these ancient buildings gave us the feeling traveling back in history.

Our recommendations for Turkmenistan

Travel guide

For our Turkmenistan travel tips we relied again to our favorite travel guide Stefan Loose. It includes for Turkmenistan the main sites that are possible to visit.

Explore further countries:

Continue reading in the most popular blogs:

Packing List for Travelling light and easy

Packing List for Travelling light and easy

Packing list for travelling – how to travel light and efficient

During our travels we have recognized that travelling with a light backpack is one of the key drivers that makes trips more efficient. Therefore, we want to share our packing list for travelling with you.

Having a light backpack is also important when you are renting a car as we prefer to do it on our trips. We experienced that taking every evening the backpacks from the car into the guesthouse is annoying, especially when we hardly managed passing through the door and even harder to take the stairs up to the room. Therefore, we removed with each travel more and more items from our backpacks.

The essential items are listed here as an indication and guideline for you because we are sure that there is NO master packing list due to individual wishes especially in regards to clothes and technical equipment. Especially the technical equipment is still one of our personnel (and honestly big) discussion points when preparing the backpacks 🙂 We have added here also affiliate links for the products we are really using ourselves and are convinced of the added value and the quality.

Find a best-fit backpack!

The most important element of a comfortable travel is a well fitted backpack. We spent several hours in an outdoor shop to find the one backpack fitting the best to our backs. Do not forget to walk around in the shop with weights included. I am now using for five years the backpack from GREGORY Deva (60 liter) and Paul is carrying also a GREGORY Baltoro with 75 liter.

We are in general using two day backpacks whereas one is from Jack Wolfskin with separated sections to organize the items. In addition, we have a small bag for the camera. Previously, we have used the Salewa bag pack what was very convenient for our trips but this one did not had any special shelf for a notebook.

Packing & Wrapping

We are organizing and sorting all the items with laundry nets and basic bags. We are packing a whole cloth set for one or two days so that we do not need to take out all the items from the backpack and re-pack it every day completely:


The following documents are very useful for a trip (in some cases copies are sufficient):

  • Passport and local ID cards (original documents but also copies in case you do not want to show or hand-over your official passport or also in case of a theft)
  • Vaccination certificates (we always take only copies of our vaccination certificates)
  • Global health insurance (original letter / certificate and copy)
  • Local driver license
  • International driver license for travelling outside of Europe (please pay attention that the international driver license originated in Germany expires three years after origination and needs to be renewed)
  • Airplane / train tickets or pre-booked hotel confirmations (electronic versions are sufficient) but it is worth to have the address and telephone number of the first hotel at hand on a piece of paper so that the bus / taxi driver can contact the hotel to confirm the address / way
  • Telephone numbers to lock the credit cards in case of the fraudster

We have digital copies of all these documents in a secured area of Dropbox and Google drive.


Clothes are a very individual topic. We try to minimize the clothes since laundry shops are all around the world available and are in general cheap. Depending on the climate zone we take clothes for maximal five days. Especially, functional trekking ware is perfect since they are drying very fast and you can also wash them overnight in the bathroom if needed.

Since I cannot live without going for a run, I am in general wearing my running shoes on our trips when not walking around with flipflops. Paul has special trekking shoes but they should be light and breathable to wear them in warmer as well as in colder areas.

There are three pieces of clothes we are always taking with us since they are so multifunctional and good for warm as well as cold weather:

  • Long-sleeve Merino shirt
  • Merino legging
  • Fleece jacket / pullover

Daily utensils & other items

Other useful items we have always with us are the following things (links to our products see below)

  • Light weight sleeping bag
  • Insect Shield Inlet von Cocoon (one in line and one in silk)
  • Mini Swiss set incl. needle, knife, scissor, tweezer, small screwdriver – this was a present from my former company and this is unbelievable helpful and so light (but please put it in your check-in luggage)
  • Money belt to carry larger amount of cash
  • In colder areas we take our sleeping back with us (especially when going camping)
  • Sunglasses
  • Thermos bottle (0.5 liter) and some small packages instant coffee (since we were not always happy with the local coffee)
  • Non-slip bathing shoes
  • Old credit cards as fakes for the wallet (in case of a robbery)
  • Pillow and neck pillow in one (non-inflatable) – yes, indeed, this pillow needs some space in our hand luggage but it is worth due to the comfort and I am using it also in the hotels on our trips
  • Travel clothes line

For colder areas we also take a sleeping bag with us. But since the backpack are already quite staffed with long clothes for us, the weight and the size of the sleeping bag were our important criteria. This is why we have chosen the following one since with its 1.3 kg it is quite light. The recommended temperature is about -9 degree Celsius what was sufficient for our purpose since we are using the sleeping bag in majority in not (sufficiently) heated guestrooms or the campervan.


Our washbags are in general quite heavy but we have recognized that cosmetics are in other countries quite expensive. We have in general the following items in our washbag:

  • Toothbrush
  • Tooth paste
  • Day and night face cremes and light makeup
  • Deodorant stick
  • Shampoo
  • Comb
  • Makeup pads / humid face tissues
  • Shaver and shaving cream
  • Sun blocker
  • Hand disinfection tissues and gel
  • Sewing kits
  • Since we are wearing glasses, we always put some packs of contact lenses in our bag

We are not taking any soaps since in general soaps are available in the guesthouses.


In general, the main medicine will be available in each country however it is always good to take some basic medicines for immediate intake:

Electronic equipment

Since we are blogging and working from abroad during our travels we might have a longer list of technical equipment:

  • Camera
  • Replacement battery for the camera
  • Several SD cards to save the photos
  • Acer Chromebook (Light Notebook) – Paul is using
  • Apple Ipad mini for me and ear phones
  • Mobile phones
  • Charger for all electronic equipment
  • Kindle Paperwhite
  • Solar Powerbank
  • Car charger
  • World adapter
  • Cable to contact camera to Chromebook and to iPad
  • Garmin for navigation
  • Batteries for Garmin

We have just bought last year a new Garmin for navigation since we are using it the whole time during our trips (when walking around and also for car navigation). We currently using Garmin eTrex Touch 25. This is now for us the first time with a touch display of the Garmin. But after the first three trips, we are very satisfied and it is easier to navigate compared to the small button we had with the Garmin eTrex 20. The handling of the Garmin are comparable between the different versions and the touch screens makes the zooming more comfortable.


Explore further countries:

Continue reading the most popular blogs:

Myanmar (Burma) Travel Tips

Myanmar (Burma) Travel Tips

Welcome to our travel guide for globetrotters & UNESCO enthusiasts and discover top Myanmar (Burma) travel tips – the country of gilded pagodas, spirituality and hospitality.


