Hey Guys, I know it’s been ages since have posted a workout…or ANYTHING FITNESS RELATED…if we’re going to be honest with ourselves :/ :/ :/
I guess we have sort of taken a Sabbatical from our personal training careers…
We have been working out and staying fit, but because our workouts are very basic and “maintenance” oriented, I guess we felt they were a bit boring to share.
Sorry, if some of you missed our posts/emails about fitness and healthy recipes.
We’re honestly going to start sharing some stuff about fitness more often. We promise! ***with our fingers crossed behind our backs*** 😛
So for the first workout post, we have Ruby to thank. She liked our 1000 Rep Workout Challenge (back in our Maxfit days) and wanted to do it again, but she couldn’t remember the whole workout, so she contacted us…
So Ruby, here it is, just for you…and of course for anyone else who wants a good challenging and sweat inducing workout!
Please note that it’s a bit revised (from the one we did at Maxfit) as we know not everyone has tires, battle ropes or sledge hammers available 😛
Happy Workout and May the Muscle Aches Be Kind to you the Day After 😛
Let’s backtrack a bit and step by step I hope to fill you in and (update this lazy blog) about what’s been happening with us for the last month since we started our “Americas Adventure”…
Step 1: Landed in Buenos Aires, Argentina (7 Feb 2018) and checked into a cute and comfortable apartment in the city center. We stayed there till the bike arrived from London.
We scheduled our bike to be flown into Buenos Aires a bit later than us, to minimize any possible airport storage fees. We also wanted to make sure it avoided arriving during the weekend or Carnaval holiday which of course would have equaled extra storage fees.
Step 2: Cash Crisis!! We did a bit of research about whether to withdraw cash at the ATM in Buenos Aires or to bring a bunch of Euros/Dollars with us. We read that Cash is King in most of South America, and specifically Argentina, so we intended to bring a stash of Euros with us.
But due to me being quite ill and our excitement about finally starting our “Americas Adventure” we ended up checking into our flight and walking past all the ATMs in Schiphol airport. By the time we remembered ‘Oh yes, we need to get our hands on some Euros’ the only ATMs available were charging some ridiculous ATM fees.
We decided to ignore the advice we read about bringing a good amount of cash, and learned the hard way that Argentina has EVEN MORE ridiculous ATM withdrawal fees/withdrawal limits—much MUCH worse that in the “Checked in” area of Schiphol airport…
Argentine ATM fee (for foreign accounts) is a flat 200 ARS (8 euros) no matter how little you withdraw….
Argentine Withdrawal Limit (depending on your bank) is 3,000 ARS which amounts to a meager 120 euros. Obviously, this would last 2 people only a couple of days…and if you are staying in Argentina for any amount of time this will get frustrating.
We had some pretty hefty fees to pay to get our motorbike out of customs, to get our motorbike import papers, to pay our customs agents and of course the airport fees. There was no way we were going to spend hundreds of euros just on withdrawal fees.
A couple of the fees we managed to arrange to pay by card, but the rest needed CASH! US of A Dollars preferred!
If we had brought Euros with us we would not have had any problems because we could have easily exchanged our Euros to Dollars or just paid with Euros. But because we were naive and didn’t believe that in this day and age it would be a problem, we were really stumped about how to get a hold of enough cash in time to get our motorbike on the day it arrived (yes, we didn’t want to leave it in the airport any later than necessary)
And oh, did we mention they have a daily withdrawal limit? Even if we used both our cards and withdrew from different ATMs–the maximum amount allowed–we would have had to visit the ATM a minimum of 10 TIMES, over the span of a week, to get approximately 1000 euros out of our accounts and of course spend a minimum of 8o euros in the process….
Add on our apartment, food and transport fees and of course we needed more than 1000 euros so our dilemma was QUITE ridiculous!
Perhaps for some, 8 euros per withdrawal isn’t dramatic, but we were used to ZERO withdrawal fees and very high withdrawal limits so this came as a shock!
After a day of stress and frantic Googling we decided to give Azimo a try. This was a bit of a risk for us as we never even heard of Azimo before. But we read favorable reviews, they have a 100% money back guarantee, and they had an easy connection with our Dutch ING bank.
Money Gram and Western Union was out of the question as they have pretty high transfer fees, and they would not have been able to get the cash to us in time.
