Tag Archives: BBBTV

Facing the Fear in Queenstown

Mark faces his fear of heights in the open door of an airplane at 15,000 feet.  Appeared on MSN Travel UK on 19 Jan, 2014.

The plane leveled out at 12,000 feet above Queenstown, New Zealand.  I straightened up and looked out the window to my left.  The deep blue of Lake Wakatipu snaked through the Southern Alps, the outline of New Zealand’s adventure capital reduced to just a few small houses in one corner of the lake.

The jump master threw open the door and the cabin pressure dropped.  A green light began flashing. To my right, the line of first-time skydivers was sucked out of the plane with their instructors strapped to their backs.  Out the window I saw them hurtling towards the earth at 200 km per hour – terminal velocity.

Then the door was closed, leaving just me with my brother Alex and our dive instructors.  The plane nosed sharply upwards, climbing towards 15,000 feet.  I tried to remain calm, but somewhere in the crevasses of my mind lurked was a primordial, instinctual aversion to what I was about to do.

From behind me, I felt my instructor tap my shoulder and pass something forward– a thin tube of oxygen, perhaps to calm my nerves.  I put the tube between my lips, breathed deeply, and prayed that the parachute was packed correctly.

Read the full story at MSN Travel UK

Coffee Culture in Melbourne

The boys take a espresso-paced tour of Melbourne’s 2,500 coffee shops to learn about why Melbourneans take so much pride in their daily roast.   Appeared on MSN Travel UK on 10 Jan, 2014. 

I felt like a snob.  My brother Alex and I were standing in what I can only describe as a coffee laboratory where glass beakers bubbled away in the background converting top-quality, single-roast, fair-trade coffee from a small-scale Honduran producer into reputedly one of the finest cups of coffee in Melbourne.  As if that mouthful of adjectives weren’t enough to qualify as pretentious, we were drinking our espresso from wine glasses.

Our local guide, Maria Paoli of Melbourne Coffee Tours, raised a glass to her nose, cupped the coffee and closed her eyes in ecstasy.  I attempted to do the same.

I’ve always believed that the longer the name of your coffee order, the worse.  Standing behind someone at Starbucks ordering a grande-mocha-frappachino-latte-with-soy-milk makes me want to scream.  I tend to keep it simple: a cup of coffee, size medium.

I told this to Maria.

“Melbourne is different,” she said with a wink.  “We take our coffee seriously here!”

Read the full article on MSN Travel UK.



Melbourne: Surfing, Street Art & Swimming with Dolphins

This week we’re in Melbourne, the cultural capital of Australia.  From exploring street art to sipping quality coffee and going on a surf trip to Bells Beach, here’s our advice on why you should make Melbourne a stop on your next trip to Oz!

Thank you so much to everyone who made our stay possible – goodonya!
My Destination MelbourneJucy RentalsThe Red Shirt Ambassadors of MelbourneEureka Sky Deck 88University CaféMaria Paoli of Melbourne Coffee ToursBrunettiSensory LabKrimpersThe Vue Grand HotelMoonraker Dolphin SwimSearoad FerriesGreat Ocean Road Surf ToursMornington Star EstatesHot Springs Mornington PeninsulaMoonlit SanctuarySurf World Torquay.

Melbourne: Behind the Scenes (Episode 21)

This week we’re in Melbourne, the cultural capital of Australia.  We do a road trip down the Great Ocean Road, surf the legendary Bells Beach, and then swing into the city to dive into cafe culture, street art, and its excellent ethnic food.

Thank you so much to everyone who made our stay possible – goodonya!
My Destination MelbourneJucy RentalsThe Red Shirt Ambassadors of MelbourneEureka Sky Deck 88University CaféMaria Paoli of Melbourne Coffee ToursBrunettiSensory LabKrimpersThe Vue Grand HotelMoonraker Dolphin SwimSearoad FerriesGreat Ocean Road Surf ToursMornington Star EstatesHot Springs Mornington PeninsulaMoonlit SanctuarySurf World Torquay.


Getting Up Close to the Great Barrier Reef

Diving the Great Barrier Reef tops the Vagabrothers’ bucket list. But when once they get below the surface they find something they hadn’t expected.  Appeared on MSN Travel UK on 2 Jan, 2014.

