About Kim and Clark Kays

Kim and Clark Kays

Kim & Clark Kays quit their jobs for an uncertain trip around the world. Originally from St. Louis, they relocated to Chicago after getting married in 2005. After working for five years in middle school and the Fortune 500, they realized there was more to life than the 9-to-5, so made the crazy decision to exchange money for time rather than the other way around.

Their hobbies include fighting over writing styles and searching for gelato. They think food, beer, architecture, and photography are some of the best things about travel—especially when combined. Their travel blog, To Uncertainty and Beyond, includes long-term travel tips as well as humorous anecdotes from their journey through Europe and Asia. They invite you to experience their journey and learn from their adventures and mistakes.


Latest Posts by Kim and Clark Kays

The Big Apple: 5 Things You Must Do

December 26, 2013 by  

Share:

IMG_3384 IMG_0202

If you look up New York on Tripadvisor you’ll see a list of nearly 800 attractions/things to do in NYC!  One thing’s for sure – you’ll never get bored in the Big Apple.  New York is one of the world’s leading tourist destinations so by definition most of it’s attractions would be deemed to be “touristy”. In New York you are unlikely to have a unique experience that no one else has had ( without spending ALOT of  money) but of course your attitude to and perception of any experience does make it unique to you.  It’s best to just except and embrace that NYC is a commercial and tourist mecca and enjoy the excitement and buzz  that it generates.  As we will see, many ‘touristy” attractions are actually a lot of fun.

Depending on how long you are there for and whether it is your first or 6th visit,  your priorities for what you want to see and experience will be different. If you are visiting New York for the first time it is an excellent idea to go on a hop on hop off double decker bus tour of Manhattan. Yes, hundreds of tourists are herded on and off these buses everyday, but it remains an excellent and affordable way to orientate yourself to the island, and it helps you prioritise where you want to go back to and explore further.

The first time I visited New York I did both a bus tour, and a circumnavigation of Manhattan by boat on the Circle Line Sightseeing Cruise.  The boat cruise is a fantastic way to see the Manhattan skyline, the fabulous architecture of the old and new high rises,  and the famous Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges. The banks of  Hudson river are especially glorious in the Fall.  You get to experience some great leaf-peeping without having to leave the city! The Circle Line Sightseeing Cruise appears to be the most popular option amongst  tourists and they are very experienced operators.

Central Park is arguably my favourite place in New York. It is a huge park – 50 street long and 3 avenues wide and there is so many beautiful spots to visit and fun things to do. It really is too big to get around by foot if you only have time for one visit.  I would recommend renting a bike or taking a pedicab.  A pedicab is a great way to see the park without exhausting yourself.  Many of the drivers are quite knowledgeable and will tell you a lot of interesting facts about the park. The pedicabs cost between US$2-3:50/min but you can negotiate a fee for a certain time period. I don’t recommend the horse drawn carriages as there are concerns about the horses’ welfare. Other touristy but fun things you can do in Central Park include: having a caricature of yourself sketched by a local artist; renting a row boat on The Lake; skating on Wollman or Lasker rinks in the Winter; watching teams of shirtless athletic street buskers strut their stuff in the Summer.

Times Square: Despite being jam packed with tourists,  noisy and frankly an assault on the senses, Times Square is a must see during any visit to New York. The lights are spectacular and the place always has a festive atmosphere. You might even join in the madness and get your photo taken with Elmo or one your favourite superhero (but don’t forget to tip them!).

The 9/11 Memorial is a popular if somewhat morbid destination on the NYC tourist circuit and it is a sobering and poignant tribute to all the innocent people that lost their lives in the 2001 terrorist attack.  I do think the concept and execution of the memorial  is extremely well done.  I personally don’t like to dwell on sad and tragic events repeatedly so I will probably visit it only one more time, when the museum is completed.

High Line Park: The park was created from an abandoned elevated railway track and is a wonderful place to take a stroll in the Spring and Summer. The gardens are lovely and you get great views down over the neighbourhoods below.  Talking of views, if you want a view down over the city people usually recommend the Top of the Rock over the Empire State Building as the queues are shorter, the view is just as good and you get to see a great view of the Empire State Building!