We had only 1 day (due to the Carnaval holidays) to send our money from our Dutch account to Azimo, to be transferred to Argentina, and then be picked up by ourselves (with our passport and some other special questions to verify ID) at an Argentine bank which served as the Azimo representative.
To make a long story short. We downloaded the Azimo app. Made our Azimo profile. Connected it with our bank. Sent our money to ourselves. Waited a couple of hours for the transaction to go through (they do warn you that it might take 1-2 working days, depending on your bank) and fortunately our transaction only took a couple of hours…and wallah, we got the notification that our money was ready to pick up at any of their local bank representatives.
The notification email reminded us to bring the correct pre-arranged ID and gave us a list of banks we could pick it up from.
We chose the one that was in walking distance. There was que of a about 15-20 people also using Azimo services and with a bit of mumble-fumble, showing the correct ID and awkward sign language (the guy behind the heavily barred counter didn’t speak a word of English) we walked out with our bundle of much needed cash!
We say BUNDLE, because while they DO have 500 peso bills…they don’t seem to use them much, so we got stacks of 100s, 50s and 20s.
There was no way we were going to count our crazy amount of cash in front of all the people in the que (it was a bank, but it looked like more like a black market currency exchange) and we were so happy that so far, our risk taking was paying off, we decided to cut our loses and make a beeline to our apartment with our bulging bag of cash.
When we got to our apartment, we were pleasantly surprised that the amount we received was correct to the Peso.
While the whole pick up the cash experience was a bit disconcerting, the actual process of using Azimo was rather smooth and we saved a lot of time potentially stalking numerous ATMs (they regularly run out of cash, so you have to visit a few ATMs to get the maximum withdrawal) and miserable ATM fees.
So please learn from our lesson. Bring Euros or Dollars with you when visiting South America–specifically Argentina!
For those that know us, you are aware that we are a Dutch/Filipino couple aka “Hollapinos” 😀
And while that nickname is cute and funny (thanks Russell Peters) our legal hurdles (particularity mine) are not so funny.
This series of blog posts will be about how I got and applied for my Schengen, US, Argentine & Chilean Visas all while my 5 year Filipino passport is aging closer and closer to it’s expiry date.
I hope the “process” I’m going to share will be a help to some of you. And if it’s not applicable to your situation, I hope it’s an entertaining/informative read.
My Schengen Visa:
Actually this was the easiest visa to apply for. I had gotten 2 Schengen visas for previous visits to Europe.
The first Schengen visa was valid for a single entry of 30 days. The second one was a multiple entry visa valid for 1 year with 90 days stay duration within a 6 month (180 days) period.
The third, and my current visa, is valid for 4 years with the same restrictions–90 days stay in the Schengen zone within a 6 month (180 days) period.
All my Schengen visas were applied for and received while we were living in Thailand.
Please note that I didn’t pay more, or apply for, the different lengths of validity of my Schengen visas. They just seemed to give me longer validity each time I applied.
I got my first Schengen visa when we were still dating and not legally married if that’s a comfort for unmarried couples. I did apply in the family and friends category, if you aren’t visiting family or friends then you can apply for a regular tourist visa.
The second Schengen visa I got was when we were already married but I had not changed my surname. I again applied in the family and friends category.
When I applied for my last one they barely looked at my papers, and when they noticed I visited Europe pretty much every year, the visa officer asked if I’d like a longer validity for my visa. I said “Sure, the longer the better, as that would save me the trouble of applying every year or so.” She then decided to give me a Schengen visa valid till my current passport expired.
Needless to say that was a pleasant surprise, and this has definitely been a help during the European leg of our Ride around the World.
But having a Schengen visa does have it’s limitations. We intended to travel through Europe over the span of 6 months. We had thought there was some way to “extend” my 90 days allowance in the Schengen zone, but we discovered this was not possible.
Because we had less than 90 days (we stayed a couple of weeks with Stefan’s family before we left) our journey through the Schengen countries was rather rushed and I had to quickly exit out of the Schengen area into Croatia a couple of days before my 90 days allowance were finished to make absolutely sure I didn’t overstay.
Fortunately, I had a multiple entry Schengen visa. And IF you don’t overstay your Schengen visa you automatically get visa free entrance into Albania, Macedonia, Serbia and Bosnia & Herzegovina.