The waves came on strong and suddenly.  Within moments of clearing the farthest island in the Whitsundays, Queensland, our catamaran began to pitch in the open ocean as swells smacked our bow from the south east.  The horizon was grey with rainclouds and a strong wind blew across the deck, but I looked at my brother and smiled.  Today we would cross off the single biggest item on our bucket list – scuba diving the Great Barrier Reef.

We’d come to Australia explicitly to visit the reef and our minds raced with anticipation: home to 1,625 species of fish and 1,400 coral reef species, the Great Barrier Reef is the largest marine park in the world and one of its seven natural wonders, the largest living organism on earth and the only one seen from space.

We were not alone in our ambitions.  Our boat was a double-decked catamaran packed with over a hundred passengers to Reefworld, a semi-permanent pontoon anchored just off the edge of the most accessible section of an ecosystem larger than Texas.

Read the full story on MSN Travel UK.

In Search of Paradise on the Gili Islands

As the Vagabrothers ditch the tourist-saturated beaches of Bali, they head for the ‘unspoilt’ Gili Islands. But what happens to paradise once it’s discovered?  Appeared on MSN Travel UK on 20 Dec, 2013.

The Gili islands appeared beyond the bow about an hour and a half after leaving Bali. From a distance, it was all that we had expected: three untouched islands floating in a sea of peaceful azure waters, not a trace of mankind in sight.

“You’re going to love this place,” said Brendan, a South African expat who was showing us around the island. “No cars, no paved roads, and very few tourists. It’s like Bali was twenty years ago.”

In Bali we’d come looking for paradise but instead found a seemingly endless stretch of hotels and western-style bars spreading across the south of the island. This trip was our escape from this over-development. I was eager to get off the boat and onto the beach of this supposedly unspoilt island.

We were not the only ones on the search. Our boat was filled to the brim with backpackers, all of usneager to enjoy this slice of paradise. There was still no port, so we docked by driving our bow into the sand and unloading 50 backpackers directly onto the beach. As I got off, I looked to our left and saw another, bigger boat doing the same.

Then to my right, I saw a chain of locals unloading supplies from a half dozen small fishing boats – crates of beer and water and hundreds of bags of cement.

“Just like Bali twenty years ago,” I repeated to myself. But as I watched the boats dumping foreigners and cement onto the beach, it felt closer to a backpacker version of D-Day.

Read the full story on MSN Travel UK.

Fish Eyes and Culinary Fusion in Singapore

Marko and Alex dive into Singapore’s unique cultural blend through its food – starting with fish head soup.  Appeared on MSN Travel UK on 16 Dec, 2013

“Oh god,” said my brother Alex as he held the spoon up to his face, “I don’t know if I can do this.”

An eyeball jiggled on the spoon in his shaking hands.  I looked down at the bowl of fish head curry before us and had second thoughts about our mission in Singapore: to eat our way through the local culture, no matter how bizarre the dish.

“Come on,” said Anand, a DJ at a local Tamil-language radio station who had offered to show us around his neighborhood of little India.  “This is a very typical dish of Singapore – you have to try it!”

Alex shrugged his shoulders and shoved the spoon into his mouth.  He chewed a few times.  I heard a crunching noise.  Then he gave me a thumbs-up.

“Not so bad,” he said, swallowing it down.  “Just make sure you heap that curry on it.”

I peeled some fish flesh off the cheek and placed it on my banana leaf plate.  I left the second eyeball for Anand.

Read the full story at MSN Travel UK.  

Memories from Khao San Road

Over a bucket of whiskey and snack of fried scorpion, Marko reminisces over his earlier travels to the city.  Appeared on MSN Travel UK on 6 December, 2013.

The man held a skewered scorpion in my brother”s face, its pincers frozen in the deep-fried grip of death. Alex looked at me, eyes wide in shock.

“Fried scorpion!” said the scorpion-seller, “50 bhat, very tasty!”

His pitch was self-explanatory, designed to shock and surprise the first-time visitors on Khao San Road, Bangkok”s infamous backpacker haunt. It appeared to be working on Alex. But it was not my first night in Bangkok. I bought one for us both and together we gulped them down with a smile and a wink.