Broadway: Broadway shows are will make your New York vacation truly magical. If you can’t afford Broadway prices then go to something Off-Broadway like Peter and the Star Catcher (which happens to be ex-Broadway). They are usually smaller productions but are often just as good  as Broadway. As well as Peter, we’ve been to Pippen, Book of Mormon and Matilda which were great.

Honeymooning It In Australia? Where To Begin!

December 19, 2013 by  

Share:

Hayman

Australia is the perfect dream destination to take a honeymoon. It’s just different enough from the United States/UK that it’s exciting, but there is still a decent level of service (no roughing it or hassles with “surprise” charges or needing to haggle over every little thing)

When to Go

Visiting Australia in Spring or Fall is ideal. Their winter (UK/US summer) can get a little cold. Their summer can get crazy hot and/or overrun by local tourists on summer break in December/Jan.

City Break Honeymoon in Sydney

If you’re city people, Sydney offers a great combination of fine dining opportunities, shopping, 5 star hotels, and what are probably the WORLD’s BEST city beaches i.e., Bondi and Coogee. Another plus for Sydney is that you can get a direct flight from the US (via either LA or Dallas) so no need to take an additional domestic flight within Australia.

Melbourne – An Alternative City Destination

Melbourne is more arty and bohemian than Sydney. It doesn’t have the city beaches that Sydney has or the glorious harbor but it has a great cafe scene and a vibrant theater scene.

The weather can be pretty unpredictable in Melbourne but some people just prefer the vibe to Sydney.

There are Melbourne people and there are Sydney people. If you like the East Coast of the US or LA, you are probably a Sydney person. If you prefer places like San Francisco, Portland, Seattle etc then you are probably a Melbourne person. You can also fly direct to Melbourne from the US or UK (via Asia).

Beaches and Islands

Although the West Coast of Australia is beautiful, if you’re only in Australia for less than a month it probably makes sense to stick to the East Coast. The best honeymoon worthy destinations on the East Coast are found on the offshore islands. There are places that have an American level of service if that’s what you’re looking for e.g., Hayman Island. There are also plenty of activities available, including opportunities to snorkel or dive the Great Barrier Reef. If you happen to have sailing skills and your new spouse isn’t prone to seasickness, you could also look at chartering a sailing boat.

What about everywhere else?

The key to a great honeymoon is to plan well (e.g., get the weather right) and not to over do it by trying to squeeze in too many destinations. It’s supposed to be about the two of you more than planning an epic, full-on “touring” type trip.

Australia has some other cool attractions like wine regions, Uluru (Ayers Rock), and the island/state of Tasmania off the south coast. However since getting to Australia is already a long flight, we’d recommend picking one or two of the options given and sticking to those if you want to have a relaxing honeymoon after your wedding. We’d also recommend delaying the honeymoon until the season is right for visiting Australia if your wedding is in US/UK summer i.e., AU winter. This will also give you a bit more time to enjoy researching and planning your honeymoon vs the stress of trying to plan a wedding and a honeymoon at the same time.

photo credit: Sarah_Ackerman via photopin cc 

Rome Italy: Top Five Things To Take In & Explore

November 22, 2013 by  

Share:

medium_43547029

1. Must Sees.

This the our short list of must-sees for the first time visitor. Even if you’re only in town for a few days, you don’t want to miss these four sights.

  • Vatican Museum, which includes the Sistine Chapel painted by Michelangelo. Generally the line is shorter in the afternoon.
  • Colosseum. I don’t usually have enough imagination to fully appreciated ruins but there is enough left of the Colosseum that not much imagination is need.
  • Pantheon.
  • Villa Borghese. Gardens and art museum.

2. Best Gelato.

Our favorite Gelato shop was Fassi, a bit of a walk from Termini station. The Termini neighborhood, which we stayed in has a lot of great hotels.