Tips for planning your journey

Our route through Myanmar (by bus and train)

Our Highlights in Myanmar

Bagan (UNESCO World Heritage)

Our recommendations

If you want to read more about the country, we can recommend you some books.

First and ever remaining impressions of Myanmar (Burma)

On the 16th February 2017, we arrived in Myanmar – our second to the last country on our round-the-world trip. The first thing we have recognized arriving in Myanmar is the extremely friendly people. Consequently, walking through the streets people offered their help to find what we are looking for. Unbelievable for us: without trying to sell us something or to lead us to their shops or restaurants. We need to get used to not directly rejecting their offers what we have ourselves adopted in the other Southeast Asian countries. In total, we could not imagine a better ending for these two months of being in Southeast Asia. We hope, the Burmese do not get upset of tourists and keep their openness and friendliness. Even monks are looking with an amazing open-mind for contacts with foreigners and took pictures of us or with us.

Together with its cultural highlights like astonishing Bagan and the pagodas in Bago and Yangon, Myanmar is really a unique country.

Our route through Myanmar

We arrived in Mandalay by plane from Bangkok. Unfortunately, self driving is not possible for tourists in Myanmar. Therefore, we have taken for the longer distances buses and trains. The buses and trains were in general all comfortable and very cheap. For example, we have taken a train from Yangon to Bago and paid around 30 cent for a a lower class ticket for the two hours drive which was written by hand. In addition, in the cities and towns we have always rented electric scooter and e-bikes to get around.

Conditions of the roads

However, we have read about the bad condition of the roads due to the small investments in the infrastructure after the colonial era. But we have not expected such bad roads. The journey lasted six hours for approx. 300 km from Mandalay to Yangon with “free massage” as we have been well shaken during the drive. This journey is currently the most shaky we had on our trip. Therefore, we are lucky that we could share this experience with Paul’s cousin Michael and his wife Katrin with whom we are traveling together in Myanmar for one week.

Countryside in Myanmar

The journey lead us through barren landscape and a lot of beggars along the route. This is the other side of the coin for the low tourism. Since 1962, the military is governing Myanmar with focus on the wealthiness of certain group of people. The population has to pay for this mismanagement and inability with poverty. Above all, the name Myanmar was introduced arbitrarily in 1989 by the government without involvement of the people.

Driving in Myanmar – on the left or right side?

Since Myanmar is a former British colony, we have expected a left-hand traffic. However, they are driving on the right hand side but the majority of the cars have their steering wheel on the right side. This is caused by a vision of the former dictator in the 1960’s. From one day to the next he changed from left to right-hand traffic in order to relieve from a British colonial relic. The actual reason was a fortune teller who said that the left side is bad. Due to the fact that many cars are imported from Thailand where the cars drive on the left side, the steering wheels are still on the right side.

This is only one story about the dictator’s superstition. Another one is that he introduced 45 and 90 Kyat bills and voided all others since the number nine was his lucky number. Consequently, this resulted in math exercises during shopping.

Our ultimate Myanmar (Burma) Travel Tips


Mandalay as the second largest city in Myanmar is Myanmar’s religious center with its many monasteries and monks. Moreover, Mandalay was the former royal capital before the British defeated the Upper Burma. The city was named after the Mandalay Hill that you should climb up to get breathtaking view of sunset or sunrise.

Myanmar is the first country where we are taking less pictures from the locals compared to the pictures the locals are taking of us or even ask us for pictures and selfies. We met a group of monks in one of the pagoda in Mandalay and every one wanted a pictures with us together.

Monks in Mandalay Myanmar
Gold Leaf Manufacturer

One gold leaf manufacturer next to another can be found in the 36th street. Small gold nuggets are transferred into extremely thin gold leaves through rhythmic hammering by well-trained men. Despite this hard work, it is a popular job because the gold leaves are used for higher purpose: it is used to stick on Buddha statues to earn points for the reincarnation. Some Buddhas are covered with so many gold leaves only that their shape is already gone.

Kuthodaw pagoda

The Kuthodaw pagoda consists of 729 small stupas containing each a marble board with stories about Buddha’s life and doctrines. This pagoda is also called the biggest book in the world and the construction lasted more than seven years. If someone would read every day for eight hours, he would need probably 450 days to read the whole book.

Royal Palace

The golden Royal Palace in Mandalay was built 1857 and contains more than 130 buildings. Since the king feared leaving his palace, a 55 meters high tower was built as the single possibility to watch the outside life. However, most parts of the palace were destroyed by the colonial power as well as during the war against the Japanese occupying forces. For the restoration, corrugated iron roofs and golden color instead of gold leaves were used.

The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Bagan

Bagan is one of the architectural highlight in Southeast Asia. But compared to Angkor, Bagan has still something magical and mysterious. There a no huge crowds of tourists and exploring the area is mainly possible by horse carts or electric bikes. Big buses are rare. And so it happened that we were completely alone visiting some temples. Pictures from Bagan temples and balloons are the most popular picture of Myanmar and one will have it in mind when thinking of Myanmar. Around 2,200 temples, pagodas and stupas are located in Bagan. Bagan was listed recently as UNESCO World heritage. The reason for this long waiting list was that Myanmar did not adhere to the specifications for historical landmarks and the restoration was done with cheap construction material not matching to the original one. In 2019, the UNESCO finally added Bagan to the list of cultural heritage sites.

Recommended horse cart tour

We started our exploration tour of Bagan with a traditional horse cart ride. For one full day we went from the most popular temples with a horse cart. Unbelievable, entering the temples and pagodas is only possible without shoes and socks. Walking around barefoot in these around 800 years old temples and pagodas was a challenge due to the sun heated stones as well as the many small stones and sand on the ground.

Sunset and sunrise in Bagan

For the sunset on the first day we have chosen a stupa where we could climb up to the third level with an amazing view over its temples and stupas scattered area. However, this spot is quite popular and so we were already climbing up the temple around 4.30 pm to get a good place for the sunset around 6 pm.

For the sunrise the next morning we have identified another temple off the beaten path with less tourists (maybe also due to the early sunrise at 5.45 am). It was astonishing when the balloons started and were flying over the temples. This view has more than paid off the early getting up.