The main difference was that there were border checks (some were a bit stressful and confusing with little bribes here and there) and I had to make sure I got stamped in and out of each country.
Having to be out of the Schengen zone wasn’t a total loss, I did miss out on visiting Greece, the UK and Ireland, but I got to hang around the cheap Balkan states for 90 days and when I could enter the Schengen zone again, we completed the other Schengen countries we weren’t able to ride through on our first round.
So that’s the long and short of how I was able to tour Europe for over 6 months on a multiple entry Schengen visa. In hindsight, we probably should have found a way to apply for my Dutch residency, being that I am married to a Dutchman, and perhaps our Europe trip would have been that much less rushed and stressful. But because we were eager to start our journey, we skipped that step, and I suppose we are living and learning from that decision.
FYI: Being a Philippine passport holder means I need a visa for pretty much every other country outside of the SEA. And if I hadn’t had a multiple entry Schengen visa I would have also had to apply for visas for each of the Balkan states which would have meant a lot of wasted time and extra visa fees. Thankfully I did have a multiple entry Schengen visa which was valid for several years so I didn’t need to apply for individual visas in the Balkan area.
Here are the links to the visa application process in Thailand and the required documents.
Online visa application: http://www.vfsglobal.com/netherlands/thailand/
Info about visa for visiting family or friends in the Netherlands: http://www.vfsglobal.com/netherlands/thailand/visiting_friends.html
Documents needed if visiting family or friends in the Netherlands: http://www.vfsglobal.com/netherlands/thailand/pdf/Schengen-Visa-Application-visiting-friends.pdf
Info about getting a tourist visa for the Netherlands: http://www.vfsglobal.com/netherlands/thailand/tourist.html
Documents needed if visiting as a tourist to the Netherlands: http://www.vfsglobal.com/netherlands/thailand/pdf/Checklist-for-a-visa-application-tourism.pdf
I used Bupa Travel Insurance:
Bittersweet beginning to our South to North American journey. Stefan will take the bike to London on his own which means we will be apart for 4 days…this is the longest we’ve been apart since we married and I hate missing out (didn’t want to spend the mullah and the time to get a UK visa for only 2 days)
..but oh well, every dream has it’s sacrifices.
On the bright side.. ARGENTINA HERE WE COME!! 😉
Happy 80th Birthday Oma and Happy 2nd Birthday Sem!!!
It’s been awesome that Stefan & I have been able to spend so much time with the family before we’re back on the road again.
Here’s a quick peek of our crazy family shenanigans! There were 30+ of us all in one cabin!
Luckily there were enough beds, 2 kitchens (sort of), ample dishes and dishwashers, lots of chairs and several WC’s otherwise it would have been complete bedlam 😛
We really did have a grand time–with very little sleep 😀
Seems like our blog has started the new year on a tardy note..SORRY.. 😆
But to make it up to you…
Here’s Stefan being a crazy fireworks unicorn for the New Year…
We gonna write more, we promise!
Right now we busy prepping for our South American journey.
And it hasn’t been as straight forward as we hoped. Visas…bike transport…route etc…
But we’re gonna get there 😁
But for now we’re off to a holiday cabin to celebrate Stefan’s Grandma 80th birthday…
Catch you laters xxx
In Bulgaria we spent our time in 3 main cities…
The first was Pancharevo just outside of the capital city, Sofia.
Pancharevo is famous for its beautiful artifical lake and mineral water hot springs. But because it was cold, and we already planned to have a spa day in the next town, we decided to get some city time in Sofia. We even went Salsa dancing one evening 😉
The next stop was Sapareva Banya town to explore the Seven Rila Lakes. When we drove into the town the weather got noticeably colder. It was 5 degrees when we checked into our room and at night it drop below 0 degrees so we shouldn’t have been surprised that there was snow when we rode up the mountain to check out the Seven Rila Lakes.
There was ice and snow on the road leading to the lift. This was our very first “true winter” riding experience. Our Michelin Anakee III tire seemed to do ok, but we were very careful and Stefan made sure to use the brakes as little as possible.
When we got to the lifts, we were told they weren’t in service yet (ski season hadn’t officially started) but it would take around 3-4 hours to hike up to the first lake! We weren’t sure what we were going to do but an enterprising 4 wheel truck driver offered to take us up to the cabin for the same price as the lift–about 5 euros per person 1 way.