Fassi gelato is quite a big space so there is lots of room to sit and enjoy your gelato there, surrounded by feasting Romans. They claim to be the oldest gelato shop in Rome. They do all the traditional flavors (tons of choices) with the traditional huge dollop of whipped cream on top (optional).

Allow a lot of time in your day to enjoy your ice creams and your meals in a relaxing way rather than rushing around. These memories will undoubtedly be your highlights of Rome and have you salivating when you think of them in the months after you leave!

3. Best Time to Go.

Winter temperatures in Rome are about 13C during the day and dropping down to 4-5C at night, so it’s a fairly pleasant travel destination even in Winter. I would tend to avoid Christmas week and Easter Week when you’ll have to deal with attractions and restaurants being closed for some days.

April, May and mid-September to mid-October are the nicest times to visit in terms of weather with temps in the low to mid 20s C.

July and August are hot (into the low 30s C). You’re likely to be more comfortable in lodging with aircon during these two months.

4. Side trips.

If you have a 10 day trip or less, we recommend just sticking to Rome + one other destination. Rome needs around 4 full days in our opinion.

Our top pick for a second Italian destination is the island of Sardinia, which has great beaches and atmosphere. There are budget flights from Rome. You could fly into Rome and out of Sardinia to minimize your travel days. Sardinia has international flights.

We’re not Venice fans but generally love everywhere else in Italy. It’s hard to go wrong. Milan, Florence, Sicily, Naples, or the Tuscany and Umbria countryside. These are all great options. Sicily and Naples are more gritty. Milan and Florence are more posh. Sardinia is relaxed but not gritty.

Doesn’t Sardinia look like a good place for a beach fix after you’ve been bingeing on museums and history in Rome?

medium_5111284874

5. Transportation.

Rome’s public transportation is really good. You’ll end up taking a mix of the metro (trains) and busses. The buses can get a bit crowded and slow in the traffic so aim to take the metro where possible and the busses occasionally.

Taking public transport to/from the airport is also very easy. Fiumicino has a direct train called the Leonardo Da Vinchi Express (how cool is that?!). Ciampino airport has a shuttle bus that connects to the nearest metro station (we’ve taken this option and it was fine).

photo credit: jonrawlinson sumo4fun via photopin cc

Preparing for a Trip to Florence!

November 13, 2013 by  

Share:

medium_583616150

Any itinerary to Italy should include Florence, which is located in the Tuscany region of Italy. Yup, that Tuscany. Florence is only a quick train ride from Rome.

A lot of European airlines fly to Florence meaning you won’t typically need to travel via Rome or elsewhere in Italy if you just want a weekend in Florence. Since there are lots of air options you can into Rome/Milan/Vienna and out of Florence or vice versa. Easyjet fly to nearby Pisa, and you probably wanted to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa anyway.

Each region of Italy has it’s own cuisine. Many people we know have been a bit disappointed with Tuscan specialities (including my parents who were not fans). However, all the general Italian favorites of gelato, cappuccino, and chocolate are still great in cosmopolitan Florence.

Pizza is associated with Italy’s more gritty cities Naples and Rome rather than Florence, but you can still find good pizza in Florence.

Try to make room for several servings of gelato each day. It’s really that good. Gelato in Italy usually comes with the option of a giant dollop of whipped cream on top. It’s highly recommended that you say yes to this option!

The city centre of Florence is very small. You’ll easily be able to see it in a couple of days. The Uffizi Gallery (one of the most famous museums in the world ), the Accademia Gallery (where you can see Michelangelo’s David), and the Duomo (the central catherdral) are the standard things everyone does, but for good reason. Don’t miss them.

medium_5198034773
You might want to hire a car and do some exploration of some of the little Tuscan towns surrounding Florence. The nearby Umbria region is an equally good, if not better, idea for a roadtrip. Try to stay in an Agritourismo at least once during your trip.

photo credit: echiner1 archer10 (Dennis) via photopin cc

5 Things To Note About San Francisco

November 11, 2013 by  

Share:

medium_221827536

1. Tailor your trip to your interests.

Like New York City, San Francisco is a city with a lot going on in terms of events and nightlife. You could do a trip in which you did the tourist basics like taking a cable car ride and walking over the Golden Gate bridge. Alternatively, you could look up meetup groups that fit with your interests. This is especially the case if you’re a tech nerd and would like to hang out with some of your own kind.