Remote temples at Bagan

For the second and third day in Bagan we rented e-bikes to explore the more remote temples. E-bikes are (rather electronic scooter) a good idea in this dry and hot area of Myanmar. The temples with only one level at the ground floor are older compared to them with several levels. The main material was brick stones brought to Bagan by boat. All still existing buildings had religious purposes, the palaces and the houses of the kings have not survived the long time and especially the fights against the Mongols. Even after the period where Bagan was a royal city, Burmese kings donated bells and gold for the stupas and even two new temples were built in the 18th century. Uncountable are the Buddha statues in the temples in many different sizes and colors.

Mount Popa

We hired a private taxi to get from Bagan to Mount Popa for a half day. The reason for the private taxi was mainly due to time constraints and we wanted to enjoy another half day at least in Bagan. 787 steps lead to the top of the mountain but also here we had to walk barefoot. Another challenge were the many monkeys running and jumping around and their poops on the stairs. But the view from the top and the small temples were worth climbing up.

Pyay – non touristic place

A huge adventure was our trip to Pyay. From Yangon Pyay can be reached via bus (approx. seven hours drive). Sri Ksetra located just a few kilometres from Pyay is an ancient capital. Not many buildings have survived since the 9th century when the center was relocated towards Bagan. The Baw Baw Gyi Pagoda remained with its 43 meters tall stupa. The last king has taken some relics away and brought them to one of the pagodas in Bagan. To avoid further theft the ‘Grand Lady’ is watching the pagoda sitting on a swing. Devouts donate scarfs to the Grand Lady.

Pyu (Pyay) Ancient Cities – UNESCO World Heritage Site

To get to the area of the ancient capital in Pyay we have rented a motorcycle directly at the hotel since we arrived quite late with the bus from Yangon. Besides issues starting the motorcycle, changing the gears felt like riding a horse. Paved roads are not really existing in Pyay and so we had to cross sandy roads – sometimes with so many sands that we had trouble to not fall down – with wild dogs everywhere around. Due to the late afternoon we only stopped for some minutes at each pagoda to avoid driving during darkness through this countryside. We have the impression that not many tourists visit this site since we haven’t met anybody else and the choice of hotels is very limited. And why did we do all of this? For extend our lovely bucket list of UNESCO sites.


Bago is just 80 km from Yangon and so we decided to take a train to get there. Our train didn’t had windows and also the door was not closing during the journey but due to the low speed of the train it was perfect. The train station looks like an original heritage from the colonial era.

Taking the train from Yangon to Bago revealed a side of Myanmar that we haven’t seen before: the extreme poverty of the Burmese people and the non-existence of a waste management system.

No other city in Myanmar has such a density of religious sites like it is the case in Bago. We rented e-bikes to visit the pagodas in this non-touristic city. It seems that e-bikes are not common in Bago since the locals were surprisingly looking at us. To confuse them even more, when passing slow motorcycles we started pedaling as much as possible despite the electric engine.

Saskia Hohe ebike Bago Myanmar BurmaFour Buddhas in Bago

In the South of Bago four sitting Buddhas are located. Of course there are many Buddha statues in Myanmar and one is bigger, more beautiful or more golden like the other but these Kyaikpun Buddhas are special. They are sitting back to back and looking into the four cardinal points. The one looking to the North is the current Buddha Gautama and the other three are his predecessors. The statues are originally from the 15th century but have been restored in the last years with brilliant fingernails, white skin and deep red lips.

Shwethalyaung Pagode

The reclining Buddha inside the Shwethalyaung Pagode is with its length of more than 50 meters one of the largest Buddhas in the world. This position symbolizes Buddha shortly before his death. This Buddha was standing outside but to protect him, a roof construction (inconvenient for pictures) was built.

reclining Buddha inside the Shwethalyaung Pagode Bago Myanmar Burma

Directly next to the Shwethalyaung Pagoda lies another huge Buddha statue – but this time, in the open air. This Buddha was built around ten years ago. Since there are no big trees around to provide shade, our feet were grilled walking around barefoot on these green tiles.

Shwemawdaw Pagoda

The Shwemawdaw Pagoda has the highest stupa of Myanmar and was restored several times due to earthquakes. And every time the pagoda was getting bigger and more beautiful. The once fallen down top of the pagoda has now been integrated into the structure in a way to remind of this occurrence.


The Golden Rock in Kinpun is one of the most important Buddhist sanctuary in Myanmar. The rock is only held tight by Buddha’s one hair that is positioned inside the golden stupa on top of the rock. To get up on the mountain you can either walk three hours or take a truck for 40 minutes. A truck starts when the benches on the loading area are more than full (approximately 40 people). Going up the around 700 meters is fine due to the ascent but for going down we have kept the fingers crossed that the breaks will make it.


We spent our last two days in Myanmar in Yangon. Yangon was Myanmar’s capital until 2006 when the army declared surprisingly the newly founded city Nay Pyi Taw as the new capital. However, the new capital is located in a region that is still closed for foreigners.

Shwedagon pagode

The Shwedagon pagode in Yangon is one highlight of our trip so that we spent a lot of time there to see the sunrise and the sunset. It is said that the pagoda is around 2,500 years old. The stupa is around 100 meters high and with the gold leaves on it, the stupa weights around 150 tons whereof around ten tons are pure gold. Every third year, the gold is taken away and the stupa gets completely new gold. The umbrella on top has several thousands of diamonds and little bells.

Sule Pagode

What you should not miss in Yangon is the visit of the downtown area. We have taken a bus from the Shwedagon Pagoda to the city center. In the middle of a roundabout, there is another beautiful golden pagoda (Sule Pagoda).

Colonial houses

Yangon’s second face consists of respectable colonial houses. The majority of the houses were built at the beginning of the 20th century. Despite the tendency to modernize Yangon, the locals renovate the ancient houses on a regular basis. Still in use is the baby blue City House with Yangon’s government and the post office. In the latter we have learned that the post office for parcels is only open 2.5 hours per day – despite many employees have been around four hours after the official closure.

Myanmar from another time

The man on the picture looks like from another time. We found him sitting in front of a house with this old typewriter. What an impressive end of the really stunning visit of Myanmar. Highly recommended to visit Myanmar to all of you.

Colonial area Yangon Myanmar Burma

Thanaka paste

You might have seen a bright crème in the Burmese’s face and may ask yourself: what is this that they put on their face? This is Thanaka paste – the most widely used skin lotion in Myanmar. The Thanaka tree grows mostly in the sandy regions of Central Myanmar and needs about 30 years to be harvested. The locals use Thanaka as a protection against the sun. Moreover, the paste lightens the skin and many say that it is the secret for their anti-aging.

Our book recommendations


Travel Guides

As a English guidebook we have made good experience with the Lonely Planet Myanmar (Burma) guide. It has a good overview of country highlights, some maps and useful accommodation tips.