We had no idea what we were getting into! It the most scary, yet exciting ride of my life! I was hanging on for dear life and getting thrown off my seat into the truck ceiling every time the truck maneuvered over massive rocks or blocks of ice and snow. I really had no idea those heavy duty 4-wheel jeeps could even drive through that sort of terrain!!
Here a couple of videos to get an idea how it was. And what was even more crazy… there was a couple who brought their 2 year old and their 5 year old kids with them. There were no seat belts, child seat or anything they were just clinging on to them and trying to make sure their heads weren’t smashed on the windows or jeep ceiling. I still don’t know how they manged to keep their seats and keep their children from being injured…
***You can’t see the extreme condition of the road in our video, but believe me there were large rocks, cliffs, ice and massive ditches!!
I decided to stay in the rest cabin as my feet were already too cold after only 20mins of hiking through the snow. Stefan pushed on and took a 4 hour hike to see some of the Rila lakes. Watch our video at the bottom of this post to see the Seven Rila Lakes during the winter!
Our last stop in Bulgaria was Nesebar (also spelt Nessebar)
Nesebar is a must-visit-destination if you are in Bulgaria. It’s an old town built on a peninsula and it has such an amazing ambiance. It feels like a coastal fishing village and an alpine village all at the same time.
There was no snow (but it does get cold, it was around 10 degrees during the day and 2-4 degrees during the night) but what gave it an alpine feeling to me, was that the old town is built on rocky hills… so the narrow, winding cobbled roads with wooden houses, wood piles, chimneys and ancient churches made it “feel different” than most coastal towns I’ve visited. I really can’t explain it, so you’d have to visit the place to see for yourself.
Nessebar fortress wall ruinsIt’s also a World Heritage Site so you’ll get to see some exceptionally well preserved ancient and medieval ruins.
That’s our Bulgarian experience in a nutshell.
Watch our video to get a better look 🙂
I’ve had it…
I can’t seem to catch up… so I’m just going to make a quick post about the latest country we passed through and then backtrack from there…
We are currently in Kranjska Gora, Slovenia, but a couple of days ago we were chilling in Beautiful & Magnificent Budapest, Hungry.
This beautiful capital city of Hungry totally blew our minds and exceeded our expectations.
Perhaps near Christmas is the perfect time to visit Budapest as the whole city seems lit up by the most beautiful Christmas lights and decorations. If so, we count ourselves lucky.
The beginning of winter also seems to be the perfect time to visit the iconic spas, such as the Szechenyi Thermal Spa and walk around the many Christmas markets.
Fortunately winter seems to be moderate in Budapest hovering around 5 centigrade and -9 centigrade at it’s coldest.
This will be a quick overview of what we did in Budapest and then later (with another post) I will try to fill in the details. I am just so tired of being so behind with my blogs about the places we visited and traveled through that I’m going to just go ahead and post something and then revisit each city/country later.
I don’t think I am a fabulous writer, but I find that writing does help me relive each experience in a new way. I suppose this might be why “blogging” is so popular. It adds a new dimension to travel and they way we “experience” our lives…
So back to Budapest…
One important place to start is to find the perfect accommodation for your style of travel and/or holiday to each and every city/locale you are planning to visit.
The second is to plan your trip so that you can visit/experience the top 3-5 things you want to do while you are there. If you are going to at a place longer than 3-4 days then of course you can make a longer list.
In our case we found our perfect “home away from home” in the Fraser Residence, Budapest.
Stefan & I have made travel our NEW way of life, so our requirements might be a bit different from others, but we’ll share with you our requirements for when/where. And yes, WHEN and WHERE are major factors.
Another major factor is BUDGET…
But for us budget is flexible. Because when we feel we are getting a good value (more perks/facilities) we are more than happy to up our budget…does that make sense?
When we first started our trip in summer of this year (June 2017) we wanted to camp as much as possible for two main reasons.
- We wanted to experience “nature” as much as possible.
- We thought it would be the cheaper option.
Our first reasoning was valid…but found out to our surprise…that camping during the peak of summer doesn’t mean cheaper.
We found out that a basic BnB was actually cheaper than staying at some of the popular and perfectly located campsites.