There are lots of SF-based blogs where the bloggers mention nightspots, coffee shops and restaurants they like. If you like comedy and are visiting San Francisco over winter, SF Sketchfest is a popular annual comedy event that will be held January 23 – February 9, 2014.

If you like Broadway type shows, you can see touring productions at the Curran Theater. I’ve seen shows there a few times. The theater is conveniently located downtown.

2. Prepare for it to be cold – even in summer.

San Francisco has lots of great attributes. The weather is not one of them. Even in summer there can be fog and there is almost always a cold wind that makes it necessary to wear more than a t-shirt outside. Get your warmth fix elsewhere.

If you like warmer temperatures you can head elsewhere nearby. For example, wine country to the north or the tech towns to the south, such Mountain View, where Google HQ is located. These places don’t get the fog and bitter wind that affects San Francisco itself.

3. Visit a Farmers market.

The fresh produce in California is delicious, especially the strawberries. If you’re a foodie, make sure you include a visit to one of San Francisco Farmers Markets during your trip. The most convenient large one is probably the one at the Ferry Building. It’s open Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays.

4. Get an unlimited metro card.

The metro in San Francisco is pretty good. A 7 day pass is $28 and allows you unlimited rides on the metro (called Muni) and busses. There’s metro service to both SFO and Oakland airports (flights in/out of Oakland may be cheaper than SFO). You can buy your pass from a machine as you’re leaving the airport and you’re all set. There are also 1 day and 3 day passes available, and monthly passes. The unlimited metro card even includes riding the cable cars.

5. Food.

San Francisco is one of those cities I’d prefer to eat and drink my way around rather than see any specific attractions. The shopping is not particularly awesome in San Francisco.  Check out our food & wine section for San Francisco. (San Francisco restaurants / San Francisco food)

photo credit: Thomas Hawk

Down Under Planning: 7 Tips For Travel Around & Inside Australia

November 1, 2013 by  

Share:

IMG_4118-640x420

Australia is a massive country and the sheer size of it means that getting around takes some planning. Here are your options.

1. Ferry.

If you want to go to Tasmania, which is Australia’s most forgotten about state, then you can hop a ferry from Melbourne. There are lots of reasons to visit Tasmania, including great beaches and it’s not baking hot in the summer. Seriously you can fry an egg on the sidewalk on hot summer days in Australia.

Another popular ferry trip is the short hop from Perth to the spectacular Rottnest Island, off the West Coast of Australia.

2. Cruise Ship.

Another way to incorporate Tasmania is via a cruise that takes you down the East Coast of Australia. Not many people think of cruising when they think of Australia.

3. Sailing boat, jetboat, or helicopter.

The Whitsundays, which are an absolute must-see when visiting Australia, are accessed by some type of boat. Or, if you’ve got more money to spend, a helicopter trip!

You’ll also need to take boat trip if you want to snorkel or dive the Great Barrier Reef. It’s incredible and I only snorkeled.

4. Train.

Australia is famous for the “Indian Pacific” train trip which runs Sydney – Adelaide – Perth i.e., from the East Coast of AU to the West Coast. This is a luxury, however, there are also some intercity train options that connect Sydney with Melbourne, Brisbane, and Canberra. Tickets cost $100-200, around the same as an equivalent flight. I would definitely consider this as an alternative to flying next time I’m in Australia even though I’m not a huge train nerd.

5. Hire car or campervan.

Car rentals in Australia are usually quoted with the insurance included. Typically there is a high excess (US equivalent of deductible). This might be around $3000, meaning if you have an accident you pay up to that amount. A car rental is probably a great option for part of your trip but you won’t need it while you’re in inner city Sydney, Brisbane, or Melbourne.