The following novels have we either read by our own or they have been recommended to us.

Burmese Days – George Orwell: Orwell draws on his years of experience in India to tell this story of the waning days of British imperialism. A handful of Englishmen living in a settlement in Burma congregate in the European Club, drink whiskey, and argue over an impending order to admit a token Asian.
The Art of Hearing Herat Beats –  Jan-Philipp Sendker: When a successful New York lawyer suddenly disappears without a trace, neither his wife nor his daughter Julia has any idea where he might be…until they find a love letter he wrote many years ago, to a Burmese woman they have never heard of. Intent on solving the mystery and coming to terms with her father’s past, Julia decides to travel to the village where the woman lived. There she uncovers a tale of unimaginable hardship, resilience, and passion. It will reaffirm the reader’s belief in the power of love to move mountains.
The Long Path to Wisdom –  Jan-Philipp Sendker: These moving stories speak to the rich mythology of the diverse peoples of Burma, the spirituality of humankind, and the profound social impact of Buddhist thought. Some are so strange he couldn’t classify them or identify a familiar moral, while others reminded him of the fairy tales of his childhood. Except that here monkeys, tigers, elephants, and crocodiles inhabited the fantastic lands instead of hedgehogs, donkeys, or geese. Their morals resemble those of the Brothers Grimm or Hans Christian Andersen, illustrating how all cultures draw on a universal wisdom to create their myths.
Saving Fish from Drowning – Amy Tan: San Francisco art patron Bibi Chen has planned a journey of the senses along the famed Burma Road for eleven lucky friends. But after her mysterious death, Bibi watches aghast from her ghostly perch as the travelers veer off her itinerary and embark on a trail paved with cultural gaffes and tribal curses, Buddhist illusions and romantic desires. On Christmas morning, the tourists cruise across a misty lake and disappear.

Further reading

Myanmar (Burma): Temples of Bagan  – David Raezer: We have read this book by ourselves during the visit of Bagan. Bagan, the ancient Buddhist capital in central Myanmar (Burma) that thrived from 850-1300, is one of the most magnificent and inspiring sites in Southeast Asia. It is yours to uncover.
The River of Lost Footsteps – Thant Myint-U: How is interested in Burma’s history and political system, should not miss this book. hant Myint-U tells the story of modern Burma, and the story of his own family, in an interwoven narrative that is by turns lyrical, dramatic, and deeply affecting. Through his prominent family’s stories and those of others, he portrays Burma’s rise and decline in the modern world. From the time of Portuguese pirates and renegade Mughal princes through a sixty-year civil war that continues today―the longest-running war anywhere in the world.
Freedom from fear- Aung San Suu Kyi: Aung San Suu Kyi is the most popular person of Burma. How wants to read more about her life as opposition politician and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate should read this biography of the Swedish journalist Jesper Bengtsson.


Explore further countries:

Continue reading in the most popular blogs:

Georgia Travel Tips

Georgia Travel Tips

Georgia was for a long time on our bucket list for visiting after exploring Armenia which shares together with Turkey, Azerbaijan and Russia its boarders. However, it took us six years after our trip in Armenia to get to Georgia. Welcome to our travel guide for globetrotters & UNESCO enthusiasts – discover the top travel tips for Georgia – we promise to you that you will love Georgia’s impressive monasteries,  landscapes and the super delicious food.


Tips for planning your journey

Our route through Georgia by rental car

Our highlights in Georgia

Mzcheta (UNESCO World Heritage)
Kutaisi (UNESCO World Heritage)
Mestia (UNESCO World Heritage)

Unsere Empfehlungen

Unser Lieblingsessen in Georgien
Unsere Empfehlungen für Reiseführer, Kochbücher und weitere Literatur über Georgien

How to get to Georgia

Flights from Germany to Tbilisi are available directly from Munich. But can also be reached with stop-over flights via Vienna, Istanbul, Warsaw. The direct flight from Munich lasts about four hours. I need to admit that during our travel through Georgia I was quite busy working with very kind but ambitious clients. Consequently, I also had to take my laptop with me to continue working (what by the way I did during the time Paul was driving – so the roads are really convenient).  As always when you do not need further trouble, the following has happened: On our arrival in Tbilisi in the early morning hours our both luggage were left behind in Munich. However, Lufthansa was very eager to get our luggage to Tbilisi what indeed happened only one day later. In the meanwhile we shopped the most necessary utilities like underwear and cosmetics.

Our travel route through Georgia

We stayed in Georgia for ten full days whereof 2.5 days in Tbilisi. Our visit took place from mid until end of July 2018. This time was really perfect due to the wonderful whether we had all the days and could also sit outside in the nights. Georgia is getting more and more popular as a touristic destination so that it can get very crowded during the summer time. Route Georgia by car

Our experience of self-driving in Georgia

Exploring Georgia and especially the sometimes far away UNESCO World Heritage sites by self-driving is a really good way. The international rental companies are also available in Georgia, e.g. like Avis. Avis is located next to the Marriott Hotel at a central square. The roads in Georgia are in good conditions. We have chosen a standard rental car without four wheel drive what was sufficient for the tour we made except for Ushguli. To get from Mestia to Ushguli you need a 4WD car. The rental company called our attention that the car is equipped with GPS to track our route. They wanted to ensure that we are not damaging the car intentionally and are not going to the restricted areas. Rental car in Georgia

Our ultimate travel tips for Georgia


There are many ways to get around in Tbilisi: buses, taxis, local Uber but also by foot. We have chosen the last option. But be careful: it is really easy to get lost in the beautiful old town with its narrow but picturesque streets. Well the list of things to do in Tbilisi is incredible long.

How many days should you stay in Tbilisi?

From our point of view the absolute minimum is two days for Tbilisi. But due to the many sights the more days you can spent in Tbilisi the better. We also have heard of a really good nightlife in the capital.

1. Abanotubani (Sulphur Bath / Thermal Bath) and Leghvtakhevi waterfall

The style of the Old Town is a mix of Asian and Arabic influences interwoven with European and traditional Russian architecture. Some parts are comprehensively renovated so that it looks a bit kitschy though far more of the area is untouched. Wandering through the alleyways and the ancient churches feels almost like a walk back in time. Although we didn’t go for any treatments, we wandered around the area with the mixture of different cultures and its specific treatment types like hot baths. The name Leghvtakhevi comes from the Georgian word “Leghvi” which means fig. There were so many trees of fig around this place.