Yes, pitching our tent, blowing up our air mattresses, unfolding our chairs, unpacking our sleeping bags and cooking on our cute portable BBQ in a popular campsite (with good facilities) was MORE expensive than a basic Bed and Breakfast or an average 2-3 star hotel room.
So when the summer turned to autumn, and then winter, we were ready to stay indoors.
[Note: When?– Winter Season | Where?– Bustling Capital City of Budapest, Hungry]
This is our “City Wishlist” for a perfect location in a major city.
- Within 10-15km drive of the sights we are hoping to see.
- Good reviews!
- Kitchen (we are personal fitness trainers so we try to eat/cook healthy as much as much as possible)
- Washing machine (traveling on a motorbike and being fairly active means we need to wash our clothes often and making a trip to a laundromat is something we want to avoid as much as possible)
- Near a grocery store/mall
- Good internet
- Clean facilities (bedding, bathroom etc)
Fraser Residence Budapest ticked off everything on our list. We’ve stayed at much simpler places before, but when staying 3-4 days in a metropolitan city just “a good view” doesn’t cut it.
What are your “must haves” when booking a hotel or a place to stay?
Please remember that we aren’t “on vacation” and that some of our requirements might not be necessary for you as you might NOT want to cook for yourself or take care of laundry.
But if our “City Location Wishlist” seems similar to yours, check out the video we made and you can see for yourself if Fraser Residence in Budapest is what you are looking for.
Our Review for Stay in Fraser Residence, Budapest:
Comfortable and Warm Fully Serviced (24/7) Apartment in downtown Budapest
Our 1 bedroom apartment had:
Fully equipped kitchen & dining utensils
Spacious living room
Ample cupboard and drawer space
Separate bathtub and shower area
High quality toiletries (L’Occcitane) and the list could go on…
The staff and management are very helpful and attentive and we were welcomed with a delicious fruit platter and cold drinks in the fridge. Small extras like these made our stay memorable.
The top 2 things we wanted to see/do in Budapest was visit their world famous Thermal Spas and have a Beer Spa.
Here are a couple pictures of us in the Szechenyi Thermal Pools
and the Thermal Beer Spa…
We also when sight seeing and checked all their historical monuments, castles, and palaces. But I think our spa experience was something different and a first time for us.
Flashback to October 2017…
Which empire/country do you think of when someone mentions Alexander the Great?
Ok, actually both are correct as Alexander the Great became king of the Grecian empire. But, he was actually born in the country we know as Macedonia today.
And Macedonians are Macedonians…not Greeks…though their history seems rather entangled in most of our minds.
Check out our video below to get a quick overview of our journey into Macedonia…
Crossing the border from Albania into Macedonia was interesting because we ended up staying at a campsite owned by a proud ethnic Albanian family. Yes, we were in Macedonia, and their nationality was technically Macedonian, but they still referred to themselves as Albanians. And immigrating was not the case here…they actually believed that Macedonia should be part of Greater Albania..which at one time or another…it was…and I guess that’s how they ended up where they were.
But Macedonia was also part of Greater Greece..so this gets rather confusing…
But it really doesn’t matter, whether they considered themselves Greek, Albanian, Slavic, Croat or whatever… they were all wonderful folks EXCEPT WHEN WE MET ON THE ROAD…
This was another story all together! Driving in “the Balkans” is EXCITING…
And definitely dangerous in the sense that it’s nigh impossible to predict what they are going to do as they don’t use their signal lights and reversing on a main road to “catch” their missed turn is perfectly acceptable.
They are also usually driving one handed as they are almost always on the phone. Holding a phone while driving is illegal in most of Europe so it was rather fascinating and a bit scary to see everyone from taxis to massive trucks managing their hectic roads one-handed while on the phone.
…This also made us wonder, what sort of phone plan they all had. They seemed to be able to have unlimited phone conversations for unlimited lengths of time…
But despite the dangerous roads, we explored and thoroughly enjoyed Macedonia starting from the south (Lake Ohrid) to the north (Saint Joachim Osogovski Monastary) without a single mishap or accident. 😀
***If you want to know more about Lake Ohrid, Macedonia, read this vivid and interesting post from The Guardian. I found this article when researching about Lake Ohrid and the surrounding town’s history. It is so well written that I decided to just post a link to it here instead of trying to write about it myself. https://www.theguardian.com/travel/2010/jan/30/macedonia-kapka-kassabova-lake-ohrid
Macedonia was also the last country we camped in–as winter was fast approaching. Our last few camping nights were spent around our campfire for warmth and we had to borrow thick blankets from the kind owners of our campsite (Camping Rino on the shores of Lake Ohrid)
From a comfortable 15-20 degrees during the day it would drop to 3-1 degrees during the night. And because our sleeping bags are rated for 15 degrees anything under that temperature is uncomfortable–this was the main factor to deciding to end our camping for the year.