I”d first come to Thailand three years ago, a recent graduate trying to travel as far across Asia as I could on as little money as possible. I was a backpacking blogger thirsty for experience and I”d heard that no true traveller could visit South East Asia without spending at least one night on Khao San Road.

Back then, I”d described it like this: The street is brimming with vendors selling virtually everything you could imagine.

It is hemmed in by semi-permanent stalls offering hundreds of t-shirts, skirts, sunglasses, handbags, books, AC adaptors, headphones, knock-off iPods, MP3 downloads, pirated CDs, DVDs, and computer programs, canvas paintings, framed photographs of stone Buddhas, obscene wooden figures, hand-carved ashtrays, souvenir opium pipes, bus tickets, sunscreen, aloe-vera, beer, water, pizza, falafel, watermelon, pineapple, pens, pencils, and other types of bric-a-brac. Everything is fake, cheap, and tempting to buy.


Alex and Marko Ayling

Three years later, not much had changed: the same tuk-tuk drivers, pad Thai vendors, and t-shirt mongers hawking the same Chang Beer tank tops, the same hill-tribe women selling trinkets to beer-swilling backpackers, and the same Lonely-Planet toting 24-year olds walking down the street with the same wide-eyed gaze of wonder I”d once worn myself. My wonder at Khao San had soon worn off, replaced by an aversion to being surrounded by so many fellow foreigners, called falang by Thais. I then decided to get off the beaten path – way off.

Read the full story on MSN Travel UK.

Bonding Over a Braai in Cape Town

The brothers arrive in Cape Town and experience the Rainbow Nation over a classic South African Braai.  Appeared on MSN Travel UK on 29 November, 2013.

“Mzoli’s” said our friend without hesitation, “If you want to see all of Cape Town, you’ve got to go there for a braai on Sunday.”

The three of us were drinking beers in the City Bowl when my brother Alex and I had described the experience of all too many visitors to Cape Town: we saw two sides to the city, but we’d spent our whole time in only one.

Like most tourists, we stayed and played in the City Bowl and historically-white neighborhoods along the coast.  The area felt like an affluent slice of Europe dropped on the southern tip of Africa, which in many ways it is.  But many Capetonians live in townships, the residential districts first organized along racial lines during apartheid that remain de facto segregated by income.

We had first seen the townships just outside the airport, spreading out towards the Cape Flats like a long shimmering sea of metallic roofs with waves of wooden walls.  But after a week in the bubble of the City Bowl, we had only seen them from behind the car window.

With no obvious tourist draws, it can be hard for visitors to experience this aspect of South African culture.  We’d seen adverts for “township tours” but they sounded voyeuristic and somewhat exploitative of South Africa’s social inequality.  We wanted to experience something more genuine and interactional, but didn’t know where to look.

That’s when we our buddy told us about braais, or South African barbeques, and said the best in the city was served in a township restaurant called Mzoli’s.

Read the full story at MSN Travel UK. 

Bungee Jumping Over the Zambezi

Marko moves past his fear and steps to the edge for his first bungee jump…which happens to be at an intimidating jump with a spotty safety record.  Appeared on MSN Travel UK on 22 Nov, 2013

The bridge loomed over our week at Victoria Falls. No matter where I went I could either see it or feel its steely presence. Ever since I’d first seen it arching over the Zambezi River I knew that once I set
foot on it, I would never make it to the other side.

We’d come to Zimbabwe to visit Victoria Falls, one of the seven natural wonders of the world and by some measures the largest waterfall on earth. But soon after arriving I’d scheduled a second, more personal bucket list goal: to conquer my life-long fear of heights by bungee bumping 111 meters off the Victoria Falls Bridge.

But a single story held me back: three years ago, a woman had nearly died on this same jump. Her chord had snapped and sent her hurtling into the river below which was – thankfully – swollen with water from the rainy season.


We’d come during the dry season. The river was at its lowest level all year – 128 meters below the bridge, strewn with rocks and rapids.

For two days, visions of a similar freak accident haunted my mind. But on the third day I walked to the centre of the Victoria Falls Bridge, tied a bungee cord around my ankles, and stepped to the edge.

Read the full story at MSN Travel UK.