2. Take the cable car (or walk up) to Narikala Fortress

In case you would like to walk up, take the small path next to the Armenian church St. George. You will have an incredible view on Tbilisi from the hill of Narikala Fortress. The original fortress dates back to the end of 4th century but has been destroyed several times during the history. With each reconstruction the fortress has been enhanced by different people. Nevertheless, only ruins remain after a lightning strike into the powder magazine of the fortress in 1827. The fortress was not rebuilt after that event.

The visit of the ruins is free of charge and really worth wandering around. Just a short walk away along the many souvenir stalls you reach the Georgia’s Mother. It is a 20 m high statue made of aluminum. In her right hand she holds a sword for the enemies and in her left hand coming from the heart wine for the friends.

3. Puppet Theatre Rezo Gabriadze

The clock tower is the new symbol of the state-owned puppet theater. The clock tower was built in 2010 and looks like messed up stacked boxes. Each hour a small angel puppet comes out of the door and rings the bell. You can enjoy a greater show. At the time we visited Tbilisi it was shown at 12 pm and at 7 pm.

4. Zminda Sameba Cathedral

We have spotted this cathedral from the Narikala Fortress since it is illuminated in the night and also situated on a hill (Elias hill). Zminda Sameba Cathedral is the largest church in the region of Transcaucasia (i.e. Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan). It was finished in 2004 after nine years of construction. The bells of the Cathedral were created in Germany. You can reach the cathedral by a walk from the city center.

5. Bridge of Peace

This bridge catches your eyes immediately. For the Georgians, the bridge was controversial due to the high building costs in 2009/2010. Nowadays the bridge is a popular photo-stop.

6. Liberty Square (Tawisubleibis Moedani)

Formerly know as Lenin square the statue has been exchanged in 2006 with the gilded dragon slayer George. We used the liberty square as a central point for our orientation since also our car rental company is located at the square. On the other corner the city hall dominates the square.

7. Kwaschweti Church

On the opposite site of the School no. 1 in the Rustaveli Street we found this beautiful church. The church consists of two levels and includes a small museum. We also enjoyed sitting in the park that surrounds the church since it is a bit away from the busy Rustaveli Street.

8. Monument to the Lamplighter in Barataschwili Street

You might need a lot of patience when you also want to climb the ladder of the lamplighter since everybody is doing it. Not sure why everybody is touching his butt. But no worries there a lot of different bronze statues all over the city. Monument to the Lamplighter Tbilisi Georgia

9. Rike Concert Hall in front of the Presidential Palace

The futuristic concert hall is together with the Bridge of Peace is located next to the Mtkvari River. The concert hall reminds of a lindworm due to the tubes that is monitored by the Presidential Palace.

10. Sioni Church

On our way from the vivid street Kote Abchasi (better known with its former name Leselidse Street) with all the cafés and restaurants we found the Sioni church, built in the sixth century. Despite being the main church of patriarch of the Georgian church, the Sioni church is quite small. During the siege by the Persian, the church was transformed into a mosque. The dome is from the 18th century.

Historical Monuments of Mtskheta / Mzcheta

We have included the UNESCO World Heritage Historical Monuments of Mtskhetaon our trip to Stepanzminda. But you can also make a day trip from Tbilisi to Mtskheta (just around 25 km). The UNESCO recognizes the ensemble of churches of Mtskheta as outstanding examples of medieval religious architecture in the Caucasus. We have visited the three main churches: Jvari Monastery, Svetitstkhoveli Cathedral and Samtavro Monastery. The Jvari Monastery will be the first one you will recognize arriving in Mtskheta since it is located on a hill. However, especially the Svetitstkhoveli Cathedral impressed us with its modest interior . It includes a very small church inside that is a copy of the church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jersualem in its former construction. It is said that Jesus’ robe is inside.


We spent one night in Stepanzminda to visit the Zminda Sameba Church. The church on top of the hill is a popular place of pilgrimage. As Paul loves to drive everywhere we had – of course – to go by car. However, due to the heavy rain in the night before and the fog in the morning the muddy gravel roads were slippery and with passing buses we decided to turn around and to find the walking path that was described in our guide book. Finally, we reached the church in approx. two hours by foot.

Our way to Mestia

On our way to Mestia we have seen such a colorful landscape the we stopped several times. We enjoyed our tea and snack breaks with a beautiful view on turquoise lakes and mountains still with a bit of snow on the top.

Gelati Monastery

From Kutaisi we visited Motsameta Monastery and the Gelati Monastery since both a just some kilometres away from Kutaisi. Gelati Monastery was the second UNESCO World heritage side we have visited. The monastery was founded in 1106 by King Dawit and consists of three churches, one bell tower and an academy.


We stayed in Kutaisi for two nights to visit Gelati Monastery and in addition, the city of Kutaisi. Kutaisi has outstanding buildings whereof the Begrati Cathedral just a short walk from the city center belongs together with the Gelati Monastery to the UNESCO World Heritage. The cathedral is more than 1,000 years and and can be seen from all over the city. We will always remember Kutaisi due to the delicious food we enjoyed here. Unfortunately, we do not remember the name of the restaurants but they where in the street from the Colchis Fontaine in the direction to the Kutaisi park.


Mestia is the touristic hotspot of Upper Svaneti where the excursions to historic and original towns with medieval-type villages and tower-houses of this Caucasus region can be booked. Arriving in the evening in Mestia after a long day but pleasant drive we walked through the town and tried to catch some nice pictures with all the tower-houses.

Some of the villages and tower-houses are inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage list (official name is Upper Svenati). Since it was explicitly forbidden to go with our rental car to Ushguli we also had to book a tour with a 4WD car. For the approx. 50 kilometres the drive took almost four hours.

Rabati / Rabath

Something we have not expected to find in Georgia was the historic center and the fortification of Rabati. But Rabati also belongs to one of our highlights of our vacation in Georgia. The fortification consists of a church, a mosque and a synagogue.


Arriving in the small town of Warsia, we directly saw our next destination: the cave rock wall of Warsia. The wall is around 500 m high but the paths along the wall are mainly secured with handrails. In the main periods up to 800 monks lived here. In addition, several thousands citizens from the surrounding towns used the wall as a safe haven.


Around 50 km from Tiblisi in the South into the direction to the border with Armenia, we visited the city Bolnisi. Bolnisi was formerly known as “Katharinenfeld” due to the German settlers around 1818. The area was admired due to the fortified houses as well as the precise and paved roads. The city was renamed to Luxemburg in 1921 and the Germans were dispossessed like the Georgians. In addition, the Germans were forced to displace to Siberia. The road signs are still shown in old German script.