Vans that have a converted sleeping space are a popular option in Australia and New Zealand. These setups have been featured in some consumer protection type TV shows and the results of their testing have suggested that the maintenance is often not the best. May still be a great option, if you don’t get car sick like I do…. see below.

6. Domestic flights.

Qantas, Jetstar, and Virgin are the main domestic carriers. Curiously, the cheapest way to book is often through Expedia Japan (they don’t charge Australian sales tax). Domestic flights are priced as one ways so you won’t pay more if you want to use a flight in one direction only. Feeling spontaneous? Aussies and Kiwis having a liking for Mystery Trips where you show up at the airport and don’t know where you’re going. These include the flights and the hotel.

7. Bus.

I’m mentioning this last because I’m not a bus fan. Even on city busses, I feel sick. On longer trips I load up on anti-nausea medications. They are comfortable however and typically on time.

Not Quite Erupting with Excitement on Guatemala’s Volcano Pacaya

January 31, 2011 by  

Share:

After spending a few sedentary days in Antigua, I was ready for a little activity. So, I signed up for the afternoon hike to volcán Pacaya. It’s one of Guatemala’s active volcanoes and last erupted in May of 2010. You can still see it smoldering on the skyline.

I had high hopes for this hike. It would be my first time climbing around on a volcano, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I just kept thinking of that Reading Rainbow episode when Levar Burton climbed around the steaming rocks with red-hot lava flowing in the cracks. I was really excited!

I climbed into a shuttle bus with about eight other people and we bounced our way out of the cobblestone streets of Antigua. It was a beautiful hour and a half ride to get to the base of the volcano. I spent the time chatting with my group and taking in the view.

Hiking Pacaya VolcanoWe arrived at the base, met our guide, purchased some walking sticks from some kids, and hit the trail. Then came my first disappointment. Our guide only spoke Spanish. So, for most of the hike, I had to guess at what he was pointing at and telling us.

Every once in a while someone would ask follow-up questions or discuss what he just said in English, so I got the idea. I even got used to that after a while and began to catch on to more and more of what he said.

No one had prepared me for how difficult this hike would be. It’s quite hard climbing up a steep incline through slippery gravel with short little legs. We were continually losing our footing and catching our balance on whatever we could grab, even each other. About 15 minutes in, my legs were covered in volcanic dust from the shins down.

Our canine companions (who probably make the journey several times a day) were even huffing and puffing.  To make matters worse, a happy-go-lucky group of Australians bounced ahead of me, chatting away like it was nothing!

Luckily, I wasn’t the only one struggling. A couple of Israeli guys, a girl from the Netherlands, and I took up the rear for most of the hike. We were continually shouting encouragement to each other, offering our assistance, and frequently stopping for water.

Volcanic Dust from Pacaya - Guatemala

I nearly took up the offer for a horse-back  “taxi” ride about half-way up. But, I managed to stick it out.

The thought of the beautiful view of the smoldering volcano, possibly oozing red-hot lava helped sustain me during the hour and a half struggle. Imagine my surprise when I saw this instead:

Hiking Pacaya - Guatemala

Foggy Pacayay - Guatemala

This is it? This is what I climbed up here for? Visibility at the top was about 10 meters. We were all noticeably disappointed as we snapped photos of white nothingness. Then, our guide said it was time to continue on.

What? It’s not over? The hope of seeing rivulets of lava (or ate least seeing something) re-kindled in us and we all followed him eagerly down a steep slope into the thick mist.

Hiking Pacaya - Guatemala

Instead of flowing lava, we got deep cracks in the side of the mountain with hot air gushing out. Okay, that isn’t too bad. It’s something volcano-ish, at least!

We spent some time throwing little pieces of paper into the cracks and watching them burn. We also enjoyed cheering on the Australian guy who took his life into his own hands by jumping over the crack, scorching the hair on his legs.

Hiking Pacaya - Guatemala

The sky also cleared up right before sunset so we could get a few photos of us close to Pacaya. Our guide took us into the “sauna” which was a cave that felt like an oven. Then, we turned around and made the long trek back.

