Did you know that chicken balls are a pseudo-Chinese dish that was invented for Westerners? That’s right, if you show up in China pumped up to consume weeks’ worth of chicken balls, you’re going to be SUPER DISAPPOINTED.

So, I didn’t consume any chicken balls last month (but I sure thought about them a lot). So, as Ted asked, what’s up with the title? Umm, balls rhymes with walls. And I was seriously craving this non-Chinese “Chinese” dish in China. Creative, yes?

Anyways, rewinding a bit – our first week of June was actually spent in Thailand, before zipping off to Shanghai, China and onwards. That was six final days of blazing sunshine and cool fruit smoothies (fear-free of food poisoning) – ahh. Here’s exactly where we wandered through June.

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What a colourful month! From the top left to right – Forbidden City in Beijing China, Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai Thailand, truffles & sweets in Vienna Austria, and the vibrant streets of Budapest, Hungary

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A lonnng layover after an overnight flight meant we ALSO explored Kyiv, Ukraine by foot in a day. That was in between leaving China & arriving in Austria. Seriously though, what a gorgeous city!

Our Whereabouts

  • 6 days Thailand
  • 15 days China
  • 1 day Ukraine (full day layover)
  • 4 days Austria
  • 5 days Hungary

On paper it looks a lot faster than we usually travel. But our final days in Thailand were part of a month-long stint in May, and our time in Hungary will be at least a couple weeks into July. Regardless, it was still a lot more zipping about than usual, as you probably saw in the contrast of our Instagram snaps!

Highlights & Laughs

  • WE ARE NOW AUSTRALIAN RESIDENTS (EEEEEK!). Technically this happened in the first few days of July (today!), but I’m too excited to wait till next month’s post not to share! As you may know, we’ve been fighting to get residency in Australia for over a year now, and we just had it granted this morning. Not sure when we will head back (we have until January) but it’s such a relief to know we have a true “home” base now!
  • Seeing that Great Old Wall. If there’s one thing China really has going for it, it’s the Great Wall. Even if it was largely built at the hands of slaves, let’s at least acknowledge it turned out pretty darn great! I’ll be whipping up a guide soon on how to see it crowd-free, which remarkably, is in fact possible in a country of 1.35 billion people.
  • Chinese Paparazzi. I have a love/hate relationship with people taking photos of me in China. I love that people are excited &  bold enough to do it, but hate that there’s probably tons of photos of unflattering photos of me eating somewhere out there on the Chinese Internet! ‘Cause people in China like to take photos not just with me, but of me – especially stuffing my face. Practicing English for 20 minutes, answering interview questions in English for a university project on video on the street are all things I’m happy to help with. But seriously, if you want a pic, just ask (because I want one with you too!).
  • Back to civilisation. We flew from Beijing to Vienna, Austria. Could there be a greater contrast? TWICE in the first days of arrival in Vienna I caught myself thinking a parent was helping their kid poop on the sidewalk (they were in fact, helping them with their shoes). Whoops.
  • Thrifty Asian pub crawls (round 2). When you haven’t lived in one place with friends for months, there’s nothing like meeting up with old pals on the road. It’s almost on par with the excitement of flying home for Christmas. We reunited with some thrifty friends of ours over whisky & coca cola in a Shanghai food court. That was an upgrade from our Hong Kong 7-11 beer hopping last time (See? Moving up in the world).
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The Great Wall

Budapest

Budapest sunsets are the best

Lowlights & Lessons Learnt

  • Thief naming & shaming. If there’s one lesson we learn time and time again, it’s that the moment you have your guard down is when bad things can happen (easier said than done 6+ months on the road). While wandering a night market in Xi’An, Ted caught someone trying to dig into my purse. That initiated a huge shouting and shaming kerfuffle (I love that word). The crowd definitely knew what was up, even if they didn’t understand our words and the guy walked away pretty angry. I clutched my purse straps a little tighter after that – thankfully dodging another addition to our dumbest travel moments.
  • Going postal in China. On handing over an envelope for mailing at a Beijing post office the workers asked, “Is this important? Does it need to get there?”. Umm, what? It’s mail, of course I want it to arrive! A swift “yes, please make sure it gets there!” meant we had to buy another envelope, rewrite the address (apparently written in sloppy Chinese by our hotel reception), and include a Chinese sender address (a whole 45 minute ordeal in itself). China: making mundane tasks an adventure, always.

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Chinacollage

Memories of China! The guy in the top left had gone down DOZENS of stairs, then ran alllllll the way back up to us after mustering the confidence for a photo (I obviously wanted one too). The top right shot was a little girl watching us work in Starbucks for a solid 20 mins. Bottom right: every day of a foreigner’s life in China – family photos. Bottom right: air quality problems – self explanatory.

Health & Fitness

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    Some “whole wheat bread” in China – well two versions, of it. The one on the right is from a grocery store. It had weird swirls of yellow dye (?) in it and was a styrofoam-like texture. The one on the left is from a bakery and looks a bit more like bread (albeit, white bread). As one of my best (Chinese) friends told me, “no one trusts China. Not even Chinese people”. Well I definitely didn’t trust the yellow bread, that’s for sure!

    On the topic of health, the air quality in China really was that bad this time around. The bigger cities like Shanghai & Beijing (awesome as they are) do have horrendous air quality as a tissue will show when you blow grey grossness into it (sorry). Persistent headaches and sore throats finally swayed us to invest in some face masks. But hey, all part of the experience!

  • Steps walked: 309,768 or 10,325/day. In other words: we weren’t so lazy this month, yay! The Great Wall hike probably helped racked up those numbers, but our generally zipping about this month meant we got less computer-based work down, and a lot more steps in for sight seeing.

Spending

This is interesting since we visited 5 different countries this month. I’ll just skim to provide an idea. Put simply though, Hungary & Thailand are obvious money winners in terms of thriftiness! All prices are in USD.

  • Accommodation: Thailand ($10/night), China (~$18-$25/night), Austria ($40/night – OUCH), Hungary ($25/night).
  • Food: as you know from last month, we are mourning our $1.50 fresh meals in Thailand. Austria set us back ~$8 per meal the couple times we dined out, but we mostly cooked delicious meals for a fraction of that price. China averages $2-$6 for a filling meal, and Hungary is roughly $1 (for a large kebab wrap) to about $2-$4 for a large, filling Hungarian meal. Insert cheesy joke about being HUNGARY here.
  • Cell phone/Internet: we only bought a data plan in China given the unreliability of wifi at hotels etc. That set us back at a whopping $25 for the 15 days (which we ended up needing), but other than that we didn’t get data plans in the other regions.
  • Miscellaneous: there was the package home and a letter mailed, but other than that a good month for spending on non-essentials!
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A few shots of picture-perfect Vienna

What’s Next

Currently we’re in Budapest, Hungary. We have nothing booked outside our additional week here, but we’ve landed our first housesit in Germany later this month (yay!). That has steered our route and we’ll have to do some actual planning to fill the gaps in between and decide what to do after. Till next time, thanks for reading!

As always if you want to keep in the regular know-how, follow along on Instagram where we post almost daily!

A little charming nighttime Vienna

A little charming nighttime Vienna

 Thanks for following along, check back next month to see what we get up to! To explore our prior adventures, see our old months in review here!