Just some kilometres in the South from Bolnisi we wanted to visit the fortress of Kweschi (Kveshis). It was closed but it looks very nice from the outside.

Traditional dishes in Georgia – our culinary experience

On top of the beautiful country we were allowed to explore, we also enjoyed the food very much. Even so much that we bought the cookbook we recommend below to remind us of the very delicious meals.

Eggplant with walnuts and pomegranate (Nigswiani Badrishani)

Really our most famous starter in Georgia: grilled slices of eggplant, rolled and stuffed with walnut and decorated with pomegranate. Eggplant with walnuts Georgia popular dish

Khinkali – Georgia’s dumplings

These stuffed dumplings made of pasta dough are available all of Georgia. Besides the traditional ones stuffed with spiced minced meat we have also tried the ones with cheese inside. Georgia’S dumplings are bigger than the Chinese ones but also have liquid inside. The knob is to get hold of the Khinkali and it is not intended to eat it. What we by the way, didn’t know at the time we were in Georgia. But nobody told us that we should not eat it. Khinkali Georgia popular traditional dish

Chatschpuri – Cheese Bread / Pizza and Lobiani

Eating Chatschpuri you should not think about your diet due to the amount of flour and cheese that is needed for a delicious Chatschpuri. We have also tried Lobiana that is stuffed with read bean paste. Both are highly recommended.


What does not sound so special from reading the description was Lobio. But the beans prepared in a clay pot with a lot of savory is incredibly yummy. We also tried this at home but the secret seams to be the preparation method in the clay pot. Lobio Traditional dish Georgia


Since our vacation in Uzebksitan we are Shashlik lovers. Therefore, it was a must to try it in Georgia. Definitely, we were not disappointed by the meat shashlik as well as by the vegetarian alternative.

Georgian Wine

UNESCO has inscribed the Georgian wine making technique as intangible world heritage. The tradition of wine making is more than 8,000 years old. The grapes and the grape juice are put into a clay pot and buried in the earth for several months with constant temperatures. Almost every guesthouse we have stayed in is creating their own wine.

Our recommendations for Georgia

Georgia travel book

At the time we were visiting Georgia we wanted to have an up-to-date travel guide. This was the reason why we have picked up for one of the first times the guide book from “Reise Know how”. And we can recommend this guide book due to the many travel tips in Georgia, pictures and valid information about best visiting times, restaurant recommendations and well-balanced information about sights and backgrounds.

Georgian cooking book

As mentioned above, Georgia was also a culinary highlight for us. Therefore and since Paul loves cooking at home, we have bought (after a visit of the Frankfurt Book Fair with Georgia as the honored guest in 2018) the following cooking book. The receipts are easy to understand and we were successfully able to re-cook some of the dishes at home.

Explore further countries:

Continue reading our most popular blogs:

Singapore Travel Trips

Singapore Travel Trips

How to get to Singapore?

We have been to Singapore twice. The first time we went to Singapore during our all around the world trip. We arrived on the first Christmas holiday in 2016 from Osaka. The second time we have been to Singapore was beginning of 2020 where we arrived from Hongkong and spent a couple of days before going to Malaysia. Based on this experience, we want to share our top travel tips for Singapore.

We spent the days between Christmas and New Year’s Eve on our all around the world trip in Singapore staying with friends. Besides exchanging stories about their and our around the world trip we took some time to explore Singapore. The crew of the Jetstar flight we have taken from Osaka to Singapore has distributed Christmas caps for each passenger. Look how our flight looked like afterwards. The many bags we were carrying on arrival in Singapore are not our normal travel luggage. We have been shopping in Japan presents for our friends and in addition we have left a package in Singapore to send it home together with other staff from our friends.

Singapore Travel Tips

Botanic Garden (UNESCO World Heritage)

Of course, the first thing to see on our list was the botanic garden with its colorful orchids since it is the only UNESCO World Heritage in Singapore.

Enjoying the incredible skyline

What we have done really every day was stunning at the incredible skyline of Singapore. Yes, we have already visited other cities with skyscrapers and we are living in Frankfurt, but Singapore’s skyline is completely different. The skyscraper have very harmonic forms and fit together very well. Moreover, in the night, the colorful and creative enlighten skyline is something what other cities should learn from Singapore.

Marina Bay Sands & Marina Barrage

Marina Bay Sands has a very impressive architecture with the roof looking like a ship. All three pillars are used as a hotel but also include a shopping mall and a casino. The view from the top at the skyline of Singapore is amazing. Take a walk from the Merlion to the Marina Bay Sands along the Waterfront Promenade to get beautiful views on this hotel complex. The last picture was taken from Marina Barrage. Marina Barrage is a dam built across the 350-metre wide Marina Channel to keep out seawater. In the area around the barrage you can enjoy also a very nice view on Singapore with not so many tourists. Our recommendation: Take a picnic with you and enjoy the light show in the Gardens by the Bay.

Gardens by the Bay

Gardens by the Bay is an artificial and huge park at Marina Bay. One of the highlight of the gardens are the super-trees which are artificially planted with a steel frame. At the time we have visited the gardens in 2016, the Christmas market was still open but due to the weather we preferred cold beer instead of mulled wine. When it is dark the trees flash along the music playing and at the end it starts to snow. This was the moment everybody freaked out and could not make enough pictures. Unforgettable moment since there were so many people really freaking out about the snow. So we did!


One of our favorite places in Singapore are the quays, namely the Clark and Boat Quay. Walking up and down is something we do every time visiting Singapore.

Sir Raffles at Clark Quay Boat Quay Singapore

Singapore’s harbor

We haven’t expected Singapore as being so green with tropical gardens and parks. Look at the view from our friends’ apartment to the harbor.

Little India

More delicious food is available in Little India. The colorful houses also invite for a nice walk through this area.


Singapore has four official languages: Malay, Tamil, Mandarin and English. This is the reason why the main signs are written in these four languages:

Sigapore language Malay, Tamil, Mandarin and English


We have taken the bicycles to get to Sentosa Island. The island is separated from the main island of Singapore by a channel of water but can easily be reached via the Sentosa Gateway. Formerly used as a British military base, the island was created to be a popular tourist destination. You can find many tourist attractions like fun parks, Madame Tussauds Singapore, and the Universal Studios Singapore. During our visit we were amazed by the houses showing wealth of the people. It’s definitely one of our top travel tips for Singapore.

Our favorite dishes in Singapore

We have tried a traditional Singapore Laksa in a hawker center. Really delicious despite the spiciness…

Paul trying Singapore Laksa

Besides the Laksa we can recommend the hawker center for satay, Hainan chicken or the many different dishes from all over the world offered in the centers.