Kim y Voclan Pacaya - Guatemala

Needless to say, I was a little disappointed in my Volcano journey. Our guide didn’t even bring marshmallows to roast over the cracks! I felt a little cheated.

If you plan on hiking to Pacaya, I highly recommend taking the morning tour and BYOM. I saw several people’s photos and the sky is much clearer in the morning. Every evening I was in Antigua, there were clouds and fog around all the volcano peaks, but it was quite clear in the mornings.

I don’t regret going on the hike. I did get up close to my first volcano, got a good work-out, met some fun people, saw some great sights, and it was fairly inexpensive. I’m sure I’ll hike another volcano during my time here in Guatemala. The country has 33 volcanoes that are begging to be explored!

5 Fabulous Things About India

January 27, 2011 by  

Share:

I was back in the U.S. for a few weeks around the holidays and really enjoyed talking about our trip with our friends and family. We got the usual questions about favorites and least favorites. Some comments and questions about India made me think we were too harsh in our previous posts.  A lot of people assume we didn’t like India. (Maybe it was all the cow shit talk…) On the contrary, we liked it quite a bit, it’s just a tough place. In an effort to help people understand the great things about India, without going into the negative, here are my 5 favorite things!

1. The Food

Thali time - Jodhpur, India

A typical thali feast

No surprise here. I already loved Indian cuisine, so how could I not love the better, and cheaper, real thing? Some of my favorite items were veg pakora, bhindi masala, and palak paneer. We also ate a lot of Thali, which is like a sample plate of a few curries and sauces with naan or roti. Even in SE Asia we made it a point to seek out Indian neighborhoods for a meal at least once a week. Travelers shouldn’t be afraid to jump right in and enjoy the food in India. Just use your head and watch for anything that looks unsanitary. If the place is full of locals, the food probably isn’t making people sick, or they wouldn’t be in business.

2. Saris

People - Jodhpur, India

The colors, textures, and sparkles of the Indian saris are vibrant and beautiful. It seems that the sole purpose of an Indian woman is to look pretty. We were in India around the time of Diwali so maybe the women were stepping it up a notch for the holiday. I loved seeing a girl in a colorful sari clinging to the back of a scooter with her scarf blowing in the wind. Somehow, they keep that scarf on while zipping through traffic! I didn’t buy a full sari, but I did buy a silk sari-like shirt and beautiful Pashmina scarf for a great price. If you’re going to be in India for a long time, go ahead and get a sari. Locals love too see non-Indians trying to blend in!

3. Masala Chai

Chai Tea

Chai Tea by Carlos A Zambrano , on Flickr

Already being a tea fan, this drink won me over instantly. It’s black tea mixed with a healthy dose of warm masala milk and sugar. Sometimes is spicier, sometimes sweeter. It depends on who buy it from. You’ll find it served absolutely everywhere, usually in little paper cups. It’s the perfect way to start the day and end each meal!

4. The Smells

Garlands

Garlands by chooyutshing, on Flickr

Of course I’m not talking about the sewage and cows. What sticks with me the most is the incense and flowers. Every business and home has a little shrine set up and a sweet smell pours out of every doorway. Women and children make garland to sell on the streets, especially during holidays. It adds to the colorful atmosphere and definitely improves the smell! You also can’t beat that wonderful spicy smell that comes out of every market and restaurant. Just thinking about it makes my mouth water.

5. The Photos

Kids - Jodhpur, India

India is a photographer’s dream. Everything is colorful and interesting. You can take dozens of photos just standing on one street corner. It’s also a lot of fun taking pictures of the kids and people. They are all friendly, outgoing, and very willing to have their picture taken. This is not true of the locals in some countries we visited. We even felt like celebrities sometimes. Families wanted to shake our hands and takes photos with the white people. Hordes of kids swarmed us screaming “photo, photo!” Some of our favorite photos on this trip are from India.

Taj Mahal - Agra, India

What do you love about India? Leave your comments below!

Next Page »