Watch our video about our stay at Camping Rino below…
After a few days near Lake Ohrid and visiting the nearby towns of Struga and Vevchani we decided to check out the capital, Skopje.
Most of the capital city is new but some of the old sites have been maintained and left unchanged. Our favorites were the Old Bazaar, the Kale Fortress, the Church of Panteleimon and the Skopje Aqueduct. ***Sorry we don’t have many picture of some these sites please watch OUR VIDEO to get a better look…
The main highlight for me (Marie) was our paragliding experience off Mt. Vodno. It was very easy to organize (booked and scheduled over Whatsapp!) and I think probably THE cheapest place to go paragliding in Europe. It cost us 65euros each, but got it discounted to 120euros for the both of us since it was a week day and not too busy.
We flew with http://www.2glide.com/ and appreciated that they offered to take GoPro footage/pictures of the experience and promised to send them to us within 24 hours. The other para-glide companies didn’t offer this service for free, so we chose them specifically for this reason as we had lost our GoPro a few weeks back.
Watch how the para-glide harness is put on… 😀 😀 😀
We also got to stay at 2 beautiful hotels in Skopje. If you want to take a look and see whether they would be good for your trip to Skopje watch our videos and decide for yourself…
Our last stop was at Saint Joachim Osogovski Monastery. Even though we have seen many churches and cathedrals during our Euro trip it was still breathtaking seeing this small ancient Orthodox church in the middle of a quaint mountain town.
The only sound we heard was the wind and the prayers being read/chanted over the speakers. The energy we felt, while sitting on one of the many outdoor benches surrounding the church, made this religious site special and somehow more alive than some of the other larger places of worship we have visited.
If there’s one lasting impression that we were left with when leaving Macedonia it would have to be it’s rich & overflowing religious heritage. From paragliding off Mt. Vodno with the 66 meter Millennium cross in the background (watch our video to see the Millennium Cross during the sunset) to entering numerous ancient holy places (Catholic, Orthodox and Muslim alike) filled with devotion and reverence so sincere you can almost feel it…
Once you have visited Macedonia you will understand why it sometimes called the Jerusalem of the Balkans.
Albania was a country that I knew next to nothing about (before visiting) and I am forever grateful that I was able to visit it.
It is an ancient land and people and they have somehow been forgotten or annexed by popular history.
Original Albanians can trace their lineage to the proud Illyrians, who were cultured and organized even before their more well-known neighbors, the ancient Greeks, came into the picture.
I learned from every Albanian I was able to meet and talk to that they consider themselves a unique and different ethnic community. They declare that they are their own ethnic “people” as they did their best NEVER to mix with those outside and there is proof that they are “older” than the Greeks, the Romans, the Slavs and all those surrounding them.
They were so determined to stay purely Albanian that they have a legend about how 2000 Albanian women committed suicide after being raped by Romans. I have not found any historical reference of this, but their purity and their unique ancient ethnicity is something they all are very proud of.
Being in the Balkans and hearing the conflicting stories of the Croats, the Serbs (the Slavs) and the Albanians is confusing. Human nature wants to take sides and “decide” who is in the right, but I realized first hand that opinions can easily change depending on the perspective that is being shared.
If you want to enjoy your time in the Balkans, keep an open mind and respect all perspectives. If you can, stay away from any political discussion, but I have to admit hearing them share their view of “history” is fascinating.
Our favorite places in Albania were:
- Shkoder (mountains and lakes)
- Ksamil (stunning beaches)
Watch our videos to get a better idea of what Albania looks like:
(Please note that some of our videos are especially made for the places we stayed at. These hotels or campsites gave us accommodation free of charge or at a discount.)
Here’s a compilation of our Adventures in Albania:
What you can see while in Shkoder…
What you can see while in Tirana…
What you can see while in Ksamil…