Our book recommendations

Travel books

The first time we have been to Singapore we have bought a comprehensive travel book about Singapore.

The second time we have relied on the combined Malaysia and Singapore travel guide.

If you are interested in a novel, we can recommend Foreign Bodies – a tale of young people who are on the wrong side of the justice system in Singapore.

Explore further countries:

Continue reading in the most popular blogs:

Japan Travel Tips

Japan Travel Tips

Welcome to our travel guide for globetrotters & UNESCO enthusiasts – discover the top travel tips for Japan – we promise to you that you will love Japan’s culture,  architecture, landscapes and the exceptionally delicious food.


Tips for planning your Japan trip

Our route through Japan by rental car

Our most beautiful destinations in Japan

Nikko (UNESCO World Heritage)
Tomioka Silk Mill (UNESCO World Heritage)
Fujisan (UNESCO World Heritage)
Japanese Alps / Shirakawago (UNESCO World Heritage)
Uji (UNESCO World Heritage)
Kyoto (UNESCO World Heritage)
Nara (UNESCO World Heritage)
Horyuji (UNESCO World Heritage)
Koyasan (UNESCO World Heritage)
Himeji Castle (UNESCO World Heritage)
Hiroshima (UENSCO World Heritage)
Miyajima / Itsukushima Shrine (UNESCO World Heritage)
Hagi (UNESCO World Heritage)
Iwami Ginzan (UNESCO World Heritage)

Our recommendations

Our hotels in Japan
Favorite dishes
Book recommendations

How to get there?

The first time we visited Japan was on our all-around-the-world trip in December 2016. On 7th December 2016, we arrived in Tokyo – back on earth’s northern hemisphere for a long time. Just sweated in Australia at 35 degrees – now freezing in Japan at minus 2 degrees Celsius with the first snow flakes we had in Nikko some days later. From Cairns we have taken a Jetstar Asia flight to Tokyo that took around eight hours. This was our first flight with Jetstar Asia and we can really recommend this low cost airline since we had afterwards a couple more with Jetstar. Our flight to Tokyo was around St. Nicholas’ Day what prompted the airline to distribute Nicholas hats…

Jetstar flght December cairns tokyo

Japan is a cultural shock after the extrovert Latin Americans and the very communicative New Zealanders and Australians. From a technological point of view we can learn a lot: hot coffee cans from vending machines, heated toilets, easy system to choose the dishes without knowing the language… and these are only the things we have discovered in our first days here.

Our route through Japan

We stayed 18 days in Japan and tried to see at last some of the cultural highlights in that timeframe. Nikko was our most northern point and from there we drove to the South with the hope to have a little bit of warmer temperatures.

Our experience of self driving in Japan

For renting a self-driving car we needed a Japanese translation of our international driver licenses. This is available at the Japan Automobile Federation (JAF) for around 30 Euros per driver license. This lasts approx. one day so plan enough time before picking up the car. It is not surprising that Japan is expensive. But we were astonished paying the highway fee for 150 km from Tokyo to Nikko with approx. 40 Euros. Based in our plan to drive more than 2,500 km this will sum up to a huge amount.

The amount of money we have spent for toll and parking surprised us definitively: about 500 euros for toll and additional 150 Euros as car parking fee. We had several hotels without free parking. Next time we will also check this option at This is in total more compared to the amount we have spent for our meals in Japan. Also other countries had a toll system but this amount exceeds everything what we have experienced so far, e.g. in Chile for comparable number of kilometers we only paid 80 Euros.

We got a typical Japanese car as rental car and it looks like a shoebox. However, we have to admit that the car is practical: in which other car – despite our campervan – is it possible to walk from the front to the back inside the car? But with this car it doesn’t matter that the maximum speed on the quite empty but three lanes highway is only 80 to 100.

Our travel experience and travel tips for Japan


We have started our tour through Japan in Tokyo. Despite our itinerary being fully packed for the three days, we are sure we have not seen all interesting sights of this huge metropole with more than nine million residents. But the metro is very efficient and a fantastic way to get around with trains running every three to five minutes and it’s many different lines. We were surprised seeing not so many people on the streets in the city and cars on the streets as expected in such a populated area. Exciting is also the mixture of traditional temples and fancy skyscrapers.

Kyu-Shiba-rikyu Gardens Tokyo

We started our exploration of Tokyo with a typical Japanese garden. The one we have chosen is close to the Hamamatsucho station. This small beautiful garden allows you to get a sense of what a typical Japanese landscape garden incl. a lake with koi fishes is like in a fairly short amount of time, and is a great place to stop and take a break from the surrounding metropolis. This garden is one of the oldest one in Tokyo. From this park you can also see one of the first skyscraper of Tokyo – the World Trade Center.

Zojo-ji Temple

From the Kyu-Shiba-rikyu Gardens we walked further to the Shiba park with the temples Zojo-ji. The temple was founded in 1393 and is the main quarter of this Buddhist school. At the end of the temple area you can see many small stone figures wearing a red knit hat. These are for deceased early in life children. According to Japanese folk belief, red is the color for expelling demons and illness. The red heads shall help the children in their afterlife.

Tokyo Tower

In the pictures from the Zojo-ji temple you might have already seen the Tokyo tower with its red and white stripes that looks like a copy of the Eiffel tower in Paris. However, if something is copied in Japan, it needs to be better than the original. Therefore, the Tokyo Tower is with its 333 meter around 13 meters higher than the original but has only half of the weight. The tower was finished in 1958. We have taken the escalator up to the viewing platform in 150 meters and enjoyed the incredible sweeping view of Tokyo. There is even a visitor deck at the height of 250 meters however, the view on the 150 meter deck is said to be better.

Shinjuku district

This district combines much of the things that will come to one’s mind when thinking of Tokyo: upscale department stores, swarming crowds, video screens on the streets, amazing skyscrapers with hidden shrines in-between. The train station is used by 2-3 mn commuters every day and is therefore one of the busiest in the world. Tokyo’s municipal government has also moved in this area in 1991. Some really photogenic towers can be seen in that district, like the Mode Gakuen Cocoon Tower.

47 Ronins of Ako or Ako Gishi / Sengaku-ji

The graves of 47  samurais are located in the temple Sengaku-ji. This grave site is more than 300 years old.

Shibuya Crossing and area

This crossing is an awesome spectacle with giant video screens… Around the crossing you will see numerous neon signs and video screens in an almost uncountable number. Unbelievable also the number of people crossing here every second.

Happo-en Garden

Another traditional garden we recommend to visit in Tokyo is Happo-en. The well-manicured grounds are home to centuries-old bonsai trees, a koi pond, and cherry trees and fall foliage that make for some of the best seasonal views in the city.

Edo Castle / Tokyo Imperial Palace

Unfortunately, we were too late and could not visit the Tokyo Imperial Palace from the inside. Formerly, this castle was the largest in the world though little remains of it apart from the moat and walls. In the garden you can see the massive stones used to build the castle walls end you can even climb on the ruins. The Imperial Palace is surround by a moat. Several bridges and a gate give you access to the grounds.

Senso-ji in Asakusa

Senso-ji is one of the most important and oldest temples in Tokyo in the district Asakusa. The entrance to the temple is via the Kaminari-mon (thunder gate) that brings you directly to the shopping street. Passing the street you reach the five-level pagoda and the temple itself with the sink in front of it.

National Museum (UNESCO World Heritage)

The National Museum consists of several separate buildings in the district Ueno. We visited the main Gallery (Honkan) with a ancient pottery, religious sculpture, samurai swords, kimonos and much more. One of the buildings is registered as UNESCO World Heritage as part of the ensemble of the architectural work of Le Corbusier that shows an outstanding contribution to the modern movement.

Jyo Myo In and Daienji Temple in Yanaka

The last temple we would like to recommend to you is the Jyo myo In temple in Yanaka. This temple includes more than 84,000 Jizo stone figures.

From there it is just a short walk to the Daienji temple. They were about to close at that time we arrived here but also the outside was very beautifully constructed.

Nikko (UNESCO World Heritage)

Temples and shrines in Nikko are from the 17th century and it is said that you should not say gorgeous before seeing Nikko. We can confirm that this is true and cannot imagine seeing temples being more impressive. The temples and shrines of Nikko (Tosho-gu) are inscribed to the UNESCO World Heritage list due to its architectural and decorative masterpiece. Left to the entrance you can see the famous “hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil” monkeys that demonstrate the three principles of Tendai Buddhism.

Traditional guest house in Nikko (Ryokan)

We also wanted to try the traditional way of guest houses. For the first time, we have chosen one in Nikko. Ryokans are nowadays famous for delicious food, well maintained Japanese gardens, onsen bath and courtesy service. Even though the rooms are at the first glance very plain with its straw mats lying o the ground, flat tables with seat cushions, the private onsen and the authentic food compensate for everything.

Tomioka Silk Mill (UNESCO World Heritage)

On our way to the sacred mountain Fujisan we visited a silk mill from 1872 – at that time Japan started a modernization of the country. To set up the Tomioka Silk Mill, Japanese government employed technical advisers from France. However, the recruitment of local workers was not successful at the beginning since it had been rumored that the French would drink blood. The Japanese have seen the French people drinking red wine and they had mistaken this for blood. Even the government denied this rumor and emphasized the importance of the mill, this lead to three months delay in starting to operate the mill.

The Tomioka mill was used for 115 years and played an important role for Japan in high quality raw silk manufacturing. In some shops next to the mill they sell a kind of thick cream what we have identified later as silk ice cream.


From the silk mill we have made a stop-over in Kamakura. This was rather planned only for sleeping but we found the Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gu shrine that was illuminated in the night. It was already closed but we have taken the opportunity for a short walk around the area.

Fujisan (UNESCO World Heritage)

Japan’s highest mountain with around 3,700 m is Fujisan. Due to its symmetric cone, Fujisan is the mountain that is most mentioned in Japanese literature and at the same moment it is a holy mountain playing an important role in the Buddhism. Unfortunately, we were not lucky with the weather and were not able to see the mountain – except on picture postcards.

Going up the first 1,500 meters by car is possible in general. Received the required information for driving up from the visitor information center, we paid the entrance fee and started driving up the mountain. At the first of five stations, we were stopped by the security since the road was closed due to the weather conditions. At least a piece of the road was paved with an asphalt creating a nice music when driving on it.

Japanese Alps / Shirakawago (UNESCO World Heritage)

We continued our trip into the Japanese Alps to Shirakawago. This is one of the snowiest places in Japan with up to 10 meters snow per year. Therefore, the houses have special rooftops: peaked and with thick thatch covered rooftops. This construction allows rain and snow to fall straight off and prevents the water going through into the house. The houses look a bit like houses in the German Black Forest region.

Kanazawa / Kanazawa Castle Park

The city Kanazawa was mainly established in the late 16th century by one family. The latter invested in building a fortress (to ensure independence from the former Edo regime) and a huge Japanese garden. Main parts of the fortress have been re-built until 1990. The garden is called Kenroku-en and means that six important attributes of the garden are fulfilled: water, outlook, range, feeling of security, inviolacy, arrangement.

But everything in this garden is artificial and based on an exact planning – even the water is coming through 10 km long pipelines. However, it is a very cozy park where we have met a very friendly park ranger who has created an Origami paper crane for us.

In Kaga we stayed again in a traditional guesthouse (Ryokan). This time it is was a larger one with some entertainment program in the evening.

Uji (UNESCO World Heritage together with Kyoto)

Uji is a small city to the south of Kyoto and belongs to the UNESCO World Heritage of Kyoto. Byodo-in is a Buddhist temple that was converted from a villa in 1052. The only remaining building is the Phoenix hall. The Phoenix was a popular mythical bird in Chinese and was revered by the Japanese as a protector of Buddha.

Kyoto (UNESCO World Heritage)

Kyoto will always remain in our memories as the colorful temple city. With more than 2,000 religious places Kyoto is a proud cultural city. Kyoto was after Nara the second permanent capital of Japan and the 1,000 years of being an imperial city has left cultural heritage en mass. 18 sites in and around Kyoto are recognized as UNESCO world heritage including many shrines and temples as well as the castle of Kyoto. The huge temples have many wooden carvings. The red and orange temples are shining in the sun and the golden temple is completely covered with leaf gold. Impressive temples!

We visited Japan the first time in December 2016. The Christmas lights in Kyoto were really impressive and we have taken the illuminated road couple of time 😉

Kyoto – the city of shrines and temples – is like Japan in perfection and therefore, a mandatory bucket on your travel itinerary. We spent in total three days in Kyoto and would like to stay even more to explore the whole city. The number of sights is incredible, therefore, we will present the most beautiful ones which we have visited.

Kiyomizu-dera temple

We have started in the morning with a walk up the hill to the Kiyomizu-dera temple. From there you can enjoy a good view over Kyoto. Like other temples this one also consists of several buildings.